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19th century farmers and ranchmen of Bidwell

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especially in Fort Bidwell!
The families who stayed eventually intermarried

Camp Bidwell > Fort Bidwell

During the influx of settlers and the driving out of Native tribes, Bidwell began as a military outpost and fort positioned to help protect ranchers and farmers along the immigrant trail. After a brief period of ascendancy, Ft. Bidwell's development stalled. The town never grew into a well-settled region. Today it lacks more than a few hundred permanent residents.

~• about the military post: "Fort Bidwell was commissioned in 1865, and was decommissioned in 1893."
1868 April 14," Fort Bidwell was a 4th class post office established near the military outpost in originally Siskiyou County in the far northern corner of Surprise Valley. The P O became located in Modoc County with the creation of that county 1874 February 17. Named for John Bidwell of Chico, Butte County and other northern California historical involvements. The mail came from Reno, Nevada, 200 miles SE. Mail came from Alturas, California, in 1876, which is 47 miles SW."

These are some of the hardy original white settlers who came during the influx of peoples of European origin.


This area was first settled in the mid 1860s. Associations between the pioneering families who first came to this area were strengthened and confirmed by marriage. This project associates the early property owners, the census data, Ft. Bidwell cemetery records and other sources.
As with many projects, please add GENi profiles of those who lived here during this era

On the 1887 map and/or the 1900 census (Alphabetized)

the farm number refers to their sequential enumeration in the 1900 Census of Ft. Bidwell (see note 1)
a "√ " means the surname appears on the 1887 map

  • Irvin Ayres of New York farmed to the west of Upr. Alkali Lake
    • First Postmaster of Camp Bidwell (Apr 14 1868)
    • merchant, brother-in-law of a (later) Governor of Nevada
  • Farms # 69,70,71 √ John Baty {and others} b. Ohio Sep 1840 ; farmer
  • Farm #91 √ Pardon Brown b. Cal. Apr 1870; farm labor
    • single
    • farmer
    • born in Surprise Valley to his father who was also named Pardon Brown
  • Joseph Burns b. Ireland Mar 1819; retired; lived with the merchant Irvin Ayers (1870 census)
    • owns land on map but no farm number; single
  • James Edward Calderwood who married Mary Jane Foster and had seven children, six of which were still alive in 1900
    • findagrave for scion
    • 1875 voter reg. states he was a miner of Maine
    • miner in 1885
    • Kelderwood in the 1870 census of Surprise Valley; one of the few settlers actually born in California..
  • Farm # 97 Robert Rural Chester (1900 census) living {next door? to} Paul Lieberman
    • but not on 1887 map as he came a decade or so later
  • Farm # 104 √ Hugh Conlan Anne McManness Conlan is the widow in 1900; Hugh a blacksmith, is on the 1880 census
    • son Edward W. is head of house ; farmer and stock raiser
    • Ann Conlan died in 1923
    • WALTER S DECIOUS to NELLIE CONLAN. Both of Fort Bidwell. ... EDWARD G. PETERSON to SUSIE L. BATY. ... (Family Genealogy)
  • Jacob Coombes b. Iowa Dec 1838 (widowed by 1900) miner of quartz
    • an engineer in 1885
    • farm in 1900
    • his parcel shown on 1887 map is next to Fee property by modern Rt. 7
    • the brother of Mrs. Martha Fee, for her maiden name is Combes (see 1850 census Iowa>Jefferson> Cedar
      • son of Sam'l and Delilah
    • died Davis Creek in May, 1927, buried in Bidwell
    • photo
  • Noah Clough (b. 1818 in Maine -1893 Ft. Bidwell) ;
    • findagrave
    • 1860 famer in Mt. Shasta CA (see 1860 census)
    • 1875 voter reg. states he was a farmer, age 51 of the USA
    • 1885 farmer
    • 160 acres by March 3, 1877: Desert Land Act (19 Stat. 377);
      • Mount Diablo Meridian O46N O16E ; Accession Number: CACAAA 069649
    • brother? Albion Clough, dealer in general merchandise (1870 United States Federal Census for Albion Clough ; California Siskiyou Surprise Valley)
  • √ Walter Decious (1873 - 1896) m. Conlan ) ~• ?Dau. of Hugh?
  • Adam Hoops Disabel
    • 1875 voter re.: age 45 New York farmer
    • in Bidwell as early as 1870 (census) 1870 United States Federal Census = California, Siskiyou, Surprise Valley
  • Elisha Dodson b.c. 1839 in TN;
  • Farm # 85 √ James Fee b. Ireland July 1837 ; stock raiser next to Paul Lieberman
  • √ Pat Horan 160 acres south of town stradling the county road
  • Farm #83 √ Henry Givan ; wife Phebe ; farmers from Indiana: 4 children
    • Co B 33rd Iowa Inf: died Napa 1912
  • Hudson O. Jopp b. Ohio Jan 1836 ; the county assessor
  • Farm # 96 √ Paul Lieberman b. Germany Apr 1827 ; primarily a shoemaker but had 160 acres of farm land east of town
    • abandoned wife and children (of Philadelphia) just after end of Civil War
    • widower and US Army pensioner (1st US Cav. Indian Wars). Was in 3 Civil War regiments
    • account of his life on GENi
  • Martin McConnaughy
    • 1875 voter reg.: age 32 farmer from Ohio
    • brother of Robert (below); single man, adjoining properties on 1887 map
  • Farm #84 √ Robert Franklin McConnaughy b. Ohio Sep 1838 ; farmer
    • family = wife Mattie (née Rasmussen?) b. Germany and 4 of 6 children (2 died by 1900)
    • McConnaughy families had land holdings in 1870
    • 1875 voter reg.: afe 35 farmer from Ohio
    • see 1880 census for Ft Bidwell dwelling 290
  • Farm #93 √ Hugh McManus of Ireland (1840-1920)
    • married Margaret Meehan in 1881; two children by 1900 census
    • 1888 vot. reg.: age 46; Ireland; farmer
  • Farm # 86 √ Marshall E. Munroe farmer; widow Sarah b. Apr 1850 ; son is head of farm in 1900
    • family Marshall dec'd?; 4 chil. of Sarah (6 of 7 are alive in 1900)
    • Sarah died and buried Feb 1902
    • ~there are four Munroe family buried at Ft. Bidwell cemetery
  • William Olley
    • 1888 voter reg.: age 38 farmer from England
    • 160 acres adjoin. Paul Lieberman ; not on the 1900 census
  • Farm #95 √ Peter Peterson = large ranch extending east from town "stock raiser" in 1900
  • Farm #88 √ Edward P. Sessions, born in Wisc., parents from VT ; farm by the lake; stock raiser
    • born Dec 1853, married to Melissa (b. Jan 1860) 5 children, 2 living in 1900 {Cora and Ora}
  • John Henry Tonningsen immigrant farmer living near or next to Paul Lieberman in 1880
    • 1880 census includes: J.H. (60); 'Kasn. female (55); Ida 14
    • 1888 voter reg. includes: J.H. (69); Nis Peter (32); Asmus Frederick (26) of Germany
    • Prussian? (probably Danish) family naturalized in Alturas, CA Nov 7 1879
  • Charles F. Volkman (or Valkman)'
    • 1875 voter reg.: 38 year old German farmer
    • burial at Bidwell cem.: Volkman William H. Jan. 11, 1877 Nov. 8, 1893 Son of C.L.F. & A. Volkman
  • Farm #28 √ Warren Bibear Whittemore b. Maine Jan 1842 (widower) ; farmer
    • or Warren Bibber Whittemore (on 1898 voter reg) ; 5' 10"; light, blue, grey; age 59; wid.; b. Maine


  2. U.S., Selected Federal Census Non-Population Schedules, 1850-1880; California Agriculture 1880 Modoc Lake City
  6. Modoc County Deaths
  7. California, Voter Registers, 1866-1898 • Modoc 1875-1898 (use ancestry dot com)
  8. Modoc Business Directory 1885
  9. A Collective History of the Early Years of Settlement in Surprise Valley by Tami Grove (1977)
  10. Ft. Bidwell cemetery listings
  11. "The Awakening of Modoc" published in 1908 : Alturas, 1908; Meriam Library. California State University, Chico


  5. Modoc County Historical Society, 600 South Main Street, Alturas, California, 96101; 530-233-2944
    1. e-mail: ; web:
  8. Indian Day Celebration honoring Fort Bidwell Indian Boarding School Elders each October
  10. Fort Bidwell Indian Community
  12. Eagleville Saloon 13750 County Rd. 1, Eagleville, CA, 96110 : (310) 463-0311 :
  13. Fort Bidwell Hotel Newell brothers ‭(530) 708-1070‬


  • Kober's Drygoods, Ft. Bidwell, California: A brief history Unknown Binding – 1984 by Tam Moore (Author) {g for relative?:} Kathleen Moore in Ft, Bidwell 530-279-2385
  • Surprise Valley: A Collective History of Its Early Years of Settlement by Tami Grove
  • "Mostly Alkali", published by Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho in 1953, written by General Jocelyn's son, Stephen Perry Jocelyn (title may refer to Upper Alkali Lake)
  • "An Army Wife's Forty Years in the Service, 1862-1902," by Elizabeth Burt, wife of Andrew Sheridan Burt, commander at Ft. Bidwell.


    1. Modoc War
    2. "Modoc County is a land which the Indians called “The Smiles of God” and so intense was their love for this land of ragged lava plateaus, fertile valleys and towering mountains that many hundreds of these aboriginal inhabitants defended it to their death against the invasion of the white man. Because of those fierce Indian wars between 1848 and 1911, this area was once referred to as the Bloody Ground of the Pacific."
  3. Ft. Bidwell Cemetery Records
  4. Lake City Cemetery Records
  5. Modoc County Births - a compilation of 19th and 20th century births. Includes prominent Bidwell surnames such as Baty, Conlan


  • note 1: The 1900 census numbers the identified farms beginning with #1 through #9 on page one but then there is a gap in the counting. Page two skips ahead to #44 - #53 for some unknown reason; Page 3 (another gap) #67 - # 72; Page 4: (only #73); Page 5: (none) Page 6: #75 - #84; Page 7: #85 - #92; Page 8: #93 - #100; page 9: #101 - #109; Page 10: (none).
    • the significance is that the cumulative totals from each page 10 + 6 + 1 + 10 + 8 + 8 + 9 = 52 total farm properties in Ft. Bidwell district in 1900 > a rather small number
    • the 1888 voter reg. list for the whole county is at: {California, Voter Registers, 1866-1898 Modoc 1875-1898} (only men could vote); There were 1563 individuals. Of these 57 were farmers from Bidwell precinct. 57 compares favorably with the 52 counted in 1900.
  • It was the water that was the key to Surprise Valley's success. It seems t be almost gone today
  • a word on Modoc County: "William T. Cressler is also prominent in the region’s history. Called the “Father of Modoc County,” he was elected to the California Assembly in 1874 and introduced a bill to divide Siskiyou County into two counties. According to (Tami) Grove, he proposed the new county be named Canby County, after the U.S. Army general killed in the Modoc War. Opponents suggested Modoc, believing the bill would die because of persisting hostile feelings against Modoc Indians. Cressler and others accepted the name, however, and the bill passed.

Go there

  1. < has modern photos
  2. Eagleville Saloon 13750 County Rd. 1; Eagleville, California 96110 (310) 463-0311 (on facebook; has 100s of old photos)


In 1935 Felix Allen wrote this for the Suprise Valley Record. REMINISENCES OF AN EARLY SURPRISE VALLEY PIONEER Come back with me to Surprise Valley, as it was fifty years ago. Fort Bidwell was the town of most importance. Two troops of Cavalry and one Company of "doughboys" under command of Major A. S. Burt*, U. S. A., were stationed at Bidwell. The town had four stores, one owned and managed by A. C. Lowell, is still there and flourishing under the management of his son, Chester. The store now owned by Henry Kober was run by J. W. Poore until 1888. He was elected County Clerk and Dr. George M. Kober and D. P. Browne bought the store. The John M. Sanders store burned down in 1885 and B. Lachman, moved himself and stock of goods to Reno in 1894. Three hotels operate, one by Jopp & Tonninson, (burned down in 1890), one by Mrs. Ford and the Cosmopolitan, (still there) and owned by James Williams. Two blacksmith and wagon shops owned by John Kafader and the VanCoughnet brothers; Jacob Messner and J. E. Calderwood owned saloons; and Max Fulcher had a brewery. John Bucher owned a flourmill that was kept busy for nine or ten months in the year. Reno was the nearest railroad and all freight for the valley was hauled from there on wagons. The trip required from twenty-three to thirty days. A toll house at Buffalo Meadows collected fifty cents a span for teams and fifty cents each for wagons. Another station at round Hole, Nevada, collected also, but only half as much as Buffalo. Fifty years ago, Bidwell was supply station to the most substantial lot of farmers that ever helped a town to live. They were the McConnaughy brothers, Peter Peterson, Edward Conlan, Noah Clough, Hugh McManus, James and Robert Fee, M. E. Munroe, Ed Sessions, John and David Baty, Charles Venning and A. H. Disabel, Charles Valkman, George Freeman, Pat Horan and F. K. Smith. One Justice and one constable cared for the legal needs of each Supervisor District. Thomas Rinn was J. P. and Ball Bowen**, Constable of district one. The Supervisors did not get a salary as now, but per diem and mileage. They held four regular meetings a year, instead of twelve, hence only one third as much damage to the country was accomplished and we weathered the depression of '93 without assistance from the N. R. A.

Note: "A.S.Burt" is Andrew Sheridan Burt (1839-1915) ; see

Note: Ball Bowen is perhaps Asa W. Bowen (b. 1840 in Indiana)