Despite his efforts, John never really succeeded in the pioneer business. This may have been due to the troubled times in which he operated, or perhaps to his character and his dealings with the native Californians. In any case, he devoted his entire life to the development of settlement in California, the flourishing of which paradoxically contributed to his bankruptcy.
John Augustus Sutter was born on February 23, 1803, in Kandern, former Holy Roman Empire.
Kandern is now a part of Germany.
He got married to Annette Dubold in 1824.
They had five children. His oldest son, John Augustus Sutter was a founder of Sacramento.
He tended to squander the family fortune and quickly fell into debt.
Young John was threatened with imprisonment, so he came up with the idea of emigrating to North America.
In 1834, he left his wife and five kids and fled from Europe.
Sutter boarded ship Sully in Le Havre, France and arrived in New York on July 14, 1834.
Sutter claimed he was a member of the Royal Swiss Guard and introduced himself as Captain John Sutter.
To this day his claims have not been verified. Either way, he titled himself that way which helped his career as a colonizer of California.
He spoke three languages.
Besides Swiss French, which was his native language, he also learned English and Spanish before traveling to the USA.
He arrived in Alta California in 1839.
W towarzystwie trzech europejskich imigrantów, rdzennie amerykańskiego chłopca i dziesięciu ludzi, których zatrudnił na Hawajach, założył mały obóz, który miał stać się znaczącą placówką meksykańską w okolicy.
He was granted by Mexico land of 48,4 thousand acres (19,6 thousand hectares).
After erecting a camp, Sutter contacted local Nisenan and Miwok people, to whom offered work with expanding the settlement and building a fort.
The settlement was named Nueva Helvetia, which is now part of Sacramento.
Sutter's Fort construction began in 1841, but due to an invasion of gold prospectors, it was abandoned in 1850.
He enslaved, mistreated, and abused Indians who were forced to work for him. Any sign of resistance was considered hostile and tribal villages were raided and destroyed and their inhabitants murdered or kidnapped.
According to reports from travelers who visited Nueva Helvetia, Sutter enslaved many natives and forced them to work in the settlement. They were kept in inhumane conditions, imprisoned and deprived of their rights to basic hygiene. He was also convinced of rapes, not only of adult women but also of girls as young as twelve.
In 1846 Sutter's Fort was overrun by United States Army.
Although Sutter desired French sovereignty over his colony, he was forced to submit to the United States, which was fighting an ongoing Mexican-American war in the area.
In 1847, Sutter planted more than two thousand fruit trees, marking the birth of agriculture in the Sacramento Valley.
Although his colony was expanding, Sutter had financial problems.
In August 1848, Sutter's son John Augustus Sutter Jr. came to the colony to help his father get out of financial difficulties.
Building a sawmill was probably the worst of Sutter's idea.
During the construction of a water-powered sawmill, one of Sutter's employees, James W. Marshall discovered gold flakes in a South Fork American River bed. Although Marshall and Sutter decided to keep the finding secret, rumors quickly spread out.
California Goldrush drove him into bankruptcy.
Sutter's land was immediately overrun by immigrants obsessed with the potential fortune they may earn. They stole whatever there was to steal including livestock. Colony fell into ruin around 1850.
He wanted to build a town named Sutterville.
His son, John Augustus Sutter Jr., proposed the name Sacramento, derived from the Sacramento River. Construction began in December 1848, 2 miles south of Sutter's Fort. His father was not confident nor content of the city foundation as his fortune was ruined, and he didn't want to risk again.
Founding Sacramento turned out to be a success.
This made John Sutter jealous and bitter, which was reflected in his relationship with son. All ventures of Sutter Senior were failures in the end while his son managed to grow a decent settlement which today is California's capital.
John Sutter died on June 18, 1880, in a hotel room in Washington D.C.