The Diary of Johann Augustus Sutter

Author: Johann Augustus Sutter  | Date: 1932

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D. S. Watson 1932 Grabhorn Press, San Francisco, California

Gold in Them Hills



[Sutter’s Diary]

January 28th [1848]: Marshall arrived in the evening, it was raining very heavy, but he told me he came on important business. After we was alone in a private room he showed me the first specimens of gold, that is he was not certain if it was gold or not, but he thought it might be; immediately I made the proof and found that it was gold. I told him even that most of all is 23-carat gold. He wished that I should come up with him immediately, but I told him that I have to give first my orders to the people in all my factories and shops.

February 1st: Left for the sawmill attended by a vaquero (Olim-pio). Was absent 2d, 3d, 4th, and 5th. I examined myself everything and picked up a few specimens of gold myself in the tail race of the sawmill. This gold and others which Marshall and some of the other laborers gave to me (it was found while in my employ and wages) I told them that I would a ring got made of it so soon as a goldsmith would be here. I had a talk with my employed people all at the sawmill. I told them that as they do know now that this metal is gold, I wished that they would do me the great favor and keep it secret only six weeks, because my large flour-mill at Brighton would have been in operation in such a time, which undertaking would have been a fortune to me, and unfortunately the people would not keep it secret, and so I lost on this mill at the lowest calculation about $25,000.



SHERMAN MAKES GEORGIA HOWL Atlanta after the Union Army’s visitation

March 7th: The first party of Mormons, employed by me left for washing and digging gold and very soon all followed, and left me only the sick and the lame behind. And at this time I could say that every body left me from the clerk to the cook. What for great damages I had to suffer in my tannery which was just doing a profitable and extensive business, and the vats was left filled and a quantity of half finished leather was spoiled; likewise a large quantity of raw hides collected by the farmers and of my own killing. The same thing was in every branch of business which I carried on at the time. I began to harvest my wheat, while others was digging and washing gold, but even the Indians could not be keeped [sic] longer at work. They was impatient to run to the mines, and other Indians informed them of the gold and its value; and so I had to leave more as two-thirds of my harvest in the fields.

May 19th: The great rush from San Francisco arrived at the fort, all my friends and acquaintances filled up the houses and the whole fort. I had only a little Indian boy to make them roasted ripps, etc., as my cooks left me like every body else. The merchants, doctors, lawyers, sea captains. . . . etc. all came up and did not know what to do. All was in a confusion. All left their wives and families in San Francisco, and those which had none locked their doors, abandoned their houses, offered them for sale cheap—a few hundred dollars house and lot (lots which axe worth now $100,000 and more). Some of these men were just like greazy [sic]. Some of the merchants had been the most prudentest of the whole; visited the mines and returned immediately and began to do a very profitable business, and soon vessels came from every where with all kind of merchandise, the whole thrash which was laying for years unsold, on the coasts of South and Central America, Mexico, Sandwich Islands, etc. All found a good market here. . . .

I think now from all this you can form some facts, and that you can mention how thousands and thousands made their fortunes, from this gold discovery produced through my industry and energy, (some wise merchants and others in San Francisco called the building of this sawmill, another of Sutter’s folly) and this folly saved not only the mercantile world from bankruptcy, but even our General Government. But for me it has turned out a folly, then without having discovered the gold, I would have become the richest wealthiest man on the Pacific Shore.


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Chicago: Johann Augustus Sutter, "Gold in Them Hills—I," The Diary of Johann Augustus Sutter, ed. D. S. Watson in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris (Harrisburg, Pa.: Stackpole Co., 1951), Original Sources, accessed September 22, 2023,

MLA: Sutter, Johann Augustus. "Gold in Them Hills—I." The Diary of Johann Augustus Sutter, edited by D. S. Watson, in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, edited by Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris, Harrisburg, Pa., Stackpole Co., 1951, Original Sources. 22 Sep. 2023.

Harvard: Sutter, JA, 'Gold in Them Hills—I' in The Diary of Johann Augustus Sutter, ed. . cited in 1951, History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. , Stackpole Co., Harrisburg, Pa.. Original Sources, retrieved 22 September 2023, from