1948 Deadwood plaque dedication. Photograph courtesy Ft. Jones Museum.
In 2009 I was Humbug (Club president) of the Yreka E Clampus Vitus Humbug No. 73 Chapter. My summer Doin’s was the Scott Summit Saloon and Plaque Tour. One of the stops we made along the Saturday route was the old town site of Deadwood on Greenhorn Road. It was right there, as we viewed the vandalized plaque, that Dan Weimers and I had the notion of repairing the historic monument. I thought then it would be a perfect function to rededicate it. Dan talked to the Siskiyou County Historical Society about the notion and to obtain their permission. ECV agreed to refurbish and repair the monument, and in return we were able to place a small bronze plaque below the original 1948 plaque commemorating our rededication.
Glenn Hearrell with help from Jim Ragsdale did the repair work and clean up. The plaque had been shot up several times; people tried to pry the old bronze plaque off the rock monument. We applied new epoxy and tightened the 1948 bronze plaque as securely as we could.
I prepared the wording for our little rededication plaque and had it cast in bronze for mounting. We invited members of the SCHS to our rededication ceremony which included an event hand out discussing the history of the old town site.
On the first weekend in October we held our overnight Doin’s and campout right there on the Deadwood town site. Or did I mean to say Clampout!
Perfect sunny weather Saturday October 3, 2009, greeted the plaque rededication ceremony. Dan Weimers, Chapter Historian, did a presentation along with John McDonagh who lives in the area. John knows a lot about Deadwood history. Almost 30 Redshirts attended the dedication ceremonies along with a few civilians and SCHS representative.
Wording of the Deadwood Plaque.
The following excerpts concerning the history of Deadwood come from the 2009 dedication event handout I compiled using various source material:
By 1849 the California Gold Rush spawned interest in the Siskiyou County region. Lindsay Applegate, traveling south from Jacksonville, Oregon in 1849 to mine along Beaver Creek conducted the first mining in this region. In June 1850, prospectors from the Trinity River crossed the Salmon-Trinity Alps and found enough gold to whet their appetites. John W. Scott, from whom the valley and river were later named, discovered gold at “Scott’s Bar.”
Within a year, the “northern mines” were drawing prospectors from every part of the world, perhaps as many as 20,000. Siskiyou County swelled. Without roads, the only manner of travel was by foot or mule train; pack trains began crossing the rugged terrain of Western Siskiyou County’s mountain ranges, becoming a lifeline to the area. The May 14, 1851 Sacramento Union reported, “Over 1,000 pack mules left here again today loaded for the northern mines.” From 1849 to 1856 they constituted the sole form of transportation in and around Siskiyou County. Before long, 2,000 pack mules were traversing the region’s narrow, rugged, and often snowy trails each year.
Deadwood, a settlement established at the forks of Deadwood and Cherry Creeks during the summer of 1851, once grew to great prominence. Deadwood’s two creeks flow into McAdams Creek and finally the Scott River. Folklore has it that a prospector making a new discovery looked down and noted a dead tree near the creek, so he called the site Deadwood.
“Desolate though it is now, Deadwood was once a crowded, smoky, smelly tent city filled with people and commerce and hope. Imagine it…. churned mud paths between canvas cabins that lent little shelter and less privacy. The smells of wood smoke, burned camp coffee, frying bacon, and inadequate sanitary arrangements overlaid dreams seductive enough to lure sensible people from their comfortable former lives.”
By 1853, there was a store, butcher shop and trading post. In the spring of 1854, smallpox took its toll. Later a second butcher shop opened up in the trading post. Two log houses and one shake house were erected in the town proper. When rich diggings were found along nearby McAdams Creek, more and more miners swarmed the area. Deadwood became a major center of activity, second only to Yreka in regional importance.
A county convention held in 1856 resulted in Deadwood losing its bid for county seat to Yreka by just two votes. By 1857, there were three stores, two stables, three saloons, two hotels, a blacksmith shop, a butcher shop, bakery, dairy and several residences.
Deadwood’s fame receded nearly as quickly as it rose. Fort Jones, a thriving new community in the valley below, competed for business and trade. On Thursday morning, December 26, 1861, a large fire burned down most of Deadwood. Later fires destroyed what little remained of the town.
Mining continued in the general area until the early twentieth century. Water wheels first employed to generate power were used in stamp mill and mining operations. Later dredgers were used on the creeks. Today you can see the mining tailings left over as you drive along Greenhorn road.
To view this historical monument take Exit 773 west off of Interstate 5 in Yreka, California and proceed north on Main Street. Turn left on Greenhorn Road and continue past the park. Continue over the Greenhorn Divide for about 10 miles to Deadwood which will be on the right hand side of the road. Turn right into the old town site which is about 100 yards off the main road. After six miles of paved road Greenhorn Road becomes a smooth graded dirt/gravel road. If you end up in Fort Jones you missed the turn by about another 10 miles.
To learn more about Deadwood view following web site; it has a well written short write up: www.siskiyouhistory.org.