Monday, April 21, 2014

Manuscript Monday--John Sutter letter to Peter Lassen

Another recently cataloged gem from the CHS manuscripts collection is this 1844 letter, from John Sutter to blacksmith Peter Lassen. (Lassen is best known for promoting the treacherous Lassen Cutoff, or “Death Route,” to the California gold fields.)

John Sutter letter to Peter Lassen, 1844 September 14, Peter Lassen miscellany, Vault MS 93, California Historical Society.

Sutter requests that Lassen send him trappers, beaver traps, and knives (by canoe), and advises him on the status of his petition for his Tehama County Rancho, blaming the delays on Manuel Jimeno, “the enemy of all new citizens.” He also reports on current events, casually discussing the annexation of Texas; the arrival of a Mexican vessel “loaded with arms” in Monterey; and a visit in New Helvetia from the chiefs of the Walla Walla, Cayuse, and Nez Perce peoples and their families. Sutter writes: “I wish now to see very soon the Companies from the U.S. and I believe one more is coming from the Columbia River, at least Doctor White wrote to me that he is coming.” Major historical events and movements—the fur trade, land struggles, the Mexican War, overland emigration—are captured and brought to life in this fragile document. Reading it, one feels the tectonic shifts of the time, preparing for the great earthquake to come. 

Marie Silva
Archivist & Manuscripts Librarian
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