A Travellerspoint blog

Day 185 - Sutters Fort (Photo's Added)

We met a friend, Pam, and toured Sutters Fort and the CA State Indian Museum

sunny 70 °F

Before we left the RV campground this morning, I was able to get a few more bird pictures. Since we were on the Sacramento River Delta, there were lots and lots of birds - but I figure a couple of shots should be enough to show you how big the flock of snow geese flock was (thumbnail alert - click to enlarge).

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We also saw this Western Meadowlark - a really cool bird. (The rest of the birds we saw refused to sit still for the camera, so have missed their opportunity for fame and glory in the blog.)

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This morning, Mom & I went to visit Pam, a friend from when Mom & Dad lived in Nevada City. We had a nice visit and sampled an apricot pie she'd baked. When we mentioned that we planned to visit Sutter's Fort in the afternoon, Pam said she'd like to join us for that - so the three of us piled into her car and drove to downtown Sacramento.

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Today, a school group was having a special program at Sutters Fort. All the kids from that school were dressed in period costumes and taking part in various activities to learn about pioneer life. Many of the parents and teachers were also participating in period dress. They had attended workshops to learn specific pioneer skills and were using them in the Fort. The group will stay overnight (at least the kids & dad's, not sure who else). We met one of the dad's outside the main gate, who was kind enough to pose with Mom & I.

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Here's another view of the main gate, but from inside the Fort. Again, with some reenactors from the school group.

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The Fort was still open for general tourists and other school groups, but it was really fun to have all these extra reenactor's running around in costume and acting like pioneers! This made the place really come alive (even if many of the pioneers were pint sized).

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Just after we entered the gate, there were a couple of rooms set up with informative displays about John Sutter and the history of his Fort. John (Johann Augustus) Sutter was born in Baden, Germany in 1803. Baden is near the Swiss border and Sutter considered himself a Swiss. He left Europe in 1834 and spent some years travelling and exploring before finally setting up his colony in today's Sacramento in 1839. He called his settlement "New Helvetia" (New Switzerland). At the time he arrived in California in 1839, there were only about 1,000 Europeans and 30,000 Native American's living there. The Mexican Governor, Juan Bautista Alvarado gave him permission to settle in what is now the Sacramento area, then made this a formal land grant of about 48,000 acres after Sutter became a Mexican citizen in 1840. He was also given an additional grant of about 144,000 acres by a different Mexican governor in 1845, but lost this in an 1858 US Supreme Court decision after being sued by squatters.

Sutter employed the local Native American's, as opposed to enslaving them as we'd seen happen along the east coast. He actually built a fairly extensive and successful community. He employed carpenters, blacksmiths, coopers and whatever other farmers or craftsmen/women were needed for a successful community. Much of the reconstructed fort's rooms contain living history type shops. Here are some examples of how they are set up (some others had folks actually working in them!)

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While there were quite a few structures and residences at New Helvetia, only the adobe Fort has been reconstructed. It was actually a Fort and contained defensive "Bastion" corner sections with cannon, 2.5' thick walls, and a weapons room to store the rifles and ammunition.

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They also have a room set up as Sutter lived in it and another as a workman's quarters (not everyone had beds in 1846).

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A number of people were cooking using 1846 style equipment and techniques. The school group would actually be eating dinner from their efforts!

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One thing I hadn't been clear about was that Sutter's Fort is not where gold was discovered. Sutter needed lumber for his growing enterprise and joined a partnership with James Marshall to build a lumber mill in the foothills about 50 miles east of the Sacramento area on the south fork of the American River. That is where the gold was discovered (and we visited it a couple of days later). The sad thing is that once the news got out, most of Sutters workers abandoned his fields and shops for the gold fields. Squatters and minors overran most of his holdings, cheated him and left him with little to show for having settled northern California. The Gold Rush did not leave a positive legacy for Sutter or the Fort that helped many early settler's survive in California.

After touring Sutters Fort, we also went through the State Indian Museum, which was right next door. I was able to get a couple of pictures of the general area, but the Museum doesn't allow photography inside. It was pretty good if you ever get a chance to visit it.

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Pam treated us to lunch at a nice place near the Fort, then Mom & I got back in the RV and headed east again, bit of a story there but we ended up staying in the Nevada County Fairgrounds which has RV camping at the far end. (Another unscheduled route change?) We had a pretty nice night there - but a friendly rooster took a liking to us and made sure he fulfilled his rooster duties very early in the morning!

Logistics:

Miles Driven - 120, Cumulative - 17,880
Camped at Nevada County Fairgrounds for $24

Provisions - $26.70 for 7.718 gallons at 127,721

Posted by jl98584 20:55 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

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