Tuesday, January 27, 2015


It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble.
It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.
- Charles F. Kettering

For as long as I have lived in northern California, Interstate 5 has run the length of the state.  I’ve utilized it dozens of times flying toward adventures in the Siskiyous and points north in Oregon and Washington.  Just one exit beyond Red Bluff, after a crossing of the Sacramento River, a posted sign reads William B. Ide State Historic Park.  Racing by time after time, I think to myself, “I’ve gotta stop there and check it out.”

On this day I would.
(c) California State Parks

William B Ide arrived in California in 1845. He proved to be a pivotal figure in the historic “Bear Flag Revolt.”  Our state was once known as Alta California, a Mexican territory.  The Californios of the region became intent of separating from Mexico’s governance due, in part to its distance (Mexico City) and its indifference to the Mexican citizens that lived here.   

A handful of Americans who’d come to settle in the Great Central Valley – Ide among them – traveled to Monterey to embrace the separatists and play roles in establishing California as an independent republic in June 1846.  As a result of a rousing speech he delivered, Ide was declared President of the republic.  That circumstance would stand only until the United States declared war on Mexico in July 1846 – about 22 days.

The history I’d learned and the history I subsequently taught my Fourth Graders fifty miles south in Durham, CA, was that Ide was an up-river settler who became the only President of the California Republic – and that he lived just up the road in Red Bluff.   “You can even visit his house, up there,” I advised my kids, although I’d never visited myself.

On this day I would.

The William B Ide Adobe State Historic Park is located on a bluff overlooking the Sacramento River.  

Listening to the river whisper by, the soft breeze through the oaks and the occasional twitter of some native little brown bird, it is easy to imagine oneself settling in this bucolic piece of heaven about a hundred and seventy years back.  The land was rich and fertile, the river rife with salmon and game roamed within easy range of even the most primitive firearm.  Just add Maureen O’Hara…

I like to drop into the visitor center first, pay my fare and check out any exhibits there in – and thus be better informed about that which I will experience outside.

“I’ve been meaning to come here for about fifty years,” I chatted with the young docent on duty.

“Well it’s good you finally made it, but I’m afraid you’re about eight months late.”  He saw the quizzical look on my face.  “Did you read about us in the paper?”  I shook my head.  “Well, did you happen to get a look at the oak tree?”  Again I shook my head.  “Well go take a look.”

East of the visitor center a about fifty yards stands the trunk of a five hundred year old oak, pared back to about two stories in height.   

A few feet further on, wrapped in industrial grade plastic and surrounded by a temporary fence, is the shell of what once was called the Ide Adobe.  I walked around the building unable to capture a decent shot of what it once was.

“Yep,” the young man said, “Storm blew through last March and most of the tree collapsed on the building.  Wiped out the roof and the floor but the walls seem to be okay.”

Roof Detail from Smokehouse
The State Park System is restoring the adobe, but it will take some time.  My once-again-lesson-learned has to do with putting off those places you’d like to visit for another day.  I’d missed this one by a mere eight months.

A footnote to this whole visit is that Ide probably never lived at the adobe.  He likely lived further down-river as he spent quite a bit of his political career as a bigwig down in “Colusi” County.  There was a river ferry just down stream from the adobe known as Ide’s Crossing.  The state or the locals assumed – according to the docent – that William B Ide had something to do with that enterprise or at least its name.  But no record exists to suggest anything other than simple coincidence regarding the name.  On top of that, no one is quite sure if the photos of Ide are actually photos of Ide.  Pictures of two different men are on display at the park, both purported to be William B Ide.


A stop at the park is well worthwhile, even in its current condition.  It is a pleasant break and a short jaunt off I-5 north of Red Bluff.  California State Park System information on the Ide Adobe may be located at: http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=458

© 2015
Church of the Open Road Press

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