John Augustus Sutter

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John Augustus Sutter

Kandern, Landkreis Lörrach, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Death 18 Jun 1880 (aged 77)
Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, USA
Burial Lititz, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA
Memorial ID 6744 · View Source
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Folk Figure, Gold Rush notable. He owned a vast amount of land including a thriving settlement along the Sacramento River only to see his immense wealth and power over run in the world's rush to pick California clean of gold. John Augustus Sutter was born in Baden, Germany. Faced with immense debt, he decided to try his fortunes in America at age 31. He surmised the west offered him the best opportunity for success and he settled in Missouri working as a trader on the Santa Fe Trail. Sutter determined that Mexican California held a greater promise of wealth. His prosperous and advantageous wanderings commenced along the Oregon Trail to Fort Vancouver, the Hawaiian Islands and then to the Russian colony at Sitka, Alaska. Finally arriving in California, he was given fifty thousand acres along the Sacramento River where he established a settlement called New Helvetia. He was given permission to function as a political authority while maintaining law and order. At a junction with the Sacramento River near present-day Sacramento, with the help of laborers brought with him from Hawaii, he constructed Sutter's Fort, a massive adobe structure with walls eighteen feet high and three feet thick. Within just a few years, Sutter achieved his dream: acres of grain, a ten acre orchard, and a herd of thirteen thousand cattle The fort became a regular stop by people venturing into California providing him with a profitable source of trade. The chance discovery of gold would destroy all of Sutter's achievements but link his name forever to California history. His carpenter, James Marshall, who was building a sawmill made the historic find. When word reached San Francisco, the gold rush was on. All his workmen abandoned him to seek their fortunes. Squatters swarmed over his land, destroying crops and butchering his herds for food. New Helvetia had been devastated and Sutter was bankrupt. His health began to fail so he moved to Lititz, Pennsylvania, home to many of his fellow countrymen. Sutter attempted to obtain reimbursement from Congress for his help in colonizing the State of California. While in Washington, D.C. in a final endeavor to obtain compensation from the federal government, Congress adjourned without passing a bill that would have given him $50,000. Two days later John Sutter died of heart failure in Washington. His body was returned to Lititz and buried in the Moravian Brotherhood's Cemetery followed by his wife six months later. Prologue: The Sutter Fort was pilfered until all that remained was the dilapidated house of John Sutter now called the Central Building. The Native Sons of the Golden West purchased it in 1890 and donated it to the State. Reconstruction began in 1891 and continues to this day. In 1947, Sutter Fort became a unit of the California State Park System. Today it is not only a reconstructed entity but a learning center of California history as well. Docents wearing period dress costumes perform the various manufacturing functions and activities that were the trademark of the fort. It also houses a vast collection of artifacts pertaining to the period. Sutter's Fort is located at 26th & K street in downtown Sacramento. Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park is the place where James W. Marshall found gold. The park has a museum, with exhibits that tell the story of the Gold Rush, a replica of the sawmill and a number of historic buildings. Visitors also have the opportunity to try panning for gold in the American River. Here is located the monument and statue placed above Marshall's gravesite and is California's first historic landmark.

Bio by: Donald Greyfield

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 24 Oct 1999
  • Find a Grave Memorial 6744
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for John Augustus Sutter (28 Feb 1803–18 Jun 1880), Find a Grave Memorial no. 6744, citing Moravian Cemetery, Lititz, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .