My husband Jim and I went on a little excursion today to see Bidwell Point in western Glenn County. Bidwell Point is a large hill overlooking the town of Elk Creek, just on the other side of Stony Creek. We were thinking about climbing to the top, but the access road was posted “No Trespassing”, and besides, it was a hot afternoon, so instead we just took a picture.
John Bidwell explored this area in the summer of 1844, at the request of Thomas O. Larkin, the American consul at Monterey, who wanted to find a land grant for his children. Together with one Indian guide, Bidwell traveled by horseback up the Sacramento Valley on the west side of the river. At the present site of Colusa he turned west and traveled across the hot, dry plain until he reached Stony Creek, in the foothills of the Coast Range. Here they met Indians who had never seen a white man before. They followed the creek downstream (northward).
“To our surprise, the number of Indians increased to many hundreds. In half a day we passed seventeen large villages. They had evidently come from their permanent villages and made their temporary homes by this fresh flowing stream. These Indians certainly proved anything but hostile; they were evidently in great awe of us, but showed no signs of displeasure. There were hundreds before and behind us, and villages were made aware of our coming before we reached them.”
Ever careful of his safety, Bidwell took precautions for the night. Although the Indians seemed friendly, he didn’t want to leave himself exposed and possibly lose his horses or equipment. So he retreated to the top of what is now called Bidwell Point.
“Seeing a conical hill, I determined to make it my camp for the night. I now told the old Indian (through his guide) that I was going there to sleep, and that his people must all go to their villages and not come near me during the night.”
They barricaded the top of the hill with rocks and took turns keeping watch during the night. But not one Indian approached them, and the next day, which was the 4th of July, they proceeded northward. They came to a large Indian village with a dance house.
“It seemed a gala day with the Indians, or else they made it so for my especial benefit. Male and female were attired in their gayest costumes . . . and to round up the day’s festivities they got up the gayest and largest dance, accompanied by not unmusical chants, I ever saw or heard.”
Bidwell’s recollections form the third chapter in a history of Colusa County published in 1891.