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As It Was: Pioneer Elijah Steele Becomes Judge and State Assemblyman


Born in 1817, early Siskiyou pioneer Elijah Steele grew up in New York, where he practiced law for several years before leaving for California in 1849.

He arrived in Sacramento in October 1850, traveled north and began mining at Middleton.  In January 1851, he headed 190 miles to Shasta Butte and mined at Scott Bar before going to Yreka to join a short-lived gold rush.

Later that year, Steele partnered with Masters, Sloan, Briggs, and Tiernan to start a mule-express run between Scott Bar and Sacramento via Yreka.  He also established trading posts with Tiernan in Fort Jones and with Sloan at Scott Bar.  He got so sick on a trip to Sacramento that it was rumored he had died.  His partners sold out and left their trading posts.  Steele recovered and became a butcher in partnership with Lucius Fairchild.

Steele married Lucia Hart in 1843.  Only two of their four children survived childhood. Steele went on to serve in the State Assembly and as a Siskiyou County superior judge.

Source: Wells, Harry L. History of Siskiyou County, The. Oakland, D. J. Stewart, 1881, p. 92.

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.