John Sutter

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John Augustus Sutter (February 15, 1803 – June 18, 1880) was a Swiss-American pioneer of California known for his association with the California Gold Rush by the discovery of gold by James W. Marshall and the mill making team at Sutter's Mill, and for establishing Sutter's Fort in the area that would eventually become Sacramento, the state's capital. Although famous throughout California for his association with the Gold Rush, Sutter died almost poor, having seen his business ventures fail while those of his elder son, John Augustus Sutter Jr., prospered.



Early years

John Augustus Sutter was born as Johann August Suter on February 15, 1803 in Kandern,[1] Baden, Germany, when his father came from the nearby town of Rünenberg in Switzerland. He went to school in Switzerland and was educated at a military academy. While there is some evidence that Sutter served in the Swiss military, he was never an officer. Debts incurred in business dealings, however, compelled Sutter to leave Europe for the United States. In May 1834, he left his wife and five children in Burgdorf, Switzerland, and with a French passport he came on board the ship Sully which travelled from Le Havre, France, to New York City where it arrived on July 14, 1834.

The New World

In North America, John Augustus Sutter (as he would call himself for the rest of his life) undertook extensive travels. Before he went to the U.S., he learned Spanish and English. Together with 35 Germans he moved from the St. Louis area to Santa Fe, New Mexico Territory, then moving to the town of Westport, Oregon Territory. On April 1, 1838, he joined a group of missionaries, led by the fur trapper Andrew Dripps, and went along the Oregon Trail to Fort Vancouver in Oregon Territory, which he reached in October. With a few companions, he went on board the British bark Columbia which left Fort Vancouver on 11 November and laid at anchor in Honolulu on 9 December. Sutter wanted to settle in California, but the only vessel riding at anchor in the harbor was the brig Clementine — Sutter managed to be signed on as unpaid supercargo of this brig freighted with a cargo of provisions and general merchandise for the Russian colony of New Archangel, now known as Sitka, Alaska. The Clementine hoisted anchor on April 20, 1839, with Sutter together with 10 Kanakas, two of them women, a few companions, and a Hawaiian bulldog. From the Russian colony at Sitka, where he stayed one month, Sutter traveled by sail to Yerba Buena, now San Francisco, at that time a tiny poor mission station. The Clementine arrived in Yerba Buena on July 1, 1839.

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