John Sutter: A Life on the North American Frontier

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University of Oklahoma Press, 2006 - Biography & Autobiography - 412 pages
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In the history of the American frontier, John Sutter (1803–1880) looms large. A Swiss expatriate who attempted to create a personal empire in California’s Sacramento Valley, he founded New Helvetia, a cosmopolitan settlement whose economy depended on Indian slaves and free laborers. New Helvetia drew overland immigrants to California in the 1840s and then—after gold was discovered by Sutter’s employees—a flood of fortune seekers. Sutter was poised to become one of the richest men in the West, but rapacious settlers and his own poor business sense sent his dreams crashing.

Albert L. Hurtado has written the definitive biography of Sutter, mining a wealth of sources to create the first fully documented account of the man and his times. John Sutter explores Sutter’s life in the broader context of America’s rush for westward expansion while plumbing the inner dynamics of this erstwhile empire-builder.

Sutter was a quintessential outsider driven by anxiety over status—a man of talent, vision, and heroic ambitions who nevertheless became the victim of his own inadequacies as a businessman and his inability to adjust to a rapidly changing frontier. Sutter was full of contradictions. While building a reputation as a humanitarian friend of destitute immigrants, he callously exploited Indians. Nevertheless, this penniless dreamer became one of the most important men in California and a major player in the American conquest of the West.

  

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John Sutter: a life on the North American frontier

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This welcome biography of Sutter, known as the father of the 1848-49 California gold rush, updates Richard Dillon'sFools Gold: The Decline and Fall of Captain John Sutter of California . Hurtado ... Read full review

Contents

A Man and His Time
3
Opportunity on the American Frontier
16
A Tour of Western Enterprises
30
Crossroads of the Pacific
43
Into the Valley
52
An Entrepreneur in Indian Country
67
A MerchantAdventurer in Mexico
81
Foreign Intrigue
92
The Gold Rush Cometh
219
Sacramento and Solvency
235
A New State and Its Founder
251
Land Troubles
268
Hock Farm Homestead
286
General Sutter and the Filibusters
297
The Final Fall
310
A Hero among the Moravians
322

Domain and Dominion
108
Misguided Diplomacy
125
Misfortunes of War
136
The Indian Business Again
152
Signs and Portents
164
American Conquest
189
A Restoration of Sorts
204
Settlement of Old Debts
341
Abbreviations
347
Notes
349
Bibliography
385
Index
401
Copyright

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About the author (2006)

Albert L. Hurtado is Professor and Paul H. and Doris Eaton Travis Chair of Modern American History at the University of Oklahoma.

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