Bidwell’s Address to the Society of California Pioneers

One of my favorite sources for information on John Bidwell is his 1897 address to the Society of California Pioneers. The Society was limited to those who had come to California before the end of 1849. Plenty of 49er’s joined, but there were not very many who could claim to have come earlier than John Bidwell.
In his speech to the Society members he describes California as he saw it under Mexican rule, in the era of ranchos and missions. Then he goes on to talk about the “foreigners” in California.
When I came to California there were very few foreigners here. By foreigners I mean Americans, English, Scotch, Irish, etc. in other words, all not Californian or Mexican born, the people here called foreigners.
And then he lists all the foreigners he knew, beginning at San Diego, and working his way up the state to Sonoma and Napa. He remembers all their names! He lists about 100 men (no women), and then allows that there might have been a few more, runaway seamen and the like, that he didn’t know, for a total of about 150 residents who were not Californios. In stating this number he is disputing other estimates that he considers exaggerated.
One hundred and fifty “autobiographies and reminiscences” recorded by the Society of California Pioneers are available at the Online Archive of California, including Bidwell’s address. Fascinating reading!


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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