Trinity County History

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California Genealogy and History Archives


Trinity County History


A Memorial and Biographical History of Northern California
Chicago, Lewis Publ. Co., 1891



        Trinity Bay was so called from having been discovered on the anniversary of the festival in honor of the Most Holy Trinity; June 11, 1775, by the second naval exploring expedition under Captain Bruno Ezeta and Juan de la Quadra Bodega. Trinity River received its name from P. B. Reading, who trapped on its headwaters in 1845. It was so named because he supposed it emptied into Trinity Bay, an error which misled thousands of gold seekers in 1850, who sought to reach its famous mines by entering the bay in vessels and passing up the stream.

        This county is bounded on the north by Siskiyou and Humboldt, on the east by Shasta and Tehama, on the south by Mendocino, and on the west by Humboldt County: It is 55 x 150 miles in extent.

        Trinity is a mountainous county, its eastern third being covered by the Coast Range, or Trinity Mountains, the summit of which divides this from Tehama and Shasta counties. Bully Choop, Baldy and other peaks in this range reach an altitude of over 6,000 feet, some of the summits in the Salmon Mountains, in the northern part of the county, being still higher. The latter are also remarkably steep, shooting up in spires so precipitous, that the snow is unable to lie upon them, but sliding off into the deep rents remains there all summer. The hydrography of this county is very simple, the Trinity River and its confluents draining all parts of it. Heading in the Scott Mountain division of the Coast Range, this river, after flowing south for sixty miles, makes a detour to the northwest, which course it holds for another sixty miles, when it passes into Humboldt County, uniting a little farther on with the Klamath.

        Nearly the whole of this county is heavily timbered with pine, spruce, fir and cedar, oak and madrona forming a part of the forests at lower altitudes, while the wild grasses afford much pasturage. Trinity  contains comparatively little good farming land, though for the hardier fruits both the soil and the climate are especially well adapted. As in most mining sections, the auriferous belt varies, some of the veins being in slate, some in granite, while others are on the contact between slate and granite. The deposits of gravel are as vast as any found in the State.



is located four miles west of the town of Weaverville, in the Weaverville District. The claim has been worked for the past fourteen years. It was located in 1851 and incorporated in 1874. Before incorporation it was known as the Ward Placer Mine. The claim contains 430 acres. The channel runs about east and west, extending from Oregon Gulch to Weaver Basin. On the summit of the mountain the gravel belt is about one-half a mile wide. The altitude here is 3,100 feet. The bedrock is clearly defined on both sides; its character is slate; the gravel belt tapers down to the foot of the mountain, a distance of three-quarters of a mile. The altitude here is 2,050 feet. From the summit to the gulch is an unbroken stratum of gravel, and is estimated to be from 200 to 400 feet in depth. At present the supply of water is insufficient to work the mines. The owners assert that with 2,000 inches of water the property will produce $500 daily. An abundant supply of water can be brought from Cañon Creek, a distance of twenty-six miles, at an estimated cost of $150,000. Last year, owing to the light supply of water, the company worked only 369 hours, and produced, the superintendent states, about $8,000.

        There are a few other mining industries in the county.

        Major Reading, the first discoverer of the mineral wealth in that region, says: "In the spring of 1854 I left Sutter's Fort for the purpose of trapping upon the waters of Upper California and Oregon. My party consisted of thirty men, with 100 horses. In May I crossed the mountains from Sacramento River near a point afterward called the Backbone. In about twenty miles' travel I reached the banks of a large stream which I called the Trinity, supposing it to lead into Trinity Bay, as marked on the old Spanish charts. I remained on the river about three weeks, finding the Indians very numerous but friendly disposed. On leaving the Trinity I recrossed the mountains at a point which led me to the Sacramento River about ten miles below the Soda springs. I then passed into the Shasta and Klamath settlements, prosecuting my hunt. Having been successful, I returned in the fall to Sutter's Fort.

        "In July, 1848, I crossed the mountains to the Coast Range at the head of Middle Cottonwood Creek, struck Trinity at what is now called Reading's Bar, prospected for two days and found the bars rich in gold. Returned to my home on the Cottonwood, and in ten days fitted out an expedition for mining purposes. Crossed the mountains where the travel passed about two years since, from Shasta to Weaver. My party consisted of three white men, one Delaware, one Walla Walla, one Chinook and about sixty Indians from the Sacramento Valley.  With this force, I left the bar bearing my name. I had with me 120 head of cattle, with an abundant supply of other provisions. After about six weeks' work, parties came on from Oregon who at once protested against my Indian labor. I then left the stream and returned to my home, where I have since remained, in the enjoyment of the tranquil life of a farmer."

        Reading worked at Reading's Bar about six weeks, and it is said that he made about $80,000.

        Mr. Gross, a French agent, reported that he wound his way across to Trinity mountain early in the spring of 1849, and on his way met two men, apparently Americans, who claimed  to have sojourned on Trinity River since the fall of 1847, and that each carried back with him $20,000 in gold dust. Mr. Gross also reported that he found treasures of gold that year (1849) at the place now known as Rich Gulch. He continued work there until the water gave out; then he removed to Evans' Bar, on the Trinity, where he built the first log cabin in the county; but Weaver & Co. may have preceded him in the erection of a building.

        Scott Mountain and Scott V alley are characterized by most beautiful scenery; but many unfortunate travelers have been caught in the snows of winter in those wilds and fastnesses, and of these many have succumbed to the Ice King never to be redeemed.

        Among the prominent settlers were Curry and Noyes in 1854, a mile below the month of Coffee Creek. Two miles further down Buckeye ranch was occupied by John Christy. Near him was Meyers' ranch. Trinity Center, one of the most populous and thriving mining camps in the county, was first settled by Moses Chadbourne in 1851, but was of little note until 1853. Chadbourne built a saw-mill and took possession of a ranch. Then there was the Norwegian ranch, Smith's ranch, Robinson's and Hall's ranches, etc. Big Bar was settled in 1849, Sturtevant's ranch in 1850, Felter's ranch at the mouth of Oregon Gulch, Big Flat, Milltown, McGillivray's or Cooper's Bar, etc.

        A great deal of mining was done at hundreds of points about this region.

        In 1851 the Arkansas Dam Company, of thirty men, organized themselves for the purpose of diverting the water of the Trinity so that they could work the bed of the stream; but after the dam was about completed, and before they tried its virtues, a flood carried it away. They constructed another dam which, after some discoveries had been effected with its aid, was also carried away. These discoveries were sufficiently encouraging to warrant another effort. The third dam was substantial and did good work; but in 1857 it was removed to give place to other works of utility. The river bed, however, proved unprofitable; yet claims in that vicinity continued to pay well for a long time.

        Trinity was legally one of the original counties of February 18, 1850; and from that time to 1851 Trinity County was attached to Shasta for judicial purposes. In the spring of this year the ditchers and anti-ditchers, becoming aware that their difficulties ought to be settled by homespun justice, without calling upon Shasta authorities, bethought themselves to meet the demand of the times, and an election was had, without due authority of law. This election begat two justices and three constables as the legitimate issue of one faction playing "roots" on the other. The justices elected were Johnson and Sevier. Johnson declined to serve, with the hope of higher office at the hands of the people of the State; but Sevier took the office. Colonel John Anderson, one of the constables, was killed the following year.

        Pursuant to an act of the Legislature, approved May 28, 1851, this county, then including also what is now Humboldt, was publicly freed from Shasta tutelage, and five commissioners appointed by the act to superintend the election; but none of these were from what is now Trinity County. The first officers elected were: Dr. Johnson Price, Judge; William Cunningham, District Attorney; John C. Burch, Clerk; William H. Dixon, Sheriff; J. W. McGee, Assessor; Thomas L. Ball, Treasurer.

        Weaverville was chosen by the same election as the county-seat instead of Eureka, although one poll-book made the majority seem to be for the last named place. A new election was ordered, with the victory more definitely for Weaverville. Nevertheless, Judge William R. Turner compelled the officers of the county to repair to Eureka for possible District Court favors. The first court held at Weaverville was in 1853, presided over by Judge Peters.

        In the fall of 1850 Weaverville was settled with miners, who prospered well. Mr. and Mrs. Houghton kept the hotel, James Howe a large butchery and Mrs. Walton a cake shop. In 1851 a one-horse express and a banking establishment were kept by a Mr. Hinkle. In the spring of 1852 R. Reading, agent of a San Francisco establishment, opened business in the commercial line. F. Blake, as agent for Rhodes & Lusk, ran an express, and in November added banking.  It was said that these two houses, during the following season, averaged $15,000 of gold receipts per week.

        At Weaverville the first church was built by the Catholics, in 1853, at a cost of $4,500, and was furnished with a bell worth $700. Among the Protestants no religious services were kept up, except by the Methodists; until 1858.

        The first newspaper in the county was the Times, in 1854, established by Rowe & Conway. They were succeeded by Cressent, Dr. Trask, Williams, Crowningshield, Smart, Howard, etc. In politics time paper was independent. Those were the times when Know-nothingism seemed to be in the ascendant in that region; Democracy rested on its oars and Republicanism was rising but still very unpopular. In August, 1855, the Democrat was started by H. J. Howe and J. Crawford, but lived only a short time. January 26, 1856, the Journal was started, also independent, at Weaverville.

        The first school, a private one, was established in 1854, by J. Adams. In 1856 Mrs. Niblett started another, and this year a public school­house was erected.   In 1856 an "indigent sick fund" was established, and also a German hospital at Weaverville.

        In 1854 an outbreak among the Chinese resulted in the death of seven on both sides and the wounding of some fifteen or twenty.

        Trinity County was the dwelling-place of the celebrated James W. Denver in 1851–'52, after whom Denver, Colorado, was named. He was born in Frederick County, Virginia, in 1818, and was an officer in the war with Mexico. Here in Trinity County he was elected to the State Senate, in 1852, while he had charge of the Emigrant Relief Train. He and Governor Bigler were charged with grave offenses in the management of this train, by the Alta California. Gilbert, the editor of that paper, challenged Denver to a duel. They met at Oak Grove, near Sacramento, August 2, 1852, and used rifles, at a distance of forty paces. Gilbert was killed. Shortly afterward Denver was appointed Secretary of State by Governor Bigler. He was elected to Congress in 1854. In the fall of 1856 he was appointed by President Buchanan Secretary of Kansas to Governor Shannon, and then became Governor of that Territory in 1858. In 1861 he became Brigadier General of Union Volunteers. He is still living, in Washington city.         

        Trinity County has been represented in the State Assembly by the following named gentlemen: Fordyce Bates, 1859; John C. Burch, 1857; J. C. Dorr, 1865–'66; T. E. Jones, 1867­'68; A. C. Lawrence, 1860; W. C. Martin, 1853; J. H. Matthews, 1862; S. F. McKenzie, 1852; George O. McMullin, 1852; John McMurray, 1869–'70, 1881; J. C. Montague, 1877–'78; John Musser, 1854; E. Neblett, 1858; M. W. Personette, 1863–'64; J. S. Pitzer, 1853; R. G. Reading, 1853; E. A. Rowe, 1855; T. W. H.. Shanahan, 1887; W. J. Tinnin, 1871–'74; W W. Upton, 1856; F. Walter, 1861; John Yule, 1885, and perhaps by others, named under head of adjoining counties elsewhere.


Transcribed by Kathy Sedler.