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Sutter seeks Help from the Government

Sutter seeks Help from the Government

In such a predicament it was natural for Sutter to seek relief in the courts. His efforts in this direction covered a period of about eight years. Shortly after the discovery of gold, a United States Court of Land Commissioners was appointed to pass judgment upon all claims for land in the new state. In Sutter's case, the commissioners found that his two Mexican land grants were perfect, and confirmed Sutter's title to them. The squatters however appealed to the United States District Court which confirmed the decree of the land commissioners, but an appeal to the United States Supreme Court resulted in a confirmation of the lower court's decision respecting the first grant but reversed it's decision as to Sutter's rights under the second grant. The court ruled against Sutter because the govenrment in Mexico City had not signed the paperwork. He had to watch as the governemt sold his land for a $1.25 per acre.

Eventually, Sutter lost all of his estate. He endeavored to save the Hock farm, a valuable estate on the Feather river. He had hoped to have this as a place to spend the last years of his life with his wife and children, whom he had brought from Switzerland in 1852, after having been separated from them for eighteen years. This, however, he also lost in his financial failure, and, to add to his misery, his house was totally destroyed by fire in 1865, together with the valuable records of his pioneer life.

In this forlorn state, the man who may be likened to John Jacob Astor in point of colonial enterprise, made an appeal to the federal government. The legislature of California promptly responded and for seven years, beginning in 1864, paid him a pension of $250 a month. This money was to reimburse him for the taxes he paid on the land. This sum enabled him to further his claims before Congress. He was a petitioner before both bodies of Congress continuously from 1871 until his death in 1880.

Source:
Prominent Americans of Swiss Origin, Swiss-American Historical Society, James T. White & Co., New York 1932

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