William B. Ide Adobe in William B. Ide Adobe State Historic Park, a California adobe and history museum near Red Bluff, Calif. (ChesPal – Debra Heaphy | Wikimedia Commons)


This is one of the most unique of the myriad of histories of California. It tells of the state’s first and only revolution; it’s short-life as a Republic and the man who was its first and only President who was said to live in an adobe cabin he had no connection with. Yet it lives on in history as the William B. Ide State Historical Park, writes Al Auger. (Lifestyle, @Siliconeer, #Siliconeer, #Travel, #California, #RedBluff, #WilliamBIdeAdobe)


I can’t count the hundreds of Historical Marker Ahead signs I have passed with little concern or, with interest piqued, tell myself “next time around, I’ll have to check that out.” Of course, I never did; that is until I passed by the William B. Ide Adobe marker outside the town of Red Bluff alongside Interstate 5 in Northern California. It took three passes, but one day I put together a picnic lunch and headed down Adobe Road in Red Bluff.

Just two miles off I-5, I discovered the William B. Ide State Historic State Park to be a most charming and serene reminders of our Gold Rush and Californio heritage. And a conundrum of confusion and misspoke history. Your first hint of the quiet hideaway found is the lush green picnic ground beneath giant oak trees. Complimenting this aura are the picnic tables strategically placed under majestic oaks that sit on a bluff above the rolling waters of the Sacramento River.

The park has a number of campsites such as this pastoral spot overlooking the Sacramento River. (Al Auger)

The park has a number of campsites such as this pastoral spot overlooking the Sacramento River. (Al Auger)

Cross the bridge to your left and you’re suddenly in a time warp, spiraled back to the days of Spanish land grants, vaqueros, and the short-lived California Republic. The Republic lasted only 24 days and its President was William B. Ide. During the winter of 1846 rumors were flying the Mexican government was planning to evict all illegal American settlers. In June of that year, Ide and a small volunteer army attacked the pueblo of Sonoma and captured the Mexican Comandante of Northern California, Mariano Vallejo. The victorious band raised the Bear Flag and chose Ide as President of the new Republic. On July 9, after hearing of the United States’ declaration of war against Mexico, the Bear Flag was lowered and the American flag raised.

General Mariano Vallejo

General Mariano Vallejo

Nobody seems to know just how the Adobe became identified as Ide’s home at any period of his life in the region. Ide’s residence, Rancho de la Barranca Colorado, was located south of present-day Red Bluff. The evidence that does exist, say State Park Historians, pretty much points to one Abraham Dibble as the Adobe builder.

The adobe is an anomaly of the genre with a recognizable Spanish exterior and New England interior, unadorned and simple. The adobe interior has been restored and furnished as it was in the mid-1800s.

Beneath the tranquility and subtle introduction to some of California’s more arcane history lays a hustle and bustle that sneaks up and grabs you. Throughout the year, the resident park rangers oversee a full schedule of interpretive historic events (see sidebar) aided by a host of volunteer docents and workers. Most of these helpers are teachers and students from the local High School district. During the year, literally hundreds of students from the many school districts in the area visit the park for interpretive tours. It is also available for private period parties, weddings, etc.

The highlight of the year-round programs is Adobe Day on the 3rd Saturday in August. During the day, the quiet comes to life with staff and docents in period costumes and a variety of events evoking the 1850s. Hands-on activities such as candle making, traditional woodworking, and one of the most popular event, the art of Gold Rush gambling, are offered.

The gambling equipment and layout are exactly as it was in the mid-19th century and then-popular games such as Faro and Monte dealt by itinerant card sharks, sometimes called “Black Legs” are featured. In addition, popular dice games such as Shut the Box and Over and Under are played. Gold Rush Gambling is featured at a number of the park’s interpretive programs during the year.

The Pioneer Christmas Party is another favorite with a tree smothered with fruit, nuts, sweetmeats and popcorn strings. There’s candle making, cooking decorating and caroling. Visitors are served sweetmeats, cookies and plum pudding along with coffee and cider. Just about everyone in the Gold Rush camps played horseshoes. The Adobe Ferry Champion Horseshoe Pitcher Contest on the 2nd Saturday in October at the Ide Adobe Park is a special favorite with the locals. The park provides players with period costumes and the Gold Rush rules are used. The scores are kept on parchment paper with a quill pen and all official records are kept in the Copperplate handwriting of the time. Awards include gold-filled pocket watches.

For 2014 the intimate park has new adobe housing a museum of the time, an open-air museum displaying replicas of a typical carriage shed, a blacksmith shop, and a small visitor center.

At only 3.91 acres, the Ide Adobe is one of the smallest parks in the California State Park System. But it is large in ambiance and beauty. It’s a wonderful place for a quiet lunch, or to romp with the kids, feed Polly the resident donkey or pet Ezekial, the friendly house cat. You can tour the adobe, and all the surrounding farm buildings. The William B. Ide Adobe Historical State Park is a true step back into history.

HOW TO GET THERE: The William B. Ide Adobe Historical State Park is just North of Red Bluff, 30 miles South of Redding and approximately 170 North of San Francisco on Interstate 5.

ADMISSION: For information on admission, RV and family camping, picnic areas and other information, call (530) 529-8599

OPEN: 8 a.m. to Sunset daily. Annual passes are available; see Website for information on the passes. No camping allowed.

INTERPRETIVE PROGRAMS: Adobe Day – Pioneer Christmas Party – Adobe Ferry Champion Horseshoe Pitchers Contest – Life in the 1850’s (special programs for Grades 4-6) – Pioneer Crafts Demonstrations – Ide Adobe Players – Gold Rush Gambling. For more information on these and other programs check the Ide Adobe Website at http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=458 or call (530) 529-8599.