New Year’s Day with John and Annie

The Bidwells typically spent New Year’s Day making and receiving visits, as was the custom in their day. Very often they were in San Francisco on January 1. Here is an entry from Bidwell’s diary for 1879:

Wednesday, January l. San Francisco
Weather – Bright mild day. Etc.etc. -Purchased gloves $l.75 -Called on:
John Swetts to see John Muir – he was at San Jose – at Gen. McDowell’s &
saw Miss Crozier etc. Dr. Ord etc = At Dr. Woodhull’s & saw cousin Maggie,
Maj. Egan, Mr. Crozier – etc. = at Mr. Parrott’s & saw Mr. & Mrs. P. and
daughters, & Gen McDowell, & Mr. Pease, etc. = at Gibbs’ & saw Mrs. G. &
Mrs. Kane & Mr. Whittel = At Oakland and saw Misses Thomes, H.Bay & wife,
& Nounse &wife =
Visit – Spent evening at Judge Morrison’s & saw Moiyner [?] & Eyre boys.

John Swett and John Muir 1912

John Swett and John Muir 1912

I can’t identify all these people, but some are still well known. Everyone will recognize the name of John Muir. John Swett was a close friend of Muir’s and from 1863-67 served as the California State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Teachers might like to know that he founded the California Teachers Association.

General Irvin McDowell during the American Civil War

General Irvin McDowell during the American Civil War

General Irvin McDowell is unfortunately best known for his defeat at the First Battle of Bull Run. After the Civil War he served as commander of the Division of the Pacific, and upon retirement he took up landscape design and became Park Commissioner for the city of San Francisco.

If you enjoy driving around the Presidio, as we did last Saturday, and admiring the views of the Bay and the Golden Gate, you can thank General McDowell for laying out the roads with an eye to the landscape. He died in 1885 and is buried in the National Cemetery in the Presidio.

Lois MacDonald, in her book on Annie Bidwell, is a great help in identifying some of the other names in this diary entry. “Cousin Maggie” was Annie’s cousin and childhood friend, Maggie Ellicott. She was married to a Dr. Woodhull who was attached to the U.S. Army at the Presidio.

Mr. and Mrs. George W. Gibbs were well-to-do residents of Washington, D.C. who had relocated to the West Coast. Mrs. Kane was Mrs. Gibbs’ mother. Augusta Gibbs was a frequent visitor at Bidwell Mansion, and she invited the Bidwells to stay at their home in San Francisco. According to Lois MacDonald, “Annie was rather annoyed with John in that he preferred the independence of staying at a hotel when on business in San Francisco, even (it seemed to her) begrudging the time to be social and call on the Gibbs when he was in the city.”

robert-h-thomes-1And finally, the Misses Thomes were the daughters (there were four) of John Bidwell’s old companion on the trail, Robert H. Thomes. He was a wagon-maker and carpenter by trade who went into partnership in Monterey with Albert Toomes, who had come to California in 1841 by the southern route.

Thomes acquired Rancho Los Saucos in present-day Tehama County in 1846. After his death in 1878 John Bidwell was heavily involved in settling Thomes’ estate. There is a portrait of Robert H. hanging in the hallway of the Kelly-Griggs House in Red Bluff.


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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