Pioneer Annie Bidwell of Chico

She was tiny–less than five feet tall–but determined and confident. In April 1868 she married tall John Bidwell, a prominent California pioneer 20 years her senior, and took charge of his three-story, 26 room mansion at Rancho del Arroyo Chico. Their home, complete with gas lighting, 19th century modern plumbing and water systems, became the social and cultural center of the upper Sacramento Valley. Concerned for the future of the local Mechoopda, Annie was active in state and national Indian associations. She was also an amateur botanist who found, in the acreage around her home, the first specimen of a small annual plant subsequently named Bidwell’s knotweed. Born Annie Ellicott Kennedy in 1839, she grew up to be a firm teetotaler dedicated to the temperance movement, an active supporter of women’s suffrage, and a devout Presbyterian who commissioned the building of today’s Bidwell Memorial Presbyterian Church, completed in 1909. Thirteen years before her death in 1918, Annie Bidwell donated some 2,240 acres for a park in Chico, the city her husband founded. Today the Bidwell Mansion is a State Historic Park open to the public.

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6 thoughts on “Pioneer Annie Bidwell of Chico”

    1. She led an interesting life, for sure! Visit your library or bookstore (and Amazon) for more detail about Annie Bidwell: Lois McDonald’s biography “Annie Kennedy Bidwell” and published collections of letters written by Annie and her husband John.

  1. Annie (Ellicott Kennedy) Bidwell was my 2x great grandfather’s sister. Annie’s brother was Andrew Ellicott Kennedy. In looking for information about Andrew Ellicott Kennedy and his wife, Margaret Bain Kennedy, I happened upon this family connection just recently. It was, of course, a BIG surprise! I wonder if you might have some resource to point me toward learning about Annie and Andrew’s early lives, which apparently were spent in Washington, DC. Andrew Kennedy’s wife, Margaret Bain, is one relative about whom I have little information, even though my father remembered her living with his family in Oakland as a very old woman. I heard from my father that Andrew Kennedy died in the Civil War in Libby Prison, leaving behind Margaret and their two children, one of whom was my great-grandmother. There is much information about the Bidwells, so I hope that in amongst that information is some about Annie’s brother Andrew and his family. Perhaps you have some suggestions, for which I would be very grateful. Thank you, Martha A.

    1. Hi Martha, what an interesting family history! Have you seen the book “Annie Bidwell: An Intimate History” by Lois Halliday McDonald? It has been awhile since I’ve read it so I can’t remember if it says anything about Andrew, but worth a try. You also might contact the Bidwell Mansion State Park in Chico.

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