November 27, 1841

John Bidwell had set out on November 21 for Sutter’s rancho on the Sacramento in the company of two other men.  I’ve been trying to find out who his companions were, but Bidwell doesn’t give their names in any of his accounts. Rockwell Hunt, in his biography of Bidwell, tells a story that indicates that one of them was Michael Nye.

At any rate, Bidwell and his companions spent a week slogging through rain and mud on their way to Sutter’s. By the 27th they were out of provisions, hungry and tired. On the day before they arrived at Sutter’s the weather finally cleared.

“The storm abated. The sun came out through masses of clouds, vast herds of antelopes seen and I went in advance to kill some game, there being no gulch or depression in the surface which was not filled with water, whereby I could possibly approach. I failed to do more than frighten the antelope, and cause them to gather in a larger band by roaming around as all who saw antelope can readily understand. Having crawled upon the ground until my gun was wet and unfit to rely upon . . . I resolved to discharge it, wipe it out and reload. Holding it at an angle of 45 degrees slowly went off. Going on in the direction we were traveling, at a distance of more than half a mile I think, I saw an antelope, and supposed he had ended his days there—on examination I found my ball had struck in his eye.” (1877 Dictation)

Many, many years later Bidwell recounted this story to Rockwell Hunt. He considered that shot to be the best of his life, and it certainly was a life-saver. Hunt continues:

“When his companion, Mike Nye, heard about it, he was overjoyed. “Bidwell,” he said with enthusiasm, “I’d vote for you for President!” Then, with a twinkle in his eye, the dignified general recalled that in the campaign of 1892 the Prohibition nominee received one vote from Crook County, Oregon, where his old friend Nye lived at that time!” (Hunt, John Bidwell: Prince of California Pioneers, pp. 77-78.)

Michael Nye lived for many years in Marysville, and later moved to Crook County, Oregon, where he died in 1906. He was the last surviving member of the Bidwell-Bartleson Party.

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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