Rotchev and Bidwell (not)

Rotchev House on the right.

Rotchev House on the right.

I was hoping that John Bidwell met Alexander Rotchev before the latter left California, but evidently not. Rotchev, having sold the assets of the Russian-American Company in California to John Sutter, departed for Sitka on January 1, 1842. Bidwell had arrived at Sutter’s New Helvetia settlement in November 1841. Sutter promptly hired him and he spent a few weeks learning Spanish and getting to know Sutter. Then Sutter assigned him to manage the dismantlement of Fort Ross.

Bidwell arrived at Bodega Bay, where the Russians also had holdings, in mid-January. He just missed meeting the Russians by a couple of weeks.

My first occupation in California was at Bodega and Fort Ross, taking charge with Robert T. Ridley, who preceded me there, of the Russian property still remaining at those points, and removing the same as fast as practicable to Sutter’s settlement in Sacramento, whither everything was eventually transferred.

Ridley was a former English sailor who also worked for Sutter, married into a Mexican family, acquired a land grant near Sonoma, and took part in the Bear Flag Revolt.

It’s too bad the Russians were all gone when Bidwell arrived; it would be interesting to have Bidwell’s impressions. I can’t find a picture of Rotchev, but the house he built at Fort Ross still stands. It is the only original Russian-built building there. (Other buildings are replicas.)

The interior of Rotchev House.

The interior of Rotchev House.

I like to imagine John Bidwell sitting in the Rotchev’s parlor, writing letters to Sutter and revising the journal of his overland trip to California.


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.
This entry was posted in Alexander Rotchev, Fort Ross, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Rotchev and Bidwell (not)

  1. A piano was documented as being in the Rotchev house in 1841. Sutter paid for his daughter to have piano lessons with a man who she then eloped with. I thought that perhaps Sutter got Rotchev’s piano but there’s no record of that in the inventory. But then, no furniture is mentioned in that inventory. Presumably the piano was destroyed in the Hock Farm fire. I visited Fort Ross for the bi-centennial and met the state archaeologist who wasn’t able to throw any light on the subject.

    • nancyleek says:

      If the Rotchev family didn’t take the piano with them, then it would have ended up in Sutter’s possession. Bidwell listed a lot of the equipment he sent to Sutter, but he doesn’t mention a piano.

  2. JanKarol says:

    From the accounts that I have read, the piano was a unique item of furnishing in the house. It would not be a stretch to believe that they took it with them. At least, I hope that they did.

    Thank you for the knowledge you share of Northern California history.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s