Lost and Found at Rancho Chico

“Rancho Chico Bldgs., 1858.” Royce, C.C. In memoriam: John Bidwell, v.l, p. 216

In this image you can see Bidwell’s store on the left, the bridge over Chico Creek, and the old adobe building on the right, surrounded by cottonwood trees and a few horses and people.

The adobe building served as John Bidwell’s house in the 1850s. but it was also his ranch headquarters and a way station on the heavily traveled Marysville-Shasta Road. D.F. Crowder, who came to Chico in 1856, described the scene:

There was no bridge across Chico creek but there was a ford near where the present bridge now stands. The Shasta trail, now the Shasta road, lead off almost due north as it does now and it was black with immigrants — just like ants, coming and going. Some had ox teams, some were afoot and others drove mules. I don’t remember ever seeing a burro at that time.

It was inevitable that some traveler would leave an item behind after their overnight stay. Here are two letters from guests seeking their lost possessions (original spelling retained):

Shasta City    Nov. 2nd 1851

Mr. John Bidwell


On Monday last we had the pleasure to dine at your ranch in Companie with doctor George and in going in the dining room on the right hand and near the door of the Kitchen there was a wedge in the walls on to wich my Lady hung a blue Coat wich has been forgotten.

I wish Sir you would be kind enough to deliver said Coat to the bearer who will take it to a friend of mine in Marysville to have it sent up by the mail or if the mail stage passes to your ranch you would much oblige me by sending it to me at the hotel de France Shasta City by the first mail

            your obedient servant

            G. Dassonville

Oak Grove July 2nd / 51

Mr. Bidwell

            Sir Please send by the barer a watch left at hour house by a gentleman who staid at your home last night and oblige yours etc.  St. Clare T. Phillips

P.S. The watch was left under his pillow

John Bidwell Papers, California State Library

I am not sure about the first name of the latter writer. Maybe you can figure it out:

Both these letters were written in 1851 before Bidwell’s log cabin burned down. Did these folks dine and sleep in the cabin, or was the adobe already constructed? Bidwell employed several men in addition to the Mechoopda workers who lived in their own village. Did they all sleep in the cabin?

Bidwell was surely building a number of other structures at that time. Nelson Blake, who was employed by Bidwell in 1850-51 later wrote “I often think of making adobes and of hauling boards and shingles down over that fine mountain road” (Blake to Bidwell 19 June 1853) so there was construction going on before the cabin burned in 1852.

At any rate, everybody knew that they could get a meal and a bed (with a pillow — such luxury!) at Bidwell’s Ranch. I hope the gentleman got his watch and the lady got her blue coat back.

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 Lost and Found at Rancho Chico

  1. Jodie says:

    Oh my goodness. Even in the 1800’s women forgot their coats at restaurants! I had to laugh!

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