John A. Sutter (1803-1880) could have become one of the richest men in California when gold was found on his property. Instead he lost his vast land holdings on the Sacramento and Feather Rivers and eventually left California penniless. Sutter always claimed to be the victim of charlatans, but he bore considerable responsibility for his downfall. He had amassed huge debts before the gold discovery and added even more afterward. In the rough dealings of frontier capitalism in gold rush California, Sutter was easy prey.
Soon after the gold discovery, Sutter’s eldest son, John Jr., (1826-1897) arrived, but soon moved south to Mexico. Hoping to obtain compensation for the land that he and his father had lost, John, Jr., returned to California in 1855 to give his lawyer a thorough statement cataloging how both Sutters were swindled. This extensive document describes the dirty deals of the first great gold rush in the western United States.
Sutter’s statement has not been available for sixty years. Editor Allan R. Ottley reproduced and annotated this statement, providing a full biographical context and offering an appendix, bibliography, and index. Albert L. Hurtado’s introduction updates the book, originally published in 1942.