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As It Was: Franklin King Runs Amazing Pioneer Store in Yreka

In 1946, while cleaning out an old building to house the Yreka office of the California Highway Department, an employee found a battered old account book.  It contained the records for the pioneer store of F.J. King from the years 1868 to 1871. The account book is preserved at the Siskiyou County Historical museum, offering a fascinating glimpse into pioneer life.

Franklin King’s records show that he sold just about everything at his store on Fourth and Miner Streets in Yreka, from necklaces and hair curlers to mining supplies, liquor and tobacco.  King even ordered materials for making caskets.

The railroad had not yet reached Yreka, so many goods were shipped via steamer from San Francisco and pack animals.  While gold was a major currency, so were animal furs, beads and shells.  The store appears to have attracted miners, trappers and Native Americans as well as settlers.

One receipt for traps, shoes and soup bears the name “Captain Jack,” maybe of the famous Modoc chief.  It’s known that he visited Yreka frequently before the Modoc War.

King’s store was located across from the Franco-American Hotel, which still operates in Yreka today.

Sources:  Howe, Carroll B. Frontier Stories of the Klamath Country. Carroll B. Howe, 1989, pp. 64-70.   

Sharon Bywater of Ashland, Oregon grew up in Southern California. She taught English literature and writing at Syracuse University in New York, where she also wrote and edited adult literacy books and published freelance articles in local media. Later, she lived in Washington, D.C., where she worked as an international telecommunications policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Commerce. She has Master’s degrees in English and Communications Management.