John Bidwell sent a letter to his brother Thomas listing the items he shipped to Rancho Chico on November 6, 1850. He had been shopping in Sacramento City, buying provisions for the ranch and items to sell at his store. The letter, or “manifest”, was carried by Amos Frye, who was driving cattle to Rancho Chico.
Nicholas 6th Nov. 1850
I send by the wagons
6 Bag – 400 lbs. Sugar @ 18 c 72.00
6 Tins Biscuit @ 5.50 33.00
50 lbs. Coffee @ 35 17.50
158 lbs. Iron for Harrow @ 14 22.12
1500 “ Flour @ 12 ½ 187.50
1 bag Peaches 16.50
3 Prs. Shoes 10.50
1 “ Gaiters 4.00
1 Gingham Dress 2 Combs 6.25
1 Sack Oats 10.20
268 lbs. Salt 16.08
1 doz. Flannel Shirts 25.00
4 Prs. Blankets 29.50
Freight to Vernon 45.60
Ferriage at Nicolaus 16.00
Hay Bill 10.00
Provisions for Drivers 6.75
My Bill at Hamilton 3.00
ditto Nicolas 11.00
ditto Sacramento City 10.00 24.00
Enclosed I send the Bills except in a few cases in my haste I have omitted. Recollect the money borrowed from Mr. Alford to purchase these articles must be saved and refunded to him as soon as possible. Mr. Frye goes up with the cattle.
Sugar, flour, coffee, salt, peaches (dried) — foodstuffs for the workers at Rancho Chico and maybe some to sell. Iron for making a harrow for working the fields. Shoes, shirts, and blankets.
I wonder who got the gingham dress and two combs?
How did John Bidwell transport these goods? Those costs are listed at the end of the manifest.
To get the goods to Nicolaus, Bidwell had them shipped by boat from Sacramento to Vernon at the confluence of the Sacramento and Feather Rivers. In 1849 Vernon was as far up the Sacramento as a boat could go. A thriving, but short-lived, community grew up there as a supply and departure point for forty-niners.
(I went down a rabbit hole trying to figure out where Vernon was. My thanks to the Sutter County Historical Society, who printed an article about the town in their Spring 2020 Bulletin. Only a one-room wooden schoolhouse is left today. More about Vernon some other day.)
Vernon (today called Verona) was just ten miles south of Nicolaus, where Nicolaus Algeier had a ferry across the Feather River. You can see from Bidwell’s manifest that “drayage” (hauling the goods to the boat at Sacramento) cost him $5.25. Transport up the river cost $45.60 and ferrying across the Feather River cost $16.00 (several trips, no doubt). It wasn’t cheap to get the goods to Chico. A dollar in 1850 had a purchasing power of about $35 today.
He also had to pay for provisions for the drivers and hay for the animals (probably mules). It cost more to feed the animals than the men. The goods were hauled by wagon from Nicolaus to Rancho Chico, a distance of 64 miles. It would have taken several days. But judging by a subsequent letter, the goods were there within a week.
Writing looks like the writing in our ledger from the Bidwell Bar Store.
You have a ledger from the Bidwell Bar Store? A different one than the one in the state library? I’d love to see it!
There used to be on the Pioneer Museum in Oroville