Historic Resource Study
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A. Discovery Creates Worldwide Reaction

After John Marshall discovered gold at Sutter's Mill on the American River in January 1848 gold fever spread rapidly across state and national boundaries and soon flashed around the world. By spring of that year the young city of San Francisco had been abandoned and miners were panning for gold up and down some 150 miles along the western slope of the Sierra Nevadas Argonauts from the Atlantic seaboard, Hawaii, Latin America, Europe, and the Orient began to plan their migration to the gold fields of California, which according to the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of May 1848 had passed from Spanish rule to U.S. territorial status. Regardless of diplomatic jostling, the gold mines were open to everyone, and the waves of immigrants began pouring into the area during the summer of 1849. [1]

California applied for and received U.S. statehood in 1850. By that year the mining population was estimated at some 50,000 people, approximately ten times the number in 1848. The flush years of California gold mining lasted until 1853 when the mining population hit its peak of approximately 100,000 and the total gold production reached a record $65,000,000. By 1855 the U.S. had increased its gold production seventy-three times, and during the latter four years had provided nearly forty-five percent of the world's total gold output. The glut of gold on the international market created such a shock that nearly every country in the world suffered an inflation in 1854. [2]

B. Northern California Rush: Delayed But Not Deficient

In 1848 Pierson B. Redding, one of the few ranchers in the upper Sacramento Valley, discovered gold on Clear Creek, 200 miles northwest of Sutter's Mill (Coloma). By the close of the year, "miners were washing rich auriferous dirt . . . over a space of about fifteen miles square, near the place now known as the town of Shasta, in the Coast Mountains, at the head of the Sacramento Valley." The fifteen miles square no doubt took in all of the area now included in Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, since Shasta lies less than one mile from the park's east boundary, and Clear Creek runs directly through the center of the recreation area, on the east to west diagonal. [3]

Although the first influx of miners to northern California in 1848 eagerly panned on Clear Creek, the following season some of the gold seekers concluded that "Shasta . . . was quite small and the miners were not very rich," [4] and moved on to explore other locations. In their impatient quests for rich gold pockets the miners rolled back the wilderness of northern California to the west and north, over the coastal mountain range. Except for small numbers of adventuresome souls, however, the rugged mountainous northern country remained unknown. In August 1849 the Alta California (San Francisco) announced that an exploring party had found gold on the Trinity River. But the reporter admitted that "very little is known respecting this portion of California." [5]

While the northern miners continued to work in the shadow of the Sierra Nevadas for yet another season, the mining population of California grew by leaps and bounds. In November 1849, after only one month's absence, J. D. B. Stillman recorded his impressions of Sacramento, the burgeoning transportation center for the central and northern mines:

When I passed through this place, in September, there were not more than half a dozen wooden houses in the city, with a population chiefly floating, of about five thousand. There are now several hundred buildings and the place is thronged with miners who are driven from the mines by want of provisions . . . [6]

Despite a far more critical shortage of supplies in the vast territory northwest of Sacramento, the gold miners pushed into northern California early in 1850. On February 2, 1850, Sacramento's Placer Times printed an account by J. S. Bowles that "at Redding's Diggings [later Shasta City—M. H. B. Boggs] operators were doing well, the gold being of large-sized grains." The following month the Alta California's headlines read, "The New Gold Region," telling of mining in the vicinity of Trinidad Bay and Trinity River, where the diggings abounded "with the precious ore in much greater abundance than any of the places hitherto discovered." In August of that year a reporter of the Sacramento Transcript reported that Clear Creek contained deposits of great promise:

Clear Creek. It was our fortune yesterday to fall in with a gentleman who had passed a few months on Clear creek. . . . Our informant states that there are extensive ravine diggings all along each side of Clear creek, . . . very rich. [7]

While such accounts obviously attracted the first large waves of immigrants to the northern mines, the account in the Sacramento Union of June 18, 1851, very likely determined the route of the subsequent years' migrations through the emerging town of Shasta. Formerly known as Reading's Springs, Shasta, the seat of Shasta County, was on the verge of becoming the hub of transportation for all areas of northern California:

NEWS FROM SHASTA—RICH DIGGINGS. From Mr. Taylor of Taylor's Shasta Express . . . at Mad Mule Canyon, on Whiskey Creek, a company of seven men struck a rich lead, and took out $10,000 in 15 days' work, the largest lump weighing $900. The gold was all in very course pieces, varying in value from $10 to $900. . . . In the same canyon, a Mr. Montgomery and his son took out $8000 in 25 days. The miners in the vicinity of Whiskey Creek are doing remarkably well, from $15 to $30 being a common day's work. Clear Creek and its branches are also astonishing the miners by their yields. [8]

Such news drew miners from California's older mining regions who hoped to find less crowded conditions and more prosperous diggings in an area still remote, without wagon roads, supply centers, or permanent settlements to compare with those found in the counties along the Sierra Nevadas. By 1852 the population of northwest California had increased fourfold and while their numbers only represented a small percentage of the state's mining population, their arrival spurred the rapid development of transportation routes and all the usual social and physical aftereffects related to a growth in population. [9]

C. Shasta County: Early Growth

In 1850, the year Shasta County was established, William Magee arrived in Reading's Springs where he found some 300 people living in tents and cloth houses. That night he slept on the ground that was within the year to become the main street of Shasta, the county seat of Shasta County. [10]

According to a correspondent for the Sacramento Union, Reading's Springs was first settled in 1849 by miners who "were attracted to the spot by the pure unfailing waters of the springs." The site was also convenient for the miners, for it stood along one of the few established trails of northern California, one no doubt taken by the first miners in 1848. As news of the rich diggings in the northern mines spread through the central and southern regions of California, the traffic to Reading's Springs increased. In February 1851 the county fathers moved the seat of government from Reading's Ranch, in the upper Sacramento Valley, to Reading's Springs, which had been renamed Shasta the summer before. [11]

Prior to 1850 travel to Shasta was arduous, slow, hazardous, and undependable. Argonauts coming from the Atlantic seaboard, for instance, may have begun their long journey by taking the quickest route possible to San Francisco—steamer through the Isthmus of Panama—paying between $200 and $400 to reach their destination. Next they would have traveled a day or more by land or steamer to Sacramento, where, hopefully, transportation provisions were available to launch a 180-mile trip over the rough trail to Shasta. In 1849-50 the only land route between Sacramento and Shasta was a mule trail used in earlier days by the Hudson's Bay Company. In 1850 the route was surveyed and declared a public highway, although it was still just an improved mule trail. [12]

The transportation routes soon showed improvement, however, since vested interests in Shasta and Sacramento wished to see their supplies and potential customers carried to their destinations quickly and safely. Moreover, like the miners they served, the commercial speculators all kept to the trails and roads during the early years to seek protection in the company of others when traveling through territory inhabited by often-hostile Indians. [13]

By January 1851 the trail to Shasta was rarely found untraveled. A reporter for the Sacramento Transcript remarked that "scarcely a day has passed, within the past week, that we have not observed large trains of mules, heavily packed with sacks of flour, boxes, and kegs, leaving the city for the Northern mines. The recent discoveries there seem to have imparted an impetus to all." The merchants in Shasta were making a fast profit be selling their provisions at a high price, and the traders in Trinity County let it be known to the Sacramento Transcript in February 1851 that they preferred to take the longer and more difficult road to Trinidad Bay to get their supplies rather than pay the price in Shasta City. "A large extent of country," however, remained "dependent entirely on Redding's for their supplies." [14]

Not only did Shasta have a captive audience to the north and west where little settlement and development had taken place, but it also had a steady influx of new customers and supplies to finance its continued growth. Moreover, once the town was selected as the county seat in early 1851, it possessed the added status and permanency which local government affords.

In mid-March 1851 the Sacramento Transcript informed its readers that Shasta was improving rapidly, that it stood "at the head of wagon navigation, being the point where wagons stop and where packing commences." In addition, it already boasted three hotels, a large number of stores, three blacksmith shops, and two tenpin alleys. [15]

By March of 1852 Shasta had taken on even greater significance because of the discovery of rich gold deposits along Clear and Whiskey creeks. The Sacramento Union explained that "the mines on every side are rich and extensive. Real estate is worth more than ever before. Rents have steadily advanced . . . the demand for lumber is so great that sawmills in the vicinity are unable to supply the demand." In May of that year the San Francisco Alta California featured an article on Shasta which defined the town's importance in northern California:

The town of Shasta is situated in a small valley about three miles west of the Sacramento river and about 180 miles north of Sacramento City. The valley is watered by unfailing fountains of pure water, formerly known as Reading's Springs . . . [in] the heart of a very fine mining region. . . . [It is] the terminus of wagon travel to the north, . . . there are four lines of stages running from Colusa and Marysville and terminating at this place. They generally come up filled and still are unable to accomodate the great increase of travel tending in this direction. [16]

The article also noted that an estimated 700 people were arriving in Shasta each week, many of whom continued on to the mines. Two months earlier, a Shasta Courier correspondent claimed that the northern region contained at least 50,000 people and that there was a lack of mail facilities in the areas beyond Shasta, where the transportation routes continued to be unimproved mule trains often impassable due to bad weather or other unexpected hazards. Shasta County was rapidly developing, but beyond the limits of the county seat the wilderness remained a formidable barrier to progress. For that reason, articles such as the one quoted above were sent out by the Shasta Courier to encourage permanent settlers to the area—settlers who would invest in the future of the county and the local communities that had appeared along the roads and trails to the mines. [17]

D. Local Development in the Vicinity of Shasta

1. Pioneer Charles Camden's Story

The earliest description of the local scene to the west of Shasta—now within the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area—comes from The Autobiography of Charles Camden. Although this book was written when Camden was an octogenarian, it contains numerous recollections directly verified in nineteenth century county records and newspaper accounts. Camden prided himself on his clear, rational thinking and his exceptional physical and mental fitness. Therefore, this account not only serves as a tribute to his own life, but as an intimate view of the activities around Shasta prior to the establishment of a county newspaper to report local news. [18]

Charles Camden and his partners, Levi H. Tower and John Hindman, set sail in March 1850 for the gold region around Trinity Bay and Trinity River which the Alta California had heralded in San Francisco that month. Having found their way by blazing trails and by following Indian paths 150 miles through thick forests to the Trinity mines, they passed the spring and summer mining among the forty-niners on the Trinity and Salmon rivers. Late in October they decided to winter in Shasta County, where the weather was more temperate. Since supplies reportedly "were very cheap at Humboldt Bay, Unionville," Tower and some new mining friends took the mules west to stock up on provisions, while Camden and another friend, Luckey, crossed into Shasta County over a trail which Major Reading had reportedly blazed in 1845, and which miners had used since 1848 to reach Weaver[ville] basin and the Trinity County mines. [19]

When Camden, and Luckey reached the current location of Tower House Historic District, at Clear Creek's sharp bend to the northeast, they found a man named Schneider who was running a limited trading post business selling common miners supplies in his eight- by ten-foot log cabin. Schneider, Camden related, had no customers that October 1850, as "all had left, he said, for below Shasta and the southern diggings [the latter meaning below Marysville]." Schneider importuned them to stay with him and mine the good diggings there, but Camden and Luckey, anxious to continue on to Shasta, left that day and soon took up prospecting along Olney and Salt creeks southwest of the town, where most of the miners in the vicinity were digging. [20]

Camden and Luckey wrote to Tower to bring the provisions and mules on to Shasta, and the partners reunited early in November 1850, in time to decide where they would camp for the winter. Tower and his company had also stopped at Schneider's trading post, where Schneider and two men, "a negro and Jockey Woods, the only men left about there, except Schneider," had urged them to remain, explaining that "they did not want to leave and would feel safer if more men were around, on account of Indians." The two men tempted Tower and his party with the fact that they had mined there all summer and "knew all and lots of good places." [21]

After discussing the matter among themselves and investigating Clear Creek in the vicinity of Schneider's post, Camden and Tower agreed to winter at the site that would soon be their home for most of the remainder of their lives. From this choice location they stood right at the junction of the trails to Shasta, Weaverville, French Gulch, and Yreka—then or shortly to be the headquarters for the major mining districts in northern California. The mining company was surrounded by Clear Creek and two smaller creeks, which Camden named Granite and Crystal creeks, and they had no difficulty obtaining the water they needed for their diggings. The area had been mined already, but the prospects of good deposits were undeniable. Mining equipment was available at Schneider's store, as well as at Shasta only twelve miles distant, less than a day's walk. Even though few miners were left after the rush to the southern mines, the opportunity which lay in Clear Creek and in the future trade from miners on their way to or from the diggings in Trinity, Siskiyou, and Del Norte counties far outweighed the danger from Indian attack. [22]

As was often the case on mining frontiers, Camden and Tower developed a close friendship through their mining partnership. They worked well as a team, for Camden received special satisfaction from mining and prospecting, while Tower showed his preference for commercial endeavors by taking the mules south to Sacramento or San Francisco to purchase provisions at a more reasonable price than in Shasta. Tower maintained his interest in the mining claims until the fall of 1851, when he broke the partnership and turned his attention to acquiring the land at Schneider's trading post. [23]

Camden felt no disappointment at the loss of his partner, for he and Tower were still closely affiliated in social matters, yet were free to pursue their own business ambitions. Camden devoted most of his time to gold mining both in his life experiences and in his autobiography. For over fifteen years Camden concentrated his mining to about a two-mile stretch along Clear Creek and its tributaries. He extracted an average of $10 a day and totalled an estimated $80,000 from his efforts. [24] Camden's enduring success in gold mining on Clear Creek was a rare exception in the Shasta area, as well as in the other mining districts of California. In his recollections Camden himself underscored the sharp differences between his mining experiences and those of the average miner. The primary difference, he concluded, was that "one man will double the work of another, either by skill or will." According to Camden, others readily recognized this trait in him. "You, Camden, have the reputation of doing double the work of any of the rest of us," a friend remarked one day in 1854, when soliciting Camden's assistance and advice. [25]

Camden also stressed his own characteristics of patience, perseverance, and permanence in contrast to the average miner. As an example, he cited the time he mined on Slate Creek where three others had already worked diggings.

Knowing that these miners had not worked the diggings clean, Camden proceeded to extract $23 worth of gold in half a day. The trouble with the average miner, Camden explained, was his impatience with the hard work and low returns. He observed that most miners came to the mines expecting to net $50 to $100 a day, so that the $10 or less average seemed like a dismal disappointment. Probably discouraged by back-breaking labor and small rewards, many a miner turned to drink or gambling. As Camden witnessed:

The most common cause of non-success of so many in those, the palmy days of California, was gambling and drinking. Regularly a number of my neighbors would go to Shasta with large purses of gold on Saturdays, returning in a few days "broke." It was the same everywhere. Many of those who had as good or better a claim than I had, I have known to die in the poor house. Success was called LUCK by those that failed. From observation, nine-tenths of the "luck" came from hard work and judgment. [26]

Once broke again, miners often wandered on to new locations, hoping to find a rich strike. They came to the mines, for the most part as young men, often single, but if married, alone, leaving their families in more civilized surroundings until they came home wealthy. Because most of the miners in the gold rush never struck it rich, or kept their profits for the future, many did not return to their homes, but instead continued to follow the rainbow of gold and silver discoveries which appeared over the California, Nevada, and Colorado horizons for the following two decades. In contrast, Camden was one of the first to marry in Shasta County (November 1852), and one of the only miners in the area to gain local and state recognition for his public and private contributions to the development of northern California. [27]

2. Physical Growth 1850-1880

As a result of the overall lack of family permanence in the mining camps and the corresponding restlessness or irresponsibility among many miners, physical development came slowly to the area west of Shasta, except along the trail to the mines. Commercial interest sprang up to meet the miners' needs at or near the mining camps on Clear Creek and its tributaries. In August 1851 according to the records of the county supervisors, Reed and Company at Oak Bottom, and Smith and Company near the mouth of Whiskey Creek, were conveniently enough located to be designated election centers. When recalling an incident in the spring of 1851, Camden mentioned the Four Mile House which later records indicate stood near and to the east of Whiskeytown on the road from Shasta. The throng of miners who came to the area following the June 1851 announcement that rich gold strikes had been found in Mad Mule Canyon, Whiskey Creek, and Clear Creek for the most part lived in cloth houses or tents, which were portable and convenient, and which, after their removal, left only surface scars as reminders of the brief, but undoubtedly disruptive, encampment. [28]

a. Hotels and Inns

The influx of miners, however transient they were, did spur the local and regional economy. Shasta, as a regional supply center, sent out long trains of mules bearing supplies to the mining camps near and far. A pioneer to the area recalled seeing the streets of Shasta blocked by "heavily loaded wagons drawn by five yokes of oxen each," and some 500 pack mules loaded and ready to leave. According to one of the early Shasta Courier editions, each mule carried an average load of 300 pounds, and each week an average of 100 tons were shipped out of Shasta to mines in more remote areas. The multitude of beasts and men on the trail through the area to the west of Shasta required frequent stopping points for food and water, and, often, for overnight accommodations. By 1855 five hotels or inns had opened along the twelve miles from Shasta to the Tower House—Nicholas Maher's Four Mile House, four miles west of Shasta; Mix's Hotel at "Whiskey Creek"; the Oak Bottom House at Oak Bottom, near the mouth of Boulder Creek; Brown's House at the mouth of Grizzly Gulch; and the Tower House at the upper crossing of Clear Creek and the junction of the Weaverville/Yreka roads. That year the Shasta Courier printed a traveler's account of a trip from Shasta to Weaverville which described these five public houses, as well as other physical developments along the way:

On Saturday last he did saddle his mule . . . and in a job trot vamosed over the hills and far away. He passed in succession Nick Meyer's, Mixe's, Van Deventer's, Brown's, and finally reached the Tower House. . . . We observed that all along the road there were evidences of the permanent improvements of this County—that fine houses were taking the places of miserable old shanties; and that instead of being a labor to go from here to Weaverville, it is now a delightful pleasure trip. Every two miles between this and the Tower House you can find entertainment for man and beast, not such as was to be obtained in early days, but chicken fixins, eggs, fresh butter, and all the delicacies of city life. [29]

b. Sawmills

To serve the community's need for lumber to build these hotels and houses, as well as the miners' dams, flumes, sluices, long toms, and rockers, at least three sawmills opened early in the 1850s: Caleb Wingate and Nathan Farrington's on Clear Creek, near Whiskey Creek; Charles Camden's on Clear Creek near the Tower House; and Everett Crocker's on Brandy Creek, near the forks. Another in 1856 may have been operated by M. C. Davis, who that year claimed the waters of Brandy Creek "for a sawmill to be erected by him." [30]

c. Gardens and Orchards

To help feed the multitude of miners, those few pioneers who established ranches, hotels, or inns in the area planted small crops of vegetables for themselves and their customers or sold cattle and produce from their orchards. Although the terrain to the west of Shasta was mostly mountainous and rough, and the soil often parched or flooded by violent rain storms, the flat lands along the several tributaries of Clear Creek provided a suitable setting for such minimal agricultural pursuits. In May 1853 the Shasta Courier published an article on gardening in the vicinity of Shasta, remarking, "We are glad to perceive that so many persons have turned their attention to cultivating the arable portions of the mining division of the county. Many spots which, last summer, wore a dreary and forbidding aspect, now present a delightfully home-like appearance." [31]

Most of the area's farming activity developed near Shasta or the major mining camps along the road west from Shasta. In 1852 Frank Vandeventer constructed an irrigation system for the crops and orchards he planted around his ranch at Oak Bottom, and Levi Tower did the same on his newly purchased property at the junction of the Weaverville and Yreka roads. The next year Benjamin Mix acquired a lot for a hotel in the community growing at the mouth of Whiskey Creek, and two years later laid claim to additional land for "agricultural grazing and corralling purposes." Other individuals not connected with specific business properties also claimed tracts of government land near the road, but evidently the visual improvements did not counter the physical destruction carried out by the local miners and lumbermen. In September 1855 the Shasta Courier appealed to its readers to beautify the countryside by planting more trees:

No person who has passed a summer in our almost tropical climate, can fail to regret the unnecessary destruction of shade trees, which has taken place. The beauty of the Scripture quotation about sitting under one's own vine and fig-tree, is nowhere more apparent than here, where the deprivation is so seriously felt.

To remedy this defect—to change in some degree the appearance of sterility and desolation which reins about Shasta, everyone who owns a lot of ground, even if he does not expect to make this his abiding place, should, so soon as the season will permit, plant a few trees around his residence. [32]

Of all the citizens who chose to farm in the area, only Levi H. Tower won the local and regional fame for his crops. Numerous articles about the sumptuousness of his fruit appeared in the Shasta Courier in the early 1850s by a writer evidently well rewarded for his complementary commentary. Perhaps more believable, as it came from a traveler who had nothing to win by his praise, was the excerpt from the journal of Richard G. Stanwood, who visited the Tower House in 1861:

Next morning, the 25th, were up early and took a walk through the orchard, which is one of the finest in the State. The fruit is principally apples and peaches. All the trees were loaded down with splendid fresh looking fruit. We did full justice to them, for at Yreka it had been so scarce and high, prudence had compelled us to be abstemious. . . . we were charmed with the locality and our excellent accomodations and fine fare, and decided that the Tower House was the best place to stop at we had seen in our travels.

Shortly thereafter Stanwood again stopped at the Tower House, and as if he had never before marveled about it, he wrote, "a delightful spot with the finest orchard I have seen in the State, though not the largest, and plenty of beautiful shade trees." [33]

Tower's two acres of orchard and sixty acres of valley land seemed a peaceful oasis to many travelers or miners in the area in contrast to the hot and dusty scene along the creeks and roads between Shasta and the Tower House. Anxious to get rich quick, and perhaps, to return to the families or life they had left, most citizens of Shasta County during the 1850s came to dig up the earth for mining rather than cultivation.

d. Mining Claims and Structures

As was typical throughout California prior to about 1880, placer mining, or mining with the use of water to wash the gravel from creek beds, was far more popular than the arduous method of lode mining which required expensive equipment, heavy financial investment, and sophisticated technology to operate profitably. Between Shasta and the Tower House flowed Clear Creek and all its several tributaries—Mill, Slate, Boulder, Grizzly, New York, Brandy, Whisky, Dry, and Salt creeks, to name the principal ones. From 1848 to the mid-1860s these creeks were worked over numerous times by impatient, reckless miners or by thorough, persevering mining companies, to the physical detriment of the surrounding countryside. [34]

Until 1855 enthusiasm and productivity characterized the mining in the area around Shasta. San Francisco's Alta California reported in June 1852 that a "magnificent" seven- to eight-pound lump of gold interspersed with quartz had been found by Ben the Boatman and Harry Dickens in Whiskey Creek. Later accounts by Charles Camden and Hugh Shuffleton testified to lumps as large as $75 and $65 mined with rockers from Clear Creek early in the 1850s. [35]

Although at the close of 1852, after five years of steady mining, few such large lumps remained in the surface diggings, expectations for gold production still ran high, as witnessed by the concentration of miners and mining camps around Shasta. The California Census of 1852 recorded a population of 4,050 in Shasta County. Nearly half were miners living in the general vicinity of Shasta, in the nine-county mining localities identified—French Gulch, Mad Ox Canon, One Horse Town, Clear Creek, Mad Mule Canon, Whiskey Creek, One Mule Town, Grizzly Gulch, and Middle Town. [36]

Realizing that their continued success in the area depended on improving their mining techniques, many of these miners in 1852-1853 put aside the rocker and pan to construct flumes, ditches, and sluices—mining improvements which were already in widespread use in older gold regions of California. Because the construction of these works required more money and labor than one man alone could profitably provide, the miners soon organized into mining companies or partnerships. In May of 1852 San Francisco's Alta California reported on the ambitious projects of one mining company on Clear Creek:

WATER COMPANIES. Among the different projects for supplying the mines with water, there are none that yield more satisfactory results than the Shasta County Mining and Water Company, which has been organized, under the act, for the purpose of turning off Clear Creek, upon one of the richest sections of country in the northern mines. The company own the saw mill and are now rapidly sawing out the lumber, for their flumes. They have nine miles to carry the water. The work is seven feet wide and four feet high and will be able to carry twenty-eight solid feet of water eight months in the year. [37]

A year later expectations still ran high in the Shasta community. In April 1853 the Courier assured its readers, "The mines are very numerous . . . [there is] not a river, creek, gulch, or ravine that does not contain gold," and in August reported with satisfaction, "The numerous companies on . . . [Clear] creek are now busily engaged in building flumes, preparatory to giving their claims in the bed of the stream a thorough searching for the precious ore." In spite of a heavy rainstorm which caused unexpected damage to the construction, these flume companies by early October had completed their work and already were doing "remarkably well." "Nearly all of those who have claims are working upon the bedrock," the Courier reported, "and we seldom hear of a yield of less than two ounces to the hand per day." [38]

News of extensive and rich diggings around French Gulch the following spring, as well as glowing reports sent in from Whiskey Creek during the summer of 1854, not only testified to the success of these mining companies' efforts, but attracted yet more investors and miners to the area around Shasta. By 1855 at least eleven mining companies had set up operations along the creeks between Whiskeytown and the Tower House, and in November the Clear Creek Ditch Company completed a staggering forty-three miles of ditches from the Tower House south to the rich mines around Middletown, Mulestown, Horsetown, Texas Springs, and Jackass Flat. In October 1855 the Shasta Republican printed the following description of this spectacular canal, written by the proprietor, J. B. Smith, whose two partners in the enterprise resided in Sacramento and San Francisco:

The Clear Creek Canal. This important work which has been in course of construction since last Christmas, will, we are informed, be completed with all its branches, by the middle of November.

A low dam has been built at the head of the Eastern bank of Clear Creek, a few hundred yards above the Tower House. The Western Fork, also, is damed and its waters received into the ditch which then enters the flat below Camden's mill. Passing through the mill race which is made tributary, the water is conducted two hundred yards in a flume, along the almost perpendicular mass of rocks which form the bluff on the west side of Clear Creek. Following the west bank a mile and a half, it crosses the creek in an aqueduct forty-five feet above the stream and is then introduced upon a flat, a few acres in extent, through which an ancient channel of the creek passes, where some well-paying claims are now being worked.

Passing on, the canal winds among the hills,—now running in a channel blasted through the rock, then piercing a ridge, until after a course of thirteen miles it reaches Whisky Creek, which is crossed in a flume sixty feet above the water. The line is then thrown upon a rocked and rugged hillside; where, for nearly a mile, the excavation was mostly performed with powder and the drill. On arriving at the twenty-fourth mile, which is a little below Dog Gulch, a rocky ridge is met with, through which for many weeks a tunnel 460 feet in length has been in course of construction. Nearly the entire bore has been through gneiss rock, containing crystalline veins of quartz, so exceedingly hard, that when they were encountered, the most carefully tempered drills would break in a few moments.

Since this tunnel was commenced, two sets of hands at each end have been employed upon it night and day; and frequently, an advance of eighteen inches or two feet in twenty-four hours was all that could be made. This hard job was, we understand, finished yesterday.

A mile further on, the line enters Salt Creek, where it seems to get entangled amid a labrynth of mis-shapen ridges and hallows, and for a distance of four miles is as crooked as the Stygian tributary of Hades. It finally arrives, however, at the South Branch, over which is raised the largest aqueduct on the Canal—500 feet in length, and eighty feet above the bed of the creek.

. . . [Muletown and Middletown are] the richest and most extensive mining districts in California. . . .

The entire length of the main trunk to Olney Creek, is upwards of forty miles, to which has been added ten miles of side ditches, and a reservoir, capable of containing a sheet of water about four acres in extent. The whole undertaking, when complete, will rank among the most costly and durable of the kind, in our State. The canal will carry a volume of water equal to fourteen square feet. The descent is a little more than seven feet per mile, giving a current on the surface about four miles an hour. It may be a year before the ditch tightens sufficiently to hold its full volume of water, but when it becomes impervious by a coating of sediment, it will supply a clear stream to about one hundred and fifty sluices. [39]

The Clear Creek Canal, with its dams, ditches, aqueducts, flumes, and 460-foot tunnel through hard rock, immediately altered the physical surroundings and gold production around Shasta. The first eighteen miles of the canal had been completed from the Tower House southwest along Clear Creek, past the mouth of Grizzly, Boulder, Whiskey, Brandy, Dry, and Salt creeks, as early as June 1855. The water, running through ditches three feet deep, four feet wide at the bottom, and six feet wide on the top, provided sufficient power to mine by the new hydraulic method, a method which caused such severe damage to the countryside that the state banned it from use in 1884. [40]

But the miners, disregarding their surroundings, focused their attention on the rich diggings which in August 1855 were reportedly "averaging about $100 to the hand, per day," and which, if the Courier's estimates were correct, still had a good two to three months of ditch water available for continued mining. Around Whiskey Creek, specifically, and all along Clear Creek, the miners were "laboring in very good spirits." In particular, the Messrs. Richard Barney and Company, whose operations stood only a quarter of a mile below the Tower House (where the correspondent had established himself), had taken from their claim thirty-three ounces—nineteen ounces in fine gold and a lump of fourteen ounces. At the adjoining claim, Henry Bateman had taken out fifteen ounces the same day. And, the writer assured his readers, "there are many instances, of smaller, yet handsome, amounts being obtained by others, and everyone appears to be very hopeful of soon having the desired 'pile.'" [41]

Evidently unable to contain himself, the enthusiastic correspondent continued: "At Oak Bottom, on my way hither, I was shown a lump of gold weighing $225, and one of $60—very pure—which had been found a few days previous in Grizzly Gulch, a short distance above. Two lumps of the largest size were found at the same time." Moreover, the reporter noted, "I . . . was exceedingly surprized at the manner in which the whole valley approaching [French Gulch] . . . has been turned up, and yet the earth continues to pay remarkably well." [42]

The spurt of unrestrained enthusiasm kindled by such reports during the summer of 1855, however, paled the following January when the Shasta Republican reported, "The miners have never been visited with a season so disastrous as the present." Frustrated by the late rains and the subsequent insufficient water supply for mining, many miners who had come to the Shasta area in the fall of 1855 returned to the southern mines. Their departure aroused considerable concern among the commercial interests in the mining communities, for, as the reporter so accurately summarized, "the merchant, the mechanic, the hotel keeper, and in fact all the branches of business are dependant on the yield of gold in the mines." [43]

For a brief time in the spring of 1856 the tension eased, and the Courier once again printed exuberant reports from the mines: "The mines seem here [French Gulch], even now in embryo. Daily discoveries of new Diggings are being made, and I think before the coming Summer ends, our mining population will have doubled in numbers." Rich diggings near the Tower House, on Grizzly Gulch, and at Oak Bottom received special notice. But the nagging problem of water persisted, as voiced by the correspondent's qualifications for the rich mining region of Grizzly Gulch: "It is, however, almost impossible to work these gulches during the dry months of summer, owing to its high and dry situation." [44]

Those who had purchased water rights to the Clear Creek Canal, however, continued to show profits, despite the dry season. Although other mining interests throughout Shasta County were suffering "for want of water" in November 1856, those miners "in the vicinity of the line of the Clear Creek Ditch" were doing well. [45]

Many of the mining companies in the area evidently became acutely aware in 1856 that additional water channels were needed. In that year a "multitude of ditches" were dug, and the Shasta Republican optimistically wagered that there was reason to hope the prosperity would continue "far into the Summer." [46]

Indeed, in the summer of 1857, news of the remarkable profits at French Gulch lifted spirits in Shasta and along the heavily traveled road between the two points. Speculation among the mining investors began to pick up, and in February 1858 the Courier reported that "prominent citizens have in contemplation the fluming of Clear Creek, at the mouth of French Gulch . . . [which] portion of Clear Creek has always been considered the richest piece of ground hereabouts." That same month the Clear Creek Canal Company surveyed for a branch ditch to run from the point where the main canal crossed the road leading from Shasta to Whiskeytown, to the mining district around Lower Springs. According to the company's surveyor, the branch canal would require a 2,600-foot tunnel through the Whiskey Divide (or Shasta Divide), and would cost an estimated $30,000. Its purpose was to channel the water to richer grounds than the canal then passed through. Such an elaborate proposal indicated the continued confidence in the gold deposits around Shasta, and, as well, that the mines to the southwest of the county seat no longer were meeting up to the miners' expectations. [47]

The canal company evidently carried out some construction on their proposed branch ditch, for in September 1858, C. M. McKinney et al., sued the company for damages of $20,000, "sustained by reason of diversion of water by the defendant from flume and ditch of the plaintiffs." "The Great Ditch Case" remained in the local news for over a month, and on October 30 the jury reached a verdict in favor of the plantiffs. The Clear Creek Canal Company received a fine of $10,000, which apparently discouraged any further development of the controversial project. [48]

If only symbollically, the case against J. B. Smith and the Clear Creek Ditch Company helped to signal the decline of placer mining in the Shasta area. So also did the storm in February 1858 which, according to the Shasta Republican, was the most severe storm to hit the northern counties "since the winter of 1852-53." The damages to the mining operations along Clear Creek no doubt influenced the course of events during the subsequent year:

On Clear Creek the dam of the Clear Creek Ditch, the dams of Farrington's saw mill and Townsend's quartz and numerous mining dams, were broken and destroyed . . . Camden's flume near the Tower House was blown down. The Clear Creek Ditch was broken in several places and injured by slides. Some of the bridges were slightly damaged, but all of them endured the flood. The damages on Clear Creek can not be repaired for less than $20,000. [49]

Although reports on the mining operations occasionally found their way into print after 1858, placer mining in the vicinity of Shasta had lost its bloom. In 1862, when passing through Whiskeytown, a busy mining camp during the boom of 1855, William Henry Brewer only noted "Whiskey, a little mining place on Clear Creek, once clear, but foul enough from mining now." [50]

Although it declined, placer mining continued in the area for yet another decade and at times showed moments of promise. In 1861 one or two companies industriously flumed Clear Creek from Horsetown north to Oak Bottom, and by August were in operation at the latter spot. In January 1868 Richards and Walker reported excellent returns at their claim near Whiskeytown. According to the Courier, the claim "yielded gold dust in regular old '49 style." At the same time the Mining and Scientific Press announced that

all the claims on Mad Ox and Mule Canyons have yielded an ounce a day to the hand, some of them double that amount—the gold generally being coarse, many of the pieces weighing several ounces. These diggings are said to pay nearly as well now as when they were first discovered, some sixteen years ago [1851]. . . At French Gulch many small companies have taken out as [much as] $75 daily for weeks in succession. [51]

Around Clear Creek, however, the mining operations were close to a standstill. When the Clear Creek Ditch nearly filled with a great quantity of sand and gravel washed in by the heavy rains which fell in late February 1867, probably little repair was initiated, because, as Titus Cronise wrote, "[Shasta County] . . . contained at one time a great extent of rich placer mines, and . . . the most of these are now pretty well worked out . . . the exhaustion of the placers in the immediate vicinity !of Shastal has left it dull in this respect." [52]

In his fifth annual report in 1872, U.S. Commissioner Rossiter Raymond also described the demise of placer mining in Shasta County:

following the exhaustion of the surface-placers the country was rapidly depopulated. The once lively mining camps and prosperous towns were deserted and remained in this condition until the construction of the Oregon and California Railroad infused new vitality into both agriculture and mining. [53]

e. Roads and Bridges

Although it proved an economic asset to some areas of Shasta County, the construction of The California and Oregon Railroad diverted traffic from the main road to Yreka via Shasta, Whiskey Creek, and the Tower House. In 1870 the railroad's affiliated stage line decided to route their coaches north up the Sacramento Valley instead of by the Shasta road to Yreka. The railroad followed suit and gradually, between 1872 and 1887, a community grew up around the train stop at Redding Station, seven miles east of Shasta. In 1887 the town of Redding incorporated and the next year Redding stole the title of the county seat from Shasta. [54]

The construction and maintenance of roads to the west of Shasta had always related directly to the prosperity of the trade and the mines along the routes to Yreka and Weaverville. The rich strikes near Whiskey and Clear creeks in 1850 and 1851 prompted local merchants to take an interest in the improvement of the rough trails to and from their businesses. When the county supervisors appointed twelve road supervisors in 1852, three were hotel keepers on the road between Shasta and the Tower House—Levi H. Tower, Vandeventer, and Short. By the close of 1853 Levi H. Tower and the partners Wingate and Ferrington, who owned a sawmill near Whiskey Creek and a store in Shasta, had financed nearly all of the improvements to the section of road between Shasta and Whiskey Creek:

We understand that Messrs. Ferrington and Wingate have had some ten or twelve men employed the past two weeks, in improving the road leading from this place to Whiskey Creek. We are further informed, that they have done their work in a most thorough manner, so that now it is quite practicable for a team to draw a full load of hay over the road, and Messrs. Ferrington and Wingate expect to be able to haul lumber from their saw mill to this place the entire, winter through. Up to this time, there has been, we presume, not less than $2,000 expended in improving this road, by Messrs. L. H. Tower, Ferrington and Wingate, and other enterprising citizens. [55]

Tower applied, a few months later, for a license to charge a toll over the bridge across Clear Creek at the Tower House, no doubt to help defray the construction cost of the wagon road to Whiskey Creek. [56]

The community leaders then turned their attention to improving the mountainous routes from Shasta to Weaverville and Yreka. In October 1853 the Shasta Courier voiced the importance of the projects:

The more important roads, or trails, have been almost entirely neglected. It is of vital importance to the property of Shasta that we have good trails leading from this point to Weaverville and Yreka, and yet, with the exception of a few detached portions, neither have been improved in the slightest degree during the past summer.

Moreover, the reporter warned that "citizens of Scottsburg and Crescent City are expending thousands in making trails . . . with a view of drawing the trade of Yreka" away from the road through Shasta. [57]

But having to depend on the private sector to finance county roads was a serious problem for the county officials. After 1853 contributions were scarce from the merchants, wagoners, steamboat owners, packers, hotelkeepers, and other businessmen who used the road frequently. Finally, in 1855 the threat of a competing road up the Sacramento Valley swung private interests along the trail to Yreka in line. Nearly half million dollars worth of freight passed over the route to Yreka annually, and tradesmen such as Levi H. Tower of the Tower House began to show concern for the loss in business which would result should traffic be diverted up the Sacramento Valley. Having received a request for his support to improve the trail to Yreka into a wagon road from leaders in Siskiyou County, Tower explained, in an open letter printed in the Shasta Courier on November 17, 1855, his reasons for pledging $10,000 towards the road's construction and his expectations for additional contributions from other citizens on the line of improvements:

Messrs. A. B. Little, Herd & Brother, A. Steel, C. McDermott, T. Masterson, & Others. Gentlemen: Your communication relative to the practability of building a wagon road to Yreka via Scott's valley is before me, and I am pleased to see that you feel so deep an interest in the enterprise. There can be no doubt of its feasibility, nor of the advantages which such a road would offer not only to the citizens of Siskiyou, but of Shasta, and I venture the assertion that the road can and will be made by individual enterprise. The people on the line of the proposed improvement can and will subscribe as liberally on the Shasta side as you propose doing on the Yreka side of the mountain. I think we may perhaps obtain aid from the citizens of Weaverville in making a portion of the road, that portion of it from Shasta to the waters of the Trinity, as by so doing they would be overcoming the chief impediment in the way of making a wagon road to Weaverville. I have not had an opportunity of conversing with many of my neighbors since the receipt of your favor, but I feel that I can pledge them all to donations or subscriptions proportionate with their means. Personally, I would not be pecuniarily benefitted at present, but would certainly be a loser were the road to be diverted up the line of the Sacramento River, and for this reason I will subscribe the sum of ten thousand dollars, payable in installment whenever needed: and many others, as I before remarked, have signified a willingness to aid the enterprise by labor and money. When I first located where I now reside, few supposed that wagons would ever reach me, but now stages make regular trips, and with expenditures of a very few thousand dollars, any load could be taken to my place than be hauled to the town of Shasta. This improvement is a result of little more than my individual labor, and the expenditure of a few thousand dollars, and from actual observation of the country. [58]

In addition plans were underway for a wagon road to Weaverville in 1855. Tower, as one of fifteen county road supervisors, again played a role in the early stages of planning, but both the Weaverville and Yreka road improvements suffered extensive delays. Not until April 1858 did the Courier announce the completion of the former road and August 1858 that of the Yreka road. [59]

While, the Weaverville road was under construction in 1857 and optimism was running high concerning the increase of traffic over the improvements, Benjamin Mix, properietor of the Whiskeytown hotel, announced his plan for constructing a new bridge over Whiskey Creek:

A FREE BRIDGE is proposed across Whisky Creek, near the mouth, where the wagon road crosses it, in Shasta County. It will be 165 feet in length, and will be built above the freshet mark. The Shasta Republican states that Benjamin Mix, under whose direction the work will be done, subscribes $400, and as soon as the sum is made up to $1,200, the bridge will be commenced.

Other businessmen in the vicinity of Whiskeytown began to cooperate in the effort to improve the roads. Tower constructed a new bridge over Clear Creek at the Tower House in 1858, and in February 1860 the Shasta Turnpike Road Company completed a survey for a new wagon road from Shasta to the Four Mile House. Nicholas Maher, the proprietor of that hotel, financed a road from the Four Mile House south to Salt Creek in 1861 while Charles Camden furnished most of the labor force and funds in 1862-63 to complete the wagon road from the Four Mile House to the Tower House. [60]

To some who traveled over the road between Shasta and the Tower House early in the 1860s, the improvements seemed marginal, judging from the comments in William H. Brewer's journal on September 23, 1862: "Tower's . . . is on the great Yreka road, many heavy teams are met, and the road is dusty almost beyond endurance." Brewer was witnessing the continued extension of trade with the northern counties, a trade which nearly all passed over the Shasta to Yreka road at that date. But even in 1862, plans were announced to build a road up the Sacramento Valley to Yreka, and, in response, the California Stage Company vowed to invest as much as $100,000 to keep the traffic on the road through Shasta, as the company owned a long stretch of the wagon road north of the Tower House. [61]

At the same time troubles plagued the newly constructed Weaverville wagon road, causing traffic over the mountainous, windy route to come to a near standstill during the winter months. But the twelve-mile stretch between Shasta and the Tower House, which opened as the Camden Toll Road in 1863, evidently satisfied travelers, for Camden later admitted that the tolls collected rewarded him handsomely for his initial $20,000 investment in road construction. Camden recalled that his company had faced a difficult task to cut a road over mountainous terrain and, at times, through solid rock. [62]

The Camden Toll Road, purchased by the county in 1912, remained the principal route between Shasta and the Tower House until 1924, when the state of California constructed a new highway through the area. Camden maintained the toll road adequately, at least until the early 1870s, when the railroad out of Redding Station began to sap some of the toll road's profits. In 1864 he improved the bridge over Clear Creek, as the Courier described:

The Bridge across Clear Creek, at the Tower House, has recently been much improved by being covered with substantial siding and a good shingle roof. It is the most substantial bridge structure in the county, and the proprietors, for excellent repair in which it is always kept, merit the commendation of the traveling public. [63]

Three years later Camden built a sturdy replacement for the Whiskey Creek bridge after heavy rains in March 1867 damaged the old one. The Courier again admired the quality of the work: "The framework of the bridge is composed of the best oak timber, and the foundation is built up in such a manner as to insure its safety." [64]

These improvements, however, were made before 1870, when the California-Oregon Stagecoach and Railroad Company decided to reroute their coaches from the Shasta-Yreka road to the road up the Sacramento Valley, thus bypassing the Shasta area completely. By 1880 Shasta no longer greeted the majority of travelers to northern California and much of the area's population had moved away. The golden days had faded, but not without many an account and memory of the adventures, fears, and festivities of pioneer life along the heavily traveled Shasta-Yreka road.

3. Social Developments, 1850-1880

a. Hotels as Social Centers

Because of the composition of the population during the first decade of growth, traditional social customs emerged slowly around Shasta. With only a fraction of the inhabitants women, and with mostly restless, wandering miners camped out near the mining centers, the social amenities known in the eastern and European communities had small place in frontier living. Instead, the mining camps at Whiskey Creek, Oak Bottom, Grizzley Gulch, and Tower House featured hotels with saloons or bars, and most likely, gambling tables. In 1856 the Whiskeytown hotel became the first post office, with Ben Mix, the owner, as postmaster, and in 1858 the Tower House became a stage depot for the California Stage Company, leasing stables to provide fresh horses for the trip on to Weaverville and Yreka. Thus the hotels became convenient social centers for travelers and local citizens alike who wanted refreshment, company, entertainment, and news of family affairs elsewhere, as well as the latest happenings and gold strikes in the mining regions of the West. [65]

Certain merchants who chose to remain in the Shasta area assumed the leadership in creating a social atmosphere conducive to permanent settlement which would provide a dependable, long-range market for their wares. In the area between Shasta and the Tower House, Levi H. Tower and Benjamin Mix showed the most interest in the community's social development. Both men furnished their hotels with dance halls and sponsored formal balls for ladies and gents from near and far. The Shasta Courier of May 13, 1854, printed Tower's effusive invitation to a Fourth of July festivity:

I WOULD ANNOUNCE TO THE PUBLIC that every preparation is being made to celebrate the approaching anniversary of our nation's birthday, at the "TOWER HOUSE." In a style worthy of the glorious occasion. Indeed no exertions or expense shall be spared in order to secure a large, as well as a happy gathering. As an earnest of this I will here state that I will run several free coaches down the vally as far as Tehama, for the accomodation of all ladies, and for those gentleman who may bring ladies with them. Recollect, then, the 4th of July celebration at the "Tower House."

May 13 Levi H. Tower [66]

Evidently worried that he would not have an adequate number of women at the ball, Tower purchased space in the June 24th issue of the Courier to explain his unusual open invitation and to urge its ready acceptance:

It is almost impossible to obtain a complete list of the names of the ladies living in the surrounding country. To prevent the possibility, therefore, of neglecting any one, I have determined to issue no cards of invitation, but do in this public manner, respectfully solicit the attendance of every lady in this and the surrounding counties. I trust that this invitation will deem sufficient by all. I have almost every possible arrangement for the comfort and pleasure of those who may attend. As it is my intention to run a sufficient number of coaches as low down as Tehama to this place, for the special accomodation of the ladies, free of charge. I would be glad if those living on the road would immediately advise me of their intention to avail themselves of such conveyance, so that there may be no dissappointment for lack of room. [67]

While not so effusive, Benjamin Mix's invitation to his opening ball in December 1855 matched Tower's in its ambitiousness, stating that "Benjamin Mix would inform the public and lovers of Dancing, that he will give a GRAND OPENING BALL at his new Hotel at Whisky Creek, . . . on which occasion he would be most happy to see his friends and acquaintances." Mix went on to list a total of fifty-five managers from Shasta, Lower Springs, Canon House, Clear Creek, American Ranch, Cottonwood, Prairie House, Red Bluffs, Tehama, Bald Hills, Eagle Creek, Horsetown, Briggsville, Nebraska, Middletown, Spring Creek, Four Mile House, Whisky Creek, Oak Bottom, Grizzley Gulch, Mad Ox, Tower House, French Gulch, Grass Valley, Weaverville, Trinity River, Ridgeville, Bate's Ranch, and Yreka. [68]

Mix's ball received flattering comments in the Shasta Republican:

Notwithstanding inclemency of the weather of Wednesday afternoon, the attendance at Mr. Mix's hotel was very large, and everything passed off in the most agreeable manner. The music was excellent, the repast sumptious, and everybody was in perfect good humor and enjoyed themselves to as full as extent as could be desired. About forty ladies graced the festive scene with their presence. [69]

Both of these proprietors not only organized social events but also participated as managers of activities in neighboring communities such as French Gulch, Lower Springs, and Briggsville. By the second half of the 1850s, their gregariousness and hospitality had won them reputations. In August 1856 the Shasta Republican reported on a pleasure party which had recently gathered at Tower's:

We know of no place more inviting for the lovers of pleasure than the Tower House twelve miles north of Shasta. We understand that a very agreeable party of ladies and gentlemen from our town have been luxuriating upon the choice of fruits and melons now to be had at this love of a place. Four or five days spent with agreeable ladies amid the fine scenery, somewhat noted for sentimentalities once told, beneath the shaded bowers, the walks through the fine gardens and along the rippling streams abounding with mountain trout and bright shining gold as it is taken from the riffle box by the hardy miner, the promenades amid the splashing of fountains, by moonlight, all all [sic] conspire to elevate the spirits and to convince us that "it is not good for man to be alone." At no place will this be more fully realized than by a visit to this oasis among the mountains. [70]

In September 1857 the same press tipped its hat to Ben Mix:

A Grand Ball will be given by Mr. Benjamin Mix at this large and commodious Hotel in the town of Whisky Creek. . . . Mr. Mix is known for giving the most agreeable parties in Shasta County. It has been many months since he has afforded his friends an opportunity of dancing in his well finished halls. . . . [71]

While Tower's popularity clearly stemmed largely from the attractive setting at his property, Mix's popularity seemed to be based on the enthusiasm sparked at his festivities. Whiskey Creek was at its peak in the mid-1850s, and had yet other gracious hosts for traditional social evenings:

The pleasant entertainment given by Mr. S. Trip and lady, to the denizens of this place, on the 25th inst., deserves passing notice. It is the best possible evidence we can give to "outside barbarians" that Whisky Town is progressing—in fact already posesses the elements of good respectable society. It was only in the fall of '52 that the first lady became an actual resident; and now we are blessed with damsels and dames sufficient to form "a merry dance," besides a number who do not "join the festive throng." On this occasion there were about twenty present, and nearly twice that number of gents, but as the room would only accomodate two setts, the "double duty" was not onerous. The room was tastefully festooned with evergreen and the evening delightfully cool.

Such concern for a proper social atmosphere reflected the gradual strengthening of traditional amenities in the Shasta area. Like many other California mining communities, Whiskey Creek was receiving a healthy proportion of German and other Old World immigrants who were introducing their formal customs at social gatherings such as at Mr. Trip's home:

Gus discouraged the "fairy-like music," which if not so soft and melodious, was at least as energetic as the famed "gondoler's strains." The arrangements of the cusine was elegant and ample, (considering it was a private residence) and reflected great credit on the culinary skill of Mrs. T's. The "new rule," which you so kindly praised as distinguishing our Fourth of July ball, is, in our Vaterland, an old custom. [72]

By the close of the decade, however, Whiskeytown's population was on the decline, as were its grand social gatherings. When reporting on the Whiskey Creek Ball in April 1860, the Shasta Herald noted, with a subdued delivery, that the local affair "was a pleasant gathering of pleasure seekers and pleasure enjoyers. . . . Burke has hosts of friends, and the hospitable manner in which he treats them gives few opportunities of there ever growing any less." [73]

While the Whiskeytown social activities diminished in scope, the Tower House broadened its appeal as a resort for political and private parties. G. I. Taggart, manager of the Tower House in 1861, hosted the Union Democratic Senatorial Convention during the heat of summer, and because of the hotel's location "in a gorge of Clear Creek," the convention proved to be an excellent retreat, with "cool and pleasant breezes." In 1864 the Soldiers' Aids Society of Whiskeytown, French Gulch, and the Tower House chose the latter location for a benefit festival to raise money for their sanitary fund. According to the press report, "the Tower House Sanitary Festival was the most magnificant affair ever gotten up in this county, and reflects the greatest credit upon those having charge." Apparently in a spirit of celebration at the close of the Civil War, Taggart hosted a May party at the Tower House for which he boasted, "no pains or expense" would be spared. [74]

Throughout the 1870s the Tower House continued to enjoy a local and regional reputation as a pleasant summer resort, but its earlier use as a community center, election precinct, mining district, communication hub, and quasi-courthouse faltered as the area's population dispersed. During the 1850s the Tower House's spacious public rooms and its convenient and comfortable location prompted groups of multiple purpose to gather there for business and pleasure. Levi Tower's familiarity with the local clientele helped to win him political positions in the county government and social acceptance in the Masonic Fraternity in Shasta. [75]

On a smaller scale, the hotels and their owners at Oak Bottom, Whiskey Creek, and Four Mile House experienced the same exposure to travelers, local groups, and political positions. Ben Mix and Nicholas Maher, hotel owners at the latter two locations, both ran for the office of Sheriff of Shasta County in 1855—no doubt against more influential candidates from Shasta, where the money and political incumbents were concentrated. Whether they won the elections is not known, but their aspirations provide a minor key to the social development of the communities in which they lived. [76]

Little detailed information has turned up to shed light on the actual day-to-day affairs at these public houses or on the personality of the owners, but an interesting journal entry made in 1860 by J. Lamson depicts a few days' visit at the Oak Bottom House. Lamson's impressions of the hotel's proprietory suggest the spontaneity and tension of California's mining frontier society:

"A Queer Fellow." April 18, 1860. Mr. Van Wee was one of the queerest compounds of oddity, with whom it was my for tune to meet in my miles from Shasta. Two Irish women, sisters, were his housekeepers and servants. Many a lively scene was enacted about his establishment and scarcely a day passed without bringing some extraordinary excitement. One day there was great excitement in and around the house occasioned by the arrival of a skunk on a visit to the chickens. The dogs barked, the hens cackled, the women screamed, and Van Wee flew round wild with excitement, his gun was brought to him, the intruder chased into the stable and shot, and quiet was restored.

Next day two valuable dogs, very useful for barking at travelers and eating superfluous food, which would otherwise be thrown to the pigs and lost, strayed away or were stolen. A boy and an Irish woman were sent off on horseback after them, and great was the rejoicing in the afternoon on the safe return of the dogs, horses, boy and woman.

On the morning of the third day I was surprised to learn that there had been a wedding in the house, and that Mr. Van Wee, in obedience to a sudden impulse had married one of his housekeepers. The wedding had been very private, so much so, that the sister of the bride was not aware that such an event was in contemplation until the hour before its consummation.

This Van Wee, as I have said before, is a queer fellow. He hates the liquor business, but keeps a bar, drinks with all his friends—and they are numerous—and gets mellow every day. He is, or rather was, a Know-Nothing in politics, and hates all foreigners of whatever nation, although his father and mother are Dutch, and his wife is Irish. An infidel in religion, he read me a chapter from Tom Paine's Age of Reason. He contributes freely to churches and is hospitable to clergymen, of whatever creed. He receives a great many rudely expressed, but hearty congratulations from his friends, whom he invites to see "the gal," who receives her friends in the kitchen, while attending to her duties over the stove, with her gown pinned up in true Irish style. His affection for his wife continues unabated, notwithstanding he has been married three days—this was when I last saw him,— and he betrays it in many acts of coarse kindness; calls her Biddy, ridicules her nation and her religion, damns her priests and feeds them all.

He has sent invitations to all his friends, far and near, men, women and children, to assemble at his house, next week for a grand jollificiation in commemoration of his wedding. Long may he flourish. [77]

b. Schools, Hospitals, Churches

Even with such irregularity in the social framework, the local leaders in the Shasta area did make provisions for the welfare of their sick and their children. On the western outskirts of the county seat a hospital that was within a few hours' ride from the Tower House was erected in 1855. In the same year a school was opened in Whiskey Creek. After five years the school population remained small, as the Shasta Courier in February 1860 observed:

Whisky Creek School District, No. 12. Miss A. Hathorn teacher. Number of children in the district, 26, this school was commenced January 9.

The number of scholars in attendance is ten, some less then one half of the school district census. There is quite a respectable school house belonging to this district, erected five years ago, at a cost of $200.

Reminiscent of the sense of disorder and tension depicted by Lamson at the Oak Bottom House, the article closed with a sharp rebuke to those parents who showed no interest in the education of their children: There is something wrong when we see only ten scholars, in a school district of twenty-six children, attending public school." [78]

That "something wrong," presumably, was the fact that many of the rough, antisocial habits of the early gold fever years still prevailed in the Shasta area in 1860, despite nearly a decade of settlement. Traditional social mores, as known in the eastern states, had not taken sufficient root in Whiskeytown by 1855 to make way for a church of any demonimation, although by 1859 the community did share the services of Reverend William Kidder, who reportedly also preached in Weaverville, and taught school at Whiskey Creek. [79]

c. Intemperance and Disease

Both Camden and Lamson indicated that a more popular pastime than school or church on the mining frontiers was socializing at the numerous bars, saloons, or hotels. All the hotel owners between Shasta and the Tower House assured their customers that they had stocked a wide variety of liquors and choice cigars. Their advertisements probably were unnecessary, however, because excessive drinking often posed a problem in the area. The Shasta Courier in August reported that Henry Wood, who had been mining for two years in the Oak Bottom precinct, had died becoming "another victim . . . [on] the long list of deaths by intemperance." In a somewhat lighter vein, the same press related the experiences of a traveler to Weaverville in October who "passed in succession Nick Meyer's Mix's, Van Deventer's, Brown's, and finally reached the Tower House. At each one of the before-mentioned places the hospitable landlords invited us to smile, but as we were on the temperance list we were forced to decline, so we reached Tower's sober." [80]

The heavy drinking so common in the vicinity of Shasta no doubt closely correlated with the rate of violence and crime in the mining camps and along the road, as did probably the poor physical conditions and frequent disappointments met by the average miner. In addition to alcoholism, the mining camps were often hotbeds of dysentary, diarrhea, land scurvey, typhoid, chills, fever, and ague. Worn or frusterated by the harsh physical labor in the mines, the meager product of a day's dig, the current disease of the camp, or the quick disappearance of their profit into food, supplies, and liquor, the miners were laid victim to all sorts of personal shortcomings. As if to set the mood for the subsequent experiences in the mining camps of California, a miner in 1850 entered in his diary:

This morning, notwithstanding the rain, we were again at our work. We must work. In sunshine and rain, in warm and cold, in sickness and health, successful or not successful, early and late, it is work, work, WORK! Work or perish! All around us . . . are the miners at work—not for gold, but for bread. Lawyers, doctors, clergymen, farmers, soldiers, deserters, good and bad, from England, from America, from China, from the Islands . . . all, all at work at their cradles. From morning to night is heard the incessant rock, rock, rock! . . . Cheerful words are seldom heard, more seldom the boisterous shout and laugh which indicate success, and which, when heard, sink to a lower ebb the spirits of the unsuccessful. We made 50 cents each. [81]

Ten years later John Hittell's description of miners for his government publication Mining in the Pacific States of North America gave official confirmation of the emergence of a reckless and riotous lifestyle in the mining camps of California:

Most of the miners live in a rough manner. . . . Not one half of them lay up any money. Many earn with ease, and spend it as fast as they make it. Men engaged in mining are not noted, as a class, for sobriety and economy. Their occupation seems to have an influence to make them spend-thrifts, and fond of riotous living. Not more than one Californian miner in five has a wife and family with him. Most of them are unmarried, and have no prospect of matrimony. . . . The people as a mass, in the mining districts, are very intelligent. [82]

d. Violence and Outlawry

The Shasta press kept its readers abreast with the latest acts of violence and crime. A sampling of the news reports follows:

[June 1856] Tower Safe Robbery—Antomode Le Crus was arrested on Wednesday last on suspicion of being one of the party that lately stole a safe from the Tower House.

[August 1856] On Monday last, a teamster from Chico, while on his way home and near Clear Creek, was stopped on the highway and robbed by two men in Masks . . . in broad day . . . [who] obtained [$170], which the teamsters had realized by the sale of fruit in their market.

[August 1856] On Sunday last, the till of the bar room at the Four-Mile House, kept by Mr. Davis, was robbed of $43 by John Barry, a deserting soldier.

[February 1857] Affray at the Tower House. . . . occurred about one mile beyond the Tower House, on the Weaver road, between John Henley and Mr. Bennett, two partners in mining . . . a difficulty arose in relation to their claim, and Henley made an assault upon Bennett with a shovel . . . several blows . . . upon the head . . . upon which Bennett struck Henley upon the head with his shovel . . . [his] skull being fractured. . . . His recovery is doubtful.

[February 1858] Robberies. Two cabins, belonging to some miners about two miles this side of the Tower House, were entered on Monday last, and robbed of a considerable amount of dust. We did not learn the exact sum, but it is stated to be between two and three hundred dollars.

[April 1858] Murderous Assault. Isaac McCullum assaulted a man, whose name is unknown to us, with an axe, on Monday morning last, near Oak Bottom. The difficulty arose in question to a mining claim. The wounds inflicted were very severe, and one on the head fractured the skull. . . The wounds were not mortal.

[April 1858] Two Murders. Two most fiendish murders were committed upon two mining partners near Whisky town, in this county, on Saturday evening last—one German, named Feldbush and an Italian, named Lewis [?].

[September 1864] Attempted Robberies. On Saturday night last, at a late hour, a Mr. James King and Mr. Moppin, of Whiskeytown, were returning home from French Gulch, they were stopped by three men who places [sic] themselves square across the road, between Grizzly Gulch and the Tower House, evidently for the purpose of robbery. Being unarmed, King and Moppin suddenly wheeled their horses and rode back to the Tower House, where they remained until daylight, when they proceeded home without molestation. [83]

e. Law and Order

Although Shasta County boasted a sheriff and jailhouse in the county seat by the mid-1850s, most law and order evidently was maintained by vigilante groups and by a code of honor among the miners. In his autobiography Camden recalled that in 1851 a fellow traveler, a "man of good appearance" whom he and Tower had joined on their return to Shasta County from Yreka, stole his gold specimens worth about $300. Realizing the man had fled with their valuables, Camden and Tower followed him to French Gulch "and accused him of it; searched him, but found nothing; cursed and threatened to lynch him, but all to no effect; had him watched. . . But with all our caution, he slipped out, and we never saw him or the specimens again." [84]

Not all thieves alluded their victims so successfully. The Shasta Courier reported in February 1856:

ALMOST A LYNCHING. On Friday last a man who had been suspected of stealing for some time past, from the miners near the Tower House was caught and taken to the Tower House where a jury of miners was empanneled, and the guilty fairly established upon him by the miners jury's verdict. . . . [He was] whipped by rope and let go. [85]

In cases of manslaughter or physical violence, the law apparently was more flexible, at least as far as convictions and punishments were concerned. In the incident of 1857, when Bennett and Henley attacked each other with shovels, the latter died and the former turned himself in to Sheriff Follansbee, who discharged him, citing the fact that Bennett had acted out of self-defense. The next year a Chinaman, who was confined for several days in the Shasta jail on suspicion that he was involved in "the late horrible murder of Feldbush and Lewis, near Whiskytown," was released without mention of further investigation or other suspects. [86]

Bennett's decision to turn himself in illustrates the code of honor frequently reported among the miners, many of whom had come to California imbued with strong traditions of honesty, integrity, and self-respect. In developing his theory that "the free strong life of the mining camp has been a factor of prime importance in the social, literary, and institutional development of large and prosperous American communities," Charles H. Shinn gathered testimonies from several gold rush journals about the system of self-government development developed during the 1850s. He quoted Dr. J. B. Stillman's description of 1849-50 that "there was no government, no law," but "more intelligence and good feeling than in any country I ever saw. . . . Men are valued for what they are. . . . One feels that he has a standing here that it takes a man until he is old and rich to enjoy at home." Hilton R. Helper's 1855 journal, Land of Gold, declared that there was "more real honesty and fairness among the miners than among any other class of people in California. Taken as a body, they are a plain, straightforward, hard-working set of men." [87]

The overall sense of comraderie and individuality pervasive in the mining camps spawned a crude form of self-government which all members of a camp faithfully observed. As Mr. Helper testified, "Almost every bar is governed by a different code of laws, and the sizes of the claims vary according to locality. . . . One-fourth of an acre is an average-sized claim." As late as 1857 Blackwood's Magazine reported, "It is an agreeable and unexpected feature in the mines themselves that order, justice, and courtesy reign," and that "patches of a few square feet, teeming with gold, are as sacred as if secured with title deeds." In 1855 Frank Marryat came to the same general conclusion in his Mountains and Molehills:

The mining population have been allowed to constitute their own laws relative to the appointment of "claims," and it is astonishing how well this system works. . . . every digging has its fixed rules and by-laws, and all disputes are submitted to a jury of the resident miners . . . the by-laws of each district are recorded in the Recorder's Office. [88]

Shinn summarized his thorough research on the system of law in the mining camps:

But these rough and busy men, . . . established and enforced a code of ethics governing their relations with each other and their property rights, enforced justice though without written law, and in the end created a system of jurisprudence that has won the approval and endorsement of the highest courts of the land. [89]

With the gradual exhaustion of rich placer deposits towards the close of the 1850s, however, self-government began to be altered and replaced. As Shinn observed, the laws of each mining district had to be changed from time to time, as the area came to be reworked. "This reworking of a district increased the size of a claim: with rich, virgin soil 10 or 20 feet sufficed, but with the fifth reworking, the claims were restaked with 100 or 200 feet of frontage on a creek or river." By 1860 California had established state laws governing mining claims, and finally in 1866 the United States government started to issue regulations and laws which gradually supplanted the self-government found on the mining frontiers. [90]

f. Prejudice and Discrimination

The code of ethics and the sense of freedom and individuality characteristic of the first decade in the gold mines, however, did not often include minority groups. The Anglo-Saxon population predominated in the mines and maintained racial prejudices often learned in their early life. To his dismay, Camden discovered that a group of miners he and Tower had joined in 1851 while on a trip north of Shasta Flats had disguised their real purpose—"to kill Indians and to take their ponies." The Indians in the area of the Tower House and Whiskey Creek made initial efforts in 1851-52 to drive out the white men from their lands, but with notable failure. Except in the northernmost mining districts, little further reference was made to the native population. [91]

Chinese immigrants who came to California to make their fortunes in the gold rush presented a more subtle threat than the Indians, for they chose to live near and compete with the Anglo miners. Prejudice and rigid discrimination flared up early in the 1850s and grew into a serious racial problem which, although greatly tempered, persists. In his analysis of frontier mining camps, Shinn observed, "There were large numbers of camps where none [Chinese] were allowed to work or hold claims at any time." In the Churn Creek mining district of Shasta County Chinese miners were forbidden not only to own a claim but even to secure employment as late as 1882. [92]

In the vicinity of Shasta the Chinese apparently received mixed messages from the whites. While they were allowed to set up a shantlylike camp on the outskirts of Shasta, their community reportedly received the racial slur of "Hong Kong." The Shasta Republican in 1856 indicated the economic benefit that the entire community derived from the Chinese population by announcing that $243 had been collected from the sale of fifty-four mining licenses to Chinamen, and urging the sale of "many more to increase the county revenue." In the county at that time, the article continued, there were "at least one thousand foreign miners"—foreign obviously meaning only Chinese in this reference, even though immigrants from other countries also lived in the area. [93]

The ambivalent, rather than intolerant, treatment of the Chinese by the citizens around Shasta evidently attracted more to the area, for the same newspaper reported the following year: "The Chinese population of our country is rapidly on the increase. What has been known as Chinatown in the suburbs of Shasta, and which has become much dilapidated during the last two years, is being revived and rebuilt." The growth of the Chinese population around Shasta marked the end of an era; as Paul observed, "Since white men rarely allowed Chinese to come into a prosperous district, the ubiquitousness of the Orientals in the later 1850s was in itself clear evidence of the declining appeal of the placers." [94]

Even though the placer mines had been worked over several times by the Anglo miners before most Chinese were allowed to mine the tailings, the continued proximity of the Oriental community in the Shasta area finally prompted open support of discriminatory policies from the local press. In February 1860 the Shasta Herald editorialized:

CHINAMEN—Mr. Lawrence from the Committee on Mining and Mining Interests, has reported a bill providing for the exclusion of the Mongolian race from the State. It provides for a tax to be increased every six months until by 1863 it shall be $20 per month. We think the plan the most effectual that can be adopted, and hope the Legislature will pass the bill. [95]

Despite such open hostility towards their presence, some Chinese remained in the area during the 1860s, as shown in the sale of the Oak Bottom House to "Qui Chin and 19 other Chinamen" in May of 1868. The twenty Chinese owners paid a high price for the property—$5,100—and only four years later sold it to Dennis Desmond for a mere $300, which appears to be a clear reflection of the prejudicial treatment given them during their brief period of landownership at Oak Bottom. [96]

The 1872 deed of sale for the Oak Bottom House listed twelve Chinese as owners of the property, only one of whose names appeared on the 1868 deed of purchase. During the short time of ownership, there had been nearly a 100 percent turnover, which may suggest the restlessness or discomfort of the Chinese as residents in the Shasta area. Judge Ross briefly related what he had learned of the departure of Chinese from the area: "[They] were herded out of places by the whites at times, . . some settled in Trinity County and some in agricultural parts of Shasta County." Possibly influenced by the more stereotyped picture of the Chinese laborers, Ross also noted that "many went to work on the railroad construction, wherever that happened to be." Thus, ironically, those Chinese who met with harsh treatment in the vicinity of Shasta may have helped to bring the town to its knees, for the completion of the railroad from Oregon to Redding in 1872 slowly began to cut off the economic pulse of Shasta and its neighboring communities along the road to Yreka and Weaverville. With the decline of Shasta came the close of the frontier chapter in the history of the area included within Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. [97]

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Last Updated: 11-Dec-2009