CHICO — The city of Chico was incorporated on January 8, 1872; Exactly 150 years ago today. The story begins familiar – starting with a devastating wildfire in the 1860s.
“Most of the entire block burned down because there was really no way to fight the fire,” said Chico historian David Knoppel. “Some reports state that they could have simply made Bucket Brigade out of Chico Creek, and passed underwater to fight the fire.”
After two devastating fires in the 1860s, Knopel said Chico residents began to recognize the need for a local fire department.
But residents faced a problem: they needed to get any state funding for the fire department or police department to get involved.
“People really wanted to take that next step, and it came in 1872,” Knoppel said. “This allowed the city to immediately deploy a fire department and police.”
Now, 150 years later, Chico is celebrating its anniversary of that incorporation, but during a time of polarization, according to Chico State History Professor Michael Magliari.
“It’s our fifties that we’re celebrating in a particularly challenging period, and we’re seeing real polarized politics,” Magliari said. Recovering from fire, and behaving locally. Covid.”
Magliari said he sees polarized politics including gerrymandering of supervisory districts and proposing local recalls.
“The city is extremely polarized in its politics right now and it’s really reflecting the bigger trends of the Trump era,” Magliari said. “It is a difficult time as we celebrate this fifties. It would be great if we could celebrate it in happy circumstances.”
The story of Chico’s history usually begins with the arrival in 1850 of John Bidwell, who led Western development in Northern California. But Chico’s history goes back even further with the Mechupada Maidu, the original inhabitants of the area.
Nonetheless, Chico’s history is inseparable from John Bidwell’s contribution to economic development in the state of California.
W.H. Hutchinson, a former Chico State history professor, argues in a 1982 report “When Chico Stole the College” that five major events “shaped Chico’s evolution from the primitive wilderness to what it is today.”
The first event was the arrival of John Bidwell in 1850, whom Hutchinson credits with guiding new settlers to convert uncultivated land into productive real estate.
Then, in 1870, the arrival of the railroad gave Chico a reliable economic connection with cities such as Sacramento and San Francisco.
This also led to a third incident; The advent of the lumber industry that gave Chico a “solid industrial payroll” through companies such as the Diamond Match Company.
Hutchinson’s Fourth Incident credits Chico Municipal Airport as a major factor in the development of Chico, which established a flight training school during World War II and dealt an economic blow to Chico after the arrival of troops and “Chico”. to make my peacock home”.
Finally, writes Hutchinson, Chico’s acquisition of the northern branch, State Normal School, has had the most profound impact on Chico’s development.
According to Hutchinson, the dispute between Red Bluff and Chico escalated to such an extent that in 1880 the Chico Enterprise “strongly reminded citizens of the monetary benefits that would result from securing the North Branch.”
While Hutchinson’s report was written in 1982, many events since then have shaped Chico’s what it is today.
Knopel describes Chico’s biggest impact in recent decades as not a single event, but the steady development of the state of Chico. When Baby Boomers enrolled around 1964, Chico State began to grow rapidly. According to Knopel, from 1962 to 1972, enrollment in Chico State increased from 3,000 students to 12,000.
“On the positive side, it has brought the influence of culture and the atmosphere of all cultures and the world of this building of science and the perspective of our science on our past and present.”
But Knopel also said that the school changed as Chico got older, and was named the No. 1 party school in the country by Playboy Magazine in the 1980s.
“It transformed this neighborhood from a family neighborhood; where people lived here full time, they had their kids here,” Knoppel said. “And it just turned into a rental neighborhood, where there were real problems coming with it. That has been part of the down side.”
Another recent incident that changed Chico’s course was the Camp Fire in 2018.
“The campfire has been the most, I think, important in shaping the city since 1990,” Magliari said.
According to City Manager Mark Orme, it destroyed neighboring populated areas, including Paradise and other Ridge communities, and increased Chico’s population by 21%.
“In light of the changing climate, this is probably a metaphor for the consequence of living here since Bidwell’s day,” Knoppel said.
Chico, as it stands today 150 years after its incorporation, is a city with a population of over 120,000 people.