Holiday Happenings

I’ll get back to writing about northern California history soon, I promise. You might get tired of hearing about my new book, and we don’t want that. But here’s one more tidbit of book news:

Yesterday I was interviewed by Jerry Olenyn for a news feature on KRCR-TV. Jerry did a good job of turning my stumblings and babblings into cogent soundbites, and it was fun to see how he does the job. You can watch it at the KRCR website. It was also a beautiful day to enjoy the fall colors at Bidwell Mansion.DSCF0112-001

Here are some Holiday Happenings I’d like you to know about.

The Bidwell Mansion Association is having its holiday event for member on Friday, December 4th, 6-8 p.m. Not a member of the BMA? You should join! Tickets are $30 for members and $35 for non-members, including a one-year membership, so you can save on your first year as a postcard 2015 image

Bidwell Mansion is all gussied up for the holidays, with lavish new decorations all through the house. John and Annie will be there to welcome their guests. The Glatz sisters will be presenting seasonal music in the parlor.

Catering is by A Fresh Approach, and wine-tasting (don’t tell Annie!) by Bertagna Vineyards. Steve Ferchaud and myself will be signing books. The BMA promises you a lovely evening to start off the holiday season.

For other holiday events at Bidwell Mansion — family photo sessions and holiday evening tours — take a look at the Bidwell Mansion SHP page.

If you aren’t coming Friday evening, but would like to get a signed copy of John and Annie Bidwell: The Long and the Short of It, please come to the Chico Library on Saturday, December 5 at 2 p.m. I’d love to see you there! Sales will benefit the Bidwell Mansion Association.

The first weekend in December is chockful of fun things to do. Here are two more:

Stansbury House presents A Merry Dickens Christmas Friday through Sunday, Dec. 4-6. Check their website for times and goings-on. Mark Twain will put in an appearance!

The annual Christmas Creche Festival takes place at the LDS Church at East and Mariposa, Thursday Dec. 3 through Sunday Dec. 6. Check their Facebook page for times. Thousands of nativity sets from around the world will be on display, and there will be refreshments and activities for the kids. Admission is free.

Thursday evening at the Creche Festival I will be reading The Gift of the Magi, by O. Henry, as part of a program of readings and music. I hope you can come enjoy the special spirit of Christmas at this event.




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John Bidwell, Jailbird

John Bidwell spent November 16-18, 1841, in jail.

He had gone to San Jose to get a passport, since John Marsh had neglected to get one for him.

At the order of Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, who wanted to know what the heck these Americans were doing in Mexico, John Marsh had gone to San Jose to explain the matter and soothe the general. He came back with passports for most of the men in the Bidwell-Bartleson Party—but not John Bidwell.  Bidwell suspected that Marsh hadn’t gotten him a passport because he wanted to keep him at his ranch as a useful employee, but Bidwell was having none of that.

On the 15th he set out for San Jose on his own to get a passport. Arriving at Mission San Jose on November 16th, he was promptly thrown in jail by Mexican soldiers until he could find someone to explain his presence to the authorities.

He spent three uncomfortable and flea-bitten days in jail until he was able to hail a passerby who understood English.

Monterey Jail

The adobe jail in Monterey, similar to the one that held Bidwell.

“He proved to be an American . . . and he kindly went to Vallejo, who was right across the way in the big Mission building, and procured for me the passport.” The passport was made out for Juan Bidwell, and can be seen at the California State Library.

Vallejo could have sent the whole party of Americans back where they had come from. But Alta California had need of skilled labor, and he decided to let them stay.

Bidwell returned to Marsh’s ranch on the 18th. But he had no intention of sticking around. Captain John Sutter was hiring, so to Sutter he would go. He set out for Sutter’s settlement  on November 21st.

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Dan Barnett’s Review

Dan Barnett’s review of John and Annie is in the Chico Enterprise-Record this morning. How nice to get an early morning e-mail from Carla Resnick telling me about it, and just as nice to read it in the print newspaper on this rainy Sunday morning.

“Colorful and captivating” is how Dan describes the book. Thanks, Dan!

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The Book is Here!

John and Annie Bidwell CoverJohn and Annie Bidwell: The Long and the Short of It is now available! It will be in the General’s Store (the gift shop) at Bidwell Mansion starting next weekend. Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park is open Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Other places that will be carrying it are Made in Chico and The Bookstore on Main Street.

If you want to get a copy into your eager little hands, and you live in Chico, you can contact me at I will arrange for me to deliver, or you to pick up, your very own copy.

The cover price of the book is $16.95. Direct sales are $17 a copy, sales tax included.

DSCF0100This has been a fun project. It was a pleasure to work with Steve Ferchaud, who is not only a fine illustrator, but also a delightful human being. He had plenty of imaginative ideas for extending the text and enhancing the appeal of the book. Wait till you see his two-page spread on Bidwell Park!

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November 1, 1841

From John Bidwell’s trail journal:

November. Monday, 1st. The Company tarried to kill game; an abundance of wild fowl and 13 deer and antelopes were brought in. My breakfast, this morning, formed a striking contrast with that of yesterday which was the lights of a wolf.

The “lights of a wolf” is described in other recollections as the windpipe of a coyote. Another member of the party had shot the coyote on the morning of October 31st. By the time Bidwell caught up with the rest of the men, the only thing left to eat was the lungs (lights) and the windpipe.

Got to be about the worst breakfast ever!

But their situation changed literally overnight. On the afternoon of the 31st they sighted the valley, “joyful sight to us poor famished wretches!!!” Antelope! Elk! Wild ducks and geese! On November 1st they spent the day hunting and feasting on wild game.

Bidwell tells it this way in his 1877 Dictation:

The eve of the next day found us surrounded by abundance. . . . It was about the first of November, and there was no time to delay if we were going to reach California that fall. Most of the party were ready and anxious to press forward. Captain Bartleson and his men though otherwise. They said we hadn’t yet reached California, we probably still had a long distance to travel, that such a place as we were in could not be found everywhere and they were going to stop and lay in meat for the balance of the journey.

Leaving them in camp and crossing the Stanislaus River, we proceeded down the north side of the same and camped. Early the next day the news came that the Indians in the night had attacked them and stolen all their horses. We remained till they came up, carrying on their backs such things as they were able.

John Bidwell never did get on with John Bartleson. There is a note of satisfaction here that once again, Bartleson was wrong and got what he deserved.

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This blog has a new name — it is now Don’t leave out the “s” in the middle or you won’t find it. It’s still the same northern California history blog, but I’ll also be promoting my new book here. You can also still get here with the old URL.

My new book is John and Annie Bidwell: The Long and the Short of It. It’s a paperback picture book selling for $16.95. It has full-color illustrations by the talented Steve Ferchaud, and is aimed at the young readers who visit Bidwell Mansion and want to know more. I hope it will be equally valuable to teachers and families.

I am self-publishing the book under the imprint Goldfields Books. I don’t know what future projects are in store, but there may be more books from Goldfields in days to come.

John and Annie Bidwell is at the printer right now. It will be out well in time for Christmas. It will be for sale at Bidwell Mansion, at Made in Chico, and at other outlets around the area. I’ll keep you posted on where and when you can buy the book.

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Coming Soon!

The book is almost here! John and Annie Bidwell Cover

This is what the cover will look like. It’s at the printer now, and in a week or two a pallet of books will show up on my doorstep, and then the fun begins.

I will be having a book-signing at the Bidwell Mansion Association Holiday Event on December 4th. Other book-signing programs are in the works. If anyone wants me to do a presentation, I am always happy to talk about the Bidwells’ incredible lives and sign books.

The book is a 32-page 8.5 x 11 inch soft-cover picture book, with full-color illustrations throughout by Steve Ferchaud. The design and layout was done by Carla Resnick, who is not only an excellent graphic designer, but a good neighbor. The cover price is $16.95. I am self-publishing the book under the imprint Goldfields Books.

I have done my best to make it historically accurate, and it includes a timeline and a bibliography. I think it will make an excellent companion to my first book: John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.

Bidwell3Here’s another one of my favorite illustrations from the book: John and Annie camping with John Muir. The Bidwells were good friends with Muir. They really did take him camping with them, and they really did have a tent that looked like that. There is a well-known photograph that shows John and Annie posing outside their striped tent.

I certainly hope everyone who sees the book likes it, and I hope it will be a valuable resource for teachers who bring their classes to Bidwell Mansion. And I’ll let you know as soon as the book is available for purchase.

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