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John Augustus Sutter

AKA Johann August Suter

Born: 15-Feb-1803
Birthplace: Kandern, Germany
Died: 18-Jun-1880
Location of death: Washington, DC
Cause of death: Heart Failure
Remains: Buried, Moravian Cemetery, Lititz, PA

Gender: Male
Religion: Protestant [1]
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Explorer

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: California gold rush

Military service: Swiss Army

Born Johann August Suter in Switzerland, he came to America in 1834, where he was known as John Augustus Sutter. He worked as an innkeeper and fur trapper, and came to California in 1839 and became a Mexican citizen, a requirement in order to buy land. He established the community of Nueva Helvetia (New Switzerland), where he prospered until James Marshall found gold at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, on 24 January 1847. The discovery led to the California gold rush and ruined Sutter -- his workers quit to go prospecting and the area was overrun with squatters and ruffians who stole his animals and supplies.

"What a great misfortune was this sudden gold discovery for me!", he wrote ten years later. "It has just broken up and ruined my hard, restless, and industrious labors... From my mill buildings I reaped no benefit whatever, the mill stones even have been stolen and sold." Sutter fled California in 1870 after losing portions of his land title in a court decision, and after locals torched his house. He spent the remainder of his life seeking compensation for his gold rush-related losses, in court and through lobbying state and federal government officials. On an 1880 trip to Washington DC, still seeking financial recompense, he died of a heart attack. His estranged son, John Augustus Sutter, Jr., remained in California, where he is generally credited as the founder of Sacramento.


[1] Moravian, a Czech and Bohemian Protestant denomination.

Father: Johann Jakob Suter (paper mill operator, b. 1776)
Mother: Christina Wilhelmina Stober Suter (b. 1777, m. 1801)
Brother: Jacob Friedrich Suter
Wife: Anna Duebeld (or Dübelt) Sutter ("Annette", b. 15-Sep-1805, m. 24-Oct-1826, d. 19-Jan-1881)
Son: John Augustus Sutter, Jr. (founder of Sacramento, b. 25-Oct-1826, d. 1897)
Daughter: Ann Eliza Sutter Link (b. 1828, d. Mar-1895)
Son: Emil Victor Sutter (b. 1830, d. 3-Jul-1881)
Son: William Alphonse Sutter (b. 1832, d. 14-Aug-1863)

    High School: Neuchatel, Switzerland

    Naturalized US Citizen 1834
    Naturalized Mexican Citizen 1940
    Bankruptcy 1852
    German Ancestry
    Swiss Ancestry

Author of books:
New Helvetia Diary (1939, journal; posthumous)



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