Adventures in Fort Management

At Bodega and Fort Ross John Bidwell took charge of removing the Russian property that John Sutter had purchased. It wasn’t just the cannons, the muskets, and other equipment that he took. The houses and buildings themselves were demolished and shipped to Sutter.

“During the time my occupation consisted in demolishing the houses at Fort Ross, and shipping the lumber up the Sacramento River, and sending almost everything in the shape of personal property. Russian plows, yokes, carts, house furniture, and everything transportable that could be made useful at Sacramento were sent.”

All of these items, including lumber, were scarce commodities in early California, so all of it was valuable.

“Even large circular threshing-floors (eras) in which the Russians were in the habit of tramping out their grain with bands of wild horses. These floors were made in the most substantial manner–the floors being made of hewn plank–six inches thick and perfectly matched together so tight that they would even hold water. The sides were planked about 8 feet high, with 4 1/2 in redwood lumber also hewn, for there was no such thing as sawmills there.” Elsewhere Bidwell described these floors as being some 100 feet in diameter, which is enormous.

Since they were tight enough to hold water, Bidwell had the idea of transporting them by towing them behind a boat, like a raft. This was attempted with one of the threshing floors, but it swamped and started to sink, so instead they had to take it apart to ship it.

I wish I could have seen the attempt.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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