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Butte County
A brief history of Butte County

Butte County grew from a quiet home of the Maidu tribe to a booming mining area during the Gold Rush to the agricultural powerhouse it is today.

The earliest known residents of Butte County were the Northwestern Maidu who migrated and settled on the Mooretown Ridge between the Middle Fork and South Fork of the Feather River around 1500 B.C. Today’s Concow-Maidu tribe are their descendants.

As people began journeying westward in the late 1700s and early 1800s, countless Spanish, Mexican, and early American explorers traveled to the area then owned by Mexico and now covered by California. In the early 1840s, the Mexican government granted large tracts of land to a variety of these settlers. In Butte County, Llano Seco stands as one of the last remaining intact land grants from this period.

With the discovery of gold in California in 1848, the Gold Rush ushered in thousands of people to the area and Butte County, including eventual city of Chico founder John Bidwell. Towns along the Feather River--including Oroville, Cherokee, and Magalia--came into existence.

With the migration of thousands during the Gold Rush, California became a state in 1850, with Butte County as one of the state’s 27 original counties.

Within a decade, mining decreased as an economic engine in the area, with agriculture taking its place. Wheat became Chico’s primary cash crop while citrus and olives were, and still are, grown in the Oroville area.

Today, you can explore Butte County’s Native American and gold rush history through various museums and displays found across the country while enjoying its current position as an impressive agricultural hub.

Economic drivers in Butte County

The backbone of the local economy is agriculture, which generates nearly $700 million gross value to the county annually.

The largest industries in the county are healthcare and social assistance, retail trade, education services, utilities, mining, quarrying, oil and gas extraction, and finance and insurance.

Forestry, outdoor activities like hunting and fishing, entertainment, recreation, and the arts are also important drivers to the local economy.

Some of Butte County’s top employers include Butte County Government, CSU Chico, Enloe Medical Center, Feather Falls Casino and Lodge, and Sierra Nevada Brewery.