Historical Resources

The History of Sutter’s Fort

In 1839 a Swiss immigrant named John Sutter received a land grant in the Sacramento Valley from the Mexican government. He used the land to create a flourishing agricultural empire and named it New Helvetia (New Switzerland.) This empire established Sacramento’s earliest settlement and the first non-Indian settlement in California’s Central Valley.

In 1848, James Marshall, a carpenter working for Sutter, discovered gold at the sawmill Sutter was having built in Coloma, on the American River. Less than a decade after they were established, Sutter’s properties were overrun by gold seekers and the fort is all that remains of New Helvetia.

In 1881, the Native Sons of the Golden West began work to restore of the Fort. This major restoriation was completed in 1893, making Sutter’s Fort the oldest restored Fort in the United States. 

Sutter’s Fort became a part of the California State Park System in 1947. It is also a State Historic Landmark and a national Historic Landmark.

Books & Resources available from Friends of Sutter’s Fort

Friends of Sutter’s Fort operate the Museum Store within Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park, with all proceeds going back into supporting our efforts of preserving the historic structures and artifacts, and funding Sutter’s Fort educational programming.

In addition, we have some items for sale online including:

Books/ Resource Manuals

Online Resources to Learn More about the History of Sutter’s Fort

Resources from California State Parks:

Overview of Sutter’s Fort from California State Parks

Read History of the Fort at Parks.CA.gov

California State Parks Online Collection

California State Parks offers an online gallery, which highlights the reconstruction of Sutter’s Fort in the 1890s. The online gallery shows artifacts once belonging to John Sutter, James Marshall and the Donner Party.

View the Exhibit at Parks.CA.gov

California State Library Sutter’s Fort Character Guide

This reference will provide students with documents to research the people known to have lived and worked at Sutter’s Fort in the 1800s. Some documents are available online, others can be accessed at the California Room in the State Library located in downtown Sacramento.

Download the Sutter’s Fort Character Guide (.pdf)