Christmas with Annie Bidwell

In 1903 Annie Bidwell described the Christmas celebration at the Indian Rancheria on December 24th, and a party she hosted at Bidwell Mansion for friends and family on the 29th. Here are the entries from her diary:

Thurs., December 24

Indian Christmas festivities this evg.  Attended Indian Christmas celebration their Chapel this evening. Took Ida Bohlender & Eva with me. Indians conducted all the services except short address by myself at their request. Santa Wilson, Pablo Silvers, Wm. Conway, Jas. Nichols, Elmer Lafonso and Maggie sang exquisitely as a choir, such hymns! I was overcome completely by the grand surprise. Maggie sang solo – Jerusalem. Eva Kennedy accompanied her with piano. Elmer Lafonso sang solo -“Flee as a bird to Your Mountain,” Eva accompanying on piano. Elmer sang delightfully. Santa Wilson read Matthew’s and Luke’s account of birth of our Lord – & read it well. Lily recited, & Martha, Bernie. Indians distributed presents from the tree. Susunny (Johnny Stack) gave me beautiful little basket which held candy, oranges & cakes for Christmas dinner.


Christmas celebration in old Indian Church–no year.

Tues., December 29th:

Events: Mansion decorated for Christmas Presbyterian Church Social. Prof. Merriam, Mr. Gibson committee on tree. Mr. G. & 2 daughters decorated tree beautifully. Fred made shrubbery garden of Hall and staircase – pretty & unique. It was said that 300 persons were present this evening! Such a happy party!

Games in rooms upstairs, in upper hall, & dining. Library & parlor & lower hall filled with older persons. Crowd of gentlemen who filled Library, evidently happy. Abundance of ice-cream & cake for all. Fine singing – sacred music by young people. Solo by Ruby Hart & others. Guest dispersed by ll O’C with exclamations of delight over their happy Evening.

Note the plentiful cake and ice cream—yum! And games in many of the rooms. I wish I knew what games they played. Maybe Charades or Dumb Crambo, or Twenty Questions, all popular parlor games of the era. In the entry about the Indian celebration she is evidently very proud of the talents displayed by her Indian friends.



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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