History of Bidwell

The gold rush town of Bidwell was located at Bidwell's Bar, Butte County, CA, USA. 
In 1848, John Bidwell discovered gold at a site on the Middle Fork of the Feather RIver that became known as Bidwell's Bar. When word reached the eastern United States and the world that gold had been discovered in California, this location in northern California became one of the primary destinations for the gold seekers. Soon Bidwell's Bar became a bustling mining community as hundreds of miners congregated along the nearby rivers and streams literally picking up the golden treasure from the river and rock crevices along the  banks.These miners needed supplies to support the mining and merchants quickly established stores to supply those needs. Soon the campsites along the river bank became a tent city to be replaced by  wood and stone buildings that defined the site of the town of Bidwell.

 When the state government of California was formed in 1850 the legislature designated two potential county seat locations for Butte County. The citizens of the county disagreed with the designated locations and obtained state approval to select another location. Much controversy surrounded the eventual selection of the mining community of Hamilton which served as the County Seat from 1850 -1853. Land ownership issues at Hamilton gave the political interests at Bidwell's Bar the opportunity to try and obtain the county seat designation.  In 1853, the state of California by an act of law moved the county seat to Bidwell's Bar designating the location as the town of Bidwell. The county seat remained at this location from 1853 to 1856.

By 1856, the population of Butte County had shifted down the Feather River about ten miles to the mining community of Oroville. Business and political interests in that community forced a county election to determine the local citizens desires for the location of the county seat. Oroville won the election held early in 1856, and by the end of that year the county seat was relocated.

With the loss of county seat status the town of Bidwell rapidly declined to a local supply point for miners in the surrounding areas. However, the new Suspension Bridge, at that time, the first west of the Mississippi River, provided a yearlong crossing point of the Feather River on the main  travel route eastward into Plumas County and destinations in eastern California and parts of Nevada. Before 1900 the community had declined to a handful of buildings. When the Feather River Highway, located in the North Fork of the Feather River was opened in 1937, the Bidwell's Bar route was reduced to a local secondary road. About the only indications of the town that remained into the late 1900's were parts of the first brick building in town, the first stone store, the Suspension Bridge and associated toll house, an  orange tree. The orange tree became the iconic start for the development of the citrus industry in Butte County.