John Sutter: Emperor of New Helvetia
Gold was first discovered in California in 1841 by Juan Baptiste Ruelle, not at Sutter's sawmill in Coloma, but in Southern California, about 30 miles northwest of Mission San Fernando. At the same time, John Sutter, a Swiss immigrant, was in the throes of developing his empire, New Helvetia, where Sacramento lies today. John Sutter was California's Don Quixote, tilting inexorably at windmills and dreams. In 1843, Ruelle trekked north and arrived at Sutter's fort claiming he found gold on the banks of the American River. Sutter did not believe the old miner; Ruelle departed into a mist of obscurity, leaving an ominous portent of things to come.