Samples from store account records 1858 - 1859
Operating a store at Bidwell provided an opportunity to make a large profit but also required a willingness to take significant risks. It required the investment of a large amount of capital or obtaining personal credit to acquire supplies from wholesalers located in the San Francisco and Marysville. The sale of goods at Bidwell was often done on credit with the further delay of the payment, and the risk of never reciving cash for the merchendise! Banks, as a seperate business, did not exist during the early years of the gold rush. Therefore, merchants like John Bende, often provided many of the money lending services that were associated with banking activities.
The following tables provide examples of individuals involved, services provided, merchandise available and the cost of the items.
A special thanks to the Butte County Historical Society for making copies of the original store journal available to this researcher.
Transporting the Supplies to Bidwell
During the early years of the gold rush from 1848 to 1852 supplies were limited and sold for outrageous prices. For example, in 1848, a common pick would sell for $20 while an iron crow bar might cost $100. By the summer of 1853 the eastern merchants had responded to the demands and had shipped large quantities of materials to San Francisco. The over supply caused the prices of merchandise in San Francisco to decline rapidly bankrupting suppliers that had miscalculated the demand. Supplies for the mountain mining areas were transported by boat up the Sacramento River to Marysville. The seasonal variation in the river flow, shallow depth, and floating debris prevented the development of river traffic up the Feather River to Oroville. Supplies destined for Bidwell were sent to Marysville then reloaded onto pack mules, or freight wagons, for delivery to Bidwell’s Bar. In 1854 basic food items were expensive in the Bidwell area with flour selling for $1.00 a pound, coffee at $4.00 a pound and a dozen eggs cost $12/dozen. By 1858 there was an abundance of needed materials, although prices varied seasonally. Prices remained high due to transportation costs incurred over poor roads especially during winter conditions.
Sample of store journal - September 22, 1858
Activies at the store representing bank services.
The following three examples show the purchases of George Fitzgerald, the owner of the Union House, a boarding house; The Long Ripple Mining Company and E. S. Ruggles, a resident of the nearby community of Enterprise. The examples represent the merchandise that was purchased by a business owner, a mining company and a resident of the community. During this time period, there were also other general merchendise stores competing for their business.
The folling is a list of the items available at the Bendle store. There were other items listed in various sales entires, that have not been included, because the description or sales prices were not readable.