Wandering Lizard
Northeastern California

An Online Magazine with Information relating to attractions, lodging, dining,
and travel resources in selected areas of California

Lassen County, California
Weaverville, County Seat

Weaverville is located on California State Highway 299 west of Redding and east of Eureka. It serves as the county seat for Trinity County and, as of the 2010 census, had 3,600 residents. It is a delightful small town which has managed to preserve many historic buildings and, even more importantly, to incorporate them into the daily life of the community. Weaverville takes great pride in the fact that it has the oldest continually operating drug store in the entire country as well as a Taoist Temple which dates from the gold rush days when several thousand Chinese gold miners lived in the area. There is also an excellent museum in town which has many artifacts dating from the gold mining period and the county courthouse is one of the oldest in the state.

It is clear that Native Americans lived in the area long before the Anglo-European arrived, but it is not clear who the first "white man" was to discover this beautiful corner of the planet. It might have been Jedediah Smith or perhaps one of the fur trappers operating out of Vancouver, Washington. It is equally unclear exactly who the community was named after. Some say George Weaver and others say John Weaver. but it is generally believed that he was a gold miner and he did not stay long in town. There is even a story that he won the right to name the town in poker game.

The official history of Weaverville states that it was founded in 1850. Pierson Reading had discovered gold in 1849 at Reading's Bar in Clear Creek and John Scott had discovered it at Scott's Bar in the Scott River in 1850. Prospectors started panning gravel in the Trinity River about that same time and Bill English is generally credited with being the first one to actually find gold. Weaverville grew up from a lawless tent/shanty camp just as did most other mining towns in Northern California. Fire was a problem in all of these early settlements and Weaverville suffered from it as well. The buildings that one sees today were built in the middle of the nineteenth century of massive amounts of brick to withstand fire. Some of the walls are several feet thick.

By the 1870s the free gold in the rivers and streams of California was exhausted and hydraulic mining was introduced. This method of extracting gold required more equipment and capital and led to the formation of large gold mining companies. In the vicinity of Weaverville the premier organization that emerged was the La Grange Mining Company. With the enormous wealth that was being extracted from the earth it is not surprising that early Weaverville history is full of gunfights and robberies, the most famous of which was Black Bart's holdup of the Redding-Weaverville stage in 1880.

In 1884, Judge Lorenzo Sawyer decided that hydraulic mining had to be curtailed for environmental reasons. The decision shut down the use of that form of extraction throughout most of California including in Weaverville. As a result, it was not until the introduction of the dredge in the early part of the twentieth century that large scale mining resumed in the vicinity of Weaverville. Unfortunately, the dredge also contributed to great environmental damage and the aftermath can still be seen in and around Weaverville. Gold mining still goes on in this part of the state, but it is no where near as important an economic activity as it once was. Today, the area depends on agriculture and timber and increasingly on tourism for it's economic viability.

 

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