Friday, June 6, 2014


Greenhorn Sawmill, photo courtesy Siskiyou County Museum

By Claudia East

The term “greenhorn” when used as a noun is defined by the dictionary as an untrained or inexperienced person, a na├»ve or gullible person; someone easily tricked or swindled, and also as a newly arrived immigrant or newcomer.  So, where does that fall in the category of Yreka History?  Locals know of our delightful Greenhorn Park and Greenhorn Creek, situated just south and to the west of the most heavily populated part of town.  There is quite a bit of local lore written about “greenhorn”, but most of the stories are similar in nature.  One of the early records of Greenhorn is from Well’s History of Siskiyou where he explains that the creek was called Race Creek in the early days because as soon as gold was discovered at Thompson’s Dry Diggings (Yreka) people started looking frantically everywhere along nearby creeks, the one we know today was called Race Creek in the early days because folks “raced” to get there to search for gold.

            So, how did Greenhorn come to bear its name?  As the story goes that little, if anything, was found along Race Creek and was soon abandoned by the miners.  One day a new arrival, perhaps an Englishman, came to town and asked where he could find a good place to mine for gold as he was ready to find his fortune.  The miners, thought they would put “one over” on this “greenhorn” and sent him up Race Creek to dig fully believing he wouldn't find anything.  As he began to work the area along the creek the local miners continued to enjoy their joke on this newcomer.  To perpetuate the joke, they began to call it Greenhorn Creek.  The joke, however, turned out to be on the miners, as he mined over $7,000 in gold in only a few days!  As soon as the word was out, the Greenhorn rush was on; miners quickly wanted to make their own claims along the five mile stretch of the creek.  During the years the area was mined, over $11 million in gold was mined from this area.  Greenhorn was one of the best producers of gold in the county from 1850 on.  The area was even dredged in later years until high bedrock was hit and the dredge could no longer be floated.
            While the creek was producing gold, however, like many other places throughout the county a small little town came into being and was even given a voting precinct of its own.  At one time (circa 1870 – 1881) it had a little general store, a tannery, a glove factory and small furniture factory, and sawmill.  There was also a small schoolhouse established in 1859.  Today all vestiges of the former town are gone except the Greenhorn Schoolhouse located near the south entrance to Greenhorn Park; the original school building is long gone and the little red schoolhouse we see today was built sometime before 1935 but replaced the original building.   The location of the schoolhouse is not in the original position, reported to have been moved between 1947 and 1957; it was originally located near the confluence of Greenhorn and Yreka Creek.  This may have been somewhere near where the interstate crosses today.

            There is a lot of history in this small area near Yreka, there was even an event called the Greenhorn War that initiated over water rights for mining.  Today, the Greenhorn Creek as it was seen 150 years ago looks very different today, instead of miners and a sawmill we have a beautiful park, lovely trails, and a lake that is home to many birds and animals.  

Copyright:  Claudia East

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Deadwood and Yreka

Yreka vs. Deadwood

   The Fight for the County Seat

 By Claudia East

              It had been a little over a year from the discovery of gold in 1851 on the flats that that Yreka had grown to over 2,000 inhabitants.  Siskiyou County was formed in March of 1852 from parts of Shasta and Klamath Counties and was named after the Siskiyou Mountain Range.  It wasn't long before a county seat needed to be determined for this new county of California.  At the time there were two towns vying for the title; that of Yreka and neighboring Deadwood which was second only to Yreka in population and was located over Greenhorn down towards the Ft. Jones area near McAdams Creek.   

            Deadwood was one of the most important business centers in the county; it was a mining town as well and had three stores, two hotels, a drug store, a butcher shop, three saloons, a bakery, two stables and a dairy.  The first bank to ever open in Siskiyou County was opened in Deadwood according to historical writings.  Many well known local pioneers had businesses in Deadwood and among them were A. B. Carlock, Daniel Ream and M. Rosenberg. 

            Early Yreka was also vibrant with stores, a stage office, brewery, hotels, meat market, hardware store, blacksmith, barbershop, saloons, a church and other places of business.  Unlike Deadwood, Yreka also had permanent residences while most of the miners in the Deadwood area lived in tents and shacks or at the boarding houses. 

            When it came time to choose a County Seat the competition between the two towns was fierce.  It was not readily predictable who would win as it was a large county and folks would have to travel many miles from one part of the county to the other to actually visit the County Seat and take care of government matters, many of them relating to property ownership, court matters and the like.  A story from a local newspaper following the county convention to elect a county seat reported the following:

            The people have spoken, and Yreka has been voted to hold the title of County Seat for the newly formed County of Siskiyou recently named by the California Legislature.  The campaigns were strong and neighboring Deadwood came very close behind Yreka, there are still rumbling accusations of underhanded dealings during the elections.  Apparently Etna had a lower voter turnout and some say it is because of the whisky party that was carried on the night before the election.  Plans will soon be underway for officers of the county and a place to hold official meetings.

            According to some historical information (whether speculated or accurate it is not entirely known…) that Etna being closer to Deadwood would vote in that direction along with others and the whiskey delivered to the voters in Etna was from Yreka.  Some reports tell of the deciding vote to be only one, and other reports simply say it was a very close election.

            In 1861 the majority of the town of Deadwood was burned to the ground in a fire.  Following that fire there were a few buildings remaining and a few residents, but it wasn't long before the town faded from existence.  Deadwood was vibrant for only 10 years, but adds a significant story to the history of our county.  Today the only thing that remains to mark the town site are a few very old fruit trees and one of the first historical monuments placed by the Siskiyou County Historical Society in 1948.  One can visit the site by traveling one of two ways.  Travel Highway 3 towards Ft. Jones and turn on McAdams Creek Road before entering the town limits of Ft. Jones.  Simply following this road will eventually take one to Forest Service Road 45N49 turn and travel a few car lengths to the monument.  The second route would be to simply travel up Greenhorn Road from Yreka and continue over the mountain and back down and look for Forest Service Road 45N49.  The monument is visible from the road if you know where to look, but the most identifiable marks will be the open flat area the town site was located and a few ancient fruit trees on the side of a hill.

            Note:  This author  is sad to report that this historic monument has been the recent target of vandals, the monument was restored a few years ago with the help of E Clampus Vitus, Humbug Chapter, along with the Siskiyou County Historical Society to repair earlier damage, but again it has been targeted by vandals shooting bullets at the bronze plaque.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Pacific Brewery

Photo:  Courtesy of Siskiyou County Historical Society

From the Pacific Brewery to Klander’s
By Claudia East

 Today locals (and in-the-know out of town folks) will visit Klander’s Deli at 211 South Oregon Street to enjoy a great lunch!  Upon arrival folks will know by simply looking at the building that this property is loaded with history for the city of Yreka.  Some information about this location and former businesses that have served the community is lacking, but we do know some very interesting facts.

            In 1854-55 a local brewery was established on this site, this would have been just 3 or 4 years after gold was discovered on the Yreka Flats.  The original owner is not well documented, but it is believed that a G. Gamble was the founder of this brewery.  The building was built of brick as far back as one can tell.  There is also the name of John Miller as an owner prior to 1865 located in title records at the Siskiyou County Courthouse, but additional information about him is currently unknown.  On June 22, 1864, however, it is noted in the Yreka Journal that Charles Iunker bought out the Pacific Brewery from his former partner John Hessenauer.  At the time Iunker owned the Yreka Brewery and the Siskiyou Brewery and these were both consolidated into the established Pacific Brewery.  This information is also noted in the History of Siskiyou County, California by Harry L. Wells published in 1881. 

            Charles Iunker was a long term and successful businessman in Yreka’s history.  He not only owned the various breweries, but also was the proprietor of the Bella Union Saloon located on the south side of Miner Street in a location today known as 325 West Miner Street. [Originally this was a one-story building during the Bella Union days.]   It was natural for him to be involved as a brew master as he came from Bavaria, Germany and while there he was schooled as an artisan in the brewing and distilling trade.  He arrived in Yreka in 1855 and opened his first brewery, in 1858 he purchased the Bella Union property, and in 1861 he built a two story brick residence on Center Street that still stands today.  It was reported in 1881 that about 300 barrels of beer were annually made in Yreka at his brewery.

            The exact year the brewery next changed ownership is unknown, but sometime between 1897 and 1901 Joseph Steinacher is listed as the proprietor of the Pacific Brewery. Viewing the 1908 Sanborn map one can see that as well as operating a brewery Steinacher also had a saloon in operation at this location and the building was equipped with electric lights.  It operated under Steinacher until January 17, 1920 when prohibition began. What transpired during the next seven years is unclear at this time, but by 1927 research shows us that the building was being used as a meat packing and distributing plant.  The next void in the history continues until about 1945 or so when Theodore and Marjorie Klander operate the Siskiyou County Distributing Company at this address.  For many years Marjorie and her son, Robert Klander, operated the business.  It is interesting to view old photos of the building, and although some of the basic parts of the current building may be original it is not known when the building was altered or rebuilt but it is roughly estimated to have undergone major reconstruction or a rebuild between 1930 and 1945 to the configuration we are familiar with today.

  It has been noted by long time residents in Yreka that while the Klander’s operated the Siskiyou Distributing Company they gave returning veterans from World War II free lodging in the apartments upstairs as a thank you for their service.  In 2002 the current owners, William and Ondia Durovchic, purchased the building and continued with the Deli that is so well loved today.  One tidbit of information that is particularly enticing to this author is that in the far corner of the building deep in the basement is an opening that once led to one of the underground mine tunnels once so prevalent in Yreka [It has been closed off and filled and the tunnel is no longer accessible].  
Copyright:  Claudia East

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Lotta Crabtree

Lotta Crabtree
By Claudia East

            Around 1950, along Miner Street in Yreka, a sign was placed approximately near the curb where one today finds the plaque dedicating our National Historic District. The sign partially read:  “Arcade Billiard Saloon, here in the fifties Lotta Crabtree sang for the miners…”  the sign disappeared sometime more than 20 years ago but is fondly remembered by many Yreka residents.
During the early Gold Rush in California there was a talented and beautiful little girl with curly red hair that used to sing, dance, and play the banjo for the miners. The miners would cheerfully throw gold at her feet!  Lotta traveled with her mother to various mining areas throughout California and Nevada to entertain.  She became the equivalent of today’s “rock star” at an early age, and by 20 years old she was touring the nation with her own theatrical company.

            During the 1870s and 1880s she was the highest paid actress in America earning sums of up to $5,000 per week.  Her mother managed her affairs and invested Lotta’s earnings in real estate, race horses and bonds.  She also used some of the earnings to support local charities and build fountains.  The most famous of these fountains, “Lotta’s Fountain” still stands at the intersection of Kearny and Market Streets in San Francisco.  The fountain was an important meeting place following the 1906 earthquake for folks to find family and friends who survived the ordeal.  In fact, today, the fountain is the site of meetings on April 18 of each year that mark the anniversary of the earthquake.

           In 1945, local historian Bernice Meamber met and carefully noted a conversation she had with Charles Herzog, a long time Yrekan, about Lotta Crabtree and her time in Yreka.  It has been speculated through various accounts that Lotta arrived in Yreka sometime between 1853 and 1857, so she would have been between six and ten years old at the time.  The length of her stay here has also been disputed from three months to three years, but no matter how long she was here, she won the hearts and gold from the miners. 

            In the conversation with Charles Herzog he recalled to Bernice Meamber that it was in November of 1854 that Lotta and her mother came to Yreka.  When they arrived they were “destitute” and they stayed with his family.  Lotta sang and danced at the W. S. R. Taylor Saloon [aka Arcade Billiard Saloon] and entertained the miners.  He recounted that one night at Taylor’s Saloon she took in $10,000 in gold dust alone!   When all of this happened Charles Herzog was just a mere toddler, being born in Yreka in 1856.  However, Charles goes on to verify his story by recounting a chance meeting with Lotta years later in 1876.  Charles had just finished driving a band of cattle to San Francisco and was actually at Lotta’s Fountain getting a drink of water when a woman stopped and spoke to him.  In the conversation she asked him where he was from, and when he mentioned Yreka, the conversation blossomed from there.  She told him she remembered when she stayed with his family and that she used to carry him around as a little one.  She recounted the night she took in $10,000 and that when she left Yreka she gave her piano to the Catholic Church (when it was still up on the hill by the cemetery).

            Lotta reigned as a top earning star in America for 25 years and traveled the entire nation.  At the age of 43 she retired following a fall; she “went out on top”.  She lived until 1924, at age 76 and after her retirement did not perform much according to research except for a special event, her last performance, during the 1915 Panama Exposition in San Francisco during “Lotta Crabtree Day”.  Lotta felt her wealth had come from the people and thought it should be returned to them.  After her death in her estate was valued at about Four Million dollars in a charitable trust, and it was left to funds for hospitals, education, needy actors, homeless animals, and spreading cheer at Christmas.  The largest sums went to disabled veterans of World War I, and to ex-convicts in starting life anew after release from prison.  These funds are still in operation. 
Copyright:  Claudia East, 2013

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Yreka Elementary circa 1863

Photo circa 1888

The following is from the:
Yreka Semi-Weekly Journal, July 22, 1863.

                NEW SCHOOL HOUSE. — The funds which the Trustees of Yreka School District are in hopes of being authorized to raise are to be applied to a thorough refitting and remodeling of the public school house of this city.  Every person is satisfied that the present building is not fit to have a school in, besides not being capable of containing more than one half of the scholars within the boundaries of the District.  The plan of the new building is so calculated as to remedy both of these defects.  They propose to turn the present house around so as to stand side to the street, and put an addition on to one end, equal in width and length to the old house, which will give a room — by removing the partition — sixty feet long, by twenty-four wide.  This will be divided into two compartments, by a sliding partition in the centre, which will give two rooms, each thirty feet long, by twenty-four wide.  These rooms will easily accommodate one hundred and twenty five scholars, who are to be seated, in each room, facing the centre partition.  On public occasions, both rooms can be thrown into one, by sliding the partition thus reliving the teachers and pupils of the trouble and expense of fitting up a hall, where the benefits are only felt for an evening or a day.
            The front is to be relieved of its barn appearance by an addition, projecting out ten feet by twenty-four long.  This will be divided into an open hall with a room on each side which are calculated for the accommodation of the scholars’ hats and over-garments.  From these rooms, scholars will enter their respective school rooms.  By this arrangement, the school can be graded and classified.  The advanced scholars will form a grammar department, while the small and less advanced, will form a primary department
The benefits arising from such a classification must be apparent to all.  Not only will the children be benefited by the advantages of a thoroughly classified school, but the parents by lessening the expense of schooling.
            Let everyone give it their careful consideration, and decide by their vote on the 1st of August next, that the youth of Yreka shall have a suitable school room.  The county has a first class Court House; shall it not have a good School House?

            A ground plan can be seen at the Post Office.

Note:  This building sat approximately where the Siskiyou County Library is located today near the corner of Fourth and Yreka Streets.