HISTORIC PRESENTATION PIECE DATES TO CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH
John A. Sutter was one of California’s most important pioneers and landowners. The German-born immigrant established Sutter’s Fort on the site that would become the city of Sacramento but, of course, he is best known for his ownership of the mill where California gold was first detected in 1848.
Sutter’s trusted employee, James S. Marshall, was charged with building a water-powered sawmill. When inspecting the tailrace for silt and debris, he found nuggets from the river and quickly informed his employer. Sutter did his best to keep the discovery a secret as he set about acquiring as much land as possible in the area. But word leaked out, setting off the tumultuous and historic California Gold Rush.
As one of California’s most prominent citizens, Sutter (1803-1880) in 1853 was presented a sword “in consideration of [Sutter’s] early services to the state of California,” according to a newspaper report of the day.
Capt. A. Andrews of a militia known as the Sutter Rifles spoke eloquently at the ceremony: “You are honored and esteemed by not only those who have known you, but wherever your reputation has extended; and I would have you accept the sword in proof of the fact that virtue in the distinguished citizen is not always unappreciated.”
The sword presented that day is being offered in the Western section of Heritage Auctions’ May Americana and political auction. It’s expected to realize at least $25,000.
Perhaps because Sutter had some military background in Europe he was given the honorific “Major General,” although there is little evidence he was actively involved in military administration in California.
Sutter reportedly responded to Andrews: “I claim no credit for whatever services I may have rendered in the early days of California. As one of its pioneers, I could not do less than use my best exertions to promote its prosperity, and to contribute to the comfort and enjoyment of those who followed me to its lovely valleys.”
Ironically, most of Sutter’s business ventures proved less than successful, but his name remains forever identified with the discovery that fueled the growth of the modern state of California.