Saturday, June 13, 2009

1853 And Still Standing in Yreka

Photos copyright, Claudia East, 2008.

Located just a little more than 4 blocks from the National Historic District along Miner Street in Yreka sits a small and fairly hidden cabin at 646 North Street. Driving by one might easily miss this building because of the trees, bushes and greenery ~ and the once prominent sign that stands near the front door and at the curb is somewhat hidden under tree branches. The sign proudly announces that this is known as the first log house, built circa 1853. According to historical information the east portion of the cottage (near the sign and at the front door) is the oldest portion of the house. It was originally a small square room built of logs, typical of its time. At some point later in time the exterior logs were were covered with board and batten and it is said that the interior walls were plastered with a few logs still being exposed. In 1879 the cabin was enlarged with a kitchen, a bath and two bedrooms and the exterior was faced with clapboard siding.

In 1862 a man with the name of Thomas Campbell moved here with Sarah, his wife. Thomas was a miner and farm worker born in Ireland in 1826; while his wife, Sarah, born in Massachusetts in about 1836, was known as a woman noted for her kindness, and as a general nurse and midwife. The small log cabin came to be known as the "Auntie Campbell House".

One hundred years after this cabin was built, about 1953, the Wilcox family purchased the building and the home next door. The cabin was used as a guest house and they created a lovely yard between the two. There are still old fashioned rose bushes that bloom in the summer sunshine.

Historical information about this oldest house in Yreka was gleaned from a Historic Home Tour Brochure from the 1990's that was prepared by the Yreka Historic Preservation Heritage Committee.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Thompson's Dry Diggings Monument

Today this monument sits towards the west end of Discovery Park located near the corner of Yama and Discovery Streets in Yreka. However, when this monument to Abraham Thompson and the first discovery of gold in our area was dedicated in June of 1948 the surroundings were natural vegetation, (with lots of sage brush) rocks and dirt. The plot of ground was donated to the County for the Siskiyou County Historical Society by Mr. Joseph Wetzel, descendant of an early pioneer family.

The fledgling town that grew "on the flats" just a few blocks from this monument was first known as Thompson's Dry Diggings. The town grew rapidly and enjoyed a name change or two but the name Yreka had the staying power.

This approximate spot, where gold was first discovered, was researched by Alex J. Rosborough, O. G. Steele, and W. B. H. Fairchild prior to the decision to erect this monument. On the top of the brass plaque is an artist's depiction of the gold discovery. This art work was created by a Mrs. Ruth Salinas of Mount Shasta. The brass plaque is attached to a 15 ton native boulder and has hosted the plaque for over 60 years.

The plaque reads:

"Thompson's Dry Diggings

Gold was discovered here in March 1851 by Abraham Thompson, member of a party which was enroute from Oregon to Scott Bar. Following a heavy rainstorm, particles of gold in the roots of grass pulled up by pack animals caused Thompson to wash three pans of gravel. The results convinced the party that the area was rich enough to work. In the party were Dr. F. G. Hearn, Judge Silas J. Day and a Mr. Bell, Thompson's partner. All staked claims on these flats thirty feet square, and it was named "Thompson's Dry Diggings". Within six weeks 2,000 prospectors rushed here to mine, but the need of water caused the settlement to move to the creek. And it became known as Shasta Butte City. This name being confused with Shasta, in Shasta County. Was changed to "I-E-K-A," The Indian word for Mt. Shasta. "Now Yreka" in 1852.

Erected by Siskiyou County Historical Society

It may be noted that the origin of the name Yreka, and the various names following Thompson's Dry Diggings has had alternative information presented throughout the years.
Copyright: Claudia A. East, 2009