They met at Sutter’s Fort and married in 1844, settling on the 44,000-acre Rancho del Paso—a Mexican land grant that John part-owned and managed, located just across the American River from John Sutter’s trading post. The Sinclairs were stunned by the audacious Bear Flag Revolt, played a significant part in the rescue of the Donner Party, welcomed the American conquest of Mexican California—and experienced, first-hand, the tumultuous California Gold Rush.

Even before they met, each had separately lived exciting parts of America’s pioneer past. In 1832, John Sinclair trekked across an unchartered continent from New York to Oregon Territory as a member of Nathaniel Wyeth’s fur-trading expedition. Afterward, he spent months aboard a Pacific Ocean whaling ship. When the whaling ship splintered on the Oahu rocks, he settled in Honolulu as a merchant—until an island visitor named John Sutter, promoting ambitious plans to create a European colony in a neglected Mexican province, drew Sinclair to California.

Mary’s adventures prove that history isn’t always his story! At fifteen, English-born Mary Eyre sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States, and at sixteen crossed a continent in a covered wagon. Her family’s destination was Oregon, but she escaped a cruel father with help from some California-bound Americans; an act of kindness out on the no-man’s-land prairies that changed her life.

Then in January 1848, gold was discovered in California—an event that changed the world. Hordes of gold-fevered men invaded the Sinclair’s property, endangering them and their young child. Before the Gold Rush: The Sinclairs of Rancho del Paso 1840-1849 is a true account of a courageous, resilient couple who lived their lives at the edge of discovery and fortune.

© 2019 by Cheryl Anne Stapp. 

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