Exploring California – Sutter’s Fort, Sacramento
This Sutter fort in Sacramento was a unique experience!
Johann Augustus Sutter – This man was largely responsible for the development of early California. Have you ever wondered the meaning behind the name of the San Francisco 49ers?
Sutter was an immigrant from Switzerland who arrived in California in 1839. In 1841, he received a grant of almost 50,000 acres from the Mexican government in exchange for him to maintain order among local Indian tribes. Part of this land eventually became the State capital of Sacramento where he also built Sutter’s Fort.
This past weekend, I decided to visit the abode of the man to whom, in a way, the California Gold Rush can be attributed to.
Today’s fort is not the same one that stood in the mid-1800s. Only the two-story adobe structure in the middle was part of the original construction. It doesn’t take a long time to walk around the premises. I stayed for about a couple of hours because I like to peruse in detail, take pictures, and listen to the audio showcasing the rooms throughout the tour.
The most intriguing for me was Sutter’s bedroom. This is the kind that I have only seen in movies. Can you imagine life without electricity, and having to get ready or groom yourself at night by candlelight?
Sutter had built this place to be so self-sustained that it even had it’s own candle and blanket shop.
Experiencing this place in person made the early Californian’s way of life much more palpable. Throughout the year, the park hosts several events that features costumed staff that demonstrated this.
This is the South Gate exit that lead to Sutter’s multitude of cattles.
Because of all the supplies and amenities, the fort became a popular destination or stopover for California pioneers. One of such group was the Donner Party that took a detour en route to California from Springfield, Illinois. The detour delayed their trip a few weeks. As a result, they encountered an early snow storm and became trapped in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Fifteen of the stronger members (aka Forlorn Hope) set out for Sutter’s Fort to get help.
Due to treacherous weather and when their supplies were depleted, the surviving members resorted to eating the flesh of their dead companions to survive.
Within the walls of the Fort, life was great for Sutter. Sadly this changed on January 24, 1848 when James Marshall (a man hired by Sutter to build a sawmill on the American River) discovered as shiny nugget that was gold. Life as Sutter knew it quickly deteriorated as word of the gold discovery spread and miners flooded the area in search for gold. By the end of 1849, the non-native population of the California territory increased to 100,000, compared to the pre-1848 figure of less than 1,000. The 1849 gold miners and settlers came to be known as the 49ers.
Sutter’s own employees left him to pursue gold. The lack of staff made it easier for thieves to steal his cattle and material possessions. Sutter was eventually forced to abandon the fort and he moved to Hock Farm (by Marysville) with his family.
Entrance fee is $5 on a regular day. It is $7 when they have the interpretive events
Address: Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park – 2701 L. St Sacramento, CA 95816
More info: Sutter’s Fort: https://www.suttersfort.org/