A Piece of California History

Who doesn’t like to see and hold in their hands a genuine piece of California history?

Cane and cover

The cane and its sheath

Today I was lucky enough to see and admire the gold-headed walking stick that belonged to Joseph B. Chiles, one of the earliest American pioneers in California.

chiles2I made this connection through this blog, because some time ago I wrote a post called “Whatever Happened to Joseph B. Chiles?” and if you read it, you will know what happened to that member of the Bidwell-Bartleson Party after he arrived in 1841. He participated in the Mexican War and had a long and successful career as a rancher, farmer, and mill-owner.

Recently I was contacted by Sandy Shepard, a friend of a long-time Chico teacher named Peggy Chiles, the great-granddaughter of Joe B. She is trying to determine who gave this cane to Chiles. It may have been Governor J. Neely Johnson around 1856, but so far we don’t know for sure.

The cane is an admirable piece of craftsmanship and in excellent condition. These sticks for gentlemen were very popular in the 19th century, and a man who had lived and prospered in California would, of course, want a such an accessory.  I am very grateful to Sandy and her friend Harold for letting me show you these photographs.

As you can see from the photos, a beveled piece of gold-veined quartz is embedded in the gold head of the cane. It is inscribed with the name of “J.B. Chiles.” It looks like a presentation piece, but there is no date on it, and no name of the giver.

Do you know anything about Joseph B. Chiles that might contribute to the provenance of this item? If so, please let us know!

By the way, today was a librarian and history buff’s dream for me. Not only did I enjoy meeting with Sandy and Harold and seeing the cane, but after that I got to have lunch with the head researcher at Jeopardy!, my favorite TV show. We talked trivia and research and Chico history and Alex Trebek. So much fun!

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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3 Responses to A Piece of California History

  1. John Gallardo says:

    Nancy- it was such a thrill to see the walking stick/cane! I’m just wondering if perhaps it was purchased by Mr. Chiles for himself? I guess I would maybe expect to see “From _____” or something if it was a gift. Maybe not. And you must be referring to Suzanne Stone? -John Gallardo

  2. nancyleek says:

    That’s what they are wondering — did he purchase it himself or was it a gift? And yes, I had lunch with Suzanne Stone — we’ve been Facebook friends for a while.

  3. And yes, I had a wonderful visit with Nancy and her daughter Jean. John, I plan to visit Chico again in the fall and we will connect then. My May visit was hectic and mostly family-related. The invitation to visit Jeopardy! library is open to you all. We begin taping again in early August.

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