Sloughhouse wasn't always quietValley has a colorful past, connections to Sutter, Stanford
By Carlos Alcala
Sloughhouse. The very name suggests a backwater.
This idyllic valley, on the Jackson Highway west of Rancho Murieta, looks like a place where nothing happens any louder than the rumble of county trucks hauling trash to the nearby landfill.
To modern Sacramentans, it's a place to get sweet corn in summer or a stop on the way to the Mother Lode.
Stanford. Donner. Sutter.
It was one of Sutter's cooks, William Daylor, who came upon the valley when out looking for some of his boss's livestock on a summer evening in 1840, according to a 1880 history of Sacramento County.
The valley was and is a fertile floodplain for the Cosumnes River and Deer Creek. It looked good to Daylor, but was already populated by some of the area's Miwok Indians.
"Daylor not being desirous of making any closer acquaintance at that time, did not descend into the valley," the Thompson and West history reports.
Within a few years, Daylor was back. He and a friend, Jared Dixon Sheldon, started a ranch there after Sheldon acquired a Mexican land grant of nearly 20,000 acres in 1844.
Sheldon had a reputation for getting along with the Indians.
"His personality was such that he could converse with governors or Indian chiefs equally and be respected," according to an unpublished 1975 oral history by his granddaughter, Kitty Sheldon Cothrin.
Sheldon was once befriended by a tribe in another state after he took ill and was abandoned by a party he was traveling with.
Another time, he hid with American Indians after a dispute with Mexicans near present-day Los Angeles.
He and Daylor befriended and employed the Miwok on their ranch.
In the spring of 1847, Sheldon married 14-year-old Catherine Rhoads, one of 14 children of recently arrived settler Thomas Rhoads, one of the first Mormon associates of Brigham Young and Joseph Smith.
The Rhoads family came part way west with the Donner Party, but split before the ill-fated group was trapped in the mountains in the winter of 1846.
John Pierce Rhoads, one of the girls' brothers, was among the rescuers that went back into the mountains to bring out survivors. He made three trips, carrying a child out on his back on one.
After his Mormon father returned to Utah (taking gold that may have been used for the Mormon Tabernacle), John P. Rhoads ended up with 725 acres in the Sloughhouse area and became a state legislator in 1863.
Emmett Rhoads, his great-grandson, lives today in the Carmichael area.
John P. Rhoads' son lost the land left in the Depression. It was repossessed after the family failed to make payments on a new harvesting machine, Emmett Rhoads said.
Other descendants of Sloughhouse's first settlers also live in the area. Each year, about 50 of them hold a "cousins dinner" arranged by Ellen Cothrin Rosa, Sheldon's great-granddaughter, who wrote down her mother's oral history of Daylor.
In 1847, Daylor and Sheldon built a grain mill on the Cosumnes River where they milled wheat for Sutter.
The mill was reportedly abandoned after the discovery of gold, but its timbers sometimes can be seen amid the river's shifting gravel and cobble.
Shortly after the 1848 gold discovery, Daylor, Sheldon and Perry McCoon established a mining area near Placerville that netted each partner $20,000, according to the Thompson history.
In 1850, Sheldon built himself a house near Deer Creek, which was then called a slough, according to Rosa. It was that building, near the site of the present day Sloughhouse Inn, which gave the area its name.
The inn, rebuilt a couple of times after burning down, was a boisterous roadside stop on the way to the hills in the days of stagecoaches.
But 1850 and 1851 proved bad years for Sheldon. Daylor died of cholera and the area experienced a rash of livestock rustling.
"In 1850 and 1851, the inhabitants (of the area) were harassed by horse and cattle thieves to such an extent, that they proceeded, in several cases, to take the law into their own hands, and execute justice, as it was then considered, very summarily," wrote Thompson and West.
That included several cases of whippings or hangings in which Sheldon participated.
In 1851, Sheldon met his own end. In order to irrigate some crops he planned to sell to miners, Sheldon had purchased a piece of the river above Sloughhouse and built a dam.
When the dam was finished, river waters began to back up. Predictably, miners whose claims were flooded were not pleased.
Failing to convince Sheldon to dismantle the dam, they tried to take it apart themselves. When Sheldon and his workers faced off against 150 miners, shots were fired. Sheldon and two others were killed.
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