The Founding of Happy Camp after Blackburns’ Ferry

Sunday Morning for the Miners


Harry Wells had History of Siskiyou County published in 1881. It tells how Happy Camp left Klamath County and became part of Siskiyou County which was provided for March 28, 1874, but contingent on a vote. It wasn’t to be easily accomplished,until finally there was a meeting of commissioners to divide up the valuation, debts and cash on hand of the respective counties August 14, 1876.

in the spring of 1851 a Ferry on the Klamath River, five miles below the mouth of the Trinity, was established. The proprietors were Gwin R. Tompkins and Charles McDermit, and they placed it in charge of Blackburn, before they went off prospecting in Oregon. They left Blackburn and his wife with a shanty by the Klamath River. James Sloan, Mr. Janalshan and Mr. Bender assisting, had a tent on the other side of an open air kitchen and dining room.

They talked differently in those days, and Harry Wells tells how “One day, Mrs. Blackburn, a noble woman of the brave pioneer class that have been led by love to follow the footsteps of their idol into the very heart of the wilderness, noticed that the stock of bullets had become exhausted. She immediately molded a large quantity, and by this prudent act and her afterward heroic conduct saving the lives of herself and her husband that self-same night.“

In the night the three assistants were killed in the tent, but the last gave a cry of warning. Alerting, Blackburn and his wife who were able to fight off the attackers.
In the morning, A. E. Raynes, William Young and William Little came on the other side of the River looking for ammunition for occupants of a cabin where they had stayed overnight. The first body that they found, when turned over, turned out to be Mr. Blackburns’ father whom he had not seen for ten years, but was coming from Trinidad to see him. The three men left the Blackburns’ there and went to Trinidad to raise ten men to come and help them.

On the way back, above the Lagoon, these thirteen men came upon canoes with Redwood Creek Indians and had a battle before the Indians withdrew. They then came upon Bald Hill Rancheria and were going to attack, but the occupants had “departed to more peaceful scenes.“

At the mouth of the Trinity River, Durkee’s ferry, they believed the large Rancheria of Klamath River Indians who they believed had attacked Blackburn’s place, but they’d been warmed of the attack and only a few of the 300 occupants were still there, so the party disbanded and went their several ways. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that the owners in Oregon went to examine the site. The place was deserted and left in “ruin and desolation” so they left off pursuing and got back to prospecting up the Klamath River.

Then Harry Wells tells about the founding of Happy Camp and the Fight at Lowden’s Ferry
To Quote Wells, “The founders of Happy Camp, late in July 1851 were Charles McDermit, Abisha Swain, Gwin R. Tompkins, Charles D. Moore, Thomas J. Roach, L. H. Murch, J.H. Stinchfield, Mr. Cochrane, Jeremiah Martin, William Bagley, Daniel McDougall, Jack McDougall, William McMahon and James Carr. They built a cabin which they used as a store-house, and Cochrane remained there to look after the property and mules, while the others scattered along the river mining. Sundays, all met at the cabin.”

With the prospects looking good, around the campfire, the men decided to name the camp, Happy Camp! Happy Camp has endured for 167 years! Many places were abandoned, as prospectors went to where the rumors of gold strikes sounded promising, but Happy Camp is still here.

It had previously been named Murder’s Bar from two prospectors, William Mosier and (Mr) McGee (or by some given as Mr. Reaves) deaths, but a short time before. Therefore, miners were afraid to trust the occupants of the Rancheria upriver a bit. The injunction to keep away from the cabin was not heeded and the sad events at Lowdens Ferry followed. Sadly, conflict, and vengeance were prominent in the early days, bringing death and vigilanteism. It has taken time and the healing of many wounds, to have the community work together in unity, but Happy Camp is a happy place, and the neighbors work together as willing volunteer, buidling a log high school (1933) a Fire Hall and Grange, and the former Clinic on Parkway. when we work together amazing things area accomplished!!

Note:Redick McKee mentions the camp on November 8, 1851 as “Mr. Roache’s Happy Camp at the place called Murderer’s Bar.” Before that, the Karuk name for the site previously there was Akuknihraanhirak. Much later, H. C. Chester, who interviewed Jack Titus about 1883 states that Titus claimed he named the town when his friend, James Camp declared, This is the happiest Day of my life” when he arrived here but this was a decade later.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *