John A. Sutter
arrived in the Sacramento Valley,
Indians had been inhabiting the land for at
least 10,000 years. Dominated by the Nisenan and Maidu tribes,
dwelling in huts built of willow samplings, their idyllic existence
would soon come to an end as trappers and traders came to the area.
John Sutter first
arrived on August 13, 1839 at the divergence of the American and
Sacramento Rivers with a Mexican land grant of 50,000 acres. The next year, he and his party established
Sutter’s Fort, a massive
adobe structure with walls eighteen feet high and three feet thick.
Representing Mexico, Sutter called his
colony New Helvetia, a Swiss inspired name, and was the political
authority and dispenser of justice in the new settlement. Soon, the
colony began to grow as more and more pioneers headed west. Unfortunately, these many trappers and traders spelled a death knell
Native Americans as the new residents bore diseases and
ailments for which the Indians had developed no immunity.
The first store in the area was