Siskiyou County's Oldest Church Stands on Rich Mining Land

Jan 10, 2014

 One important stopping point along the North Fork of the Salmon River, Sawyers Bar, was established a mile above Bestville during the gold rush. It served as a hub for other settlers who could visit its first blacksmith, Dan Davis, who sharpened picks for $1 a point on a big rock he also used as an anvil.

   Sawyers Bar remained an important settlement into the 20th century. One of its most interesting landmarks is the Catholic Church built on Paradise Flat, one of the few places within the Klamath National Forest on the National Register of Historic Places.  The building dates to 1855, its construction supervised by a Benedictine Monk from Austria, Father Florian S. Schwenninger, who arrived in 1853. He brought with him a painting of Christ’s crucifixion that still hangs above the altar he built.  Nearly 160 years old, the Catholic church is the oldest of its faith in Northern California and the second oldest church built in Siskiyou County.  It’s often said that the small structure sits on the “richest” piece of real estate around Sawyer’s Bar because it was out of the miners’ reach. 

  Source: Jenner, Gail L., and Monica J. Hall. Western Siskiyou County: Gold & Dreams: Arcadia Publishing, 2002. 33-35.