Sunday, May 18, 2014

Deadwood and Yreka

Yreka vs. Deadwood

   The Fight for the County Seat

 By Claudia East

              It had been a little over a year from the discovery of gold in 1851 on the flats that that Yreka had grown to over 2,000 inhabitants.  Siskiyou County was formed in March of 1852 from parts of Shasta and Klamath Counties and was named after the Siskiyou Mountain Range.  It wasn't long before a county seat needed to be determined for this new county of California.  At the time there were two towns vying for the title; that of Yreka and neighboring Deadwood which was second only to Yreka in population and was located over Greenhorn down towards the Ft. Jones area near McAdams Creek.   

            Deadwood was one of the most important business centers in the county; it was a mining town as well and had three stores, two hotels, a drug store, a butcher shop, three saloons, a bakery, two stables and a dairy.  The first bank to ever open in Siskiyou County was opened in Deadwood according to historical writings.  Many well known local pioneers had businesses in Deadwood and among them were A. B. Carlock, Daniel Ream and M. Rosenberg. 

            Early Yreka was also vibrant with stores, a stage office, brewery, hotels, meat market, hardware store, blacksmith, barbershop, saloons, a church and other places of business.  Unlike Deadwood, Yreka also had permanent residences while most of the miners in the Deadwood area lived in tents and shacks or at the boarding houses. 

            When it came time to choose a County Seat the competition between the two towns was fierce.  It was not readily predictable who would win as it was a large county and folks would have to travel many miles from one part of the county to the other to actually visit the County Seat and take care of government matters, many of them relating to property ownership, court matters and the like.  A story from a local newspaper following the county convention to elect a county seat reported the following:

            The people have spoken, and Yreka has been voted to hold the title of County Seat for the newly formed County of Siskiyou recently named by the California Legislature.  The campaigns were strong and neighboring Deadwood came very close behind Yreka, there are still rumbling accusations of underhanded dealings during the elections.  Apparently Etna had a lower voter turnout and some say it is because of the whisky party that was carried on the night before the election.  Plans will soon be underway for officers of the county and a place to hold official meetings.

            According to some historical information (whether speculated or accurate it is not entirely known…) that Etna being closer to Deadwood would vote in that direction along with others and the whiskey delivered to the voters in Etna was from Yreka.  Some reports tell of the deciding vote to be only one, and other reports simply say it was a very close election.

            In 1861 the majority of the town of Deadwood was burned to the ground in a fire.  Following that fire there were a few buildings remaining and a few residents, but it wasn't long before the town faded from existence.  Deadwood was vibrant for only 10 years, but adds a significant story to the history of our county.  Today the only thing that remains to mark the town site are a few very old fruit trees and one of the first historical monuments placed by the Siskiyou County Historical Society in 1948.  One can visit the site by traveling one of two ways.  Travel Highway 3 towards Ft. Jones and turn on McAdams Creek Road before entering the town limits of Ft. Jones.  Simply following this road will eventually take one to Forest Service Road 45N49 turn and travel a few car lengths to the monument.  The second route would be to simply travel up Greenhorn Road from Yreka and continue over the mountain and back down and look for Forest Service Road 45N49.  The monument is visible from the road if you know where to look, but the most identifiable marks will be the open flat area the town site was located and a few ancient fruit trees on the side of a hill.

            Note:  This author  is sad to report that this historic monument has been the recent target of vandals, the monument was restored a few years ago with the help of E Clampus Vitus, Humbug Chapter, along with the Siskiyou County Historical Society to repair earlier damage, but again it has been targeted by vandals shooting bullets at the bronze plaque.