Bidwell to Townsend

Here is a letter from John Bidwell to Dr. John Townsend, written on April 5, 1849. He congratulates Townsend and his wife on the birth of their son, John Henry Moses Townsend, born November 26, 1848. An indication of Bidwell’s regard for Townsend is seen in the salutation; the usual “My dear sir” is replaced by “My dear friend.” Since Townsend was a physician he isn’t shy about sharing the state of his health.

Bidwell was ambivalent about staying in California, at least in the valley. He was about to purchase Rancho Chico, and yet he tells Townsend he desires to close his business in the valley and travel back east. He clearly liked California better before all those goldseekers showed up.

And take a look at his signature! He didn’t usually sign with so many flourishes.

                                                Suttersville 5th April 1849

My Dear Friend,

Your kind letter of 15th Dec. last was received only ten days since. I have come down to this place from our camp on Feather River and now embrace the first opportunity to reply.

When I wrote to you before my intention was to carry on a considerable trade connected with the mining business, and for a long time before I rec’d yours, I was under the impression that my letter had never reached you. Time has passed and brought some changes with it. Mr. McKinstry my partner went to San Francisco last winter and has engaged in business with Mr. Cordua. I suppose that I may not be able to do better than to continue with them during the present season, and then I intend to close my business so far as to pay a visit to my friends at home. But before I leave I must find time to have a long conversation with you. I have not given up the idea of making my home in California. My great desire is to close my business in the valley. I must leave it for two reasons – first it is too sickly here – I am subject to the ague and fevers. I mean to say that my constitution is such that it is not calculated to endure these hot summers. Some point near the [coast] would suit me better. I have spent a very disagreeable time in the mountains this winter. I was quite unwell about a month since from pains in the breast and side. I had also a considerable cough – to a hard cold which I had taken. I was at one time thinking of coming down to see you, but I have been riding out for the last 2 or 3 weeks and I feel almost perfectly well again. If I leave this fall to see my friends I shall endeavor to spend the winter in some agreeable climate. I wish, dear friend, that you were able to go the rounds with me but I cannot anticipate so much.

So many things have been wrought within the last year, that I feel myself almost a stranger here, where I was formerly wont to be at home. Every where, — in plains and in mountains – I meet a heterogeneous mass of strangers. I am sure I should not feel the change more sensibly if I were placed in the wilds of Siberia. Among such a population as is bound to centre here we may expect, from what as already passed, the greatest confusion, resulting in the perpetration of the most horrid outrages and crimes, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

I am happy to congratulate upon the important event of the birth of a son.

Mrs. Townsend receives my warmest regards for her many kind attentions, and now most particularly for her desire to furnish me with room at your house. I am aware that in San Francisco a more desirable favor could not be conferred.

Now my dear friend if I am able to do anything for you, write me boldly and without reserve, and believe me to be

Yours sincerely, J. Bidwell


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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