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October 10, 1862: Chico

October 10, 2012

Chico 01

Downtown Chico; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

Camp 107

[Today] we were off in good season and came down the valley twenty miles and camped at Chico, on Chico Creek. As we come south the valley becomes more fertile, and more highly cultivated. Here it is ten miles from the river to the hills, of which about eight is most excellent land and produces immense crops.

Chico is a thriving little place. We camped in the private yard of Major Bidwell, the principal citizen of the place, and while there ate at his house. We had a pleasant time….

Bidwell 02

Bidwell Mansion; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

Here, as elsewhere, one man is often the town in heart and soul. Major Bidwell left the “States” in 1840, and arrived here in 1841. He is Chico. He is very wealthy now, very public spirited—owns a ranch of five leagues (over twenty-two thousand acres) of fine land in the Sacramento Valley, a large mill, store, etc., and is the spirit of the growing town of Chico. Unfortunately, he was not at home; but, knowing that we were coming, he had left orders for our entertainment.

Around his yard cottonwood trees had been planted ten years ago—these trees have now an average diameter of two feet—showing how trees grow here with care. In this shady yard we pitched our tent, the most pleasant place we have seen for a long time. Back of us was a fruit garden of some thirty acres, teeming with peaches, figs, grapes, etc., of which we were invited to partake ad libitum—ad nauseam if we chose.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 10, 2012 10:36 am

    Bidwell was a fascinating man, and his wife Annie was fascinating as well; she continued many of his good works in the Chico area for 20 years after he died. They didn’t get married until 6 years after the Survey had passed through Chico, though. I’m not sure if they had already met; both worked on the 1860 national census, but perhaps they didn’t meet until Bidwell became a congressman after the end of the Civil War. One thing that the Bidwells started, that has survived to this day, and that the members of the Survey made note of in their journal, was the cultivation of trees. The Bidwells are often credited for introducing many of the tree species that have thrived in the Central Valley since then:

  2. William H. Brewer permalink*
    October 10, 2012 12:00 pm

    Very interesting, Bryan–thanks for posting that. (Part of the fun of this project is that it leads me into historical byways I never knew about before…)

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