Sutter, John Augustus (1803–1880), a Swiss-American pioneer in California. The discovery of gold at his sawmill in 1848 led to the first great gold rush in North America. He was a delegate to California's first constitutional convention (1849) and later ran, unsuccessfully, for governor.
Sutter was born of Swiss parents in Germany. After serving in the Swiss army, probably as a captain, he emigrated to the United States in 1834. Upon his arrival in California in 1839 he obtained a land grant from the Mexican government and built a fort. Around it grew the settlement of New Helvetia, which later became Sacramento. When James Marshall, Sutter's partner, discovered gold at the sawmill (near present Coloma, in what is now El Dorado County), squatters overran the area and Sutter's land claims were ignored. Although the California legislature later voted him a pension, Sutter never recovered his lands. He moved to Pennsylvania in 1871.