Arthur Bidle/Bitle (1853-1910)

The long road ahead It's going to be anything but easy

Political tumult at home and the allure of cheap, fertile land brought millions of Germans to the Midwest between 1850 and 1890. By 1860, they made up one-sixth of Chicago. Hailing from farms, the newcomers rapidly established homesteads across the American heartland, while others joined the working class, flooding Midwestern cities like Indianapolis and Milwaukee. Many settled in ethnic enclaves that allowed them to retain their native tongue and their diverse religious and political affiliations. Protestants, Catholics, and Jews, as well as leftist political radicals all found refuge from growing persecution in their homeland. Their heavy influence in certain areas caused public schools to begin offering instruction in German. By the 1880’s, Germans came to dominate the Midwestern labor force and by the end of the century, almost two million Germans called the United States their home.

Arthur’s father, also named Arthur, was 15 in 1843 when he emigrated from Prussia on the ship “General” to the United States arriving in the port of New Orleans with his father, Conrad, and mother, Martha, sister, Elizabeth, and brothers, Christopher and Andreas. While we have no record of where the family first settled upon their arrival, we find the family in the 1850 census residing in Ellington, Adams County in Illinois. Arthur would be the only member of his family to leave Adams County, Illinois and migrate to other states.

Arthur, Jr was born 21 Feb 1853 in Quincy, Adams, Illinois to Arthur Bidle and Mary Jane Parvin.  The earliest record for Arthur Bidle Jr is the 1860 US Census. Per that document, Arthur “Bydle” (32) and Mary J (33) were raising their children, Anne M (10), William H (9), Arthur (8) and Andrew (Albert) J (6) on the family farm. Arthur Sr. was apparently wealthy given that his land was valued at $12,000 which is quite a fortune in 1860 for a young man of 32. In 2009, the relative worth of $12,000 from 1860 is $319,000 using the Consumer Price Index. His birth country is listed as Prussia and they are living among many other families from the German regions.

Arthur’s adult life has proven to be better documented than his childhood and early adulthood. Until recently, his parents and siblings remained a mystery due to a change in the spelling of their last name. The change was made by his father, Arthur, Sr. (1828-1912), who changed the spelling from Bidle to Bitle after residing in this country for 21 years.  Arthur, Sr. fathered 22 children.  His first wife, Mary Jane Parvin (1827-1867), bore 10 children and died at age 39. Arthur, Sr., married Carolyn Dickhut (1849-1925) in 1867 and it was at this point in his life that he changed the spelling of his last name.  He and Carolyn went on to add 12 more children to the family.

His Bidle siblings are:

Anna M, William H, Albert J, Andrew, Mary Elizabeth, Emma, Benjamin F, Lincoln and Clara

His Bitle siblings are:

Adolf, Emmett, Edith M, Orville, Ada, Joseph E, Alfred, Frederick, Elsie, James H, Edna, Albert

California & Marriage
When we next catch up with Arthur, it is 1870 and he has left Illinois for Sonoma County, California. He is living with his older sister, Anna, and her husband, Pleasant C. Smith and their son, Eddie, who was born earlier that same year. No record of his reason for leaving Illinois has been uncovered but two articles appeared five years earlier in “The Quincy Whig” newspaper, 28 Sep, 1870 and 1 Oct 1870, Circuit Court Section, naming Arthur Bidle in a legal action. “Case 3210 People vs Benham Brady and Arthur Bidle–riot. Continued with capias as to Brady”, which means a warrant for Brady’s arrest was written. “Case 3210 People vs Bernhard Brady and Arthur Bidle, riot. Defendant Arthur Bidle recognized from day to day, with Bernard Arntzen, Esq, for security in the sum of $300.”, which means that Mr Arntzen, Esq, posted bail or paid the fine for Arthur. I looked up Bernard Arntzen and learned that he was an attorney at the time. I was unable to locate more information from newspapers so I made two separate requests to the Quincy Circuit Court for any Case 3210 records they may have in the archives but have received no reply. A family rumor that I personally heard while growing up alludes to some “trouble” in the Bidle family but any details have been lost to time. If this is the source of that rumor, Arthur would have been 17 in 1870, an age where misjudgments are not uncommon. It may have been that he left Illinois to leave behind the embarrassment and start over in California.

Five years later, Arthur has married the daughter of a prominent Sonoma County, California family, Laura Ann Gossage. Their marriage occurred 9 Sep 1875 in Santa Rosa and is recorded in the Sonoma County Record Book E, page 76, “Laura Gossage married Arthur Bidle in Santa Rosa on 9 Sep 1875 by A. Johnson”.

Land & Family
The 1880 US Census and Agricultural Schedule place Arthur and Laura farming 32 acres in Vallejo, Sonoma, California.  Arthur (27) and Laura (23), are raising William (1) and Bertha (4). Five years later, Arthur has moved yet again. This time to Washington Territory where, per the 1885 Washington Territorial Census, A. “Biddle” was farming with his wife, Laura, and raising two children, Arthur and Bertha. The 1889 Washington Territorial Census lists Arthur, Laura, “Bud” (9) and Bertha (13).

The first white settlers in the Palouse area of Washington Territory claimed the vast acres of tall bunch grass as grazing land. Because of the relatively low rainfall (about 16 inches annually) it was not taken seriously as farm land. Only the river bottoms and areas watered by springs were originally cultivated. In the 1870s and 1880s, influenced by immigrants from Eastern Europe who were familiar with similar climatic conditions, farmers began cultivating the Palouse hills and growing winter wheat, a crop that was planted in the fall and harvested the following summer. With the development of mechanized farming techniques, the Palouse produces enormous crops and farms have developed into hundreds and even thousands of acres. Wheat is now one of Washington State’s largest cash crops. The region is also now a world leader in the production of peas, lentils and barley.

Arthur is farming and a few months later, on 17 May 1889, he secures a land patent for 160 acres in Whitman County. The 1885 Census, the 1887 Washington Territorial Census and a Washington Territory Land Patent were submitted as evidence of Arthur’s residency prior to statehood – 11 Nov 1889. Based on that evidence, Arthur Bidle, and his direct descendants, were awarded Pioneer status by the Washington State Genealogical Society 2 Mar 2010.  Conflicting but unverified evidence places the family in Washington in 1881.  His obituary in 1910 states that he was a resident of Washington for 27 years which places his arrival in 1883.

Why Washington?
Questions arise. Why did Arthur uproot his family, take his wife away from her prominent family and locate to Whitman County? Arthur and his father leave few clues as to their motivation. My theory is that Arthur followed his maternal uncle, James Ruark Parvin, from California to Whitman County. We know that James was in Washington by 1880 and prior to moving to Whitman County, he was living in California according to family records. As stated earlier, Arthur, Jr left Illinois and settled in California in 1870, per his obituary, but I have yet to find evidence of when James arrived in California. We can surmise that both men had contact with each other prior to James leaving California for Whitman County (1880) and that contact continued resulting in Arthur moving his family and settling in Whitman County (1883 per his obituary). If one closely studies the Land Patent Map, you will see that Arthur’s property (see #32 on map) is not far from James’ (see #28 on map).

Father & Son
It is now 9 Jul 1900. Per the 1900 census, William (Bud) is 20 and working along side his father on the family farm. Bertha married Lawrence Crampton the year before and they have settled in the area. Two articles appear in the Colfax Gazette during the next year chronicling Arthur and Bud’s joint efforts raising stock. One article dated 17 May 1901, Colfax, Whitman, Washington states “W.A. and A. Bidle have secured a stock ranch between Salmon and Snake rivers. They will take in about 100 head of cattle.” Another article a few months later, 12 Jul 1901, states “W.A. and A. Bidle left early in the week for their stock ranch on the Dumocq plains on Salmon river.”

Items of Note – 1900
Arthur was awarded second place in the Farmer’s Best Display of most varieties at the Palouse Poultry Show per the Colfax Gazette, 9 Feb 1900. According to another Colfax Gazette article, 23 Feb 1900, Court section, Arthur was a claimant in a grain theft from a grain warehouse that held his grain. He was also a shareholder in the grain warehouse. His daughter’s father-in-law, C.F. Crampton, was one of the directors of the warehouse company. Another interesting fact is that there are now two documents, the 1860 and 1900 Census, that list Arthur’s parents birth country as Germany. The 1880 census listed Illinois.

More Land
As was stated earlier, Arthur purchased land on the Dumack plain. Another Colfax Gazette edition, dated 25 Oct 1901, mentions in the Personal Mention section that “Mr. and Mrs. A. Bidle, formerly of Spring Flat, are on a business trip to Colfax and vicinity. They now reside at Dumack plains, between Salmon and Snake rivers, Idaho, where they recently took up a cattle ranch.” In another land matter, Arthur Bidle deeded part of 31-16-44 to Lawrence A. Crampton, his daughter’s husband per the Colfax Gazette, dated 12 Mar 1909. Another Land Patent was granted for 160 acres, 11 Jan 1910, in Idaho – #1352 – SE Quarter of the NW Quarter, the SW Quarter of the NE Quarter, the NW quarter of the SE Quarter and the NE Quarter of the SW Quarter of Section 36 in Township 29 N of Range 1 W of the Boise Meridian, Idaho.

Unexpected Death
Arthur died unexpectedly 14 Jan 1910. Per his Obituary in an unnamed newspaper dated Jan 1910: “Death Claiming the Pioneers – In Quick Succession Comes The Calls For Our Old Settlers ARTHUR BIDLE – Mr. Arthur Bidle, one of the early pioneers of this vicinity, died at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Bertha Crampton, on the night of Tuesday, January 14, from heart failure. The end came very suddenly, Mr. Bidle having been in ordinary health but for an attack of cold. The deceased was born February 21, 1853, at Quincy, Ill., and came to California when 17 years of age, marrying there at 24, and moving to Washington in 1881. He lived near White Bird, Idaho, for the past eight years, coming to the Crampton home with his wife during holidays this year. His wife survives him together with one son, W. A. Bidle, of Albion, and one daughter, Mrs Bertha Crampton, of Spring Flat. Mrs. P.C. Smith of Troy, Idaho, and Mrs. M.S. Kiser, of Great Bend, Kansas are his sisters. The deceased also has a father, whose home is in Montana, still living. Funeral services were held at the Crampton residence, and the body was interred in the Colfax Cemetery, January 15th.” According to the Doctor’s Note on Arthur’s Washington State Death Certificate: “I did not see him alive. Death probably due to myocarditis (instantly)”.

Another obituary published in The Colfax Gazette, 21 Jan 1910, “COLFAX, Wash – Arthur Bidle, a pioneer citizen of Whitman county, died at the home of his daughter, Mrs. L.A. Crampton, south of Colfax, January 14 of heart trouble. He was 56 years of age and leaves a wife, a daughter and a son, W.A. Bidle, all of Colfax. He had been a resident of Whitman county for 27 years and was well known. Funeral services were held January 15 at the home of his daughter under the auspices of the W.O.W., the Rev L.R. Hughey of Albion officiating. Many old-time friends attended the funeral.” Additional details are available in the Funeral Record.

An announcement in the Colfax Gazette was published, 4 Feb 1910, “Estate of Arthur Bidle – Laura Bidle appointed administratrix, bond $9000; and F.W. Hoffman, E. Kelson and W.J. Cunningham appointed appraisers”.


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