John Bidwell and California
The Life and Writings of a Pioneer, 1841–1900
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: The Arthur H. Clark Company
Bidwell's life finally receives a thorough and unbiased treatment in this new biography. Combining narrative and extensive use of Bidwell's voluminous written legacy, John Bidwell and California sheds new light on both the man and his times. It is a must for every reader interested in overland travel, the Gold Rush, Western pioneers and California history.
A thoughtful and even visionary man of deep convictions, balanced by practical common sense, Bidwell was blessed with keen powers of observation and a gift for prose. His published and unpublished work treats just about every imaginable aspect of life in California between 1841 and 1900.
From the moment he set out for California in 1841 with the Bidwell-Bartleson Party, Bidwell assumed a leading role in the history of California and the West. Of all the American pioneers who settled in California before the gold rush, none enjoyed more subsequent fame and success than Bidwell, and none made as great a contribution to the state's economic, political, and cultural development during the late nineteenth century.
A veteran of the Bear Flag Revolt and the Mexican War, Bidwell was among the first of the fortunate few who struck it rich in the California gold rush. The pastoral empire he went on to establish at Rancho Chico, the chief and constant labor of his life, served for decades as a model farm, making numerous contributions to California agriculture between 1850 and 1900.
Bidwell pursued a career of public service capped by his famous but largely ceremonial campaign for the Presidency in 1892 at the head of the Prohibition party ticket. Before that, he had served in the California state senate and the United States House of Representatives; run four times for governor; held three important gubernatorial appointments; laid out the city of Chico; and founded what became today's California State University, Chico.
Despite this impressive record of achievement, Bidwell has received remarkably little attention from historians. John Bidwell and California is an objective look at the man and his times, debunking the celebratory school which produced earlier biographies.
Interaction with Indians and Chinese. Bidwell's attitudes and behavior towards Indians seem to have been governed by a complex blend of curiosity, humanitarianism, and pragmatic self-interest. His continuous employment of Chinese on his rancho brought the threat of violence to his very doorstep on more than one occasion. Two chapters explore these complex subjects.
A "Bidwell Bibliography" of sixteen pages is included, providing a thorough guide to sources, both published and unpublished.