May 18, 1841

I had a good time speaking to the Chico Friends of the Library last night. I have been a member for many years, and always have enjoyed hearing the speaker at the annual meeting—I remember Steve Brown, Roger Aylworth, and Michelle Stover, among others. And now it was my turn!

On this date in 1841, what later became known as the Bidwell-Bartleson Party was ready to roll. Bidwell wrote in his journal:

“Having waited at this place (2 miles W. of Kanzas river) 2 days, and all the Company being arrived . . . the Company was convened for the purpose of electing a Captain and adopting rules of government of the Company; when T. H. Green was chosen President–and J. Bidwell, Secretary.” (Bidwell-Bartleson Party, p. 28)

Bidwell did indeed spell Kansas that way, but then that’s the way it sounds. Talbot H. Green was an interesting character. To begin with, his name was not Green, but Paul Geddes. As a bank clerk in Pennsylvania he had embezzled $8,000 from the bank and then headed west, abandoning his wife and four children. After tending a dying Englishman on a steamboat on the Mississippi River, he adopted the dead man’s name and began passing himself off as Talbot H. Green. (Shades of “What was your name in the States?”!)

Green had a successful career as a businessman in California during the 1840’s. By 1851 he was living in San Francisco, where he was considered a trustworthy and generous pillar of the community. He married again (bigamously) and had a son. He had served on the city council and decided to run for mayor. But this prominence was his undoing. He was recognized on the street by a man who had known him in Pennsylvania as Paul Geddes. Although he denied it, it was the end of his career in San Francisco. He returned East, spent a number of years in Tennessee and Texas, and finally lived out the last years of his life back in his hometown with his first wife. (If you ask me, this story would make a pretty good movie.)

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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2 Responses to May 18, 1841

  1. Diane says:

    It was a pleasure to listen to you at the CFOL Annual Meeting last night. Thanks for talking to us. Not many people would use the time between jobs to write a book!

    So… I finally started reading your book today. Did Bidwell ever graduate from school, or did he quit early to become a teacher?

    • nancyleek says:

      Bidwell attended one year when he was 17-18 at Kingsville Academy, iin Ashtabula, Ohio, which was something like a high school in its day. He didn’t continue because he ran out of money, so I guess he never graduated. Instead he passed a teacher’s exam and was hired as principal and teacher at another school. He might have remained a teacher, except that he also wanted to be a farmer, and then he was bit by the westering bug.

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