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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sacramento County



A study of the lives and activities of the pioneers of Sacramento county discloses no name more worthy of honorable mention than that of the late James Rutter, who was identified with California as a permanent resident from the year 1852 until his death. An early acquired knowledge of the trade of carpenter proved helpful to him after he left his native country and crossed the ocean to the United States, for this occupation and kindred pursuits enabled him to be self-supporting from the first. Notwithstanding the fact that he had reached an age justifying his complete retirement from all business cares and the further fact that he had accumulated a competency through his arduous undertakings in the past, he continued to the last actively interested in all life's activities, personally overseeing his varied enterprises and showing the same persevering energy characteristic of him during earlier years.

Descended from a long line of Anglo-Saxon ancestors, and himself a native of Cornwall, England, James Rutter was born August 15, 1827, and received such advantages as English free schools afforded. As he came toward manhood and studied conditions at home he saw no prospects for the future, and the depressing conditions of labor in his native land led him to seek the better opportunities of the new world, where he landed in New York City May 15, 1849. It was not his intention to remain in the eastern metropolis, and he soon took his way westward to Buffalo. There he boarded a lake vessel bound for Chicago. On his arrival in that then insignificant city he found conditions unattractive and the demand for workmen small, so he proceeded to St. Louis, where he found temporary employment. Next he filled a position in Quincy, Ill., and from there removed to Galena in 1851. The following year he came across the plains by ox-teams, accompanied by his young wife (this being their bridal tour), the trip consuming the entire summer, but fortunately bringing no accidents or disasters. In October, 1851, he was married in Galena, Ill., to Miss Thomasine Penberthy, a native of Cornwall, England. She was reared in England and when eighteen years old, in 1848, came with her parents to Galena, Ill. Of this union three children were born, only one of whom is living. She is Agnes E., the wife of L. M. Landsborough of Florin. They have five children. Thomas E., Leonard B., Amy L. (Mrs. McCraney), William Lloyd and Georgia I.

For a period of six years after his arrival in California and his taking up of active labors Mr. Rutter followed the carpenter's trade in the city of Sacramento. During 1858 he removed to Florin, a small village southeast of the capital city, and here he made his home until his death, meanwhile becoming the owner of one hundred and eighty acres of valuable land and improving a homestead attractive in appearance and productive in returns. To him belongs the distinction of having planted the first vineyard in Sacramento county. He further has the distinction of having shipped the first raisins out of the county and sent the first grapes to the eastern markets. Years ago, when methods of irrigation were crude, he put in the first pump- ing plant in the entire state and this same undertaking, which was watched by the citizens with considerable skepticism, proved so satisfactory that others soon followed his example. In making new departures in agriculture or horticulture he indeed proved a pioneer. Fond of experimenting, he made a special study in early days of the soil, the climate and the crops best suited thereto. Some of his experiments cost him considerable sums and yet proved impracticable, but so many of them were successful that in the end he reaped large returns from his new undertakings. Nor was the work helpful to himself alone. Other pioneers, studying his methods, imitated his plan of cultivation and found in him an authority concerning horticultural subjects. Thus he acquired prominence unsought. In Ms desire to promote the welfare of the country he gave freely of time, means and influence, and in his declining days he reaped the rich re- ward of years of self-sacrifice and intelligent endeavor. 

History of Sacramento County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: William L. Willis
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1913)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011