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As It Was: First Settler Successfully Mines Trinity River


In 1848, the first pioneer settler in the Shasta region, Pearson B. Reading, successfully mined the Trinity River near Douglas City.  News of his exploits drew miners from all over the West to the rugged terrain of Trinity County.

Reading also blazed the trail that became the Shasta-to-Weaverville Road that wound its way through the Klamath Mountains.  Communities like Old Shasta, west of Redding, and Weaverville, became the hub of transportation into and out of the northern mines.

The Trinity River yielded other gold-bearing deposits.  As the easy mining played out in the 1850s, especially after the mild winters of 1850 and 1851, more intensive and environmentally damaging mining techniques took over.  Fifty-foot water wheels dredged up gravel to be emptied into mercury-lined sluices. Wing dams left dry one side of the river at a time.

Hydraulic mining dominated in Trinity County from the early 1860s through the early 1900s.  The La Grange mine, opened in 1852, began large-scale operations and soon became California’s largest hydraulic mine. 

The site of La Grange Mine became a California Historical Landmark in 1962.

Sources: O'Brien, J. C. Mines and Mineral Resources of Trinity County, California. California Division of Mines and Geology San Francisco, 1965, p. 7, archive.org/stream/minesandmineral04obri/minesandmineral04obri_djvu.txt. Accessed 19 Nov. 2019; Trinity County: Adventure Around Every Turn, Trinity County Visitors and Development Bureau and Trinity County Chamber of Commerce, visittrinity.com/history/mining/la-grange-mine/. Accessed 19 Nov. 2019.

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.