History of Yreka

Fire EngineYreka has a rich and diverse history. Fortunately, much of that history has be preserved so that we can enjoy it today.The city has over 70 houses that were built before the turn of the century, which you can see on the Historic Homes Walking Tour. Yreka also has the Siskiyou County Museum, Ley Station Fire Museum, and historic downtown Miner Street.

Miners at Thomspon’s Dry DiggingsBoomtown

In March 1851 Abraham Thompson, a mule train packer, discovered gold near Black Gulch while traveling along the Siskiyou Trail from Southern Oregon. This discovery sparked an extension of the California Gold Rush from California's Sierra Nevada into Northern California. By April 1851, 2,000 miners had arrived in "Thompson's Dry Diggings" to test their luck, and by June 1851, a gold rush "boomtown" of tents, shanties, and a few rough cabins had sprung up.


Several name changes occurred until the little city was called Yreka, apparently taken from a Shasta Indian word meaning "north mountain" or "white mountain," a reference to nearby Mount Shasta. Mark Twain, in his autobiography (page 162, Harper/Perennial Literary, 1990), tells a different story:

Harte had arrived in California in the fifties, twenty-three or twenty-four years old, and had wandered up into the surface diggings of the camp at Yreka, a place which had acquired its mysterious name-when in its first days it much needed a name-through an accident. There was a bakeshop with a canvas sign which had not yet been put up but had been painted and stretched to dry in such a way that the word BAKERY, all but the B, showed through and was reversed. A stranger read it wrong end first, YREKA, and supposed that that was the name of the camp. The campers were satisfied with it and adopted it.


Well-known poet Joaquin Miller described Yreka during 1853 to 1854 as a bustling place with ...a tide of people up and down and across other streets, as strong as if a city on the East Coast. Incorporation proceedings were completed on April 21, 1857.

State of Jefferson

In November 1941, Yreka was designated as the capital of the proposed State of Jefferson, a secession movement along the Oregon and California border that has gained cultural traction in the following decades.

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