Bidwell’s Old Adobe

“The ‘Old Adobe’ in 1868.” from “In Memoriam: John Bidwell” by Col. C.C. Royce

After his log cabin on Chico Creek burned down in 1852, John Bidwell built this two-story (with a one-story wing) adobe building. It was his home, his ranch headquarters, as well as a tavern and a hotel for travelers on the Marysville-Shasta Road.

Although the year of the photograph is 1868, the year that Bidwell Mansion was completed, the mansion does not appear in the photo. It would have been outside the photo, off to the left. It was set quite a way further back from the road.

The adobe stood for several years after the mansion was built. It was still standing in 1872 when the newspaper reported it being using as a polling place for the “Mill” precinct. It appears on a bird’s-eye map of Chico made in 1872.

This undated painting by an unknown artist hangs in the Butte County Pioneer Museum in Oroville. (It is impossible to get a good photograph of the painting because of the bright light that shines on it.) Across a lively scene on what is now the Esplanade, you can see the adobe on the left, the mansion in the center, and another residence on the right. (That same house shows up in the 1868 photograph.) Here is a close-up of the adobe:

By the end of 1874, it was gone. The Weekly Butte Record reported on April 25, 1874, that it was “Disappearing.”

The old adobe on the Bidwell premises, so familiar to old residents of Chico, is undergoing the process of demolition. In a little while it will have entirely disappeared, and those who have known it long will know it again no more forever. In its time it has witnessed Chico’s growth from nothing to be the most flourishing town in Northern California.

In Bidwell’s diary for April 21 he notes: “Tearing down adobe house.” Later that year he had the cottonwood trees by the former adobe torn out as well.

I don’t like to go back. When people talk of the “good old days,” I like the present better. I don’t want to return to those days. . . . I had an old adobe house that was built in ’52 — an insect-infested house. A great many people say “let it stand.” But I removed every vestige of it. It had no charms for me.

John Bidwell: 1891 Dictation.

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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