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In 1862, an effort was made in Chico to divide the county as it then stood, and form two counties of it. The proposed division commenced at the Sutter county-line on Feather river, ran up the river to a point below Thompson's flat; thence northerly, so as to leave out Table mountain and the flat, skirting the foothills and taking in the small farms in the canyons leading into the main valley, including Diamondsville; thence north-easterly to the Plumas county-line. The purpose was to avoid all the rough country, and form out of the described tract an agricultural county to be designated by the appellation of Alturas county. The matter came before the legislature in March, and was indefinitely postponed. This name, Alturas, seems to carry defeat with it, for four times has it been sought to form a new county in different portions of the state to bear this fatal name, and each time the movement has been defeated in the legislature.
In June, 1866, Butte county was divided into ten election districts, each township forming a district. At the same time the boundary-line between Oregon and Hamilton townships was changed to the following: "Commencing, for the same, on the west bank of Feather river, where the line between Oregon and Hamilton townships intersects said river, and running northerly up said river to section-line on the north fork of said river, between 24 and 25, 23 and 26, 22 and 27, 21 and 28, 20 and 29, 19 and 30, of township 20 north, range 4 east, and sections 24 and 25 of township 20 north, range 3 east, to section corners 23, 24, 25 and 26 of township 20 north, range 3 east; thence southerly, on a line between sections 25 and 26, 35 and 36 of township 20 north, range 3 east, to the present north boundary-line of Hamilton township, as described on the Butte county map." This comprises that portion of Oregon township known as Morris ravine, which territory was annexed to Hamilton.
The boundaries of Chico township were changed May 10, 1867, and fixed as follows: "Beginning at the southeast corner of section 22, township 22 north, range 2 east, running thence up the divide between Big Butte and Little Chico creeks, to the head-waters of Little Chico creek; thence, in a northeasterly direction, to county-line between Butte and Plumas counties, one mile east of the road leading from Chico to Big Meadows."
Upon the petition of sixty-one residents of the southern portion of what was then Chico township, about one-third of Chico was cut off and formed into the township of Dayton, with metes and bounds as follows: "Commencing at the Sacramento river, on the county-line between Butte and Colusa, thence following said line easterly until it intersects Big Butte creek; thence up said creek to where the Oroville and Shasta road crosses the same; thence along said road to where the Dayton road leaves the Shasta road; thence along the Dayton road to the Central Pacific railroad; thence along said road in a northerly direction to where the same crosses the dividing line between sections 13 and 24 in township 21 north, range 1 east; thence west on said line to the Sacramento river; and thence down said river to the place of beginning."
The legislature having given Butte county five supervisors, the board made a reassignment of the townships in March, 1873, as follows: District No. 1—Ophir township. District No. 2—Chico township. District No. 3—Wyandotte, Bidwell, Oro and Mountain Spring townships. District No. 4— Dayton and Hamilton townships. District No. 5—Oregon, Kimshew and Concow townships. This is the apportionment as it stands at the present time, with the exception that Gridley township has been formed out of Hamilton, remaining, however, in the same district as before. For a long time prior to 1874, considerable confusion prevailed as to the exact boundary-lines between Butte, Plumas and Colusa counties. Before issuing the second edition of the map of California, Prof. Whitney, the state geologist, desired to have the code amended with regard to various county boundaries, and a statement of the inaccuracies in the description of counties was presented to the legislature, that affecting Butte county being as follows: "In the description of Colusa county, the east boundary follows down the Sacramento river to the southwest corner of the Llano Seco grant; thence northwesterly along said grant line to its intersection with the north boundary of township 19 north; thence east to Butte Creek. In the description of Butte county the same line is given as following down the Sacramento river to Placer City; thence on line of Colusa southeasterly to Watson's bridge on Butte creek. Thus, while the description calls for the line of Colusa, it really excludes a tract of land containing about sixteen square miles which is not included in any county." Other errors were apparent in defining the south corner of Plumas, and in the southeast boundary of Butte, the north Honcut being taken instead of the south Honcut as the line. The northwest boundary of Butte was also defective. The strip of country belonging to no county, alluded to above, was of course set off by the legislature to Colusa.
On the-fourth of February, 1874, James McGann came before the board of supervisors and represented that it was the intention of Tehama county to cause a survey of the boundary-line between Tehama and Butte; that he was requested to bring the matter before the Butte county board, that they might join in having said line surveyed. The survey was ordered, providing Tehama would pay half the expenses; and on the third of November the board accepted the new boundary, which ran thus: "From the point where the northern road from Big Meadows to Butte Meadows by Dye's house crosses the summit line; thence southwesterly in a direct line to the head of Rock Creek." Butte county lost by this survey a strip of land containing three saw-mills at the head of the Sierra* Flume and Lumber Company's flume. The settlement of the rather vague location known as "the head of Rock Creek," which varies considerably in high and low-water marks, gave rise to the jocular term, " McGann's crooked line," by which is meant the northwest boundary of Butte county.
In 1878, Chico made another unsuccessful attempt to divide the county, with the boundaries fixed substantially as they were in the first movement to that end. The unfortunate name, Alturas, was dropped, and the new county this time was to be called Chico county. It was to have 414,720 acres, leaving Butte 714,040 acres. A bill for the division was introduced in the assembly in January. On the eighth of February it was reported adversely upon by the committee to which it was referred, and on the twentieth, when it came up to be voted upon, the bill was indefinitely postponed by a vote of 49 to 23.
In May, 1878, a new survey was made between Butte and Plumas counties. The cause of this readjustment may be seen by the order made by the board of supervisors, on the eighth of May :—
"Whereas, It at this time appearing to the board of supervisors that Charles F. Lott and John S. Morris, residents of the county of Butte, have been assessed by the assessor of Plumas county on mining claims in Butte county, and that said claims were sold in the year 1878 by the sheriff of Plumas county for taxes, said C. F. Lott and John S. Morris having previously paid their tax on said property to the county of Butte; it is therefore ordered, that the clerk of the board communicate with the clerk of the board of Plumas county, and request him to bring the matter before said board, so that a settlement of the boundary-line between said counties may be arrived at by survey or otherwise." During the summer, A. W. Keddie, county surveyor of Plumas, made a survey, cutting off from Butte that corner which used to jut into Plumas, taking ground for such change that " the ridge " spoken of in the statute was far to the west. In his survey he selected the divide between the west branch and the north fork of Feather river. Butte lost about forty square miles in this affair, for, though her board made strenuous efforts to have the line changed, Keddie's survey was accepted and established.
The last township created by the Board of Supervisors, Gridley, came into existence on the first day of January, 1881. The order for its creation was passed August 3, 1880. This time Hamilton had to suffer depletion, the southern part making the new township. The dividing line begins "at a point on Feather river on the Burt-ferry road, between the land owned by Daniel Streeter and Boyles & Evans; thence west to the east line of the Emerson-Sliger ranch; thence north along said line to the line between sections 19 and 30, township 18 north, range 3 east; thence west on said section-line to the county-line between Butte and Colusa counties."
Butte county now numbers twelve townships, and several more will doubtless be formed in the next few years. Notwithstanding the clipping process to which she has been subjected, she is still a county of splendid proportions, embracing, as near as can be estimated, 1,724 square miles, and extending fiftyseven miles from north to south and forty-eight from east to west.
THE COUNTY-SEAT AND COURT-HOUSE.
The Act of the legislature of February 18, 1850, creating the counties of the state and fixing the boundaries thereof, provided that the county-seat of Butte county should be at Butte City or at Chico, "whichever place shall be chosen by the qualified electors of the county at the first election to be held therein for county judge." At that election, June 10, 1850, it is well known that neither of these places was selected for the seat of justice. However, pending the decision of the voting public, the first courts were all held at Chico temporarily. Of course, no public buildings were erected there.
The vote pertaining to the county-seat question was summarized by the board of inspectors, which met at Chico, as follows :—
Bidwell's Bar, 386; Ophir, 161; Hamilton, 196; Ophir City, 17; Chico, 40; Butte City, 24. Making a total of votes cast on this proposition, 824. This statement was reported by the board, certified to by the county judge, and filed with the county clerk.
It has been the general impression that this statement was a faithful abstract of the returns as they came in from the various precincts, but a careful compilation of the returns as they came from the polling places, all of which are on file, gives the following statement, which is accurate in every particular : —
The discrepancies between this abstract and that of the board of inspectors were, doubtless, caused by the "counting-out" power possessed or assumed by that body. The actual vote cast and its manner of distribution are here given fully and succinctly.
The board having declared Chico as having forty votes, being more than were given to Butte City, the other place named in the statute, though far less than to BidweU's bar, it was thought by some that Chico was the legal county-seat. The reason for this opinion was that the statute only gave the people the privilege of choosing between Chico and Butte City, and not the power to select a third place. Others maintained that Bidwell's bar, having received the greatest number of votes, was as much the county-seat as though the statute had named it as one of the places to be voted for. Furthermore, Bidwell's bar was in the heart of the populated section of the county, while Chico was off to one side. The governor having appointed Hon. W. S. Sherwood judge of this district, that gentleman opened court in July, at Chico, but adjourned without doing any business, and when the court again convened, in September, the question of county-seat had been settled. Hon. Moses Bean, the newly-elected county judge, opened the county court at Chico, in July, but it adjourned to meet a few days later at Bidwell's bar, where the county court, probate court, and court of sessions were held until the question was determined.
The people were dissatisfied, and but a few weeks elapsed before the court of sessions was loudly importuned to call another election for the special purpose of deciding this question, and at a time when no side issues of candidates striving for office would distract the voters' attention from the main subject under consideration. Accordingly, on the twentieth of August, 1850, the following order issued from the councils of the body which administered the affairs of the commonwealth, in convocation at Bidwell's bar:—
"And now on this day was presented the petition of the qualified electors of Butte county, praying the court to order an election for the permanent location of the seat of justice of said county ; when it is ordered by the court that an election be held on the twenty-first day of September, for that purpose."
The returns were some time in getting to the clerk's office. On the twenty-seventh of September Mr. Sexton, the county clerk, canvassed the returns that were in at the time and filed the abstract that we give below. It will be seen that had this report been accepted by the court of sessions, the complexion of the county-seat problem would have been somewhat different from what resulted. According to this, Ophir was selected as the county-seat:—
COUNTY CLERK SEXTON'S ABSTRACT,
But other precincts were immediately heard from, as the prospects of Hamilton became so ominously jeopardized, and the following report of Judge Moses Bean was filed on the succeeding day. This statement was adopted as final, and Hamilton became the county-seat:—