Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Chinese in Yreka




Yreka's Chinatown, circa 1899.






The first Chinese to arrive in Yreka came in 1853.  They came to the west because in their own Kwang Tung Province in Southern China (today known as Guangdong, which essentially surrounds modern day Hong Kong) civil strife and crop failure caused many to immigrate to California with one of six major Chinese Companies, essentially as indentured servants. 

            The New York Daily Times on June 28, 1853 (page 3) likely reprinted an article from one of our more local papers, stated:  “It was a shocking arrival this day in June when 35 Chinamen arrived here in Yreka.  They are the first of this kind who have made their appearance here, and their arrival created quite an excitement in town.  The Chinamen promptly tendered the amount of the foreign miner’s tax, but no officer was authorized to receive it.  There was great discussion of what to do among the men present, and after quite some discussion they were permitted to remain.”  Between 1860 and 1870 the Chinese population doubled in Siskiyou County to 1,176 persons ~ but was likely higher as women weren’t always counted in the census at that time.

            The Chinese in Yreka did not have an easy life.  At first attitudes towards them were tolerant, but once it became apparent that they were not going to purchase many American made goods and better the local shopkeepers pocketbooks as well as embracing their different customs and lifestyles, attitudes against them hardened.  The majority of the Chinese worked in mining, while the older or less physically able may have worked as cooks, washers, or as Chinese shopkeepers selling goods largely from China.

            There were 3 different “Chinatown’s” in Yreka over the years.  The first area settled by the Chinese was on the south side of the 500 Block of West Miner Street, but many of them moved from that location by 1868.  Many merchants discouraged them from being on Miner Street as they were reported to live in “shacks” that caught fire easily, and had poor sanitary conditions, especially the laundry houses.
The Joss House in Yreka's Chinatown 

            The second location of Yreka’s “Chinatown” and likely the longest residency was along Main Street which was on both sides of the street from Center to Miner about half way up the block.  Their stores would have stopped just short of the location where the Rex Club is today at 111 South Main Street, Yreka.  In 1871 a great fire devastated Yreka and a great deal of the business section of town burned, including the Chinese section.  They went to work and rebuilt right away, this time many buildings were rebuilt with brick.  Misfortune came to the Chinese again when in 1886 the Main Street Chinatown was once again consumed by fire.    A “citizens meeting” followed immediately on the heels of this fire and a new Chinatown was created across Yreka Creek on what was then the far east end of Center Street. 

            In less than 5 years at the third Chinatown location, tragedy struck again.  The hard winter of 1889-90 followed by warm rains caused massive flooding in Yreka Creek and throughout the county.  The vast majority of Chinatown was literally washed downstream.   By 1900 there were only 4 or 5 Chinese stores that operated within a total of 14 buildings occupied by the Chinese settlers.  Today there is nothing left of the last “Chinatown” in Yreka, when Interstate 5 was created it essentially was built right over the top of the remains of Chinatown at the central exit.  While there were no buildings left by the time the freeway was constructed, some archaeological digs were performed in the area.


            There are many local stories and lore regarding the Chinese here in Yreka, for further information one can contact either Yreka Preservation or the Siskiyou County Historical Society.  Information for this article was found largely from the Meamber Research Files located at Yreka Preservation as well as some information from an article by the former Museum Director, Mike Hendryx as well as the 1990 edition of the Siskiyou Pioneer published by the Siskiyou County Historical Society.

Copyright:  Claudia East, 2015

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Preservation Square and former St. Mark's Episcopal Church












The charming former church building sitting at the corner of Lane and Fourth Streets in Yreka is one of the most iconic buildings in town!  This wonderful landmark sits on the corner just across from the Siskiyou County Courthouse Square.  

            In July of 1876 the first Episcopal congregation met at the original courthouse to form and held the name as St. Paul’s Mission.  However, in less than a month the Church of St. Laurence was incorporated to serve the community.  Within same month (July) of 1876 the lot at the corner of Fourth and Lane was purchased for $200 for the purpose of building a church.  This lot was the former site of the old Metropolitan Hotel which is believed to have burned in the 1871 devastating fire that hit Yreka.  Within a couple of months the parishioners instituted a plan for the building and the original plans were suggested for a brick structure.  However it was in 1880 when the building we see today was built.  Reports from historical papers indicate that building began on the 15th of May, 1880.  The first church services were held in the church on January 30, 1881.  The original price tag of the building and furnishings for the church was $3,100.  A marine architect constructed the church and the roof is supported by what looks like an upside down sailing ship hull under the outside roof line and shingles. The roof is made of 2 x 10 tongue and groove planks and is carried on seven arches to which equivalent rafters are fastened to form the peak.  The bracing of the rafters on the arches is much the same as that used when bracing the hull of an 1850 sailing ship.  The heavy work of the structure is bound together with wooden pegs. This building was definitely made to last, the exterior of the roof originally had a “striped” design (similar to what we see today) in the shingles and these original shingles served the church for 67 years and were made of sugar pine.  The first time the church building was “re-roofed” was in 1947.  The walls of the building are constructed of boards and batten, and the walls are also made of 2 by 10 tongue and groove pine.  In 1881 the windows were covered with fancy oiled paper, which was reported to have looked even “better” and more “ornamental” than stained glass. 

            In 1885 St. Laurence was renamed St. Mark’s and consecrated in June of that year.  The church was “out of debt” and paid for, and this was the cause for celebration and change.  The next year a new bell was hung at St. Mark’s and this original bell weighed 350 pounds.  Unfortunately in 1900 the bell at St. Mark’s fell and had to be replaced.  In 1915 St. Mark’s exchanged their bell for a heavier bell that hung at St. Barnabas in Dunsmuir.  This bell is still hanging in the bell tower today.

            On January 25, 1962 it was the annual church dinner and business meeting…but at 10:00 a.m. fire was discovered when smoke began billowing through the roof.  It had been zero and sub-zero weather and one of the oil stoves had been left burning on low to keep pipes from freezing.  Following this devastating fire the insurance company called the building a total loss.  In the end the parishioners decided they would salvage all they could and rebuild the church.  It was the interior that was the total loss and was replaced, but the exterior survived.  Today the interior is the replacement interior that was created, but the exterior is the same as it was in 1880.


            On August 20, 2010 it was with great sadness the congregation voted to close the long lived St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, a number of reasons were considered in this difficult decision including the economy, lack of interest, and an ageing population.  It was on January 1, 2011 that St. Mark’s Episcopal Church closed their doors and ended a legacy of service to Yreka.  But it wasn’t the end of life for this beautiful little building…

            In June of 2011 title of the property including the church building, the patio area, the brick block building in the back, and the former Victorian rectory that sits at the side was transferred to the Yreka (Historic) Preservation Corporation.  It is the goal of Yreka Preservation to utilize the buildings in positive ways for the community and preserve the building to the best of their ability.


            Today Preservation Square provides a venue for a wide variety of opportunities; the building has been used for weddings, social events, meetings, musical events, parties, lectures, films, etc.  The building is offered for rent to the community at low cost and the funds raised go toward maintaining the property.  The building is available to tour with prior arrangements with Yreka Preservation.


Copyright: Claudia East, 2008.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Baldwin Block ~ Part II






This is an article that originally appeared in the February/March 1984 edition of the Yreka Echoes Newsletter.  The article was originally written by Hazel Fiock Ohlund.  Copyright by Yreka (Historic) Preservation.  Reprinted by permission. Please note some of the businesses are no longer at the locations mentioned.  [Part 1 can be found in the previous blog article.]
Below is Part 2 of the article:


            In 1904 the Walker-Avery Drug moved across the street from the Baldwin Block, and in 1905 was replaced by W. H. Smith’s General Merchandise Store which featured heavy clothing and hardware items.  (Mr. Smith had purchased Shone’s secondhand store on Main Street when he closed out in 1904.)  Mr. Smith carried, also, furniture, carpets, crockery, upholstery goods, picture frames, bicycles, groceries and meat.  During the year the store building was sold by the Julien family to Miles Buckner.

                In 1908 a barber shop was in operation here, followed by Mrs. McCormick who operated a needle-craft shop.  In 1913 the business was purchased by Mrs. Nettie (Davidson) McGill and Miss Hattie Davidson (aunts of Mrs. Gladys Zolskey of Yreka).  They expanded the business to include ladies clothing.  In 1937 Hattie Davidson became the sole owner of the business and building, operating it until 1950.  She lived in a three-room apartment upstairs in back of the store.  A fire damaged a part of the apartment and the back of the store, but she renovated and continued in business.

            When Miss Davidson bought the building in 1937, she had a partition built on the west side of the store, making a small ten-foot room that she rented to the Western Union, which was managed by Arthur Zolskey for thirty-two years.

            Wes and Ellen McMillan bought the building from Miss Davidson’s brother, William, on March 16, 1950 and opened a Westinghouse appliance sales and service store.  They too, lived in the apartment in the back and rented the smaller room to the west.  Homer Atchley, a realtor, had an office here until his death in 1973.   After the McMillan's retired they rented the store to Mrs. Ray Taylor who operated a health food store until 1965, when Ohlund’s Office Supply moved in after the Warren’s Building fire, where they were previously  renting.

            Ohlund’s established the office machine service department in the former apartment.  In 1973 Bob and Hazel Ohlund bought the building, lowered the ceiling, redecorated and removed the partition that separated Homer Atchley’s office, to allow for expansion and accommodate more office furniture, machines, and inventory.

The following is an “updated addendum” from 1984:

            Ohlund’s at 204-206 W. Miner Street is the largest and most complete office equipment and supply store in Northern California.  Prompt attention is given to the repair of office machines by their pleasant repairmen, Glen Goodwin, and his son, Glen, Jr.

            Ohlund’s has been in business for 24 years, having purchased a small office supply store from Albert Parrott at 112 South Broadway in 1960.  They moved across the street to the Warrens Building in 1962, and after the fire of 1966, settled in at 204 W. Miner Street.  Hazel and Bob’s son, Barry, became a partner in 1977.

            They have six permanent employees, and two more part-time.  Products are full lines of bond copiers, electronic typewriters, calculators, cash registers, office furniture, general office supplies, and a service   department trained in all modern phases of electronic technology.

Since the update in 1984 many changes have come and gone with the Baldwin Block.  Today, in 2015 one will find the Miner Street Meat Market, Ohlund's Office Supply, and Dinner's Ready.  

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Baldwin Block, Part 1





The article below is copyrighted by Yreka (Historic) Preservation and reprinted by permission.  It originally appeared in the February/March 1984 edition of Yreka Echoes Newsletter.  Please note some of the businesses are no longer at the locations mentioned.


An eventful year in our historic past was 1871, when a fire ravaged nearly one-third of the town of Yreka.  The fire started in a Chinese wash house west of Second Street (Broadway), pinpointed by the old-timers as approximately where the Yreka Flower Shop is now, 208 West Miner Street, and in one hour’s time left the town in ruins due to shifting winds carrying the fire from street to street.  It was ten years before rebuilding began on what became known as the Baldwin Block, where Ohlund’s Office Supply and the Miner Street Meat Market now resides.  

            In 1881 contractors J. W. Riddle and Al Smith began construction on the building for Mrs. W. I. Nichols, whose father was Rev. J. T. Baldwin, a Presbyterian minister and graduate of Princeton University in the class of 1823.  Her husband was a local attorney.

            The building was a large 100 by 80-foot brick structure, with a space in back designed for offices or sleeping rooms.  Work progressed slowly, since they worked through the winter and mortar and plastered walls did not dry well due to freezing temperatures.  An outstanding feature of building in that era was the substantial board walks constructed in front of the building; and the basements were large and well drained by deep sewers running into Yreka Creek.

            The first business to open where Ohlund’s Office Supply is now located was a saloon.  On June 3, 1882 the Portuguese Billiard Saloon opened its doors for business, operated by Frank Roberts and A. S. Oliver.  They spared no effort or expense in making it one of the “handsomest” places of “public resort” in the country.  The bar, made by Mr. Oliver, was located on the east side of the saloon and a shooting gallery, at 25¢ for six shots, attracted local sportsmen on the west side.  A Virginia pool table was the center focal point.  Quoting from the Yreka Journal of June 3, 1882: “No boys under 18 permitted as a preventive of becoming a hoodlum resort.”

            The building was sold by Mrs. Nichols (Jennie T. Nichols) to N. B. Julien October 20, 1882 for the sum of $5,084.50, and in 1885 the saloon was known as the Roberts Saloon.  By 1892 the building was being used as a sample room for the Clarendon Hotel across the street.

            A new steel roof was put on the entire Baldwin Block in 1899 by Mr. Julien, the owner, who hired Iunker Brothers to cover the 9,000 square foot space.  New chimneys were made, and new skylights coated with iron sheeting.  The rear portion above the brick wall was covered with iron to make the block as near fireproof as possible.

            The Walker-Avery Drug Store was the next business in this location.  Extensive improvements were made before the proprietors occupied the store in May, 1900, which made the store “the most beautiful, modern building north of Sacramento.”  A new faƧade was erected with a plate glass front and two doors, and a beautifully refurbished interior.  Quoting the Yreka Journal of May 26, 1903, “C. W. Avery has a cozy and neat arbor or tent in the center of his drug store, where partees [sic] can enjoy refreshments during warm days in the way of ice cream, ice cream soda, and various kinds of temperance beverages.”

Look for Part 2 of this article in the next blog post...

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The King and White Building


231 Miner Street, Yreka, CA

The building that sits on the corner of Miner and Fourth Streets today was built while Yreka was in its early boom days. Records show that it was in use as early as 1854. The locally well known 1858 hand drawn map and layout of Yreka shows the King and White building, and by 1855 the Yreka Journal was printing notices and advertisements for the King and White building. They sold paint, oil, glass crockery, glassware, harnesses, spurs, bridles and a wide variety of merchandise. It was lauded as the “fireproof” brick building at the corner of Miner and Fourth Streets.

During the 1860's the address for this building was known to be 40 Miner Street. In 1871 during the “Great Conflagration” of July 4, this building was partially burned and obliterated a wood building that was built at the rear of the store along Fourth Street. The total loss of buildings and goods was valued at $3,000. Within two months time the owner was bringing rock and brick for an “addition” to the building to be built at the back section to replace the wooden section that had been burned.

In 1896 it was announced that the Bee Hive (a general store) would occupy this building, owned by R. H. DeWitt. Mr. DeWitt partially remodeled the building by putting in a new plate glass front. The Bee Hive was in this location only a few years, when in 1898 DeWitt and Peters built a new much larger building at the corner of Miner and Oregon Streets. The structure is still standing today, and is known as the Elks Lodge. In 1898 Churchill and Son purchased this building and did much more renovation to the building. In March of 1898 the Yreka Journal reported: “Mr. Churchill has overhauled the Old King Store recently vacated by the Bee Hive. The inside is about all torn out, and a new front wall to hold two large plate glass windows is being constructed. A new ceiling is being built on the interior.” This new store carried a variety of goods in addition to drugs. They advertised as being Druggists, Booksellers, Stationers, and offering Kodaks and complete photographic Supplies, Candy, Molasses, Maple Syrup and Wall Paper. The Churchills carried on their business at this location until 1916 when it was purchased by Frank Ackerman, the manager of the store for Mr. Churchill.                            

The Ackerman Drug Store operated here until 1932 when it was sold to Maguire and Greene who also operated a Drug Store here. The Maguire and Greene Drug Store operated until 1976 when the store was closed.

From about 1856 until the early 1930's there was another structure to the West. It actually made Fourth Street very narrow, jutting out into the street. This was the former Pashburg Building. Eventually the building was torn down and Fourth Street was widened to what we see today.


Source of information: From the files of Yreka Preservation contributed articles and information by Donald Carey, Harland McDonald, and Archie Noonan.