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California Pioneer William Brown Ide

07/21/2019 11:00AM ● By Al Rocca

History GuIDE

August 2019
Story and Photos by Al Rocca 



JUST NORTH of Red Bluff and one mile east of Interstate 5 is the fascinating and well-maintained William B. Ide Adobe State Historic Park. Visitors can step in back history to experience life in mid-nineteenth century Northern California. 

When thinking about the first non-native residents to settle in Northern California, many residents remember Pierson B. Reading in Shasta County and John Bidwell in Butte County. A contemporary of these early pioneers settled near present-day Red Bluff in Tehama County. Trained as a carpenter, young William Brown Ide moved west from Massachusetts in 1845 with his wife Sarah and eventually settled in Northern California. After a brief stint working for fellow settler Peter Lassen, William Ide joined other disgruntled American settlers at Sonoma in declaring their independence from Mexico. Part of the action saw the “Bear Flaggers” design and raise a “California” flag and issue a declaration, written by Ide, of intent to create the California Republic. Ide was declared Commander in Chief and began organizing troops and fort operations. John C. Fremont arrived with troops a few weeks later and formally declared war with Mexico, and Ide joined ranks to fight the war to obtain California for the United States. 

Ide returned to his adobe home and ranch after the war, and there on his Red Bluff rancho, named El Rancho de la Barranca Colorado, lived until 1852. He spent much of his remaining years developing Monroeville (now Hamilton City). In these short years between the Bear Flag Revolt and his death, Ide served in a number of important county and regional positions including county judge, recorder, surveyor and deputy sheriff. 

Visitors to the park quickly learn that a recent search through historic court records revealed that Ide’s home was actually a few miles south of the present site. A subsequent pioneer, Abraham Dibble, and others built the adobe home and outbuildings now seen at the park site. This location, known as Bluffton Ranch, became a focus for gold miners and other travelers needing to cross the Sacramento River. Ranch owners began a successful ferry operation here in 1862 that continued for years.

California State Parks personnel have faithfully restored much of the original ranch, including the adobe home, woodshop and blacksmith shop, and corral area. In reconstructing each of these buildings, workers used material and cutting and joining techniques (wood dowels) from the mid- to late 1800s. 

Tall oak and deciduous trees and dense vegetation growing on the banks of the Sacramento River provide an interesting and shaded environment as one explores the park. The shaded picnic area on the river makes for a pleasant picnic stop. A larger marker, placed by the Native Daughters of the Golden West in 1960, denotes this site as California Registered Historical Landmark No. 12.

The main Visitor Center serves as office space for park personnel, exhibit area and gift shop. Large painted murals tell the story of the “Valley Explorers” and their “Packing for Adventure and Starting a New Life” in Northern California. One journal entry by Sarah Ide explains preparations for the move west.

All our old neighbors came to help us pack our things into our three wagons and to see us off…We had a sale the morning we started, and sold off the greater part of our furniture. We packed our cooking utensils, tin cups, tin plates—with provisions to last us six months. —1845   

Today, park officials together with the Ide Adobe Interpretive Association offer a variety of educational and fun events throughout the year. Adobe Day, September 21, 2019, is a major celebration that includes Gold Rush-era music and dancing  and craft making (quilting, blacksmithing, woodworking, rope making and adobe brick making) by costumed docents. A Pioneer Christmas Party is scheduled for December 14, where visitors can make holiday crafts and learn of Christmas traditions through the years. 

Another opportunity awaits high school students, who can participate in hands-on docent training and then, dressed in costume, share their knowledge and skills with fourth-grade students. 

Accessibility features include handicap parking, picnic table on concrete surface with easy access from parking, and adjacent restrooms on concrete surface. The trail to the adobe home and workshops is not paved. •


William B. Ide Adobe State Historic Park • (530) 529-8599

Hours: 10 am to 4 pm Friday-Sunday