Lesson 1 - John Augustus Sutter_ by fjwuxn


									 Lesson One

                                 LESSON ONE
                         The Adventure Begins:
               “Boys I believe I have found a gold mine!”


      ♦     To describe the society in California (Native Americans and
            Californios) that long pre-dated the discovery of gold, and to char-
            acterize the nature of its economy (based upon cattle raising and
            foreign commerce) in the 1840s.

      ♦     To analyze the growing tensions between the Californios and the
            U.S. settlers on the eve of the Gold Rush.

      ♦     To understand what the discovery of gold at Sutter’s sawmill was
            like through the words and images of participants and contempo-
            rary observers.

      ♦     To trace how gold fever spread during the first year after gold


J  ohn Augustus Sutter, a German-born and Swiss-educated immigrant, came
   to America in 1834. Sutter had been unsuccessful in business ventures in
Switzerland and believed that he would have better economic opportunities
in the United States. After arriving in the United States, he purchased land
in Missouri. In 1838, he gave up his Missouri homestead and ventured over-
land on the Oregon Trail. After a brief stay he continued to move westward to
the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). In 1839 he set sail for Alta California and
persuaded Mexican authorities to give him a substantial land grant. Sutter
convinced Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado that his colony in the interior of
California would be a reliable bulwark against foreign intruders and ‘hostile’
Indians. Mexican authorities were concerned about the “mountain men” and
settlers who were coming into Alta California from the United States. They
feared that with continued migration California might separate from Mexico
as Texas had done just a few years earlier.

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                                                              Lesson One

Sutter received over 40,000 acres of land and was given the title of “Com-
missioner of Justice and Representative of the Government on the Frontier
of the Rio del Sacramento.” The new Mexican commissioner brought in
Hawaiian laborers and constructed a fort near the junction of the Ameri-
can and Sacramento rivers. Sutter was finally on the way to achieving
success as a businessman. From “Sutter’s Fort” he began to engage in
other activities and before long his settlement, named “New Helvetia” after
his native Switzerland (Helvetia), became a haven for American emigrants
and a concern to Mexican authorities. When the Bear Flag Revolt broke out
in 1846, Sutter first maintained his allegiance to Mexico but when John C.
Frémont arrived at New Helvetia, Sutter cooperated, providing Frémont
with a base during the Mexican-American War.

The community grew even more rapidly and Sutter decided to construct a
new sawmill to meet the growing demand for lumber. He hired James Wil-
son Marshall, a carpenter and mechanic from New Jersey, in 1847 to over-
see the building of the mill on the south fork of the American River east of
Sutter’s Fort. On the morning of January 24, 1848, while inspecting progress
on the mill, Marshall observed tiny particles glistening in the water. An
eyewitness, Henry Bigler, described the scene in his autobiography. He
wrote that Marshall gathered the particles of gold in his old white hat and
announced, “boys I believe I have found a gold mine.” The adventure be-


Document 1
    View of laborers engaged in “trying the tallow” (rendering fat),
    Pencil and Watercolor, William Rich Hutton, 1848

       In this 1848 watercolor, William Hutton captured an essential
       part of California’s cattle trade. The Indian laborers “try,” or
       melt down, the fat of the cattle in cauldrons over open fires to
       produce the substance known as “tallow” that would be used in
       products such as candles and soap. The watercolor provides
       firsthand information about the process. (Captions are
       provided, courtesy of the Huntington, Peter J. Blodgett, Land of
       Golden Dreams: California in the Gold Rush Decade, 1848–1858
       [San Marino: Huntington Library Press, 1999]).

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 Lesson One

Document 2
    “California mode of catching cattle: with a distant view of the
    mission of St. Joseph,” Forbes

      This view of vaqueros lassoing a cow provides important visual
      evidence about the California cattle trade and the roots of the
      western cowboy in Mexican California.

Document 3
    Letter from John A. Sutter to San Francisco merchant William
    Leidesdorff, May 11, 1846

      In this letter, written by John Sutter to a San Francisco
      merchant, notice the dependence on Indian labor, including
      using Indians as a commodity of exchange.

Document 4
    Autobiography of Henry W. Bigler

      A description of the discovery from one of the handful of
      witnesses to Marshall’s find and whose diary has been critical
      in helping us assign a date to the discovery.

Document 5A
    Gold Rush lettersheet reproducing Sutter’s account of Marshall’s
    news, a portrait of James W. Marshall, and a small view of the

      During the 1850s the San Francisco publishers Britton & Rey
      printed and sold this lettersheet to capitalize upon Sutter and
      Marshall’s growing celebrity. It bears Sutter’s version of the
      discovery, a portrait of Marshall, and a view of the mill itself.
      Lettersheets were used as illustrated stationery.

Document 5B
    Transcription of Captain Sutter’s account of gold discovery

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 Lesson One

Document 6
    Three Years in California, Walter Colton, New York, 1851
    (Open to a passage concerning gold fever in Monterey in June, 1848.)

        This account by the American alcalde of Monterey depicts the
        first impact of gold fever, falling upon native Californian and
        immigrant alike.

Document 7
    Letter from William Reynolds to his brother John, December 27,

        In this letter a San Francisco resident describes the Gold Rush
        scene in California, including the great migration already
        reaching California from Hawaii, Latin America, Guatemala,
        and Mexico. He also discusses how the Gold Rush has caused
        price inflation.


     1. Using an overhead projector, show students Documents 1, 2, and 3.
        Hold a class discussion about life in California on the eve of the Gold
        Rush. Ask students to respond to the “Questions to Consider”
        provided on each document.

     2. Distribute copies of the “Document Analysis Worksheet” (provided on
        page ii) and use the overhead projector to guide students through the
        process of analyzing primary source documents. (After this guided
        practice, students should be able to analyze future documents on
        their own or in groups.) Using Documents 1, 2, and 3, make sure
        students understand how to analyze both image and text documents.
        Have students point out some of the spelling, capitalization, and
        grammatical errors found in Document 3. Explain to students that
        letters written during the 19th century were full of grammatical
        errors because most people only had a grade-school education.
        However, in spite of the technical errors, the writing was often quite

     3. Show students Documents 4, 5A, and 5B. Use the questions
        provided on the documents to guide a discussion of gold discovery,
        including the setting of the find, and the reactions of those involved.

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                                                              Lesson One

      (Explain to students that Document 5A is an example of a
      “lettersheet.” The lettersheet was a form of illustrated stationery
      commonly used during the Gold Rush for writing letters home.
      Lettersheets usually consisted of illustrations depicting scenes from
      Gold Rush California, and text describing the scenes. Often the
      lettersheets were quite humorous. There was a growing market for
      lettersheets during the Gold Rush, and many printers made a
      handsome profit by printing them. Lettersheets also served to
      promote the region.)

   4. Show students Documents 6 and 7. Discuss with students how gold
      fever led to the depopulation of Monterey in 1848, yet at the same time
      San Francisco grew by leaps and bounds as emigrants from across
      the nation and around the world rushed in.

      Choose from among the following activities

      a. Have students create an illustrated lettersheet portraying pre-
         Gold Rush California, the discovery of gold at Sutter’s fort, or the
         effects of gold fever.

      b. Have students create comic strips based on the Sutter lettersheet.

      c. In pairs, ask students to take the role of a newspaper reporter
         interviewing Sutter or Marshall. Devise a list of interview
         questions such as: What brought you to California before you
         discovered gold? Are you excited about the discovery of gold? What
         will you do about the influx of people onto your land? How will this
         discovery benefit you? What do you predict your future will be?

      d. On a world map, ask students to trace Sutter’s travels from
         Switzerland, to the East Coast (probably New York or Boston), to
         Missouri, to the Sandwich Islands, and finally to California.

      e. Have students write letters “home” describing the discovery of gold
         at Sutter’s fort or some other gold-mining claim.

      f. Ask students to write a newspaper article describing the discovery
         of gold in California, or the rush to find it.

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 Lesson One

        g. Based on their textbook account of this period in California
           history, ask students to create a “3-Flags” bulletin board.

                     Flag One: 1826—Mexican California
                     Flag Two: 1846—the Bear Flag
                     Flag Three: 1848—California under the U.S.

           Display the flags on the bulletin board and have students list the
           major events that occurred during each time period.

        h. Based on their textbook account of this period, have students
           work collaboratively to design a “Three Flags Magic Mountain”
           theme park. What rides would they include representing the events
           that occurred under each flag? How would they choose to repre-
           sent each event?

        i. Some have referred to the Gold Rush as “nature’s lottery.” Ask
           students to imagine a modern-day equivalent to discovering gold.
           What would their feelings be, for instance, if they were to win the


     1. Have students go to the library and check out legends, fairy tales, folk
        tales, or myths about gold, such as King Midas and the Golden Touch,
        Rumpelstiltskin, Jason and the Argonauts, Blackbeard’s Treasure,
        and Treasure Island. For their book reports, ask students to design a
        lettersheet illustrating and describing their fictional “Gold Rush.” As
        an alternative, have them make a comic strip.

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                                                                  Lesson One

   Have students create a “Gold Rush Pictionary,” using the gold mining terms
   provided in this unit. Students can start the pictionary now and add to it as
   they progress through the unit. Have students look up their own Gold Rush
   terms and add them to the pictionary as well.

   1.    alcalde
         Spanish for mayor or chief judicial official
   2.    auriferous
         containing or yielding gold
   3.    Californio
         persons of Spanish or Mexican heritage whose place of birth or residence
         was California
   4.    claim
         a tract of public land staked out by a miner
   5.    commence
         begin, start
   6.    crevice
         gap, crack
   7.    Eureka
         Greek for “I have found it”
   8.    headgate
         gate that controls the flow of water into a canal or passageway
   9.    lettersheet
         The lettersheet was a form of illustrated stationery that was very popular
         during the Gold Rush. Lettersheets usually consisted of drawings depicting
         scenes from Gold Rush California, and text describing the scenes.
   10.   lithograph
         an image produced by pressing a piece of paper on an inked metal plate
   11.   quire
         twenty-four sheets of paper
   12.   race (trail race)
         a small stream flowing behind the mill
   13.   rancho
         Spanish word for ranch
   14.   ream
         a bundle of 480 sheets of paper
   15.   sawmill
         a factory where timber is sawed into boards
   16.   tallow
         hard fat obtained from cattle, sheep, or horses
   17.   vaquero (vah-kar-oh)
         Spanish word meaning ranch hand or cowboy

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Lesson One                                                   Document 1

        View of laborers engaged in “trying the tallow”
           Pencil and watercolor, William Rich Hutton, 1848

                          Questions to Consider

    1. What is tallow? What animal provides tallow?

    2. What products are made from tallow?

    3. Who is providing the labor in this watercolor?

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 Lesson One                                                 Document 2

            “California mode of catching cattle:
      with a distant view of the mission of St. Joseph”

                        Questions to Consider

   1. What scene is depicted in this image?

   2. What does the word “vaquero” mean?

   3. Who were the vaqueros in 1840s California?

   4. What was the California economy based on in the pre-Gold Rush era?

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 Lesson One                                                     Document 3

                  Letter from John A. Sutter to
           San Francisco merchant William Leidesdorff
                           May 11, 1846

W.A. Leidesdorff, Esq.

        Dear Sir:

       I received by the boat your favour of the 1st installment with the
Articles you was so good to send me. I found every thing conformed with
the bill except the writing paper large format was only 15 quires. Perhaps
some body made a Mistake and took it for a whole ream. Please have the
Goodness to send me 5 quires more to make the ream complet. I return
you the piece of grass linnen which will not answer for this place, for which
please give me Credit for the amount of $25 for the same.

       I am very sorry that it layed not in my power to send you the 10
Indians this time, as I had only a few new hands from the mountains here,
only in harvest time You can select them, while they are all coming here to
work; but by the next Voyage of the Launch I will send you 10 selected
Indians or even 12 if you like, which will be of some service to you. I send 6
new hands for Vincente Peralta, and fine Saywers and Shingel makers to
Denis Martin.

                           Questions to Consider

     1. Can you find many spelling and capitalization errors in this letter?
        Why do you think they occur?

     2. How important was Indian labor to the California economy?

     3. What effect would Sutter’s sale of Indians have on Indian families?

     4. What do you predict might happen to the Indians when gold was
        discovered in 1848?

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 Lesson One                                                         Document 4

                 Autobiography of Henry W. Bigler

Marshall had been in the habit of going down every afternoon to see how . . .
his Indians were progressing for they had struck the bed rock mostly of rotten
granite yet the work was slow but this time when he went down towards the
lower end of the race his eye caught the glitter of something laying in a crevice
on the bare rock a few inches under water. . . . before we went to bed Marshall
came in and began to talk and said he believed he had found a gold mine near
the lower end of the tail race and if I remember right he said he had been
trying to melt some of the particles and could not and before leaving for his
own quarters he directed Brown and me to “shut down the headgate in the
morning, throw in some sawdust and rotten leaves and make it tight and we
will see what there is.” The next morning we did as he directed and while doing
so we see him pass through the mill yard and on down the race. We went in for
breakfast and had scarcely commenced our day’s work in the mill yard. . . .
when Marshall came carrying in his arms his old white hat with a wide grin
and said, “boys I believe I have found a gold mine,” at the same time setting his
hat on the work bench that stood in the mill yard. In an instant all hands
gathered around and sure enough on the top of his hat crown, the crown
knocked in a little, lay the pure stuff how much I know not perhaps the most
part of an ounce for the size of very small particles up to the size of a grain of
wheat. . . .

                           Questions to Consider

   1. Who performed the labor at Sutter’s fort?

   2. According to this account, what did Marshall collect in his old white

   3. What did Marshall say when he discovered gold?

   4. Did Bigler believe Marshall? What evidence do you have?

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Lesson One                                               Document 5A

                    Gold Rush lettersheet
         Reproducing Sutter’s account of Marshall’s news,
 a portrait of James W. Marshall, and a small view of the sawmill.

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 Lesson One                                                       Document 5B

         Capt. Sutter’s account of the first discovery of gold.
                   (transcription from lettersheet)

       “I was sitting one afternoon,” said the captain. “ Just after my
   siesta, . . . writing a letter to a relation of mine at Lucerne, when I was
   interrupted by Mr. Marshall, a gentleman with whom I had frequent
   business transactions— bursting hurriedly into the room. From the
   unusual agitation in his manner I imagined that something serious
   had occurred, and, as we involuntarily do in this part of the world, I
   at once went to see if my rifle was in its proper place. You should know
   that the mere appearance of Mr. Marshall at that moment in the Fort,
   was enough to surprise me, as he had but two days before left to make
   some alterations in a mill for sawing pine planks, which he had just
   run up for me, some miles higher up the river. When he had recovered
   himself a little, he told me that, however great my surprise might be
   at his unexpected reappearance, it would be much greater when I
   heard the intelligence he had come to bring me. ‘Intelligence,’ he
   added, ‘which if properly profited by, would put both of us in
   possession of unheard-of-wealth, millions and millions of dollars in
   fact.’ . . . His first impression was, that this gold had been lost or
   buried there, by some early Indian tribe—perhaps some of those
   mysterious inhabitants of the west, of whom we have no account, but
   who dwelt on this continent centuries ago, and built those cities and
   temples, the ruins of which are scattered about these solitary wilds.
   On proceeding, however, to examine the neighboring soil, he
   discovered that it was more or less auriferous. This at once decided
   him. He mounted his horse, and rode down to me as fast as it would
   carry him with the news.

       At the conclusion of Mr. Marshall’s account, and when I had
   convinced myself, from the specimens he had brought with him, that
   it was not exaggerated, I felt as much excited as himself. I eagerly
   inquired if he had shown the Gold to the workpeople at the mill and
   was glad to hear that he had not spoken to a single person about it.
   We agreed not to mention the circumstances to any one and arranged
   to set off early the next day for the mill. On our arrival, just before
   sundown, we poked the sand about in various places, and before long
   succeeded in collecting between us more than an ounce of gold, mixed
   up with a good deal of sand. I stayed at Mr. Marshall’s that night, and
   the next day we proceeded some little distance up the South Fork,
   and found that gold existed along the whole course, not only in the

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Lesson One                                                       Document 5B

     bed of the main stream, . . . but in every little dried-up creek and
     ravine. Indeed I think it was more plentiful in these latter places, for
     I myself, with nothing more than a small knife, picked out from the
     dry gorge, a little way up the mountain, a solid lump of gold witch
     weighed nearly an ounce and a half.

         Notwithstanding our precautions not to be observed, as soon as
     we came back to the mill, we noticed by the excitement of the working
     people, that we had been dogged about, and to complete our
     disappointment, one of the Indians who had worked at the gold mine
     in the neighborhood of La Paz cried out in showing to us some
     specimens which he picked up by himself, —Oro!—Oro—Oro!!!—”

                   Questions to Consider—Document 5A

     1. What is a “lettersheet?” What were lettersheets used for?

     2. What images are depicted on this lettersheet?

     3. How do these images serve as historical evidence for gold discovery?

                     Questions to Consider—Document 5B

     1. How did Marshall break the news about finding gold?

     2. Why was Sutter surprised by Marshall’s appearance?

     3. What was Marshall’s first impression when he found the gold?

     4. Why did Sutter want to keep the discovery a secret?

     5. Did the Indians find out about the discovery? How?

     6. What evidence can you find to support your last answer?

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 Lesson One                                                              Document 6

                        Three Years in California
                        Walter Colton, New York, 1851

          Walter Colton was serving as the American alcalde of
          Monterey when gold was first discovered. His letters were
          published in this 1851 volume, Three Years in California.

Tuesday, June 20. My messenger sent to the mines, has returned with
specimens of the gold; he dismounted in a sea of upturned faces. As he drew forth
the yellow lumps from his pockets, and passed them among the eager crowd, the
doubts, which had lingered till now, fled. All admitted they were gold, except one
old man, who still persisted they were some Yankee invention, got up to reconcile
the people to the change of flag. The excitement produced was intense; and many
were soon busy in their hasty preparations for a departure to the mines. The
family who had kept house for me caught the moving infection. Husband and
wife were both packing up; the blacksmith dropped his hammer, the carpenter
his plane, the mason his trowel, the farmer his sickle, the baker his loaf, and the
tapster his bottle. All were off for the mines, some on horses, some on carts, and
some on crutches, and one went in a litter. An American woman, who had
recently established a boarding house here, pulled up stakes and was off before
                                         her lodgers had even time to pay their bills.
                                         Debtors ran, of course. I have only a
                                         community of women left and a gang of
                                         prisoners, with here and there a soldier,
                                         who will give his captain the slip at the first
                                         chance. I don’t blame the fellow a whit;
                                         seven dollars a month, while others are
                                         making two or three hundred a day! That is
                                         too much for human nature to stand.

                                                   Questions to Consider

                                         1.   How did the people of Monterey find out
                                              about the gold discovery?

                                         2.   What did the people of Monterey do
                                              when they heard?

                                         3.   Who was left in Monterey?

                                         4.   Predict who would now have to do the
                                              work in Monterey.

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 Lesson One                                                     Document 7

       Letter from William Reynolds to his brother John
                           December 27, 1848
                         San Francisco, California

California has at last proved to be the long sought for “El Dorado” of the
Spanish adventurers that first settled Mexico. Gold is here in great abun-
dance. It was found in May last, on one of the Tributaries of the Sacra-
mento River, which is called the American Fork, where Mr. Sutter (the first
settler on that River some ten years ago) was employing several men to dig
a Mill Race; they saw the small scales of Gold, and did not know what it
was,— they saw such quantities of it that one took a small piece and ham-
mered on it, which satisfied him that it was the “Precious Metal” itself. The
Party then agreed to Keep it Secret and dig for themselves, which they
undertook—but in a short time their Avarice ran away with their prudence
and the Party split, when some of its number let it be known—there was
instantly a tremendous rush from all parts of “Upper California” to the gold
“Diggins.” Goods immediately rose some thousand per. Cent. To give you
an Idea—Blankets were sold for 100 to 150 dollars a pair, Pickaxes and
Shovels from 20 to 30 dollars each. . . . Since the time of The Discovery,
there has been, at the least calculation, 7,000,000 dollars taken from the
mines. Its Extent is all of 1000 square miles, and new veins are being
discovered every day each richer than the other. Nearly all the Foreigners
have left the Sandwich Islands, and thousands are pouring in from all
parts of South America, Guatamals, and Mexico, and when the mail steamers
commence running, which will be Feb. next, there will no doubt be thou-
sands from the Atlantic States, if they credit it, for it is certainly almost
incredible, were it not for the gold to speak for itself.

                           Questions to consider

     1. When and where, according to this document, was gold first

     2. How did the secret get out, thereby causing the “Gold Rush?”

     3. What happened to the price of certain products? Why?

     4. According to Mr. Reynolds, what was the value of the gold discovered
        by December 1848?

     5. Why do you think San Francisco grew while Monterey emptied out?

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