Samuel Kyburz - The Forgotten Pioneer

Copyright © 1996-1998: by Jennifer Lacey ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


I would like to dedicate this work to my father, William Richard Manning, and to the memory of Ol' Samuel Kyburz. May the legacy of this early California pioneer live on. It is through knowing our roots, where we come from, that we can better direct the future path we will take.

I would like to thank Dennis Witcher at the El Dorado County Museum; members of the Kyburz' clan: Robert and Georgia Ybright, Verna (Kyburz) Ybright, Samuel Wilson Kyburz, Melba Ouida Mosher, all of Placerville, California; Laura L. Kyburz of Sacramento, California; Roger Kyburz of Wisconsin; Duane Kyburz of Indiana; the El Dorado County Recorder's Office, NORCAL (an internet genealogy list group) and the helpful people in that group: Diane, John Collins, Su Carolyn Feroben, Laura Gilmore, Sandra Harris, Richard Hughey, Bob Norris, Linda Van Gundy, Ellen R. White, and Pamela Storm Wolfskil (forgive me if I left anyone off); R. Bruce Kieburtz of New Jersey, Erdmann Schmocker of the Swiss-American Historical Society, Peter W. Frey, Martin Hockstrasser, and Juerg Oehninger, all of Switzerland. Also, my husband, Roger, and my children: Jason, Gabriel, Emily and Becky, my mother-in-law, Adell Lacey, and especially my mother, Jane Burke, for her editing and unfailing support.


The name of Samuel Kyburz is well known in Switzerland for the part he played in the events that shook the world that January in 1848, the discovery of gold. He is memorialized in the town that goes by his name on Highway 50, not far from where gold was first discovered.

What began as a family history research project has led me to investigate the events that took place more than 150 years ago in the Sacramento Valley along the American River. On a visit to Sutter's Fort, to see where this man and his family had settled so many years ago, I was surprised to see that the only mention of his name was in the name given to the annex, Kyburz Annex. The storekeeper had not heard of him and no references were to be found in the literature being sold at the bookstore.

Quite confused, I began a search that has connected me with distant family and friends across the country as well as in the hometown of this early pioneer, Obertenfelden, Switzerland. I began reading accounts written by pioneers who lived in California at the time, as well as reports written later by early historians. Literature that told the story of Marshall and Sutter and their partnership were abundant as were accounts of the Donner Party. But something was missing, the man who discovered the beautiful valley of Culloomah.

In an attempt to be truthful and objective in my research, I have tried to document the accounts I have found. In some cases it has not been possible, in those instances I have looked at when the evidence was written and by whom.

In other cases, the evidence has been repeated, in which case I have looked for signs of one source possibly being the source for the other, but when it appears that they are from seperate sources, I have counted them as such. Some questions remain unanswered and others will have to just be accepted or rejected as the reader chooses. As with most history, once one begins on the road, you find it never ends. So, it has been for me on the journey of finding who Samuel Kyburz really was.

Samuel Kyburz

"A pioneer of pioneers - Good, truthful, and brainy old Samuel Kyburz lives on in the history he has made" ("Pioneers of Pioneers," Mountain Democrat 16 January 1898) memorialized Sam Kyburz upon his death, January 15, 1898, just fifty years after the discovery of gold, of which he played a part.

It was stories of his early life that I grew-up hearing, stories I heard such as Rebecca, his wife, being the first white woman to settle at Sutter's Fort, or their third child, a son, named after Sutter, being born and dying while they were living at the fort, or that Sam played an important role as an employee for Sutter, or the roadstop on Hwy. 50 being renamed in honor of Kyburz, or that it was Sam who first discovered Coloma, making possible the future discovery of gold. Was Sam Kyburz a character worth remembering?

Has he been "the forgotten man who helped Sutter settle California" (Donovan Lewis, "Samuel Kyburz, The Forgotten Man Who Helped Sutter Settle California," Old West [Summer 1983] 30-35)? I think so.

History is people's interpretaiton of events, people, or eras, always searching for the truth. But how is it that history gets written? Those journals, diaries, memoirs, legal records, newspaper accounts, and other records that we have retained give us an idea of past events. Because these are written by people, they cannot help but be biased and incomplete when all the facts are not available or accessible to the author. This is the problem I have encountered in researching the events that led up to the discovery of gold in California.

There are several written accounts of the discovery of gold. The question is, are we to assume that those accounts have told the whole story? I would have thoght so, until I began tracing my family history.

"Names like Marshall, Sutter and Fremont are forever linked with the American settlement of California. But many who pioneered that great effort are forgotten. One such man is Samuel Kyburz." (Jim Bullenty, "Editor's Notebook", Old West [Summer 1983] 5) There is a story that has not been adequately told about this character who played a supporting role in the events of 1847 and 1848. He truly is "the forgotten man who helped Sutter settle California" (Lewis, "Samuel Kyburz, The Forgotten Man . . . " 30) as Donovan Lewis wrote in his article, published in Old West. I hope to tell his story.

It is interesting that very little is written about the events that led up to the discovery of gold. How was it that Marshall built the mill in Coloma? The focus of my research has been to answer the question of who really discovered Coloma.

It is a well accepted fact the James Marshall discovered gold while in partnership with Captain John Sutter. Disputes over the exact day it occured have settled on January 24, 1848. The question still remains as to how it was that they decided on the valley, at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The valley the Indians call Culloomah was located and later recommended to be the best place in which to build the badly needed sawmill? (Culloomah is an Indian name meaning "beautiful veil," today it is called Coloma).

In my readings, I have found two versions of just how the valley was chosen. The more common version states that it was James Marshall who first found the valley of Culloomah (Coloma). The other tells of John Sutter's outside foreman or major-domo, Samuel Kyburz, who discovered Coloma. I began my search for the answer.

Hutchings' California Magazine was published between 1856 and 1861. It contained articles covering such subjects as natural history, sociology, gossip, and general California history. The editor and publisher was James Mason Hutchings. In the Novermber 1857 issue of Hutchings' Illustrated California Magazine, there is an account given by James Marshall of his discovery. Marshall stated that on May 16th, 1847, he left the fort with an Indian boy, and W. A. Graves to ride into the mountains. He arrived at the valley of Coloma on the 18th of May. When he returned to the fort, he informed Captain Sutter of what he had found in the way of a suitable place to build a sawmill. That was when they went into a partnership. However, Marshall states that there were some persons at the fort who had tried to find the area Marshall had found and when they couldn't find it they attemped to convince Sutter that Marshall "had made a false representatin, for they could find no such place." After the site had been confirmed to the satisfaction of Sutter, they completed the partnership and on the 27th of August a contract was signed. (Rodman, Paul, The California Gold Discovery - Sources, Documents, Accounts, and Memoirs Relating to the Discovery of Gold at Sutter's Mill, [The Talisman Prss, 1966] 116-117)

Another account published in the New York Herald, June 27, 1849, reports Marshall as saying, "I had previously explored the mountains, and found a suitable place, and a good route for a road to the same." He claimed that Captian Sutter had told him at first that a site could not be found, for he had previoulsy sent out groups of men for that purpose with no success. (Rodman, The California Gold Discovery, 109)

Wells and Chambers wrote this account, in their History of Butte County: "He [Marshall] soon after made an excursion up the American river, and was so pleased with the water-power at a place on the south fork, called by the Indains "Culloomah," known now as Coloma, that he desired to build a saw-mill there. (Wells & Chambers, History of Butte County, California 1882 [Berkeley: Howell-North Books, 1973])

Still, another account recorded in The Life and Times of Gen. John A. Sutter, by T. J. Schoonover, states that Sutter sent an expedition party out to find a location with good timber, good water-power and accessibility. Sutter had chosen Marshall to carry out the job. Schoonover says that it was Marshall who reported finding just such a location, called Coloma. (Schoonover, T. J., The Life and Times of Gen. John A. Sutter [Sacramento: Bullock-Carpenter, 1907])

According to these four accounts, it was James Marshall who had been commissioned to seek out a suitable site and build the sawmill. In analyzing these reports, I found that two of them were from newspapers that were printed shortly after the discovery. The other two were histories written thirty-four years after and about fifty years later. It appears as thought the latter may have been taken, in part, from the first, all credible and reliable it would seem.

Other accounts give a different picture of what happened. Interestingly, a biography of James Marshall by Theressa Gay, tells another story. "Samuel Kyburz, who was employed at New Helvetia as a superintendent, led the most important group that went exploring for a location . . . They examined a pretty little valley through which flowed the South Fork of the American River. Mr. Kyburz was quite impressed with that location and so informed his employ." (Gay, Theressa, James W. Marshall - The Discovery of California Gold [Georgetown: Talisman Press, 1967] 127) After Marshall had explored the surrounding area, he eventually happened on the "place that Samuel Kyburz had found on his exploring trip and upon which he had reported so favorable to John Sutter." (Theressa, 129)

The accounts, as reported in the Mountain Democrat, The Souvenir Edition of the 50th Anniversary of the Discovery, brings up the subject of Marshall wanting to build the mill near or on his own property. "James W. Marshall, who was in Capt. Sutter's employ, a good timber-man and well informed in regards to milling operations, wished the mill to be located upon Butte creek . . . but Kyburz interfered and through his influence Coloma was finally chosen as the site." (Heydon, A. Thurston, "The Discovery of Gold in California," Mountain Democrat, A Souvenir Edition 24 January 1898: 2)

John S. McGroarty tells still another story of property Marshall owned on Butte Creek. He favored the location for a new mill, but, Samuel Kyburz, Sutter's outside foreman, prevailed upon his employer to locate the new enterprise at Coloma. (McGroarty, John S., California, It's History and Romance [Los Angeles: Grafton, 1911] 24)

It was as a result of his many duties, one of which was looking after Sutter's cattle, that he became impressed with the beautiful valley of Coloma. Elmer Upton, in his Pioneers of El Dorado, explains that Sutter sent out several small expeditions. "The most important of these parties was led by Samuel Kyburz . . . [he] induced Captain Sutter to choose that location instead of the one in Butte county which Marshall favored." (Upton, Charles Elmer, Pioneers of El Dorado [Placerville: Upton Publisher, 1906] 53)

Upton claims that "the three most important men in the history of hte discovery of gold in California were Captain John A. Sutter, James W. Marshall and Samuel Kyburz." ("Kyburz Pointed the Way to Coloma," Mountain Democrat 23 January 1987)

It's very interesting that so little is written about this man who was one of the "most active and least publicized" of Sutter's employees. (Bagley, Harry P. "Kyburz, Innkeeper of the Gold Rush," Sacramento Bee 2 August 1941) Often, the only mention of Samuel Kyburz was as the one who prepared a great meal for the Fourth of July 1848 when several important figures attended a celebration dinner. (Sutter, John A., New Helvetia Diary [Clarbhorn Press: San Francisco, 1939])

In the History of the Sacramento Valley, California, Major J. W. Wooldridge gives a glowing report of Sam Kyburz. "Perhaps no man fits the true picture of California's early pioneers, as exemplified by the artist on the Donner monument, better than Samuel Kyburz . . . It seems proper that the Kyburz family should occupy a prominent place in California history." (Wooldridge, J. W. Major, ed., History of the Sacramento Valley, California, Vol. 1 [Chicago: Pioneer Historical Publishing, 1931] 332)

Two of these five references are from primary sources, the other three are of secondary. What would account for the discrepancy in these accounts? Were the references to Samuel Kyburz intentionally left out, or was the information, as is often the case for historians, not available?

There have been references to the idea that James Marshall was not happy with Samuel Kyburz's interference in the decision as to the site best suited for the mill. Louise C. V. Anderson, in her history of the Kyburz family, wrote that "Marshall was very crabid [sic] and cross on the trip to Coloma and while there, because he resented having to select Kyburz' choice for the mill site." (Anderson, Louise C. Vallet, "Partial History of Samuel Kyburz, Sr., and Wife," California State Library, Pioneer Letters)

What happened that day took California, and the peiple who had settled there, in a new direction. It was the beginning of the end of John Sutter's dreams of his new colony.

In 1840, Sutter's naturalization papers arrived. (Zollinger, James Peter, Sutter, The Man and His Empire, [New York: Oxfort, 1939] 80) 

A little more than a year previous Sutter had applied for citizenship and received a large grant of land in the Sacramento Valley. He had a dream of building an empire.  From the Mexican Government, he received the tiltle of Don Juan Augusto Sutter. After a year of demonstrating his laboriousness, good conduct, and other qualifications, he received from Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado title to what became known as the New Helvetia Grant. It was a deed of 11 squar leagues of land, or about 48,818 acres. One condition pending was the settlement of at least 12 families. (Zollinger, 89)

It was in 1845 that news of "the grand colonization on the Sacramento river in California had been undertaken by a native Swiss, a cerain Captian Sutter." (Capt. C. Theo Schwegler, "Kyburz of Kyburz," The Pony Expres September 1939) 

Along with reports from Captain John C. Fremont, on his explorations in Oregon and California, the news of Sutter's colony induced many families to migrate west.  "The subsequent discovery of gold there [in Coloma] spurred California's growth . . . Kyburz should be classed with the greatest of California's pioneers along with John Sutter, James Marshall, and the others who took part in this momentous event," reads Donovan Lewis' account. (Donovan, Old West) So, why is he not mentioned at the Fort where he lived and worked for Sutter? The annex bearing his name is all that remains. (Hall, Carroll D., Sutter's Fort, State Historical Monument, Printing Division, Sacramento, CA; 1982)

Who is this forgotten man that appears to have played such a role at Sutter's Fort? "[His] most significant achievement was his discovery of Culloomah Valley in 1847" (Lewis). But that isn't all he did. He left a legacy that continues today. Here is my attempt at telling the untold sotry of this early pioneer, Samuel Kyburz.

On June 26, 1810, in a small village, Obertenfelden, in the canton of Aargon, Switzerland, Samuel was born to Daniel and Maria Kyburz. He was the fifth child of seven born to this family. Daniel was a musician of some accomplishment. The family lived on a farm and that is where Samuel learned silk weaving. It was this trade that he took with him to America when he and his father, along with two sisters and one brother, immigrated in Septmeber 1833. (Hochstrasser, Martin, "Kyburz of Kyburz," Special Edition, Society of Local History, [Suhrental, Switzerland, 1997])

Sam and his family lived for awhile in the Boston area and evetnually settled in Wisconsin. It was in Spring Prairie that he meet and married his wife, Rebecca Sophia Barben, on May 29, 1841. (County of Walworth, Wisconsin, Marriage Certificate, 29, May 1841) Shortly thereafter, they moved to East Troy, Wisconsin, where their first two children were born, Samuel Elliot and Sarah Maranda.

It was April 2, 1846, that Sam, his wife, Rebecca, their two children, aged 4 and 2, and Rebecca's father and her two brothers, John and Samuiel left their home in East Troy and journeyed to Independence, Missouri. (von Grueningen, John Paul, ed. The Swiss in the United States [Madison, Wisconsin: Swiss- American Historical Society, 1940] 89)

Independence and St. Joseph in Missouri were small towns but busy frontier posts. It was the place where emigrants would complete their list of supplies needed for their overland journey. An important part of the preparations was to join an emigrant company and then to select people in the group that would serve as competent leaders. It was there that the Kyburz party met up with the "five Germans." (a group of German boys, Heinrich Lienhard was among them) Starting out, they joined with a large group of wagons, about twenty-six in all, but after a week, the Kyburz party as well as the "five German boys" broke off into a separate group. It was thought that they could travel faster on their own.

A thorough account of their trip has been recorded by Heinrich Lienhard. He kept a journal and later completed one of the most extensive accounts by any who traveled the trails west. it was later translated into English, From St. Louis to Sutter's Fort, 1846, by Erwin and Elisabeth Gudde.

When they reached North Platte and the Sweetwater River, Kyburz is reported to have become captain of the wagon train, a post he retained until their safe arrival at Sutter's Fort. (Donovan, "The Forgotten Man . . . ") Some have reported that the Lienhard-Kyburz party was originally part of the infamous Donner Party. This was not the case, the Donners left shortly after the Kyburzes, following a day or so behind, but they were never to meet until after those who survived reached Sutter's Fort. It is true that as of August 15, Jacob Harlan and Peter Weimer caught up with the Kyburz and continued on with them to the end. (von Grueningen)

Four months and twenty-three days after their departure, Samuel Kyburz and his family safely reached Sutter's Fort. It is reported that Rebecca Kyburz was the first white woman to settle at the fort. While this has not been contested and I have not been able to document this, there are several reports of this account. It is possible that while she would not have been the first to arrive, she may have been the first to settle there. (von Grueningen)

Immediately, John Sutter saw in Sam Kyburz a competent and reliable man and hired him on as his overseer of his growing colony. A two-room addition was built to accommodate the new family. (von Grueningen) Rebecca kept busy with cooking for the workers at the fort. Among Samuel's duties were as majordomo and in charge of the keys to the fort. He would often inspect buildings and selected sites for new construction as well as locating timber needed for lumber, returning lost or stolen cattle as well as the purchasing of livestock and supervising the workers in the wheatlands. Finally, he acted as captain of shipping, often traveling down the Sacramento, the San Joaquin, and the Great Bay of San Francisco (known as Yerba Buena at that time). (Schwegler)

After the war with Mexico, James Marshall returned to Sutter's Fort. It was August 1847 when Captain John Sutter and James Marshall went into partnership on the building of a sawmill. The contract was written by John Bidwell who was, at the time, a clerk in Sutter's store. Samuel Kyburz and John Bidwell both witnessed and signed the contract. (Donovan, von Grueninger, Gay) 

It was Samuel Kyburz who discovered the site of Coloma and influenced Sutter to build there. It was James Marshall who, in partnership with John Sutter, built the mill and discovered a gold nugget in the river at the mill site. Then it was John Bidwell who wrote the contract as well as witnessing it along with Samuel Kyburz. But, let us not forget, it was John Sutter who had the vision to establish a colony in the Sacramento Valley and foreseeing large numbers of newcomers, realized the need for lumber which led him to commission the building of the sawmill and the subsequent discovery of gold.

The discovery of gold, having been told many times before, occured on January 24, 1848. But the bigger news for the Kyburz family was the birth of their first California born child. He was born February 9, 1848, just a short time after gold was discovered. Because of the respect the Kyburzs had for John Sutter, they named their son, John Augustus Kyburz. (von Grueningen) 

Unfortunately, he did not live out the year. He died the following December after being sick for some time. A friend, Louise Anderson, remembered conversations with Rebecca in which she would tell Louise of the death of her infant son. Rebecca reported that he died at Christmas time at Sutter's Fort in the Kyburz Annex. Samuel and Rebecca kept the death watch over him as he lay in the cradle made of rough lumber that sat at the north wall of the room by the fireplace.

In May of 1848, there was an influx of people swarming throughout the fort. People were coming through at such a rate there was no room for them to sleep except on the floor. Because of the need for a boarding house, Samuel, and his wife, Rebecca, decided to open one and so arrangements were made for the moving of the store, making room for Kyburz to establish his boarding house.

It was at the time, through the spring and summer of 1848, that John Sutter lost control of his fort. The influx of people, the need for supplies, the lack of law and order, all contributed to a chaotic environment that seemed to overtake the fort. While there was a lot of money to be made, most people lost everything. For awhile, Sutter collected about $2000 a month from rent charged to those conducting businesses. (Donovan) Instead of using his profits to pay off debts, he went into more debt, eventually losing his fort. This was true as well as for James Marshall. (Jackson, Joseph Henry, ed., Gold Rush Album [New York: Bonanza, 1949])

It was not long before Samuel Kyburz left the fort. California was in chaos. There was no law and no control. Why the Kyburz family left, is not certain. One can only assume that what they had come to California looking for was not available in Sacramento at that time, and so they moved to San Francisco. Kyburz is registered in the San Francisco Registry of 1850 as being a merchant on Powell and Mason. (I do not know how this can be correct as these streets are parallel). (Annuls of San Francisco, 1856).

While Samuel was living in San Francisco, he became a naturalized citizen in the San Francisco District Court in 1850.

Marea Estelle, their second daughter, was born in San Francisco on November 12, 1849. They were living in a house on a hill that had a panoramic view of the city, the harbor, Yerba Buena Island, and Contra Consta. It was here that their friend and traveling companion, Lienhard Heinrich, came to visit on his way to the east. (Lienhard)

San Francisco, at this time, experienced an unprecedented growth. In 1848 the population was about 800, but within the year, it had grown to 25,000, all due to the Gold Rush and the influx of 49'ers. The following year it was incorporated as a city.

In an effort to "cultivate the social virtues of its members, to collect and preserve information connected with the early settlement and conquest of the country, and to perpetuate the memory of those whose sagacity, enterprise, and love of independence, induced them to settle in the wilderness, and become the germ of a new State," that the Society of Californai Pioneers was formed in San Francisco. Samuel Kyburz was one of the first office-holders along with many well-known early founders of California, such as Samuel Brannan, Edwin Bryant, and Joseph Folsom to name a few. (Annuls of SF) 

An interesting twist is that this society, which is still active today, has no mention of Samuel Kyburz in their files.

While in San Francisco, Samuel tried his hand in the shipping business. California was growing and there were opportunties for many people to make their fortune. He purchased a ship, it is reported, and sailed down to the coast of Mexico or Central America. His plan was to buy coffee and fruits and bring them to San Francisco. His venture was not successful, his ship sank and he lost his investment. One story says that his ship sunk in the San Francisco Bay. (Lienhard)

Shortly thereafter, the Kyburz family left San Francissco. That was in January of 1851. They headed for Hock Farm where John Sutter was living, where they remained there until February of the following year when Samuel moved his family into Sacramento.(Zollinger, Hock Farm was Sutter's private ranch on the Feather River) Samuel continued working for Sutter until May of 1852 when he left to run a hotel in Sacramento. (Kyburz, Samuel, Deposition in US District Court, Case of US vs Sutter, Land Calims, Vol 25, p 498, June 4, 1860)

While in Sacramento, the Kyburz lived in a house on what is now 'K' street between 9th and 10th street. There, Rebecca gave birth to another son, Albert Burrows, born June 30, 1852 and on October 10, 1854, their last child was born, John Daniel. (Sacramento County Death Certificates) They had a home built between 15th and 16th and 'N' and 'M' streets, in which they lived until they left Sacramento in 1862.

It was the flood of '62 that drove many from Sacramento, including Samuel Kyburz and his family. He took them to Whiterock, in El Dorado County. There they worked for the owner of a roadhouse on the Mills-Placerville road. Samuel worked as manager while Rebecca worked as housekeeper. It was about this time that John Sutter presented Samuel Kyburz with 160 acres of prime land, for all his loyal service (von Grueningen). That was the beginning of a long venture between Samuel and his two younger sons as they went into the dairy business in Clarksville where they remained for several years. There, they had another home built, by Mr. Ball, who later became their son-in-law. (Anderson)

Samuel returned to his civic duties, he took the position of Justice of the Peace, a position he held until the 1890's. He retired from that position due to poor health, at which time his friend, and husband of Louise Anderson, Levi H. Anderson, succeeded him as Justice of the Peace. (Anderson)

The California State Grange Association began in August of 1870 in Pilot Hill, in El Dorado County. This was the first of its kind on the Pacific Coast. January 1874 saw the establishment of the Clarksville Grange, No. 149, of which Samuel, Rebecca, and Albert were charter members. (History of El Dorado County, 1886)

In September 1871, the first meeting of the Territorial Pioneers of '49 and '50 met to organize. Samuel Kyburz was among the original members. Their goals were to re-unite early pioneers, and "revive and keep alive the fading recollections of the 'flush times', when hopeful and generous adventure was the princely almoner [sic] of wealth that seemed to be exhaustless." (History of El Dorado County) Kyburz became an honored member of the Masonic Fraternity, a tradition that the Kyburz family has continued to this day. It was in the Masonic cemetery, in the town of Folsom, where Samuel Kyburz' remains were finally interred. (Mt. Dem. obit)

Samuel was also one of the first members of the Native Sons of the Golden West, Placerville Parlor No. 9. There have been, now six generations of Kyburz in that organization, a record unsurpassed by any other Parlor.

Samuel Kyburz remained in Clarksville until he became ill, at which time he and Rebecca moved in with their eldest son, Samuel, in Shingle Spring, in El Dorado County. He remained there until his death, January 15, 1898. That was just fifty years after the discovery of gold. His children have remained in the county establishing a long line of Kyburz' that remain to this date. At the Marshall Gold Discovery State Park in Coloma, there is on display a silver topped cane. It was a present to "Old Sam" from John Sutter. The cane was made of wood from Marshall's historic mill. Along with the inscription that reads, "Old Sam, Sutter's Coloma Mill, Gold Discovered by Marshall, Feb. 1848" is the Masonic emblem, as Samuel was one of the California's first masons. (Mountain Democrat Magazine, "The Kyburz . . . A family chronicle, six generations in El Dorado County," Virginia Briggs)

Albert Burrows Kyburz, Samuel's fifth child, purchased 120 acres after the death of his father in what we know today as Cameron Park. In 1900, he traded the property plus $1,500 for a hotel-resort near Silver Fork. This place, also known as Sugarloaf, Slippery Ford, and other names, became known as Kyburz when the United States Post Office wanted to rename it when they were establishing its first post office there. Albert, upon becoming the first post master, recommended that it be named in his father's memory. The resort remained in the family until 1946 when, after it burned, Albert and Edna Kyburz moved back to Placerville. (Bagley, "Kyburz, Innkeeper of the Gold Rush")

There have been several instances where Samuel's character revealed itself, exhibiting a man able to make peace among people. On the way west, Lienhard, in his journal, gives a description of two times in which Kyburz intervened in an argument, avoiding a showdown between his fellow comrades. Referred to as a "peacemaker", Louise Anderson said of Samuel Kyburz, he was a "good man in every relation of life . . . full of fun and a great josher." (Anderson)

Samuel Kyburz's absence from the written accounts of those famous events of 1848, indicate a man who was not interested in bringing attention on himself. He was not a person who came to California looking for fame and fortune. He came with his family to make a new life. California was a place where dreams were made and achieved, where anything was possible.

It was the events of the Gold Rush that brought such change to those who had previously come and settled themselves in this very young country. The Gold Rush made and broke many families. Out of the chaos emerged characters that have remained in our history as having a hand in bringing California to life. I suggest that Samuel Kyburz is one of those men.

What should be our criteria for those we memorialise in our history books? I would venture to say that one who has made a lasting impact throughout his life, not just by accident. Repeating what Major J W. Wooldridge said about Samuel Kyburz, "Perhaps no man fits the true picture of California's early pioneers, as exemplified by the Donner monument, better than Samuel Kyburz." (Wooldridge)

There are still unanswered questions: was Rebecca really the first white woman to settle at Sutter's Fort? Did John Sutter give 160 acres to Sam, or, as Louise Anderson stated, did he acquired the land when his oldest son, Samuel E., returned home from the Civil War with land warrants. It was those warrants, she claimed, that made the purchase of the property possible. Where is the contract written by John Bidwell and witnessed by he and Samuel Kyburz? And lastly, why has Samuel Kyburz been left out of the history books? Was there a falling out between James Marshall and Samuel Kyburz? Why did Sam not speak up?

As for who discovered gold? Samuel and Rebecca's close friend, Louise C. Vallett Anderson, told a story that Rebecca Kyburz had relayed to her. Rebecca told her who really discovered gold. She said that it was actually the Indian boy who was with Marshall that picked up the gold and showed it to Marshall, he even told him what it was. I give this piece of evident some credibility due to Rebecca not trying to gain any glory for her statement. Indians were not especially well thought of at this time which causes me to believe this claim to be true, why would Rebecca say this if it were not true, when she wasn't trying to make a case of it? It is a very interesting point that still needs more proof.


The more I read about the discovery of gold, the more intrigued I become with the details of life in early California. I became interested in this subject while working on my family history. I am a 5th generation California, born in San Francisco, where Samuel and Rebecca's second daughter, Marea Estelle was also born. She was my great-great-grandmother. It was an added surprise to find that I share Samuel's birthday, June 26th.

It would be interesting to find out what happened to the other pioneers that lived in the Sacramento Valley at that time. The effects of the discovery of gold were, and remain today, immeasurable, no only to Captain John A. Sutter, James W. Marshall, Samuel Kyburz, but to the Indians who first discovered the valley.

While this story has been told innumerable times, those who love to learn about history will never tire of hearing of the personal stories of our early pioneer families. Remember, everyone has a story to tell.

Well, that's it folks. I'd be real interested in hearing "constructive" critiques, corrections, and other comments. Please feel free to share your opinions with me on this very interesting topic.

I hope you all have enjoyed my story, Jeni

P.S. please feel free tome if you have any questions.

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