Rivals for Miss Crosby’s Hand

John Bidwell took a liking to Helen Crosby during the five-week journey back to California, perhaps one reason for giving the admission documents into her care. Young ladies were few on board ship and in California, and he was an eligible young bachelor. But he wasn’t the only one taking an interest in the young lady. Samuel Hensley (and who knows who else) enthusiastically courted her.

Three months after they arrived a friend wrote to Bidwell from San Jose, urging him to seek Miss Helen’s hand before it was too late. “There are strong exertions being made by certain parties – a word enough,” he told him,  but Bidwell did not pursue a closer connection with Helen Crosby.

In the contest for Helen’s affections, Sam Hensley won the prize. She became Mrs. Samuel J. Hensley of San José on April 7, 1851. It would be another fifteen years before John Bidwell found the love of his life.


Major Samuel J. Hensley

Samuel Hensley was born in Kentucky in 1816 and came to California with the Chiles party in 1843. He was a trapper and hunter, and for a time he worked for John Sutter. He claimed a land grant adjoining John Bidwell’s Rancho Chico, but I don’t think he ever actually lived there. Like Bidwell, he served in the California Battalion during the Mexican War and was afterward known as Major Hensley.

He was a savvy businessman and a founding member of the California Steamship Navigation Company. He may well have looked like the better catch to Miss Helen Crosby — he had built a substantial home in San Jose while John Bidwell was still living in a log cabin on remote Rancho Chico.


Mary Helen Crosby Hensley in 1871.

Unfortunately, there is no young picture (that I know of) of Mary Helen Crosby Hensley.  Here is one 1871, five years after her husband passed away. They had two children, Charles and Mary Helen.


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 Elisha O. Crosby, Mary Helen Crosby, Samuel J. Hensley. Bookmark the permalink.

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