Capital City, Fort Sutter were among river’s most famous steamboats

The four-deck steamer Capital City was mostly built in 1910, two years prior to the construction of the nearly identical steamer Fort Sutter. Photo courtesy of the Lance Armstrong Collection

The four-deck steamer Capital City was mostly built in 1910, two years prior to the construction of the nearly identical steamer Fort Sutter. Photo courtesy of the Lance Armstrong Collection

Editor’s Note: This is part 12 in a series about the history of the Sacramento River.

The history of steamers of the Sacramento River is an extensive one that covers a romantic period in the city’s past.
And with the Sacramento Valley’s extensive agriculture operations, steamers were also used to transport agricultural products along the river.
During the 19th century, vessels of small steamboat companies stopped at landings, so that the goods of farmers could be loaded onto those steamers.
A major event in the story of the river’s steamers, of which there were many, was the March 31, 1871 transfer of all property of the California Steam Navigation Co. to the California Pacific Railroad Co.
Five months later, the Central Pacific Railroad, en route to becoming a railroad monopoly, acquired the California Pacific. And with that transaction, the Central Pacific continued the operation of steamers that were once run by the California Steam Navigation Co.
As part of this monopoly, the owners of the Central Pacific also acquired the Southern Pacific. And gradually the Southern Pacific name became the dominant name for all of the railroad holdings.
In 1873, 22 steamboats were registered for regular operation on the river, with the largest of these boats being the 864-ton Amador.
River and harbor statistics for 1873 note that 231 sailing vessels arrived in the capital city during the same year, with the greatest number of these arrivals being 30 during the month of June.
A ferry bay and river steamers report that was printed in June 1878 refers to eight steamers that were then running on the Sacramento River.
These vessels were: Amelia, Chin du Wan, Enterprise and Julia of the San Francisco-Sacramento route and Dover, Flora, Gov. Dana and Red Bluff of the upper Sacramento River.
The sister ships, Modoc and Apache, were the main railroad steamers during the 1880s. These vessels made regular trips to and from Sacramento and San Francisco.
As older steamships in 1912 and for several years more, the Modoc and the Apache abandoned the common night travel along the river for morning departures to and from Sacramento and San Francisco.
During the same era, two of the river’s most famous steamboats, the California Transportation Co.’s Capital City and Fort Sutter, began plying the waters of the Sacramento.
These elegant stern-wheelers, which included staterooms and private baths, were both running on the river by 1912.
Capital City
The four-deck Capital City was mostly built in 1910, two years prior to the construction of the nearly identical steamer Fort Sutter. This trivial information is odd in a historical timeline fashion, considering that Sutter’s Fort was built a decade before the founding of Sacramento City, which became California’s capital city for the first time in 1852.
Prior to the maiden voyage of the 1,142-ton, 220-foot-long Capital City, a dilemma was being faced.
Although the city wharf near the foot of M Street (now Capitol Mall) was sufficient for smaller sized vessels, it was not built to accommodate a steamer the size of the Capital City.
The specific problem was that in the event of the Capital City’s use of the wharf’s north elevator, her stern would overlap the elevator at the wharf’s southern end, thus causing delays for other vessels.
Upon the suggestion of Mayor Marshall R. Beard, and following official examinations of the wharf, the wharf’s south elevator was moved further south of its original location, at a cost of about $400.
The Capital City, which was christened in San Francisco in a special Aug. 27, 1910 ceremony that was attended Beard, Lt. Gov. Warren R. Porter and many others, was described in the Aug. 25, 1910 edition of The San Francisco Call.
Included in that description were the following words: “The vessel, built for service between here and Sacramento, will set a new mark in river transportation. Roomy and fast, the Capital City will be provided with all the comforts of a great ocean liner or first-class hotel. Every state room will be served with hot and old running water and there will be a number of private suites with private bathrooms adjoining. The interior woodwork is all mahogany. There are wide stretches of promenade decks and on the top side is a large observation room protected on all sides from inclement weather by large plateglass (sic) windows. The hull is divided into nine watertight compartments, these compartments being separated by cross steel bulkheads. An elaborate fire sprinkling system has been installed. This all means that the Capital City will be practically unsinkable and fireproof.”
The then-new steamer was put in operation between Sacramento and San Francisco in about October 1910.
In 1927, the Capital City was decommissioned due to the introduction of the California Transportation Co.’s (later River Lines’) steamers, Delta King and Delta Queen.
The Capital City was relocated to the San Joaquin River and renamed the Port of Stockton.
The vessel continued to work the river until 1942, when it was purchased by the Army for use as floating barracks.
Following the war, theatrical manager Barney Gould purchased the old riverboat, which he planned to convert into a floating entertainment center with a restaurant and nightclub.
The Capital City, according to the March 15, 1952 edition of The Sacramento Bee, was eventually renamed the City of San Francisco.
On March 14, 1952, the steamer partially sunk during a storm in the San Francisco harbor channel, China Basin.
The old stern-wheeler had recently been painted red, white and blue in preparation for its intended relocation to the San Francisco Maritime Museum.
The Bee reported on Sept. 11, 1958 that the Sherman Crane Service of Oakland had been paid $9,477 for the wrecking and removal of the old vessel from China Basin.
Fort Sutter
As previously mentioned, the four-deck steamer Fort Sutter, which was built by Sacramento Bay Shipbuilders, was constructed two years following the building of the Capital City.
In a well attended event held in San Francisco on Nov. 11, 1912, the Capital City left its shore while Eva Lowry, winner of a Sacramento High School contest for the best essay about John A. Sutter, broke a Sacramento Valley Winery champagne bottle over the steamer’s bow.
Prior to breaking the bottle, Lowry raised it above her head and said, “I christen thee Fort Sutter.”
Since the Fort Sutter would not begin its Sacramento-San Francisco route until the following month, about 60 Sacramentans, who had attended the event, returned home aboard the Capital City.
In an early report about the Fort Sutter, The Bee described the vessel, as follows: “The Fort Sutter will cost approximately a quarter of a million dollars and will be one of the best boats of her type afloat. The (steamer) will have accommodations for 260 passengers in (66) staterooms and suites. There will be four three-room suites on the boats with bathrooms. In every room there will be electric lights, running hot and colt (sic) water an (sic) telephone connection with all parts of the boat.”
The Fort Sutter also included three decks for passengers, a dining room with a capacity of 70, a large social hall, an observation room, a barber shop, a newsstand, a candy store, a barroom/card room, smoking rooms and washstands with hot and cold water in each of the staterooms.
The social room included a dome of colored glass that both lighted and beautified the room. The glass was valued at more than $2,000.
Inside the staterooms was mahogany and birch woodwork and doors of teak.
Fort Sutter’s original officers of the were Capt. G.H. Goodell, chief engineer William L. Ely, pilots Andrew Carlson and A.R. Paul, first mate Albert Johnson and purser F.E. Greenbaum.
It was business as usual for Fort Sutter until 1927, when it was also decommissioned with the introduction of the Delta King and Delta Queen.
During World War II, the Navy acquired Fort Sutter and used the riverboat to house and feed sailors near Mare Island in the Carquinez Straits.
After the war, M.O. Mason, a Sacramento automobile salesman and owner of the Capital City Yacht Club, purchased the vessel from the Navy, and had it returned to the capital city in January 1947.
J.H. McGee of 1712 N St., J.A. Peterson of 1744 Sherwood Ave., and his brother L.A. Peterson of 2430 V St. purchased the boat a year later for the purpose of converting it into a fishing club on the south side of the Three Mile Slough Bridge.
As part of their project, these men planned to open a restaurant on the boat’s second deck, as well as club and cocktail rooms.
Under the old steamer’s new ownership, the San Francisco tugs, Antioch and Paul Martin, pulled it down the river toward Rio Vista on Oct. 10, 1949.
Gould later acquired Fort Sutter, which began to deteriorate in San Francisco Bay under his ownership, and was destroyed by fire in 1959.

Sacramento became a city built upon a city through extensive mid-19th century street raising project

Photo #1 Caption: The original street level of downtown Sacramento can be seen at the old Fulton’s Prime Rib Restaurant site at 906 2nd St. in Old Sacramento. Photo by Lance Armstrong

The original street level of downtown Sacramento can be seen at the old Fulton’s Prime Rib Restaurant site at 906 2nd St. in Old Sacramento. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Editor’s Note: This is part six in a series about the history of the Sacramento River.

Within a quarter century of its founding, flooding had become the bane of Sacramento. It was a city born out of convenience rather than vision.
From 1839 to 1849, the area was known as “Sutter’s Embarcadero.”
According to local historian Barbara Lagomarsino’s essay, entitled “Sacramento on the Rise,” “A man named McVickar proposed around this time (1848) to build a grogshop right on the river bank – but in the limbs of a sycamore tree, about twenty feet up” and that “access was to be by ladder or canoe, whichever circumstances preferred.”
Sacramento City, as Sacramento was known during its earliest years, was founded by John A. Sutter, Jr., who despite his father’s wishes, established the town at the confluence of the two rivers, instead of on higher ground.
The more visionary John Sutter, Sr. had already planned a city, complete with engineered docks and canals in the more appropriate location of the current William Land Park area.
But the selected location of Sacramento City offered a sandbar that precluded the need for docks and piers. It also left the new city vulnerable to seasonal inundations.
The building of levees, the filling of creeks and the rechanneling of watercourses only set the stage for one of the most ambitious flood control efforts ever attempted.
The indomitable city now had the indomitable task of literally raising its streets above the level of serious flooding.
This endeavor would take time, money and a cooperative effort of paramount proportions.
Since prehistoric times, humans recognized that erecting their housing upon stilts could provide protection from rising waters.
But the concept of raising a large section of the city, including businesses that required walk-up traffic, was a challenge of unparalleled proportions.
The project began simply enough as businesses raised their buildings to protect their valuable merchandise.
The problem then became that a city built upon banks of mud was without sidewalks. And customers, during the muddy winter months and the searing heat of summer, had to trudge up flights of stairs just to reach entrances.
A solution was required that could accommodate customers and protect inventory and citizens from floods.
Stilts solved the problem of protecting the businesses from floods, but one still required a boat to go shopping during the rainy seasons.
The stilts were an insipient beginning, but the ultimate salvation was found in raising the city streets as much as about 15 feet and abandoning the first floor entrances in the business district.
Essentially, Sacramento was to become a city built upon a city.
In addition to stilts, in the 1850s, some street levels were modestly and independently raised on a business to business basis.
But it took the flood of 1861-62 for the citizenry to come to the conclusion that a massive street raising, fortification of buildings and a reconstruction of the sewer system was necessary.
The optimum level to which the streets would have to be raised for protection from flooding equal to the great flood of 1861-62 was referred to as “high grade.” This level varied from a few feet on the edges of the flood prone area to as much as 15 feet in the central business district.
According to an article, entitled “The Uptown Underground,” in the February 1998 issue of Comstock’s magazine, a March 18, 1862 vote determined that the grade level of J Street would be raised two feet above the high-water mark. The motion passed with only two dissenting votes.
And in Lagomarsino’s aforementioned article, she wrote: “Finally, in February 1863, the supervisors passed an ordinance establishing the official street grades of Sacramento’s business district well above all previous high-water marks. This monumental endeavor required a public/private cooperative effort of unprecedented magnitude for the young city.”
In the July 18, 1969 edition of The Sacramento Union, historian Ted Baggelman, in an article regarding the development of the K Street Mall, referred to the 1860s cooperative effort, as follows: “The city pledged to fill in between the bulkheads to the necessary level, pave the street, and construct curbs. The merchants obligated themselves to pay the construction costs for the portion of the eight foot bulkhead in front of his establishment, and bear the costs of raising or altering his building and restoring the sidewalk at the new street level.”
The impact and effect of raising the city’s streets was much more complex than simply hauling in soil and tamping it. It became a complex integration of altering buildings and the water and sewer systems, paving streets, and building sidewalks.
On Jan. 1, 1867, The Union published an article regarding this redevelopment.
It was noted in the article that some streets “have been raised to the ‘high grade’ on the level with the embankments on the waterfront, which necessitates building of bulkheads and raising or reconstructing buildings; and in many cases old buildings have been torn down and new ones built to correspond with the improvements around them.”
The article also mentioned that “the Pacific Railroad Company have (sic) also entered upon the work of filling up Sutter Slough, north of I Street, and grading the ground from First Street to Sixth (Street), for the purpose of erecting thereon buildings for machine shops, car manufactories, etc.” These are the same buildings in the “railyards” area that the city and state are preserving and developing as part of the California State Railroad Museum.
Building owners were forced to decide whether their structures were worth saving or how they could be adapted.
Baggelman considered the owners’ consternation, as he wrote: “Pity the poor merchant who had to move his store up to the second floor, which then became the first floor; or worse yet, the property owner who decided to have his building raised (to the new level), which, at one inch a day took four months to reach the required eight feet.”
An apparatus known as a “jackscrew” was the preferred method of raising buildings, and it was not always an easy or successful endeavor.
In Lagomarsino’s article, she mentioned a raised tenement structure that was on jackscrews in the Chinese section of town, and notes that it collapsed during high winds in 1864.
She also referred to an annex of the Union Hotel, which was located on 2nd Street, between J and K streets, as follows: “(The annex was) perched on dozens of jackscrews, eight feet above the ground, waiting for a new foundation. Before that could be supplied, however, in the middle of the night, most of the building collapsed, leaving a jumble of furniture, bricks and fixtures piled around the jackscrews.”
Fortunately, most of the buildings were raised without incident; although, the process could be expensive when performed by professionals.

Early Sacramento hospitals were located at Sutter’s Fort

Editor’s Note: This is part one of a two-part series regarding hospitals that were located at Sutter’s Fort during the mid-19th century.

As the Sutter Medical Center continues to draw attention for its major expansion on 29th Street, just west of East Sacramento, it is a prime time to present the area’s earliest hospital history.

In providing a thorough summary of early, local hospital history, it is important to begin with Capt. John A. Sutter.

Earliest hospitalization at the fort

Even before the great California Gold Rush of 1849 brought tens of thousands of new arrivals to the Sacramento Valley, Sutter used a medical book and provided medical care and hospital facilities for the citizens of his settlement of New Helvetia and the thousands of Indians working on his land and living throughout the valley.

EARLY MED-CENTER. The first local hospitals were located at Sutter’s Fort at various times during the mid-19th century. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

EARLY MED-CENTER. The first local hospitals were located at Sutter’s Fort at various times during the mid-19th century. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Shortly after he arrived at the fort with the Swasey-Todd party on Sept. 27, 1845, St. Louis native Dr. William Brown Gildea became the fort’s physician. His office was located inside the fort’s central building.

Gildea, who had left St. Louis with the aforementioned California-bound party in April 1845, appears to have been the first official physician to have practiced at Sutter’s Fort.

Following the death of Gildea on Jan. 24, 1846, other doctors used Sutter’s hospital facilities and the most prominent of these doctors was a Dr. Bates.

Bates began treating patients at New Helvetia in July 1847 and later during the same month, Sutter made a financial arrangement with Bates “to cure my sick Indians.”

Several entries in the “New Helvetia Diary” in the summer of 1847 mention a fever that was sweeping through the valley and was affecting the Indian population.

On July 14, 1847, the diary mentions: “A good many Indians are sick. Dr. Bates is attending to them.”

In bearing evidence that this epidemic was not confined to the native population, an entry written in the diary a week later reads: “Dr. Bates attended to a great many sick Indians and some white persons.”

The epidemic was so intense and wide spread that Bates was forced to make house calls.

Sutter notes in the diary on July 15, 1847 that he was visiting sick people in the Indian rancheria with Bates.

Because Bates was administering to the sick outside the fort, a Mr. Rumshöttel was hired on July 16, 1847 to serve as the steward of the fort hospital.

Eleven days later, a Mr. Huffner volunteered to assist with the hospital and make calls on the rancherias with Bates, and less than two months later, Sutter hired another steward, a Mr. Burns.

Bates, who was mentioned many times in the diary as being away from the fort treating patients and working in the hospital, was joined by many other doctors at various times.

On May 9, 1848, the diary noted that Bates “returned from his exploring [in the mountains] and [had] discovered quicksilver, silver and gold, etc.” The diary, however, does not mention if Bates struck it rich.

On the second to the last day that the diary was kept – May 24, 1848 – it was written that Bates was “moving and making room for Mr. [Samuel] Kyburz.”

Sacramento Hospital

Following the founding of Sacramento City – the original name of Sacramento – the city’s first hospital, Sacramento Hospital, was established by Dr. Charles H. Cragin and Alex G. Abell.

The hospital was located in an adobe structure that had formerly housed the S. Brannan and Co. store, which was operated by Samuel Brannan and C.C. Smith.

JUST A COUNTRY DOCTOR? Even before the great California Gold Rush of 1849 brought tens of thousands of new arrivals to the Sacramento Valley, Capt. John A. Sutter used a medical book and provided medical care and hospital facilities for the citizens of his settlement of New Helvetia and the thousands of Indians working on his land and living throughout the valley. / Photo public domain

JUST A COUNTRY DOCTOR? Even before the great California Gold Rush of 1849 brought tens of thousands of new arrivals to the Sacramento Valley, Capt. John A. Sutter used a medical book and provided medical care and hospital facilities for the citizens of his settlement of New Helvetia and the thousands of Indians working on his land and living throughout the valley. / Photo public domain

A public announcement regarding this hospital, which was located near Sutter’s Fort, was published in the Aug. 4, 1849 edition of the Daily Alta California, the San Francisco newspaper that descended from Brannan’s California Star.

Under the heading, “Sacramento Hospital,” readers were informed that the “large and commodious” building had recently been converted into a fully furnished hospital and was prepared to admit patients.

In Grimshaw’s Narrative – a work that was written in 1872 and published in 1964 by the Sacramento Book Collectors Club – William Robinson Grimshaw, who worked as a clerk in one of the stores at the fort, noted that the building was a single-story structure, “about 100 feet long by 30 feet wide [and] situated about 50 yards east of the fort.”

Continuing, Grimshaw wrote: “[During the S. Brannan and Co. era], there was a loft filled with hides and other relics of trade before the mines were discovered. The building had been erected by Capt. Sutter for the use of emigrants who were without shelter, and somehow acquired the name of the ‘old penitentiary.’ After Brannan and Co. vacated this building, it was occupied as a hospital by Alex G. Abell and Charles Cragin of Washington, D.C. It was then used as a brewery by M. Yager and the last vestige of it disappeared in the flood of 1862.”

The Alta California also reported in the Aug. 4, 1849 article that the hospital building was “believed to be better adapted to such a purpose than any other house in the country, being spacious, cool and well ventilated.”

The hospital, which used a water source from a then-recently sunk well, was also reported to have “good nurses and attendants” and a “good cook.”

At the conclusion of the Alta California article, it was noted that “no pains (would) be spared to supply the establishment with every comfort and convenience for the sick” and “no sick man [would] be refused admission because [he was] destitute of money.”

About a month following the opening of this hospital, Sacramento’s first newspaper, the Placer Times, ran a complimentary letter to the editor from a person, named Sante.

In the letter, Sante wrote: “The Sacramento Hospital, conducted by Dr. Cragin and Mr. Abell, is No. 1, as yet among such institutions of California. The house is large, cool and airy, apart from the noise, dust and bustle of the city and a few (if any) mosquitos [sic] to annoy. The very entrance into this establishment, where every attention and convenience are to be had, is enough to check the disease of any invalid. I would say to any person having sick friends or acquaintances to take them there in preference to attempting a cure even in private houses.”

Taste and see: Friends of Sutter’s Fort to present two events – one culinary, one haunted

Sutter’s Fort will be the site of two upcoming events, which will serve as fundraisers for the Friends of Sutter’s Fort.

A Taste of History

DINNER SERVICE will be provided by Plates Café, a division of St. John’s Shelter Program for Women and Children. / Photo courtesy, Friends of Sutter’s Fort

DINNER SERVICE will be provided by Plates Café, a division of St. John’s Shelter Program for Women and Children. / Photo courtesy, Friends of Sutter’s Fort

The first of these events, A Taste of History, will be held on Saturday, Sept. 24 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

This event will feature some of the city’s top chefs, who will use 19th century recipes and add their own modern touches to them.

One of the event’s major sponsors will be Whole Foods, which will provide quality produce that will be used throughout the evening.

The event will begin with a reception, and wine, beer and hors d’oeuvres will be served while guests will have the opportunity to interact with the chefs, who will be preparing various levels of their dishes in the fort’s period facilities.

The event, which will also include live, historic, acoustic music, will be highlighted by a four-course, seated dinner, which will begin with a chicken mole salad prepared by Jay Veregee, executive chef of Old Sacramento’s Ten 22 restaurant.

Lisa Mealoy, executive director of the Friends of Sutter’s Fort, said that when it comes to early Sutter’s Fort history, presenting a Mexican-type dish at this event is very fitting.

“One of the things that people don’t necessarily know is that California was actually a part of Mexico,” Mealoy said. “During the time of Sutter, there was a lot of excitement and transition with Mexico and Sutter was very involved with the Mexican government. So, we’re talking about highlighting the chicken mole, the Mexican aspect of things.”

Also taking part in the event will be Patrick Mulvaney of midtown Sacramento’s Mulvaney’s B & L restaurant.

CHEFS PREPARE FOOD on the fire pit at Sutter’s Fort during last year’s A Taste of History event. / Photo courtesy, Friends of Sutter’s Fort

CHEFS PREPARE FOOD on the fire pit at Sutter’s Fort during last year’s A Taste of History event. / Photo courtesy, Friends of Sutter’s Fort

Mulvaney will be preparing local, grilled, king salmon with American River fennel and West Sacramento heirloom tomatoes. The dish will be paired with pinot noir wine from Rail Bridge Cellars of Sacramento.

Mealoy said that it will be a pleasurable experience to have such fine chefs at the event.

“They are Sacramento’s local celebrity chefs and they are extraordinarily talented, but they also happen to be extraordinarily nice people, who are very generous in the community and lots of fun to get to work with,” Mealoy said.

Tickets to this fundraiser are presently being sold for $85 per person.

For additional information regarding this event, call (916) 323-7626.

The Haunted Fort

The second upcoming event presented by the Friends of Sutter’s Fort will be the very timely fall event, The Haunted Fort, which will be held on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 28 and 29 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

An official Sutter’s Fort news release notes that the fort was “once a portal for weary pioneers (and) again serves as the gateway to their restless spirits, who return to tell the tales of their lives and melancholy deaths at this special family-friendly event.”

WARM WELCOME. Brightly colored table décor welcomes guests to last year’s edition of A Taste of History. / Photo courtesy, Friends of Sutter’s Fort

WARM WELCOME. Brightly colored table décor welcomes guests to last year’s edition of A Taste of History. / Photo courtesy, Friends of Sutter’s Fort

The Haunted Fort will feature 45-minute, guided, in-the-dark, “spooky,” historic tours of the fort that will present characters from different eras of the fort’s past. These tours will begin about every 10 minutes.

Mealoy describes this event as an opportunity to hear about “dark and creepy and intriguing stories of the pioneers and people of Sacramento who came through and had some sort of relationship with the fort.”

Continuing, Mealoy said that guests will meet people who will be portraying such characters as former Sutter’s Fort curator Harry Peterson and members of the Donner Party.

“(Guests) will learn about the characters themselves and why they’re so fascinating and why they may have left their marks, their spirits, here at the fort,” Mealoy said. “They all have very dramatic stories. And part of the goal behind this (event) is to help people see that we have tremendous stories that are a part of history that go way beyond just the dates and the numbers and the facts and the figures.”

As for actual ghosts at the fort, Mealoy said, “We do have reports of ghosts and ghosts sightings here (at the fort), but it’s all in one’s belief. But any stories that we hear, nobody seems to feel that there’s anything malevolent or threatening here, and this event itself is intended to be a family event. It’s not a horror house type of event.”

Admission for The Haunted Fort event will be $6 for ages 17 and older, $4 for ages 6 to 16, and free for ages 5 and younger.

STEP TO THE BEAT. A Taste of History will include live, historic, acoustic music. / Photo courtesy, Friends of Sutter’s Fort

STEP TO THE BEAT. A Taste of History will include live, historic, acoustic music. / Photo courtesy, Friends of Sutter’s Fort

For further information regarding this event, call (916) 445-4422.

Friends of Sutter’s Fort

Because proceeds from both of the aforementioned events benefit the Friends of Sutter’s Fort, Mealoy believes that it is important for the community to be informed about this nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization.

Although the Friends of Sutter’s Fort is only about three years old, it evolved from the Sacramento Historic Sites Association, a much older foundation that supported Sutter’s Fort, as well as the California State Railroad Museum, the Stanford Mansion, the California State Indian Museum and the California State Capitol Museum.

Eventually, the Sacramento Historic Sites Association was divided into individual cooperating associations that were dedicated to specific state parks.

Volunteers are absolutely essential to the success of the organization, which also operates the trade store at Sutter’s Fort.

In regard to The Haunted Fort event, Mealoy said, “(The volunteers) help in the research for the stories, because it’s important to us that they be historically accurate. They help to design the scenarios, they help to put everything together and they just knock your socks off. There’s no way that this event could happen if we didn’t have (the volunteers).”

BREW MASTER Brian Cofresi of the River City Brewing Co. will prepare a special brew for this year’s A Taste of History event. / Photo courtesy, Friends of Sutter’s Fort

BREW MASTER Brian Cofresi of the River City Brewing Co. will prepare a special brew for this year’s A Taste of History event. / Photo courtesy, Friends of Sutter’s Fort

Mealoy said that having a foundation specifically dedicated to supporting the historical programming at Sutter’s Fort is very beneficial in continuously improving upon the functions and activities of this longtime popular state historic park.

For additional information regarding upcoming Sutter’s Fort events, visit www.suttersfort.org.

Mystery of the Missing Markers

Editor’s Note: This is part two of a two-part series regarding the history of East Sacramento’s former New Helvetia Cemetery.

It has been nearly 162 years since Captain John A. Sutter set aside 10 acres for his establishment’s first formal burial ground, the now nonexistent New Helvetia Cemetery.

The cemetery, which was eventually doubled in size, served the community for many years before evolving into a public park, which was known as Helvetia Park.

The old cemetery grounds, with the exception of a tombstone-like marker presenting information about the former cemetery, are no longer distinguishable. The land is presently the site of Sutter Middle School at 3150 I St.

In the process of creating Helvetia Park, the old cemetery, which actually adjoined East Park (today’s McKinley Park), had its headstones removed and replaced with flat gravesite identifying markers.

Unfortunately, various decisions and actions connected to the processes of creating the park and removing the cemetery in its entirety resulted in many missing tombstones and markers and even unidentified graves.

Other gravesites were presumably left unidentified in earlier times due to such possible causes as the deterioration of wooden markers and flooding that carried away wooden markers. Because of recurrent flooding in the area, there were no burials at the cemetery from 1850 to 1857.

A classic example related to the old cemetery’s missing markers was presented in the Aug. 11, 1989 edition of The Sacramento Bee, as a story was related in which a lecture about Sacramento cemeteries at California Middle School was interrupted by a boy who raised his hand and said, “We have some of those stones in our yard.”

In a meeting with the East Sacramento News last week, Dr. Bob LaPerriere, co-chair of the Sacramento County Cemetery Advisory Commission, discussed the topic of missing tombstones and other markers from the New Helvetia Cemetery.

“When they removed the bodies in the 1950s, we’re not sure exactly what happened, but some people recall that these concrete markers were kind of stacked up along the street,” LaPerriere said. “A couple years ago, we located – just between two homes behind Sutter Middle School – over 70 of these flat, concrete markers. They were used for stepping stones and kind of to widen the driveway.”

LaPerriere said that a unique event occurred following the discovery of these markers, as the stones were transported from Sutter Middle School to East Lawn Memorial Park at Folsom Boulevard and 43rd Street via a horse-drawn wagon.

The decision to deliver these markers to East Lawn Memorial Park was a simple one, considering that the city had purchased property at the cemetery for a mass, unmarked burial site, where 4,691 unidentified human remains from the New Helvetia Cemetery were reinterred.

Unfortunately, this large number of “unknowns,” as these unidentified remains are often referred to, account for the majority of the remains from the New Helvetia Cemetery.

The Sacramento Historic City Cemetery at 1000 Broadway is the site of the remains of about 400 additional people who were once buried at the New Helvetia Cemetery.

However, these remains are individually identified and are located in three separate areas at the Broadway cemetery, west of Riverside Boulevard.

Other individually identified remains from the New Helvetia Cemetery were reinterred at the following Sacramento city and county cemeteries: East Lawn, Masonic Lawn Cemetery at 2700 Riverside Blvd., Odd Fellows Lawn Cemetery at 2720 Riverside Blvd., St. Joseph’s Cemetery at 2615 21stt St., St. Mary’s Cemetery at 6700 21st St., Sacramento Memorial Lawn at 6100 Stockton Blvd., Elk Grove Cemetery at 8540 Elk Grove Blvd. in Elk Grove and the Sylvan Cemetery at 7401 Auburn Blvd. in Citrus Heights.

Despite this long list of other cemeteries, LaPerriere notes that a relatively low number of remains from the New Helvetia Cemetery were relocated to these cemeteries.

LaPerriere provided the following numbers regarding the relocations of these remains: 410 sent to Broadway cemetery, 84 to East Lawn, 32 to Odd Fellows, six to Sacramento Memorial Lawn, three to St. Joseph’s, three to Elk Grove, two to St. Mary’s and one to Masonic.

In regard to the many flat markers from the New Helvetia Cemetery site that are still missing today, LaPerriere mentioned that he would not be surprised if some of these markers are presently located on residential properties within the nearby vicinity of this former East Sacramento cemetery.

Although the aforementioned mass burial at East Lawn Memorial Park is recognized as consisting of “unknowns” or unidentified remains, this does not mean that there are no records of any of the names of the deceased people from the New Helvetia Cemetery who were reburied there.

To the contrary, records exist for many people who were buried at the New Helvetia Cemetery and it is by deduction from the names of those who were reinterred in other local cemeteries that a list of assumed names was created for the mass burial site at East Lawn Memorial Park.

LaPerriere said that East Lawn Memorial Park, although it was not obligated to do so, greatly contributed to the cemetery’s mass burial site.

“The city never put up a marker or anything (at the mass burial site), absolutely nothing,” LaPerriere said. “It took John Bettencourt (the late cemetery historian and preservationist who was vital in the formation of the Old City Cemetery Committee) and I working with East Lawn, quite a few years ago, to get the area memorialized. East Lawn, of course, had no responsibility to do it. The city bought the area, buried the people and the city should have taken care of things. But East Lawn, being very community minded, worked with us and they put four (right angle) corner walls in around the area to demarcate the area and they put a nice monument in the center memorializing those who were moved from New Helvetia (Cemetery).”

In addition to this burial site’s corner markers, most of the perimeter of the site is outlined with the flat, concrete markers that had been retrieved from the residential yards near Sutter Middle School.

As of about two years ago, the whereabouts of only one verified original tombstone from the New Helvetia Cemetery was known.

But fortunately, it was discovered that another original New Helvetia Cemetery tombstone – that of members of the Asch family – was located in Auburn.

About a month ago, the stone was relocated to Sacramento and it will soon be placed in the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery’s already existing Asch plot.

LaPerriere said that anyone with information regarding missing headstones or markers from the New Helvetia Cemetery is encouraged to call the Sacramento County Cemetery Advisory Commission at (916) 874-9103 or write to the e-mail address: cemeterycommission@saccounty.net.

Anyone with information regarding missing headstones or markers from the New Helvetia Cemetery is encouraged to call the Sacramento County Cemetery Advisory Commission at (916) 874-9103 or write to the e-mail address: cemeterycommission@sac

county.net

Rancho del Paso included future Arden, Carmichael areas

 

 

Editor’s Note: This is part one of a two-part series regarding the historic Rancho del Paso Mexican land grant.

 

Many Arden and Carmichael residents undoubtedly share many similarities, from living in the same county to shopping at the same stores to attending the same community activities. But a little lesser known fact is that a good number of these residents also reside in an area that was once part of a 44,374-acre Mexican land grant.

This portion of a 1915 real estate map points out the location of Rancho del Paso, a historic Mexican land grant, which included what is now recognized as the Arden area and part of present day Carmichael. / Photo courtesy, California State Library

This portion of a 1915 real estate map points out the location of Rancho del Paso, a historic Mexican land grant, which included what is now recognized as the Arden area and part of present day Carmichael. / Photo courtesy, California State Library

Known as Rancho del Paso (“Ranch of the Pass”), this grant was roughly located within the modern boundaries of Northgate Boulevard to the west, the American River to the south, Manzanita Avenue to the east and a little south of Elverta Road in the vicinity of U Street to the north.

In being that Rancho del Paso did not extend to the east beyond the present day Manzanita Avenue and a parallel route from this avenue to the river, the more eastern part of Carmichael lies within the site of another historic Mexican land grant, which was known as Rancho San Juan.

Today, the Rancho del Paso acreage includes such notable sites as Town and Country Village, Del Paso Country Club, Arden Fair Mall, Country Club Plaza, Loehmann’s Plaza and McClellan Field.

The property that became the Rancho del Paso land grant did not appear in recorded history until 1839 with the arrival of Captain John A. Sutter.

Sutter, who held the rights to the Mexican land grant, New Helvetia, where Sutter’s Fort was constructed and the city of Sacramento was later founded, also claimed rights to Rancho del Paso.

Town and Country Village is one of the most notable present day landmarks that are located within the boundaries of the historic Rancho del Paso land grant. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Town and Country Village is one of the most notable present day landmarks that are located within the boundaries of the historic Rancho del Paso land grant. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Four years after acquiring New Helvetia, Sutter deeded Rancho del Paso to Eliab Grimes, Hiram Grimes and John Sinclair as a possible payment for supplies.

Rancho del Paso Historical Society President Bob Kent said that Sutter did not actually own the land that he deeded to these three men.

“John Sutter deeded a big hunk of land to two guys named Grimes and John Sinclair,” Kent said. “Sutter probably owed these men money, because he worked on credit and these were guys who had money. Except Sutter didn’t own the property. Later on, (Sutter) was granted a second grant that went way up into Marysville, called the Sobrante grant. The Sobrante grant came a few months after (John Sinclair and the Grimeses were deeded Rancho del Paso), so (Sutter) may have anticipated that he was going to get the (Sobrante grant) and he decided to give them a hunk of it to settle some credit claims.”

John Sinclair, who was a native of Scotland, settled on the rancho, which was named after a ford in the river, with his wife, Mary, and began raising cattle, sheep and hogs.

The entire Arden area, which includes the popular Arden Fair Mall, is located on the site of the historic Rancho del Paso Mexican land grant. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

The entire Arden area, which includes the popular Arden Fair Mall, is located on the site of the historic Rancho del Paso Mexican land grant. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Kent said that John and Mary Sinclair had children together and resided “down by the pass in the river,” near today’s H Street Bridge.

“(John and Mary Sinclair) had a little family and they had a nice place,” Kent said. “It was reported that their ranch house was of the Eastern style, which means that it was made from lumber.”

Desiring a better title to this land, Eliab, who was a naturalized Mexican citizen, petitioned the Mexican government, which on Dec. 20, 1844 responded by making Rancho del Paso an official Mexican land grant.

According to research by former McClellan Air Force Base historian Raymond Oliver, John Sinclair and Eliab Grimes held rodeos on the ranch on May 29, 1847 and on Nov. 5, 1847.

Eliab passed away at the age of 69 on Nov. 11, 1848 and according to the Nov. 18, 1858 edition of The Sacramento Union, he had willed “all his right, title and interest in the land embraced in the grant” to Hiram, who was his nephew.

Rancho del Paso was sold to Samuel Norris on Aug. 8, 1849, and Hiram later acquired the 19,982-acre Rancho San Juan, which was located on the north side of the American River, opposite the Leidesdorff Rancho. This latter land transfer occurred in July 1860.

Norris, who was born Gotthilf Wilhelm Becher Christensen, in Denmark in 1822, had met the Grimeses and John Sinclair in the Sandwich Islands (present day Hawaii), where they had lived for some time prior to coming to California.

The Placer Times reported on March 9, 1850 that in addition to owning Rancho del Paso, Norris was in the process of establishing his own town, “Norristown.” Founded near his ranch on the south bank of the American River in the area where Sacramento State University is now located, the town, which was renamed Hoboken, functioned in its civic capacity for at least three years.

James Ben Ali Haggin and his brother-in-law Lloyd Tevis became the new owners of the rancho in 1862, and Norris returned to the Sandwich Islands.

This map of Rancho del Paso was printed in 1862, the year that James Ben Ali Haggin and Lloyd Tevis acquired the rancho. / Photo courtesy, California State Library

This map of Rancho del Paso was printed in 1862, the year that James Ben Ali Haggin and Lloyd Tevis acquired the rancho. / Photo courtesy, California State Library

Haggin, who arrived in California from Kentucky at the age of 29 in 1850, was the most renowned owner of the property.

The rancho remained under the ownership of Haggin and Tevis until 1869, when Rancho del Paso was transferred to the Sacramento Farm Homestead Association, whose trustees included former California Gov. Leland Stanford and the well-known banker D.O. Mills. The association had intended to subdivide and sell the property, but this endeavor failed, apparently due to the land’s insufficient number of reliable water wells.

The rancho, which once included Central Pacific Railroad tracks that were part of the first Transcontinental Railroad, was recognized as the site of orchards, vineyards, groves of oaks, and alfalfa, hops and other fields.

But much more notable than the rancho’s agricultural assets were Haggin’s nationally-renowned racehorses, which included his most famous horse, Ben Ali, who won the 1886 Kentucky Derby.

In recognizing Haggin’s stock farm, which also specialized in the raising of sheep and cattle, The Union described Rancho del Paso on Feb. 9, 1884 as “second to no other stock farm on the continent.”

Traders’ Fair highlights Sutter’s Fort’s past as ‘California’s first mall’

Sutter’s Fort, which has a long tradition of interpreting history from 1839 to the early days of the Gold Rush, will be holding a special, family-oriented event on April 15-17. The California State Indian Museum is also participating in the event through its own crafts fair.
Traders’ Faire guests can purchase replica 19th century cultural items and curiosities, Native American goods and other items sold by vendors from throughout the western United States. / Photo courtesy, Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park

Traders’ Faire guests can purchase replica 19th century cultural items and curiosities, Native American goods and other items sold by vendors from throughout the western United States. / Photo courtesy, Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park

Visitors of the fort during this particular weekend will be able to step back in time to observe and participate in a Traders’ Faire through free, hands-on activities led by costumed docents. The free activities of this all-ages event include making bead necklaces, corn husk dolls and hanks of rope and hammering square nails.

Guests will also have the opportunity to observe musket demonstrations and purchase a wide variety of replica 19th century cultural items and curiosities sold by vendors from throughout the western United States. The items for sale include clothing, toys, Native American goods, house wares and beads.

The Traders’ Faire has become an anticipated annual event at the fort, since Sutter’s Fort docents Yvonne and Ken Falletti founded the faire in 1992 for the purpose of introducing people in the Sacramento area to the type of craftsmen usually only seen at esoteric events such as at mountain men rendezvous.

Steve Beck, historic guide and lead to hands-on activities at Sutter’s Fort, emphasized that one of the things that makes the Traders’ Faire so interesting is that it highlights the fort’s past as “California’s first mall.”

“While most of us know that Sutter’s Fort was the beginning of Sacramento, few of us know of the importance the fort served as a commercial center in the early days of the Gold Rush,” Beck said. “It was the only trading center on the way to the goldfields and thousands of Argonauts passed through the fort to purchase supplies from a variety of vendors hawking a plethora of goods, thus making the fort California’s first shopping mall.”

The central building at Sutter’s Fort once housed a hotel and a 24 hours per day bar and gambling parlor. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

The central building at Sutter’s Fort once housed a hotel and a 24 hours per day bar and gambling parlor. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Beck’s description of Sutter’s Fort is undoubtedly accurate, as the Second College Edition of the American Heritage Dictionary defines a mall as a “complex of buildings containing various shops, businesses and restaurants usually accessible by common passageways.”

Originally, the fort was filled with Captain John A. Sutter’s manufactories, which churned out the implements of his agricultural empire and supplied the bare essentials of the community of New Helvetia (New Switzerland), which was what Sutter named his Mexican land grant.

But with the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill at Coloma by James Marshall on Jan. 24, 1848, Sutter’s world was turned upside down.

As documented in James Peter Zollinger’s book, “Sutter: The Man and His Empire,” the beginning of this “mall” in July 1848 was “dramatic and radical.”

Zollinger wrote: “First, all hands struck for higher wages, but soon no wages were enough to tie a man to his post….The hatters, coopers, carpenters, the blacksmiths and gunsmiths, the clerks and cartwrights, saddlers and shoemakers, the ship builders and supervisors – all were gone like water through a sieve.”

Zollinger added that the fort “degenerated into a wayside station for transient miners and a trading post for miners’ supplies.”

Further describing this “mall,” which was in operation for about one year, as Sutter’s Fort’s shifted from a center of bustling commercial activity to a footnote on the frontier, Zollinger wrote: “A score of merchants operated at the fort, paying $100 rent a month for a single room. (The two-story central building) was turned into a hotel with a monthly rent of $500 for the entire hotel paid to Sutter.”

In his 1872 narrative, William Grimshaw, who worked as a clerk in one of the stores at the fort, reported that staying in the hotel cost an individual $40 per week and meals were $2 each.

Merchants at the fort included: Brannan and Co. general store, Hensley, Reading and Co. hardware store, Priest, Lee and Co. mining equipment, Peter Burnett, lawyer and real estate firm, Joseph Wadleigh, tinsmith, restaurants, drinking establishments and even a newspaper, the Placer Times.

The basement of the central building was turned into a bar and gambling parlor. And Grimshaw reported in his narrative that “this bar was crowded with customers, night and day, and never closed from one month’s end to the other.”

In addition to its high prices for boarding and meals, the fort was also a place where one could purchase many items and services at inflated Gold Rush era prices.

The 19th annual Traders’ Fair will be held at Sutter’s Fort on April 15-17. The event also includes a crafts fair at the neighboring California State Indian Museum. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

The 19th annual Traders’ Fair will be held at Sutter’s Fort on April 15-17. The event also includes a crafts fair at the neighboring California State Indian Museum. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Included among these prices were: 20 pounds of saleratus (baking soda) for $400, Boston crackers for $16 per tin, a pick or a shovel for $16 and $64 for a horse or mule to be “shod all around” or in other words, have horseshoes placed on all four hooves of a horse or mule.

In addition to commenting about the inflated prices for merchandise and services at the fort during this era, Grimshaw noted that a blacksmith’s assistant at the fort was earning $16 per day – compared to a wage of $10 per month for labor performed in the same position prior to the Gold Rush.

For those who decide to attend any of the three days of the Traders’ Faire at Sutter’s Fort, Beck will be available to answer history-related questions and he said that he promises “prices will be less than what Gold Rush patrons paid.”

Daily admission for this event, which will be held each day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., will be $7/adults, $5/ages 6-17 and free/children, 5 years old and younger. Admission prices for the event include entry to both Sutter’s Fort at 2701 L St. and the California State Indian Museum at 2618 K St.

For more information regarding this event, visit the Web site www.parks.ca.gov/suttersfort or call Sutter’s Fort at (916) 445-4422 or the Indian Museum at (916) 324-0971.

lance@valcomnews.com