Bidwell in the 1850’s

I haven’t been posting much lately; instead I’ve been trying to get a handle on California politics in the 1850’s. I realized, after I started writing about Bidwell in politics, that I didn’t really know much about politics and government in early California, other than what I knew from him. So I’ve been trying to fix that.

Bidwell himself didn’t write much about the 1850’s. He covered the 1840’s very thoroughly more than once, recounting his adventures on the California trail and his experiences during the Mexican War and the Gold Rush. Exciting stuff. But when it comes to his activities during the 1850’s there isn’t much to go on. He may have kept a journal, but if he did it is lost. His letters may be the best source for this period. Some day I’ll have to dig deeper in the California State Library and see what I can find.

During the 1850’s John Bidwell served as a senator in the first state legislature. He traveled to Washington, D.C., was present when President Fillmore put his signature to the act making California the 31st state of the Union, and brought the documents back to San Francisco. Even when not serving in the legislature, he was active in state politics as a delegate to party conventions.

He worked tirelessly at developing his ranch and promoted agriculture throughout the state. He welcomed travelers at his adobe home on the Shasta Road. As the man who had surveyed numerous land grants up and down the state, he testified in many court cases dealing with land titles. He wrestled with the difficult questions of how to treat and protect the native Californians, a people that most white settlers would be glad to help disappear. All in all, he was a very busy man during this period, but he didn’t leave much of a record.

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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