Before 1848, Mexico ruled over California, a remote region isolated from the rest of the world by 1,800 miles of desert and impassible mountains. By sea it was 18,000 miles via Cape Horn.
In the coastal regions settled Spaniards and Mexicans. The inland area was the domain of Indians and a few settlers who had been granted estates by the Mexican government. Among those settlers was Captain John Sutter, a Swiss, who had been fortunate enough to obtain a full 11 leagues of land (spanning 60 miles in lenght) in the Sacramento valley from Governor Alvarado of Mexico. Sutter began to build a fort, which was a stopping place and home for many foreigners and Americans who traveled to California. He was engaged in a varity of projects, including his cattle ranch, fur trade and trapping and the construction of an irrigation system.
With the influx of immigrants over the years the communitiy around the fort grew rapidly. Lumber was much in demand and Captains Sutter agreed to supply the necessary capital for a communitiysawmill. The site chosen was some 45 miles northeast of the fort, located on the south fork of the American River in the town of Coloma