John Bidwell (August 5, 1819- April 4, 1900) was known throughout California and across the nation as an important pioneer, farmer, soldier, statesman, politician and philanthropist. He is famous for leading one of the first emigrant parties along the California Trail. He was the founder of Chico, California.
He was born in Chautauqua County, New York. The Bidwell family moved to Erie, Pennsylvania in 1829, and then to Ashtabula County, Ohio in 1831.
In 1841 Bidwell became one of the first emigrants on the California Trail. John Sutter employed Bidwell as his business manager shortly after Bidwell's arrival in California. Shortly after the James W. Marshall's discovery at Sutter's Mill, Bidwell discovered gold on the Feather River establishing a productive claim at Bidwell Bar in advance of the California Gold Rush. Bidwell obtained Spanish land grant in the Sacramento Valley, later selling that grant to establish a ranch and farm on Chico Creek. Bidwell obtained the rank of major while fighting in the Mexican-American War. He served in the California Senate in 1849, supervised the census of California in 1850 and again in 1860. He was a delegate to the 1860 national convention of the Democratic Party. He was appointed brigadier general of the California Militia in 1863. He was a delegate to the national convention of the Republican Party in 1864 and was a Republican member of Congress from 1865-1867.
His wife, Annie Bidwell, was the daughter of a socially prominent, high ranking Washington official. She was deeply religious, and committed to a number of moral and social causes. Annie was very active in the suffrage and prohibition movements.
The Bidwells were married April 16, 1868 in Washington, D.C. with then President Andrew Johnson and future President Ulysses S. Grant among the guests. Upon arrival in Chico, the Bidwells used their mansion extensively for entertainment of friends. Some of the guests that visited Bidwell Mansion were President Rutherford B. Hayes, General William T. Sherman, Susan B. Anthony, Frances Willard, Governor Leland Stanford, John Muir, Joseph Dalton Hooker and Asa Gray.
In 1875 he ran for Governor of California on the Anti-Monopoly Party ticket. As a strong advocate of the temperance movement, he presided over the Prohibition Party state convention in 1888 and was the Prohibition candidate for governor in 1880.
In 1892, he was the Prohibition Party candidate for President of the United States. The Bidwell/Cranfill ticket received 271,058 votes, or 2.3ationwide. It was the largest total vote and highest percentage of the vote received by any Prohibition Party national ticket.