John Bidwell


John Bidwell Famous memorial

Ripley, Chautauqua County, New York, USA
Death 4 Apr 1900 (aged 80)
Chico, Butte County, California, USA
Burial Chico, Butte County, California, USA
Memorial ID 6414897 View Source

U.S. Congressman, Agricultural Pioneer. The constructive influence of General John Bidwell may be noted in many points in California, but nowhere more than at Chico. It is a city he helped found and the place where he built his beautiful century-old mansion. Born August 5, 1819, in Ripley New York, he spent his boyhood there and in Darke County, Ohio. A person of remarkable determination, he left home at 17 and walked 300 miles to enroll at the Kingsburg Academy. Two years later he was its headmaster. After a brief spell as a farmer in Iowa and Kansas, he headed West with 69 others in May of 1841. Six months later the party arrived in California tired, hungry, and ragged. The Bidwell-Bartleson Party, as it was called, had thus become the first organized band of settlers to enter California over the Sierra. For five years John Bidwell was a trusted employee of Captain John Sutter. The experiences he had while under Sutter's employment were varied. First he helped remove all of the goods Sutter had purchased from the Russians at Fort Ross and Bodega Bay. Later he surveyed land grants, took a census and mapped out the upper Sacramento Valley. In order to obtain a land grant in California in those days, it was necessary to be a citizen of Mexico. In 1844 Sutter and Bidwell went to Monterey. Upon arrival, Bidwell was granted both letters of Mexican citizenship and the Ranch called Ulpinos now in Solano County on this Colusa grant, which he sold in 1849 to Colonel Semple. In 1848 Bidwell carried the first authentic news of Marshall's great discovery to San Francisco and in the same year Bidwell found gold at Bidwell's Bar on the Feather River. Bidwell Bar soon became a boomtown with a population of 3,000. Rich at last, John Bidwell purchased Rancho Del Arroyo Chico in 1849, and in the same year he built the first house in the neighborhood of Chico. It was a log house, which burned down in 1852, and gave place to the "old adobe" later superseded by the Bidwell Mansion completed in 1868. From here on, Bidwell, a young and prospering pioneer, had a greater and greater influence on this area and on the whole state. Some reports credit Bidwell with influencing Senator Seward during a trip to Washington shortly before Seward made a dramatic speech for the admission of California as a State. It was then that the addition of another State would have destroyed the equilibrium of free and slave states. The admission of California was violently opposed by the South, but the bill passed the Senate and was approved by President Fillmore in August 1850. Bidwell was active in state and national politics. In 1851 he was a delegate to the Democratic State Convention. In 1855 he was a candidate for the State Senate. In 1860 he headed a list of delegates to the Democratic National Convention in South Carolina. In 1861, when trouble between the North and South was coming to a boil, Bidwell threw his support behind the Union because, he said, "the laws must be executed and the government maintained at every hazard, no matter by whom administered." In 1863 he was awarded the title of Brigadier General in the California Militia. As a candidate of the Union Party, he was elected to the 39th Congress and the same year was a delegate to the convention at Baltimore that nominated Abraham Lincoln for re-election as President. In 1875 he was a candidate for governor on the Independent Party ticket and in 1890 ran for the same office on the Prohibition Party ticket. In 1892 at the climax of his political career, he was nominated for President of the United States by the Prohibition Party, but was defeated as he received only 270,847 votes. After this Bidwell never again ran for public office; he devoted himself to enlarging and developing his Chico holdings. Throughout his political career, Bidwell was constantly improving Rancho Chico, until it was to become one of the finest ranches in the entire Sacramento Valley. Bidwell's interest in horticulture led him to maintain an experimental orchard where he had at least one specimen of more than 400 varieties of fruit trees. Bidwell was also the first in the area to produce grapes in commercial quantities and was among the pioneers in the manufacture of olive oil. He grew wheat and other grains on his farm and later won awards in Paris and New Orleans for his display of grains. In 1860 Bidwell laid out the City of Chico and began the first of many bequests of land to the City for parks, church and school sites. As mentioned, he was elected to Congress in 1865 and while serving in Washington met and, in 1868, married Miss Annie Ellicott Kennedy. The new Mrs. Bidwell became active in the life of Chico and took a particular interest in the Indians of the area. She set aside a trace of land on Sacramento Avenue, which was called Indian Village, and here she had a small church constructed for them. On April 4, 1900, John Bidwell died, and his wife, Annie, survived him until March 10, 1918.

Bio by: mike boggs

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 13 May 2002
  • Find a Grave Memorial ID: 6414897
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for John Bidwell (5 Aug 1819–4 Apr 1900), Find a Grave Memorial ID 6414897, citing Chico Cemetery, Chico, Butte County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find a Grave .