At the end of March 1867 John Bidwell’s term in Congress was over and he was ready to return to California. He was anxious to get back to Rancho Chico to look after his business interests, but his love for Annie Kennedy made him reluctant to leave Washington, D.C. He still hoped to win her heart and her hand in marriage.
On March 28, 1867, he wrote Annie from New York, from whence he was about to sail for California. In his lengthy letter to her he writes:
You remember the California diamond which I showed you? Well, I have had it cut and set into a ring. It is beautiful and proves to be a diamond of the first water. It is not off color as I feared it would be, but perfectly clear. It is worth $125, so the jeweler told me today.
Diamonds had been discovered at Cherokee in Butte County in May of 1864, and possibly even earlier. Presumably one of these diamonds was given to Bidwell before he left for Washington, or sent to him while he was there. It was certainly big news that diamonds had been found in California. but not enough have ever been found to make mining diamonds profitable, so I am told.You can read a bit more about diamonds in California here.
In his letter to Annie Bidwell coyly hovers around the subject of what to do with the ring:
I wish I knew what to do with it. Can you make any suggestion? The diamond was a present to me. I can neither sell nor give it away, can I? What is custom or etiquette about such things? I would give it away, if the one to whom I would be willing to give it, would or could with propriety accept it.
John Bidwell was not so ignorant of etiquette that he didn’t know what kind of gifts were proper for a lady to receive from a gentleman. A lady did not accept jewelry from a man who was not her father, husband, or fiancé. To do so was an indication that she considered herself in a special relationship with the gentleman. So John’s questions are a test of Annie’s affections. If she accepted the ring, it would be a sign that her heart was softening toward him.
But would you not like to see the ring? Could you not with propriety wear it? (I ask no pledge or promise, nor would it be the token of any pledge or promise.) Could you not wear it, until some other ring [he means from someone else, if he should be so unlucky] shall consummate a pledge, and then return it to me?
For Annie’s reply, look for the next blog entry.