Provisions for Rancho Chico — 1850

Manifest of Sundries sent up pr wagons Nov. 6. John Bidwell Papers, California State Library

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

Dear Brother

            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

Drayage                                                           5.25

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.

                                                J. Bidwell

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.

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.
This entry was posted in Amos Frye, Thomas Bidwell, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Provisions for Rancho Chico — 1850

  1. Nonie Bidwell Buis says:

    Writing looks like the writing in our ledger from the Bidwell Bar Store.

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