Spanish settlers began populating California in 1769, and from then until 1822, land titles in California remained within Spanish control. Following 1822, land was granted to Mexican settlers and by 1847 Mexican land grants covered the western half of California up to the Sacramento Valley. After the war between Mexico and the United States, and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildalgo (1848), California came under the jurisdiction of the United States. The passing of a land claim act in 1851 by the United States Government created a board of land commissioners, and most land grants to European settlers followed. In Butte County, all Spanish or Mexican land grants occurred between 1860 and 1863.
William Thomas Baldwin (1862-1914) was born in Chariton (Iowa) before moving with his family to Colusa County. He attended grade school in Colusa and enrolled at U.C. Berkeley, but he left before graduation to begin work as a bookkeeper in Lodi. After working as a teacher in Lodi, he moved to Gridley, where he was elected as the Butte County tax collector, serving from 1898 to 1908. In 1908 he began work as an abstractor, acquiring the Butte County Title Abstract Company, which was established in 1877.