By: Douglas Love, Grand Historian
Tucked in the golden foothills of the Mother Lode is a jewel of a town. As a matter of fact, it is known as “The Jewel of The Mother Lode” and it is Sutter Creek. Sutter Creek was founded by John Sutter in 1846 as a lumber camp. The lumbering in the area went well until the discovery of gold in 1848. By 1849, Sutter’s lumber camp had been overrun by gold seekers and Sutter returned to his fort on the American River.
By 1852, “Sutter’s Creek” had a post office and was attracting hundreds of gold seekers. While there was placer mining in the area, hard rock gold mining quickly became the town’s economic mainstay. The largest of the mines, the Central Eureka Mine was in operation from 1852, as the Old Eureka and Summit Mines to1942 and again from 1946 until 1951. During the course of its history, the Central Eureka produced $36,000,000 worth of gold and silver. Sutter Creek became a town in 1856 and incorporated as a city in 1913. After the mine closed in 1951, many of the residents moved on looking for work.
One of the businesses which provided work was the Knight Foundry, which was founded in 1873 as a general foundry and machine shop. The Knight Foundry was the last water powered foundry in America when it closed in 1996 upon the death of its owner. Recently, our Order helped provide funds to purchase and preserve the foundry and it is now open for tours on the second Saturday of each month and there are plans to start a living history program to preserve the traditional skills needed in a foundry and machine shop. I have toured the foundry and it is certainly worth a visit. Sutter Creek also has a small public park, Miner’s Bend Park, which tells the story of mining in Sutter Creek and the surrounding area.
Today, Sutter Creek is a tourist town. The entire town is a California Historic Landmark due to the large number of well-preserved Gold Rush era buildings. There are antique stores, taverns and restaurants. It is a lovely place to visit with wineries and the Jackson Rancheria Casino and Resort nearby. One of my favorite places is the Sutter Creek Ice Cream Emporium and Sutter Creek Provisions is a great place to drop in and have some food and an adult beverage or two. Both are on Main Street in Sutter Creek.
Getting there: From San Francisco, take I-80 east to Sacramento. Continue on US 50 east and take Exit 11 onto Watt Avenue and then follow CA-16 and CA-49 South to Sutter Creek.