Love of history

Author got the bug doing family research

Photo By Robert Speer

Lois McDonald says she first became interested in history shortly after moving to Northern California more than 50 years ago. It began when she fulfilled a promise to her mother to help her record a family history and the two of them journeyed to New England to do research.

She got the bug and decided to go back to school for a master’s degree. At Chico State she studied under the late Clarence McIntosh and W. H. Hutchinson, two extraordinary local historians, earning her degree in 1976.

Her first book, The Fur Trade Letters of Francis Ermatinger, about early exploration of Hudson’s Bay, grew out of her thesis project. Following that she wrote a profile, Elsie Hamburger: I Never Looked Back, about a pioneer woman on the Paradise Ridge, and a history of Paradise, This Paradise We Call Home.

She also edited and contributed to an anthology, published by the local branch of the National League of American Pen Women and familiar to many Chico residents, Ripples Along Chico Creek, about the early history of this town, as well as other Pen Women publications.

She has also edited the quarterly journal The California Historian and the local-history journal Tales of the Paradise Ridge, to which she has also contributed many articles. And for more than six years she contributed a weekly history column to the Paradise Post.

She’s also served on the boards of the Paradise Performing Arts Center, the Association for Northern California Records and Research, the Bidwell Mansion Cooperative Association, the Butte County Branch of the League of American Pen Women and the Paradise Branch of the American Association of University Women.

Annie Kennedy Bidwell is the third book (after Elsie Hamburger and Ripples Along Chico Creek) she’s done with Larry Jackson, the owner of Heidelberg Graphics, in Chico, and its 2-year-old book-publishing imprint, Stansbury Publishing. Jackson has printed some 70 locally written books over the years.

“He doesn’t scrimp on the time he’ll spend on a book,” McDonald says. It shows. Annie Kennedy Bidwell is beautifully designed and includes 48 illustrations and photographs, copious footnotes, a full bibliography and a complete index in its 430 pages.

For his part, Jackson says he’s always happy to work with McDonald. “The one thing about her is that she always checks her facts,” he says. “When she starts a project, she goes into it full bore.”

In Chico, Annie Kennedy Bidwell is available at Lyon Books, Bidwell Mansion, Galleria books, the Chico Museum and Made in Chico. In Oroville, it’s at the Bookworm. It can also be ordered from, or The price is $44.95.­R.S.