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September 26, 1862: Weaverville

September 26, 2012
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Weaverville Joss House; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

A high mountain rises to the northwest of Weaver, called here Mount Balley. This we resolved to climb [today]. A citizen who wished to make the ascent resolved to accompany us. So, on September 26, we made the trip. The mountain is 7,647 feet high, and at the altitude of over 6,300 feet there is a small lake, a very uncommon thing in this part of the state. Ice is got out of this in the winter, and is packed down on mules in summer, selling at six to eight cents per pound, so a pack trail leads up to that point. The slopes of the mountain to this height are covered in some places with chaparral and in others with forests, mostly of the same species of trees that we found at Mount Shasta. Some of the spruce trees were especilly grand. I measured some that were over twenty-five feet in circumference and must have been over two hundred feet high.

Above the lake it is very steep, and our friend puffed so hard that we went on ahead, he following up more slowly. The summit is a very narrow ridge of granite. We had ascended it from the south side, while the north side is so steep that bowlders will go bounding down several hundreds of feet if once started. The view was very picturesque.

Trinity County is a very rough one—too rough to survey, so there is no “public land,” that is, surveyed land, in the entire county. In the middle of this we were perched at an altitude of over 1,300 feet higher than Mount Washington or Mount Mitchell, the highest land east of the Mississippi River. The view in every direction was extensive, and the roughest region I have yet seen, all broken into mountains from five thousand to nine thousand feet high, many of them streaked with patches of snow. Immediately to the north the mountains were not only high but very rugged and broken, the canyons thousands of feet deep and the sides very steep and rocky. We enjoyed that trip greatly, and were back in time for a late supper.

I met in Weaver a Mr. and Mrs. McClure, who had been fellow passengers on the steamer when we went out, and I had a pleasant time with them.

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Weaverville; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

Before leaving Weaver I must speak of the town. It is a purely mining town—no other interest there except such as bears upon that—so it is like California in bygone times. There are a few valley ranches, very small, in the county; they raise something, but everything else must come from the outside. Hay is generally $50 per ton, and the livery-stable man told me that he had paid $160 per ton. Our mules cost us $1.75 each day to keep—other things proportionately dear. Freights from Red Bluff are about four cents per pound, so while all kinds of goods are dearer than outside, they are dearer in proportion not to their value but to their weight. In winter freights are often eight, ten, or even twelve cents. It is curious to note the effect on prices in a place where the increased price of a pound of silk is the same as the increased price of a pound of iron—where you buy your stockings and shirts, as well as sugar and tea, by the pound—at least really if not nominally.

Sluices run through the town, but the town has no limits, no corporation. The houses grew more and more scattered up and down the valley—some are “washed out”—one church has been sluiced around until only enough land remains for it to stand upon.

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Weaverville; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

There are multitudes of Chinese—the men miners, the women “frail,” very frail, industrious in their calling. There is a Chinese temple there, with its idols and fixtures, decidedly a curious concern; for in this land of religious liberty the Chinese, of course, introduce all their heathen rites of worship.

There are twenty-eight saloons and liquor holes in the place, and gambling and fighting are favorite pastimes. After the third fight had come off in the streets Rémond remarked to me, “I teenk dat de mineeng customs are petter preserved in dees plaze dan in any town I yet see in dees state.” He was quite right.

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Weaverville; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

One of these fights deserves more than a passing notice. A brawl occurred in a groggery between an Irish bartender and a tough, plucky little teamster. They adjourned to the street to fight it out, when a constable stopped it, then went his way. When he was out of sight they adjourned to a neighboring corral to have the fight out quietly. A crowd came in to see the sport. I was in there letting my mules drink, so I got them tied up, perched myself on the fence, and calmly witnessed the preparation for the contest. Teamster pulled off shirt, took an extra hitch in his belt, pulled up his pants above his boots, and announced that he was ready, asking Paddy whether he preferred a fair stand-up fight, or rough and tumble. Paddy preferred the “fair stand-up,” “peeled” also his shirt, announced that he was ready, and they “sailed in.” No one interfered—they pommeled each other and Paddy got knocked down. Teamster says, “Come up here, my boy,” and waits for him to get up. Paddy is up and at it again—a little more pommeling—they clinch, hit, strike, squirm, and writhe. Both get down, part of the time one on top, part of the time the other, spectators standing calmly around giving them plenty of room, when the constable makes his appearance and stops the “sport” by separating the men and arresting both. Paddy, who has the worst of it, seems satisfied, but Teamster jocosely requests constable to absent himself just fifteen minutes, then come back and he may arrest and be damned. The fight, however, stops, the people mostly disperse, but the belligerents are not taken into custody. I come down from my lofty position on the fence and finish with my mules. The constable gone, Teamster proposes that now is a good time to quietly settle it, but Paddy, who has one eye closed and the other terribly black, objects and threatens to knife him. Teamster coolly offers to settle it right there with knives, if Paddy prefers that way. Men, however, here interfere and Paddy is got away.

Another street fight had less of note in it. That night I heard a noise in the street, inquired in the morning what it was, found there had been a fight in front of a gambling saloon across the street, and that a miner had been stabbed in five places, probably fatally.

We had often heard that “Weaver is a great place for amusement,” “a lively little place”—we found it so.

Specimens collected: Lithocarpus densiflorus; Quercus garryana; Listera convallarioides; Platanthera leucostachys; Quercus chrysolepis; Spiranthes romanzoffiana; Carex scopulorum var. bracteosa; Pinus lambertiana.

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