An old name gets new life
The junction where highways 70 and 149 meet has been known as Wick’s Corner for as long as Merle McAndrews can remember. And she’s 98 years old.
“I’ve had such an interesting summer,” said McAndrews, who doesn’t look a lick past 80 and moves with remarkable ease. Her front porch overlooks the construction of a new overpass. “All these truckloads of dirt—the view sure is going to be different.”
McAndrews was born on the land where she now lives with her cousin off Table Mountain Boulevard. In fact, she still has the original deed, signed by Abraham Lincoln. It was awarded to her great-grandfather, Moses Wick, as reimbursement for his service in the Mexican-American War, where he fought under Gen. Zachary Taylor.
Born in Ohio, Wick moved to California in 1852. Over the next couple decades, he ran a successful cattle business and wasn’t a bad butcher, either. He also had a tavern in the main farm house, which was situated along what used to be the Chico Road—it took you to Chico. That farm house—and the tavern—also served as a stagecoach stop for the Central Pacific Railroad.
Wick’s Corner was born.
Sometime in the near future—a specific time is not yet known—signs will be erected to signify the area’s history. “Wick’s Corner,” they will read. McAndrews couldn’t be happier.
“Oh, I’m just thrilled,” she said. “You look at old maps—they all say ‘Wick’s Corner.’ I’m just so happy that the name will stay the same.”
A historical society lobbied the office of Assemblyman Rick Keene to take it to the state Legislature for a vote. He did, and both houses approved it earlier this month. In a statement, Keene described Wick as “a significant historical figure for Butte County, and I am glad that we are able to recognize his contributions.”
Wick, it turns out, was the first to bring purebred Durham cattle to California. He bred them and, according to one account of Butte County’s history, John Bidwell even offered him $1,500 for one head. Wick wouldn’t sell.
When Wick passed away in 1888, his son Charles took over the property, which had grown to about 800 acres from the original 160. He continued the cattle business but sold the property in 1906 to Sen. Thomas Rockhill. McAndrews’ father was Charles’ son, and her mother was the granddaughter of Rockhill. So it’s safe to say she’s got ties to the land. The property, which is now owned by her cousin, Jerry Inman, 80, now spans only 36 acres.
McAndrews has lived on the property practically all her life, with the exception of about 10 years that she spent in Oroville—she taught first grade there for 24 years, and among some of her now-famous pupils is District Attorney Mike Ramsey.
“I don’t seem to remember many horse-and-buggies on the old Chico Road,” she reminisced. “But I do remember when they came out with the first cars. And it was just a dirt road back then.”
She also recalls the creation of Highway 70 in the 1960s and when the surrounding land was dedicated to grazing or farming. “I call that over there ‘the jungle,’ “ she said, pointing to the patch of land covered in trees across Highway 70 from her house. “It’s just horrible.” The former horse enthusiast—"I would pack a lunch and jump on my horse in the morning and just ride"—misses the rolling hills and tended land.
But, surprisingly, she doesn’t mind the overpass construction. “They say it’ll save lives, so I’m for it,” she said. “People always did drive too fast around here.”
A lot has changed over the years—and it’s still changing. But Wick’s Corner will remain.