Sutter, John Augustus

Sutter, John Augustus,

1803–80, American pioneer, b. Kandern, Baden, of Swiss parents. His original name was Johann August Suter. He emigrated to the United States in 1834, went to St. Louis, then to Santa Fe. Fired with a desire to go to the Pacific coast, he went to the Oregon country and entered the coast trade in the Northwest, going to the Hawaiian Islands, to Sitka, Alaska, and finally (1839) to California. He settled in the Sacramento valley and obtained large grants of land from the Mexican governor of California. There he established his colony, known as New Helvetia, and built Sutter's Fort (see SacramentoSacramento
, city (1990 pop. 369,365), state capital and seat of Sacramento co., central Calif., on the Sacramento River at its confluence with the American River; settled 1839, inc. 1850.
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). Rich and powerful, Sutter helped many newcomers to California. In 1848, James W. MarshallMarshall, James Wilson,
1810–85, American pioneer, discoverer of gold in California, b. Hunterdon co., N.J. Migrating to California for his health, he arrived at Sutter's Fort (site of present Sacramento) in 1845 and soon acquired land and livestock.
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 found gold while building a sawmill on Sutter's land. The news spread, and gold-mad crowds poured across the continent in the rush of 1849. They killed Sutter's cattle and swarmed over his lands hunting for gold. He struggled against them in vain, and moved E to Pennsylvania, a ruined man, in 1873. He had earlier been granted a pension from California, and to the end he hoped that the U.S. Congress would reimburse him for his losses.


See Sutter's New Helvetia Diary (1939) and his Statement regarding Early California Experiences (ed. by A. Ottley, 1943); see also biographies by J. P. Zollinger (1939, repr. 1967) and R. H. Dillon (1967).

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Sutter, John Augustus

(1803–80) California colonist; born in Kandern, Baden (now Germany). A Swiss citizen, he came to the U.S.A. in 1834 and by 1839 had made his way to Mexican California. He obtained large land grants from the Mexican authorities and set up a colony on the American River near present-day Sacramento. Known for his helpfulness to American settlers, he was ruined by the events that followed the discovery of gold on his property. Gold-seekers and squatters took over his land, and he went bankrupt in 1852, spending most of his remaining years asking the state and federal governments to arrange compensation; except for a brief and modest pension, he never received anything and he died a disillusioned man.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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