“The Farmer of Chico” in Politics

Back in the day when political campaign songs were numerous and popular, the following song appeared in the Sacramento Bee on August 4, 1875. It is not complimentary to John Bidwell. In 1875 Bidwell was the candidate for governor of the People’s Independent Party, also known as the Anti-Monopoly Party, which stood against the Big Four railroad barons and their control of politics in California. Both the Democrats and Republicans hit back against Bidwell. They portrayed him as a greedy land baron ruling over an agrarian empire, exploiting his workers and keeping the small farmer at bay.

You can find the tune for “Joe Bowers” at https://maxhunter.missouristate.edu/songinformation.aspx?ID=54  Here is the entire newspaper article:

The Farmer of Chi-co

Tune : “Joe Bowers”

The following was sung at the meeting of the Republicans of the Tenth Ward of the Twelfth Senatorial District, San Francisco, last week:

It’s of an ancient farmer, who had a ranch in Butte

He raised a heap of wheat and corn and garden-sass* and fruit,

His cattle ranged a thousand hills and filled the plain below,

And he lived in regal splendor, this farmer of Chico.

 

This antiquated farmer was a gallant pioneer,

He boldly came the plains across and early landed here;

He roughed it with the Indians and Mexicans also,

And then they called him General John, the farmer of Chico.

 

In forty-five, or thereabouts, the land was very low,

And farmer John obtained a grant of forty miles or so,

But how he got the title, I don’t pretend to know,

But the finest farm in Butte is the Ranch of El Chico.

 

Some twenty thousand acres he still retains today,

And joins the Independent cry of “No Monopoly!”

A little farm may do for men with little means to show,

But leagues alone will satisfy the farmer of Chico.

 

And now this ancient farmer is making quite a stir,

He wants to get the people to make him Governor—

But when the votes are counted, the answer will be “No

Sir!” we do not want for Governor the farmer of Chico.

* garden-sass: vegetables

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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