John Bidwell

John Bidwell

John Bidwell was born in Chautauqua County on 5th August, 1819. Educated at schools in Ashtabula County in Ohio he became a school teacher in Westport. He also purchased a small farm in the area.

In 1840 Bidwell took a holiday in St. Louis. When he returned home he discovered that a local claim-jumper had stolen his farm. The man's reputation for violence was so bad that the authorities of Platte County were unwilling to enforce Bidwell's land rights. Disillusioned by these events, Bidwell decided to leave Missouri. After reading a book by Antoine Robidoux he began to consider the prospect of emigrating to California. As Bidwell explained at the time: "his description of the country made it seem like paradise". Bidwell was also inspired by the stories of how men such as John Sutter, John Marsh and Thomas Oliver Larkin had made a success of living near the mouth of the Sacramento River.

Bidwell now established the Western Emigration Society and published news that he intended to take a large wagon train to California. The idea was very popular and soon the society had the names of 500 people who wanted to take part in this momentous event. Missouri shopkeepers, fearing a rapid decline in customers, decided to mount a campaign against the idea. Local newspapers published stories about the dangers of travelling overland to California. Also, a great deal of publicity was given to Travels in the Great Western Prairies, a book by Thomas Farnham. In the book Farnham described in detail the hardships people would face on the journey.

As a result of this campaign only a small group turned up to leave Sapling Grove on 9th May, 1841. This included Josiah Belden and Charles Weber. This was to be the first ever wagon train taking people from the Missouri River to California. The Bidwell expedition included only five women. Bidwell later admitted that the party included no one who had ever been to California: "Our ignorance of the route was complete. We knew that California lay west, and that was the extent of our knowledge." So when Bidwell heard a group of missionaries, led by Pierre-Jean De Smet, and guided by the experienced Tom Fitzpatrick, were also intending to travel to Fort Hall, it was decided to wait until they arrived at Sapling Grove. Fitzpatrick agreed to take Bidwell's party to Fort Hall. Bidwell later claimed that was a most important factor in the the party's survival: "it was well we did (wait for Fitzpatrick), for other wise probably not one of us would ever have reached California, because of our inexperience".

The combined party left Sapling Grove on 12th May, 1841. As Frank McLynn pointed out: "The missionaries' four carts formed the vanguard, each drawn by two mules hitched in tandem. The main party consisted of eight wagons drawn either by mules or horses. In the rear were the slowest-moving vehicles - six wagons drawn by oxen." They followed the Sante Fe Trail for two days before branching off on a faint path created by fur traders who had already made the journey to Fort Laramie.

On 16th May, 1841, De Smet wrote in his journal: "I hope that the journey will end well; it has begun badly. One of our wagons was burned on the steamboat; a horse ran away and was never found; a second fell ill, which I was obliged to exchange for another at a loss. Some of the mules took fright and ran off, leaving their wagons; others, with wagons, have been stalled in the mud. We have faced perilous situations in crossing steep declivities, deep ravines, marshes and rivers."

The journey became even more difficult after crossing the Kansas River. The long grass interspersed with trees, resulted in most of the families abandoned the heavy furniture they were trying to transport in their wagons. Father Nicolas Point wrote that the "terrain between Westport and the Platte is one of those endless undulations which bear a perfect resemblance to those of the sea when it is agitated by a storm." Point also recorded that on a single day the party killed a dozen rattlesnakes with their whips without leaving the trail.

On 4th June, one of the party, Nicholas Dawson, went out hunting alone and was captured by a group of Cheyenne braves. They removed his clothes and stole his mule, rifle and handgun. Dawson was then released and chased back to the wagon train. Tom Fitzpatrick went out to meet the Cheyenne and after negotiating the return of the mule and rifle, they smoked a peace pipe together.

Nine days later the wagon train experienced its first death. As John Bidwell explained: "A young man by the name of Shotwell, while in the act of taking a gun out of the wagon, drew up the muzzle towards him in such a manner that it went off and shot him in the heart. He lived about an hour and died in full possession of his senses."

On 22nd June the travellers reached Fort Laramie in Wyoming. The Methodist preacher, Joseph Williams, was shocked when he saw that the mountain men had Native American "wives". He also recorded that he disapproved of Fitzpatrick's attitude towards religion: "Our leader, Fitzpatrick, is a wicked worldly man, and is much opposed to missionaries going among the Indians. He has some intelligence, but is deistical in his principles."

The wagon train left the fort two days later. They travelled along the south bank of the North Platte River until they reached the dreaded North Fork crossing. It was too deep for fording so so they had a great deal of difficulty reaching the other side. However, the pioneers got across with the loss of just one drowned mule.

In July the travellers had difficulty finding enough buffalo to kill. The difficult terrain meant that the wagon train was travelling at a slower pace. The journey from Fort Laramie to Soda Springs in Idaho, took forty-eight days to cover the 560 miles, an average of twelve miles a day. There was a short pause at Soda Springs for hunting.

On 11th August the two groups went their separate ways. Pierre-Jean De Smet and Tom Fitzpatrick heading north to Fort Hall, whereas the John Bidwell party continued on the route to California. Only thirty-three people elected to go with Bidwell. Fitzpatrick tried to convince Bidwell to abandon his trip to California and proceed instead to Oregon. Smet later recorded: "They started purely with the design of seeking their fortune in California... and pursued their enterprise with the constancy which is characteristic of Americans."

Bidwell sent four men to Fort Hall to seek advice on how to get to California. Frank McLynn, the author of Wagons West: The Epic Story of America's Overland Trails (2002) has pointed out: "The best intelligence available from Fort Hall was that the California-bound emigrants should go north of the Salt Lake before swinging due west, but should not proceed too far north for fear of running into a maze of rugged canyons, precipices and gulches; on the other hand, if they went too far south, they were likely to end by dying of thirst in the trackless desert."

The wagon train had difficulty finding water to drink. The water they found in the Great Salt Lake area was brackish and had a bad smell of sulphur. The only way the liquid was drinkable was when it was brewed into strong coffee. Even the horses would only drink it in this way. Food was also a problem and on 5th September they decided to kill an ox and to abandon the wagon it was pulling.

The next stage of their journey involved crossing the Nevada desert. After two days they reached Rabbit Hole Spring. Following the trails created by Native Americans they eventually arrived at Mountain Spring near Pilot Peak. It was here that two more wagons were abandoned and the oxen pulling the loads were killed and eaten. For the next three days, the six remaining wagons moved south, across Silver Zone Pass and the Goshute Valley.

On the 15th September the decision was taken to abandon the wagons at the foot of the Pequop Mountains. As Frank McLynn has pointed out: "The reasoning was clear: they could get on faster, could negotiate rough and hilly country more easily, and would they have meat on the hoof in the form of the oxen, now surplus to pulling requirements. Naturally, they would no longer be able to claim that they were the first wagon train to reach California, but by now survival was the issue. Equipment and supplies were unloaded and packed on the backs of mules and oxen. Unused to loads, the oxen become skittish and bucked the packs off." One of the party wrote that: "Bidwell and Kelsey were to miss the wagons most, for their team were oxen, and an ox is not easy to pack or to stay packed."

After passing some hot springs at the foot of Ruby Mountains on 21st September, they came to Mary's River (later renamed the Humboldt River). One traveller called it "the meanest, muddiest, filthiest, stream imaginable". They followed its south fork northwards to the Humboldt Sink, a marshy area, where the river disappeared into the desert. They were only able to kill the odd antelope or jackrabbit. They were now so short of food they began to kill the pack animals. They met a party of Shoshone who gave them food that reminded them of toffee apples. However, the pioneers lost their appetite for this food when they discovered it was a mixure of honey and crushed up locusts, crickets and grasshoppers.

On 18th October the Bidwell party reached the Walker River at the eastern foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Over the next few days they lost four animals while crossing the mountains. On 22nd October the pioneers killed the last of their oxen. One of the party, Josiah Belden, claimed that for the last twenty days he lived on nothing but acorns. They eventually reached the summit close to Sonora Pass and were close to starvation when they found the Stanislaus River in California. By the end of the month they reached the San Joaquin Valley. A member of the Miwok tribe told them Marsh's Fort was close-by.

Of the 69 people in Bidwell's party who set out from Sapling Grove, only 33 people reached Marsh's Fort on 4th November. However, the party became the first emigrants to travel overland from Missouri to the Pacific coast. Cheyenne Dawson wrote: "We had expected to find civilization, with big fields, fine houses, churches, schools, etc. Instead, we found houses resembling unburnt brick kilns, with no floors, no chimneys, and with the openings for doors and windows closed by shutters instead of glass."

According to Frank McLynn, the author of Wagons West: The Epic Story of America's Overland Trails (2002) four of the party, Bidwell, Josiah Belden, Charles Weber and Robert Thomas, all eventually became millionaires. "Robert Thomas became the proprietor of the huge Tehama Ranch in Tehama County. Charles Weber made a fortune and founded the city of Stockton, and Josiah Belden, the first mayor of San Jose, was another who became extremely wealthy."

John Marsh, the owner of Marsh's Fort, provided them with pork and beef tortillas. When he gave them with a bill for five dollars each next morning they decided they could not afford another night of Marsh's hospitality and left the fort in search of work. Bidwell estimated that there was only about one hundred white natives of the United States in California in 1841.

Soon after arriving in California Bidwell met John Sutter: "Sutter received us with open arms and in a princely fashion, for he was a man of the most polite address and the most courteous manners, a man who could shine in any society. Moreover, our coming was not unexpected to him. It will be remembered that in the Sierra Nevada one of our men named Jimmy John became separated from the main party. It seems that he came on into California, and, diverging into the north, found his way down to Sutter’s settlement... Through this man Sutter heard that our company of thirty men were already somewhere in California. He immediately loaded two mules with provisions taken out of his private stores, and sent two men with them in search of us."

Bidwell went to work for Sutter: "The first employment I had in California was in Sutter’s service, about two months after our arrival at Marsh's. He engaged me to go to Bodega and Fort Ross and to stay there until he could finish removing the property which he had bought from the Russians. I remained there fourteen months, until everything was removed; they I came up into the Sacramento Valley and took charge for Sutter of his Hock Farm (so named from a large Indian village on the place), remaining there a little more than a year."

Bidwell discovered gold on the banks of the Feather River during the Californian Gold Rush in 1848. The following year he purchased the 22,000 acre Rancho Chico north of Sacramento. This was a great success and Bidwell became the best-known agriculturist in California.

Bidwell became involved in politics and served in the California Senate. Initially a member of the Democratic Party he was a Republican Party member of Congress from 1865 to 1867. He married the deeply religious, Annie Kennedy, on 16th April, 1868. Annie supported women's suffrage and prohibition. After their marriage they lived in the Bidwell Mansion in Chico. The home was the base for their political activities and guests included Susan B. Anthony, Frances Willard, Ulysses S. Grant, Andrew Johnson, Rutherford B. Hayes and William T. Sherman.

Bidwell joined the Anti-Monopoly Party and in 1875 Bidwell ran for Governor of California. He was fully committed to the temperance movement and in 1892 was the presidential candidate of the Prohibition Party. The Democrat candidate, Grover Cleveland, won the election with 5,556,918 votes, whereas Bidwell could only manage 264,133.

An advocate of the transcontinental railroad and a supporter of Native American rights, Bidwell published his autobiography, Echoes of the Past, just before his death on 4th April, 1900.

He (Pierre-Jean De Smet) was genial, of fine presence, and one of the saintliest men I have ever known, and I cannot wonder that the Indians were made to believe him divinely protected. He was a man of great kindness and great affability under all circumstances; nothing seemed to disturb his temper... Sometimes a cart would go over, breaking everything in it to pieces; and at such times Father de Smet would be just the same - beaming with good humor.

The party whose fortunes I have followed across the plains was not only the first that went direct to California from the East; we were probably the first white people, except Bonneville’s party of 1833, that ever crossed the Sierra Nevada. Dr. Marsh’s ranch, the first settlement reached by us in California, was located in the eastern foothills of the Coast Range Mountains, near the northwestern extremity of the great San Joaquin Valley and about six miles east of Monte Diablo, which may be called the geographical center of Contra Costa County. There were no other settlements in the valley; it was, apparently, still just as new as when Columbus discovered America, and roaming over it were countless thousands of wild horses, of elk, and of antelope. It had been one of the driest years ever known in California, The country was brown and parched; throughout the State wheat, beans, everything had failed. Cattle were almost starving for grass, and the people, except perhaps a few of the best families, were without bread, and were eating chiefly meat, and that often of a very poor quality.

Dr. Marsh had come into California four or five years before by way of New Mexico. He was in some respects a remarkable man. In command of the English language I have scarcely ever seen his equal. He had never studied medicine, I believe, but was a great reader: sometimes he would lie in bed all day reading, and he had a memory that stereotyped all he read, and in those days in California such a man could easily assume the role of doctor and practise medicine. In fact, with the exception of Dr. Marsh there was then no physician of any kind anywhere in California. We were overjoyed to find an American, and yet when we became acquainted with him we found him one of the most selfish of mortals. The night of our arrival he killed two pigs for us. We felt very grateful; for we had by no means recovered from starving on poor mule meat, and when he set his Indian cook to making tortillas (little cakes) for us, giving one to each, there were thirty-two in our party, we felt even more grateful; and especially when we learned that he had had to use some of his seed wheat, for he had no other. Hearing that there was no such thing other as money in the country, and that butcher-knives, guns, ammunition, and everything of that kind were better than money, we expressed our gratitude the first night to the doctor by presents - one giving a can of powder, another a bar of lead or a butcher-knife, and another a cheap but serviceable set of surgical instruments. The next morning I rose early, among the first, in order to learn from our host something about California, what we could do and where we could go, and, strange as it may seem, he would scarcely answer a question. He seemed to be in an ill humor, and among other things he said, “The company has a ready been over a hundred dollars’ expense to me, and God knows whether I will ever get a real of it or not.” I was at a loss to account for this and went out and told some of the party, and found that others had been snubbed in a similar manner. We held a consultation and resolved to leave as soon as convenient. Half our party concluded to go back to the San Joaquin River, where there was much game, and spend the winter hunting, chiefly for otter, the skins being worth three dollars apiece. The rest - about fourteen - succeeded in gaining information from Dr. Marsh by which they started to find the town of San José, about forty miles to the south, then known by the name of Pueblo de San José, now the city of San José. More or less of our effects had to be left at Marsh’s, and I decided to remain and look out for them, and meantime to make short excursions about the country on my own account. After the others had left I started off traveling south, and came to what is now called Livermore Valley, then known as Livermore’s Ranch, belonging to Robert Livermore, a native of England. He had left a vessel when a mere boy, and had married and lived like the native Californians, and, like them, was very expert with the lasso. Livermore’s was the frontier ranch, and more exposed than any other to the ravages of the horse-thief Indians of the Sierra Nevada (before mentioned). That valley was full of wild cattle, thousands of them, and they were more dangerous to one on foot, as I was, than grizzly bears. By dodging into the gulches and behind trees I made my way to a Mexican ranch at the extreme west end of the valley, where I staid all night. This was one of the noted ranches, and belonged to a Californian called Don José Maria Amador - more recently, to a man named Dougherty. Next day, seeing nothing to encourage me, I started to return to Marsh’s ranch.

On the way, as I came to where two roads or rather paths, converged, I fell in with one of the fourteen men, M. C. Nye, who had started for San José. He seemed considerably agitated, and reported that at the Mission of San José, some fifteen miles this side of the town of San José, all the men had been arrested and put in prison by General Vallejo, Mexican commander- in-chief of the military under Governor Alvarado, he alone having been sent back to tell Marsh and to have him come forthwith to explain why this armed force had invaded the country. We reached Marsh’s after dark. The next day the doctor started down to the Mission of San José, nearly thirty miles distant, with a list of the company, which I gave him. He was gone about three days. Meanwhile we sent word to the men on the San Joaquin River to let them know what had taken place, and they at once returned to the ranch to await results. When Marsh came back he said ominously, “Now, men, I want you all to come into the house and I will tell you your fate.” We all went in, and he announced, “You men that have five dollars can have passports and remain in the country and go where you please.” The fact was he had simply obtained passports for the asking; they had cost him nothing. The men who had been arrested at the Mission had been liberated as soon as their passports were issued to them, and they had at once proceeded on their way to San José. But five dollars! I don’t suppose any one had five dollars; nine-tenths of them probably had not a cent of money. The names were called and each man settled, giving the amount in something, and if unable to make it up in money or effects he would give his note for the rest. All the names were called except my own. There was no passport for me. Marsh had certainly not forgotten me, for I had furnished him with the list of our names myself. Possibly his idea was - as others surmised and afterwards told me - that, lacking a passport, I would stay at his ranch and make a useful hand to work.

The next morning before day found me starting for the Mission of San José to get a passport for myself. Mike Nye, the man who had brought the news of the arrest, went with me. A friend had lent me a poor old horse, fit only to carry my blankets. I arrived in a heavy rain-storm, and was marched into the calaboose and kept there three days with nothing to eat, and the fleas were so numerous as to cover and darken anything of a light color. There were four or five Indians in the prison. They were ironed, and they kept tolling a bell, as a punishment, I suppose, for they were said to have stolen horses; possibly they belonged to the Horse-thief tribes east of the San Joaquin Valley. Sentries were stationed at the door. Through a grated window I made a motion to an Indian boy outside and he brought me a handful of beans and a handful of manteca, which is used by Mexicans instead of lard. It seemed as if they were going to starve me to death. After having been there three days I saw through the door a man whom, from his light hair, I took to be an American, although he was clad in the wild picturesque garb of a native Californian, including serape and the huge spurs used by the vaquero. I had the sentry at the door hail him. He proved to be an American, a resident of the Pueblo of San José, named Thomas Bowen, and he kindly went to Vallejo, who was right across the way in the big Mission building, and procured for me the passport. I think I have that passport now, signed by Vallejo and written in Spanish by Victor Prudon, secretary of Vallejo. Every one at the Mission pronounced Marsh’s action an outrage; such a thing was never known before. We had already heard that a man by the name of Sutter was starting a colony a hundred miles away to the north in the Sacramento Valley. No other civilized settlements had been attempted anywhere east of the Coast Range before Sutter came the Indians had reigned supreme. As the best thing to be done I now determined to go to Sutter’s, afterward called “Sutter’s Fort,” or New Helvetia. Marsh said we could make the journey in two days, but it took us eight. Winter had come in earnest, and winter in California then, as now, meant rain. I had three companions. It was wet when we started, and much of the time we traveled through a pouring rain. Streams were out of their banks; gulches were swimming; plains were inundated; indeed, most of the country was overflowed. There were no roads, merely paths, trodden only by Indians and wild game. We were compelled to follow the paths, even when they were under water, for the moment our animals stepped to one side down they went into the mire. Most of the way was through the region now lying between Lathrop and Sacramento. We got out of provisions and were about three days without food. Game was plentiful. but hard to shoot in the rain. Besides, it was impossible to keep our old flint-lock guns dry, and especially the powder dry in the pans. On the eighth day we came to Sutter’s settlement; the fort had not then been begun. Sutter received us with open arms and in a princely fashion, for he was a man of the most polite address and the most courteous manners, a man who could shine in any society. It seems that he came on into California, and, diverging into the north, found his way down to Sutter’s settlement perhaps a little before we reached Dr. Marsh’s. He immediately loaded two mules with provisions taken out of his private stores, and sent two men with them in search of us. But they did not find us, and returned, with the provisions, to Sutter’s. Later, after a long search, the same two men, having been sent out again by Sutter, struck our trail and followed it to Marsh’s.

John A. Sutter was born in Baden in 1803 of Swiss parents, and was proud of his connection with the only republic of consequence in Europe. He was a warm admirer of the United States, and some of his friends had persuaded him to come across the Atlantic. He first went to a friend in Indiana with whom he staid awhile, helping to clear land, but it was business that he was not accustomed to. So he made his way to St. Louis and invested what means he had in merchandise, and went out as a New Mexican trader to Santa Fe. Having been unsuccessful at Santa Fe, he returned to St. Louis, joined a party of trappers, went to the Rocky Mountains, and found his way down the Columbia River to Fort Vancouver. There he formed plans for trying to get down to the coast of California to establish a colony. He took a vessel that went to the Sandwich Islands, and there communicated his plans to people who assisted him. But as there was no vessel going direct from the Sandwich Islands to California, he had to take a Russian vessel by way of Sitka. He got such credit and help as he could in the Sandwich Islands and - induced five or six natives to accompany him to start the contemplated colony. He expected to send to Europe and the United States for his colonists. When he came to the coast of California, in 1840, he had an interview with the governor, Alvarado, and obtained permission to explore the country and find a place for his colony. He came to the bay of San Francisco, procured a small boat and explored the largest river he could find, and selected the site where the city of Sacramento now stands.

The first employment I had in California was in Sutter’s service, about two months after our arrival at Marsh's. I remained there fourteen months, until everything was removed; they I came up into the Sacramento Valley and took charge for Sutter of his Hock Farm (so named from a large Indian village on the place), remaining there a little more than a year - in 1843 and part of 1844.

Nearly everybody who came to California made it a point to reach Sutter ’s Fort. Sutter was one of the most liberal and hospitable of men. Everybody was welcome - one man or a hundred, it was all the same. He had peculiar traits; his necessities compelled him to take all he could buy, and he paid all he could pay; but he failed to keep up with his payments. And so he soon found himself immensely - almost hopelessly - involved in debt. His debt to the Russians amounted at first to something near one hundred thousand dollars. Interest increased apace. He had agreed to pay in wheat, but his crops failed. He struggled in every way, sowing large areas to wheat, increasing his cattle and horses, and trying to build a flouring mill. He kept his launch running to and from the bay, carrying down hides, tallow, furs, wheat, etc., returning with lumber sawed by hand in the redwood groves nearest the bay and other supplies. On an average it took a month to make a trip. The fare for each person was five dollars, including board. Sutter started many other new enterprises in order to find relief from his embarrassments; but, in spite of all he could do, these increased. Every year found him, worse and worse off; but it was partly his own fault. He employed men - not because he always needed and could profitably employ them, but because in the kindness of his heart it simply became a habit to employ everybody who wanted employment. As long as he had anything he trusted any one with everything he wanted - responsible or otherwise, acquaintances and strangers alike. Most of the labor was done by Indians, chiefly wild ones, except a few from the Missions who spoke Spanish. The wild ones learned Spanish so far as they learned anything, that being the language of the country, and everybody had to learn something of it. The number of men employed by Sutter may be stated at from 100 to 500 - the latter number at harvest time. Among them were blacksmiths, carpenters, tanners, gunsmiths, vaqueros, farmers, gardeners, weavers (to weave course woolen blankets), hunters, sawyers (to saw lumber by hand, a custom known in England), sheep-herders, trappers, and, later, millwrights and a distiller. In a word, Sutter started every business and enterprise possible. He tried to maintain a sort of military discipline. Cannon were mounted, and pointed in every direction through embrasures in the walls and bastions. The solders were Indians, and every evening after coming from work they were drilled under a white officer, generally a German, marching to the music of fife and drum. A sentry was always at the gate, and regular bells called men to and from work.


John Bidwell - History


Five Views: An Ethnic Historic Site Survey for California

Mechoopda Indian Rancheria
Butte County

The Mechoopda Indian Rancheria, represented today by the Wilson Home located at 620 Sacramento Avenue in Chico, California, is one of the last remaining buildings of the historic rancheria that was situated on General John Bidwell's ranch. The house is a wood-frame, single-story structure with a south entrance and covered front porch. The house may be one of the original wood-frame structures built by the Indians living on the Bidwell Ranch in the 1870s, or it may be one of three house types designed for the ranch by an architect commissioned by Mrs. Annie Bidwell in 1910. The Wilson Home is now a private residence and belongs to the descendants of the family. The neighborhood immediately surrounding the site is used predominantly for rentals to students who attend California State University, Chico, a short distance away.

Prior to European contact, evidence indicates that a great variety and supply of food and material resources from several ecological zones were available to the Indians, and that there were several hundred village sites between the Sacramento and Feather rivers in the Chico area. (Hill, 1978:7) Jedediah Smith, the first American trapper to record his visit, entered the region in 1828. Brigades of Hudson Bay Company trappers came shortly thereafter. In 1841, a United States Exploratory Expedition reported that the game around the Feather River had decreased substantially because of the large numbers of animals taken by Bay Company trappers. (Hill, 1978:9) Depletion of food resources seriously affected the Indians living in the region, and tension increased between them and the newly arrived Whites. By 1849, General John Bidwell had established a ranch near Chico Creek. Most of his work force was made up of Mechoopda Indians. More Mechoopdas came to the Bidwell Ranch after the death of rancher John Potter. The leader of Potter's Mechoopda ranch workers asked Bidwell to take them on to his ranch in order that they might continue working. Bidwell agreed to their request and relocated this group of Mechoopdas to the areas between Main and Orient streets and First and Fourth streets in Chico.

Tension between Indians and Whites continued to mount. In 1850, the government authorized treaties with the California Indians whereby the latter would be guaranteed reservations and some economic aid. A treaty of "peace and friendship" was signed on September 18, 1853 with the Mechoopda, Eskuin, Hololupi, Toto, Sunus, Cheno, Batsi, Yutduc, and Simsawa tribes at Bidwell's Ranch Indians at Reading's Ranch at Colusa and tribes along the Consumnes and Yuba rivers. United States Indian Agent O. M. Wozencraft represented the U.S. Government at Bidwell's Ranch. (Hill, 1978:20) In the 60 years following the treaties of 1851, the heavy influx of miners and ranchers caused massive faunal change to the land, equaled only by extinctions of the post-glacial period. Some species, such as condor, elk, antelope, and grizzly bear, disappeared entirely from the Chico region. (Hill, 1978:19)

More than 800 Maidu Indians in Butte County are said to have died from influenza, pneumonia, and tuberculosis by 1853. There are also indications that Indians died from cholera, smallpox, and typhoid. (Hill, 1978:23) In 1863, after much conflict between Indians and Whites, the U.S. government relocated the majority of the Indians in the Chico area to the Round Valley Reservation at Covelo in Mendocino County however, 300 Indians moved to the Chico Rancheria for protection. They and their descendants remained and worked there for the next 70 years.

In March 1869, the Mechoopda village was relocated to Sacramento Avenue, approximately one mile from Bidwell's residence. It remained there until 1964. Prior to relocation, rancheria houses were traditional, dome-shaped, earthen beehive structures. After the move to Sacramento Avenue, the Indians replaced their traditional homes with wooden structures although three families continued to live in earthen domes. The Indians also built a new dance house 40 feet in diameter, but they burned it down upon the death of the last Mechoopda headman. In the early 1900s, the Mechoopda Indian Rancheria census recorded several Northern California Indian tribes, including the Maidu Mechoopda, the Maidu Konkau, the Maidu Oroville, the Wintun, and the Yana residing at the Rancheria, but Maidu Mechoopda constituted the majority of the population. (Hill, 1978:84)

In 1900 when John Bidwell died, he left provisions and a plot plan in his will for the Indians living on the rancheria. The plot plan assigned 19 lots to certain resident families and individuals. Prior to John Bidwell's demise, Annie Bidwell asked Amanda Wilson, Santa Wilson's wife, to record various aspects of Mechoopda tradition. Amanda Wilson recorded information pertaining to the sweathouse and its use and to the boys' training for the dance society of which her first husband was leader. This information is now among Annie Bidwell's memoirs at the Bancroft Library. Before Annie Bidwell died, she confirmed her husband's land distribution to the Indians by issuing certificates of title for lots on the rancheria to individual Indians. The only certificate saved was that of title "No. 17," issued to Mr. and Mrs. Santa Wilson. Santa and Amanda received Lot 25 from Annie Bidwell for a consideration of $1. (Hill, 1978:83) She also deeded 14 acres of land to the Board of Home Missions of the Presbyterian Church to be held in trust for the Indians. The board could not pay the taxes on the land, however, so in 1939, on request from the mission, the Bureau of Indian Affairs paid the back taxes and began administering the land. In 1961, the BIA sold the land to California State University, Chico for $85,000. The BIA distributed the proceeds of the transaction to 45 Mechoopda Indians. In 1964, the tribe received another 12-acre tract of land adjacent to the city of Chico. Today, the Wilson Home is the only remaining evidence of the original Mechoopda Indian Rancheria, which the U.S. government terminated in 1964.


Mechoopda Indian Rancheria


John Bidwell - History

Compiled By Joan J. Bidwell
Volume 1

Baltimore, Maryland
Gateway Press
1983
pp. 1-2

On the twentieth of March 1630, a group of men and women, one hundred and forty in number, set sail from Plymouth, England, in the good ship, the "Mary and John." The company had been selected and assembled largely through the efforts of the Reverend John White, of Dorchester, England, with whom they spent the day before sailing, "fasting, preaching and praying." These people had come from the western counties of England, mostly from Devonshire, Dorsetshire and Somerset. They had chosen two ministers to accompany them, men who were interested in the idea of bringing the Indians to the knowledge of the gospel. The Reverend John Maverick was an elderly man from Devon, a minister of the established church. Reverend John Warham was also an ordained minister of the church of England, in Exeter, eminent as a preacher. There is some evidence that both of these men were in some difficulties with the church on account of their sympathies with the Puritans.

It had been their original intent to land in the Charles River, but a dispute with Captain Squeb, the commander of the vessel caused the whole company, on May 30, 1630, to be put ashore at Nantasket. The "Mary and John" was the first of the fleet of 1630 to arrive in the bay. At that time there could not have been pilots, or charts of the channel, and it does not seem unreasonable that the Captain refused to undertake the passage.

According to tradition they landed upon the south side of Dorchester Neck, or South Boston, in Old Harbor. Ten of the men, under the command of Captain Southcote, found a small boat, and went up the river to Charlestown Neck, where they found an old planter, who fed them "a dinner of fish without bread." Later they continued their journey up the Charles River, as far as what is now Watertown, returning several days later to the company who had found pasture for their cattle at Mattapan. 'The settlement was later called Dorchester, in honor of the Reverend John White, of Dorchester, England.

Many hardships followed, they had little food, and were forced to live on clams and fish. The men built small boats, and the Indians came with baskets of corn. The place was a true wilderness.

Here they lived for five or six years. Other boats arrived and other towns were settled. But the life at Dorchester was not entirely congenial to the lovers of liberty of the "Mary and John." The group of settlements around Massachusetts Bay was dominated by clergymen and officials of aristocratic tendencies. Their Governor, John Winthrop, had little sympathy with the common people. "The best part (of the people)," he declared, "is always the least, and that best part, the wiser is always the lesser." And the Reverend John Cotton put it more bluntly when he said, "Never did God ordain democracy for the government of the church or the people."

These principles were repugnant to the people of the "Mary and John," who had come to America to escape such restraint. They had no wish to interfere with the methods of worship of others, and they did not wish others to interfere with them. Too, they were land-hungry, after centuries of vassalage to the lords of the manors, leading hopeless lives without chance of independence. Perhaps they were influenced also, by the fact that a great smallpox epidemic had raged among the Indians, killing off so many that they were not the menace that they had been at first. The settlers turned their attention toward the fertile meadows of the Connecticut Valley.

In October, 1635, about 60 men, women and children set forth from Dorchester to Connecticut, their furniture, etc., was sent around by water. 'The compass was their only guide. After a tedious and difficult march through the swamp and rivers and over mountains and rough ground, they arrived safely at their destination. They had lost so much time in passing rivers, etc., that winter was upon them before they were prepared. By November 15th, the cold was so intense that the river was frozen over and the snow very deep. By December 1st, the provisions gave out and famine and death stared them in the face. Some started through the wilderness for Boston, but the greater number on December 3rd, took passage on the Rebecca, a vessel of 60 tons, but she ran aground on the bar at the mouth of the river and they were obliged to unload to get her off. After this they reached Boston in five days. Those that remained at Hartford just managed to keep from starving by the help of the Indians and eating acorns, etc. Hartford was called Suckiage by the Indians by the Dutch on the point in 1633, the Huise (or house) of Good Hope and Newtown, by the English on their arrival to form a settlement in 1636. The name was changed to Hartford by the court, February 21, 1636.

According to old family records, Richard Bidwell and son, John were passengers on the vessel, "Mary and John" coming to America in 1630 to make a new life for themselves on this new land. It is uncertain in what exact location in England this Bidwell family had resided before coming to America, but according to notes of family historian, Frederick David Bidwell 1873-1947 he states that Richard Bidwell and son John came from County Devon.

Through correspondence dated 1979, between Rev, John Scott, Vicar of Newton St. Cyres in County Devon, and Robert F. Bidwell of Urbana, Ohio, we are informed that a manor is located in Newton St. Cyres called Bidwell Barton, which according to parish historical materials, was where the Bidwell family lived in the 16th Century and was the beginning of the Bidwell family in England, and presumably where the family took it's name. Rev. Scott states the fact that the parish records contain a mass of entries relating to the Bidwell family, including the baptism of a John Bidwell, who may be the son of Richard Bidwell. However, no documented proof has been found that Richard Bidwell was the name of the father of John, Joseph, Samuel and Richard, although all evidence certainly leads one to believe this is the correct relationship.


The Map of History: John Bidwell’s California

Sorry it’s grainy and shaky in the beginning but it’s a video of an old VHS.

John Bidwell was a pioneer, soldier, farmer, founder, salesman, philanthropist, and eyewitness to much of the state’s eventful past. In the great eras of California’s history – the Mexican Period, the American conquest, the vibrant days of 󈧵, and the building of the “Golden State” – Bidwell participated actively and contributed richly.

While serving in Congress in Washington, D.C., Bidwell met Annie Ellicott Kennedy. They married in 1868 and dedicated themselves to a life based on progressive ideas and lofty ideals. The Bidwells worked for election reform, control of monopolies, women’s suffrage, temperance, and the humane treatment of Indians. The Bidwells freely gave of their time, funds and property for community improvement. The most substantial gift was the 2,200 acres of Rancho Chico now known as Bidwell Park. With historic photographs and John’s own words, this video reveals John Bidwell’s contribution to California History.

Script Writer: John Werminski
Producer/Director/Videographer/Editor: Sunny C. Bell
Narrators: Philip Carey, Maggie Gisslow, Sunny C. Bell
Original Music: REEDMUSIC
Cover Photos: DPR Files & John Werminski


In the winter of 1840, the Western Emigration Society was founded in Missouri, with 500 pledging to trek west into Mexican California. Members included Baldridge, Barnett, Bartleson, Bidwell and Nye. Organized on 18 May 1841, Talbot H. Green was elected president, John Bidwell secretary, and John Bartleson captain. The group joined Father Pierre Jean De Smet's Jesuit missionary group, led by Thomas F. Fitzpatrick, westward across South Pass along the Oregon Trail. That trail took them past Courthouse and Jail Rocks, Chimney Rock, Scotts Bluff, Fort Laramie, and Independence Rock. The Bartleson-Bidwell party separated from Fitzpatrick, and the missionary group, at Soda Springs on 11 Aug. [1] : 8–12

The western Emigration Society had resolved to follow the route suggested by Dr. John Marsh. As early as 1837, Marsh realized that owning a great rancho was problematic if he could not hold it. The corrupt and unpredictable rulings by courts in California (then part of Mexico) made this questionable. With evidence that the Russians, French and English were preparing to seize the province, he determined to make it a part of the United States. He felt that the best way to go about this was to encourage emigration by Americans to California, and in this way the history of Texas would be repeated. [2] [3]

Marsh conducted a letter-writing campaign espousing the California climate, soil and other reasons to settle there, as well as the best route to follow, which became known as "Marsh's route." His letters were read, reread, passed around, and printed in newspapers throughout the country, and started the first significant immigration to California. [4] He invited immigrants to stay on his ranch until they could get settled, and assisted in their obtaining passports. [5] [6]

Marsh's recommended route, the California Trail, was based on the prior experiences of Jedediah Smith, Peter Skene Ogden, and Joseph R. Walker. That route led southwest from Soda Springs along the Bear River and the Cache Valley. On 24 Aug., the party headed west and north around the Great Salt Lake, camping in the vicinity of the Hansel Mountains until 9 Sept., while they scouted the route to Mary's River. By 12 Sept., wagons and possessions were beginning to be abandoned. By 9 Oct., they crossed Mary's River and headed west to Lake Humboldt, Humboldt Sink, and Carson Sink. On 30 Oct., they passed through the Stanislaus River canyon into the San Joaquin Valley. On 4 Nov. 1841, the party made it to Marsh's ranch. [7] [1] : 8–15

According to Doyce Nunis, ". the Bidwell-Bartleson party had successfully made the first planned overland emigrant journey to California, bearing with courage and great fortitude the vicissitudes of their ordeal. These hardy pioneers were the harbingers of many thousands to come." [1] : 15


A year celebrating Chico founder John Bidwell

CHICO — It may be hard to celebrate the life of a man who’s been dead for more than a century, but there’s a long list of activities over the next few months in association with the 200th anniversary of John Bidwell’s birthday in August.

Organizers hope not only to celebrate Chico’s founder but to help the community understand his role in the country, state and north state in the 1800s.

“Bidwell had extensive history beyond Chico. He was a part of early California, part of the first wagon train here. He found gold in the Feather River,” said Adrienne Glatz, president of the Bidwell Mansion Association, which is behind the celebration, and partnering with other groups.

Beyond being the founder of Chico, he also was a farmer and rancher who liked to be innovative with plants.

According to text on the Bidwell Mansion website, Bidwell “… developed a diverse array of agricultural operations that served as an example for farms across the state. These included extensive wheat fields, a famous flour mill, and thousands of fruit trees. He pioneered a number of crops that have since become important California staples such as raisins, almonds, and walnuts, as well as experimenting with more exotic foods such as Egyptian corn and Casaba melons. At one time he could claim to be growing over 400 different varieties of crops on Rancho Chico.”

The mansion association has come up with a year of discovering Bidwell, from a melon-growing contest featuring the casabas he developed to local historians and authors talking about the ups and downs of his life.

Slice of Chico

The next event will be Saturday, July 13, with the downtown Chico celebration of Slice of Chico, and that night’s Twilight Family Night.

The Downtown Chico Business Association’s annual Slice of Chico focuses on a daytime retail celebration of downtown stores and businesses, but is remembered for its free watermelon slices. Packets of Bidwell’s casaba melon seeds from Chico’s Sustainable Seed Co., will be given away.

The Bidwell Mansion Association will have a booth in downtown that day, with more details about the year-long celebration.

Melon

There was hope that samples of his melon could be served during Slice of Chico, but the weird weather hasn’t helped the plants that are being grown.

“Apparently, the casaba melon was Bidwell’s favorite fruit,” Glatz said. “He served it as dessert to his guests.”

The football-shaped melon grows to be huge, perhaps up to 15 pounds, which is larger than a regular casaba melon. Bidwell grew them in the late 1860s, and seeds of Bidwell’s Casaba Melon are still available through commercial outlets like Sustainable Seed Co. in Chico. The latter, which is online but has a retail site on East 20th Street, is sold out at the moment.

Apparently the seeds were distributed earlier this year to various circles to see who could grow the largest melon. Fingers are crossed that some may develop in time for the Aug. 4 birthday event.

Bidwell’s journey

Also on July 13, at 7 p.m. will be Twilight Family Night at Bidwell Mansion, 525 The Esplanade. Sitting around a campfire, mansion volunteers will be sharing information about Bidwell’s influence and journeys.

Born in New York, Bidwell was on the first overland emigrant wagon train to California, and was the first settler to discover gold in the Feather River. His travels ranged throughout the West and California.

Calendar

The celebration of Bidwell actually started with the Pioneer Day Parade in May, when John and Annie Bidwell were among the community parade’s grand marshals. Nick Anderson portrayed Bidwell, and Robyn Engel was Mrs. Bidwell.

It continued on Memorial Day at Chico Cemetery, when Bidwell Mansion’s Glatz talked about Bidwell’s military service, sharing information that local historian and mansion volunteer Nancy Leek had gathered.

Bidwell participated in the Mexican-American War through the Bear Flag Revolt, as well as the American Civil War. He also held a number of political seats, including the US House of Representatives and California Senate, and ran for both governor of California and U.S president.

The most recent event in Bidwell’s celebration was on June 22, with Annie’s Tea, celebrating Annie Bidwell’s 180th birthday. Bidwell married Annie Ellicott Kennedy in 1868. She died in 1918, and the couple is buried in Chico Cemetery.

Getting to know Bidwell

After reading Leek’s information on John Bidwell, even Glatz said, “There were things I didn’t know about John. There is a lot the community doesn’t know as well.”

What little is learned in school or from history readings about Bidwell are just the basics, she said.

His life “was so much deeper than what we see at the initial level. He was an amazing person,” Glatz said.

Bidwell was born Aug. 5, 1819, in Chautauqua County, New York and died April 4, 1900 in Chico.

Aug. 4 will be when the association celebrates his 200th birthday from 4 to 6 p.m. at the mansion with music, games, cake and ice cream.

Other events throughout the year include:

  • Sept. 8 Admission Day celebration at the mansion
  • Sept 7-9 Annie’s Star Quilt Guild exhibit at Bidwell Mansion
  • Nov. 2 Farm City at Bidwell Mansion honors Bidwell’s agricultural legacy
  • Nov. 2 Local historians and authors roundtable discussion on John Bidwell at the Chico Museum.
  • Dec. 6 Christmas with the Bidwells, 6-8 p.m. Bidwell Mansion

Besides being founder of Chico in 1860, Bidwell also:

— Was the secretary of the first overland emigrant wagon train to set out for California

— Was the first settler to discover gold in the Feather River at Bidwell’s Bar

— Acquired Rancho del Arroyo Chico, a 22,000-acre Mexican land grant in 1849

— Donated land for Chico’s City Plaza, churches and local schools including the Chico Normal School for teaching teachers, which became the foundation for Chico State University.

— Served in the California Battalion during the Mexican-American War, where he attained the rank of major. He was also a brigadier general in the California Militia during the American Civil War, raising troops and supporting the Union side.

— Was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1864, where he voted for the Civil Right Act of 1866 and the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” which included former slaves recently freed.

— Served in the first California State Senate, and ran twice for California’s governor

— In 1892 became the Prohibition Party candidate for U.S. president

Bidwell Mansion

Bidwell Mansion is a state historic park that was the couple’s home from 1868 until 1900. Mrs. Bidwell continued to live there until her death in 1918.


Bartleson-Bidwell Party

John Bidwell (1819-1900) was a pioneer, agriculturist, and politician from California.

The first emigrants to cross Utah with wagons came in 1841, six years before the Mormon pioneers, this party numbered thirty-two men and one woman, who carried a baby daughter in one arm and led a horse with the other. Nancy Kelsey, barely eighteen years old and the first white woman ever to see Great Salt Lake, was later remembered for her “heroism, patience and kindness.”

Named in part after its captain, John Bartleson, the party had numbered more than sixty when it assembled in May 1841 at Sapling Grove, near Westport, Missouri, for the journey to John Marsh’s California ranch at the foot of Mount Diablo in present-day Contra Costa County. Its most active organizer was twenty-one-year-old John Bidwell, who kept a daily diary of the journey.

Moving west, the emigrants traveled over the emerging Oregon Trail with Father De Smet and a Jesuit party guided by the renowned mountain man, Thomas “Broken Hand” Fitzpatrick. At Soda Springs, in present Caribou County, Idaho, about half of the original party decided to play it safe and continue on to Oregon.

The more resolute members, holding to their original destination, headed nine wagons south down Bear River “with no guide, no compass, nothing but the sun to direct them” toward the present border of Utah. Their track never became a trail and has long since disappeared, but as traced by historian Roy Tea using the Bidwell and Johns journals, the emigrants crossed the 42nd parallel into Utah on 16 August and camped near present-day Clarkston.

Intending to rest in Cache Valley while several men sought directions at Fort Hall, the party mistakenly crossed the low range just north of the Gates of the Bear to arrive in the Great Salt Lake Valley near present Fielding. After fording the Malad River opposite Plymouth, they continued south through the future towns of Garland and Tremonton until, desperate for water, they headed east to strike the Bear River, just south of Corinne.

The party then headed northwest, intersecting its own trail, to skirt the north end of the Great Salt Lake, find the Mary’s River (now the Humboldt), which, it was then believed, flowed from the lake to the Sacramento River, and follow it to California. They crossed Promontory Mountain on the route of the later transcontinental railroad and passed just north of Kelton to rest at Ten Mile Spring near the base of the Raft River Mountains.

Crossing Park Valley to the south of the present town, they came on 11 September to Owl Spring, just north of Lucin, where Kentuckian Benjamin Kelsey abandoned his wagons and put his wife and baby on horseback. Two days later, the emigrants were the first of many to arrive at Pilot Peak on the Utah-Nevada border and find relief at the freshwater springs at its base.

On the line of modern Interstate 80, the party crossed Silver Zone Pass and abandoned its remaining wagons at Relief Springs in Gosiute Valley, east of Wells, where the wagons were found in 1846 by Hastings Cutoff emigrants. The rest of the journey was a race with starvation which all barely won on November 4 when they arrived, destitute and almost naked, at Marsh’s Los Medanos Rancho. Some members of the Bartleson-Bidwell company later gained renown, including Bidwell and noted trails captain Joseph B. Chiles. Known for her courage and optimism, Nancy Kelsey, the first white woman ever to see Utah, died in California at age seventy-three.

See: Charles Hopper, “Narrative of Charles Hopper, A California Pioneer of 1841,” Utah Historical Quarterly 3 (1930) Charles Kelly, Salt Desert Trails (1930) Roderick J. Korns, “West from Fort Bridger,” Utah Historical Quarterly 19 (1951) David E. Miller, First Wagon Train to Cross Utah, 1841,” Utah Historical Quarterly 30 (1962) Dale L. Morgan, The Great Salt Lake (1947).


Bidwell Lore – From England to the Colonies in 1630

Welcome to the second week of Bidwell Lore! Last week we introduced you to Adonijah Bidwell, the man responsible for building the Bidwell House. In this post, we are going to go back in time, even before Adonijah was born, to look at the history of the Bidwell Family name and how the Bidwells ended up traveling to 17th century New England.

The Bidwell Name
According to Edwin M. Bidwell, in his 1884 tome Genealogy of the First Seven Generations of The Bidwell Family in America, the last name Bidwell derives from the Saxon name Biddulph, meaning ‘War Wolf’. He believed that the name originated in Norfolk on the eastern coast of England and the meaning certainly evokes strong images of the Reverend’s distant ancestors. Even today, there is a town of Biddulph, outside of Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire England.

1634 Map of Boston Harbor

Arrival of the Bidwell Family in America

Bidwell House Museum Board Member and Bidwell descendant Rick Wilcox has put together this look at the journey of the Bidwell Family to America in 1630. It has been slightly edited for space. Thank you Rick!

On March 20, 1630, 140 men and women, including Richard Bidwell (1587-1647) and his son John Bidwell (1620-1687), set sail from Plymouth, England, in the good ship, the “Mary and John.” The company had been selected and assembled largely through the efforts of the Reverend John White, of Dorchester, England, with whom they spent the day before sailing, ‘fasting, preaching, and praying.’ These people had come from the western counties of England, mostly from Devonshire, Dorsetshire, and Somerset. They had chosen two ministers to accompany them, men who were interested in the idea of bringing the Indian to the knowledge of the Gospel. The Reverend John Maverick was an elderly man from Devon, a minister of the established church. Reverend John Warham was also an ordained minister of the Church of England, in Exeter, eminent as a preacher. There is some evidence that both of these men were in difficulties with the church on account of their sympathies with the Puritans.

It had been the original intent to land in the Charles River, but a dispute with Captain Squeb, the commander of the vessel caused the whole company, on May 30, 1630, to be put ashore at Nantasket. The ‘Mary and John’ was the first of the fleet of 1630 to arrive in the bay. At that time there were no pilots or charts of the channel, and it does not seem unreasonable that the captain refused to undertake the passage. According to tradition they landed upon the south side of Dorchester Neck, or South Boston, in Old Harbor. The settlement was later called Dorchester, in honor of the Reverend John White, of Dorchester, England.

Many hardships followed they had little food and were forced to live on clams and fish. The men built small boats, and the Indians came with baskets of corn. The place was a true wilderness. Here they lived for five or six years. Other boats arrived and other towns were settled. But life at Dorchester was not entirely congenial to the lovers of liberty of the ‘Mary and John.’ The group of settlements around Massachusetts Bay was dominated by clergy and officials of aristocratic tendencies. Their Governor, John Winthrop, had little sympathy with the common people. ‘The best part (of the people),’ he declared, ‘is always the least, and the best part, the wiser is always the lesser.’ And the Reverend John Cotton put it more bluntly when he said, ‘Never did God ordain democracy for the government of the church or the people.’

These principles were repugnant to the people of the ‘Mary and John,’ who had come to America to escape such restraint. They had no wish to interfere with the methods of worship of others, and they did not wish others to interfere with them. Too, they were land-hungry, after centuries of vassalage to the lords of the manors, leading hopeless lives without chance of independence. The settlers turned their attention toward the fertile meadows of the Connecticut Valley.

In October 1635, about 60 men, women, and children, led by the Reverend Jon Hooker, set forth from Dorchester to Connecticut. The compass was their only guide. After a tedious and difficult march through swamp and rivers and over mountains and rough ground, they arrived safely at their destination. They had lost so much time in passing rivers, etc., that winter was upon them before they were prepared. By November 15 th , the cold was so intense that the river was frozen over and the snow was very deep. By December 1 st , the provisions gave out and famine and death stared them in the face. Some started back to Boston through the wilderness, others took passage on the Rebecca, a vessel of sixty tons. Those that remained at Hartford just managed to keep from starving by the help of the Indians and eating acorns, etc. Hartford was originally called Suckiage by the Pequot, reportedly meaning Black Earth by the Dutch on the point in 1633, the Huise (or house) of Good Hope and Newtown by the English on their arrival to form a settlement in 1636. The name was changed to Hartford by the court, February 21, 1636. As you may remember from last week, Adonijah Bidwell was born in Hartford in 1716.

According to old family records, Richard Bidwell and son, John, came to America in 1630 to make a new life for themselves on this new land. It is uncertain in what exact location in England this Bidwell family had resided before coming to America, but according to notes of family historian, Frederick David Bidwell (1873-1947), he states that Richard Bidwell and son John came from County Devon.

Through correspondence dated 1979 between Rev. John Scott, Vicar of Newton St. Cyres in County Devon and Robert F. Bidwell of Urbana, Ohio, we are informed that a manor is located in Newton St. Cyres called Bidwell Barton, which, according to parish historical materials, was where the Bidwell family lived in the 16 th century and was the beginning of the Bidwell family in England, and presumably where the family took its name.

Bidwell Lineage – Richard Bidwell to Reverend Adonijah Bidwell

RICHARD BIDWELL b 1587 d. Dec. 1647 He was an early settler at Windsor, Connecticut, and is called Goodman Bidwell in some records. The identity of his wife is unknown.
Children:
2. John Bidwell b. 1620 d. 1687
3. Hannah Bidwell b. 22 Oct. 1634 d. 7 Oct 1679
4. Joseph Bidwell d. 1672
5. Samuel Bidwell
6. Richard Bidwell

2. John Bidwell b. 1620 d. 1687 Hartford, Connecticut
m. 1640 Sarah Wilcox at Hartford, Connecticut, b. 1623 d. 15 June 1690, Hartford, Connecticut, dau. of John and Mary Wilcox. Sarah’s parents were born in England.
Children
7. John Bidwell b. 1641 d. 3 July 1692
8. Joseph Bidwell b.. 1643 d. 1692
9. Mary Bidwell b. 1647 d. 15 May 1725
10 Samuel Bidwell b. 1650 d. 5 Apr. 1715
11. Sarah Bidwell b. 1653
12. Hannah Bidwell b. 1655/1658 d. 17 June 1696
13 Daniel Bidwell b. 1655/1656 d. 29 Nov. 1719

7. John Bidwell b. 1641 d. 3 July 1692 m 7 Nov. 1678 Sarah Welles in Hartford b. Apr 1659. Sarah was b. in Wethersfield, Conn, granddaughter of Gov. Thomas Welles. Sarah d. 1708
19. John Bidwell b. 1 Sept 1679 d. 3 Sept 1751
20. Hannah Bidwell b. 31 Aug 1680 d. 1707
21. Sarah Bidwell b. 19 Aug 1681 d. 3 Dec. 1744
22. Thomas Bidwell b. 27 Dec. 1682 d. 17 Sept. 1716
23. Jonathan Bidwell b. 5 March 1684 d. 24 Nov. 1612
24. Abigail Bidwell baptized 4 Apr. 1686 died young
25. David Bidwell b. 25 Feb. 1687 d. 24 June 1758
26. James Bidwell b. 1691 d. 7 May 1718

22. Thomas Bidwell b. 27 Dec. 1682 Hartford, Connecticut d. 17 Sept. 1716 at sea, m. 28 March 1710 Prudence Scott b. 1683 New Haven, Connecticut, d. 14 Feb. 1763 Wintonbury, Connecticut
105. A child b. 29 May 1710 d. 29 May 1710
106. Thomas Bidwell b. 16 May 1711 d. 1746
107. Abigail Bidwell b. 18 Aug. 1713
108 Jonathan Bidwell b. 12 Jan. 1715 d. 11 June 1787
109. Adonijah Bidwell b. 18 Oct. 1716 d. 2 June 1784

Bidwell Family History 1587-1982, Volume I numbering system, also the source of the Bidwell Family History.


John Bidwell

photo courtesy of Friends of Bidwell Park, licensed under Creative Commons ShareAlike 2.5 License Grave site at Chico Cemetery General

John Bidwell (August 5, 1819 – April 4, 1900) was a son of Abraham Bidwell and Clarissa Griggs. John Bidwell first arrived in California with the Bartleson-Bidwell party in November of 1841 and were one of the first set of families to cross the continent. 1 He made his fortunes during the California Gold Rush, striking it rich at what is known as Bidwell's Bar at the Middle Fork Feather River. It is now entirely under Lake Oroville. He used this wealth to purchase land, including much of Chico. He married Annie Ellicott Kennedy Bidwell in Washington D.C. April 16, 1868. Some of the people present at their wedding included President Andrew Johnson and Generals Ulysses S. Grant and Tecumseh Sherman. 2 . He was an integral part of the history of Chico.

John Bidwell's memorial address Bidwell Memorial Address.pdf was written and read by W. J. Costar on April 29, 1900.

This entry is a seed, a starting point for writing a full entry. You can help LocalWiki Chico by expanding it! Just click the "Edit" button.

John Bidwell - Biography

Bidwell was born in Chautauqua County, New York. The Bidwell family moved to Erie, Pennsylvania in 1829, and then to Ashtabula County, Ohio in 1831. At age 17, he attended and shortly thereafter became Principal of Kingsville Academy.

In 1841 Bidwell became one of the first emigrants on the California Trail. John Sutter employed Bidwell as his business manager shortly after Bidwell's arrival in California. Shortly after the James W. Marshall's discovery at Sutter's Mill, Bidwell also discovered gold on the Feather River establishing a productive claim at Bidwell Bar in advance of the California Gold Rush. Bidwell obtained the four square league Rancho Los Ulpinos Mexican land grant in 1844, and the two square league Rancho Colus grant on the Sacramento River in 1845 later selling that grant and buying Rancho Arroyo Chico on Chico Creek to establish a ranch and farm.

Bidwell obtained the rank of major while fighting in the Mexican-American War. He served in the California Senate in 1849, supervised the census of California in 1850 and again in 1860. He was a delegate to the 1860 national convention of the Democratic Party. He was appointed brigadier general of the California Militia in 1863. He was a delegate to the national convention of the Republican Party in 1864 and was a Republican member of Congress from 1865 to 1867.

In 1865, General Bidwell backed a petition from settlers at Red Bluff, California to protect Red Bluff's trail to the Owhyhee Mines of Idaho. The U.S. Army commissioned 7 forts for this purpose, and selected a site near Fandango Pass at the base of the Warner Mountains in the north end of Surprise Valley, and on June 10, 1865 ordered Fort Bidwell to be built there. The fort was built amid escalating fighting with the Snake Indians of eastern Oregon and southern Idaho. It was a base for operations in the Snake War that lasted until 1868 and the later Modoc War. Although traffic dwindled on the Red Bluff route once the Central Pacific Railroad extended into Nevada in 1868, the Army staffed Fort Bidwell to quell various uprisings and disturbances until 1890. A Paiute reservation and small community maintain the name Fort Bidwell.

His wife, Annie Kennedy Bidwell, was the daughter of Joseph C. G. Kennedy, a socially prominent, high ranking Washington official in the United States Bureau of the Census who was active in the Whig party. She was deeply religious, and committed to a number of moral and social causes. Annie was very active in the suffrage and prohibition movements.

The Bidwells were married April 16, 1868 in Washington, D.C. with then President Andrew Johnson and future President Ulysses S. Grant among the guests. Upon arrival in Chico, the Bidwells used their mansion extensively for entertainment of friends. Some of the guests who visited Bidwell Mansion were President Rutherford B. Hayes, General William T. Sherman, Susan B. Anthony, Frances Willard, Governor Leland Stanford, John Muir, Joseph Dalton Hooker and Asa Gray.

In 1875 Bidwell ran for Governor of California on the Anti-Monopoly Party ticket. As a strong advocate of the temperance movement, he presided over the Prohibition Party state convention in 1888 and was the Prohibition candidate for governor in 1880.

In 1892, Bidwell was the Prohibition Party candidate for President of the United States. The Bidwell/Cranfill ticket received 271,058 votes, or 2.3% nationwide. It was the largest total vote and highest percentage of the vote received by any Prohibition Party national ticket.

John Bidwell's autobiography, Echoes of the Past, was published in 1900.

Read more about this topic: John Bidwell

Famous quotes containing the word biography :

&ldquo A great biography should, like the close of a great drama, leave behind it a feeling of serenity. We collect into a small bunch the flowers, the few flowers, which brought sweetness into a life, and present it as an offering to an accomplished destiny. It is the dying refrain of a completed song, the final verse of a finished poem. &rdquo
&mdashAndré Maurois (1885�)

&ldquo Just how difficult it is to write biography can be reckoned by anybody who sits down and considers just how many people know the real truth about his or her love affairs. &rdquo
&mdashRebecca West [Cicily Isabel Fairfield] (1892�)

&ldquo A biography is like a handshake down the years, that can become an arm-wrestle. &rdquo
&mdashRichard Holmes (b. 1945)


John Bidwell and California

"Defying all odds, Gillis and Magliari have established that academics can indeed write history in a readable way. They put together a wonderfully intelligent--sometimes downright thrilling--narrative at the beginning of each section. Then they amplify it all with Bidwell's own writings. the initial printing of this book sold out within weeks of its arrival. A second printing is now selling briskly."

Gregory Franzwa
Former president of the Oregon-California Trails Association
Review in the May 2003 issue of   Folio

"Gillis and Magliari. invested eight years of intensive and extensive research to present a more balanced view of John Bidwell, his accomplishments, and his failures. The result is clearly the definitive account of a complex man. This is not a revisionist account, but a thorough analysis and presentation of the historical record. Controversial issues. are explored and presented in an even-handed manner. Interesting facts abound throughout. The sixteen-page bibliography, a boon to future researchers and historians, stands as a testament to the research that has gone into this book. _John Bidwell and California_ is highly-informative and a great pleasure to read it is well-written, with no wasted words and without the verbosity found in some scholarly works. A few words (such as hagiography and kulturkampf) may give pause or have the reader reaching for the dictionary, but they are a rarity. Enjoy!"

Andrew Hammond
Review in Spring 2003 issue of   Overland Journal

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