It seems that in 1841 California, Sutter’s establishment was like Rick’s Cafe Americaine in Casablanca. Everyone went there.
Bidwell later wrote: “Nearly everybody who came to California made it a point to reach Sutter’s Fort. Sutter was one of the most liberal and hospitable of men. Everybody was welcome—one man or a hundred, it was all the same.” (Echoes of the Past, p. 169)
John Bidwell spent the month of December at Sutter’s settlement. The first order of business was to learn the Spanish language. Alta California, as it was then known, was a province of Mexico, and to accomplish anything in California Bidwell was going to have to know the language. Even the Indians, if they spoke any language other than their native tongues, spoke Spanish, “that being the language of the country,” as Bidwell wrote, “and everybody had to learn something of it.”
So he got right to work learning Spanish, and in five weeks had a good basic grasp of it, which would improve as he spent more time in California. In later years his wife Annie would be quite proud of his ability to speak Spanish. He spoke it so well, and with such a good accent, she maintained, that the Spanish ambassador complimented him on it.