Born in Switzerland in 1803, John Sutter left his wife and five children in 1834, arriving in California with little more than the assumed title of Captain (Swiss Guard), arrogance that he could nicely counterpoint with hospitality, and an undaunted ability to con people into lending him money he had no real way to repay. With the agreement of the Mexican authorities, he set up the colony of New Helvetia, farmed, dealt with the Indians, finagled with warring Mexican officials, and, after the discovery of gold in 1848 and the rush of 1849, watched his empire slip away from him. The volume is documented, illustrated, and includes bibliographical material. But it has several handicaps: the proliferation of people who play one line roles, the asides to historians who have different views of Sutter, and the grape shot of small events which slow down the story itself. Just satisfactory.