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Guide to the Bidwell Family Papers
BANC MSS C-B 468  
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Collection Details
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  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Scope and Content
  • Biography

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Bidwell Family Papers
    Collection Number: BANC MSS C-B 468
    Creator: Bidwell family
    Extent: Number of containers: 8 boxes, 3 cartons, 2 oversize folders
    Repository: The Bancroft Library
    Berkeley, California 94720-6000
    Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
    Abstract: Part I: papers of John & Annie E.K. Bidwell, consisting chiefly of correspondence, clippings, and legal, financial and property records, ca. 1851-1918.

    Part II: papers of members of the Kennedy Ellicott and Morrison families, related to Mrs. Bidwell, ca. 1792-1934.
    Languages Represented: English

    Information for Researchers


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Bidwell family papers, BANC MSS C-B 468, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Related Collections

    Title: Scraps of two letters
    Identifier/Call Number: (BANC MSS C-E 198:7)
    Title: Letters, 1895-1899
    Identifier/Call Number: (BANC MSS 79/104 c)
    Title: Journey to California
    Identifier/Call Number: (BANC MSS C-E 65:47)
    Title: Dictation
    Identifier/Call Number: (BANC MSS C-D 802)
    Title: California, 1841-1848 [an immigrant's recollections ... ]
    Identifier/Call Number: (BANC MSS C-D 8)

    Material Cataloged Separately

    Printed items

    • "Studies in the Botany of California and Parts Adjacent," by Edward Lee Greene. Extract from Bulletin 7, California Academy of Sciences. Inscribed by the author.
    • "Studies in the Formation of Mountains in the Sierra Nevada, California," by John Muir. From the Proceeding of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Hartford meeting, August 1874.
    • "Early Botanical Explorers of the Pacific Coast," by Charles C. Parry. Reprinted from The Overland Monthly, October, 1883.


    • Asa Gray Engraving of Asa Gray done by Gustav Kruell Henry Marshall

    Scope and Content

    The Bidwell papers consist of the papers of John Bidwell, California pioneer, and his wife, Annie Ellicott Kennedy Bidwell, and the papers of members of the Kennedy, Ellicott and Morrison families, related to Mrs. Bidwell. The Bidwell papers were given to Bancroft Library in 1952 by Mrs. Roy C. Anderson, Mrs. Bidwell's great niece. The collection has been divided into two parts. Part I consists of the papers of Mr. and Mrs. Bidwell - mainly correspondence, clippings, and legal, financial and land records, ranging in date from 1851 to 1918. Part II consists of papers of members of her immediate family and families related to the Kennedy, and they date from 1792 to 1934. Genealogical information about the Kennedy is appended to this report for the convenience of the reader.
    Other items from various sources have been added to the collection. These include material from the T. W. Norris Collection (1954); photocopies of two John Bidwell letters, lent for copying by courtesy of Mrs. Helen W. Broderick (1954); papers purchased from William Wreden (1954); two account books and a diary belonging to Bidwell, gift of Warren Howell (1956); and documents concerning transfer of Bidwell property, gift of Bernard L. Fontana (1959). The provenance of these materials has been noted on the folders. Cards have been placed in the manuscripts catalog for important correspondents and for other items of note and information of the cards have been integrated into this finding aids.


    John Bidwell was born in Chataqua County, New York State, August 5, 1819. Ten years later he moved with his parents to Erie, Pennsylvania and then to Ohio. In 1839 he decided to seek his fortune in the West. After some wandering he took up a land claim near Weston, Missouri and supported himself by teaching. During his absence, however, his claim was jumped and, hearing of the wonders of California from a French trapper recently returned, he resolved to make his way there. In May 1841 he started from Independence, Missouri, with Bartleson's party.
    Arriving in California after many hardships, Bidwell found employment with John Sutter at Ft. Sutter and remained with him for several years. He served in the war with Mexico, obtaining the rank of major. At the conclusion of peace he returned to Sutter's employment. After Marshall's discovery of gold, Bidwell prospected for a time and discovered gold himself on the Feather River at a place afterwards known as Bidwell's Bar. Unlike most of the early settler's, however, Bidwell cared little for mining and directed his attention towards agriculture. In 1849 he acquired some 20,000 acres of land, known as Rancho Chico, located in Butte County. Making this his permanent home he became one of the most noted agriculturalists in the state.
    John Bidwell took a strong interest in politics. In 1849 he was elected to the Senate of the first legislature of California. In 1860 he was a delegate to the national Democratic convention at Charleston. He was a strong defender of the union and after 1861 affiliated with the Union Party. In 1863 he was appointed general in command of the Fifth Brigade, California militia, by Governor Stanford and served until the close of the Civil War. In 1864 he was a delegate to the Baltimore national convention which renominated Abraham Lincoln to the presidency. In the same year he was nominated and elected to the U. S. Congress as one of California's representatives. In 1875 he made an unsuccessful bid for the governorship of California on the anti-monopoly, non-partisan ticket. His last political ventures came after his association with the Prohibition Party. In 1890 he was the party's unsuccessful candidate for governor of California and in 1892 for president of the United States.
    Bidwell was married in 1868 in Washington D. C. To Annie Ellicott Kennedy, daughter of Joseph Camp Ellicott Kennedy, a noted statistician and superintendent of the census of 1850 and 1860. The Kennedy family was a distinguished one. Mr. Kennedy was the grandson of Samuel Kennedy, a surgeon in the Revolutionary War and of Andrew Ellicott, surveyor of the ten mile square ceded by Maryland and Virginia for the seat of the federal government. Accompanying her husband to California after their marriage, Mrs. Bidwell became active in many causes - Indian Welfare, woman suffrage, and prohibition to name a few - and was recognized as one of northern California's finest women.
    Bidwell died at his ranch on April 4, 1900. Mrs. Bidwell continued to live on the ranch and died there on March 9, 1918.