Concow, California

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Concow, California
Location in Butte County and the state of California
Location in Butte County and the state of California
Concow, California is located in the United States
Concow, California
Concow, California
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 39°44′14″N 121°30′52″W / 39.73722°N 121.51444°W / 39.73722; -121.51444Coordinates: 39°44′14″N 121°30′52″W / 39.73722°N 121.51444°W / 39.73722; -121.51444
Country United States
State California
 • U. S. rep.Doug LaMalfa (R)[1]
 • State senatorJim Nielsen (R)[2]
 • AssemblymemberMegan Dahle (R)[3]
 • County supervisorBill Connelly
 • Total27.780 sq mi (71.950 km2)
 • Land27.406 sq mi (70.981 km2)
 • Water0.374 sq mi (0.969 km2)  1.35%
Elevation2,005 ft (611 m)
 (2010 [6])
 • Total710
 • Density26/sq mi (9.9/km2)
Time zoneUTC−08:00 (Pacific)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−07:00 (PDT)
ZIP Code
Area code530
FIPS code06-16035
GNIS feature IDs1867007, 2407652
U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Concow, California; U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Concow, California

Concow (formerly, Con Cow)[7] is an unincorporated community and census-designated place[8] (CDP) that was until 2018 primarily residential and small scale cultivation in the Sierra Nevada foothills covering eastern Butte County, California. Due to a decline in employment and repeated wildfires, over the past hundred years the population declined from several thousand to several dozen. On November 8, 2018, a wildfire, the Camp Fire, cleared most of Concow and destroyed the adjacent municipality of Paradise. The CDP is named after the Native American tribe that is indigenous to the area, the Concow Maidu. The original inhabitants ate salmon from the Feather River, acorns and pine nuts, venison, nō-kōm-hē-i'-nē, and other sources of food which abounded in the California foothills.


"In the beginning Wahno-no-pem, the Great Spirit, made all things. Before he came, everything on the earth and in the skies was hidden in darkness and in gloom, but where he appeared he was the light. From his essence, out of his breath, he made the sun, the moon, and the countless stars, and pinned them in the blue vault of the heavens."[9]


There is no indication that there was external governance of the Concow region or the tribal peoples that inhabited the region during the 1697–1821 Spanish colonization or the 1821–1846 Mexican era, characterized by the spread of Californio slave ranchos. The Concow region is 20 miles (30 km) north of the city of Oroville (an Anglo-Hispanic compound meaning 'gold-town') and about the same distance east of the town of Chico; named for Rancho Arroyo Chico—meaning 'little creek ranch.' Rancho Arroyo Chico was established through a land-grant from the Mexican authorities in 1844, two years before California was invaded by United States forces, an indication that there was some Mexican governance near the Concow region, but no indication of governance of the region.


Aside from governance, starting in 1828, northern trappers including Jedediah Smith, Michel Laframboise, and John Work first made contact with the Concow region Maidu.[10] In 1851 the Beckwourth Trail established the first transportation route to the Concow region. The route did not pass directly through the present day Concow, the trail followed a series of ridgetops 10 miles to the East.

Soon began death from diseases, such as pneumonia[11] and malaria,[12] from which the Maidu have no natural immunity. In addition to disease, in 1853, under the leadership of Gov. Bigler, several municipalities[13] within the State of California ordered all non-European people of California - including the Maidu - exterminated in return for a $5.00[14][15] ($134.95 in 2010 US$)[16] cash bounty for each verified male killed and a lesser cash bounty for a dead woman or child. In addition to the municipal bounty system, through funding numerous militia attacks on the native people, the resulting debt became known as the "California War Debt" or "Army Appropriations Bill".[17] In 1854 - though not entirely clear why[18][19] - Secretary of War Jefferson Davis wrote California that their 'war' expenditures could not be authorized without the original bills of sale to verify the purpose was one intended by congress.[20][21] The bill of sale for the bounty was the head. California was reimbursed $924,259.65 ($23.4M 2010US) by the United States Federal Government and again reimbursed $229,981.67 in 1861 for the intervening years.[22] Sometimes children could be sold for more than the per claim amount allowed. To maximize profits, during 'hunts' they tried to only kill children that were not old enough to work. The older children were instead enslaved[23] as provided by the Act of 1850 for the Government and Protection of Indians.[24] Assuming the $1.2M the State of California claimed in expenses for the 'War' was used entirely for $5 bounties, then this represents the death of 240,000 California natives; during that same time period the native population declined from 250,000 to less than 50,000, a comparable amount. Their fictionalized but true in spirit story is told by the real person Ishi, who may have been part or full Maidu. Ishi was from the Concow region.


Permanent settlements soon followed and by 1856 several were well established.[7] The growth of these settlements increased after Charles Curtis constructed a toll bridge (1858) across the Feather River at Nelson's Bar and the next year (1859) an additional bridge was constructed by residents of Whiskey Town over the Feather River just north of the Concow region.[11] Basically, there was a Northernly trail and bridge from present day Oroville, and a Southernly trail and bridge from present day Magalia.


After a decade of genocide and forcible removals, in 1859 the last of the Kon Kow peoples were forcibly removed by Tehama County ranchers as part of a larger four county 'roundup'.[25] They were held at the Mendocino Reservation until the California Reservation Administration at the camp collapsed due to lack of funding due to the Civil War occurring on the East Coast. The Kon Kow were then deported to the Nome Cult Farms at the Round Valley reservation. By 1862 the last of the native Concow inhabitants were starving on the cramped Round Valley with unrelated people relocated from surrounding regions. The damp coastal climate on the reservation contrasts with the dry climate of the California 'Gold Country' they are accustomed to. It was the midst of the North American Civil War and federal funds for California Reservations were no longer arriving.[25] In the cooling weather of late September, on September 24, 1862, a combination of the poor camp conditions, forced participation in a massacre of the local Wailaki peoples,[25] warnings by local whites that they were planning to massacre the reservation inhabitants that winter,[25] and an imminent winter disaster under the supervision of indian agent James Short[26] forced a group of over 400 men, women, children, and elderly to set out with Tome-ya-nem, without provisions, for the 130 miles (210 km) back to their home in the Concow Valley: a 10-day hike for well equipped healthy young adults.[27] They made it as far as present day Chico where Agent Hanson had made an agreement with John Bidwell to stop and encamp the Kon Kow people at Bidwell's old river landing[25] - now under Lake Oroville - under the supervision of Sub Agent Eddy and employed for $.10 per hour[25] ($2.72 2013US) constructing the Chico-Humboldt road and providing labor for various employers in the area.


The following spring three young children were attacked with the two boys killed and the kidnapped girl escaping after being forced to walk to a village near present-day Concow in what became known as the Pence massacre, the murders were within the present day Concow CDP and 9 miles (14.5 km) from Concow Valley - the KonKow people were blamed.[28][29][30] These events happened amid documented incidences of local whites dressing as 'indians' and committing crimes[31] and numerous mule-trains that were attacked and plundered by the various sierra peoples; indigenous, Spanish, and whites. All indications are that the children were kidnapped by a small group of native young men. In the following days 611 KonKow people were murdered by a vigilante volunteer posse of 500 white men that sought to kill every non-white in Butte County. M.H. Wells hid 50 Kon Kows in his Yankee Hill store in the foothills above the camp at Bidwell's old river crossing; the vigilante group discovered these people. In a compromise the vigilantes inspected these people and determined four as 'bad people,' they were tied together in pairs and given a running start before the vigilantes opened fire, the rest were taken to the camp - two of the four were shot and killed.[25][28] Under a resolution passed at a mass meeting of the public at Pence Ranch on July 27[32][33][34] a group of 12 led by Thomas McDonald of Cherokee and M.H. Wells of Yankee Hill [11] found and convinced the remaining people in the surrounding area to go to the Bidwell camp for their own safety. A group of 26 led by G.G. Marquis of Concow, including Mr. Pence from Messilla Valley, B.P. Hutchinson from Cherokee Flat and John Chapman from Cherokee Ravine, gathered funds to cover the expenses for the Kon Kow people’s removal. Eventually 461 people including those who returned from Round Valley were gathered at Bidwell's Landing. From this group, for the kidnapping and killing of the Lewis children, two were tied to a tree and executed by firing squad.[35] The local US government representative Major George M. Hanson, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Northern California, and the State Militia representative Captain Augustus W. Starr sent July 31 to assess the situation were unsure what to do with the popular movement or how to stop the acts of vigilante justice. The subsequent commanders of Camp Bidwell during the month of August, Captain Alfred Morton and then Major Ambrose E. Hooker[36] - are absent in early correspondence from Captain Starr asking for guidance with the increasing number of Konkow 'prisoners of war'.[28][37]

The end[edit]

After consulting with Superintendent Hanson and superiors Colonel Richard Cloyd Drum and General George Wright, Captain Starr was ordered by General Wright in Post Order No. 6[38] to lead 23 soldiers of Company F 2nd Regiment California Volunteer Cavalry and move the now imprisoned people the 110 miles (180 km) from Camp Bidwell back to Round Valley on the Nome Cult Trail on what became a 20-day forced death march now remembered as the KonKow Trail of Tears. Despite efforts by the soldiers and the Pence resolution mandated donations of food and shelter provisions, horses and wagons, each day those who could not make the march through the hot arid early September Sacramento Valley - where afternoon temperatures top 90 °F (32 °C) or over the 6,000 foot (1,800 m) crest of the North Coast Ranges - were left behind without food or water and were soon killed by a pack of wild boar that formed behind and followed the group; the survivors were told to stay at the Round Valley concentration camp or be shot on sight. They were given no provisions by the soldiers and starved to death during the winter.[10]

Bands of rogue natives[edit]

In 1864 a band of Kon Kow Maidu left the Round Valley reservation and again headed back to their home. The reservation agent sent a letter to the Concow post office noting their departure and that they seemed 'hostile.'[11] What became of this band is not known, the following year in August a group of 25 Kon Kow were attacked and killed after a robbery that included two murders at the Robert Workman home;[11] this became known as the Three Knolls Massacre and is seen as a smaller episode of the Mill Creek War.[39] And the following year in February, another 5 Kon Kow were killed as continued retribution for the previous years murders.[11]

Relics of Maidu[edit]

The current inhabitants of Concow, including a few Maidus, commonly find relics of the Maidu in the form of beads and stone tools while digging in and around their homes. In the Concow Lake Valley there is no monument, plaque, or other recognition to memorialize the fate of the KonKow people - few if any of the current inhabitants know.

Commune era[edit]

While a post office operated at Concow from 1882 to 1906, renamed from Con Cow to Concow in 1895, and relocated several times,[7] the region was sparsely populated and dominated by a few ranching families. The economy of the region rose and fell with the gold rush need for supplies, the civil war demand for pine turpentine, logging, and the water way that allowed for ranching. The economy ebbed and flowed for a hundred years under the constraint of the difficult access to the region.

In 1962 a new four-lane alignment of California State Route 70 wrapped around the western side of the then proposed Lake Oroville and reconnected with the existing highway 70 at Jarbo Gap.[40]


Beginning in 2000, a series of progressively larger fires burned through Concow.

2000 fire[edit]

The 2000 fire burned September 19–20.[41] The fire destroyed 14 structures. The first and smallest Concow fire of the 2000s, this fire was a 2,000 acre fire. At the time, it was considered a large fire.

2008 fire[edit]

In June 2008, as part of the Butte Lightning Complex Fires, a 60,000 acre (large fire) wildfire destroyed 250 structures. Of those structures, 220 were unpermitted and either were not built to building codes, did not bother with building inspections, or did not use approved building materials.[42] Because of the "land" nature of the community, affording construction following building codes was not possible initially and reconstruction to building codes is not possible or within the ethos of the community.[43] The county offered special waivers for reconstruction, but the community was already gutted, those who remain are a shadow of the community.[44]

2012 fire[edit]

On September 26, 2012, at 3:10 PM, a wildfire burned 60 acres on Concow Rd at Jordan Hill Rd. CAL FIRE, El Medio Fire, Oroville Fire, USFS, and Butte Co. Fire Volunteers extinguished the fire. 120 total personnel were called to tend to the fire.[45]

2018 fire[edit]

On November 8, 2018, a fire was reported at 6:33 a.m. PST, close to Camp Creek Road near Pulga.[46] Shortly after the fire erupted, the Butte County Sheriff's Office ordered evacuations of surrounding communities and switched to life saving operations.[47][48] On the first day, much of the town of Paradise and community of Concow were destroyed.[49] As of December 13, Butte County Sheriff's Department reported that at least 6 people died in Concow during the Camp fire.[50] A fallen tree blocked the primary evacuation route from the town and some residents survived by jumping into the creek.[51]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 28 square miles (73 km2), of which, 27 square miles (70 km2) of it is land and 0.4 square miles (1.0 km2) of it (1.4%) is water.

For unknown reasons the community's name was absent from the US Geological Survey files until 1990. Other nearby communities are The Pines (USGS feature ID 268203), and Deadwood (USGS feature ID 1655957).

The community is off State Route 70 east of Cherokee. The infrastructure is minimal. There is Concow School, Concow Dam (fed by several short creeks formed from hillside springs that converge and form Concow Creek), and the primary access, Concow Road.


Historical population
Census Pop.
U.S. Decennial Census

The first census of the Concow region was in 1990. At first contact with native peoples in Concow the population was over 1,000, however, it was noted that the population had been higher and the people were sick with cholera. The 1850 and 1860 populations are largely the Concow people which declines due to massacre and deportation.


The 2000 census[52] counted 1,095 people in 571 housing units and forming 319 families. The population density was 29 people per square mile (11.2/km2), and a housing density of 15 per square mile (5.9/km2). Of households, 24 percent included children under the age of 18; half were married couples, 8 percent had a female head of household, and 30 percent were non-families; 23 percent were individuals, and of those a third were over 65 years old. The median family income was $41,250, and the per capita income was $15,829. That placed 27 percent of those under age 18 and 14 percent of the population below the poverty line. The racial makeup was 91 percent White. As individuals, there were, 10 African Americans, 25 Native Americans, and 52 Latinos.


In 2008, the Butte Lightning Complex fire destroyed 308 homes which was 54 percent of the housing.[53] In the 2010 census, "the biggest [regional] percentage drop was in fire-scarred Concow, down 35 percent to a population of 710."[54]

The 2010 census,[55] counted 710 people in 360 households, forming 178 family units. The population density was 26 inhabitants per square mile (10.0/km2), and the housing density was 13 per square mile (5.0/km2). Of housing units, 30 percent included children under the age of 18. Of family units; 59 percent included children under 18 years old; 82 percent were husband-wife unions. The racial makeup was 85 percent White, as individuals there were 28 Native Americans, and 57 Latinos.



Historically the Concow region supported hunter-gatherer societies, turpentine extraction,[11] dairy farming, ranching, forestry, water supply, and in the areas outside the granite sands - Quartz reef mining and related industries. The region is zoned (2010 map) for timber production, 5 to 10ac foothill residential, a small area for 1ac foothill residential, and a couple small areas for commercial.[56]

Informal market[edit]

In the late 1990s, the CDP became known regionally for a significant domestic product consisting of informal market production and commerce.[citation needed]

Typical Concow Pot Garden (2013)

The region contains marijuana agricultural production, large irrigated plantations were discovered during the 2008 fire.[57]

The 2000 domestic product from legitimate income sources is approximately $17.5 million, during and after the 2008 fires an estimated $50 million worth of marijuana was removed, indicating that the region's per-capita income is under-reported. The region's marijuana production is 1/3 of 1% of California's $14 billion (2013) dollar total production.[58] At the 2010 population of 710, that is a per capita income of $70,000 per person. The 2008 fire changed the regional micro-climate with the result that crop yields dropped.

Change in economy[edit]

With the destruction of most unpermitted structures during the 2008 fire, the pattern of residences, commercial land use, informal and formal market industries, and recreational use has changed.[59] There has not been any large-scale residential development in the Concow region. The baby boomer 'bulge' was expected to result in a steady stream of retirees into the region.[citation needed] To date, however, the population has declined despite the retirees.[55]


The Concow Elementary School is located in the community.

Notable people[edit]


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External links[edit]