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.  

George Gibbs traveled with Indian Agent Col. Reddick McKee on his 1851 expedition to Northwestern California to meet with tribes and explore the region.  Gibbs’ journal describes some of the customs of the Indians of coastal and inland Northern California. Until the account was published in 1853, little was known about the mountainous region.

It's no secret that whiskey was about as essential to the early miners as beans and coffee.  They could buy whiskey wherever any supplies were sold, and some locations kept nothing else but whiskey shipped by the barrel on the back of a mule.

The Yreka Journal ran this announcement on July 16, 1887: “The new town of Mott, near the town of Sisson in the Mt. Shasta neighborhood, was named after Mr. Mott, the energetic and popular roadmaster of the Railroad Company, who supervises the wagon road building for accommodation of the railroad’s construction of its track, and repairs or replaces roads where the track damages or follows established roads. The North Star is the new newspaper being published in this town, the paper having been started recently by Goldsten and Kernan.”

Early pioneers had a great fear of Indian attack.  One settler named Price, assisted by Sam Hadley and a few other neighbors, took matters into their own hands by constructing a small, fort-like stone structure at the head of Northern California’s Shasta Valley.

Two early settlers, Henry D. Wright and Charles H. Fletcher, mined successfully in Oro Fino in Siskiyou County, Calif.

In the 1850’s, settlers named Barnes and Terry built a cabin some six miles east of Etna, Calif.  Because they were from Ohio, they planted a buckeye tree for good luck.  The landmark became known as the "Ohio Ranch," which later became the "Ohio House."  Irish immigrant John McBride purchased the ranch in 1858 and built the larger ranch house in 1860.

Cornelius Gordon and his wife, Emily, crossed the plains in 1879 to settle on 144 acres located six miles up the Klamath River from Happy Camp, Calif.  An enterprising man, Gordon opened the Pennsylvania Mine and built his home from lumber milled at his own sawmill.  As a cobbler, he made shoes for his wife and six children, and as a homeopathic practitioner, he tended to the sick and wounded.  It was said he healed Gypsy John, a local Karuk Indian who’d been shot through a lung.

Across from the Ranch Hotel in Callahan, Calif., sits The Callahan Emporium.  Recently reopened in 2011, it was originally a lodging house called the Baker Hotel run by Mrs. Ella Paxton Baker from the late 1800’s until 1912.

In the 1850’ s, Hamburg Bar on the Klamath River provided good diggings for gold miners who found nuggets weighing up to 16 ounces upriver from Hamburg at Scott Bar, Calif.  Miners swarmed to the area that had been the site of large gatherings of Karuk Indians.

Among the first ranchers to drive cattle into Scott Valley, Calif., in the early 1850's, Hurd and Lytle, were accompanied by teenagers Albert and Edgar Denny, who met up with the ranchers on the California Trail near the Humboldt River in Nevada.  They promised to help get the animals to California safely and joined the herdsmen to Scott Valley.


A settlement known as Indian Town was located near Happy Camp, Calif, on the banks of Indian Creek, halfway between the Swearingen Homestead and the Classic Hill Mine.  It was a gold boomtown and outnumbered Happy Camp’s population for years.  It had saloons, hotels, stores, butcher shops, bakeries and even a bowling alley.


In June 1974, the little Callahan School closed its doors forever, spelling an end to the 100-year-old school district in Callahan, Calif.  Constructed in 1911, it was actually the third schoolhouse built in the mining town.

A natural bridge in the Hayfork Valley of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest is part of the Northern California region’s history.  The bridge is a geologic formation created over time by water forcing a passageway through the soft limestone.

In the early 1900's, University of California professor A. L. Kroeber collected many stories and myths told by the Yurok Indians and other tribes.  His writings form an important collection of the cultural traditions of California coastal tribes. The tales he related were called tales of the “woge times” – when mythological heroes called woges lived on earth.

Mary Morris was a Shasta Indian who lived around the dawn of the 20th century along Moffett Creek not far from the Forest House Ranch and Yreka, Calif.  She was married for a time to a white soldier from the Modoc War.


Brothers Joe and Lile Edson saw an opportunity to expand the business when they purchased the old Beswick Hotel in 1887.


Fred C. Burton was born in 1879 on the family’s Scott Valley, Calif., homestead, one of 12 children of  Stephen and Sarah Burton. His mother died when he was nine years old.

The opening of the Sacramento to Portland stage line by the California Stage Company in 1860 was of great significance. The company boasted 750 horses, with investment capital topping $1 million and roads totaling 450 miles.  By 1865, the company had 1,250 horses, with more than 1,000 miles of roads, including 400 miles into Oregon and 100 miles into Nevada.

Dunsmuir, Calif., established in 1887, grew rapidly, the population reaching 350 by the end of the following year.


Siskiyou County, Calif., appointed its first county physician, John Ridgely in 1855.  For impoverished patients to receive his care, they had to petition for help by appearing before the Board of Supervisors.  They couldn’t own any property or possess any assets.