“A great many people have crowded upon this stream”

gold-miner-washing-with-panAnother letter from Bidwell to George McKinstry in 1848. I hope you find these letters as interesting as I do. I think the insights into the early days of gold-mining in California are fascinating.

Camp 30th Sept. 1848

Dear Mac,

Two weeks and a little more have elapsed since you left, and our work has gone on with usual regularity. I was back in camp early Sunday morning after I left you on Friday at Charles’s, — the 5 new Indians had run away on Friday night – and I have not been able since to prevail upon them to return. The Paegnes, however have submitted since I paid them a visit and made them some presents, and I have 11 of them at work also some of the Yunos. Last week we had 20; this 33 hands. A great many people have crowded upon this stream since you left. About 300 people have arrived from Oregon inpressly [sic] for Gold digging.

Charles’s was the ranch of Charles Roether, a German immigrant who came overland to California in 1845. According to Bancroft’s Pioneer Register, “his name often appears in the New Helvetia Diary ’45-’47; [he] settled at ‘Charley’s rancho’ in Butte Co, moving in ’58 to Feather River in Yuba, where he died in ’68, leaving a widow and 3 children.” Mansfield’s History of Butte County locates the ranch on the Huber Grant, on Honcut Creek.

I don’t recognize the names “Paegnes” and “Yunos” for California Indian tribes. If anyone can enlighten me, please do. It’s interesting to see how Bidwell deals with the Indians, paying them visits and giving them presents, in an effort to get them to “submit” to working for him.

            I have heard of the arrival of several companies from the States – and have seen some of the people among whom was Mr. Farwell, formerly in this country. He returned, perfectly “broke down” as regards funds, and desired to join us, but I did not employ him in any way, although I would like to assist him if any one. In case nothing has transpired since you left to prevent starting a trading post at some point on your return, and you have not made other engagements, I think Mr. Farwell would answer the purpose. You will probably see him at Mr. Cordua’s.

We have been apprehensive that people might call on us to work on our bar, but up to date have not been interfered with. Burch has said since he left us that we had bluffed him off abruptly when he asked permission to work here and that he was not going to give it up, but find a partner and come any how; but he is all talk – this was told me by one to whom B. was telling it, but did not want B. to know he told me.

“Our bar” is probably Bidwell Bar, as it became known. It was a productive site for gold.

Edward A. Farwell, a sailor from Boston, came to California in 1842, and after becoming a Mexican citizen in 1843, got the “Rancho de Farwell” grant on the south side of Chico Creek. In 1845 he returned to the States to seek medical help for his “weak eyes.” He returned, as Bidwell reports here, in 1848. He still owned the Farwell grant, but he was land rich and cash poor. Nothing had been done to develop the ranch.

Rather than take a job at the Bidwell & McKinstry trading post, he ran Sutter’s launch on the Sacramento River for a few months. He died in San Francisco in January 1849, leaving his estate to be administered by John Bidwell.

“Mr. Cordua’s” was the ranch of Theodor Cordua, another German immigrant.

Burch is probably Charles H. Burch, who shows up in Bancroft’s Pioneer Register. He came in 1846 and was at Sutter’s Fort (everyone was at Sutter’s Fort) 1846-47. Nothing more known about him.

This is just the beginning of this letter. Next time we’ll get to the juicy part, in which Bidwell defends himself against accusations of brutality towards the Indians.

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 Edward Farwell, George McKinstry, Theodore Cordua. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to “A great many people have crowded upon this stream”

  1. Eric L. Zancanella says:

    I enjoy, and appreciate your research and writing, for I have been constructing a history about Oroville for over a decade. I was raised and reside here, and am a retired teacher and amateur historian. I figured the area needed its own story separated from Butte County history books.

    Your Josiah Belden article filled in holes I needed about his background after arriving the state with Bidwell. Also referenced three of your articles about John Bidwell’s gold experience near Oroville. Great work.

    Your McKinstry articles are great resources too. I thought my own Bidwell gold chapter was done, until I saw the 1848 Bidwell letters to McKinstry. That material was referenced in the chapter too. I had already figured he found Middle Fork gold in June before the “July 4th” date some historians use. I had no idea that other miners showed up so soon after he did, like within two weeks at most, and that he planned to sell merchandise to miners right away, before he even got to Middle Fork in the first place.

    Out of the last few letters, I wrote a surmise that John Bidwell and his aids were instrumental in developing the Gold Rush Bidwell Road between the “Bar” and Charley’s Ranch at Honcut, maybe as his main supply route. The meeting at Charley’s place lends itself to that theory. Not much history on how it was created. Keep up the good history stories.

    Eric L. Zancanella

    • nancyleek says:

      Glad to help! Bidwell’s papers in the California State Library are a treasure trove. I think you must be right about the road to Charley’s Ranch. Charles Roether was mining at Bidwell’s Bar in 1849 — he shows up as a customer in Bidwell’s store ledger. (More on that to come.) If you are working on a book-length project, consider anchr.org as a publisher.

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