Dickey’s Ranch Becomes Bidwell’s Ranch

John Bidwell was not the only American (or other foreigner) in California seeking land. William Dickey and Edward Farwell were after grants, as were several other men. In October 1844 Bidwell and Sutter went to Monterey to discuss the matter with the governor. Bidwell had already extensively explored northern California on both sides of the Sacramento River. He especially liked the land along Chico Creek.

Governor Pio Pico asked Bidwell what piece of land he would like to have.

At the time I saw the land where I now am, I was looking after some horses which had been stolen by a company on its way to Oregon, but my former companion, Mr. Dickey, had been up there, and wanted a grant of the land. In those days we never interfered with one another. I was asked by the Governor if there was a tract of land I like better than in Colusa; I told him there was, but that Mr. Dickey had confided to me his application for it, and of course I would not take it, so I got a title for him. Later I bought him out. (Dictation, 1891)

Bidwell took the Colusa grant, but he never developed it and later sold it. He settled instead on a corner of the Farwell grant and bided his time. When gold was discovered Bidwell and Dickey mined together on the Feather River. Having mined for two seasons, Dickey decided in 1849 he would take his earnings and return to the States.

Dickey, however, didn’t sell Rancho del Arroyo Chico to Bidwell; he sold it to Bidwell’s sometime partner, George McKinstry, who took possession in May 1849. McKinstry turned right around and sold half of the rancho to Bidwell on July 6, 1849 for $1785. Why Dickey didn’t sell directly to Bidwell, who very much wanted that land is not known.

George McKinstry conveyed the other half of the rancho to his brother Justus in December 1850. But Justus must not have had any interest in farming, because he promptly advertised the land for sale, along with lots he owned in San Francisco and Sacramento.

For $9000 (the price had gone up a lot) Bidwell acquired the other half of the land he had long coveted. Rancho Chico was his.


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 Rancho Chico, Uncategorized, William Dickey. Bookmark the permalink.

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