Sutter's Mill was a sawmill owned by 19th-century pioneer John Sutter in partnership with James W. Marshall. It was located in Coloma, California, at the bank of the South Fork American River. Sutter's Mill is most famous for its association with the California Gold Rush.
On January 24, 1848, Marshall found several flakes of gold that began the transformation of California from a sleepy outpost to a bustling center of activity. Sutter tried to keep the discovery secret, but eventually the word got out. During the next seven years, approximately 300,000 people came to California (half by land and half by sea) to seek their fortunes mining for gold or selling supplies like picks and shovels to the gold prospectors.
The first documentation of the Sutter's Mill discovery were by Henry Bigler and Azariah Smith, in their respective diaries. Like several other people working at the mill, these two workers were discharged veterans of the Mormon Battalion. After this discovery at the mill, the "gold rush" era began and many people came from the east to find fortune. The era helped to transform people like Levi Strauss and Luzena Wilson.
The site of the mill is located on the South Fork American River. Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park is registered as California Historical Landmark #530. The current Sutter's Mill is a replica of the original building. It was built using Marshall's own drawings and an early day photo as reference for the recreation of the mill.
In popular culture
The mill was also the namesake and inspiration for a song by singer-songwriter Dan Fogelberg. The mill was also the namesake for a song by the New Riders of the Purple Sage, and for Herb Sutter's blog.
The original flake of gold discovered at the mill is currently at the Smithsonian Institution.
- "Gold Nugget". americanhistory.si.edu. Retrieved 2010-04-17.
- "California Gold An Authentic History of the First Find With the Names of Those Interested in the Discovery". www.sfmuseum.org. Retrieved 2010-04-17.
- "The Gold Discovery Journal of Azariah Smith". BYU. Retrieved 2010-04-17.
- William G. Hartley (September 1997). "On the Trail in September". Ensign (LDS Church): 40–41. Retrieved 2010-05-13.
- "Sutter’s Mill Site". www.hmdb.org. Retrieved 2010-04-17.
- "Sutter's Mill by Dan Fogelberg". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2010-04-17.
- Discovery of Gold, by John A. Sutter, Hutchings’ California Magazine, November 1857. Sutter describes how he wanted a sawmill near the Sacramento and how Marshall told him of the gold.
- Early photographs, illustrations, and textual references to Sutter's Mill, via Calisphere, California Digital Library.