California Genealogy and History Archives
Butte County History
A Memorial and
Biographical History of Northern California
Chicago, Lewis Publ. Co., 1891
GENERAL JOHN BIDWELL.
In the person of General John Bidwell is exemplified, perhaps more fully than ever before, the adage that truth is stranger than fiction. It does not seem possible to one who meets him for the first time and marks his upright form, elastic step and military bearing, that he has been a witness of and actor in the chief parts of all the scenes that go to make up the history of California, from the quiet pastoral days of Mexican rule and the mission domination, through the tremendously exciting times of the gold discovery and the invasion of the Argonauts, down to the present with its wealth of orchard and grain field. Yet such is a fact, and indeed amid all the people of the State, no one has been a more effective worker for progress, or deserves so highly the thanks and appreciation of the people than General Bidwell. His life has been a romance; yet through it all there runs such a thread of reality that one recognizes from the first the presence of a mastermind and listens intently to the "strange, true tale." We present here, as a leading figure in our sketches of pioneer California biography, a short outline of the General's life, but from information obtained from him is made up a great part of our picture of early days and early doings; and we take this opportunity to record our obligation.
General Bidwell was born August 5, 1819, in Chautauqua County, New York, of the sturdy New England stock that has made itself felt throughout the history of this continent, and has always been in the van of progress. His father, Abraham Bidwell, was a native of Connecticut, and a farmer of no great means, but of thoroughgoing and energetic, traits that have been still further developed in his son. His mother, whose maiden name was Clarissa Griggs, was a native of Massachusetts, a member of the old family of that name. His youthful life was full of change, very few opportunities being presented for education or advancement. The principal and last schooling he received was obtained at Kingsville Academy, in Ashtabula County, Ohio, walking 300 miles to reach it, and working a whole summer to get means to go through, at wages of $7 a month. This lack, however, has been no real disadvantage to the General, for he has learned so well from the school of experience and of wide and general reading, that there are few men better informed or with better applied knowledge than he.
In 1839, at the age of nineteen years, he left his home to seek his fortune in the West, single-handed and without means other than a brave heart, backed by right resolves. He went first to Iowa and to the rich new lands just thrown open to settlement on the western frontiers of the State of Missouri. Here in this lovely spot he intended to make his home, and took up some lands. This was in Platte County, at a point about nine miles from Fort Leavenworth, but on the Missouri side of the river. The General secured a claim to 160 acres, and then went down to St. Louis for supplies. The trip was a long one, occupying about four weeks. Meantime another jumped his land, and having built a cabin his claim was upheld at law, when an attempt was made in the winter to prove it. While in the state of indecision caused by this fact, he met a man who had been to the then unknown lands of California. He described it as a paradise, and great enthusiasm was aroused among the people, some 500 signing an agreement to arm and set out for the western shore. Just at this time Farnham's celebrated letter detracting from California was published, and as a result the people all except himself backed out, and for a time General Bidwell found himself unable to reach the place of rendezvous. He had a wagon but no horses. As luck would have it a certain George Henshaw happened along on horseback, traveling westward in search for health. He had a horse and a little money (twelve or fourteen dollars), which he placed at the disposal of our adventurous young hero. He traded the horse for a yoke of oxen for his wagon, and a one-eyed mule for the invalid, and finally reached the rendezvous, to find only a few gathered.
Eventually a party of sixty-nine men, women and children, set out to attempt the unknown wilderness. They fortunately obtained the guidance of a missionary party then on its way to the West, and with them started on the long journey. This was in the spring of 1841, when young Bidwell was in his twenty-second year only. It must be remembered that this was the first train to venture upon the dreary trip across the plains. The whole country was practically unknown, even the maps being far astray. On them Salt Lake was represented to be 300 or 400 miles long and with two immense outlets to the Pacific. Indeed, a friend of General Bidwell seriously advised him to take along tools to make canoes, in which to descend one of those rivers to the ocean. The route taken was first up the Platte River, thence a day's journey up the South Fork, then across to the North Fork and up it to the Sweetwater and its head. Thence over to Green River and across to one of its forks, and up to the divide separating the waters that find their way to the Pacific Ocean, down the Colorado River from those flowing into Salt Lake, by the Bear River, the principal stream from the north; thence along the Bear River to Salt Lake. The missionary party left them at Soda Fountain at the most northern bend of Bear River, and from that point they explored the way for themselves.
Meantime the party had divided, all but thirty-two of them striking off for Oregon. The remainder, nothing daunted, pushed their way into the unknown. It must be remembered that Fremont's survey was not made until two years later, and at that time all the well-known rivers and other landmarks of the country were unnamed. They were finally forced to abandon their wagons at a short distance beyond Salt Lake, and after manufacturing as best they could pack saddles for mules, horses and even some of their oxen, they pushed on,—one of the most adventurous journeys that history has ever known. It was the fall of the year and the air was full of smoke, so that they could get no clear view ahead, and consequently were unable to pick out the road with ease. They pushed on, nevertheless, crossed the Sierras, being the first party that ever did so, to the head waters of the Stanislaus River, and made their way down to the San Joaquin Valley. At that time, General Bidwell thinks there were not over 100 foreigners (Americans, British, Germans and other nationalities) from San Diego to Sonoma.
It was in camp at Mount Diablo that General Bidwell first heard of General Sutter, who at that time had begun a settlement (and afterward erected a fort) near the Sacramento River, within the present capital city of the State, to which the General made his way. Since that time General Bidwell's life has been a series of notable, stirring events. He engaged and remained in the employ of Sutter; enlisted in defense of California against insurrection of the native chiefs Castro and Alvarado, in the revolt of 1844 and 1845, and acted as aid-de-camp to general Sutter till the war ended by the exulsion of the Mexican Governor Micheltorena. Near what was supposed to be the closing scenes of the Mexican war in California, in the latter part of 1846, young Bidwell, then but twenty-seven years of age, was appointed by General Fremont as Magistrate of San Luis Rey district. In 1849, at the age of thirty, he was chosen a member of the first Constitutional Convention of California, but owing to his absence in the mountains he did not receive notice in time and failed to attend. In the same year he was elected to the Senate of the first California Legislature. In 1850 Governor Burnett appointed General Bidwell and Judge Schoolcraft to convey a block of native gold-bearing quartz to Washington, as California's tribute to the Washington monument. In 1860 he was a delegate to the National Democratic Convention at Charleston. Three years later he was appointed by Governor Stanford to command the Fifth Brigade, California militia, serving till the close of the civil war. In 1864 he was a delegate to National Republican Convention at Baltimore, which renominated Abraham Lincoln, and on the committee to notify the President of his renomination. In 1864 also he was nominated and elected to the Thirty-ninth Congress. Two years later he might have had the renomination, but he had decided not to be a candidate. In 1875 he was nominated for Governor of California on the anti-monopoly or non-partisan State ticket. He was a delegate to the anti-Chinese convention held in Sacramento in March, 1886. Besides these he was the recipient of many other honors equally great.
The following are General Bidwell's political sentiments as expressed by himself: "My politics are intensely Republican, in the sense of that term as used to bring that party into existence in its mission to preserve the Union, but I am more than a Republican; I am a Prohibitionist, a native American and anti-Chinese, in the sense of wholesome restriction of all undesirable foreign immigration, and anti-monopolist in the truest sense of the term."
Personally, General Bidwell is tender, kind and benevolent to a fault, and a strict Presbyterian. By his benefactions he has acquired the sobriquet of the "Father of Chico." Among his most noteworthy donations are a $10,000 site for the North California Forestry Station, a $15,000 site for the Northern State Branch Normal School, and also valuable building sites for the different churches, the Presbyterian of Chico, the Roman Catholic, the Methodist Episcopal, the Methodist Episcopal South and the African Methodist Episcopal, each of them receiving as much land as they asked for, often supplemented by liberal money donations.
The Chico Flouring Mill, erected and carried on by General Bidwell, and one of the famous mills of the State, were the first water mills in the Sacramento Valleys being preceded only by Peter Lassen's horse-mill. The General began also at an early day to set out his magnificent orchards. These now cover 1,500 acres of land, and are being yearly increased. They are among the oldest, the most extensive and the most valuable in the State, some of the older trees being of gigantic size. His estate, the Rancho del Arroyo Chico, is one of the finest stretches of land on the continent. It is largely devoted to grain-raising, but the portion near Chico is magnificently improved, the walks, drives and grounds surrounding his handsome residence being a worthy home domain. It is a pleasing combination of park, garden and orchard, the idea being to preserve as far as possible the wilderness and the native growths. The wonderful old fig-tree before the house should he especially noted. Banyan-like it has sent its branches downward to the earth, where they have again struck root. A space of nearly 3,000 square feet is shaded now,—a curious and interesting freak of nature.
We conclude this sketch with a little incident that shows most clearly the high standard of morality and the conscientious determination for the right which marks General Bidwell at once as one of California's bravest arid most worthy citizens. Some years ago he set out to make pure wine for communion use and, similar purposes, being advised to do so by clergymen and others. To that end he employed a first-class wine-maker. After an absence of two years he returned home to find that sure enough he had as pure wine as is made, having in storage about 1,000 gallons of the best quality besides considerable material for inferior grades. He was not long in discovering, however, that his wine-maker had numerous friends whose number seemed constantly increasing. In fact their business with him was so urgent that they had to come while he was engaged in the wine cellar! He observed too that their business kept them a good while, and with his own eyes he saw that men began to go away with unsteady steps. It then dawned upon him that he was actually engaged in the business of manufacturing drunkards. His first impulse was to knock the casks in the head and spill the wine on the ground. From this he was dissuaded, however, on the plea the wine would be useful in a hospital at San Francisco. As soon as he learned that this was the case, he sent all the good wine as a present to that institution, while the poorer stuff he had manufactured into vinegar. He then dug up and burnt all the wine grapes and washed his hands of the whole business.
OUTLINE OF HISTORY.
By Jesse Wood, ex-Superintendent of Schools and editor of the Chico Chronicle-Record.
Note.—Items have been interspersed by the editor of this volume from other sources.
In company with Peter Lassen and James Benheim, General Bidwell made a trip up the Sacramento Valley as far as Red Bluff, in pursuit of a party bound for Oregon, to recover some stolen animals. After his return from this trip Mr. Bidwell made a map from memory of the country passed over, showing its extent and the streams flowing into the Sacramento River.
From this map various locations of land were made and grants obtained from the Mexican Government. Peter Lassen selected his grant on Deer Creek, in what is now Tehama County..
In 1844 Edward A. Farwell and Thomas Fallon settled on the Farwell grant, on which a part of the city of Chico now stands. Samuel, Neal and David Dutton settled on Butte Creek, seven miles south of the present site of Chico. William Dickey settled on the north side of Chico Creek, on the "Rancho del Arroyo Chico,' the present property of the above named John Bidwell. A number of other locations were soon made in all parts of the great Sacramento Valley. These were simply great cattle ranges, whose boundaries were defined by creeks, rivers and mountains, and their extent estimated in leagues.
The war with Mexico came on, and many, if not all of the above-named settlers were engaged in it. Then came the discovery of gold, which occurred in January, 1848, at Sutter's sawmill, away up in the Sierras, east of Sutter's Fort or Sacramento. It did not take long for the news to spread. In March, John Bidwell. went down from his Chico ranch to Sacramento, learned of the discovery and took some specimens, to San Francisco. They were pronounced genuine by Isaac Humphrey, an experienced miner from Georgia, who at once went up to the place of discovery, constructed rockers and went to work, as did numerous others.
Returning from San Francisco, Mr. Bidwell, whose title of Major, General and Honorable have subsequently been won, visited the mill and satisfied himself that all the gold of California was not at that one place. On his way home, he camped on Feather River, where the town of Hamilton afterward stood, three miles east of the present town of Biggs, and there washed a few pans of sand obtained from the margin of the stream. A few "colors" or scales of gold was the result, harbinger of the vast fortunes of gold subsequently found in that stream.
General Bidwell went home and immediately fitted out an expedition, composed chiefly of Indians, and returned to the Feather River, twenty-five miles distant. After prospecting at various places, finding gold everywhere, he located at the place known as Bidwell's Bar, an extensive sand-bar named after him. The bend of the stream was found to be fabulously rich in gold. The quantities of the precious metal which he and his Indians took away tradition estimates only by the donkey-load.
The news of Bidwell's rich find soon spread to the various ranches in the valley, and there was a general rush to the Feather River. Miners also came from the lower counties. Thus, in 1848, mining camps were located at Bidwell's Bar, Long's Bar, Thompson's Flat, Potter's Bar, Adamstown and other places. In 1849 the great tide of the Argonauts came on, and Feather River, with its numerous branches, became the scene of great mining activity. Towns of from 1,000 to 3,000 population sprung up at Bidwell's Bar, Thompson's Flat, Long's Bar and Oroville, while lesser towns were sprinkled along the various branches and creeks. These mining towns have all since disappeared, only Oroville remaining, as the present county-seat of Butte County and the center of a fruit- growing district.
STATE AND COUNTY ORGANIZATION.
Such was the state of things—large cattle-ranges in the valley and mining camps along the streams in the mountains—when the organization of the State took place. September 1, 1849, the Constitutional Convention assembled in Monterey. This entire section of the State was allotted to have eight delegates, of which John Bidwell was one, though he did not attend. When the Constitution was adopted and members of the Legislature chosen, General Bidwell was elected to the Senate. During the session of the first Legislature, February 18, 1850, the State was divided into counties. Butte County was laid off by boundary lines extending from the month of Honcut Creek west to the Sacramento River, up the river to Red Bluff, east to the State line, along the State line north to the line of Yuba County, and westward to the point of beginning, embracing the present counties of Butte and Plumas, and a portion of Tehama and Lassen.
March 2, 1850, an act was passed providing that county elections should be held on the first Monday in April, 1850. No formal notice of this came to the miners along Feather River, but some of them at Long's Bar heard of it, held an election, and elected a full set of county officers out of their own camp. Then it was discovered that the first Monday happened to be April 1, and a witty miner (" Old Dick Stuart") proclaimed it a "fool." It was accordingly so accepted by the candidates, and no report of the election was forwarded to headquarters.
Other counties made similar failures, and therefore another election was ordered to be held on the 10th of June, 1850, at which officers for Butte County were elected as follows: Sheriff, J. Q. Wilbur; County Attorney, J. M. Burt; Recorder, T. J. Jenkins; Treasurer, J. M. Kerr; Assessor, J. C. Flint; County Clerk, W. T. Sexton; District Attorney, J. W. McCorch; Coronor, E. Wallingford; County Judge, Moses Bean. Total vote cast, 900.
At this election Bidwell's Bar was chosen as the county-seat, and so, remained until the following 28th of September, when another election was held and Hamilton chosen as the county-seat.
[Judge Bean filed a report which gave Hamilton the county-seat "by a large majority." At that time the town had two taverns, one store and one blacksmith shop. October 4, 1850, the Court of Sessions held its first term there, in an old shake-house belonging to "Mother Nichols," a widow who lived in one corner of it.]
In 1853 Hamilton declined as a town, and Bidwell Bar was populous. By good or bad management a bill was obtained from the Legislature removing the county-seat of Butte again to Bidwell's Bar, and the final decree so removing it was made August 3, 1853, by the Court of Sessions.
In the winter of 1855—'56 an act was again passed in the Legislature providing for an election in Butte County to permanently fix the county seat. The election was held April 19, 1856, and Ophir, since called Oroville, was chosen. Since then, in 1875, an attempt has been made to remove the county-seat to Chico, but without success.
In the first organization of the counties, the territory was so little known that many queer boundary lines were decreed. From the Sacramento River to the eastern line of the State was a frequent and most absurd boundary, thus cutting up the valley into little patches and tacking each patch to the tail of a long strip of mountainous country, and, curiously enough, making the tail wag the dog by locating the county-seat in the valley portion and generally at the extreme end. A little stream that scarcely floated a feather during the summer, as the Honcut, between the Yuba and Butte, would separate the contiguous and easily accessible sections of valley land, while within the limits of the county to which each belonged were to be found high mountains whose deep snows almost severed the one part from the other for months at a time.
Butte County was among those that were awkwardly carved out by the Legislature in the first act organizing the counties. It was at first a parallelogram about the size of the States of Vermont and Delaware combined, and Colusa County was attached to it for judicial purposes.
By what was claimed as a mistake the three Buttes were placed within the limits of Butte County in 1852, and they were restored to Sutter County in 1854. In the latter year also Plumas County was carved out of Butte, taking fully two-thirds of their territory; and Plumas then included the southern portion of Lassen. The northern portion of Lassen and all of Modoc and Siskiyou were originally a portion of Shasta County. Butte is a French word, signifying hill or mound. The Marysville Buttes were named by a party of Hudson Bay trappers under Michael La Frambeau, who visited the country in 1829. The county was named after the peaks, which it was then supposed to contain, but which are really in Sutter County.
The first court-house was erected at a cost of $14,000, and in June, 1876, an addition was made at an expense of nearly $14,000 more.
The first county hospital was the Western Hotel at Lynchburg, bought for the purpose in 1857, and Dr. T. J. Jenkins was the first resident physician. In 1877—'78 the old institution, was abandoned and a fine new two-story brick structure was erected at Oroville for the "County Infirmary," as the legal term became. The cost of this was $16,000.
Bean, the first county judge, opened the first court at Chico, the disputed county-seat, July 17, 1850, but only to adjourn to Bidwell's Bar. Bean had an overweaning consciousness of power and dignity. At a session of his court a question came up similar to one which had been decided by the superior court adversely to his decision, on appeal. An attorney reminding him of the fact, he ran his fingers through his hair and exclaimed, "Well, I know it; but if the superior courts of this State, see proper want to make fools of themselves that is no reason that this court should. Mr. Clerk, enter up judgment."
In 1860 Butte County issued $200,000 in bonds in aid of the California Northern Railroad.
Judge W. S. Sherwood died at Alleghany, Sierra County, June 26, 1870. He was a resident of Butte County until ,1854, when he removed to San Francisco, where he practiced law for a time, and in 1868 removed to Sierra County.
Judge Warren T. Sexton, an early-day county clerk and district attorney, was a native of New Jersey, educated at Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the State University. He died April 11, 1878.
The Butte Record, the first newspaper in the county, was started at Bidwell's Bar, November 12, 1853, by C. W. Stiles & Co. In 1856 it was moved to Oroville, and in 1874 to Chico, and this year it started a daily edition.
In 1866 C. G. Lincoln started the North Californian in Oroville. He added a daily the next year, naming it the Butte Democrat; but after the ensuing election it was absorbed by the Record. In July, 1859, the Butte Democrat appeared in Oroville, with A. M. Wyman as editor and proprietor. In 1860 the material was purchased by Mr. Wentworth, who changed the name to Oroville Weekly Union. Mr. Langmore bought the material in 1863, moved it to Susanville and published the Sage Brush.
Edward Augustus Farwell, a Boston printer and sailor, came in 1842 from Honolulu. In 1843 he was naturalized, and the next year obtained the grant of Arroyo Chico rancho, Butte County. In 1845 he went East overland, seeking relief for his weak eyes, returning in 1848, and next for a time was in charge of Sutter's launch, running on the Sacramento. He died in San Francisco, in January, 1849.
The Mexican land grants for Butte County, which have been confirmed by the United States, have been: Esquon, 22,194 acres, to Samuel Neal in 1860; Farwell rancho, 22,194 acres, to James Williams, and others in 1863; Fernandez, 17,806 acres, to D. Z. Fernandez and others in 1867; Llano Seco, 17,767 acres, to C. J. Brenham and others in 1860. In Butte and Sutter counties: Boga, 22,185 acres, to T. O. Larkin in 1865. In Butte and Tehama counties: Bosquejo, 22,206 acres, to Peter Lassen in 1862.
The Rancho del Arroyo Chico, of 22,000 acres, is the finest in the county. The first house erected here was built in 1849 by John Bidwell, the present owner of the place. It was burned in 1852, at which time the old adobe was built which stood for many years. For a long time the land was used exclusively for stock-raising on a large scale. In time the land became too valuable for pasture, and then several thousand acres were sown to wheat and barley. An average of forty bushels to the acre was not uncommon. Ordinary farm crops being diminished, Bidwell began farming it on the Eastern plan, with satisfactory results, having the most productive ranch in the State. In 1852 he set out the first fruit-trees. The present elegant mansion was built in 1865–'68, at a cost of $60,000. There are more than fifty-five buildings on the ranch, including many barns and residences. The observatory and water-tower is 100 feet high. A large fruit-drying establishment is on the estate. Most of the ground is now in orchard and vineyard, and great attention is paid to the cultivation of flowers.
August 14, 1859, Chauncey Wright, working at Dogtown for the hydraulic company, consisting of Phineas Willard, Ira Wetherbee and Wyatt M. Smith, piped out a chunk of gold weighing fifty-four pounds and worth $10,690. The same day $3,000 in smaller lumps were taken out by the same company. Placer mining of gold has been the most useful perhaps of all in this part of California, much more important than quartz mining. In May, 1864, a miner found three Cherokee diamonds, named after Cherokee Flat, where they were found. Soon two more were found. Value of the five diamonds, $375. About sixty have been found since, many of them worth $50 to $75.
Manoah Pence; on New Year's eve, 1851, hospitably entertained six or seven Indians at his house, but with suspicions. Next morning he found the Indians slipping away with all his cattle. Pursuing them, he succeeded in wounding the chief, but not so as to disable him. Some time afterward the chief was caught and hanged without process of law, in order to save Pence's life, which had been threatened by that villainous savage.
In 1853 the Tiger Indians stole cattle from Clark's ranch. The chief, "Express Bill," was caught by a company of seven men, under Pence acting as Captain, and hung. The company went on until they found a camp of about thirty warriors, and heroically attacked them. The Indians had nothing but bows and arrows, and could do but little damage. Fighting, behind trees, was continued during the forenoon, and in the afternoon reinforcements arrived, and the whole band of Indians captured. Twenty-five of the redskins were killed in this fight. During the fall of the same year the Indians killed ten Chinamen on the west branch of Feather River. Pence was again summoned and chosen as Captain of a company of thirty whites and thirty Chinese. The Indians were found and from forty to sixty sent to the "happy hunting-grounds." At various times since then many depredations and even murders have been committed by the red savages.
In 1863 an organization of white men was effected, under N. H. Wells, of Yankee Hill, who proceeded to remove the Indians from Butte County to a reservation; but in 1865 some of them returned and committed further depredations. The principal raids by the Indians were headed by a brave named Bigfoot.
PRESENT CONDITION OF THE COUNTY.
Since 1850 to this date (May, 1890) a gradual change has been wrought in all parts of the county. Tehama, Lassen and Plumas counties have been organized, leaving Butte with an area of 1,764 square miles, about equally divided between valley and mountain lands. Mining was the all-absorbing interest in 1850, but now it is of third or fourth importance. The great stock ranges have been transformed into grain fields and orchards. Along the foothills where the mines were in 1850–'60, are small farms, orchards and vineyards. Higher up in the mountains are large lumber mills. Mining yet continues in favored localities, of placer, quartz and river-channel mining, ranging in importance from the lone miner with his pick, shovel and rocker, to the immense company whose operations run up to millions. Fruit-growing has within the last ten years become a leading industry and is rapidly on the increase. On the Rancho Chico there are about 1,600 acres of orchard and vineyard of raisin grapes. Within a radius of five miles around Chico there are perhaps 4,000 acres of orchard. Around Oroville and along the Feather River, adjacent to Biggs and Gridley, extensive orchards are being planted.
Stock-raising has also made a great growth. From extensive cattle ranges and sheep pastures the tendency is to the rearing of more select varieties. The finest stocks of horses and cattle have been introduced. Alfalfa fields have been planted, and stock-raising been elevated from a mere matter of herding to the most thorough and scientific breeding.
Butte County has been most abundantly blessed by nature with material resources of every kind. The western half of the county is a vast agricultural plain of rich alluvial soil, skirted by the Sacramento River, into which flow the Feather River and numerous large creeks and smaller streams. The eastern half is a gradual mountain slope, rising from the valley in gentle slopes and spreading out a vast region of valuable forests, small farms and mines. Water power is abundant, and facilities for irrigation are sufficient to accommodate ten times the area. While nearly all the industries common to the Pacific coast are already established here, there is unlimited opportunity for their increase and further development. Estimating the present population at 25,000, there is every reason to expect that the near future will bring a doubling and quadrupling of that number, and yet have ample opportunity for growth and increase. When people settle down to use nature's resources for the legitimate purpose of "making a living," there will be universal prosperity; but so long as all are striving to "get rich" there will be overreaching and oppression and want. Nearly all the large "rancho" grants spoken of on a previous page remain to this day unbroken, covering more than one-half of the richest agricultural region of the county. Several of them have been somewhat subdivided by being leased out to tenants; but generally this is done in 500-acre and 1,000-acre tracts. As population increases and the demand for small farms is made, there will be subdivision. It is now desired, but cannot come until population demands it. Land is plenty and resources of all kinds are plentiful; but it takes a share of capital, with a degree of industry and intelligence, to use the resources. Government lands are no more to be had. Cheap lands are not to be found easily. Good lands are abundant.
[The State Mineralogist says that Butte is the only county in the State showing an almost equal importance in an agricultural and a mining point of view, as nearly every branch of agriculture is here represented; so is every kind of gold-mining successfully pursued,—quartz, hydraulic, drift, and river bed operations being all successfully prosecuted, the latter on a large scale.
The Big Bend Tunnel, constructed for draining the bed of the Feather River, is not only the largest enterprise of the kind in California, but the largest probably ever undertaken for a similar purpose. The operations of the Spring Valley Hydraulic Company, at Cherokee, in this county, are also among the largest now carried on in the State. In this locality, too, was picked up a majority of the more valuable diamonds found in California. In Butte, the pliocene river system, the principal sites of the drift mines, meets with its greatest development. This county has in the past been a large producer of the royal metal, and, to use a scriptural expression, "the gold of that land is good," much of that obtained from the placer mines having ranged from 945 to 980 in fineness.
Several of the useful minerals also occur in this county; some of them under conditions that promise to render them of much economic value. Coal, claimed to be of the Cannel variety, was discovered some years ago near Feather River. Having been but little opened, neither the extent of this deposit nor its value as a fuel has been ascertained. Near the same river has been found a bed of marble of close texture and variegated hue, but it also remains unopened, with not much known in regard to its value. Clays, suitable for making bricks, and perhaps those of a finer kind, are plentiful in Butte.]
PRICES OF LANDS.
These vary according to the quality of the land, distance from railroad and character of improvements from $10 to $250 per acre. In the immediate vicinity of Chico, where the land is sold in five-acre lots, almost the same as town lots, and all of it very rich, the latter figure is obtained. No good land, however, can be had for less than $25 an acre anywhere within twelve miles of the railroad. But when it is considered what these lands will produce, and how many advantages of climate and social conditions are attached, the lands in Butte County are cheap at the above prices.
All the grains and all the fruits common to the Temperate zone grow in Butte County in most luxuriant abundance. On Rancho Chico there is scarcely a fruit, shrub or flower known amongst men which has not been propagated successfully. The citrus fruits also are produced in great abundance, bearing heavy crops every year. This industry, however, is yet in its infancy. The apricot, that princess of early fruits, is one of our leading varieties, growing luxuriantly and bearing abundantly. Cherries are grown in quantities and shipped to Portland, Oregon, and eastward as far as New York. We have fresh fruits continuously from the first of May, or sometimes earlier, until the last of January, all of home production. It is a most remarkable fact that the apple, which belongs in the north and the orange which belongs in the tropics, here grow side by side.
Butte County deserves special credit for having originated the citrus fair, which has since been imitated in other parts of the State and even in Chicago. The first citrus fair ever held in modern times was December 20, 1887, in an orange grove near Oroville, which proved so great a success that intense enthusiasm was aroused. Butte County proved herself a formidable rival of Southern California in the production of fine oranges and lemons: One exhibit was a beautiful palace so completely and symmetrically covered with oranges and lemons as to appear to be built of them.
Persons in the East must not think of Butte County, California, as a "new country." The California & Oregon Railroad runs diagonally through her borders. Her towns are already located and well established with all that makes towns and embryo cities. They have telegraph and telephone lines everywhere. All lines of business are fully represented. Should a wall be built around it, shutting it out from the world, it would go on and prosper, scarcely realizing that anything had happened. Forty years ago this was a new country; twenty years ago it was a new country; but in the sense in which the term is commonly used, this is a "new country" no longer. Those who are there find themselves in the midst of lively competition: Yet there is abundant room for the development of new resources.
CITIES AND TOWNS.
Chico, the metropolis of the county, is a young city of about 6,000 population, situated on the line of the California & Oregon Railroad, ninety-six miles north of Sacramento, in the midst of a very rich agricultural and fruit-growing region. The Sacramento River is six miles distant, and Chico Creek, a bright stream, flows through. Here we have business houses of all kinds, two well-established banks, six hotels, gas works, waterworks, electric light works, a flouring mill, a foundry, extensive lumber yards, planing mills, a brewery, a cannery, two daily and weekly newspapers, two large public school buildings running fourteen departments, two private academies, a State Normal School and seven churches, representing as many different denominations. No interior city in the State is more flourishing, or has a brighter future.
The history of Chico begins as far back as 1843, when Edward A. Farwell and William Dickey obtained a grant here. The town site was laid out in 1860, by J. S. Henning, County Surveyor, for John Bidwell. Richard Breeves built the first house and E. B. Pond the first brick store. The first municipal election was held February 5, 1872.
The Bank of Chico.---This bank is one of the most important financial institutions of the Sacramento Valley, being ably managed and possessed of ample capital for all its purposes. It was established in 1872, being incorporated under the banking laws of California. Mr. John Conly, since deceased, was its first president, and Mr. Alexander H. Crew the secretary and cashier, the latter gentleman being in fact the head and active man. Upon the death of Mr. Conly, in 1883, Mr. W. D. Heath became president. After holding the office for less than a year he died, when Mr. Orrin Gowell was chosen president, and still holds that office. Mr. H. W. Heath, brother of the late W . D. Heath, is the vice-president. The capital authorized in $500,000, of which $300,000 is paid up. They have a fine substantial bank building, erected at a cost of $25,000, an ornament to the town. We append an outline of the busy and useful life of the cashier, Mr. Alexander H. Crew, which will be found of interest.
Mr. Crew is a native of London, England, where he was born June 28, 1835. He received a good English education in the celebrated Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Bermondsey, near London Bridge, of which his father, William Crew, was a trustee. In February, 1849, the family set out for Australia, but while on the voyage they heard of the discovery of gold in California, and came here instead, after being a tedious seven months on the water.
In April, 1850, young Crew landed from ship, board at a point where now is the corner of Washington and Montgomery streets, San Francisco. Mr. William Crew entered mercantile business there, which he continued until 1853, when he returned to London, dying in 1858. His son, Alexander, found employment first in the office of the Daily Balance newspaper, of which the celebrated Eugene Casserley was editor and proprietor. Later on he entered the office of the Evening Journal, the late Governor Washington Bartlett's paper, the beginning of the friendship recognized in later days. In 1853 he went to Marysville, and in Adams & Co.'s express and banking office was engaged in blowing gold dust for some time. In 1855 he went to La Porte and opened the banking house of Everetts, Wilson & Co., he being the company. A short time afterward he went into business for himself, in partnership with George Eve, the firm name being Eve & Crew. Later on Mr. Eve retired, whereupon the well-known John Conly and Mr. Crew established the banking house of John Conly &. Co., Mr. Crew being the company. Later Mr. Orrin Gowell (now president of the Bank of Chico) came in and the Bank of La Porte, which is still in existence, was incorporated. In 1872 was founded the Bank of Chico, since which time Mr. Crew has resided in this place, and has been intimately identified with its best interests, his object being to advance in all proper ways the prosperity of the town and county. In matters of education he has been an active worker, aiding more than a little the establishing of normal schools in Chico, of which he is a trustee and a member of the executive committee. He is also the president of the Chico Board of Trade, a body which has effected much in the way of building up and beautifying the town and of publishing to the world its great advantages as a home and business center.
He is a trustee of the Chico Presbyterian church, an active worker for the cause of Christianity and morality, an honored member of the Knights Templar, having passed through all stages of the Masonic order, and also a member of the I. O. O. F. He is one of Chico's foremost and enterprising citizens, identified in all matters that tend to the public wealth, and has won a high place in the esteem of his fellow-citizens. Mr. Crew has made his way almost unaided from the day he landed; a lad of sixteen years, in San Francisco, until now when he is at the bead of one of the most important financial institutions in the northern part of the State. Mr. W. D. Heath, a bright and talented young man, came to assist in the bank in 1873; he was born in California in 1851. His keen business ability and geniality soon caused his friends to prophesy for him marked success among the business men of the day. Many important positions were intrusted to him; but, in the midst of unusual success for one so young, death claimed him for his own. His death was greatly deplored not only by the people of the town but also of many other parts of the State.
The accountant of the Bank of Chico is Mr. Thomas N. Crew, a nephew of Mr. A. H. Crew. He is a native of London, born in 1856, and educated in the public schools of London. He was for some time engaged in the largest dry-goods house in Cheltenham, in the west of England, but in 1875 he came to California. He is a gentleman whose ability as an accountant is proven by the best of tests, that namely of experience. He worthily assists his uncle in the bank.
the county-seat, and next to Chico the largest town in the county, is situated on the Feather River, three miles below the junction of all its branches, just where it ceases to be a rushing mountain torrent and calms into a deep steady stream. Oroville well deserves the name which for many years has been applied to it, the "Gem of the Foothills."
Some time in October, 1849, the Long Brothers opened a store at the bar two miles above the present site of Oroville, and from the place took its name. Long Bar was for some time the most important mining camp in that region, as the diggings were unusually rich. In November, J. M. Burt arrived with several loads of provisions and opened another store. This town was originally called Ophir City, until 1855, when the name had to be changed on account of there being another Ophir in Placer County. In 1858 there were two or three disastrous fires, one specially which nearly consumed the entire place.
The town is now well built, its hotels and business houses being of brick. Its residences are commodious and handsome. It has a bank, and water and gas works. Three churches, the large public school building and the county buildings are prominent features. Not only a large retail trade, but an extensive wholesale business is done, and a more energetic and intelligent company of merchants than those of Oroville are nowhere to be found.
Its situation is on the dividing line between the agricultural valley and the mining and fruit-growing foothills. It is the terminal point of the California Northern Railroad, running to it from Marysville, a distance of twenty-eight miles. Stage lines, wagon roads, telegraph and telephone lines connect it with all parts of Butte, Plumas and Sierra counties.
Oroville, as its name implies, was in the early days a great mining center, and until very recently numerous great mining enterprises were in active progress in its immediate vicinity. A rich stratum of gold-bearing gravel is known to underlie the entire site of the town, which has not been worked.
The country surrounding Oroville is greatly varied. To the east, foothills rapidly rising to the mountain slopes; to the south, foothills and gravel plains sloping into rich agricultural valley lands; to the west, gravel plains reaching many miles; and to the north, foothills and agricultural lands, rich and varied. All these lands are now used for agriculture and grazing, but their value for viticulture and horticulture has of late been very highly appreciated.
As a location for the establishment of manufactures and mills of all kinds, Oroville possesses great natural advantages. If it were desired to run machinery by water power, there is sufficient to run mills and factories to any extent. There is a large flour mill already in operation, and but recently capitalists in Oakland have determined to erect a sash and door factory.
The subdivision of lands and the planting of orchards of citrus and deciduous fruits on all the lands around Oroville has been very active the last year. Since it has been fully established that the country is fully adapted for olives and oranges, great excitement has prevailed. About 1,200 acres of real estate has changed hands within one year and a corresponding rise in value has been the result. We hear of orange groves and olive orchards being planted in every direction, and there is no telling to what extent the country may be developed in that direction.
Two large water ditches originally constructed for mining purposes terminate at Oroville, and are now used to irrigate the orange groves, orchards and vineyards. These supply ten times as much water as is now demanded, yet several other large ditches are being constructed. Water is abundant and will always be cheap. A person may take land anywhere around Oroville for orchard or garden purposes with the assurance that water can be had, and at low rates.
Besides the county buildings, which are large and commodious, Oroville is also the seat of the county infirmary, a large establishment, situated in the midst of an orange grove, and a great credit to our civilization.
Biggs and Gridley are towns of 1,000 inhabitants each, situated on the railroad, in the midst of rich agricultural lands, with schools, churches, a newspaper each, and an intelligent, thriving people.
Numerous smaller towns and villages dot the county over, whose general features are sufficiently described in the foregoing pages. Along the railroad are Moore's Station, Nelson, Durham, Nord and Cana. In the interior are Cherokee, Pentz, Magalia and Grainland. Magalia has also been known by the name of Dogtown.
SCHOOLS AND CHURCHES.
The people of Butte County believe in schools and churches. There is not a neighborhood in the county which has not its school. The public schools, supported by State and County moneys, run eight months in the year, and have excellent teachers, who are paid from $50 to $125 per month salary. The buildings are all first-class and furnished with the best patent desks.
The churches represent nearly all denominations and are elegant and commodious. Ministers are paid from $1,000 to $1,800 salary.
The State Normal School at Chico is one of the finest institutions in the land. The building and furniture cost $90,000. The school is the pride of Northern California.
STATE OF SOCIETY.
The state of society in Butte County may be determined by the foregoing statements concerning schools and churches. As everywhere in California, they have a mixed population. People are there from all the continents; but they are none of them savages. The population is principally American, all of it civilized and nearly all highly enlightened. Probably no community in any Eastern State is more law-abiding, peaceful, industrious or civil, though some are decidedly more religious. A newcomer soon finds his own class and associates with it, whether it be low or high. If he frequents saloons they are numerous. If he attends church he will find a full congregation with him. The one class respect the rights of the others. There is an Indian village, or rancheria, on the Rancho Chico, under the care of General and Mrs. Bidwell, which has its school, church and Sunday-school.
The two great parties hold equal sway in Butte County, and have done so for years. To illustrate this the county gave thirty-three majority for Hayes in 1876, twenty-nine majority for Hancock in 1880, upward of 100 majority for Blaine in 1884, and upwards of 100 majority for Cleveland in 1888. The county offices are always held by members of the two parties, about half-and-half. At present the superior judge, sheriff, recorder, assessor, collector and school superintendent are Democrats; the county clerk and treasurer are Republicans. The parties being thus evenly balanced, it is the rule that the best man for the place wins the race. The county is greatly favored by having honest and efficient public officials. The peace of the community is never disturbed by political strife.
The Representatives of Butte County in the State Assembly have been:
Marion Biggs, 1869–'70; Max Brooks, 1877–'80; A. C. Buffum, 1863–'64; Philip P. Caine, 1859; F. E. Cannon, 1859; J. B. Clark, 1873–'74; R. M. Cochran, 1867–'68; J. M. Cunnard, 1862; W. N. DeHaven, 1871'72; John Dick, 1856; W. W. Durham, 1880; S. Ewer, 1854; J. R. Fleming, 1883; C. B. Fowler, 1852; Leon D. Freer, 1881; L. C. Granger, 1883–'87; J. C. Gray, 1873–'74; P. H. Harris, 1861; Henry Allen, 1885–'87; James Hitchens, 1858; Richard Irwin, 1853–'54; J. T. Jenkins, 1875–'76; John Lambert, 1860; James L. Law, 1852; Charles G. Lincoln, 1855; J. S. Long, 1857; James C. Martin, 1869–'70; J. B. McGee, 1854; J. G. Moore, 1863; H. J. Morrison, 1857; Nelson D. Morse, 1852; Gilbert H. Neally, 1877–'78; W. M. Ord, 1867–'68; George W. Printy, 1862; E. S. Ruggles, 1875'76; R. F. Saunders, 1851; F. M. Smith, 1863; George E. Smith, 1865–'66; George S. Sumner, 1863–'64; C. C. Thomas, 1853; William P. Tilden, 1861, 1865–'66 ; J. N. Turner, 1871–'72; J. M. Ward, 1885; Thomas Wells, 1853, 1855; Joseph C. Wertsbaugher, 1881.
Transcribed by Kathy Sedler.