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 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.


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.