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Finding Aid of the General John Bidwell Papers C057713
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The folder contains John Bidwell's letters to the Society of California Pioneers and articles about Bidwell and his house in Chico.
General John Bidwell was born in Ripley, NY in 1819 and grew up in Erie, PA and Darke County, OH. By 19, he was headmaster of Kingsburg Academy, and by 22, he had left his job as a farmer in Iowa and Kansas and begun the journey west to California. As part of the Bidwell-Bartleson Party, he was a member of the first organized band of settlers to enter California over the Sierra Mountains. Once in California, he worked for Captain John Sutter as a surveyor near Bodega Bay and took a census of the upper Sacramento Valley. Bidwell was present when the first American flag was raised at Sutter’s Fort on July 11, 1846. Soon after, he staked his claim to the gold in the Middle Fork of the Feather River, making him very wealthy. Bidwell Bar, a town now taken over by the Oroville Dam, was named after Bidwell. He obtained over 25,000 acres of land and laid out the city of Chico, setting the foundations for many of the city’s parks, churches, and schools. An early producer of wheat, olive oil, and raisins, Bidwell had 7,000 acres of land under cultivation and was on good terms with local Native Americans/Indians, allowing them to live on his land and hiring them to work in his fields. He was the first postmaster of Chico and ran for Governor of California and President of the United State of America. He was eventually elected to Congress and met Annie Ellicott Kennedy while serving in Washington, D.C. Their marriage lasted 32 years until his death in 1900. Chico State College now rests on one of his numerous donations of land.
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