Another Letter from Amos Frye

Amos Frye drove the cattle John Bidwell had purchased from Nicolaus to Rancho Chico in less than a week. Bidwell sent him off with a letter to brother Thomas on November 6, 1850, saying “Mr. Frye goes up with the cattle.” The letter was a manifest of goods shipped from Sacramento to Rancho Chico. By the 13th Frye was back in Nicolaus, writing to Bidwell, though I am not sure where Bidwell was by then.

Here’s the letter written from Nicolaus on November 13, 1850. I haven’t changed Mr. Frye’s spelling.

Nicholas  Nov. 13th, 1850

John Bidwell, Esqr.

            Sir yours pr Raffell [Rafael] was rec’d this morning and note the same as for the money it can’t be got of Mr. Blake for reasons Nicholas can’t pay him. I shall leave for the Rancho this eve with the boys your brother was not well when I left. Slite fever was all there was. Some four or five sick at the House. 

I will be there soon to assist your brother the cattle I got up all safe and no loss.

Mr. Brown has come in jest above your House with abt (1000) one thousand head of cattle is a building a house [unknown word] you will see by this they are agreeing to give you a trial for the grain Enclosed is a memorandum for some things your Brother sends for

            Respectfully yours, Amos E. Frye

Rafael was a Maidu boy that Bidwell employed as a messenger and translator. His age is unknown but judging by the photograph that was taken of him in 1850 when he went to Washington D.C. with Bidwell, he was a young teenager. He shows up on the 1860 census but after that I don’t know what happened to him.

“Mr. Blake” is probably Stephen Blake, who was working for Nicolaus Allgeier at the time. Later Bidwell would meet his brother, Nelson Blake, who had just arrived in California. When he found Nelson sick at Nicolaus he brought him to Rancho Chico, got him well, and employed him.

Who “Mr. Brown” is I do not know.

Attached to this letter was a list of items that Thomas Bidwell wanted for the ranch. Even though they had just received a large shipment of goods, a few more items were needed.

1 pr. candle moulds for ourselves


(Shoes for the boys)

To sell            good buckskin gloves,




            a few fine combs

and if you can by a pulley and rope cheap I wish you would do it, for when we butcher we have need of such a thing.

I send this fearing lest you should not receive the letter which I sent you, in which I mention the same things. Though I am better at present my fever seems loath to leave me.

                        Yours ever, Thos. Bidwell

“Shoes for the boys” were shoes for the Indian workers. Gloves, leggings, and pipes were all things they could sell to miners and vaqueros. “Mechines” refers to gold-washing machines, otherwise known as cradles. There must have been a high demand for those in 1850.

(I love the picture these letters give of life in Gold Rush California. It is a boon to historical researchers that John Bidwell saved his letters and receipts and that after his death Annie donated his papers to the California State Library.)

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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