General Sutter carving

A wooden carving of General John Sutter, an American pioneer who founded Sacramento, California, and spent the last nine years of his life in Lititz, was taken down from in front of the General Sutter Inn on June 18, 2020, exactly 140 years after his death. The owners of the General Sutter Inn said they decided to take the carving down after controversy over his legacy recently made headlines in Sacramento.

The General Sutter Inn in Lititz has removed a statue of John Sutter, the hotel and restaurant's namesake, after public debate regarding the historical figure's legacy.

The decision comes after a Sacramento, California, medical center removed a statue of Sutter earlier this week. The California statue had been defaced in the days prior to its removal. 

On Thursday morning, the 140th anniversary of Sutter's death, a crew of four men removed the statue.

"Just let him drop," one of them said. There was a quiet cheer as the statue fell face-first onto the ground. 

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General Sutter carving
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General Sutter carving

"The country is in a time of change, and it's time to be proactive and do something positive for the community," said Brant Dunlap, manager of the General Sutter Inn and the adjoining Bulls Head Public House. "I think it's very important not to erase history and I think it's very important to educate people so we don't make the same mistakes as in the past." 

The statue, carved with a chainsaw by New Holland-based sculptor H. Dean Fox, has stood overlooking Lititz Square since 2002. 

Communities across the country have been removing, or are discussing removing, physical tributes to historical figures with problematic histories. 

On the 140th anniversary of General John Sutter's death, the owners of Lititz General Sutter Inn decided to take down the carving, which has been at the hotel since 2002. Recently, controversy has surfaces about Gen. Sutter, who founded Sacramento, California and later moved to Lititz.

Sutter's legacy regards him as a pioneer, explorer and someone whose land was unjustly taken from him in California before he moved to Lititz to spend the last years of his life. Sutter is buried in Moravian Cemetery in Lititz.

In recent biographies, stories have emerged of Sutter's enslavement and abuse of Native American populations. 

On Wednesday evening, the owners of the Lititz business they would be removing their statue of Sutter and evaluating options to rebrand the inn and restaurants. The inn, which has previously been known as Lititz Springs Hotel, became the General Sutter Inn in 1930. 

Management has posted a poll on its Facebook page to help figure out a new name. The two options people can vote for are Lititz Springs Hotel and Zum Anker Hotel (which in German means the "sign of the anchor"). Both choices were previous names of the establishment. 

"We believe our brand belongs to the community. At the end of the day, we're a public house first," said David Stoudt, who has owned the inn for the last three and a half years. 

"In solidarity with Sacramento and in respect of the Native American and indigenous populations of California, we will remove our statue of Sutter tomorrow morning," Stoudt wrote in a Facebook comment Wednesday evening, adding "while we have a lot to learn, this is an important first step to a better and more just future."

Reactions to Stoudt's announcement on Facebook were overwhelmingly positive, though not everyone agreed.  

"When we know better, we do better ... we learn nothing from history based on myths or untruths," posted Rebecca Doster.

"Thank you for doing this! Keep standing your ground in doing what is right! This makes me want to support your business all the more, and I’m proud to be a community member of Lititz!" wrote Abby Fields Dupler.

"That's too bad; soon we will be replacing people we don't agree with, putting them in prison because we don't agree," wrote Joan Holliday.

"Good call. I listened to a historian talk about Sutter a couple years ago and Sutter treated Natives very cruelly. This is based on native accounts and primary source accounts of people who visited his land in California. Thanks for doing the right thing," wrote Eric Wentzel. 

"History cannot be changed but we can ALL do better to create a more equal and just future," wrote Stoudt on Facebook. 

Staff writer and photographer Ty Lohr contributed to this report. 


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