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.  


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.


Early-day travelers faced not only roads destroyed by high water, snow and ice, but also bridge collapses or closings that isolated and disconnected communities.

In the days before motorized transport, it was difficult for pioneer ranchers in Siskiyou County to move their cattle to market, especially over the mountain passes.


When the miners and pioneers first arrived in the West, iron and other metals were scarce. They turned to wood for piping.  One man whose name has been lost over time made a living traveling with a portable lathe auger all over Siskiyou County, Calif.


Oregon and California trailblazer Peter Skene Ogden has been described as a man of “of great endurance, courage, and modesty.”

Born in Quebec in 1794, Ogden crossed the Rockies in 1817.  After leading a massacre of the Cowlitz tribe, Ogden seemed to turn a corner, becoming an able leader. Though he often found himself at odds with various tribes and openly detested a number of them, he married a Nez Perce woman, who accompanied him on several expeditions.

Stephen Hall Meek, the brother of Joe Meek, Oregon’s most famous mountain man, came West in 1831 as a trapper.  Traveling to California with the Walker brothers, Joel and Joseph, Meek began working for the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1835.


Around 1900 an angry mob sought but failed to apply frontier justice in Callahan, Calif.  A man known to have a terrible temper had drawn a knife and threatened to “disembowel” another man standing at the bar in Baker’s Saloon.  Others in the saloon grabbed the man with the knife and tied him up.  In the heat of the moment, they decided to hang him from a nearby bridge. 

Writing to a cousin in 1873, Joel Anson Shepard describes Yreka, Calif.’s saloons, also called Whiskey Mills.

“The glare of the gaslight almost dazzles us,” he writes. “...the room is large, high and the walls and ceiling beautifully frescoed … with oil painting(s), and chromos … Four billiard tables occupy the center of the room … Opposite is the bar with its glittering glasses and fancy colored and ornamental decanters.”

In January 1827, Canadian fur trader-explorer Peter Skene Ogden and his men reached the Klamath River and California.  They discovered hot springs just south of the Oregon line.


Mary Elizabeth Cory was born on Dec. 26, 1850, in Indiana, where she learned to speak both Dutch and English.  The family moved to Kansas where her father kept store.  To quote her diary, “his customers were mostly Indians, as there were very few white people in the settlement.” They returned East again, where Mary at age 14 taught primary school for $2 a week.

In 1868, the Cory family arrived in Scott Valley in western Siskiyou County, Calif.  Now 18, she taught school again.  The next year she met pioneer James H. Walker at a picnic.


In a letter written to his cousin in Massachusetts, Joel Shepard describes a stage ride in 1873. He wrote, “As we leave Red Bluff (Calif.) we strike out into a wilderness of mountains through which the Sacramento and Pit Rivers come rushing with inexpressible force.  For awhile we follow the windings of the rivers, now cross on the rude ferry board, now zigzag (or, as the drivers express it, ‘jack knifing’) up a precipitous height of perhaps a thousand feet …when … it looks as though a single misstep of the horses would plunge us headlong into the fury.


Although violence often followed the miners into the gold fields, murder was less common. One incident happened in 1859 in the Salmon River region of Northern California’s Siskiyou County.  It began when Richard Cave traveled to Sawyers Bar to invite son Alfred to join him in raising cattle.