More about Sutter and the Mormons


Thomas O. Larkin

At the same time that Captain Sutter was bragging to General Vallejo (in Spanish), about his wheat fields and his new saw mill and flour mill, he was also writing to Thomas O. Larkin (in slightly awkward English) on the same subjects.

Larkin was an American merchant in Monterey who had lived in California since 1832, and served as the first (and only) American consul in Alta California. He was the man Sutter wrote when he needed supplies that could only be procured from ships calling at Monterey.

On October 29, 1847 Sutter wrote to Larkin, thanking him for sending a saw for his saw mill, and asking Larkin to send “bolting clothes.”


Sieve covered with bolting cloth, from Flour Bolting, by Theodore R. Hazen

Nothing is wanting now to this enterprise, as the bolting clothes, and for those I take the liberty to apply to you for them, as the protector of such undertakings, and beg you to do this great favor to procure them for me, and I would be forever under the greatest obligation to you, and pay you for them immediately in lumber, flour, or money.

This bolting cloth is for his new flour mill. It was used to sift larger particles out of wheat flour, and it wasn’t something Sutter could have made on site. Hence his obsequious request to Larkin.

In a letter to John Bidwell a week later, Larkin said: “Say to Captain Sutter I rejoice in his prospects and I do not know of a yard of bolting cloth for sale in California.”

Sutter continues:

My tanyard is now once carried on well. I have about 1500 hides to tan. I have two tannery and 3 shoemakers (Mormons) all the hands on my mills are Mormons, and the best people which ever I has had employed. If I would have had Mormons 4 or 5 years past I would have a fortune, but so long I am here I has had only a few good men, the balance was a bad kind of man.

There are those Mormons again. If only he had had workers this intelligent and diligent a few years ago. How prosperous he would be! But things are looking up. Success and riches are sure to come now that everything is going so well.

The only other thing he needs is a clerk.

I am in want of a good Clerk who have to be, a good correspondent and a good bookkeeper (brought up on the desk). I would be very much obliged to you if you could recommend me a good one.

John Bidwell had been his clerk, but now Bidwell has gone off to farm for himself at Butte Creek. Sutter needs a new clerk and bookkeeper. A good clerk was hard to find, and even harder to keep.

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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