Origin of the name of Happy Camp

There are several versions of the story of how Happy Camp got its name. This is one of them.

Origin of the name of Happy Camp
Written in Happy Camp on June 11th, 1947
By H.C. Chester

About 1882 or 3 I asked Jack Titus who was a partner with James and Hile Camp in the first store opened at Happy Camp, how Happy Camp got its name.

Titus told me he had a small store at the mouth of Titus about fourteen miles below Happy Camp. He said: James and Hile Camp came over the mountains to his store from Eureka. They asked him if there was any level ground up the river where they could open up a business.

Titus told them there was a place about 14 miles up the river at the mouth of a large stream that emptied into Klamath; that there was a very large Indian Village on the banks of this stream and plenty of vacant land to build on. The three of them went up to this large stream and pitched a small tent.

James Camp immediately took in the opportunities that were presented to them, and declared, “This is the happiest day of my life.”

Titus said: “Then we shall call this particular spot ‘Happy Camp’.” They also named the stream “Indian Creek” because there were so many Indians living there.

The three of them made and burned brick, put up a brick building which stands here to-day.

Truly Yours,
H.C. Chester
Happy Camp, Calif.

The original, handwritten copy of this letter is in the archives of the Siskiyou County Historical Society, in Yreka.

Happy Camp News editor Judy Bushy believes this version of the naming of Happy Camp is wrong because the Camp brothers were not in the original group of miners who came here. She wrote a letter to the editor about this, but unfortunately over the years it has been misplaced. We may have to wait for her book to be published to find out the true history of the naming of Happy Camp.

Related Websites
Happy Camp History


  • Didi

    I have been tracing some Geneology here my self.. and was wondering if Jack Titus is also John Titus…from New York…. at least that is who I find on 1870 Census Records there in Happy Camp… he is shown Married to a Julia… A Karuk Indian
    I also find him on the 1860 Census in a place called Bunker Hill… do you know where that was ?
    Thanks Didi
    I’m resreaching Doris Brown Kendall’s line

    • Johnny

      Bunker hill, from what have been told is where what they now call Independence. Where a bridge crosses the Klamath river to forest service roads. There is a old house and some type of old mining equipment.

  • Rodney Thornton

    I heard that Happy Camp was named after a Kurak Native named Happy. I guess Happy was happy for finding gold and naming his daughter after gold. Happy’s Daughter was named Goldie. Goldie’s surviving children are Michael and Colleen Thornton of Humboldt County, California. I am their second cousin by their Father Jack Thornton.

  • Dave Allen

    “History of Del Norte County” by Bledsoe, 1881, starts with the naming of Happy Camp which was a part of Del Norte County at the time. There used to be a copy in the Happy Camp High School Library, but it is missing now. I do not know if the County Library has a copy. As my memory tells me after reading his book many years ago, Bledsoe said there was a group of gold miners who had had trouble with the Indians down river and thus moved north in the spring of 1850. They came to a section of the river where there were two creeks entering a little less than a mile apart (Elk Creek and Indian Creek) and tried their had at mining. They found the picking were good and set up camp at the up river creek (Indian Creek) which they called Happy Camp for obvious reasons. The book also has a census of Happy Camp taken in 1880 which included nearly 250 Chinese who lived in China Town on the east side of Indian Creek near Evans Merchantile. There were a series of ads in the book (much like one would find in a year book) by merchants in Crescent City which include comments such as ‘No Chinese”. Remember the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed by Congress in 1882 in an attempt to stop in emigration of Chinese into California. If anyone has a copy of the book, Happy Camp High School and/or the County Library would love a copy. Dave Allen

    • Judy E. Bushy

      Thank you for the DelNorte version. I had the privilege of working a bit in the HCHS Library before Covid excluded volunteer activities and would love to have fiouund that book! The Siskiyou County history by Wells tells the story in a similar manner but the miners had worked their way up to Salmon River and stayed there for the winter., They had adequate provisions but a spring thaw brought more prospectors from the coast and when winter resumed, it was a time of starvation with the additional mouths to feed. The men who survived headed up the Klamath prospecting for gold on the way and set up camp where the area had previously called Murder’s Bar and being happy about good prospects changed the name to Happy Camp. Happy Camp was originally in Trinity County, then Klamath County until that was divided up and we became DelNorte. Last, but not least we became part of Siskiyou County because we of the difficulty getting in from the coast in the winter. Yreka was afraid and protested that allowing the addition of the west part of the county might challenge Yreka as the County Seat at the time.

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