Gail Fiorini-Jenner

As It Was Contributor

Gail Fiorini-Jenner of Etna, California, is a writer and teacher married to fourth-generation cattle rancher Doug Jenner. They have three children, seven grandchildren and live on the original homestead.  Her first novel Across the Sweet Grass Hills, won the 2002 WILLA Literary Award. She co-authored four histories with Arcadia Publishing: Western Siskiyou County: Gold & Dreams, Images of the State of JeffersonThe State of Jefferson: Then & Now, which placed in the 2008 Next Generation Awards for Nonfiction and Postcards from the State of Jefferson.  She co-authored Historic Inns & Eateries in the State of Jefferson, featuring 30 locations and their recipes. Fiorini-Jenner has placed in several writing contests: The Jack London Novel Contest; The William Faulkner Story Contest; The Writer's Digest Inspirational Story and Screenplay Contests. She appeared on History Channel's  How the States Got Their Shapes,  and NPR's West Coast Live. She also writes for Jefferson Backroads.  

Shasta, often referred to as “Old Shasta,” faced plenty of petty and violent crime in the 1850’s as it grew into one of the most important gold rush towns in Northern California.

Miners named Benton and Roades discovered gold in 1893 along the creek running through Harrison Gulch, 50 miles from Redding, Calif.

In the 1860’s, a band of Indians gave George Green Brown a bad time at his trading post on the South Fork of the Salmon River.  He had opened the post just below Cecilville during the California Gold Rush when he was 24 years old.

Discovered in the 1890's by Harvey Bowerman of Maine, the King Solomon Mine, located at the head of Matthews Creek on the South Salmon River, became one of Northern California’s major producers.

Like many other gold rush communities in Northern California, Yreka had a substantial Chinese community complete with gaming houses, shops, washhouses, butcher shops, opium dens, a hotel, and a Joss House.  Though the Chinese faced prejudice and discrimination throughout the region, sometimes the whole community came together, particularly during the annual Chinese New Year celebration.

Diaries, journals, and letters provide a glimpse into the realities of life among the early miners and settlers.  Hiram G. Ferris came West at age 24 in 1846 and settled in Yreka, Calif.  His letter home on Dec. 29, 1850, read like this:

Siskiyou County and many other areas in northern California and Southern Oregon suffered severely in the winter of 1861-62.  Every river swelled over its banks, taking out bridges and wiping out homesteads. And still the rains continued.

Mining along Greenhorn Creek south of Yreka, Calif., was very rich from the 1850’s into the early 1900’s.  It has been estimated that a five-mile stretch produced $11 million worth of gold during that time.

While mining continued into the 1860’s and beyond along the Klamath River, gold bearing quartz wasn’t discovered until the 1870’s in Rocky Gulch and the hills west of Henley in Siskiyou County. The best known of these quartz mines was the Jillson, owned by the Hazel Gold Mining Co.

In 1856, George Wohlfert emigrated from Germany to California, making his way to California and traveling north to Petersburg on the South Fork of Salmon River.

Even today people ask how Greenhorn Creek, an early mining district south of Yreka, Calif., got its name.

Some women came West seeking a husband during the California Gold Rush.

Giuseppe “Joe” Mancini was born in Casino, Italy, in 1879.  He became a shoemaker and, after joining the Italian army to serve his mandatory one-year service, left in 1902 for America.  Mancini’s wife, Carolina Cosentino, and their 4-month-old baby boy remained in Italy.

Recently discovered chrome deposits gained importance as European tank production increased the demand for steel during World War I.  The demand continued to grow when the United States entered the war in 1917, creating job opportunities for miners in Northern California.

It’s hard to imagine having to tote groceries home, especially in winter, in a little red wagon.  But that is what Al Capovilla did every Saturday when his grandmother, Gusippina Bombini, went shopping downtown.

Life during World War II, even in rural Siskiyou County, Calif., was filled with sacrifices.  For the Italian immigrants who had settled in the area years before the war, it was especially trying.

Siskiyou settlers depended heavily on wagon construction and associated foundries.  Louis Fafa built the wagon and furniture factory in Etna, which was expanded in 1877 by F.W. Frantz & Albert Wallis.  In addition to wagons and wheels, the company supplied wood products, including doors, sashes and mouldings.

There once was a town named Manila five miles west of Gazelle, Calif., in Siskiyou County.

The physical history of Northern California’s coastal redwood region is linked to the human populations that have interacted with it, from pre-contact times to the present.

Sawmills in the early days of north-central Siskiyou County numbered in the dozens. Some operated for only months and others for many years.  Today there are few traces left.