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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


John Bidwell

Though not a native of California, John Bidwell has practically passed his entire life here, for he was only one year old when his parents transferred their home from the middle west to the Pacific coast country. The parents, Ira and Elizabeth (Brooks) Bidwell, were born, reared and married in Missouri, and there too their eldest son, John, was born September 5, 1849. The following year the parents made the journey across the plains over the Carson route, a journey of six months finally bringing them to their destination at Georgetown, Cal. John Bidwell has never known any other home than Sonoma county, for after a year passed in the mining district of Georgetown the father gave up the undertaking and located in Alexander valley, Sonoma county, and here the son has ever since remained.

John Bidwell gave his father the benefit of his services until he attained his majority, after which he started out as a rancher on his own account, renting property for a number of years before purchasing and settling upon a ranch of his own. Finally, however, in 1877, he purchased the fine ranch of which he is now the proprietor, consisting of four hundred acres of rich bottom land, about ten miles from Healdsburg. Hay and grain are raised extensively, besides which he maintains a dairy of twenty-five cows and has fifteen acres under cultivation to grapes. Mr. Bidwell well remembers when all the land which is now dotted with productive ranches was wild land, the haunts of deer, bear and other wild animals, and ducks and quails were also numerous. The incoming of settlers changed conditions so decidedly, that one not familiar with the appearance of the country at that time would find it difficult to imagine it as it was when Mr. Bidwell first saw it over half a century ago. Few if any have done more than he to work the transformation that has since taken place, and in the same ratio that he has labored he enjoys the results of his efforts, and today has one of the most thrifty ranches in the Alexander valley, if not in the entire county.

Mr. Bidwell’s marriage in 1870 united him with Miss Mary Ellen Matthews, a native of Santa Rosa and the daughter of C. W. Matthews, a pioneer of 1849. His wife, in maidenhood Mary McMinn, was also a pioneer of the early ‘50s. Eight children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Bidwell, as follows: Wesley; Carrie, the wife of Andrew Johnson; St. Clair, who owns a ranch near the homestead; Albert, also a rancher near Healdsburg; Rena, the wife of Henry Pugett, of Petaluma; Wiley, who died in 1906; and Daisy and Joseph, at home with their parents. Fraternally Mr. Bidwell belongs to the Masonic order, and also to the affiliated body, the Eastern Star, to which latter organization his wife also belongs.

History of Sonoma County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: Tom Gregory
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1911)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011