Amos E. Frye was now in his forties, working for John Bidwell on Rancho Chico. Bidwell was often away from the ranch, serving in the California senate in San Jose and looking after business in San Francisco and Sacramento. John Bidwell left his ranch in charge of his younger brother Thomas, age 29, and other employees like Alfred H. Stout.
Frye turned out to be a good employee. He probably had considerable experience in farm and ranch business. Thomas wrote on January 6, 1851:
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 Scot River mines [in Siskiyou Co.] 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.
Bidwell’s aim was to make money selling beef, flour, and produce to the mining camps. A letter from Frye to Bidwell on May 19th 1851 gives some idea of how business was going at Shasta Valley.
Chasty Vally [Shasta Valley] May 19th 1851
Dear Sir I have been here for the last five days this is a bad speculation for us the flour brot 50 cts and Dull Beefe 20 to 35. We have put up and opened a Butchers for sale of the Beefe and as soon as I can rais out of Beefe & Flour 1000$ I shall start for home and leve Keefer to sell out the balance as for Mr. Hillman & Morford they have behaved very bad. Morford is of all men the poorest and smallest Specimen of men I ever saw and quarrelsome I have stood everything from Morford but closed all Transactions and do not allow him to speak to me.
I don’t know what “Dull Beef” is; maybe I am misreading the word. He goes on to call Morford “a Dam Rascal” and says “You will see me as soon as I can rais the amt before mentioned” which was $1000. They were certainly making money, but not as quickly or easily as hoped. In another short letter in August 1851 Frye says, “the prospects are bad for the sale of all kinds of Provisions.”
Here’s another Frye to Bidwell letter, dated January 7, 1852.
Yuba City Ja’y 7, 1852
I am abt making an arrangmt for a Lot of Hogs say from one hundred & fifty to 60 and shall no doubt make the arrangmt if so I shall bring 30 sows home and leave the balance of the hogs in this place for sale. Taylor left a horse for me here but the horse was stolen or got away. I sent a mule home please put the [double F] Iron on him and turn him out. the buyer is an acquaintance of mine please say to Barber to charge his bill to me and if he wants to go to the mines let him have some hoss or mule to ride on my a/c [account] and oblige. I advise him to go to the Butte Mines [?] or where Nelson was. please direct him out and if you can give him any advise you will much oblige etc.
These letters deal mostly with livestock, but it is also interesting to see who he mentions. Taylor was Charley Taylor, a skillful cowboy who worked for Sam Neal, and Nelson Blake was another young man employed by Bidwell. The Iron he mentions would have been Frye’s own brand. Barber is Alexander H. Barber, who also worked for Bidwell and was appointed postmaster at Rancho Chico in 1851.
Perhaps he meant ‘bull’ beef, steers as opposed to heifers.
Maybe. It doesn’t look like a B, but I don’t know what else it could be.