John Bidwell and his two friends arrived at Sutter’s establishment on November 28th, 1841. Sutter had himself only been there a few months, and had not yet built Sutter’s Fort. At best he had the two-story adobe that still stands in the middle of the fort.
Bidwell later wrote, “On the eighth day we came to Sutter’s settlement; the fort had not then been begun. Sutter received us with open arms and in a princely fashion, for he was a man of most polite address and the most courteous manners, a man who could shine in any society.”
Sutter had arrived in California from Oregon, by way of Hawaii by way of Sitka, Alaska, in 1839, accompanied by 10 Hawaiians (or Kanakas, as they were then called). After becoming a Mexican citizen in 1840, he was granted a tract of land, in June of 1841, where the Sacramento and American Rivers met. Sutter was a man with wide-ranging ideas on how to make money in California. He envisioned a valley filled with farms, mills, shops, and men, all working to develop the riches of California. And he, John Sutter, would be in charge of it all. To realize his dreams he needed manpower, and lots of it. He was hiring fur trappers, vaqueros, farm laborers, and skilled craftsmen, if he could find them.
Sutter was delighted to meet John Bidwell. This was just the kind of man he needed. A man who knew how to write clearly, keep accounts, survey property lines, and draw maps was a rare find indeed. He promptly hired him as his clerk.
For his part, John Bidwell took to Sutter right away. Sutter was everything Marsh was not: cheerful, generous, hospitable. Bidwell would work for Sutter off and on for the next 8 years.