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Historical Tidbit Thursdays - The California Gold Rush - Sutter's Mill - #TidbitThursday


Welcome to Historical Tidbit Thursdays. Today I wanted to share with you some interesting tidbits I learned about Sutter's Mill during the infamous California Gold Rush! Hope you enjoy!

Johann August Sutter, born on February 15, 1803 in Germany, he was unsuccessful in his businesses in Switzerland and declared bankruptcy before leaving his family behind for America. He changed his name to John Sutter.

On April 31, 1848 he was given a land grant of 50,000 acres in California on the Sacramento River. He established a colony Nueva Helvetia (New Switzerland).

He builds Sutter's Fort to protect settlers from the local Indians. He partners with James W. Marshall, a carpenter, with the intention of getting rich off lumber. They build a saw mill at the junction of the American River with the intent to float and lumber down the river and then ship it out.

The mill was actually built on Indian lands. At this time, individuals were not allowed to trespass Indian lands but John ignored that and went ahead with his plans.

Marshall dams up the stream so he can repair their mill and when he releases the water, he finds gold. The workers deserted. The local store owner, Sam Brannan, went to San Francisco to spread the news and to sell gold-searching equipment (becoming California's first millionaire).

The land around the mill was not legally Sutter's so he could not reap any payments from all those squatters and gold-seekers. In fact, they caused a lot of destruction and stole his livestock. Eventually Sutter moved out.

Hundreds of millions of dollars were extracted from that area but no one got rich (except those that sold supplies).

Source: The American Heroes Channel - "What History Forgot" series; episode 2 "Making America; What History Forgot series website.

Photo Credits:
Sutter's Mill - https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=484
Johann August Sutter - https://www.britannica.com/biography/John-Sutter
Sam Brannan - https://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/people/a_c/brannan.htm

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