Tales of the Blue Oaks – Chapter One


Sutter’s Testimony.

TALES OF THE BLUE OAKS © David A. Scharlach

Don’t you love it out here?  Can you feel the fresh cooling air being drafted up under the magnificent Blue Oaks?  Some of them were a hundred years old before the gold rush came to Rancho Murieta!  What stories they can share!  It seems every time I walk through them, there is more to learn, things to discover.  More tales to tell! 

A few years back, I took a short hike into the woodland adjacent to Lake Calero to clear my head.  I casually wondered what the land looked like before our community existed, who lived here, who owned it.  As I pushed away from the claustrophobic thoughts of work, I became gently enveloped by the surrounding beauty.  I had never really appreciated it before.  I noticed boulders out of place.  Trees paired and then parted for a road.  But no road lay between them.  Ditches here and there meandered along the contour of a slope.  The occasional Indian grinding holes now took on a different perspective.  Could it be that the history of Rancho Murieta and its environs linked all these mysteries together?

The rustle of the trees responded, telling me where to look for answers.  Honestly, I still get chills thinking about what I first “discovered.”  Later, I would share this with our famed historian and author Naida West.  What follows are, verbatim and under oath, the actual words of John Sutter.  He is about to tell a federal court commissioner in 1852 who owned the Mexican land grant known as Rancho de Sacayac and when.  It its 9,500 acres would one day envelop Rancho Murieta.

You see, there was an ownership dispute in which the United States government, brand new to California, had leveled its cannons at a friendly, respected local rancher named Emanuel Pratt.  The case, United States vs. Pratt would go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Two things were certain at the time.  Gold was being heavily mined on the property and the Feds saw a chance to capture the land.

On this day, before Com’r Harry J. Thornton, came John A. Sutter, a witness in behalf of the claimant, Emanuel Pratt, petition No. 235, and duly sworn, his evidence being given in English.

Questions by Claimant.
Question 1st.  What is your name, age, and place of residence?
Answer.  My name is John A. Sutter; my age is forty-nine; my residence is in the district of Sacramento, where I have lived ever since the year 1839.

Question 2d. What office did you hold and exercise in that district, under the Mexican government?
Answer.  I was military commander of the northern frontier, and judge of the jurisdiction of the district of Sacramento; I was the sole judge of that district, from the year 1840 to the conquest of the country by the United States. 

So commenced Don Sutter’s testimony… Let’s walk up a ways and set down under that next big oak.  Those first owners were real characters and their stories are larger than life!  Love to tell you about them!