Sutter’s Fort As It Was

jan30-sac (118)

This painting hangs in the California History Room at the State Library in Sacramento. It shows Sutter’s Fort, what was left of it, as it looked before its restoration in the 1890s. The fort had deteriorated quickly after the gold rush, and well before 1890 all that was left was the dilapidated central two-story adobe building where John A. Sutter and John Bidwell had their offices.

jan30-sac (120)I am a bit confused by the date — 1895 — for the painting, since restoration of the fort by the Native Sons of the Golden West began in 1891. The painting must have actually been done some time before the restoration began.

I am tickled to know, however, that “Grandma Moore” (Sarah Moore) had the picture painted to memorialize the old fort, and to advertise her fruit booth at the State Fair. What a nice idea! And imagine having that as a view from the orchard on your ranch.

The artist, J.W. Huber, was Jennie Willis Huber, who taught art at an academy in Sacramento before her marriage to a man named Amos Brothers.

The painting was donated to the State Library by Grandma Moore’s great-granddaughter, Marilyn Moore Sommerdorf in 2009. You can read more about the painting in the California State Library Foundation Bulletin, no. 94. More images of Sutter’s Fort can be found at Calisphere, a wonderful source of California pictures.

sutters fort old Here’s one — another picture of Sutter’s Fort in decline. It’s a pencil drawing by W. Tyrrell done in 1855. Only a few years after the gold rush and the walls are crumbling and the floors are sagging. It wouldn’t be long before the adobe bricks melted back into the earth.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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