A Visit to General Bidwell’s Rancho

Did you know that in General Bidwell’s day, Rancho Chico was the premier agricultural showcase in the state? Anyone visiting California, who was interested in farming, came to Chico. Here is an excerpt from an 1873 book by Charles Nordhoff, California: For Health, Pleasure, and Residence:

“Forty miles above Marysville, on the California and Oregon Railroad, and on your way to Mount Shasta, lies Chico, near which place is the “rancho” of General Bidwell, formerly a member of Congress from this State.  It is one of the old Spanish grants, and contains twenty thousand acres of fine land. Its possessor came to this country in 1842, and he has been farming here on a large scale for fifteen years. Twenty thousand acres of fair, smooth land, with a brook running through it, which would be called a river in New England, and which drives a flour-mill on the estate, is a property worth seeing. We saw one field of wheat of a thousand acres; a field of oats which contained I believe, four hundred acres, and in which a man was quickly lost to sight, so high were the oats; and cattle scattered over what seemed a boundless plain.

The estate has sixty miles of substantial board fence; dozens of miles of private roads; a vineyard of three hundred acres, from which General Bidwell proposes to make not wine but raisins–in which I wish him the best success; and the crops consisted, when I saw them, of twenty-five hundred acres of wheat, about seven hundred of barley, and nearly as much oats.

Over one hundred acres are, besides this, in orchard; and the almond was here as large as a good-sized apple tree; the pomegranate was planted for screens; the fig and the English walnut had grown to stately trees; and cherries, peaches, plums, apricots, and apples, all were thrifty, and so laden with fruit that they threatened to break down.

300 horses, 1500 head of fine cattle, 3000 sheep, and 2000 hogs make up the inventory of General Bidwell’s live stock; and a hundred men are fed by him daily the year round, and make up his constant working force.”

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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