Bidwell Town Photos

These two images provide a glimpse into the town of Bidwell at Bidwell’s Bar in 1854. At that time it was a thriving mining community and the county seat of Butte County, California. Descriptive information is provided about each of the photos.

Oroville-Mercury January 18, 1918


In the Mercury window today there is a photograph of an oil painting of Bidwell Bar in the early days. The painting is now the property of Miss Caroline Sexton, and belonged to her father, the late Judge Sexton, who purchased it from the artist. The painting was brought here from Bidwell when Judge Sexton moved to Oroville and opened his law office here. It is now one of the treasured possessions of Miss Sexton in her home,

The photographs were taken of the painting at the request of E. B. Ward for Argonaut Parlor as many of the members of the Parlor wished to obtain pictures of the old oil painting. At the time it was painted the late Judge Sexton and Judge C. F. Lott were practicing law in Bidwell. It was painted before the bridge across the South Fork of the Feather River was erected and shows a string of pack mules from the Sierras wending their way toward the old ford, which was used before the bridge was built.

The photo shows several buildings that are not in existence at the present time but does not show either the old courthouse or the jail. The late Judge Sexton purchased the painting from the artist, who traveled through this section of the state painting the mining camps and it was considered by old timers as the best picture of Bidwell Bar in the early days in existence.

This drawing is from a pictorial letterhead (artist unknown). In a letter to his sister, C. G. Lincoln describes the community. Lincoln was an attorney who lived in the area.

Bidwell’s Bar, Butte County Jan 22, 1854

D Sister (Dear Sister)

I send you a cut of the capitol of Butte Co. It is exact in every particular except the River in front of the town, which is not well represented. One year ago there was but 2 frame buildings in this place, at that time the village was composed of cloth houses each as you see now in the rear - at present the place boasts 5 large Hotels, 7, 2-story Stores, as many drinking Saloons, 1 Bowling alley, 1 Barber & 2 Bankers, 7 lawyers, 6 doctors, 1 Minister whose parish includes the whole County of about 10,000 square miles, 1 professor of religion, supposed to be the only one in the Co., tho this may be a mistake as the supposition is not the result of statistical research, among all the thousands that are toiling in the shafts, ravines gulches and canyons of Butte Co., I hope there is more than one man to supplicate pardon for our manifold transgressions. We have a few Dens of Gambling, 1 printing office, 1 court house, 1 school house, 1 theater, 0 Church.

The view of the river in front of the town, will give you an idea of what we call a Bar. The water runs in a deep channel to the left; the whole Bar is overflowed in winter. Bidwell took out $80,000 from this Bar in ‘48 with Indians. It has been worked out 4 times since paying well, but less each time. Greenhorns try their hands abit even now, & sometimes take out 5 or 6 $ per day. The Mtn. On the left is higher than the one in the background, there is snow on its Summit nearly all winter. I have never seen any snow at Bidwells. The river where it winds between those Mtns. is called a Canyon (Kanyon) wherever its channel is narrow & banks abrupt it is so called. Thousands of Miners have climbed such Mts. as those, whenever they leave this ravine of a Sunday to exchange their dust for “grub.” Mule Trains wind along the precipitory sides, where a Texan or an Uncle Jo Crosierian, or an Uncle Bannyites Lain would stand on end to think of. I was climbing alone the face of that rear Mtn. A few days ago to sit on a Coroners jury (of which I was foreman) & they showed a place where a loaded mule lost his footing & rolled head over heels down the Mtn. I should think nearly 2,000 ft. The trail that leads to my plantation leaves the river at right angles directly opposite the Bar and Trail is nearly level until you get within a mile & then it is all up hill. In my last (letter) I was boasting of our delightful climate & deploring the miserable conditions of those doomed to a life in your snow bound Vt. The last week has been a real Vermonten, 2 feet of snow & cold enough to make an anchorite freeze. 2 miles below there is not a particle of snow. 3 or 4 miles above & the snow is 6 or 8 feet deep. Last year there was but 2 in. here for only 1 day.

Commend me to all the good people.

Truly Yours

C. G Lincoln