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As It Was: Shasta Butte City Becomes Yreka, Calif., in 1853

Before being named Yreka, the Northern California settlement was known as Shasta Butte City, a conglomeration of little more than shanties, brush huts, tents, and rough log structures.

In a letter dated Dec. 27, 1851, to his family in Illinois, Hiram Gano Ferris wrote, “...since May 1st this town has been built containing thirty stores or more of different kinds … in a beautiful valley among the mountains and nothing can be brought here from any other place but Oregon except on pack mules.”

The letter noted that “Samuel Lockhart moved his saloon down to the creek” so that he might be more centrally located.  The saloon was built of poles, canvas and shakes.  Ferris described “Mr. Turner’s” 324-square-foot cottonwood log dwelling as “one of the first homes in town.”

Ferris became a member of the town’s first Board of Commissioners under the Enabling Act of March 22, 1852, charged with organizing the County of Siskiyou.  The first county officers were elected on May 3, 1852, and by February 1853 the town had become Yreka.

The exact date of the name change remains in dispute today among residents and historians.

Source: Ferris, Joel E. "Hiram Gano Ferris...Pioneer Days in Illinois and California." Siskiyou Pioneer, The, vol. 2, no. No2, 1952, pp. 14-20.

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.