The early years 1826 - 1848

• Historical fact

• Bonanza history as drawn from episodes (more or less)

• From the 'Dreaming Eagle' (or of utmost importance to it...;)

1826 -
In this year two for trapping expeditions entered the Great Basin and touched what would kater become Nevada, one British and one American. The British was led by Peter Skene Ogden and only briefly crossed the northeastern corner of Nevada in spring 1826.

Jedediah Smith

Jedediah Smith

The American expedition, a group of 15 men in search for new fur trapping grounds, was led by 27-ys-old Jedediah Smith, one of three co-owners of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. Smith started in present-day Utah on August 26, heading south along the Sevier River, then west along the [now] Virgin, Colorado and Mojave rivers. He reported being attacked by Indians along the Colorado and then suffering from thirst; they survived by using the 'Cabbage Pear' hedgehog cactus. He traveled through the Virgin Valley, a route that would serve as the right-of-way for the Old Spanish Trail (1829-1848) and for the Mormon road or southern route of travel to southern California.
In Novemer Smith's group reached the Mexican San Gabriel Mission. The Mexicans, suspicious about American intentions, demanded that he left the same way he came. Instead, Smith turned north, taking his party to an area along the American River in Central California. Because of the hostile nature of the Sierra Nevada. particularly in winter, Smith decided to leave the biggest part of his group behind in California and cross the Sierras with only two other members of his group. The three men made it through central Nevada and ebentually reached the Great Salt Lake.

Smith would retrace his path in 1827 to meet up with the members of his expedition that he had left behind in California.

Valerie Montane and her parents travel to Italy, when their ship is raided by Algerian pirates in the Mediterranean Sea. Valerie is sold to a Moroccan sheikh.

Ben and Geoffrey Montane try to free Valerie, but fail. Geoffrey is killed by Sheikh Rashid, Ben returns to America.

The episode 'The Deadliest Game' speaks of Ben having been to the Mediterranean at least once, and that he had met Guido Borelli in Italy. Given Ben's rather busy schedule in later years, this might have been the best, if not only chance for this to take place... ;)

November 9, 1828 -
Peter Skene Ogden discovers the Humboldt River on his fifth Snake Country expedition 1828-1829. This was Ogden's last expedition to the Snake Country.

Boston Harbor 1827

Boston harbor 1827 (painting by William James Bennett)

1828 or 1829 -
Ben is in New England and works as a First Mate under the command of Captain Abel Stoddard. He falls in love with Abel's daughter Elizabeth (Elizabeth, My Love).

It was never made clear in the series where exactly Ben lived in New England, and Boston would be just another guess.

Antonio Armijo, a merchant from Santa Fe, lead a party of 60 on the Old Spanish Trail to Los Angeles. While the caravan camped about 100 miles northeast of the present site of Las Vegas, a scouting party set out to look for water. The abundance of artesian spring water found here shortened the Spanish trail to Los Angeles by allowing travelers to cut directly through, rather than around, the vast desert. Spanish traders who used this route were thankful for the shortened trip and they named this convenient desert oasis Las Vegas, Spanish for 'The Meadows'.

Old Spanish Trail

The Old Spanish Trail from Santa Fe to Los Angeles.
(The map, however, is from 1845 - you can guess there was even less known in 1829)

Ben has married Elizabeth and opens a ship chandler’s shop with his father-in-law, Abel (Elizabeth, My Love).

January 8, 1830 -
Armijo's pack train from Santa Fe arrived in Los Angeles. The successful completion of the journey opened a trade route between the two Mexican provinces of New Mexico and California.

Adam is born in New England, his mother dies after his birth.

His birth is, of course, described in 'Elizabeth, My Love'. The episode also mentions Ben's wish to 'build his dream' and sees him leaving with baby Adam - albeit it doesn't excatly look likes he's already heading west.
It's not clear what Ben did in those five years to 1835 (when he was reported to be in Ohio).

In the Eagle, Adam recalls that he 'never knew a home' when he was young.

May 26, 1830 -
The Indian Removal Act, part of a United States government policy known as Indian removal, was signed into law by President Andrew Jackson.

May 1832 -
Benjamin Bonneville started the expedition that would become the most famous accomplishment of his life. He left Missouri with 110 men, including Nathaniel Jarvis Wyeth, for a voyage that was financed by John Jacob Astor, a rival of the Hudson's Bay Company. The expedition proceeded up to the Platte River and across present-day Wyoming. They reached the Green River in August and built a winter fort, which they named Fort Bonneville.

Joseph Walker

Joseph Walker

Spring 1833 -
Sent by Benjamin Bonneville, one Joseph Walker led a party of men to explore the Great Salt Lake and to find an overland route to California. Walker discovered a route along the Humboldt River across present-day Nevada, as well as Walker Pass across the Sierra Nevada, a path that later became known as the California Trail, the primary route for the immigrants to the gold fields during the California Gold Rush.

Kit Carson along with Thomas McKay of the Hudson's Bay Company and five others went to the head-waters of the Ogden River and followed it to the sink. Afterwards Carson went to Fort Hall and McKay went to Walla Walla.

Great Britain abolished slavery in its colonies, including Canada, which encouraged more American slaves to escape north along the Underground Railroad.

1833-34 -
Joseph Walker led the group from Captain Bonneville's party along the Humboldt on a secret reconnaissance of California.
Walker and his men had the first recorded conflict with the Paiutes, killing around 100 of them because he thought they were hostile.

One member of this group, a certain Donegal Grumpston, abandoned Walker's group and struck a friendship with a Paiute brave. Grumpston stayed in the Sierras and lived there ever since.

About Nevada, Colorado and Wyoming it was written: "Nothing was known of this region except what the trappers had reported; none were known to have passed across the country from and to California save the parties under Smith and Walker, respectively."

The episode 'Return To Honor' mentions that Ben and 5-ys-old Adam had been in Ohio around this time, visiting the home of Ben's brother John and his son Will, who must have been in Adam's age.

Later that year, Ben and little Adam arrive in Illionois, where Ben meets Inger Borgstrom. Ben isn't exactly well off and cannot even afford the medicine for his sick son. (Inger, My Love)

Still pursuing his dream to go west, Ben and his family travel to St. Joseph, Missouri, where they join a party that sets off for 'the west'. It is likely that the group was bound for Oregon, since California wasn't as much of an option that time, and wouldn't be until 1841. (Journey Remembered)

Oregon Trail

The Oregon Trail

Somewhere along the way, Hoss is born. The episode 'A House Divided' states that he was born in the prairie, west of the Missouri River. The group is heading for Ash Hollow in what is now Nebraska, planning to join a larger wagon train.

Inger dies at Ash Hollow in an Indian attack, while 6 or nearly 7-ys-old Adam cradles his baby brother.


1837 -
We have no clue what Ben did after Inger's death, which left him stranded in Ash Hollow, Nebraska, with a 6 or 7-ys old boy and a baby. We only know that he must have arrived in California somewhen between 1839 and 1840.
He might have accompanied the treck to Fort Vancouver in Oregon, and be it just to have other women taking care of the baby, and later took the coastal route to California from there.

April 1, 1838 -
John Sutter joined a group of missionaries in Westpoint, Oregon, led by the fur trapper Andrew Dripps, and went along the Oregon Trail to Fort Vancouver in Oregon Territory, which he reached in October. With a few companions, he went on board the British bark 'Columbia' which left Fort Vancouver on 11 November and laid at anchor in Honolulu on 9 December.

Lilyah is born near Agadir, Morocco, the only living child of Sheikh Rashid and Valerie Montane.

John Sutter

John Sutter

July 1, 1839 -
John Sutter arrives in California, in the town Yerba Buena (which was renamed to San Francisco eight years later, in 1847), aboard the 'Columbia'. At the time of Sutter's arrival, California, the territory had a population of only 1,000 Europeans, in contrast with 30,000 Native Americans. It was a province of Mexico and as a foreigner, Sutter had to present himself to the governor, Juan Bautista Alvarado, for permission to stay in California. Alvarado gave him permission to settle on the frontier to the north, and promised that after a year this land would be permanently granted to Sutter.
A few days later Sutter found a location that he liked close to where the American River joined the Sacramento River. Sutter met with the local Native American tribes in his area and secured their neutrality with regard to his presence. He named the settlement New Helvetia.
History; The Beginnings of San Francisco

August 29, 1840 -
John Sutter became a naturalized Mexican citizen and was appointed Alcalde and official government representative for the Sacramento District of Alta California. Only after his land grant was secured, Sutter started to plant crops and raise cattle. Before, he had merely trapped beaver.

Sutter's Fort

Sutter's Fort in New Helvetia

The episode 'The Henry Comstock Story' tells us that Ben was in California at the time 'Sutter planted his first fields of grain', and that he later saw it all getting destroyed in the gold rush of 1848.

December 1840 -
The episode 'The Countess' states that Ben and Adam were in New Orleans around christmas time when Adam was almost 11 years old (and Hoss, who was most likely with them, about five).

With these two corner dates - and considering that Ben would sell furs in New Orleans later as seen in 'Marie, My Love' (nevermind how ridiculously far away that is from California) - it seems likely that he went into the fur trapping business. The fur trade that time was more or less a monopoly of the powerful Hudson Bay Company, who by the way was very suspicious about Sutter, suspecting him to undermine their dominance. Maybe Ben did just that. Since he needed a place to live, he and his two little sons most likely lived on Sutter's land. Sutter was known to pay people working for him in goods and/or land, so trapping would have provided Ben with an income to save for his future land east of the mountains.

May - November 1841
The Bartleson-Bidwell Party, led by Captain John Bartleson and John Bidwell, became the first American emigrants to attempt a wagon crossing from Missouri to California. They crossed Nevada by way of the Humboldt, Carson Sink, and Walker River, and arrived at Marsh's Los Medanos Rancho in California on November 4.

May 1841
John Sutter obtained an additional eleven square league land grant from Governor Alvarado for the lands around New Helvetia. In September 1841 he purchased Fort Ross from Rotcheff for $30,000. (Title to the land was clouded but he was able to obtain ownership of the livestock, improvements, equipment, and supplies.) Sutter employed Native Americans of the Miwok and Maidu tribes, Kanakas, and Europeans at his compound, which he called Sutter's Fort; he envisioned creating an agricultural utopia, and for a time the settlement was in fact quite large and prosperous.

In 'Marie, My Love' it is not only stated that Ben sold furs in New Orleans, also, that he had hired Marie's first husband Jean de Marigny (maybe he needed help carrying all those furs across the continent...;). At this time, Ben's outpost in the Sierra Nevada should already been built - likely a hut or cabin as a base for his fur trappings - and de Marigny had helped building it, or operating it, or whatever. Anyhow, de Marigny would have to die in this year, so Ben could travel to New Orleans again and woo the widow.

Since what would later become Utah territory was still part of Alta California that time, which still was a province of Mexico, Ben would also have needed the permission of the Mexican governor to buy any land at all - and that would be the case until after the Mexican-American war 1846-47. In the episode 'The Spanish Grant' it is stated that a title to the Ponderosa was filed in Monterey, which had been the capital of Mexican Alta California and thus indicates that Ben must have made his first purchase between 1841 and 1846. As the land wasn't even explored, let alone cartographed, the latest possible date for the purchase seems the most likeliest.

This is an 1841 map showing the area of Alta (Upper) California and future Nevada - you can see what little is know about it.

1841 Alta California

1841 map of Alta California (cut - click for a bigger version)

After the death of Jean de Marigny, Ben travels to New Orleans again to sell his furs. He falls in love with the young widow, Marie de Marigny, and marries her (Marie, My Love). Since Little Joe is generally believed to be 12 years younger than Adam, this marriage must have taken place in late 1841 or the beginning 1842.

The episode 'The Stranger' states that before Ben left New Orleans with his young wife, he must have had an encounter with police man Charles Leduque.

Summer 1842
John C. Frémont first met American frontiersman Kit Carson on a Missouri River steamboat in St. Louis during the summer of 1842. Frémont was preparing to lead his first expedition and was looking for a guide to take him to South Pass in southwestern Wyoming. Carson offered his services, as he had spent much time in the area. The five-month journey, made with 25 men, was a success. The U.S. Congress published Frémont's report, touching off "a wave of wagon caravans filled with hopeful emigrants" heading west.

The biggest problem in the timeline is Joe's assumed birth on the Ponderosa.

At this time, the area of what would later become Nevada territory was uninhabitated by whites, no towns, no settlements, no nothing. A ranch like the Ponderosa simply could not have existed. For the sake of Bonanza, we'll assume Ben had already marked some land for the future Ponderosa, had already built a house or rather a hut as a base for his fur trappings (which would explain the location in the mountains, when the area of the future Eagle Valley or the site of the future Truckee meadows would have been much better suited for a ranch). The episode 'First Born' states that Ben built the house with 'his own hands'. He even might have called it 'Ponderosa', firmly believing in his dream.
Yet, at that point it was more likely that his little sons of 12 and 6 years were living in California, especially when their father was on one of his trips to New Orleans.

A scenario that would explain Joe's birth on the Ponderosa might be that Ben wanted to show the pregnant Marie the place, and she went into labor, perhaps prematurely. Another one that they made station there on their way to California, maybe got delayed by harsh weather in the mountains - or probably it was a combination of both.

At one point in the Eagle, Adam recalls with amusement how Joe would always say that he was born 'in that little room upstairs', even though the house had no upstairs back then and his birth in the hut was an accident that had given his father some grey hairs.

An immigrant party led by Joseph Walker through Walker Pass took the first wagons across the Sierra. John Frémont and his party were the first white men to cross the Black Rock desert, and his trail was used by over half the 22,000 gold seekers headed to California after 1849.

May 1843 -
Fremont's second expedition was to map the area between the Rockies and the Pacific Ocean. The expedition was well-equipped and especially well-armed. The men carried breechloading rifles - though the Army would retain muzzleloaders for another 25 years. They also dragged along a small howitzer which nearly ended the expedition before it started. The Topographical Corps didn't need any confrontations with Mexican military in California or the British in Oregon. It sent Fremont a letter demanding he return to Washington and explain why he was taking a cannon on a peaceful, scientific expedition. Fremont's wife intercepted the letter and, instead of forwarding it, sent him a message that he had better head west without further preparation.

John C. Fremont

John C. Frémont

January, 1844 -
Lt. John C. Frémont was the first person of European descent to see Pyramid, during his second exploratory expedition. On February 14, he discovered Lake Tahoe.

May 22, 1844 -
The Stephens-Townsend-Murphy Party left near present-day Council Bluffs, Iowa on May 22, 1844. They left with a larger group of Oregon-bound settlers in a group of forty wagons. Fifty travelers left Iowa; 52 arrived in the Sacramento Valley (there being two births along the way). They met a Paiute Indian whose name sounded like 'Trucke'. The Indian drew a crude map in the sand indicating a river and possible pass over the mountains. When the emigrants found the river, out of gratitude to the Indian who befriended them, they named the refreshing stream the Truckee River. They followed the Truckee River up into the Mountains and became the first settlers to open 'The Truckee Pass' into California.

The Stephens-Townsend-Murphy Party is significant in California history because they pioneered the first route for wagons across the Sierra Nevada at or near Donner Pass in 1844, two years before the Donner Party and five years before the 1849 Gold Rush. They were most famous for being the first wagon train to cross the Sierra Nevada during the expansion of the American West. The Truckee Pass was renamed 3 years later after the tragedy of the Donner Party.

Captain Frémont crossed Nevada again with his guide, Joseph Walker, for whom the lake is named. This time from the east to west in a general line running from Flowery Lake to Walker Lake.

The lands east of the Sierra Nevada still were largely unexplored, as this map of 1845 below shows. You can click on it and view a bigger version in a popup window.

1845 California

1845 map of Alta California (cut - click for a bigger version)

Somewhen around this time, Ben must have purchased a first part of the Ponderosa land to have a title to it filed in Monterey (as stated in the episode 'The Spanish Grant').

I can just imagine the talks between Ben and then Governor Pío Pico....

Pío Pico: "Why, Senor Cartwright, of course I could give you a grant, but... land on the eastern slopes of the mountains? I mean, there is nothing..."

Ben: "But there will be! I know it!"

Pío Pico: "But, how would we settle that? The land is not even cartographed... there are no maps... no way to define your grant... " (sighs) "Senor, maybe a league farther north at the banks of the Sacramento..."

Ben (starts singing): "Here in the West, we're livin' the best, Bonanzaaaa..."

Pío Pico (hastily scribbling a note): "Alright, alright, Senor... anything you want... here is your grant... and here's a sugar cane, it's said to soothe the nerves..."

Ben (snatches the grant and dances out of the door): "With the friendliest, fightingist, loving band, that ever set foot in the promised land, and we're happier than them all. That's why we call it Bonanza... Bonanza... Bonanzaaaaaaa..."


John C. Frémont

May 13, 1846 -
President James K. Polk signed a proclamation of war against Mexico. It took almost two months (mid-July 1846) for definite word of war to get to California

June 14, 1846 -
The California Republic was founded, proclaimed by settlers in Sonoma in the then-Mexican province of California. The republic lasted little more than a week until the U.S. Army, led by John Frémont, took over on June 23.

July 7, 1846 -
Commodore John Drake Sloat, on hearing of imminent war and the revolt in Sonoma, ordered his naval forces to occupy Yerba Buena (present San Francisco) on July 7 and raise the American flag. On July 15, Sloat transferred his command to Commodore Robert F. Stockton, a much more aggressive leader. Commodore Stockton put Frémont's forces under his command. On July 19, Frémont's 'California Battalion of Mounted Riflemen' swelled to about 160 additional men from newly arrived settlers near Sacramento, and he entered Monterey in a joint operation with some of Stockton's sailors and marines. The official word had been received - the Mexican-American War was on. The American forces easily took over the north of California; within days, they controlled Yerba Buena, Sonoma, and Sutter's Fort.

It was mentioned in two episodes that Ben fought in this war ('Yonder Man' and 'Danger Road').

It must have been well before these dates, maybe even in 1845, that young Adam headed for New England to study - since it is extremely unlikely that he would have left his family in war times.

How exactly the 16 or 15-ys-old travelled to New England was never mentioned, a logical option would have been per ship, probably the Panama Route. While this route wasn't officially established before 1848 (see March 3, 1847), it certainly was used before. A less likely possibility might have been the even longer way around Cape Horn with a Hudson Bay Company owned vessel. The Hudson Bay Company had a florishing post in Hawaii and a number of vessels operating between Honolulu and Alta California. At least once a year, there would be a vessel carrying goods and supplies around Cape Horn. Maybe Ben had an old friend among the captains, one of whom he might have entrusted with his son. Brings to mind Adam's dream of a ship in 'Elisabeth, My Love'.

In New England, presumably Boston, Adam studied civil engineering which at that time largely played into the field of architecture, as the distinction between mere construction and more aesthetical architecture was still blurred. Since he later referred to himself as an architect, it is likely that he widened his college education with private studies, through work for an architect or an apprenticeship - still a common way of studying a profession in that field (It is estimated that in 1870, only 10% of all working engineers were college graduates, as laws governing licensing & certifications were not introduced until the early 1900s).

During his time in New England he befriended the young actor Edwin Booth (as mentioned in 'The Actress'), but that was most likely somewhen in 1849 when Booth (born 1833, thus three years younger than Adam) had his first engagement as Tressel in Shakespeares' 'Richard III' in Boston.

In the Eagle, Adam recalls taking private studies in architecture.

Donner Party

The ill-fated Donner Party - makes you think twice about the Cartwrights so easily hopping around in the Sierras...

July 19, 1846 -
A group of California-bound American emigrants caught up in the 'westering fever' of the 1840s left a large wagon train to take an alternate route to California, as proposed by Lansford Hastings. Delaying their journey too long in the Truckee Meadows, they subsequently became trapped in the heavy snows of the Sierra Nevada when they attempted to follow the 'Hastings Cutoff' through the mountains into California. They were driven to cannibalism in their attempts to survive the winter. 47 out of 87 perished. The last survivor of the Donner Party arrived at Sutter's Fort on April 29, 1847.

1846 - 47
Led by their leader Brigham Young, the much persecuted Mormons of the so-called Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints travelled westwards in search for a new home. They eventually reached the Great Salt Lake, an area still within the boundaries of Mexican Alta California, but so far away from any Mexican influence that no one really cared about it. Pleased with the area, the Mormons decided to stay.

Fremont's California Battalion

Fremont's California Battalion of Mounted Riflemen

January 13, 1847 -
John Fremont led his California Battalion towards Los Angeles, accepting the surrender of Andres Pico, governor of Mexican Alta California, on the Cahuenga Plain. The Treaty of Cahuenga ended the war in California.

San Francisco 1850

San Francisco 1850 - it probably didn't look much different in 1847

January 30, 1847 -
Yerba Buena was renamed to San Francisco by a proclamation by a Lt. Bartlett. Yet, the city and the rest of California would not become officially American until 1848.

March 3, 1847 -
The Panama Route came into being when US Congress passed a law directing the establishment of a postal route from Atlantic ports across the Isthmus of Panama to California and Oregon with stops in Monterey and San Francisco. Ships from Atlantic ports would unload their mail cargo in Panama, where it was carried across the Isthmus by mules and then loaded into ships heading for Pacific ports. The Panama Route started operation in 1848.

May 31, 1847 -
Brigadier General Stephen W. Kearny ordered Frémont to order his men to either sign up in the regular army or disburse. Fremont said they would happily disburse as soon as they were paid—which was difficult since almost nobody had any money. Nearly all California Battalion members mustered out.

... and Ben among them...

July 24, 1847 -
The Mormon people under Brigham Young established their settlement at the Great Salt Lake.

1847 -
John Calhoun Johnson, Sierra explorer and founder of 'Johnson's Cutoff' (now U.S. Route 50), was the first white man to see Meeks Bay at Lake Tahoe and from a peak above the lake he named Fallen Leaf Lake after his Indian guide.

The episode 'Between Heaven and Earth' recalls how a 5-ys-old Little Joe would have a frightening experience on a mountain near the Ponderosa. It could be that the family spent summers in what would later become the ranch (with Ben still trapping furs), or Joe's experience took place later, in 1849 (which would made him a tad older than five years).

January 24, 1848 -
James Marshall's discovery of gold at Sutter's sawmill on the South Fork of the American River, near the present town of Coloma in California, began the great gold rush. The Truckee River and Meadows became an Oasis watering hole and brief rest stop for thousands of weary settlers along the well traveled California Trail.

Mexican Session

February 2, 1848 -
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed, a peace treaty, largely dictated by the United States to the interim government of a militarily occupied Mexico, that ended the Mexican-American War of 1846-48. With this, the area of present day states California, Nevada and Utah fell to the US, along with parts of later Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Wyoming.
(see image aside)

July 3, 1848 -
An eastward Mormon party that wanted to avoid the Truckee Route and its deep crossings of the Truckee River laid out a route across the Sierra Nevada along the 'Johnson Cutoff', called the 'Carson Route'. The group left Pleasant Valley, southeast of Placerville, on July 3, following Iron Mountain Ridge up to the crest of the Sierra at Carson Pass and then descending through Carson Canyon into the Carson Valley.
Along the Humboldt River in Nevada, the Mormons met Joseph B. Chiles, who was leading a westward wagon train to California, and told him of their new trail. Although this new Carson Route crossed two summits - Carson Pass over the crest of the Sierra and West Pass over the Carson Spur just to the west, these crossings were easier than Donner Pass on the Truckee Route, and only three fords of the Carson River were required. The route became the primary westward route into California at the start of the Gold Rush and would one day be highway US 50.

1948 -
Along that route, a small town called 'Dry Diggins' was founded, named after the manner in which the miners moved cartloads of dry soil to running water to separate the gold from the soil. Later in 1849, the town earned its most common historical name, 'Hangtown', due to the numerous hangings that had taken place there. Later in 1854, the town would be renamed again to 'Placerville'.

Early summer 1948 -
Sutter's attempt at keeping the gold finds quiet failed when merchant and newspaper publisher Samuel Brannan returned from Sutter's Mill to San Francisco with gold he had acquired there and began publicizing the find. Masses of people overran the land and destroyed nearly everything Sutter had worked for, stealing his lifestock and trampling his fields. With no legal system to speak of in California that time, Sutter's ownership of his land was blatantly ignored.

The episode 'The Henry Comstock Story' states that Ben witnessed the destruction of Sutter's land and the savagery in the greed for gold. At this time, with California having turned American, he would have had a good chance to build his own ranch there, probably as part of 'New Helvetia'. Whatever Ben had in California, it was likely destroyed or damaged in the Gold Rush, which would explain his later severity in dealing with squatters on Ponderosa land.

August 19, 1848 -
The New York Herald published a story about the discovery of gold in California.

September 1848 -
John Sutter jr., who had come from Switzerland and joined his father in September, saw the commercial possibilities of the land and promptly started plans for building a new city he named Sacramento, after the Sacramento River. The elder Sutter deeply resented this because he had wanted the city to be named Sutterville and be built near his New Helvetia domain.

Sacramento December 1849

Sacramento December 1849

Late in the year 1848 -
It is likely that Ben, still resenting the Gold Rush, had first thoughts of leaving California and build his own dream at the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada, where he still had his peaceful Ponderosa site. However, given the harsh winters in the Sierras and the still utter remoteness of the place of any white settlement, it doesn't seem likely he would move there with winter ahead. After all, he had a young family with two little boys - Hoss would be 12 and Joe around 6 that time.
So it might appear probable that Ben participated in the building of the new town, Sacramento, while preparing everything for the move to the Ponderosa at the earliest possible time next spring.

Donner Party

Just a reminder of what a winter tour through the Sierras looked like...

Quite frankly - considering that there still was nothing and no one around in what would be Nevada territory 13 years later - 1848/49 is too early a date for a permanent move to the Ponderosa. 170 or so miles to the next mercantile store, the next blacksmith, the next harnessmaker, etc etc - go figure! 1850 would be the better date, given that in this year the first crude settlements came into existance.
But, Marie will have to die in front of the ranch house (how's that for a logical argument??), and of course Ben was a visionist who foresaw the future settlements after the gold rush set in. Also, had Ben stayed for another year to build something in Sacramento, he probably would not have wanted to leave it.

December 5, 1848 -
President Polk gave a speech that confirmed the abundance of California gold.

proceed to the years 1849 - 1860