Author Archives: nancyleek

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.

Stories of the Humboldt Wagon Road

According to the back cover, Andy Mark’s new book promises “Thrills, Chills & Mills.” You could say that it also features Spills, ‘Villes, and even Kills. In Stories of the Humboldt Wagon Road he tells the history of the road … Continue reading

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Alvin A. Coffey, African-American Pioneer

Alvin Aaron Coffey arrived in California in the fall of 1849 in company with his master, Dr. William Bassett. Coffey was born into slavery in 1822 or 1824 in Mason County, Kentucky, the property of Margaret Cooke. Bassett was his … Continue reading

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Meeting President Lincoln

John Bidwell believed fervently in the Union cause. In 1864 he was a California delegate to the Republican National Convention in Baltimore on June 7-8, where Lincoln was renominated for president. Bidwell was in the delegation sent to the White … Continue reading

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A Valentine Poem by the Miner Poet

Here is a Valentine poem from our own Bard of Butte, first published in the Butte Record on February 28, 1863. He signs himself ALP, his nom de plume based on the initials of his name, Alexander Preston Longley,

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Gold on the Feather River — A Timeline

When did John Bidwell discover gold on the Feather River? As you can see from the following timeline, he made more than one discovery, culminating in finding rich deposits at Bidwell’s Bar. It is also interesting to notice how much … Continue reading

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Best-Sellers at Bidwell’s Bar

Take a guess — What were the best-selling items at John Bidwell’s store? When I wrote a biography of John Bidwell in 2010, I wanted to include a photo of a page from his 1849 store ledger. I paged through … Continue reading

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Jennie Wimmer and the Gold Discovery

Happy Gold Discovery Day! January 24, 1848 is the date usually given for the discovery of gold at Coloma on the American River, where James Marshall found those first few flakes of gold in the millrace. It may have been … Continue reading

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Gold Rush Medicine

Say you’re a young miner, come to Bidwell’s Bar to dig for gold in 1849. You are generally a strong and healthy young man, but the work is hard and your meals are not exactly mom’s home cooking. Beef and … Continue reading

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Merchants of Sacramento

When John Bidwell or his partner George McKinstry went shopping for goods to supply their store at Bidwell’s Bar, Sam Brannan & Co. wasn’t the only business they patronized. There were a number to choose from, and they went to … Continue reading

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Sam Brannan, Gold Rush Capitalist

When news of the gold discovery on the American River reached Sutter’s Fort, John Sutter did his best to keep it quiet. He knew if word got out his sawmill would never be finished and his crops would never be … Continue reading

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