Pickleville - Biggs, California
There's probably not a teenager around that grew up in Biggs through the latter half of the 1900's that didn't know about swimming out at Pickles. It was one of those right of passage locations like Rambo and Bubbles that kids spent long hours socializing and swimming at during the hot summer nights in our community. Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of history preserved about that location and why it was called Pickles. Most of our information is hearsay and wonderful old stories passed from generation to generation. Recently Tom Green gave me a wonderful copy of a report written by his father, Morley S Green from 1954 that consolidates several local stories from people that were familiar with the colony that year. I'm positive that it is the largest amount of information in written word that is around today. The dates, however might be a bit off (see newspaper article below), but I believe the data about the people is accurate. I've typed up his report in his words below and added a few notes to clarify or elaborate as needed. Enjoy! --Marci
The History of Pickleville
By Morley Green
California Gov’t. Class
April 5, 1954
Biggs Union High School
There was never really any town or village such as some people thought but only a few families living together as a colony. There is also no written history of this colony, so I have talked with several of the natives and one of the original Danes that settled in Pickleville and secured information from them. This is how the colony is supposed to have originated and collapsed.
In 1910 two men whose names were Christenson and Axtell secured approximately one half of a section of land north of Biggs from the Richvale Land Co. for the purpose of growing crops on it. These men went back to the middle east and told these Danish people back there that this was wonderful land for growing almost any kind of crops. These people, of which there were fourteen families, came to California and settled on this land. They tried to grow such crops as corn, spuds, and alfalfa but these didn’t do very good because of the bad drainage problem. The place was called Danish Colony and not Pickleville as most people thought. The reason it got the name of Pickleville was that these two men, Christenson and Axtell, saw that the people weren’t satisfied so they took a trip to Chicago and made a deal with this pickling company to build a factory out here and buy all the cucumbers that the people could raise. They came back to the Danish colony and commenced to raise these cucumbers. They found that they could raise very large and nice cucumbers, but the Chicago company fell back on their deal and didn’t show up. This ended the pickle business
In 1912 or 1913 two brothers by the name of Chris & John Hedigard came to the vicinity from the southern rice growing states. They told the people that they could raise very good rice on the adobe land they had. In 1913 when the people raised their first successful rice crop and found it profitable they started moving away to find larger pieces of land to grow their rice on. The reason for this is that the people had such small lots that it didn’t pay them to farm them. By 1914 the colony was deserted and shortly afterwards the Richvale Land Co. got the land back for delinquent taxes.
The names of the families living in the colony were the Christensons, Esterbys, Nils Simelson, Siman Simelson, Nils Nelson, Tony Nelson, Custsons, Iversons, Highmans, Ancrasons, Millers, Axtells, Jacobsons, and Petersons. Most of the families came from Nebraska but there were a couple from Iowa, one from Wisconsin, and one from Chicago Illinois. There were nine children in the colony and these children were known to be very well mannered and very good athletes. The people did their trading in Biggs because it was so close. These people seemed to get along very well together, and were known to be very good cooks. “These people were very hard working, God fearing people.” (Quote from AJ Stohr).
In 1920 Axtell moved four of the houses into town of which three are still standing. I have made a map showing the location of these houses here in Biggs.
Morley's report is an amazing piece of local history and I'm so glad that his family realized this and saved it!
I wasn't able to find much documentation online about Pickleville with the exception of this one article published in the Chico Record, on April of 1916. You'll note that the date is off from the article above but the names and location fit. I am curious about one thing. I was under the assumption that the railroad ran through the area out in East Biggs, not the same railway as in town. Were there two railroad tracks in the early 1900's? I mean we know that Biggs got it's name from the railroad station in the 1800's but where was that railroad located? I guess I'll save that for a future research project!