There were less posts than usual today. One reason is that I started reading this history of the town I grew up in, a small town in Northern California called Colusa, and it captured my attention. This probably interests me more than you since the places, names, etc. are all so familiar to me, but if you are interested, here's the chapter I just read.
If you know Northern California at all, Sutter's Mill where gold was discovered in 1848, Bodega, Sacramento, Yerba Buena, Chico, etc., this will be familiar to you too. It's an account by John Bidwell of his early experiences in California (this is in the 1840s just before the Gold Rush, he was one of the first to arrive in many areas of Northern California, there's a Bidwell Mansion in Chico adjacent to the CSU Chico campus). Toward the end, he describes an encounter with native Americans where he was the first white person they had ever seen, and his account also describes, among many other things, the harsh treatment the native Americans received from the new arrivals. The bear hunting lessons given in two places might be of interest, there's a woodsman who can't find his way home, and there's some economics here and there as well if you look for it:
Colusa County: Its History Traced from a State of nature through the Early Period of Settlement and Development to the Present Day with a Description of its Resources, Statistical Tables, etc., Biographical Sketches of Pioneers and Prominent Residents. Orland. 1891: Explorations of Colusa County, Chapter 3, Furnished by Gen. John Bidwell.
[General John Bidwell, of Chico, was one of the first to cross the plains from the Missouri River, making his journey to California between May 5 and November 5 1841. But as the first-known white explorer of Colusa County, his travels and experiences form necessarily an interesting chapter in the early periods of Colusa County. General Bidwell kindly consented to furnish us with his autobiography, of which we gladly availed ourselves, taking down his narrative as he dictated to us. As the autobiography is complete and somewhat lengthy, we are obliged to cull only those passages therefrom which pertain to Colusa County. The narrative as a whole is most interesting, in some places thrilling, and is told in such simplicity of style and attractiveness of manner that, feeling obliged to omit it, we do so with regret. Only a fear of marring the unities of our purpose to treat here solely of Colusa County caused us to forego the pleasure of giving his autobiography in its entirety.-Author.]
I may premise what I have to say further on concerning what is now Colusa County and as I saw it then in a state of nature, which no white man had ever entered except a few wandering trappers till I passed through it, by giving a brief outline of my earlier experiences in California. These may be necessary, in order not to lead up too abruptly to my little narrative concerning Colusa County.
After completing my journey across the plains, which occupied six months of the year 1841, I went to Sutter's ranch, near Sacramento, and entered the employ of Sutter, where I remained till the January following. There was at that time no fort yet built, only a station for a few ranchers, hunters, and fur traders. Sutter employed Indian hunters and trappers. They used carbines chiefly, though a few had rifles. The settlement, if it could then be so designated, was in an embryo state. No crops had been raised; grain had been sown, but, owing to an unprecedentedly dry season, it had failed to mature. There was no such thing as bread, so we had to eat beef, and occasionally game, such as elk. deer, antelope, wild geese, and ducks. Our Christmas dinner that year was entirely of ducks.
The country abounded in these, besides crane, beaver, and otter. The grizzly bear was an hourly sight. In the vicinity of streams it was not uncommon to see thirty or forty in a day. The same may be said of the Colusa region at that period. In this connection let me relate an incident.
Becoming tired of beef, James John, one of the first overland party, declared he would have some bear meat. An old Rocky Mountain hunter named Bill Burrows offered to go with him to get his bear meat. It was only a walk of one, two or three miles to find bear, so they started and soon came in sight of one, a monster in size, feeding in the tall grass not far from the river timber, on the west side of the Sacramento River, opposite to where Sacramento now stands. A man who knows anything about the grizzly is cautious. Old hunters always keep to the leeward of a bear, and so take advantage and take a dead shot, but raw hunters, till experience has taught them caution, are often careless, and so Jimmy John went to within fifty yards of the bear and fired, the old mountaineer screaming at him, "You fool! don't go there! Come back!" But Jimmy, as we used to call him, was one of those strange individuals you may see once in a life-time, who never seem to know what fear is. When the grizzly heard the shot, he broke into one of the dense thickets of grape-vine and willows along the river bank. Jimmy followed right along after the bear into the thicket, and was gone about fifteen minutes, when he came out greatly disappointed, because he had not succeeded in killing his game. He said he had bad luck because he got within six feet of the bear and fancied he was wounded, and when the animal opened his mouth, he wanted to make sure work of it by thrusting his muzzle into it, but the bear suddenly took to his heels and scampered off still deeper into the thicket.
The people I found at Sutter's belonged to various nationalities. Robert Livermore had charge of the stock, cattle and horses, of which Sutter had about two thousand head. This same Livermore had a farm in Livermore Valley (now in Alameda County), and gave his name to it. He was a runaway English sailor and had grown up in this country, was familiar with the customs of the people, and spoke the Spanish language fluently.
Without imputing dishonesty to the people - cattle and horses were so plentiful that the loss of one was scarcely noticed. Herds of them roamed at will; they got mixed up, and unlawful appropriation was not uncommon, and sometimes designedly. Livermore was, as I have said, a stockman, and there was quite a competition between him and a neighbor in the pride of owning the largest herd or securing the greatest number of hides. One day, so the story ran at the time, a friend of Livermore's hurried breathlessly, telling Livermore that his competing neighbor had just killed one of his, Livermore's, bullocks, and if he would be quick about it he would catch him in the act of skinning it. Livermore coolly replied, "No, I'm too busy just now skinning one of his bullocks myself."
It was just at that time that Sutter had come into possession of Russian property on the coast at Fort Ross and Bodega. He purchased all the property which the Russians could not remove on leaving the country. I allude to the Russian settlement which was a branch station of the Russian-American Fur Company, and of which the Czar of Russia was president. This company held a charter from Old Spain authorizing it to establish stations for the purpose of taking furs along the coast near Fort Ross. Their charter having nearly expired, they sold to Sutter nearly everything, including a schooner of twenty tons burthen, forty pieces of cannon, and a lot of old muskets, some or most of which were of those lost by Napoleon I. in his disastrous retreat from Moscow. There were also about two thousand head of cattle, five hundred head of horses, and a few old buildings.
I was now sent by Sutter to Bodega and Fort Ross. My first occupation in California was at these points, taking charge, in conjunction with Robert T. Ridley, who had preceded me there, of the Russian property still remaining, and removing the same as fast as practicable to Sutter's settlement, whither everything was eventually transferred.
In 1843 a company came by land from Oregon, composed partly of immigrants who had arrived in Oregon the year before, having crossed the plains via Fort Boise and Pitt River. They journeyed down the west bank of the Sacramento River into what is now Colusa County, crossing it below the mouth of Stony Creek. I met them shortly afterwards on the Feather River. This party had with them men, two at least, who might be styled "Indian killers," and on the way very frequently fired at Indians seen in the distance. The better portion tried to dissuade them from this uncalled-for conduct, with, however, only partial success. On arriving at the present site of Red Bluff, the company camped early in the day, intending to remain during the night, but broke up camp hastily, owing to the following incident: One of the "Indian killers," seeing an Indian on the opposite side of the river, swam over, carrying a butcher-knife in his mouth. The Indian allowed him to approach till he came very close, but at last ran away. The man with the knife pursued him, threw a stone, and, crippling the Indian, completed his barbarous work by killing him with his knife. The party in camp now fearing Indian retaliation, concluded to travel on. After a few miles an Indian was observed following them, no doubt out of curiosity and not because he had heard of the killing of a member of his tribe a few hours previously. One of the "Indian killers," seeing the opportunity for another murder, hid in the brush till the Indian came up, and shot him. The company continued to travel on the west side of the Sacramento River with more than ordinary haste, feeling very insecure lest the Indians, who were very numerous in the valley at that time, should exhibit hostility on account of what had occurred. One of the encampments, I remember, was near the river, below what is now called Stony Creek, then Capay River, in Colusa County. The Indians, however, came near in considerable numbers, and hence evidently had not heard of the shooting and kniving just mentioned. In the morning, as they were packing up to leave camp, one of the "Indian killers" missed his bridle and, swore the "damned Indians" had stolen it - a most unreasonable thing, since the Indians had no horses and never had. In his rage he fired at an Indian who stood by a tree about one hundred yards distant. The Indian fell back into the brush, while the rest of his frightened companions fled in great haste. The company was again rendered panicky by the blood-thirsty imprudence of the "Indian killer," hastened on their journey, and found the missing bridle in a few minutes under a pile of blankets.
All that day the Indians on the east side of the river manifested great excitement as the company moved along down on the west side. For more than forty miles there was at that time no place where water could be found for the horses to drink, the banks being so steep or so grown up with jungle and grape-vine as to be unapproachable. The day following, however, the company encamped on the spot where Colusa now stands. The excitement among the Indians had now preceded them, and consequently numbers of them swarmed on the opposite side of the river. When the horses were led down to get water, in an almost famished condition, the Indians fired at them with their arrows, but no one was hit or hurt. For some unaccountable reason, when the party arrived at Sutter's place a few days afterwards and reported what had transpired, Sutter came to the conclusion that the Indians who shot arrows across the river were hostile and ought to be punished. Let me say right here that the Indian village then on the site of Colusa was one of the largest in the valley, but there were many other villages in the vicinity on both sides of the river, both above and below the Colus village, and I believe I can truthfully say that the number of Indians within ten miles of this point numbered not less than fifteen or twenty thousand. They lived largely upon fish, mostly salmon, which they caught in great numbers in the river. For the purpose of fishing they had formed a fish-weir some miles above Colusa, by using willow poles, the ends of which had been rounded and sharpened by burning, and then in some manner being made to penetrate the sandy bottom to a depth sufficient to resist the force of the current, and by use of cross-sticks, lashed with grape-vines, the structure formed a bridge not less than eight or ten feet wide for them to pass and repass over it. At this point the river was very wide, the bottom very sandy, and the water not more perhaps than four or five feet deep.
The immigrants told their story at Sutter's place, and some here thought that the Indians where the shooting was done were hostile, but most of them, and the best informed as I thought, did not blame the Indians, in view of previous occurrences. Sutter, however, concluded to punish them, and went, with about fifty men, and attacked the Indian camp at daylight. His forces were divided, a part of them going above and crossing on the Indian bridge. They were ready to begin a simultaneous attack at daybreak. The Indians fled and mostly jumped into the river, where they were fired on, and great numbers of them killed, after which the Indians in that part of the valley were never known to exhibit any purpose of hostility. I do not believe there was sufficient reason to consider them hostile before. At any rate, I remember no offensive act on their part, having occasion to go among them almost a year afterward, twice at least, and once with only five men with me, when we camped all night near a village without any molestation. Two years later, in 1846, I went from Sacramento during the prevalence of a great flood, passing not up the river but over the plains, which were like a sea of waters, and arriving in a canoe near the place where the Indians were killed in 1843, to trade for Indian twine, with which to make seines for taking salmon. No white man was with me, only two Indians to paddle the canoe, and I found the natives perfectly friendly.
I might mention here another fact that might have had some relation to the present county of Colusa. A part of the before mentioned party from Oregon left the main body somewhere about the time, or a little before, it entered the Sacramento Valley, and reached Sutter's Fort some days in advance, and had seen nothing of similar occurrences which caused the campaign against the Indians just described. Among this advance party, in fact its leader, was one L. W. Hastings, a man of great ambition. He was from Ohio, and was afterwards a member of the first Constitutional Convention. His purpose in coming to California was to see the country and write a book to induce a large immigration here, declare the county independent, and of which he should become the first president. It did not take him long to learn that the Mexican Government was in the habit of granting large tracts of land. Not knowing how long it would require to establish here an independent republic, and having an eye to business, he at once took the preliminary steps, with a view of securing a large grant of land of ten or twelve square leagues lying on the west bank of the river between Colusa, and extending from the town towards what is now Knight's Landing. To that end Hastings employed me to make a map of his land, which was to be kept a profound secret. True to his purpose of bringing in immigrants, he made his way across California through Mexico and Texas to the Eastern States. On his way he conferred with Sam Houston, President of Texas, in regard to the aid and encouragement he expected from that source. He was not, however, in the least discouraged. He wrote a book, called the "Emigrant's Guide," of two or three hundred pages, describing, in most glowing terms, the country of California; but it so happened that the accomplishment of his purpose was largely interfered with, owing to the trouble which arose between Mexico and our government, simultaneously with its publication. The book, however, induced six or seven hundred to cross the plains in 1846. Hastings preceded them late in the previous fall to lay the foundations of his republic. Let me give a little incident in the career of this active, ambitious man.
After Hastings had written his book, it was some time before he could raise money with which to publish it. Among other efforts to procure funds he took to delivering temperance lectures in Ohio and adjoining States, and while on his tour became acquainted with a Methodist preacher named McDonald, who rendered him some aid, and thereby became friends. Late in the fall of 1846 Hastings having returned again to California after meeting his immigrants, he arrived at Yerba Buena, now San Francisco, in the midst of a cold rain. His friend, preacher McDonald whom he had never expected to see in California, had preceded him to the bay, and, for want of other employment, was actually attending the only bar in town. Hastings, the temperance lecturer, drenched in a chilling rain went up to this bar, called for some brandy, and poured out a glassful. As he was about to drink it, McDonald, the barkeeper, recognized him, and said, "Why, my temperance friend, how do you do?" Hastings, then recognizing the preacher who had helped him in Ohio, and reaching out his hand, said, "My dear old preacher, I'm glad to see you."
I might say that my first visit in 1843 to Colusa County and beyond was the result of a fortuitous circumstance. I had lost some animals at a place now known as Washington, opposite Sacramento, when I was returning from Bodega to Sutter's Fort. I spent much time in endeavoring to recover them. I had scoured the Sacramento Valley for them, but could hear nothing of them, but heard of something which led to their discovery, viz., that a company had started for Oregon.
I was advised to overtake it. The leaving of a company for Oregon was an event, as I was advised, of sufficient importance to make people look out carefully for their horses. Sutter furnished an Indian to go with me. The company had been gone over a week. Peter Lassen, whose name now attaches to Lassen Peak and Lassen County, happened to be at this time at Sutter's Fort in search of a place to locate a ranch. He joined me to come up the valley for that purpose. At Hock Farm, on Feather River, forty miles from the fort, we took fresh horses, traveling as rapidly as possible. At a place now called Nicholas, on Feather River, a German named Joe Bruheim also joined us. We were on no trail, but simply pushed through the center of the valley. Approaching Butte Creek, we camped for the first time since leaving Hock Farm. Here we had an episode with grizzly bears, which will afford some idea of that region in its natural state.
In the spring of the year the bear's chiefly lived on clover, which grew luxuriantly on the plains, especially in the little depressions on the plains. We first saw one, which made for the timber two or three miles away; soon another, then more, all bounding away to the creek. At one time there were sixteen in the drove. Of course we chased, but had no desire to overtake them; there were too many of them. As we advanced, one, the largest of them all, diverged to the left. I pursued him alone. He was the largest bear I have ever seen; his hair was long and shaggy, and I had the keenest desire to shoot him. I rode almost up to him, but every time I raised the gun to shoot, the horse would commence bucking. My desire to fire into him became so great that it overcame my prudence. I charged as near as I dared and dismounted, intending to give him a shot and mount again before he would get me, but the moment I alighted on the ground, it was all I could do to hold the horse, who jumped and plunged and sawed my hands with the rope. When I could look toward the bear, I found that he had stopped, reared on his hind legs, and was looking toward me and the horse. My hair, I think, stood straight up, and I was delighted when the bear turned and ran. The Indian with us killed a large one, and skinned him, leaving all the fat on him, but the fat was always useful to us in frying our bread, taking the place of lard. Horses and mules are always frightened at bears or with the smell of bears. It was difficult to control the horses; they snorted and tried to get away all night. The next morning I took another lesson in the pastime of chasing a bear, a very large and very swift one. When you chase a bear, you must run by his side and not immediately behind, for if he turns he can catch you more easily if you are directly behind than if you are at his side. I was chasing directly behind, and before I could turn, the bear turned, and was so close that his claws struck my horse's tail. Coming to better ground, I widened the distance between us. As soon as he began turning from me, I made after him, when I heard him plunge into the stream and swim across it. Stationing myself where I could see him when he got across, I waited and saw him as he gained the bank, standing on his hind legs. I shot, and the blood flew out of his nostrils two or three feet high, when he bounded off a hundred yards and fell dead. These scenes were a common occurrence, in fact, almost of hourly occurrence.
Hastening up the valley, we at last struck the trail of the Oregon company, on what is now known as the Rancho Chico, and to me the loveliest of places. The plains were dotted with scattering groves of spreading oak while the clover and wild grasses, three or four feet high, were most luxuriant. The fertility of the soil was beyond question. The water of Chico Creek was cold, clear, and sparkling; the mountains, flower-covered and lovely. In my chase for stolen horses I had come across a country that was to me a revelation. And as I proceeded up the valley, through what was later Colusa County, and beyond it, I was struck with wonder and delight at this almost interminable land of promise.
This was early in March, 1843. It is not easy now to conceive the changed condition of this county caused by the extensive pasturage of horses, cattle, and sheep since I first gazed upon it. We were seldom or never out of sight of game,--deer, elk, antelope, and grizzly bears, - while the snow-capped mountains on either side of the valley, seen through the clear atmosphere of spring, with the plains brilliant with flowers and luxuriant herbage, combined to lend both romance and enchantment to one's surroundings. We were now on the trail of the Oregon company, which lay on the east side of the Sacramento River. The streams flowing into it, with the exception of Butte Creek, had not at that time been named, so I had the rare good-fortune to name them. Seeing some Sabine pine on the stream where we camped, it was dubbed Pine Creek. The next stream we came to was beautiful and clear, and flowed swiftly from the mountains with considerable force. On its banks appeared numerous deer, seemingly in droves, and so we named it Deer Creek. The next flowing stream, ten or twelve miles, having a greater fall where we crossed it, suggested its value as a water-power, and hence received the appellation of Mill Creek. Further on, the next stream of living water presented to our view not only its well-timbered borders but expanses of fertile and grassy plains, over which roamed innumerable herds of antelope, and hence it was named for that magnificent wild creature.
Crossing Antelope Creek, and following on the trail of the Oregon party, we came to the Sacramento River opposite the present site of Red Bluff. Here we found the company had crossed the river and were encamped on the opposite bank. As they had no wagons, they had swum their animals across, a feat of no little difficulty, for the river here was deep and swollen, swift and very cold. With simply a small hatchet, scarcely larger than a tomahawk, I set about making a raft to cross on, which was no easy task to construct out of dry willow, brush, and such dead sticks as we could secure. At last it was completed, being barely sufficient to bear me above the water.
However, to insure a dry passage, a second story was built on it, consisting of dry brush tied securely, resembling in size a small load of hay. Fearing I could not manage it alone, I persuaded a wild Indian to get on it with me. He consented with great reluctance, but a few beads and a cotton handkerchief were so tempting as to be irresistible. The only thing I had to propel the raft with was a couple of willow poles, and none proving long enough to reach the bottom when we got into the middle of the river, we had to use them as paddles. We were high and dry when we started, but the displacement of the water by the brush was so little and the material became so quickly waterlogged that the frail raft was soon under water. The swift current carried us so swiftly down that it was with great difficulty we got over at all, but we finally made the other side, nearly two miles below. Most of the time we had been up to our arms in cold water, and only knew by the brush under us that we were on the raft at all. If ever men labored for their lives, we did. Safely on land, I soon found my way to the Oregon camp, leaving Peter Lassen and the others of my party on the opposite side of the river. In the Oregon camp I found several who had crossed the plains with me in 1841, notably Ben Kelsey, Andrew Kelsey and Dawson, generally called Bear Dawson, from a circumstance in the Rocky Mountains. I at once made known the object of my visit - to find my mule and horse. These men at once declared that if these animals were there and I could identify them, I should have them, but nearly all protested there were no such animals there. It was now agreed that all their horses and mules should be driven up for my inspection. As a result, I soon discovered my animals, and demanded their surrender. There was some opposition to this but Ben Kelsey, a very resolute man, and on this occasion a very useful friend, declared stoutly that I should have them. All opposition being now withdrawn, the animals were driven to the river and made to swim across. And now having accomplished my object, we at once set out on our return journey.
I have already mentioned Peter Lassen as being of our party. Peter was a singular man, very industrious, very ingenious, and very fond of pioneering - in fact, of the latter stubbornly so. He had great confidence in his own power as a woodsman, but, strangely enough, he always got lost. As we passed Butte Mountain going south, our route of course lay between the Sacramento and Feather Rivers. The point we wished to reach that night was Sutter's Hock Farm, on Feather River. Night had overtaken us when some fifteen miles from it. Peter Lassen insisted on keeping the lead. Our Indian vaquero, however, who knew the country well in that vicinity, pointed to the eastward as the way we should go. Lassen, however, could not be persuaded to diverge to the east, and finally at midnight we concluded to tell him he must go to the east or we would leave him. But this had no effect on Lassen; he kept on to the south, while we, following the Indian, came to the farm. The only place Lassen could reach was the intervening tule marsh. Now if you have any curiosity to observe a man's humor after being in a tule swamp full of mosquitoes all night, you ought to have seen Peter Lassen. The next morning, when he came to camp at Hock Farm, he was so mad he would not speak to any of us; would not travel in the same path, but kept a hundred yards to either side of us all day. I think he never forgot nor forgave us. Still he was a man possessed of many good qualities. He was always obliging in camp. He was a good cook and would do any and everything necessary to the comfort of the camp, even to the making of coffee, provided those traveling with him would pretend to assist. If they did not offer to aid him, they became the target for the best style of grumbling that any man born in Denmark was capable of inventing. Of course, everyone would offer to assist him, and that is all one had to do, for then Lassen was sure to drive him away, and do everything himself, even to staking the tent. On our return from the trip, I sketched, as best I could, the country visited, laying down and naming the streams as I have already stated.
My second trip, which was somewhat in the nature of an exploration, through Colusa County and around it, was made in the summer of 1844. his is how it came about. Thomas O. Larkin was a prominent American at that time in California, to which he came as early as 1832. He was consul and navy agent of the United States Government, and a patriot in every sense. He resided in Monterey, and had a large store there, perhaps the largest in California at that period. His wife was the only American woman at that time in California, except Mrs. Kelsey, who came in our party across the plains. Larkin's children were also American born, and he wished to obtain for them from the Mexican Government a grant of land of ten or twelve square leagues. For this purpose I engaged to find him a suitable tract, and began my explorations about the first of July, 1844. I ascended the valley on the west side of the Sacramento River as far as the present town of Colusa, having with me only one man, and he an Indian, who had been civilized at the Mission San Francisco de Solano, in Sonoma Valley. My first encampment hereabouts was on a slough some miles west of Colusa. Before reaching camp I had killed a large grizzly bear, and carried with me the only part fit to eat - the foot. The next day we went directly west across a large plain. It was a hot, terrifically hot day, and we found no water in our march, except toward night, and this was so salty that neither ourselves nor our animals could drink it, so we were obliged to sleep without water. [This evidently was the salt lake on Peter Peterson's farm, near the present town of Sites, where J. P. Rathbun is now manufacturing salt.-Author.] We observed many deserted Indian villages, which had been abandoned because the springs had dried up. I should here mention the fact that the summer of 1844 was an exceptionally dry one, because the previous winter had been almost rainless. We were in the saddle by daylight, making our way toward the high mountains that lay to the southwest, feeling sure of finding water there. About ten or eleven o'clock in the morning, from the top of a ridge we beheld the grateful sight of a large, clear, flowing stream. We reached it as soon as possible, and our nearly famished horses were soon plunged into the middle of it. At the same time we observed large numbers of Indians, men, women, and children, in a state of flight, running and screaming. Unsaddling our horses under a widespreading oak, they began eating the wild oats which grew in abundance around them, and were here obliged to give them rest. In less than an hour the Indians whom we had seen fleeing from us, that is, the men, were discovered coming toward us from many directions. The Indian who accompanied me became greatly alarmed. I had a gun with me, but he had none. By certain signs we gave them to understand that they must not approach us, but still large numbers came closer and very near. We saddled our horses, jaded as they were, so as to be ready if obliged to retreat. Four or five of the Indians, chiefs or head men, I have no doubt, came nearer than the others. We tried to converse in Spanish, but they understood not a word of it. My Indian, who came originally from the country between Sonoma and Clear Lake, was able to understand a few words spoken by a very old Indian. They asked what I came for. They said they had never seen a white man before. Here I felt obliged to show them what I could do, by exhibiting to them what I had done, so I pointed to the bear's foot which I had with me, and told them I wanted to kill grizzly bears - the grizzly being regarded by the valley Indians, and I thought by those of the Coast Range, with superstitious awe. They regarded these animals as people, but very bad people, and I have known Indians to claim that some of their old men could go out in the night and talk with the bears. I told them I did not want to kill Indians, because I considered them good people, but bears I regarded as very bad people.
Under the circumstances I concluded it prudent to mount our horses and go on, we following the beautiful stream down, that is to say almost due north, knowing that it must find its way into the Sacramento Valley. To our surprise, the number of Indians increased to many hundreds. In half a day we passed seventeen large villages. They had evidently come from their permanent villages and made their temporary homes by this fresh, flowing stream. These Indians certainly proved anything but hostile; they were evidently in great awe of us, but showed no signs of displeasure. There were hundreds before and behind us, and villages were made aware of our coming before we reached them. I generally found the ground carpeted with branches and made ready for me as a place to stop at and be interviewed. The women would here run in great haste and bring baskets of all kinds of provisions, apparently to pacify me, supposing, perhaps, that I was hungry and had come to lay in a supply of food. In fact, their consideration for me was so great that I found myself barricaded with baskets full of acorn bread, grasshoppers, various kinds of seeds, etc. Among them I observed a kind of meal made by pounding the cone or berries of the juniper, which made a sort of yellowish flour, very good, and in taste somewhat resembling gingerbread. The Indian name for it I remember was mun.
The sun was beginning to go down, and we were still traveling in the midst of a vast multitude of Indians, every village sending out large deputations and swelling their numbers. The old Indian before mentioned I took care to keep near me, so that through him I might communicate with the others. I should have mentioned before that at our first talk with these aborigines, I had tried to present the chiefs with a few beads and a fancy cotton handkerchief, articles always carried as peace offerings or tokens of friendship among the Indians, and much prized by them. Seeing a conical hill, I determined to make it my camp for the night [General Bidwell here describes the high hill just east of the present town of Elk Creek - Author.]. I now told the old Indian that I was going there to sleep, and that his people must all go to their villages and not come near me during the night, as it would make me very angry if they approached me after dark. Careful to obey this injunction, the Indians scattered to their villages and were soon all out of sight.
We then barricaded the top of the hill as best we could, by piling rocks around, and then tied the horses near us. My Indian companion lay awake half the night and I the other half in keeping guard, but not an Indian approached us, for we had a full view in every direction from the position of our camp. Soon after daybreak the mountains seemed fairly alive with Indians. Thinking it best to continue my journey down stream, I passed by, as before, many large villages, and at noon came to the largest of all, and it was a permanent one. [This was undoubtedly on what is now I. W. Brownell's farm, where evidence remains of a large Indian village, with sweat-house and burying-ground.-Author.] Here the Indians had built a large dance-house in the usual Indian fashion, using long poles for rafters, it being nearly circular in form, and were finishing it by covering it with earth in the usual way. Here, for the first and only time in my life, I saw that the Indians had procured poles for the rafters of the house by cutting down cottonwood and willow trees with stone axes, leaving the stumps a mass of bruised, fibrous material, resembling a well-worn broom. They appeared to be bruised down rather than cut. This was on the fourth day of July, 1844. It seemed to be a gala day with the Indians, or else they made it so for my especial benefit. Male and female were attired in their gayest costumes, consisting chiefly of ornaments, such as feathers, beads, and shells, and, to cap the climax, to round up the day's festivities they got up the gayest and largest dance, accompanied by not unmusical chants, I ever saw or heard. I still continued to carry with me the bear's foot, thinking it best through it to make my new acquaintances believe that my errand among them was to kill bears. They asked me what I killed them with, and I told them with my gun; then they wanted me to shoot, but this I declined to do, not wishing to frighten them. The stream I have just mentioned proved to be what is now Stony Creek. Its Indian name was Capay, and by this name it went till Peter Lassen and Wm. C. Moon made grind-stones on one of its branches, after which it took its name. Lassen and Moon and an Indian fighter named Merritt made their grind-stones late in 1845, and, taking them in a canoe, disposed of them at Sutter's and in San Francisco. They were the first manufactured article turned out of what is now Colusa County. On July 5 , or the next day after the big Indian dance I have just spoken of, I reached the Sacramento River, and met Edward A. Farwell, with two canoes. He was coming up to begin the occupancy of a grant located on the east side of the river and south of Chico Creek. Thomas Fallon was also with him. Finding no considerable extent of level land in the mountains, I mapped out the Larkin grant on the Sacramento River above Colusa. This was on July 6, 1844. On my return to Sutter's Fort, and on my describing the country I had seen and the streams in the Coast Range Mountains, some trappers thought it would be a country to catch beaver in. A man by the name of Jack Myers raised a company of twenty or more men and went to trap. The first thing they did, however, was to become alarmed at the great bodies of Indians, and, regarding them as hostile, they, without proper cause, made war upon the natives, killing a great many of them. I asked them why they shot down the Indians who had been so friendly with me. They said they made a great noise, wore white feathers in their head-dress, or caps, and these they considered evidences of hostile preparations. Jack Myers said. "When you see an Indian wearing a white feather, shoot him!" I told him that they ran and screamed and wore white feathers when I was there, but none of them showed any signs of evil intent. I was sorry they felt obliged to kill them. The party caught some beaver, but not many, because of the Indians. I should have mentioned that before the party started to trap for beaver, I made another trip to Colusa County, going up on the east and returning on the west side of the river. I had five or six white men with me, and during that time we explored to some extent the north or west fork of Stony Creek, and saw some Indians, but found them friendly. I recall now the names of a few of these tribes, but there were many times more of them which I have forgotten. I remember the Willy, Colus, Copte, Duc Duc, Chary, and Sohole, while as to the number of Indians in Colusa County at that time, 1844, there could not have been less than ten thousand.
Peter Lassen started in the fall of 1843 to take possession of his ranch on Deer Creek, which was the first place mapped out and settled upon north of Sutter's Fort, but did not reach his future abode till January or February, 1844, the heavy rains detaining him at Butte Mountains, or Marysville Buttes, as they are generally called now. Nearly all the large grants of land made by the Mexican Government were conferred in that year, and it was also in 1844 that nearly all the settlements thereunder were either begun or were contemplated, but there were many interruptions and obstacles in those days, the chief of which was the insurrection which resulted in the expulsion of the Mexican Governor, Manuel Micheltorena, in February, 1845. The Larkin's children's grant, which I had selected, was first located on by John S. Williams, who was employed by Larkin for that purpose, and was stocked with cattle and horses. I met him there in 1847. He remained there nearly two years, and left some time in 1848, C. B. Sterling taking his place. In these days of early land concessions and settlement, I remember most of those Americans who were prominent by their activity in endeavoring to make homes. Bryant, whose Christian name has escaped my memory, was the first settler in Colusa County, and was located at the mouth of Stony Creek; John S. Williams was the second, and lived on what is now the John Boggs ranch. Chas. B. Sterling, who took Williams' place in managing the Larkin grant, was the next, and Frank Sears and Granville P. Swift followed, they locating on Stony Creek, on the south side, in, I think, the year 1847. Swift and Sears held no grant from the Mexican Government, but they grew prosperous by taking a number of the Stony Creek Indians over to the Feather River mines and working them very cheap. John S. Williams, whom I have several times mentioned, built the first house in Colusa County. This was in 1846, and was built for Thomas O. Larkin on his children's grant. What is now the town site of Colusa and a good deal more land once belonged to me, for in 1845 I received a grant of two square leagues, which included that present thriving place.