Thanksgiving Dinner at Bidwell Mansion

Each year John Bidwell noted Thanksgiving Day in his diary. He always recorded who gave the sermon at the Thanksgiving church service and who were the guests at dinner. Sometimes he notes sending turkeys to two or three families. But he never says what they ate for their feast.

Annie Bidwell was not as diligent a diarist as her husband, but when she wrote, she often recorded the menu, or at least some of the dishes. In 1890 they dined at the home of Emma Hobart on Thursday, so they had their own festive dinner on Friday.

Fri., Nov. 28 [1890]

Perfect day. Rev. Mr Murrish & wife, Rev & Mrs Reames, Rev & Mrs Green dined with us at one O’Clock today. Came at noon, left about 4 P.M. Had excellent dinner closing with ice-cream, plum-pudding, coffee, shelled Eng walnuts, & almonds: raisins, Japanese Persimmons, pears, apples, grapes, etc. Guests seemed happy & we enjoyed having them to “Thanksgiving Dinner” – if on Friday.

Annie writes about dessert and after-dinner fruit and nuts, but nothing about the meat or vegetables. They surely had plenty of those too.

1910: Annie Bidwell and the workers who built the Presbyterian Church sitting at the dining room table. CSU Chico Meriam Library Special Collections

In 1903, after the General’s death, Annie noted another Thanksgiving dinner.

Thurs., November 26. [1903]

Thanksgiving Day. Places: Church, ll A.M. Union Services at Presbyterian Church. To dinner – Sister, brother Tom, Willie, Cora, Guy, Eva, Joseph, Dr. Gatchell & Cousin Ella Gatchell. Col. Royce, his mother & wife. Rev. & Mrs. White & babe.

Good dinner. Plum pudding, ice-cream with water ice layer in blocks – 3 blocks of it. Fruits -Jap. persimmons, pears, muscat & other grapes. Apples, oranges (Reuben’s grove),pomegranates, almonds, pecan-nuts, Eng. Walnuts, hazel nuts -all from Ranch Chico – our first new olives.

Young People’s Union Social at our house this evg. 300 said to be present. Much music, joy, etc.  Weather: Faultless!

I’d like to see that “ice cream with water ice layers in blocks.” Sound quite elegant.

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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1 Response to Thanksgiving Dinner at Bidwell Mansion

  1. Marian Ware marianware says:

    Reading this entry is the perfect ending to our Thanksgiving Day. I felt connected knowing they had Japanese persimmons and pomegranates and English walnuts. We put these three in our salad every Thanksgiving.

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