The town takes its name from the creek; the creek takes its name from John A. Sutter. Unable
to stop the tide of gold-seekers flowing over and destroying his lands, Sutter decided to follow
the call of gold, trying in vain to recoup what the Gold Rush had taken. He arrived here in 1848
with a band of Kanakas and Indians, and upon finding a likely spot began mining along the creek.
A small settlement began to grow, centered around a cloth tent where the miners met on rainy
Sundays when they couldn’t go to Drytown or Jackson. The place eventually took the name of its
most prominent citizen, and was called Sutter’s Creek, Sutter, Sutterville, and finally, plain
old Sutter Creek. But Sutter wasn’t a miner, and many of the other miners in the area didn’t much
approve of his using servants to dig for gold. He left the area a short while later, returning
with his men to Sutter’s Fort. He never mined again.
The camp appeared to be on the verge of disappearing by 1850, due to the poor placers and the
better diggings to be found elsewhere. This changed dramatically in 1851 when rich quartz
deposits were discovered near the camp. With the advent of quartz mining, Sutter Creek became
firmly established as an important quartz mining center as well as a foundry center and supply
point for the neighboring quartz mines and towns.
The post office came to town in 1852, with Dwight Crandall serving as the first postmaster.
Other businesses included an Adams Express office, stores, saloons, hotels, bakeries and
restaurants, doctors, lawyers, blacksmith, barber and numerous other professions, sordid and
mundane. In September of 1854, Sutter Creek incorporated as a town which shows there were at
least two hundred inhabitants at that time, as that was the required number for incorporation.
>From that point on the town never looked back, enjoying immense prosperity for years to come due
to its location, in the midst of some of the most active and profitable deep quartz mines in the
Gold Country. Mines such as the Central Eureka, the Old Eureka, the Lincoln, the Wildman, the
Mahoney, and the Hayward produced millions of dollars in gold. The famous mines attracted and
helped create famous people, such as Leland Stanford, Alvinza Hayward, and the “Witch of
Wallstreet,” Hetty Green.
Receiving an interest in the Union Mine as payment for a merchant’s debt, Leland Stanford
left his grocery business in Sacramento to travel to Sutter Creek when news of the mine’s losses
reached him in the late 1850’s. By this time the mine had been renamed the Lincoln, and after
working the claim for a while with poor results, Stanford decided to sell the mine for $5,000,
provided he could find a buyer. Robert Downs, the mine foreman, persuaded Stanford to give the
mine one last chance and as fortune would have it, the chance payed out. Within a year the rich
vein was re-discovered, producing $2.2 million in gold between 1860 and 1873. Stanford eventually
sold his interests for $400,000 and later became famous with his partners Huntington, Crocker,
and Hopkins by building the Central Pacific transcontinental railroad. Oh yes, he also went on to
become governor of California, a U.S. Senator, and the founder of Stanford University.
Fires in 1862, 1865, 1870, 1875, 1877, and 1888 took turns destroying portions of Sutter
Creek, the last one wiping out most of the downtown business section. The damage was always
quickly repaired; however, because gold never sleeps. It’s always working, or creating work,
causing things to happen. It caused this town to boom, to build, to prosper and to last. It’s
responsible for the many buildings and homes here that have survived from the 1800’s. They were
built well, built to last, because they thought the gold would last. And as it turned out, it
did, although in a slightly different form. Lumbering, and more recently, tourism, now provide
Sutter Creek and much of the Mother Lode with its gold today.
Visit Sutter Creek's Historic Sites • Lodging • Sutter Creek Town Map