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Locations: Lake Oroville

Lake Oroville
The Gold Rush & The People Behind It

It's no coincidence that you'll see the Bidwell name all over the Lake Oroville area. John Bidwell (August 5, 1819 - April 4, 1900) was known throughout California and across the nation as an important pioneer, soldier, politician, prohibitionist, statesman, philanthropist, and even a farmer. However, he's also famous for leading one of the first emigrant parties, known as the Bartleson-Bidwell party that traveled the California Trail. He founded the town of Chico about 28 miles north of Oroville.

John Bidwell
John Bidwell

Born in Chautauqua County, New York, the Bidwell family also lived in Pennsylvania and Ohio during John's childhood. In 1841, Bidwell became one of the first emigrants on the California Trail and when he arrived to California, was employed by John Sutter as his business manager. Shortly after James Marshall's discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill, Bidwell also discovered gold on the Feather River and established a productive claim at Bidwell Bar (now beneath Lake Oroville) prior to the California Gold Rush. He served in the California Senate in 1849 and was a delegate to the 1860 national convention of the Democratic Party in 1860. After changing parties, Bidwell served as a member of Congress from 1865 to 1867. Before leaving politics, he also ran for President in 1892 under the Prohibition ticket. He died in Chico and is buried in the Chico Cemetery.