Friday, April 29, 2011

Highway 50 - Shingle Springs

El Dorado County August 29, 1993

54 miles from Woodland Opera House and getting into serious gold country as we start heading up highway 50 and make this first stop for a landmark dedicated to the Boston-Newton party of 49’ers, and their overland trek to California. What set them apart from numerous other organized groups was that they stayed in tact for the whole journey.

Though mining existed here, Shingle Springs was more about its crossroads location, especially after the railroad came through. What got things going and the reason for the town’s name was a shingle machine that was popping out 16,000 shingles a day, which was going for $900 in Sacramento. For these folks, the gold was in the ponderosa.

From Highway 50 we get off on Shingle Rd and then down Mother Lode Drive. At the time, the landmark was in front of an auto parts store, and a convenient source for tidbits for the Caddy, but now it appears to be the home of Prime Source Real Estate. If you happen to be here on a summer Sunday, there’s a farmers market and crafts fair on the corner of
Product Drive
Durock Road

Plaque inscription: NO. 456 SHINGLE SPRINGS - The Boston-Newton Joint Stock Association, which left Boston April 16 and arrived at Sutter's Fort September 27 after a remarkable journey across the continent, camped here on September 26, 1849. A rich store of written records preserved by these pioneers has left a fascinating picture of the gold rush.
4270 Mother Lode Dr
near post office, Shingle Springs
Google maps: 38.66338,-120.933273

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Woodland Opera House

Yolo County August 29, 1993

2 ½ hours and 136 miles south on I-5 from Fort Reading we skip Tehama County since three of its four landmarks were covered on the northbound trip. Then, Glenn County’s two landmarks are passed over, to be seen a year later. And then Colusa County’s two landmarks will wait another two years. Finally, the Caddy pulls into Yolo County and one of its two landmarks, the Woodland Opera House. This four county corridor between Shasta and Sacramento Counties is comparatively quiet, historically speaking, and if you’re thinking of taking up mining, as many folks are in these current days of $1500 an ounce gold, you need not go here.

On this long hot leg to Woodland, ’51 Caddy’s Wonderbar radio brings in KUBA 1600 AM and its fun call letters and oldies perk things up a bit. The car has the optional rear speaker and thoughts of trying to procure an old sixties era vibrasonic (no relation to the Fender amp) reverb speaker to replace it for an ultimate sense of nostalgia come to mind. Other things on the car that were considered options in 1951 in addition to the Wonderbar radio were backup lights, fog lights, turn signals, and electric clock. Things like power steering, power brakes, electric windows, and air conditioning were to come along in later years.

Over 300 touring companies played here at the Woodland Opera House till it closed its doors in 1913, due in part to the rise of movie theatres, and in part to a lawsuit by some nimrod that mistook the loading dock for an exit and broke his keyster. It was restored and reopened in 1989 and thrives to this day, as do its ghost stories. They seem to have settled on a female performer they call the ‘woman in white,’ and even experimented with setting up a guitar for her to play. So, if you can clear the paranormal, tin foil clad, psychic investigators out of the way, you should have a jolly time among the haunted bricks at one the many events held there.

Plaque inscription: NO. 851 WOODLAND OPERA HOUSE - The first opera house to serve the Sacramento Valley was built on this site in 1885. The present structure, built in 1895-96, continues to represent an important center for theatrical arts of that period. Erected by David M. Hershey and incorporating the classic American playhouse interior, it served vast agricultural regions of the Sacramento Valley. Motion picture competition hastened its closing in 1913.
Location: W side of
2nd St
Main St
and Dead Cat Alley, Woodland
Google maps: 38.677775,-121.771871

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Fort Reading

Shasta County August 29, 1993

6.5 miles and 15 minutes from the California-Oregon road landmark we roll out into open country and come to the last landmark on this visit to Shasta County, Fort Reading.  

Pierson Barton Reading

Back in the day, it was nice to have Cow Creek running right by the fort…great for fresh water and bathing…in the summer. It was a different story in winter however when the place turned into a muddy swamp and sickness was common. An inspector noted: "troops had intermittent fever and are powerless in the field with broken constitutions."  Add to this the fort was supposed to be a base of defense against hostile Indians for a 200 mile radius, but the central location placed too far from any goings-on and was for the most part useless. After the quinine taking soldiers moved on, the buildings were sold sometime after 1870 and nothing remains of the fort today.   

Fort Reading site today - NoeHill photo

Plaque inscription: NO. 379 FORT READING - Fort Reading, established on May 26, 1852 by Second Lieutenant E. N. Davis, Co. E, 2nd Infantry on the orders of Lieutenant Colonel George M. Wright, was the first and largest fort in Northern California. It was named in honor of Pierson Barton Reading and stood in a clearing of 10 acres. The fort was abandoned in June 1867.
Location: 0.6 mi E of intersection of Deschutes and Dersch Rds, 6 mi NE of Anderson
Google maps: 40.478292,-122.222128

Monday, April 25, 2011

Old California-Oregon Road

Shasta County August 29, 1993

Continuing south for 4.3 miles on 273 we roll up to our next landmark, the Old California to Oregon road. The stage line promised to get from San Francisco to Portland in six days in their mud wagon coaches. The mud wagons were lighter than the Concords, and had wider rims which were better suited to the rough road. It’s no wonder why steamships were so popular for the journey.

"On the afternoon of the 8th of October, I left Portland for San Francisco by the overland route ... I took a seat in a coach of the California and Oregon Stage Company to commence my long ride ... Four gentlemen and two ladies with children occupied the inside while the driver had plenty of company on top ... Careful driving is required on these mountain roads, necessarily narrow in the most dangerous places, so that a few inches divergence from the single track would be a sure upset into the ragged abysses of darkness below. The night was radiant. I never saw more brilliant heavens, even in the tropics, than on the Oregon Mountains."
—Frances Fuller Victor, 1870

Plaque inscription: NO.
- This marks the location of the main artery of travel used by pioneers between the Trinity River and the northern mines of California and Oregon.
Location: NW corner of Hwy 99 (P.M. 7.12) and Spring Gulch Rd, 1.7 mi N of Anderson
Google maps: 40.466148,-122.324245

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Clear Creek

Shasta County August 29, 1993

Lets take a ride on the Reading; from Bell’s Bridge we go a mile south on highway 273 to where gold was first discovered here in 1848 by Pierson B. Reading (1818-1868)…..actually, Native Americans working for their land grant owner found it for him and got little or nothing. But as it pans out, the Win River Casino sits on this very spot, now raking it in by the neglected Clear Creek landmark, Oh, the irony.

NoeHill photo

Reading was one of the first visitors to Marshall’s discovery and it gave him the idea that gold could likely be found on his land grant along the Trinity River. In these early days of discovery, the easiest place to look was in the collections of river sands and gravel called bars, especially when water levels were lower.

You’d think this town of Redding derived its name from Mr. Reading but it didn’t. Well, it didn’t, then it did, then it didn’t. From 1874 to 1880 they called it Reading in honor of him, but the railroad would not recognize the name change from one of their own, former Sacramento mayor and railroad man; Benjamin B. Redding. So the town went back to the name of Redding  This all happened before Monopoly existed, which course would have squared everything away and named the railroad man Reading. Either way, both surnames were better than what the miners originally called the place…..Horsetown.

Plaque inscription: NO. 78 CLEAR CREEK - Five miles up the creek, at Reading's Bar, is the site of the discovery of gold by Major Pierson B. Reading and his Indian laborers in 1848.
Location: Old Hwy 99 and
Canyon Rd, S Redding

Google maps: 40.504533,-122.379305

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Bell's Bridge

NoeHill photo

Shasta County August 29, 1993

About 10 miles from the previous landmark, the Pioneer Baby’s Grave we arrive at the proper location but where is Bell’s Bridge? The older California Historical Landmarks book shows that a state plaque is at the location (as does the updated book) and yet nothing was found back in 1993. In 1998, ace landmark finder Donald Laird found what remains of a local landmark without a plaque nearby, see photo. The NoeHill folks from San Francisco had this to say::
“According to our calculations, Bell's bridge used to be here. But we found no bridge, no creek, no plaque. Just a particularly nasty intersection where
Clear Creek Road
Westside Road
meet Old Highway 99, rechristened Highway 273 along this stretch. An employee of the nearest business said that a plaque used to stand at this intersection, but she did not remember when it disappeared. Head about seven miles out
Clear Creek Road
for a more bucolic scene.”…sounds like they had a tough time in that part of the community.
At any rate, despite multiple attempts, this marker remains a mystery as to where it might be.

If you want to see a bridge in this town however, you’re in luck, for one of the coolest bridges anywhere in the world has recently taken up residence; The Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay.

Local historian Dottie Smith over at Shasta County has this to say about Bell’s Bridge:
“In 1851, during the height of The Gold Rush, this was an important and popular place.  Mr. J. J. Bell established Bell's Toll Bridge, a hotel (above), a stagecoach stopping place, and eventually a horse racing track all at this location.  His bridge crossed Clear Creek where present-day Hwy. 273 crosses Clear Creek.  Bell's Mansion House was located nearby, near where the big trees are still standing beside Clear Creek and across the creek from WinRiver Casino.  I don't know exactly where the horse racing track was, but I believe it was out on the flat area directly west of where the Mansion House once stood.  His Mansion House (see photo) became a popular stopping place for thousands of men on their way to and from the gold mines.  This was the location of one of the very first northern California stagecoach stations.”

Donald Laird photo

Plaque inscription: NO. 519 BELL'S BRIDGE - Erected in 1851 by J. J. Bell, this was an important toll bridge on the road from Shasta City to Tehama. Bell's Mansion, erected in 1859 on Clear Creek, was a favorite stopping place for miners on their way to the Shasta, Trinity, and Siskiyou gold fields.
Location: SW corner of old Hwy 99 and
Clear Creek Rd, Redding

Google maps: 40.516311,-122.381601

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pioneer Baby's Grave

1855 sketch by John J. Young

Shasta County August 29, 1993

Not even a mile west of Shasta is this site and marker for the Pioneer Baby’s Grave and through a bit of thought while here, it became quite a spiritual experience. This has always been one of the first landmarks that came to mind when thinking about the next one to work up as a song, yet it always somehow ended up on a back shelf of the library of subjects to write about. Till now. When recorded, the lyric will be spoken prose against a riff worked out on a nylon stringed guitar, in a fashion similar to the song about the Spanish missions in Imperial County.

Pioneer Baby’s Grave             © Radio Flier Music

To lay their infant down they walk
Forty miles to sacred ground
Shasta bound with faith and thought
Howling wind the only sound

December’s bitter cold and snow
Shows the footprints made
To eternal rest for their Hebrew son
The pioneer baby’s grave

The couple lay their baby down
An infant’s soul is given
From the frozen face of Shasta’s ground
To the welcome arms of heaven

Plaque inscription: NO. 377 PIONEER BABY'S GRAVE - Charles, infant son of George and Helena Cohn Brownstein of Red Bluff, died December 14, 1864. He was buried near land established by the Shasta Hebrew Congregation as a Jewish cemetery in 1857, one of the earliest such cemeteries in the region. Since there was no Jewish burial ground in Red Bluff, Charles' parents made the arduous journey to Shasta to lay their baby to rest. Concern for the fate of the grave led to the rerouting of Highway 299 in 1923.
Location: 0.75 mi W of Shasta on
State Hwy
USGS Quadrangle Sheet Name: REDDING
Google maps: 40.603739,-122.499082

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Old Town of Shasta

 Shasta County August 29, 1993

Heading west on 299 from Redding to the old town of Shasta, lets pause with a long draw from a can of crème soda from the famous local bottler. Mmmmmm

‘It Hasta Be Shasta’
That’s right, the soda that comes in cherry, pineapple, chocolate, and a gaggle of flavors that make wonder why, originated in these parts. Just about the first folks to use cans as well.

‘A group of businessmen opened a health and vacation resort at the site and featured naturally carbonated spring water. The pure spring water was so enthusiastically received by visitors that the men formed Shasta Mineral Springs Company and began bottling and selling the carbonated water throughout the Pacific West Coast.’
– Shasta bottlers.

Not a mining town, Shasta was the transportation hub to the northern mining district with up to a hundred mule trains stopping over nightly on the route from Sacramento 190 miles to the south. Today, a lot of  town’s structures survive because they used brick and iron shudders in trying to make things ‘fireproof.’ After Shasta was bypassed by the California and Oregon railroad in favor of Redding six miles away, Shasta suffered the indignity of some of its brick hauled away for construction there.

“There are brick ruins of the old town of Shasta on Highway 299 West between Redding and Whiskeytown Lake. The site features an 1800s bakery, blacksmith, Mason's Lodge, and a courthouse museum.
In the belly of the Courthouse Museum is the old jail, and in one of the cells the "ghost" of a prisoner wakes up and tells you about the criminals that were tried (and hanged) at the jail.
There are also short hiking trails around the site that lead to 1800s cemeteries. In the spring there are native poppies growing all over the place.” [Mary Hanson, 07/28/2009]

Writer and poet Joaquin Miller (remember him from Battle Rock?)  talks about Shasta in Life Amongst the Modocs, based on his life in the area in the 1850s. He describes his brief incarceration in the Shasta jail for horse stealing and escape with the aid of his first nation wife. One would suspect a liberal dose of poetic license in this story as stealing a horse was about the worst crime imaginable at the time and almost always got the thief hung within a few hours.  

Plaque inscription: NO. 77 OLD TOWN OF SHASTA - Founded in 1849 as Reading's Springs, the town was named Shasta June 8, 1850. It was the second county seat for Shasta County, 1851-1888, and the metropolis of northern California during the 1850s. Here, until 1861, the road ended and the Oregon pack trail began. It is the home of the Western Star Lodge No. 2, F. & A.M., whose charter was brought across the plains in the Peter Lassen party of 1848. In 1851, Dr. Benjamin Shurtleff, pioneer physician and Shasta's first and only alcalde, built his home. The Shasta Courier was founded in 1851. The entire business section of Shasta was destroyed by fire in 1853.
Location: Shasta State Historic Park, State Hwy 299, NW corner of Main Stand Trinity Alley, Shasta
Coordinates for state historic park, not plaque.
Google maps: 40.599291,-122.492173

Monday, April 18, 2011

Father Rinaldi’s Foundation of 1856

Shasta County August 29, 1993

Not the philanthropic kind, we’re talkin’ about cut stone and mortar. A foundation with a non state local plaque dedicated to the half-baked road of good intensions. Church in the lurch, no steeple for Rinaldi’s people.

Back in the days when California had a few dollars for such things, the Office of Historic Preservation (the folks in charge of state landmarks) intended to review all of the landmarks and make sure they adhere to the criteria to be one in the first place. In a state loaded with firsts and deeds of significance that are unrecognized at this level, here lies an imposter that in this writer’s view should hand over its place in the registry to something more deserving.  Yet for the purposes of this venture of going to every state landmark, one goes with the blind unquestioning duty of the soldier.

Following photos from Syd Whittle at the historical marker database.

Since this landmark is a bit of a bore, let’s do a bit of signage 101. If you’ve driven California’s roads to any degree you’ve no doubt passed tan and brown signs in the landmark shape that have said ‘Historic Landmark 3 miles ahead’, or ‘Historic Landmark 500’ ahead’, or various other directions along with the landmark’s title. Well, there’s a whole designated code to all of this yet the use of these signs is spotty and inconsistent, and that’s too bad for it would make it a lot easier for the motorist with a casual interest.

The one pictured here is a G13-1, or advance directional. G13-1 should be used on conventional highways to guide motorist by the most direct route to registered historical landmarks which are located within 8 km of the highway. The sign should be placed not more than 45 m in advance of the intersection on the right.”

The ones you encounter of freeways are G 13-2’s. “The G13-2 sign should be used on freeways to guide motorists to the original 21 California Missions and other important well-known historical landmarks. See Section 123.5 of the Streets and Highways Code for signing to Missions. The G13-2 sign should also be used on freeways to guide motorists to historical landmarks that have a profound impact on the history of California as a whole.”

Then there’s the G86: “White on green signs (G86) may be used on freeways where the landmark generates considerable traffic. Such signs shall be followed up by standard historical landmark signs on the next exit ramps.”

Finally, there’s the G14 approach sign, typically saying ‘500’ ahead’: “The Advance Historical Landmark sign (G14) should be used in advance of a registered historical landmark monument or plaque within or adjacent to the right of way. The sign should be placed 150 m to 450 m in advance of the landmark or monument on the right, depending on the approach speed of traffic.”

So there you have it, the secret code unveiled and fodder to show any fellow passengers how anal you’ve become.

Plaque inscription: NO. 483 FATHER RINALDI'S FOUNDATION OF 1856 - In the summer of 1853 Archbishop Alemany of San Francisco sent Father Florian Schwenninger to take over the mission of Shasta County. In the later part of 1853 a small wooden church was built. In 1855 Father Schwenninger moved over to Weaverville and Shasta's new priest, Father Raphael Rinaldi, decided to build a structure of cut stone to replace the small wooden church that had served since 1853. In 1857 the cornerstone of the church was laid, but for some reason its walls never rose, the foundation can still be seen (1963).
Location: NW corner of intersection of
Red Bluff Rd
and Crocker Alley, Shasta
USGS Quadrangle Sheet Name: REDDING
Google maps: 40.592888,-122.488482

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bass Hill & Black Bart

Shasta County August 29, 1993

It’s quite the view from the long bridge over Shasta Lake as one can look down what seems like hundreds of feet to the banks of this reservoir lake and by the water’s height, tell exactly what kind of previous winter (or winters) California had. At 500 feet, the double-decker Pit River Bridge is the highest combination road and rail bridge in the world, and also the highest rail bridge ever built in the United States. It looks much newer than its 1942 completion date and has been a little unnerving a few times on wet icy morning crossings with its low sidewall.  The water conceals its true height. Just after the southbound crossing is the Bridge Bay turnoff and the landmark. Bass Hill is named for the pioneer Bass family who lived on the south side of the hill.  A duplicate plaque is located at Shasta State Historic Park.

Photo of the old Pit River Bridge which remains fully intact but entirely underwater, coming up only in severe drought years.

On September 17, 1882 in Shasta County at Bass Hill; the well dressed, articulate and crack mountaineer Black Bart robbed the stage and got the Wells Fargo box and mail. They caught him not long afterward and starting in 1883, he served a mere four years in San Quentin for this and dozens of other robberies and was released, never to be heard from again. Just as it is now, the notorious get the fame and recognition while the working stiff gets ignored, so with that in mind, this monument was placed due to the work of Mae Helene Bacon Boggs to honor her uncle and the other stage drivers of this route.

The misfortunate driver Black Bart robbed was Horace Williams, who had the further misfortune of being robbed in the same place by Black Bart the year before. Also along this route on another occasion, Horace rolled the stagecoach down a hillside. The stages used here generally weren’t the luxurious Concorde coaches, but the lighter and more common ‘Mud Wagons’ that had a 3” wheel rather than the Concord’s 2” for rough roads.

Black Bart poem:
"I've labored long and hard for bread,
For honor and for riches
But on my corns too long you've tread,
You fine-haired sons-of-bitches.
Black Bart, the P o 8"

Boy howdy! These dispatches are finally yielding some new songs; Shasta Man,
Coloma Road
, Hangtown Fry, Diamond Springs, and this one about Bass Hill and Black Bart.
Note to historical nit pickers: No, Black Bart didn’t do all of these things in the Bass Hill robberies, the song is a composite of a few of  Charles Earl Bowles’ (Black Bart’s) highlights.

BLACK BART’S BASS HILL CATCH      © Radio Flier Music

Horace Williams down the road, Drives the Wells Fargo stage
Strongbox with a load of gold, A goin’ Redding way

Passengers they number six, Wish the ride was over soon
Soon to see the bag of tricks, From the shadow in the midnight moon

Long dark duster, brogan shoes, Fine gloves on his shotgun hands
The treasure box to be the dues, For the wayside gentleman

Verses in his pocket packed, To let them know the score
A poem for his dangerous act, He wrote the night before

(Black Bart’s poem – Chorus)
Here I lay me down to sleep, To wait the coming morrow,
Perhaps success, perhaps defeat, And everlasting sorrow.
Let come what will I'll try it on, My condition can't be worse;
And if there's money in that box, ’Tis money in my purse!

“By your leave sir, stop the coach, To this agent you’ll throw down
Your litter of gold I aim to poach, Here on Bass Hill’s mound”

“My men have their rifles trained, From the hillside’s boulders”
Moonlight showed to Horace plain, As the gun on the outlaw’s shoulders

Inside the coach a woman said, “Please take my jewels and cargo”
“Miss, I only take my bread, From the office of Wells Fargo”

And with that line they know’d, The suspicion from the start
The shadow in the moonlight’s glow, Was the legend, Black Bart

Black Bart vanished in the cold, Leaving Horace in a fix
For the rifles in the boulders, Were nothing more than sticks

A poem left to have some fun, With the gentleman’s outlaw game
For empty was his shotgun, He got the money just the same

Plaque inscription: NO. 148 BASS HILL - On the summit of Bass Hill a remnant of the California-Oregon stage road crosses the
Pacific Highway
and descends to the Pit River. Because this was a favorite 'holdup' spot in stage-coach days, a marker has been placed there in memory of W. L. Smith, division stage agent of the California and Oregon Stage Company, and of the pioneer stage drivers along this road.
Location: Bridge Bay Resort parking lot, Bridge Bay turnoff and I-5, 6 mi N of Central Valley
Coordinates are for plaque, marker is in parking lot.
Google maps: 40.754507,-122.323108

Monday, April 11, 2011

Southern's Stage Station

Shasta County August 29, 1993

They called him‘Sims’
Simeon Fisher Southern that is, for Sims Exit on I-5-Sims Bridge-
Sims Road-
Sims Lookout-
Sims Lookout Road-
Sims Flat-and Sims Flat Campground are all named for him.
Born in Kentucky 1827, he joined the Kentucky volunteers and was wounded in the Mexican War in 1845, and remaining under Col. Steptoe’s command, came to California in 1855. Around here he eventually owned approximately 700 acres.  Before he died in 1902 and in the hotel’s heyday, President and Mrs. Hayes, General W. T. Sherman, Mr. and Mrs. Jay Gould, and General Sheridan were guests. The hotel was sold by his heirs to a lumber company in 1911 and nothing remains today.


1993 notes give this landmark a ‘moderate’ difficulty, and that a photo was taken but has since been lost. So, we’re going to rely on the good folks at NoeHill Travels out of San Francisco for a couple of photos and how to get to the site of the landmark
"To find this site, drive south from Dunsmuir on Interstate 5 until you reach the Sims Road exit about twelve miles south of Dunsmuir. Exit to the west and you will be on Upper Shotgun Road. Take the first left onto Mears Ridge Road and travel for about four thousand feet. You will be heading south and the plaque will be on your right at 19010 Mears Ridge Road.":

Due to this twist off of Shotgun Road, this account goes against the state’s directions, as well as other GPS coordinates, but if memory serves, the NoeHill GPS is the right way to go. The lightly traveled road is a great place to get out of the car and bike, hike, or walk.

Donald Laird photo

Plaque inscription: NO. 33 SOUTHERN'S STAGE STATION - This is the site of the famous Southern Hotel and Stage Station built by Simeon Fisher Southern. The original building, a log cabin, was built in 1859. During a half-century many noted people who made early California history were entertained in this hotel.
Location: On old Hwy 99, 0.7 mi SW of Sims exit, 6.9 mi S of Castella
Google maps: 41.066491,-122.36289 or better yet: 41.067462,-122.362504

Friday, April 8, 2011

Battle Rock

Shasta County August 29, 1993

To travel interstate 5, especially this part of interstate 5, it’s a good idea to bring along a CB radio. With the exception of the brief ‘Breaker! Breaker!’ craze in the ‘70’s when verbal spam filled its bandwidth, the media has returned to the trucker twitter it was before. Good info on speed traps, accidents, etc. in the immediate area can really be helpful. As a rough rule, you’ll find north-south truckers using channel 17, and east-west using 19.  It can sometimes be entertaining as well, like the case around here in the Dunsmuir pass area where a woman held court over the air at all hours for as long as this traveler can remember passing this stretch. In fact, when camping at Castle Crags State Park, the CB would be left on for a spell just to hear the action while relaxing with a glass of wine in the wooded campground. Every trucker seemed to know her, and best guess is that she either owned or pulled long shifts at one of the diners in town. There was a lot to talk about back then for like Interstate 70 through Vail Pass, it took a long time to build the road up to interstate standards, and the delays and detours seemed to go on for decades.

It’s a short hike from the campground to the vista point to view the Castle Crags…and the view is spectacular. Watching a sunset there is a lifetime memory.
“Tis midnight now. The bend and broken moon, batter'd and black, as from a thousand battles, hangs silent on the purple walls of Heaven.” – Joaquin Miller

Joaquin Miller was often considered a hack and exploiter by contemporaries, but one enduring facet was his sensitivity to first nation people. Over in England he picked up the handle, ‘Poet of the Sierras’ and made good use of it from then on. At the same time however, naysayers Bret Harte and Mark Twain were just as guilty of panhandling their old west experiences on the eastern seaboard and across the pond, while it’s an easy argument that Miller actually lived the life to a far greater extent. Being wounded here at Castle Crags and later living with the Modocs gives him many extra points in a hypothetical cowboy poetry shootout with Harte and Twain. Cincinnatus Hiner Miller was his given name, he picked up Joaquin from outlaw and folk hero Joaquin Murietta. Miller was at his best when writing about the majesty of the Sierras.  

So what was this battle about? Young Joaquin Miller’s friend, Mountain Joe deBondy had the trading post in this pass and in order to drum up business he conjured up the story that the fabled Lost Cabin Mine was in these parts. That brought gold seekers by the hundreds and among many other intrusions, their placer mining techniques turned the river to mud killing the salmon run. The Indians responded in a battle that was the last known in which Native Americans fought only with bow and arrow and spear. They took heavy casualties.

Battle Rock can be seen from interstate 5.

Plaque inscription: NO. 116 BATTLE ROCK - Battle of the Crags was fought below Battle Rock in June 1855. This conflict between the Modoc Indians and the settlers resulted from miners destroying the native fishing waters in the Lower Soda Springs area. Settlers led by Squire Reuben Gibson and Mountain Joe Doblondy, with local Indians led by their Chief Weilputus, engaged Modocs, killed their Chief Dorcas Della, and dispersed them. Poet Joaquin Miller and other settlers were wounded.
Location: On lawn at entrance station, Castle Crags State Park, 1 mi W of I-5 (P.M. 63.6), Castella
Google maps: 41.148333,-122.321262

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Strawberry Valley Stage Station

New song update! Lyrics below

Siskiyou County August 29, 1993

The 1951 Cadillac Series 62 sedan pulls out of the Roseburg Best Western at dawn for California and a long Sunday with over twenty state landmarks on the docket in several counties to visit. Windows are down to lessen the cigarette smell coming off the music gear, for Roseburg-ians may have changed from working in the timber industry to running B&B’s and wineries, but their smoking habits haven’t. Playing stints there over 10 years or so was great fun, and a rare place to do the old off color ‘ski show.’ But when ‘The Motel Face’ is exchanged for ‘Classical Gas’, the writing was on the wall for that material…..we all grow up sooner or later. Meanwhile the windows-down Caddy reenacting the old high school cruising game of ‘freeze’um’ motors down the pass and into Hilt, California, heading for a favorite haunt, Mt. Shasta City and the first destination.

Mt. Shasta City - 1940

The Holiday Haus (now called Finlandia Motel) seemed to buck the tradition here of naming a business either Berryvale, Sisson, or Mt. Shasta, and was favorite northbound stop after a long day’s drive from the desert on the way to Oregon, but on this trip it’s southbound and over to the other side of the interstate to Old Stage Road at Jessie St. for the landmark.

Sisson Museum

Sisson Inn

Before it became Mt. Shasta City this gateway to the outdoors resort town was called Sisson, after Justin Hinkley Sisson, who named the town after himself….changing it from Berryvale in 1888. In 1923 townfolk changed it to Mt. Shasta.  According to the Siskiyou Historical Society: ‘Sisson was known as a mountain guide, hunter, fisherman, marksman, and for his philanthropies. He was very enterprising. He reclaimed the swamp he had acquired and raised hay; served as a guide for the hunters, fishermen and scientists that came to the area; contracted with the government to carry a Geological Monument to the summit of Mt Shasta; raised trout for the guests of the hotel; acquired land at the bend of the McCloud River to take his guests to; and, finally, he contracted with the railroad to come to the Mt Shasta area and start the town of Sisson. It was known that he donated the land for the first school.... Part of the agreement was that the names of the streets were to carry the names of members of his family, i.e., Jessie and Ivy streets were his daughters; Alma Street, his wife's sister; Field Street, after his wife's maiden name, etc’ It has been said that he even rescued John Muir from a snowstorm on the mountain.

J.H. Sisson


Ch) I want to go huntin’ I want to go fishin’
Climb Mt. Shasta with Justin Sisson
Run along the river, fast as I can
Singin’ Justin Sisson was a Shasta man
Justin Sisson was a Shasta man

High in California where the pine trees grow
And the Sacramento River is a-startin’ to flow
Where the wind’s daughters and the bald eagle flies
Shasta stands a pushin’ through the sky

Came a pioneer man and jack of all trades
To this valley and the match was made
Came in eighteen hundred and sixty one
Had a long life, he had a good run

Reclaimed the swamp, he raised the hay
A mountain guide when people came to stay
Put up a place for the traveler to dwell
Two stories high called the Sisson Hotel

In his spare time he raised trout it seems
Ran through the valley, a-stockin’ the streams
Fishermen, hunters, climbers, all
Came by the score to Shasta’s call

John Muir climbin’ on the mountain one day
When a blizzard came up, nearly put him away
He sat in a hot spring, for help he’s a-wishin’
Got himself rescued by Justin Sisson

With eyes to the future he was heard to say
“Need to get around better than we do today”  
Sayin’ “bring on the trains, bring in the rail”
Central Pacific through the Siskiyou Trail

His ghost for a hundred years and countin’
Is seen slowly walking down the mountain
Where the wind’s daughters and the bald eagle flies
And Shasta stands a pushin’ through the sky

Plaque inscription:NO. 396 STRAWBERRY VALLEY STAGE STATION - Across the road from this marker stood the Strawberry Valley Stage Station which served the patrons of the line from its completion in 1857 until 1886, when railroad construction reached the valley. The small building across the road was the Berryvale Post Office, which operated from 1870 to 1887, its first postmaster was Justin Hinckley Sisson. Behind the marker stood the famous Sisson Hotel, well known to mountain climbers, fishermen, hunters, and vacationers throughout California, it was built about 1865 by J. H. Sisson and in 1916 was destroyed by fire. The Mount Shasta trout hatchery was founded in 1888, but J. H. Sisson had started rearing trout to stock the streams in the vicinity in 1877. When the business center was moved to its present location on the railroad in 1886, its name was changed from Strawberry Valley to Sisson, and in 1923 the town was renamed Mount Shasta City.
Location: SW corner of

W Jessie St
and Old Stage Rd, 1 mi W of Mt Shasta
Google maps: 41.30897,-122.32697