Capt. Sutter’s descendants visit Sutter’s Fort

Descendants of Capt. John Sutter – Ron Sutter, right, and Connor Glasgow – were shown during their visit to the fort last week. Photo by Lance Armstrong
Descendants of Capt. John Sutter – Ron Sutter, right, and Connor Glasgow – were shown during their visit to the fort last week. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Among the most common questions that state employees and docents at Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park at 2701 L St. regularly receive from visitors of this historic site pertain to whether there are still any Sutter family members in existence and if any Sutter relatives are living in California today. The answers to such questions are an affirmative, “yes.”
But better than the knowledge that there are still living, breathing, walking, talking Sutter family members residing in the Golden State today is the fact that two descendants of the German-born, Swiss immigrant John Augustus Sutter, Sr. (1803-1880) were roaming inside the walls of the fort just last Tuesday, March 24.
The first of those descendants to be discovered by this publication on the grounds of the fort last week was 9-year-old Connor Glasgow, who was dressed in clothing reminiscent to those that were worn by his great-great-great-great-grandfather, the aforementioned John Sutter, Sr. – aka Capt. John Sutter.
John Sutter, Sr. immigrated to California during its Mexican period of 1821 to 1848, and during the summer of 1839, he made his way to the shore of the American River in an area near today’s 28th and C streets, where the river flowed during that time.
Eventually, John Sutter, Sr. obtained a Mexican land grant, which was named Nueva Helvetia (New Switzerland). That grant included the area of today’s Sacramento.
John Sutter, Sr. established an agricultural empire in Nueva Helvetia that would come to an end with the emergence of vast numbers of gold seekers during the great California Gold Rush.
Connor’s recent presence at the fort came by way of the Environmental Living Program, which presents California fourth grade students with opportunities to “live history” at the fort through a 24-hour, educational experience, which simulates life at the fort during the 1840s. The program is additionally beneficial, since it is integrated into the students’ curriculum.
Accompanied by their teachers and trained parent assistants, the schoolchildren participate in such activities as cooking in the period kitchen and in the yard’s fire pits, trading, basket, rope, candle and corn husk doll making, riding in covered wagons, entertainment and other activities related to the era.
A major element of the program is the students’ involvement in taking on the roles of particular characters of the era, including John Sutter, Sr., James Marshall, John Bidwell, Patty Reed and Elizabeth Patton Elliot.
And that part of ELP is the precise reason that Connor was found at the fort portraying Capt. Sutter last week.
After the arrival of the East Sacramento News at the fort, Connor left a group of 4th graders, who were participating in an activity, to dedicate time to sharing a few details about himself, his family and his visit to the fort.
Connor, who was born in Walnut Creek and resides in Pleasant Hill, said that because of his ancestry, he received a special invitation to attend this year’s ELP.
“I go to Valhalla (Elementary School in Pleasant Hill),” said Connor, whose ELP experience also included giving a welcome speech. “I just got to go (with students from Pleasant Hill’s Strandwood Elementary School), because I’m related (to both John Sutters).”
In speaking about his family, Connor said that he has four other members in his family, his father, Jack, his mother, Amber, and his sisters, Addison and Kate.
Connor, who enjoys playing baseball and swimming, added that his mother, who was born Amber Lynn Sutter, changed her middle name from Lynn to Sutter after she was married, so that she could maintain the Sutter name.
After being asked what he enjoys about Sutter’s Fort, Connor said, “I like how everything is like old. Like you don’t see (electric) signs that say like, ‘open,’ that are flashing.”
A few minutes following Connor’s interview with this paper, a meeting of the Friends of Sutter’s Fort ended on the grounds of the fort.
Connor’s grandfather, Ron J. Sutter, who, until recently, had served as chairman of that organization during the past four years, was among those who emerged from that meeting.
Ron, who was born in San Francisco and graduated from San Francisco Polytechnic High School in 1966, had also arranged to be interviewed for this article.
During that interview, Ron spoke for a while about his Sutter family history.
“I come from John Sutter, Jr. (and his second wife, Nicolasa Solis Sutter),” Ron said. “John Sutter (Sr.) had four children, and (John, Jr.) was the one that came to California and developed the city of Sacramento. He (made) plans for the streets and the parks and so on.
“And, of course, everything changed (with the Gold Rush). People were coming in and taking what belonged to (John, Sr.), and so on. So, he went to Congress to fight it and try to get his grant back.
“John Sutter (Sr.) and his wife, Anna, (eventually permanently) moved back to Pennsylvania.
“John Sutter, Jr., (who had various children, including Reginald Sutter, Sr.), became the U.S. consulate from Mexico and went to Acapulco. That’s the Mexican side of our family.
“My father was heavily involved with Sutter’s Fort. His name was Reginald Sutter, (Jr.). When I came to the fort as a little child, I got involved in all the functions and the parties and so on.
“My father and his sister, (Gloria), had to leave (Acapulco), Mexico during the revolution. They had to leave the country. Otherwise they would have been killed. So, they came over here and they had children. And my (grandmother, Guadalupe Sutter) took care of them, and that’s how they got to the Bay Area. And most of our family is from the Bay Area right now. I live in Rio Vista right now.”
Ron, after being asked to describe the pride he has for being a descendant of the two John Sutters, said, “I’m a little proud of being this way, being a Sutter. There are a lot of stories that come with it, and then you hear different sides and you read different types of books. But it is unbelievable how a man could travel from Switzerland and come all the way over here, and make a settlement. I just find that unbelievable. You know, we complain today about a six-hour plane flight, and he took five years to get here.”
In further speaking about the Sutter family, Ron said, “There are people who can’t believe that there is still a Sutter around or Sutters. We have a very large family. I would say (there are) at least 200 Sutter (relatives) in California. There are quite a few cousins and so forth. There are also some back East, some in Germany and some in Mexico.”
And for at least some time last week, there were also two at Sutter’s Fort.

Lance@valcomnews.com

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.”