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.  

On July 10, 1949, the “Shasta Daylight” set out on its inaugural 713-mile trip from Oakland, Calif., to Portland, Ore.  It was the first diesel-powered train owned by Southern Pacific, the company’s third “Daylight” streamliner, and its only long-distance one. It made the trip in 16 hours, averaging about 45 mph.

Hester Ann Harland was the wife of Francis “Frank” Harland, the manager during the late 1800's of the Black Bear Mine located in the Liberty Mining District and the Salmon River country of Siskiyou County, Calif.

Yreka, Calif., stonecutter James B. Russell and his school teacher wife, Clara, lived a long life together.

Born just over the California-Oregon border, James accompanied his family to Yreka as a child. The family moved to Ashland for several years, but James eventually returned to Yreka and started his own business in 1881.  He became a stonecutter and monument builder, following in his father and mother’s footsteps.  His mother’s finely detailed, decorative stone work won the grand prize in 1893 at the Chicago World’s Fair.  Yreka’s Siskiyou County Museum featured the winning piece for many years.

James became an avid collector of mineral specimens and jewel stones and frequently exhibited his collection.

Clara Russell, born Clara Millie Hovey, was a gifted writer and schoolteacher. The couple were married 60 years and raised five children.  After her death, he published many of her poems.

A stage coach station known as Starveout was once located about three miles south of Grenada, Calif, The first mention of “Starveout” is in a book by Helene Bacon Boggs titled “My Playhouse Was A Concord Coach.”  Starveout was a “swing station,” with a 10-minute stop versus 30-minute stops at “home stations.” Starveout got its name most likely because the area was not just remote, but also desolate and dry.

When Irish immigrants Patrick and Bridget McGrath Kiernan came across the plains in 1854, Bridget was pregnant with the first of their seven children -- two sons and five daughters. The couple settled close to Gazelle in Northern California’s Siskiyou County.  They raised cattle and ran a butchering business under their O-K brand, named for the original family name, O’Kiernan.

Similar to recent trends, Siskiyou County in Northern California experienced less rain and warmer winters in the 1920's.

Mount Shasta’s snow pack nearly melted away, and its glaciers began to melt, sending water cascading down the sandy, rocky slopes.  Historian Gerald Wetzel says that during the hot summer of 1924, a “damaging flow of water and mud from Konwakaton Glacier and Clear Creek” rumbled down Mud Creek canyon.

According to Wintu Indian tradition, the first people ate their food raw for lack of fire until Coyote helped out.  He led the Wintu north until they came to a house where two women cooked over a fire.

A proposed Shasta County courthouse will be built where the Adolph Dobrowsky house sits at 1720 Yuba St. in Redding, Calif.  The historic Craftsman style home was built in 1927.

California Route 96, variously referred to as the Klamath River Highway, the Bigfoot Scene Byway and the Jefferson State Byway, features a number of historic stops.

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.