John Bidwell and Pres Longley

The book on Pres Longley, edited by John Rudderow and myself, is out! If you are interested in The Miner Poet: Poems of Pres Longley, it is available at Lyon Books, Paradise Coin and Gift, Bidwell Mansion, and from the editors. Just contact us at theminerpoet@gmail.com.

Pres Longley, the poet of Helltown and the bard of Butte, was well-known in Butte County for his verse, which appeared in the local papers. He knew John Bidwell pretty well. I went looking through John Bidwell’s diary to find out when he first mentions Pres.

In 1877 Bidwell was involved in building a fair pavilion in Chico for the County Fair. He was always a great supporter of agricultural fairs. Pres wasn’t much involved with agriculture, but he did like fairs, and he was in town for this one.

Bidwell’s journal entries are brief, but he always listed whoever had called on him that day. On Saturday September 28 Bidwell lists Longley as one of his callers. The fair was due to open on Monday, but because of rainy weather, it was delayed until the following day, October 1, when Bidwell notes: Fair: opened in the Pavilion – Pres. Longley [Butte Creek miner noted for his poetry on local subjects] delivered the poem.

If you needed a poem for the opening of a Fair, or a Fourth of July celebration, or any other notable occasion, Pres Longley was the man to provide the verse. Among the remarks and orations there was always a place for a poem to commemorate the event. Whether his lines were recorded and preserved I do not know, but I suspect they were not, or else John Rudderow would have found them.

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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