The Old Wild West
Here's a story . . . the history of the area what's home to our Sparkle Plenty.
Travelin' in Time: Whiskeytown earned its name
as a drinking town
as a drinking town
The original site of Whiskeytown was located where two creeks entered Clear Creek almost opposite each other — one from the east and the other from the west. That location is now beneath the waters of Whiskeytown Lake.
Whiskeytown was one of Shasta County’s original 1849 gold mining settlements, although that was not its first name. It was first known as Whiskey Creek Diggings, later as Whisky Creek, Franklin, Franklin City, and finally Whiskeytown.
The site of Whiskeytown was supposedly established at the same place where fur traders held their yearly rendezvous long before the Gold Rush.
As in other historical places, there is more than one version for its name. One version says it was named for a barrel of whiskey that fell off Billie Peterson’s pack mule in either 1849 or 1850. Another version says it received its name for the miners’ ability to drink a barrel of whiskey a day.
The community quickly became a principle mining settlement and thriving freight stop among the mining communities in Shasta, Trinity, and Siskiyou counties. The first white woman appeared in 1852. In 1855, the population had about 1,000 gold miners.
This was an excellent gold mining area where miners averaged $50 per day. Whiskey Creek became known for its large gold nuggets. A 56-ounce gold nugget was found in 1851, and a year later a 7- to 8-pound lump of gold intertwined with quartz was taken from the creek. In 1857 it was reported that 150 ounces of gold were taken from a 30-square-foot piece of ground.
In 1853, the hotel that later became known as Whiskeytown Hotel was built. It was first called Mix’s Franklin House, later as Mix’s Hotel in 1855, The Mix Hotel in 1860, Whisky Creek Hotel in 1870, Whisky Town Hotel in 1873, and Woodward’s Hotel in 1881.
It was a large, commodious, well-furnished, popular hotel complete with a saloon and dance hall. In 1858, it burned to the ground, but in short time later a more commodious building was built across the road by friends and neighbors of owner Benjamin Mix.
The hotel was demolished just before the creation of Whiskeytown Lake; the site where it once stood now lies beneath the lake.
The first post office was established in 1856 inside the hotel. But the federal government would not allow the Whiskeytown name to be attached to the post office until almost 100 years later because it considered it unacceptable.
Finally, in 1952, the federal government accepted the name. Until that time, the post office had been known as Blair, Whiskey Creek, Stella, and Schilling.
In 1960, construction began on Whiskeytown Dam. In 1962, Whiskeytown Lake began filling with water, and in 1963 President Kennedy dedicated it. He was assassinated less than two months later.
Some of the buildings in the town proper stood until 1963, when they began being inundated with water. One of the remaining buildings is the Whiskeytown Store. It was moved to higher ground beside Whiskey Creek Road where it operated as a gas station, store and post office for a number of years. Today, the building sits empty and abandoned.
Another remaining building is the Whiskeytown School. It was moved to Shasta to become part of a church on Red Bluff Road.
The inhabitants of the pioneer Whiskeytown Cemetery were also moved. All the graves were exhumed and reburied in a new Whiskeytown Cemetery established south of the dam.
When the lake level is low and the water is clear, it is sometimes possible to see building foundations from the old town near the bank on the south side of the Highway 299 bridge that crosses over Whiskey Creek. Whiskeytown was designated as California Historical Landmark No. 131 on Jan. 31, 1934.
A small portion of the land near old Whiskeytown is privately owned; the majority of the rest of the land is owned and administered by the National Park Service.
And the rest, as they say, is history.