My name is Nancy Leek. I live in Chico, California and am a retired librarian. I have worked in public, school and academic libraries, including reference librarian for the Butte County Library and children’s librarian at the Orland Free Library. I am the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer, and the co-editor (with John Rudderow) of The Miner Poet: The Poems of Pres Longley.
In 2015 I started a series of picture book biographies for young readers called Golden State Biographies. So far the series includes John and Annie Bidwell: The Long and the Short of It and Nancy Kelsey Comes over the Mountain. These books have full-color illustrations throughout by the talented Steve Ferchaud. They are colorful, exciting, and fun to read, and I have received enthusiastic feedback from California schoolchildren.
All books are available by contacting me at email@example.com.
I am available for presentations to any kind of group, including 4th grade classes studying California history. I thoroughly enjoy talking with students and will gladly present in your classroom at no charge if you are in my local area (Butte, Glenn and Tehama Counties).
I also have a program called A Conversation with Major John Bidwell, in which I play a lady reporter in 1858 interviewing Bidwell, who is played by talented actor Nick Anderson. We have presented this program to groups such as Rotary, SIRS, and the Chico Museum. Let me know if you would like to have us visit your group.
I call this blog goldfields because I love Northern California wildflowers and Northern California history. Goldfields is a wildflower that we enjoy seeing every year on Table Mountain here in Butte County, and the goldfields were the attraction that drew so many men and women to the Golden State. Now that I am self-publishing my books, my imprint is Goldfields Books.
At my home in Chico I have a little family orchard, a large vegetable garden, and a crazy flock of chickens. When not writing, I sew and volunteer at the library and at Bidwell Mansion. I also sit on the steering committee of the Association for Northern California Historical Research and assist in publishing ANCHR’s yearly book on local history.
When my husband Jim and I retired from our jobs in the spring of 2014, we went on a road trip to Wisconsin to visit family. One of my goals on the road was to see some of the sights that the pioneers like John Bidwell and the thousands who followed him would see along the way: Chimney Rock, Scott’s Bluff, Fort Laramie, Independence Rock, the Great Salt Lake and the Humboldt River. Here I am at Chimney Rock in Nebraska.
Hi Nancy, my name is Tyler Ash.
Over the last few years I have been bitten by the Butte County history bug and I just recently discovered your blog. I love it! I was thinking about starting a John BIdwell blog but it seems you already beat me to it! I was a student of Byron Wolfe at Chico State and was taught the art of re-photography. I don’t know if you’ve heard of either but I actually did an independent study on rephotographing some of Chico’s historic photos before I graduated. If you’re interested you can view them at my blog,( tylerashresume.wordpress.com). It will be under the Photography tab. I also wrote an in depth article on the George Crosette House in Chico and another article on the history of Chico’s Cold War missile base. Those are on there as well.
I love learning more and more of the saga of John Bidwell and I will most definitely need to buy your book and add it to my growing collection of Chico history. I’m so glad I stumbled upon your blog because I think it will be my favorite one for many years to come. Hopefully our paths will cross sometime in the future.
Hi Tyler– Thanks for your comment. I haven’t been doing much with this blog lately, but I have good intentions. Your comments are a push in the right direction.
Great photos on your website. I find the idea of rephotography very intriguing, and I’ve always admired Byron Wolfe’s work. My daughter is friends with his wife, and their kids are friends.
You can get my book from Lyon books or from the Visitor’s Center at Bidwell Mansion. I hope we’ll run into each other one of these days. –Nancy
I found your blog super interesting. I love the history of north California too.Good luck!!!
I am interested in the street named SO-WIL-LEN-NO. I understand that it is a Maidu Woman’s name. Annie liked the name and named the street. Is this close to the facts??? Was this woman someone special in John and Annie’s lives???
The street is named after Maggie Sowilleno Lafonso — Sowilleno being Maggie’s Indian name. She was a member of the Mechoopda tribe. Maggie was a favorite of Annie Bidwell. She and her brother Elmer frequently dined at the Mansion, and Maggie was Annie’s greatest helper at the Indian Church. I am not quite sure when the street was named, but probably after Maggie died in 1909. That would make a good topic for my blog! Thanks for asking the question.
Thank you so much Nancy. I have been looking all over for this answer. I look forward to reading more on your blog.
I heard you speak at the Chico Museum and enjoyed it very much. I wonder if you would give your talk at the Newcomers luncheon. The talks are to help newcomers to learn about the area they have moved to .
We provide lunch for you and you would speak for about 30 minutes .
We need a speaker for November 17th. If you are able to do this please get in contact with me. If you are unable to attend the November luncheon, perhaps next year January 26th, March 25?
Donna Gangemi 343-1015
I am a volunteer with the National Park Service archeology department. They have a newsletter indicating new “excavations” each summer that one can sign up for. Most are out of California but this one struck me:
“Fort Bidwell was established in 1864 to help protect settlers in Surprise Valley. It was supplied by Fort Crook, established in the 1850s, in the Fall River Valley over 100 miles to the west. The first supply road was the Lassen Emigrant Trail, established in 1848. In 1867, the military constructed an engineered “Military Road” to facilitate delivery of supplies via an easier route. This route was subsequently utilized by settlers who abandoned portions of the rougher Lassen Trail. The road was plotted on the General Land Office survey plats in the early 1870s and was used up to the very early 1900s. Forest Service roads later replaced the military road, which, after the passage of time, has been largely lost to history.”
They will be looking for and mapping the original military road.
Did John Bidwell play a part in this road or fort?
Hi Sandy– Fort Bidwell was named after John Bidwell, but other than that I don’t know much. But I know someone who might, and I’ll ask.
Hi Nancy, you have a wonderful website. Would you consider a guest post? I have published 5 books on California history, mostly about the Sacramento area. Check out my website “California’s Olden Golden Days” at https://cherylannestapp.com/
Hi Cheryl– I’d love to have you do a guest post. I’m out of town right now and not thinking about the blog, but we can get together next week. I’ve seen your webpage and I read your stagecoach book. It would be fun to get to know you better.
A friend of mine and myself are researching Peter Lassen and his death. I was wondering if we could exchange some ideas. Do you know much about William Weatherlow? I cant seem to find much about him After Issac Roop dies. do you know where i can find more information on this Edward Clapper? who was he and why was he with Peter Lassen? ( outside of prospecting with him) Are there any accounts from the native perspective other than Cheif Winnemucca saying Pete was the best man hes known?
Hello Charles– If you can solve the mystery of Peter Lassen’s death, you’ll make California history. All my information comes from biographies of Lassen. Ken Johnston’s book on the Lassen Trail, Legendary Truths, has thorough coverage of Lassen’s death. You can find more about Weatherlow at findagrave.com — https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/22611488/william-weatherlow He died in 1864.
Edward Clapper’s bones were dug up years later and brought back to Susanville. The Lassen Historical Museum in Susanville has a picture of a reconstruction of his face. The museum also has files on Peter Lassen. These are all things you can check out if you haven’t already. I don’t have any other sources than that. Good luck!
Hello Nancy, this is Sue Cejner-Moyers from Yuba Couty, I present a tlak or tour every 1st Saturday and would love for you to join us and share your books, blog, website and all that you have done. Let me know if you would be interested in sharing.
Hi Sue– I’d love to come and do something with you and your group. Tell me more or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m helping my 9 year old daughter research a very distant relative of ours for her 4th grade project about California pioneers. Her name was Bridget Miranda Evoy and she led a wagon train to California in 1849. We’ve been piecing together her story from a combo of family lore and google searches. I’m reaching out because your site pops up with a few tidbits from her life. I’m wondering if you have any more information to share?
Dear Jessie– Send me an email at email@example.com and I’ll see if I can put you in touch with Craig Harwood, another relative of the remarkable Bridget Evoy. He knows much more about the family than I do.