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Visitor Recalls Yreka’s Early Saloons or “Whiskey Mills.”

Writing to a cousin in 1873, Joel Anson Shepard describes Yreka, Calif.’s saloons, also called Whiskey Mills.

“The glare of the gaslight almost dazzles us,” he writes. “...the room is large, high and the walls and ceiling beautifully frescoed … with oil painting(s), and chromos … Four billiard tables occupy the center of the room … Opposite is the bar with its glittering glasses and fancy colored and ornamental decanters.”

At the crowded bar, he says, “We shall be urgently solicited to join them and it will require considerable diplomacy on our part to refuse and not give insult, as a man … (who) … does not drink is looked upon as a genuine curiosity … So far I have yielded but once …(when) … it was ordered by the dentist after a painful operation.”

In a backroom, he said, “There are two tables, each has its proprietor seated behind it, with a pile of coin [sic] on one corner...(and) a thousand dollars on each table … ... Not a word is spoken, except a muttered curse by some loser … (that) is almost inaudible...”

Source:  Shepard, Joel A. "Joel Anson Shepard Letters to His Cousin Zilpha Shepard." The Siskiyou Pioneer, 9.2 (2012): 89-93. Print.

Gail Fiorini-Jenner is a writer and teacher. Her first novel "Across the Sweet Grass Hills", won the 2002 WILLA Literary Award. She co-authored four histories with Arcadia Publishing: Western Siskiyou County: Gold & Dreams, Images of the State of Jefferson, The State of Jefferson: Then & Now, which placed in the 2008 Next Generation Awards for Nonfiction and Postcards from the State of Jefferson.