Sunday, September 4, 2011


Day two of our Northern California state park road trip found us at the William B. Ide Adobe State Historic Park in Red Bluff. Before I say any more about this absolutely charming park, I want to clarify that William Ide - the first and only "president" of California - actually never lived on this property, but rather a little further down the Sacramento River. For a few decades there was confusion on this matter, and in 1960 the restored adobe was dedicated as a state historic park in honor of Ide’s feisty contri-butions to California’s history, and his strong influence in the Red Bluff area. As the brochure states right at the top, this adobe was built by A. M. Dibble, and occupied through 1949, changing hands at least twenty times.

Patty, Roxy and I had a leisurely morning at the motel, knowing that William Ide SHP didn’t open until 10:00am. A mere one mile off of Interstate 5 made it a five minute trip.

The shaded picnic grounds right next to the Sacramento River were a welcome site as we pulled into the parking lot. We were after all, in Red Bluff, where summer shade has a high premium.

We entered thel visitor’s center/museum and were greeted by several friendly and very enthusiastic staff members. These people clearly adore their park and were more than happy to chat with us about each and every question we had, including our detailed inquiries about the local plant life. It was here we met the ranger who doubled her responsibilities with Woodson Bridge SRA. When we had visited Woodson Bridge the day before, there had been no ranger or brochures. She has to split her time between the two parks, a scenario we would find increasingly common in our travels. She happily photo-copied a brochure of Woodson Bridge and gave it to us. Nice!

The young staff member behind the counter was to be heading off to college shortly, but as a high school student, she had already written and acquired a grant for William B. Ide Adobe, enabling the park to purchase costumes for their frequest historic re-enactments.

Once we crossed the bridge, we were informed that we were entering the year of 1850. Here, costumed docents spend their days teaching fourth grade students skills for surviving the rigors of frontier life. Candles are made in a large cauldron, a grape press produces wine and adobe bricks are stomped out of the earth.

A garden of herbs and vegetables of the variety that were grown in 1850 adorn the front yard. Except for this year. With the park closing, no garden was planted. Only a few perennial herbs graced the padlocked enclosure. Is there anything sadder than a neglected garden? It was the only visible symptom of "dis-ease" here at William Ide. I wondered if the early warning sign would be heeded. I indulged in a moment of melodrama as the words of another mid-nineteenth century figure echoed in my mind: "If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die."

The grandest landmark was the 400 year old Valley Oak. It was instrumental, of course, in deciding where to build the original adobe, back in the day when the tree was an adolescent at a mere 250 years. My oh my! What an amazing tree. Long may she stand!

A tilted water well is now the wishing well. Visitors are encouraged to toss a pebble or a penny into the well and make a wish. I wished for William B. Ide Adobe to stay open.

The inside of the one room adobe was momentarily stacked with tables and chairs as the park prepared for their annual Adobe Days celebration. I found myself thinking that I could easily live in this compact little house. Especially with it’s front porch view!

Steamboats moved up and down the river, stopping here to bring supplies. A ferry crossing was constructed in 1862. A small toolshed-blacksmith shop and general store were built to further accommodate the early pioneers. Sort of any early "one-stop shopping!"

There is much of the same plant and wildlife as at Woodson Bridge, twenty miles down the road. I would have loved to have seen a bald eagle, river otter or beaver. The wild grape found its way here as well.
Well gosh, I suppose I should say a little about William B. Ide himself, what with him being the first and only President of California. He and his family arrived by wagon train in 1845, when California was still a part of Mexico. The following winter, spurred on by a false rumor of possible eviction, Ide and about 30 other men, marched on the town of Sonoma, capturing General Vallejo without incident. Known as the "Bear Flag Revolt," Ide proclaimed the newly formed "California Republic" and served as it's president for 25 days, until Commodore Sloat raised the American Flag at Monterey making California part of the union. But that was just a brief period in Ide's history. He was a carpenter, merchant and helped develop much of the area along the Sacramento River.

William B. Ide Adobe SHP is a heavily used park, especially with it's school programs. It is surprising to hear of its closure. Hopes of staying open are high, but as always, nothing is certain, absolutely nothing. The schools are trying to keep it open, but of course we know schools have no money these days. The Kiwanis are trying to work with other local service organiza-tions to assist. But nothing is certain. They plan to stay open until May before packing up their artifacts and recently acquired costumes and shipping them to Sacramento.

So here's wishing...

Until then, I hope to see you all at the parks.



  1. I have gotten behind on reading so had 3 to catch up on tonight. I'm starting to feel like a California 4th grader with all the things I am learning about your state thru these blogs. Very informative. Keep up the good work Lucy!

  2. I feel like a 4th grader too Linda. I had a really lousy teacher in 4th grade, and I'm stunned at how many things I'm seeing and learning on these trips for the first time ever. It's almost embarrassing.

  3. Your endeavor to visit and report back on all the California State Parks set for closure is very admirable and much appreciated by many. Especially close to my heart is your visit and report on the Ide Adobe as this is the Park I was married and was indeed the Ferry crossing that perhaps was even used by William B. Ide, my Great Great Grandfather for those purposes, but accurately stated that he never lived their or built the Adobe. He certainly owned the property that it occupied along with another 17,000 plus acres in Red Bluff that he was a partner with William Beldon. Unfortunately,this Ide has no claim on any of that land today thanks to family land sales before I was around to have a say in its disposition. I just wanted to shed a little more light on the statement you made that Commandore Sloat's raising of the Stars and Stripes at Monterey ended the Bear Flag Republic as this event did take place and I suppose cemented the fact that California was intended to be part of the U.S. I would argue that it was Capt. Fremont's discharging of William B. Ide's role as California's short lived Presidency and his raising of the Stars and Stripes in Sonoma(more or less what the Bear Flaggers were hoping for)officially ended the successful rebellion against Mexico's previous rule. Fremont apparently was a bit of a glory seeker and tried to bury the role of the Bear Flaggers declaring at the time that all history of the Revolt be erased and history was to begin at his taking over of the Rebellion at Sonoma. This was actually quite effective because when you visit Sonoma's State Historic landmark you will see very little about William B. Ide's presidency, in fact nothing about it, which surprises me to this day.
    Anyway, I'm glad I spotted your report on the Adobe via the internet and wish you the best of luck in your California expedition, and like you, I hope these landmarks like my Great Great Grandfathers, will be reconsidered and left open to those who appreciate the history of our Sate.

    1. I also appreciate the article as I also have roots that go back through william and susans daughter Sarah.I see red when I think of how Fremont had stood aside and would not assist the Bearflaggers, only to want the accolades as the leader and tried to dismiss the Heros' story. Typical of the military mindset of that era.I have stopped at the park and enjoyed the aura of entering the grounds where some nation builders had once trod. It will be a shame to see it closed as it has been a connection with the past for me and apparntly many others.

  4. Thank you for making public the heavy use of this park. The value of the knowledge and experience high school students receive when assisting with the historical presentations to school children, during the school year is priceless. And being able to get a taste of the 1800's for a fourth grader has to be an awesome eye opener in this modern day and age. Where else will they get it, in this far end of the state, without expensive field-trips?

    It is heartbreaking to see the pride of this small community being ripped from them, not to mention the loss of joyful celebrations staged in the light of the 1800's that are held several times a year for the delight of all citizens at large.

    Here's hoping this lovely park and historical landmark will somehow survive for all to of us to continue to learn from and enjoy.


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