John R. Sutter

John Sutter
Photograph of John Sutter posing with artifacts from his collection, including a string of disc shell beads in his lap and a human skull at his feet. Today the display of human remains is recognized to be unethical. The excavation of human remains can be illegal. MCHS photograph 2000-068-0001.

John R. Sutter (born August 12, 1856 — died October 1, 1941) was an educated man of wealth, power, and influence who left his mark in Madison County through his community engagement and family. He was born and raised here in Edwardsville, Illinois. The house he was born in still stands in Edwardsville today. As a young man and through most of his life, his career was mainly in the newspaper business.

He worked for different local newspapers such as The Madison Count Bate, The Edwardsville Republican, The Edwardsville Intelligencer, and The Democrat. While performing his duties, he traveled the country to research, report, and print the stories for the papers.

He married Emma Ritter and had one son, Dr. John Sutter. Late in life, John Sutter, Sr. made a career shift into real estate. In his personal life, Mr. Sutter was an avid avocational archaeologist who amassed an archaeology collection through excavation and purchase.

John Sutter's house
Mr. Sutter’s house, which still stands today in the middle of Edwardsville.

Sutter’s Inspiration

Born in Madison County on August 12, 1856, John Sutter was a vital citizen of Madison County until his eventual death due to old age on October 1, 1941. Mr. Sutter left his mark on Madison County archaeology through his lifelong passion for collecting artifacts. Although he collected artifacts from all over North America, it all started with one small white arrowhead that he found peeking out of the ground in Madison County.

Sutter’s Collection

John Sutter collected more than 3,000 Native American artifacts. Most of these are utilitarian, but there are also some items that are ceremonial, unique, or rare. He purchased a large portion of his collection from the Ramey family who lived on top of Monks Mound, the main architectural structure of Cahokia Mounds. Mr. Sutter donated the majority of his collection to the Madison County Historical Society, so they now remain at the Madison County Historical Museum for the public to learn and enjoy.

Types of Artifacts graph