Paul Roberts, editor
In the summer of 1879, John Bidwell received a letter from renowned Harvard botanist and friend, Asa Gray, asking about job prospects for his nephew on Rancho Chico. Bidwell responded to Gray with a letter dated October 14, 1879 stating that he was willing to hire the nephew. George M. Gray arrived in Chico on 15 December 1879 and began work on Rancho Chico on 3 January 1880.
The value of his recollections rest on these first-person observations. Gray spent many hours talking and working with the Bidwells. For ten years he worked, traveled, dined, and worshiped with the Bidwells. He drove their wagons, accompanied them on trips to San Francisco and Sacramento, and dined frequently at the Mansion with their distinguished and not-so-distinguished guests.
Gray's decade-long employment on Rancho Chico and his friendship with the Bidwells offers a unique and valuable insight into the lives of John and Annie Bidwell as well as the workings of Rancho Chico. Here we find John Bidwell has a keen sense of humor and is an accomplished storyteller. Annie, we find, has a temper.
Many of the reminiscences are simply stories of life on the Rancho that often have a humorous side to them. Other recollections detail the senseless violence directed at the Chinese population of Chico and arson attacks directed at Rancho Chico because of Bidwell's employment of Chinese laborers.
George Moses Gray: His Reminiscences of the Life and Times of John Bidwell
George Moses Gray's reminiscences are an important contribution not only to the history of the Bidwells and the town of Chico but to the history of California as well. His eyewitness accounts of the life and times of General John Bidwell provide a rare and unique insight into the character of this important California pioneer. Thanks to George Moses Gray, we have a fuller and better understanding of the founding father of Chico.