Major Bidwell in 1849

In 1849 Edward Washington McIlhaney of Virgina joined a company heading for the gold fields of California.  Arriving in the Sacramento Valley on the 1st of October, some members of the company set out northward to the Shasta Mines. McIlhany later gave this description of John Bidwell and his ranch.

A painting of Edward W. McIlhany, now in the Oakland Museum.

“We started up the river and finally reached Major Bidwell’s Ranch, one of the finest ranches in California. We found him a very intelligent, hospitable, and a fine-looking man. We remained several days at his ranch also, gaining a great deal of information. Bidwell gave us an account of his mining first in ’48 at a mining camp called Bidwell’s Bar, named after him, as he discovered the camp. . . . He told us that he thought we would be disappointed in the mines, but as we had started we would not be satisfied until we got there, not being very far from his place.  He advised us that if we were not satisfied there to go to Bidwell’s Bar, as it was very rich and was not worked out.

Mr. Bidwell owned thousands of acres of land gotten from a Mexican land grant. He had an Indian village not far from his residence built of adobe houses, trees set out in the village and ditches through the village to carry pure water from the mountains. Forty Indian men in this village worked for him in his mine by which he made a great deal of money.”

Edward Washington McIlhaney, Recollections of a ‘49er (2006), edited by Scott J. Lawson.

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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