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Biographies Unit Biographies

John Bidwell 1819–1900
Pioneer, Farmer, and Political Leader

John Bidwell was born in New York State to a family of farmers. As a young man he moved to Missouri. There he heard about the fertile land and mild climate of California. In 1841, he helped lead the first wagon train of pioneers to California.

Bidwell loved to grow and experiment with plants. In 1849, he bought 22,000 acres of land in the Sacramento Valley. He raised crops and livestock. His crops included oats, corn, grapes, olives, almonds, and melons. Bidwell was one of the first Californians to produce olive oil and raisins. His Chico Ranch became the most successful in the state.

Bidwell also served in California's government. He held many state offices and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1860, Bidwell founded the town of Chico. Today, people can tour the Bidwell Mansion or visit Bidwell Park, which is on land given to the town by his wife.

Comprehension Check

What did John Bidwell do in 1841?

Critical Thinking

Why do you think John Bidwell moved to California?