Final resting place of city’s founder located in Sacramento’s oldest cemetery

Since the early years of Sacramento, one of the city’s premier landmarks has been the city cemetery at the modern day address of 1000 Broadway. And considering that it was the Swiss-born John Augustus Sutter, Jr. who founded the city and donated the initial 10 acres of this Land Park area cemetery to the city for burial purposes on about Dec. 1, 1849, it seems fitting that his final resting place sits just inside the main gates of this cemetery, which is the city’s oldest existing cemetery.
The final resting place of the city’s founder, John Augustus Sutter, Jr., is one of the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery’s most notable gravesites. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

The final resting place of the city’s founder, John Augustus Sutter, Jr., is one of the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery’s most notable gravesites. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Nine years following the landing of his father, John Augustus Sutter, Sr., on the south bank of the American River – an historic moment that led to the construction of Sutter’s Fort – John Sutter, Jr. reunited with his father at the fort.

Less than two months after his arrival, John Sutter, Jr. announced that he would build a new town, called Sacramento City – the original name of Sacramento – along the Sacramento River.

Although John Sutter, Jr., who was the eldest of five children, passed away at the age of 70 in 1897, efforts to have his remains buried in Sacramento was no simple procedure.

Furthermore, another 66 years passed before his remains were buried in the capital city.

This fact is so, since the younger John Sutter died and was originally buried in Acapulco, Mexico, where he resided after leaving Sacramento in July 1850.

In Acapulco, Mexico, John Sutter, Jr. became a respected civic leader and a representative of the American government. He served as American consul to Acapulco from 1870 to 1887.

Although John Sutter, Jr. had been buried in Acapulco, a major drive to have his remains reinterred in Sacramento began in 1963 as a result of the news that the St. Francis Cemetery, where he was buried, was being moved to a different location due to a redevelopment project in that area.

This drive included the creation of the John A. Sutter, Jr. Memorial Committee of Sacramento – a group consisting of Sacramento historians and civic leaders – and the support of the

John Augustus Sutter, Jr. is shown in this image from an historic painting. / Image courtesy, California State Library

John Augustus Sutter, Jr. is shown in this image from an historic painting. / Image courtesy, California State Library

Sacramento County Historical Society.

Additionally benefitting the relocation of the remains was the support of the project by heirs of John Sutter, Jr., who was the father of 12 children, all of whom were born in Mexico.

By the time that the relocation project began, only one of these children – Anna (Sutter) Young – was living.

Also in support of the project was Ricardo Sutter Morlett, a great-grandson of Sacramento City’s founder. Ironically, Morlett happened to be serving as the mayor of Acapulco at the time.

Another great-grandson of John Sutter, Jr., Art Sutter, Jr., was locally pledging his support, since he had then-recently moved to the Sacramento area to join a mortgage firm.

Antonio Islas, Mexican consul in Sacramento, also expressed his support of the relocation project.

During the process of obtaining full approval and arrangements for the relocation of the remains, efforts were also made to select a new burial site.

In addition to the city cemetery, Sutter’s Fort, the embarcadero area of Old Sacramento and the city plaza – today’s Cesar Chavez Plaza – were among the proposed sites.

After months of deliberations, complete approval for the re-interment was obtained and arrangements were made for the reburial in the city cemetery.

Sacramento newspapers announced on February 26, 1964 that the city’s founder would be reburied in the city cemetery on March 11, 1964 at 11 a.m.

It was also reported that the relocation of these remains would be temporary, as they would later be exhumed and reburied once more; this time in the West End section of the city following the redevelopment of Old Sacramento. These plans, however, were eventually abandoned.

The remains of John Sutter, Jr. were transported from Acapulco aboard the USS Leonard F. Mason, and after the Navy ship’s arrival in Long Beach, these remains were then flown via a U.S. Navy plane, which arrived at Municipal Airport – today’s Executive Airport – on Monday, March 9, 1964 at 12:30 p.m.

Two days later at 10:30 a.m., a procession left the Clark, Booth and Yardley funeral home at 917 H St. and made its way to the cemetery.

Graveside services were conducted at 11 a.m. at the city cemetery by the Rev. Noel F. Moholy of the St. Francis Catholic Church.

Among those in attendance at the ceremony were: Islas, J. Studer, Swiss consul general in San Francisco, Fred A. Barbaria of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, City Councilman Albert Talkin and descendants of John Sutter, Jr., his daughter Anna Young, his grandchildren, Art Sutter, Jr., Reginald Sutter, Jr., Alba (Sutter) Robinson, Dolores (Sutter) Kason, Gloria (Sutter) Parson and Nicholas Sutter, and his great-grandchildren, Ricardo and Marco Morlett.

Pallbearers at the services were memorial committee members, Frank Christy, Raymond Momboisse, Lee Richardson and Miles Snyder.

A memorial luncheon was held at the Mansion Inn – now Clarion Hotel Mansion Inn – at 16th and H streets following the services.

In September 1967, as a response to Anna (Sutter) Young’s expressed disappointment with her father’s 24-inch by 24-inch, flat, marble marker at the cemetery, the Sacramento City Historical Landmarks Commission suggested that a more appropriate marker be placed at the cemetery.

The suggestion led to the installation of a much larger, black granite marker at the site. This memorial marker, which also incorporates the original Mexican cemetery marker, was dedicated on Saturday, Oct. 12, 1968 at 11 a.m.

Anna (Sutter) Young and James A. Brown, Jr., chairman of the landmarks commission, unveiled the marker during the brief dedication ceremony, which was followed by a no-host luncheon at the Mansion Inn.

The ceremony was a cherished moment, as well as a timely moment for Anna (Sutter) Young, since she passed away at the age of 81 in a San Francisco hospital only 15 months later.

Services for Anna (Sutter) Young, who was buried alongside her father, were held at the city cemetery on January 27, 1970.

Dr. Bob LaPerriere, who was involved in establishing the committee to preserve the city cemetery and is among the many locals who appreciate efforts that were made to reinter the remains of John Sutter, Jr. in Sacramento, explained what it means to him to view the gravesite of the city’s founder at the city cemetery.

“A jolt of historic stimulation comes whenever I enter the gates to the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery at 10th and Broadway,” LaPerriere said. “Walking past the gravesite of John Sutter Jr., who founded the city of Sacramento as we know it today, and also donated the first acreage to establish the city cemetery, is a great reminder of the 150-plus years of the wonderful, historic heritage that Sacramento offers.”

The final resting place of John Sutter, Jr., as well as the gravesites of many other early, prominent residents of the city, can be visited at the city cemetery daily, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the exception of Wednesdays, Thursdays and city holidays.

lance@valcomnews.com