“What Shall I Do?”

John Bidwell sent this letter to Annie in 1880, when he was in San Francisco and she was visiting her family in Washington, D. C.:

            SF Aug 24, 1880

My Dear Wife

By the bye. The President and General Sherman are to spend one day in Chico. So Col. Dick Hammond told me today. He saw a letter written to Gen. McDowell by Gen. Sherman, giving the programme of the Presidential party, and in it was one day in Chico! Gen. Sherman and President certainly expect you are at home. What shall I do!

They are to leave Chicago in 9 days from this date – two days after this will reach you if you are in Washington. But as the President will delay a few days at Salt Lake, one or two days at Virgina city, a few days at San Francisco, &c and then start for Oregon & Washington Ter. overland via Chico, you will have ample time to reach Chico, provided you lose no time. As soon as the President and party have gone, then you can return East and finish out your four month’s visit!!!!!!

It is now 11 P.M. must pack trunk; for I am off for home in the morning. If I have time I may add a line in the morning. But I had better make a formal close now.

But seriously, what am I to do without you when the Presidential party comes? You must solve the question. So if you are going to step across the continent, step quick!

In haste and with great love, your affectionate husband

John Bidwell

“By the bye”!  What a way to begin such a bombshell. The President is coming to visit! Isn’t it amazing how Bidwell gets the news second-hand, no one has planned this out months in advance, and no one in the presidential party has contacted him yet?

Notice also that a visit from General Sherman is pretty much equal to a visit from the President. At the time probably more people wanted to see Sherman than Hayes. The man who had conquered the South was wildly popular.

Poor General Bidwell! What is he to do without Annie? This is the biggest event in the history of Bidwell Mansion, and the hostess isn’t home. She didn’t “step across the continent” to get home before the president arrived. She sent instructions to John, and he enlisted the ladies of the town to substitute for the lady of the house.

It all went off quite nicely, but the General must have been in a tizzy without his dear Annie.

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 Rutherford B. Hayes, William Tecumseh Sherman. Bookmark the permalink.

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