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As It Was: Blacksmith William J. Bidwell Becomes Prominent Citizen

In 1852, eight-year-old William J. Bidwell emigrated with his family from Wisconsin to California. They first settled at Horsetown in Shasta County. The father, John Bidwell, mined during the winter of 1852, became a blacksmith and wagon maker, and in 1858 moved the family to a 160-acre farm in western Shasta County.

The Bidwell family moved three years later to Shasta (present-day Old Shasta), where the father resumed blacksmithing. William learned the trade from his father and opened his own shop in Millville and later with his brother in Burney Valley.

William and Mary A. Harrington married in 1871. They had five children.

The brothers sold their business and purchased 600 acres of land where they raised horses and cattle and had an apple orchard.  William did some placer mining, for a while extracting as much as $50 worth of gold a day.

Voters elected William in 1888 to the Shasta County Board of Supervisors, which oversaw the construction of a courthouse and jail, new roads, and bridges.  William also served as a school trustee and was a prominent member of the International Order of Odd Fellows.

Source: “Memorial & Biographical History of Northern California.” Shasta County Biographies, edited by Christine Helmick, Shasta Historical Society. www.cagenweb.com/shasta/bios/bidwellwmj.html. Accessed 18 Aug. 2017.

Gail Fiorini-Jenner is a writer and teacher. Her first novel "Across the Sweet Grass Hills", won the 2002 WILLA Literary Award. She co-authored four histories with Arcadia Publishing: Western Siskiyou County: Gold & Dreams, Images of the State of Jefferson, The State of Jefferson: Then & Now, which placed in the 2008 Next Generation Awards for Nonfiction and Postcards from the State of Jefferson.