In 1840, Sutter became a Mexican citizen and was given a large grant on the Sacramento River. He established Sutter’s Fort on a site that is now part of the city of Sacramento. Sutter named his 40,000 acre land grant New Helvetia or “New Switzerland.”
When the Russians left Fort Ross in 1841, Sutter bought the property and all of the armaments. His settlement was very important in these years. Sutter attempted, but was unable to help the Donner Party.
Sutter is best known for his role in the Gold Rush. In 1848, gold was discovered near his sawmill. Sutter tried to keep it secret, but Samuel Brannan returned to San Francisco with gold he found in the river.
The Gold Rush brought thousands of speculators to the area who often squatted on Sutter’s land. In late 1848, he deeded his property over to his son Augustus because he felt he could combat the squatters and develop the land more effectively. He immediately began laying out the city of Sacramento.
After falling out with his son, an impoverished Sutter moved to Pennsylvania in the 1870s. He passed away on June 18th, 1880.