California’s history at Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento.
My friend and fellow
children’s book author Caroline Hatton visited Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento,
California in September 2019. She took all the photos in this post.
main gate, as seen from outside the fort.
years of visiting family in Sacramento, I finally made it downtown to Sutter’sFort. Founded in
1839 by John Sutter, a Swiss entrepreneur, it is an important place in
California’s history because it was near the end of the California Trail (followed
by emigrants in covered wagons, half-way across the continent) and it was associated with the California Gold Rush.
This made Sutter’s Fort a key point in the dreams of pioneers spurred on by
unbridled ambition and wild hope.
a fort where they could seek refuge and find protection, I had imagined a
fortress. But it’s so small!
reconstructed rooms and historic work areas, except where two gates open. Only
one building stands in the middle, the former administration building.
then, the advice to allow two hours to visit? Because, in addition to strolling
around and looking inside every room, it’s worth listening to the audio
commentary, triggered when leaning into the doorway of each room. After an introduction
to the room’s function in its context, actors’ voices read quotes
from diaries and letters to immerse visitors in life at the fort.
favorite was the horse tack room, with types of saddles and wooden stirrups I’d
never seen before, because as a horse lover, learning new horse stuff makes my
room–from the horse tack room to John Sutter’s bedroom to the kitchen to the jail–is labeled on the one-page map provided at the entrance. The rooms are full of every-day
items, which help picture life in the 1800s. Hopefully they are devoid of the fleas
that tormented residents and guests!
only original building is the former administration building. Upstairs are the
long wooden table and benches where all those present at the fort ate their
other favorite place at the fort was the upstairs room in the administration
building with its wooden table and benches, because as a writer, I’d love to work there on new children’s stories–
perhaps a horse story having to do with the fort or the period when it was
used. After all, Sutter’s Fort was the end point of the Pony Express, the Old
West mail service relay staffed by orphan boys riding horses at top gallop. From
now on, the fort’s name will also evoke dreams for me to achieve, modest ones
compared to those of the pioneers’.
extra hour on site is enough to visit the California State Indian Museum, housed in a
small building outside of the fort, but inside the same small city park. Plans
are underway to move this museum to the California Indian Heritage Center, in a
different location in Sacramento. Like many visitors, I found the miniature,
fingernail-size baskets to be the most amazing display. Since photography is
not allowed, you’ll have to go see them for yourself!