California Christmas, 1841

By Christmas Day 1841, John Bidwell had been at John Sutter’s settlement for about a month. Sutter had enthusastically hired Bidwell and planned to send him off to the coast to oversee his acquisitition of Fort Ross. Bidwell described Sutter’s “Fort” as he first saw it when he was asked to contribute to a history of Colusa County:

“The settlement, if it could then be so designated, was in an embryo state. No crops had been raised; grain had been sown, but owing to an unprecedentedly dry season, it had failed to mature.”

(Then, as now, the weather was unpredictable, and marginal for growing wheat without irrigation.)

“There was no such thing as bread, so we had to eat beef, and occasionally game, such as elk, deer, antelope, wild geese, and ducks. Our Christmas dinner that year was entirely of ducks.” (Colusa County, p. 37)

 Just ducks for Christmas dinner! But they wouldn’t go hungry, for there was no shortage of ducks and geese along the river that winter.

So safe at last in California, John Bidwell enjoyed a merry Christmas with John Sutter, Jimmy John, Mike Nye, and Sutter’s motley household of vaqueros, Kanakas, and Indians.

I hope you have a very merry holiday season too, whether it’s ducks for dinner, or turkey, ham, or roast beef. Or even vegetarian (which wasn’t an option for Bidwell.) Thanks for reading my blog. I’ll be back in 2012 with more adventures of John Bidwell and others in northern California.

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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