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As It Was: Yreka Railroad Assists Growth of Montague

The railroad contributed greatly to the growth of Montague, Calif., where cattle were driven to loading zones for rail shipment to Sacramento and San Francisco.

In one season, the railroad carried as many as 1,400 to 1,600 carloads of cattle, in addition to horses, sheep and hogs.

In 1889, the people of Montague held a gala celebration of the construction of their first school building.  To assist in transportation, the Yreka Railroad Company ran a special train to bring people to the event.  For 50 cents roundtrip – the equivalent of $4.50 in today’s currency -- the train left Yreka at
8 p.m. and after a night of revelry took people home at 5 a.m. the next day.

Only six months later, on the morning of July 19, Yreka’s fire department received a frantic call reporting the Fiock Hotel in Montague was on fire.  The Yreka Railroad Company responded heroically, loading Yreka fire department apparatus onto flat cars and traveling to Montague in 13 minutes.

It was too late.  Flames engulfed and destroyed the two-story structure and four other buildings.  The firefighters could only pour water onto the ruins.

Source: Apperson, Ruby, and Orbell Apperson. “The Train Makes the Grade.” Siskiyou County Historical Society Yearbook. Vol. 1, No. 4. Siskiyou County Historical Society, 1949, p. 11.

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.