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.  

 

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.

As a small, isolated garrison in Northern California’s Scott Valley, Fort Jones opened in October 1852. Within two years it contained nine buildings, seven made of mud-daubed logs and two of roughly shaped boards.

Early officers included Lt. J.C. Bonnycastle and Captains Fitzgerald, Bradley Alden, and Henry Judah.

A master gunsmith from Bavaria, Germany, John Miller, came to the United States at the age of 20 in 1830.  He found employment in New Jersey for several years, where he married Mary Smith Smutz, who had also emigrated with her family from Baden, Germany. Together, the couple would raise eight children.

After moving to Burlington, Iowa, which was a frontier outfitting town, tales of the West lured the Millers to Jacksonville, Ore.

 

National Weather Service officials issued a cautionary flash-flood watch on Sept. 20, 2014, after volcanic mud, rock and water cascaded down Northern California’s Mount Shasta, possibly when a piece of a glacier broke off.

The incident, blamed on drought conditions and sun exposure, drew attention to the 14,179-foot volcanic mountain’s seven glaciers.

 

The July 15, 1903, edition of the mining journal, Mineral Wealth of Northern California, was full of news, including that Southern Oregon placer mines were expected to top $1 million in gold for the season.

Other news included the following:

-- The Old Channel mines on Galice Creek had sent 10 big gold bricks to company headquarters in Chicago, and “they are but half done cleaning the yellow metal from the sluices.”

Charles Maplesden was born in 1916, son of blacksmith Charlie Maplesden and his wife, Verna, of Etna, Calif.  The family moved to Greenview where the father opened a blacksmith shop.

Charles recalled that his father was so strong that when shoeing a draft horse he would “hold onto [its] forefoot while it reared up on its hind legs. He wouldn’t let go but held the weight of the horse as it thrashed about…when he let go, the animal seemed glad to stand quietly.”

“The cry of fire was sounded at about 1:30 o’clock this morning,” the Scott Valley County Reporter newspaper wrote on March 16, 1896.  “It aroused the slumbering people of the town (of Etna, Calif.), who, half awake and half clad, rushed from all directions on to Main Street to find that Mrs. Mani’s hotel and saloon building was in flames and past all hope of being saved.”

Quickly the flames consumed more wooden buildings, including Emmel Miller’s brick store and the Odd Fellows Hall.

 

“The cry of fire was sounded at about 1:30 o’clock this morning,” the Scott Valley County Reporter newspaper wrote on March 16, 1896.  “It aroused the slumbering people of the town (of Etna, Calif.), who, half awake and half clad, rushed from all directions on to Main Street to find that Mrs. Mani’s hotel and saloon building was in flames and past all hope of being saved.”

Quickly the flames consumed more wooden buildings, including Emmel Miller’s brick store and the Odd Fellows Hall.

There are forest fires … and there are forest fires.  The Hog Fire of 1987 especially comes to mind in Northern California.  

 Yreka, Calif., suffered terribly in what is known as the “great fire of 1871.”  It was the same year as the disastrous Chicago fire, and for residents it became a landmark in time.

Hayfork, Calif., is off the beaten path, but with a population of only 2,400 it ranks as the second largest town in Northern California’s Trinity County. Settled in 1851 during the California Gold Rush, it was first known as Kingsbury or Kingsberrys, then South Fork, followed by Hay Town.  It became Hayfork in 1854, its name derived from the hay and food grains produced along the North Fork of the South Fork of the Trinity River.

 Gold rush miners settled many towns in Siskiyou County, Calif., but not the little town of Tailholt, born in 1888 to serve the lumber industry. It was positioned at the end of the railroad in Shasta Valley, on the east side of today’s Interstate 5. At least a dozen lumber mills existed where present-day Ball Mountain Road is located. 

 The history of Strawberry Valley schools in Siskiyou County, Calif., began with official district recognition in 1870.

 The townspeople of Happy Camp, Calif., realized in the 1920s that they needed a high school in the remote and rugged location.

 With the closest school 65 miles away in Fort Jones, most students never advanced past eighth grade. Parents, led by Gorham Humphreys, sought help from the Siskiyou Union High School District.  For a time, students gathered with a single teacher in one room at the elementary school. By 1933, the community looked for a new location.

  Northern California’s Shasta Tribe has shared many early tales of the region.  One relates how a little girl accidentally scattered stars across the sky.

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