I have been puzzling over these two photos. Both come from CSUChico Meriam Library Special Collections, and both show John Bidwell standing with a group of people on a bridge. Where was the bridge? Who are the other people in the photos?
The title on this one is “Gianella Bridge”, and the date is 1879. Since the Gianella Bridge, which crossed the Sacramento River at Hamilton City, wasn’t built until 1910, it can’t be that bridge. The description goes on to call it the Sacramento Bridge, the first toll bridge across the Sacramento River, and states that it washed out in the 1883-84 flood.
It’s easy to spot John Bidwell in this photograph. He is the tallest man in the picture. At six feet, or maybe 6′ 2″, (descriptions differ), he was much taller than most men of his era. He was also rather portly by this time in his life.
The woman beside him is his wife Annie. This is the only photo I can think of that shows them standing side by side, which makes it the best photo to demonstrate the difference between their heights. Annie was 4′ 8″, which is quite small today, but not very much shorter than many other women in her day.
Here’s another bridge photo:
It looks like the same bridge to me in both photos. Is it a bridge over Chico Creek or over the Sacramento River? If anyone knows, let me know.
President Hayes visited Chico while on a tour of the western states in September 1880. Hayes is on the left, and the woman next to him is presumably his wife, Lucy Hayes.
That is definitely John Bidwell on the right. Who could mistake him? And it looks like it might be Annie next to him, except that Annie was not at home when the president came to call. Annie was on an extended visit to her family in Washington D.C. when the president took his western tour. She left it up to John to entertain the president, and he called on other leading ladies in the town for assistance. So that’s not Annie.
The note with the photo also says that General Sherman is in the picture. I’d like to know which one he is. William “War is hell” Tecumseh Sherman accompanied the president and should be in the picture, but none of these men look like him. Here is a picture of him taken during this period. I don’t think any of these men is a good match.
Lots of questions for two old photographs. What do you think?