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As It Was: Search for Klamath River Gold Switches to Plants, Trees

By the mid-1860s, lack of gold reduced the raucous mining camps and towns enough to attract a different kind of adventurer to the wilderness.  One such man was William Henry Brewer, of the California State Geological Survey.

Brewer traveled as a botanist in the Klamath River country, visiting Happy Camp and the Illinois Valley.  He worried about the miners still in the hills, who, he said, were under the influence of the insane desire to grow suddenly rich.  He described Happy Camp as a village of miners in decline, calling the hotel there a “miserable hole.” 

Brewer traveled over the Happy Camp Trail to Waldo, cataloging plants and trees.  Ironically, he did not discover nor recognize a new species of spruce endemic to that area, which now bears his name. 

It was a curious resident, Josiah Whitney, who found the unusual weeping spruce growing near Castle Crags, 15 miles south of Mount Shasta, and sent it to Brewer in 1862.  A year later Brewer found the spruce growing near Mount Shasta and collected several branches. 

When it didn’t appear in any reference materials, scientists named it the Brewer Spruce. 


Source: Rohde, Justin. "William Henry Brewer." Historic Pack Trails of the Siskiyous, Apr. 2012. Klamath Siskiyou Trailfinder, siskiyou.npsoregon.org/2012annualmeeting/ftoldstage/happycamptrail.pdf. Accessed 3 Dec. 2018.

Lynda Demsher has been editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, a radio reporter, a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for the Redding Record Searchlight, Redding California. She is a former teacher and contributed to various non-profit organizations in Redding in the realm of public relations, ads, marketing, grant writing and photography.