Some books are difficult to get through, but are important to finish.

In this case, I wanted to know more about John Bidwell, the white man credited with founding Chico. After all, there were plenty of Indians calling this swath of California home before he arrived by wagon train so it’s hard to say he discovered the area. It was also part of Mexico when he first came west.

What might make this book appealing to those who have no connection to Chico is all of the California history. Bidwell’s contribution to the state’s agricultural industry is well documented here and elsewhere.

John Bidwell & California: The Life & Writings of a Pioneer 1841-1900 (Arthur H. Clark Company, 2004) by Michael J. Gillis and Michael F. Magliari in some ways is like two books in one.

Each chapter starts with the authors telling something about Bidwell like his life in politics (he was in Congress), his interactions with Indians and the Chinese, the Gold Rush and so much more. The second half of the chapter is Bidwell’s writings on the chapter subject.

I would recommend skipping the first chapter. If you have read anything about wagon trains crossing into California, this will just bore you and might have you putting down the book for good.

Another way to approach the book might be just to read what the authors wrote or just Bidwell’s writing. Together there is a lot of repetition. While this is clearly not an overwhelming recommendation of the book, for anyone interested in learning about Bidwell or California, this is a very informative book.

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