A Shipping List from 1848

Here is Bidwell, in November 1848, with a list of items that he is shipping to George McKinstry for sale at their trading post at Bidwell Bar. At least that’s where I think all this stuff is going. I’m not sure where McKinstry was, but Bidwell is writing from Roether’s Ranch on the Feather River at Honcut Creek.

I have never heard of “Rolfe” before, but he is probably Tallman H. Rolfe, who came to California in 1847. After working with Bidwell, he established his own store in Yuba City in 1849. According to The History of Yuba And Sutter Counties:

The first store in Yuba City was opened in August, 1849, by Tallman H. Rolfe and Henry Cheever. Two advertisements by these enterprising men appeared in the Sacramento Placer Times on August 25, 1849. They read as follows: “Rolfe & Cheever, wholesale and retail dealers, Yuba City, corner of Water and B Streets.”  “Notice to Miners. Rolfe & Cheever, having established a store at Yuba City, will keep constantly on hand a large and general assortment of dry goods, groceries, provisions, etc., which will be sold low for cash or gold dust.”

Here is Bidwell’s list of goods shipped, with explanatory notes in brackets [ ].

                                               Charles Roether’s 1st Nov. 1848

Dear Sir

I send by Rolfe

4 Ps Blue Drill  [pieces of fabric — drill is a heavy-weight, durable cotton twill]

6 Copper Pans  [for panning gold or for cooking? Gold pans were usually iron]

6 Doz. Cot. Hdkfs  [cotton handkerchiefs, plenty of them. They would be the size of bandanas]   pepperboxjpg

1 Pepper Box [probably a pepper grinder, not the kind of revolver called a pepperbox]

1 Tin Funnel

3 Blk Hdld Butcher Knives  [black handled]

9 Barlow Knives  [common pocket knife of the day — Tom Sawyer had one]

barlwo knife

Antique Barlow knife

2 Hats (for me and Rolfe)

2 Ps Col’d Manta  [manta was a cotton cloth made in Mexico, “col’d” is “colored”, i.e., dyed rather than natural]

6 Ps Blue Prints

1 Ps Stripe Drilling  [more fabric]

1 Gimblet & 1 Looking glass


A Gimblet, for boring holes

1 Paper      [don’t know what kind of paper]

Needles & 1 Paper Buttons  [a paper card of buttons]

1 Pad Lock

1 Lb. Epsom Salts

1 Drawing knife       [a woodworking tool]


a drawing knife, or draw knife


6 Ps Calico (which I got at McKee’s) [this was plain, not printed, cotton cloth]

9 Picks

4 Prs Shoes (Nos 6 among them)  [better not be picky about the size]

1 Coffee Mill

11 Butcher Knives

87 lbs Sugar

40 lbs  Flour

Of Hosier’s things  [I don’t know who Hosier was, perhaps a carpenter]

1 Handsaw      Pants & Coat

1 Jointer   [a kind of carpenter’s plane]


a jointer plane

2 Shirts,          etc.

1 Pr Boots       2 Pipes, Tobacco

1 Ps Shaving Soap etc.

½ Quire Paper & 2 Spoons

The pepper was not in the large Box, as marked on your memorandum, and I did not search farther. The Epsom Salts are those which I bought from McK. Yours I did not find in the big box.

Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) is still used today, primarily for soaking sore and tired feet. In the 19th century it was a common remedy, used as a laxative or purgative. It might not be the first choice for that today.

I had fun looking up some of these items and finding out what a gimblet and a jointer were.

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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