William B. Ide Day Celebrated in Chico, California

Contributed By By Roger Ekins, Church News contributor

  • 18 June 2014

Men shot guns as part of a seven-gun musket salute during William B. Ide Day, which commemorated the dedication of a new gravestone in his honor.  Photo by Wendy Mayo.

Article Highlights

  • Ide was commander in chief of the Bear Flag Revolt in 1846 and served as the first LDS head of state.
  • William B. Ide Day was commemorated with the dedication of a new gravestone in his honor.

CHICO, CALIFORNIA

Near Chico, California, the life and work of California pioneer and LDS Church member William Brown Ide—a significant figure in the state’s formative history—was commemorated with the dedication of a new gravestone in his honor.

Ide was commander in chief of the Bear Flag Revolt in 1846, capturing the Mexican garrison at Sonoma and declaring it part of the state of California. After the successful military incursion, Ide and his American troops raised a bear flag, a crude precursor of today’s California state flag, and issued a proclamation of independence from Mexico. They turned the Sonoma region over to American authorities, and Ide then served as the first LDS head of state, functioning as president of the California Republic.

About 130 people, including former Congressman and Latter-day Saint Wally Herger, Congressman Doug La Malfa, and state Senator Jim Nielsen, were in attendance at the ceremony held in Hamilton City, California, about 10 miles east of Chico. Nielsen and others passed a formal resolution in the California State Senate proclaiming the occasion as William B. Ide Day. A framed copy of the resolution was presented to David Freeman, an historical researcher and Ide Adobe State Historical Park docent, who corrected other aspects of Ide’s life. Church member James Monroe Ide of Antioch, California, a second great-grandson of William B. Ide, was selected to read Ide's historic proclamation.

Period reenactors with Debbie Chakarun, director of the William B. Ide Adobe State Historic Park, at gravesite. Photo by Roger Ekins.

S. Dennis Holland, president of the California Pioneer Heritage Foundation and director of public affairs of LDS historic sites in California, dedicated the new gravestones. Brother Holland also presented both Mr. Freeman and Brother Roger Robin Ekins, Chico/Redding area multistake director of public affairs, with the foundation’s Distinguished Service Recognition Award of Merit. This is a “pioneer spirit” medal in recognition of their “efforts in promoting and preserving the California LDS pioneer spirit.”

Brother Ekins and fellow LDS historian, Richard K. Behrens, as well as Church Archivist,  Michael N. Landon, found conclusive evidence that William Ide was baptized a member of the LDS Church in July of 1837.

Mr. Freeman said, “What an honor it’s been for me to be engaged in this effort to set history straight.”

Ide was originally buried in Monroeville, California. His grave was marked by a plain wooden marker, which was subsequently lost. When the Monroeville Cemetery was renovated in 1998, a new cement headstone incorrectly labeled him “Governor.”

Through Mr. Freeman’s efforts, Ide’s true place in California’s history was rectified. Mr. Freeman successfully solicited funds from a number of sources, including the Colusi County Historical Society, the Native Sons of the Golden West, and the Church-affiliated California Pioneer Heritage Foundation, to create a new marble headstone.

Included in the festivities was period music provided by the California Consolidated Drum Band, the official drum and fife corps of the state of California, along with a seven-gun musket salute. A cast replica of the four-pounder cannon purchased by Mormon Battalion veterans was also fired.

Dave Freeman receiving Congressional Record excerpt from Congressman Doug La Malfa and former Congressman Wally Herger. Photo by Virginia Freeman.