Of Cattle and Mules and Potter and Cats!

An “uncertain state of affairs” on Rancho Chico — the price of beef is low, old Mr. Potter is sick and near death, too many of the former employees were nothing but a “gang of loafers and idlers,” the cooking is “miserably done,” and Thomas Bidwell is in desperate need of some cats to keep down the mice population. Read on!

Chico Jan. 6th 1851

Dr. Brother,

I received yours of Dec. 20 a few days ago. Thus far I have acted in strict accordance with your directions. I have sold several head of cattle at tolerable prices from $120. to $160. The price of beef is at present very low in the mines. It sells for from 20 to 35 cts. Mr. Frye has proved a most useful man to the ranch and is deserving both of commendation and reward. He thinks that the hog speculation would be altogether too uncertain to engage in. There will in all probability be “a rush” towards the Scott River mines [Siskiyou County] in the Spring and as mules are selling pretty low at Marysville Mr. Frye thinks it would be a good investment to buy a few. He has accordingly gone down to purchase a few.

Considering the uncertain state of affairs here I did not think proper to send to the mountains to get out timber for either a bridge or house, so that I discharged the two young men of whom I wrote – of all the gang of loafers and idlers that Stout left here not one remains except Charley Haskell who is doing pretty well. He is employed at $75.00 pr. month. I have here a vaquero at $50.00 pr. month and that is all. If you could hire a cook and get rid of the Alfreds I think you would do well. You would save at least $1500.00 a year. Besides they do nothing but cook and that is so miserably done that I am ashamed to charge for meals.

The man with whom I bargained for the cattle has not returned as he promised. Perhaps he was “gasing” – the boys are all happy and content.

We have just got through branding and marking the wild cattle. There are I think about 125 head in all.

I have done nothing towards fitting up the house for the accommodation of travelers; in fact I have not the means. Mr. Potter is now sick and very low. It is thought he can scarcely recover. He is insane a great deal of the time. He is afflicted with the Iresipelis [Erysipelas].

cats-20Bring home a few cats if you please. The mice are actually worse here than the rats ever were at Sac. City! They, like some of our neighbors, are bent on our ruin – nothing is safe from them – not even our noses at night.

Let this touch your heart my dear brother, and induce you to bring home one cat at least (pregnant if possible) i.e. (in a family way).

Yours ever,  Thos. J. Bidwell

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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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