Friday, June 6, 2008

Siskiyou County Museum 1950

The Siskiyou County Museum ~ a treasure house of history!

The Siskiyou County Museum is located at 910 South Main Street, Yreka, California. The building was completed in 1950 and was designed specifically to resemble a historic structure, the Callahan Hotel, located in rural Siskiyou County. The small town of Callahan grew up around their hotel. It is interesting to note that the hotel still stands, and for many years was in  much needed repair and restoration.  Today the charming building has been lovingly restored into a private residence. (A drive from Yreka to the small town of Callahan today is a favorite excursion for many locals as the route is remarkably picturesque and is only about an hour from town.)

The Siskiyou County Museum is an excellent place to begin a quest for historical knowledge of Yreka and Siskiyou County. They have excellent permanent exhibits curated, designed, and installed by the former Museum Director, Michael Hendryx,  as well as temporary ones. In addition to the main building there is an outdoor exhibit area owned by the Siskiyou County Historical Society who works in conjunction with the museum  with buildings, machinery, and interesting artifacts. The outdoor area is open during the summer and "better" weather months. Permanent exhibits in the museum proper include a Native American Gallery, A Trappers Gallery, and The Gold Mining Gallery. Here one can see evidence of what life was once like before and during Gold discovery. A research library with materials owned by both the Siskiyou County Historical Society and the Museum is also available that is filled with books, newspapers, ephemera, and  photographs! A call to the museum is highly recommended before asking to use the research library.  Information about research possibilities can be found on the Siskiyou County Historical Society website.

The actual history of how the museum began and the people who inspired it all to happen is also quite interesting.  The Siskiyou County Historical Society officially began in October of 1945 as a result of an interest in placing historical markers on various sites throughout Siskiyou County.  In a short time this led to the organization of a historical society with the moral, but not financial support of the board of supervisors.  The first official member, at his own request was local Senator Randolph Collier who contributed $10 for membership dues.  Subsequently, a constitution and by-laws were adopted, officers elected in November of 1945, and the society was off to an energetic start, embarking on a relentless campaign to document and preserve the history of the county for future generations. 

Interesting facts to know:
  • Yreka was a "Destination" and not just a way stop to somewhere else. The Yreka Trail branches off of the Oregon Trail ~ and its history is fascinating. The Yreka Trail was known as the "bloodiest trial" in the West. 
  • The Gold recovered in this area (still many active mines and gold mining in the rivers) was a "Mother Lode" into itself! It is noteworthy that the Sierra Nevada "Gold Country" often receives much interest in the gold mining, and this area produced vast amounts of gold that are often overlooked.  During the "rush" Yreka was known as the "Richest Square Mile"!  
Copyright: Claudia A. East, 2008 ~ updated 2015

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