Jared Sheldon was one of the earliest settlers in the Sacramento area, arriving in perhaps 1839, the same year as John Sutter. In 1846, Sheldon built the second grist mill in the Sacramento Valley in Sloughhouse in 1846 on land granted to him by the Mexican government. Sheldon and two of his friends were murdered in 1851 in a dispute over a dam Sheldon built on his property.
A native of Vermont, Jared
Sheldon arrived in California in perhaps 1839, making him one of the earliest
settlers in the area. Sheldon’s first home in California was in Monterey, where
he worked as a carpenter and built the customhouse. Within two years, Sheldon
was employed as a carpenter at Sutter’s Fort.
Another employee at Sutter’s
Fort, William Daylor, became fast friends with Sheldon and in 1841, Daylor told
Sheldon about the beautiful Cosumnes River Valley he’d discovered while looking
for some stray horses. In 1843, Sheldon
was given a large portion of the land in a grant from the Mexican government as
payment for his work on the customhouse, and he divided it with Daylor. Sheldon kept the area around what is now
known as Sloughhouse.
Between 1846 and 1847, Sheldon
built a grist mill on the site. It was the second grist mill in the area, the
first being John Sutter’s. When gold was
discovered in the area, both Sheldon and Daylor prospered, and reportedly found
$17,000 in gold nearby.
But the gold rush was a mixed
blessing for Sheldon. Sheldon built a dam on the Cosumnes River to supply water
for his crops. The dam’s construction and the occasional flooding of plains
farther along the river angered local miners, and eventually Sheldon reached an
agreement with them that he would close the sluice and cause them flooding only
on certain days.
In 1851, the miners reneged on
the agreement and destroyed the dam, then attacked Sheldon and some of his
friends. Sheldon was shot and taken to a nearby cabin, where he died. The cabin
reportedly stood for decades after the attack, with Sheldon’s bloodstains on
the floor. His friends, Edward Cody and James Johnson, were also killed by the
miners. The three men were buried at the Sloughhouse Pioneer Cemetery. A marker
was placed at the site of the shooting in 2008.