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As It Was: Historic French Gulch Survives Multiple Fires


French miners settled French Gulch in Shasta County in 1849 or 1850.  It was located west of the original town of Shasta, about six miles west of Redding.

The area prospered in gold production.  By 1900 there were two water-driven stamp mills.  The Shasta Courier wrote in 1852 that French Gulch had “such rich diggings...that miners are tearing down their houses to pursue the leads that run under them.”

One significant building in French Gulch was the hotel and dining room built by Richard H. Feeney in 1885.  Feeney had the bar built in England, sent around Cape Horn to San Francisco, and hauled to French Gulch.  Across the street, the E. Franck and Co. Store was built in 1854.  At least a dozen members of the Franck family are buried in the town’s public cemetery, including two of the store’s founders, F.A. and E.E. Franck.  

Fires in the last two decades destroyed several of the town’s early buildings, including the 1906 I.O.O.F. Hall and the 1898 St. Rose’s Catholic Church.  The town was evacuated during the Carr Fire of 2018, but the historic hotel and restaurant survived.

Source: Varney, Philip. Ghost Towns of California. Minneapolis, Voyageur Press, 2012, pp. 100-01.

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.