Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Historic Dersch Homestead

An upper torso photograph of a man identified as Doctor Solomon Dodge Baker, M.D. (Public Domain)

Solomon Dodge Baker was a native of Washington County, Ohio, who was born on April 16, 1825, to Doctor Isaac Baker and his wife Suzanne (Morgan) Baker. Solomon was their eleventh child born to them. His parents had a total of thirteen children. His father relocated from Ohio with his family in 1827 to Bloomington, Iowa where they settled on one hundred and sixty acres of land. This is where Solomon was raised and he became well-educated on his path to become a physician, like his father was.

Solomon was attracted to California by the reports of the California Gold Rush which lured him west in 1850 from Bloomington, Iowa, at the age of twenty-five. His father’s family appears on the 1850 U.S. Census. Apparently, Solomon missed the enumeration of the 1850 U.S. Census upon his arrival in Shasta County, that year, since his district was already recorded. Baker took up squatter rights on a portion of a Mexican land grant which was located on the east side of the Sacramento River called the Rancho Buena De Briesgau. This is when Baker established a popular hotel and a stopping place on the Nobles Emigrant Trail at Bear Creek.

The Nobles Emigrant Trail was a well-traveled route for emigrants, and during that year he was elected as a Justice of the Peace. Baker is recorded on the 1852 California State Census working as a miner at the age of twenty-seven, his name appears as S.D. Baker. Baker marries Sarah Davison and their first child Nancy was born to them on a trip to Indiana in 1856. After the birth of their daughter, the Baker family returned to their Bear Creek property, where Baker purchased 62 ½ cents an acre of the Rancho Buena De Briesgau land grant. The Baker property consisted of 160 acres of land.

The 1860 U.S. Census records his occupation as a physician. Local residents affectionately called Solomon, “Doc” Baker. The above document claims that Baker was thirty-four years of age, while his wife Sarah is listed at age twenty-four, and their daughter Nancy is listed as age six. Then in 1861, Baker received a land patent for his Bear Creek property, and he decided to sell it.

A Bavarian immigrant by the name of George F. Dersch, was naturalized as an American citizen in the Shasta County District Court at Shasta on July 13, 1860; a year later he purchased the 160 acre Bear Creek property of Doctor Solomon D. Baker after learning that the property was for sell.

“Doc” Baker intended to relocate to some new property he had purchased in Shasta County, as my research shows, which is proven by a Declaration of Homestead dated March 27, 1862. The homestead property was described as the following, “the east half of the south east quarter of section No. 15 and the west half of the south west quarter of section No. 14, township 31 north range No. 2 east Mt. Diablo Meridian and containing 160 acres more.” In this document, Baker claimed that he intended to relocate there with his family. The section numbers on the above document are reversed, but I’m not positive if they were ever corrected. This new homestead was located about four miles north-east of Shingletown.

A search for an Abandonment of Homestead yielded zero results in my research to this property, it’s not known if one was produced or if he had sold the property to another party before relocating his family to Virginia City, Storey County, Nevada. In Storey County, Baker changed his profession and became a grocer. Solomon lived there the rest of his life with his family. After the birth of his daughter Nancy, his wife Sarah (Davison) Baker bore him four more children. Sarah (Davison) Baker died in Storey County, Nevada in 1878, and then Solomon remarried in 1879 to Margaret Passage. The Shasta County pioneer, Doctor Soloman Dodge Baker died in Storey County, Nevada on June 16, 1902.

George Dersch intended to farm the (Old) “Doc” Baker place on Bear Creek and he began growing crops. The soil on the property was well cultivated. George Dersch and his wife Anna Maria (Kemmelmier) Dersch had two children Frederick Dersch and Anna Dersch. George’s younger brother Frederick Dersch also lived with them and he was partially blind.

Above: The Dersch homestead on Bear Creek. Date unknown. Courtesy of Shasta Historical Society.

The Dersch homestead was raided by Native Americans on Saturday, January 31, 1863, as the Indians stole their cattle, horses, harnesses, clothing and other provisions they owned. The Dersch family was not at home when the raid was made. There were no explanation given to the family as to why their home was attacked. The Dersch family was gone from their residence when the raid was carried out, but it would not be the last one on the Dersch property. Eventually, the Indians became hostile towards other settlers in Shasta County as the following events transpired in September of 1864…

On September 9th, tragedy struck the residence of Arkansas Jones when his wife Helenor M. Jones was murdered by Indians during a raid. Their home was located four miles from Copper City, on the Copper City road. The Jones' were personal friends of the David Graves family who lived in Copper City, and their eight year old daughter was visiting them that day.

Around 10:00 a.m., Helenor began complaining of a head ache and she went to lie down on her bed, leaving the girl alone. All of a sudden, six or eight hostile Indians broke into their house. The Indians found her inside her home lying down in bed, and with no remorse, they shot three or four arrows which punctured into her body and left deep wounds. The hostile Indians then shot her with a pistol, and she was also beaten with a club. All of this transpired while her husband was out hunting at the time of her murder. The Graves daughter escaped the property and found a hide out. She survived the attack.

Another tragedy occurred on September 10th, on Cow Creek eight miles from Millville at the ranch of William L. Allen. His wife Catherine Allen and two of their young children were brutally murdered by Indians. Catherine sustained injuries from a bullet which was discharged from a rifle which caused her death, and after she died her throat had been slashed with a knife. Two of their children were brutally clubbed to death, and a third child sustained the same type of beating. However, the third child survived the cruel attack.

While the atrocities garnered media attention, local residents lived in fear of the Indians, and they eventually requested military assistance from Fort Reading. The commanding officers of the military fort denied them military assistance because they were not given military orders to assist the settlers at that time. After that, Shasta County residents established volunteer groups to exterminate the Indians. These groups were organized in Millville and Copper City. These volunteer groups killed countless Indians who were not involved in the two massacres, and the death toll of the Native Americans climbed.

Two years later on Wednesday, August 22, 1866, the local Indians continued their hostile attack’s against the Dersch family when another raid was made by them that day at the Dersch homestead. This time the entire family was home with the exception of George Dersch, who was at Klotz Mill in Shingletown getting a load of lumber to bring home. The following information is gleaned from the Shasta Courier newspaper on Saturday, August 25, 1866:

INDIAN RAID – Mr. Dodge, of Shingletown, informs us on Wednesday a party of Indians visited the place of Mr. George Dersch, on Bear Creek, in this county, and proceeded to plunder the house. Mr. Dersch was absent at the time; but Mrs. Dersch and children were in the garden. Hearing a noise, and suspecting the cause, Mrs. Dersch hurried towards the house, and was met by one of the savages and shot, the ball entering her right side. The red devils then robbed the house of everything it contained of value, and escaped to the hills. We have not learned weather Mrs. Dersch’s wound is dangerous or not.

P.S. – Since the above was put in type we learn that Mrs. Dersch was first shot in the right side, the ball going clear through. She then started to run away, when she was shot in the back, the ball coming out in front. – It is supposed the wounds will prove fatal.” (SIC)

It was Ezekial T. Thatcher, a family friend and neighbor, who stopped by for a visit just after the horrible tragedy took place. Thatcher was told that George Dersch went to the Klotz Mill in Shingletown and he immediately jumped on his horse and galloped off to notify him. On his way out he notified a doctor named William N. Guptill, a Millville resident, who was the nearest physician to them. Doctor Guptill hi-tailed it out to the Dersch homestead to treat Anna’s injuries that day, but the worst was expected to come.

It was Doctor Guptill who wrote the following correspondence to the Red Bluff Independent which was originally dated August 24, 1866, but it wasn’t printed in their newspaper until August 29, 1866:

Millville – August 24, 1866

 Editor Independent – Mrs. George Dersch residing at the crossing of Bear Creek, about four miles above Parkville, in this county, was shot by Indians on the 22d inst., about 2 o’ clock in the afternoon. I was called to attend her, and found her in an arbor in the orchard, about two hundred yards below the house. On examination, I found two gunshot wounds in the abdomen; one entering about two inches above the umbilicus, passing out at the right side, while the other entered on a line with the first, more to the left, passing out on the left of the spine. The intestines protruded, she died about 8 o’ clock.

Upon questioning her I elicited as follows: she was making soap at the leach at the rear of the house, when she saw two Indians with their guns resting on the fence and pointing at her; they fired immediately, and you know the rest. She says the Indians were both well dressed in checkered shirts and hats. They plundered the house of everything they could find, including $60 in coin, and two fine rifles.

Yours respectfully,

Wm. N. Guptill, M.D.” (SIC)

Above: Doctor William Neil Guptill, M.D., was a native of Maine born about 1814, died unknown. He was also a Justice of the Peace who held an inquisition upon the body of Catherine Allen and he was the one who treated Mrs. Anna Marie (Kemmelmier) Dersch. Courtesy of Shasta Historical Society.

The Shasta Courier followed up with an article on Saturday, September 1, 1866 stating the following account:

INDIANS OVERTAKEN AND KILLED – On the anoucement of the murder of Mrs. Dersch, on Bear Creek, last week, Mr. Klotz, of Klotz mill, raised a party of eight men and started in pursuit of the Indian murderers. Getting on the track, Klotz trailed the savages over the hills and ravines, until last Wednesday evening at which time he over-took them on Antelope Creek, about two miles above the Antelope mills, in Tehama County. On coming in sight of the red skins Klotz and his men fired a volley, which killed four of them, and wounded three more, who unfortunately escaped into the thick underbrush. A feather bed-tick, blankets and articles of wearing apparel found in their camp have been identified as belonging to the Dersch family, and proves conclusively that they were the murderers of Mrs. Dersch. It is to be regretted that any of the red devils escaped.” (SIC)

The man identified as Mr. Klotz in the above newspaper article is Rudolph Klotz who owned and operated the Klotz Mill, a water-powered saw mill on Millseat Creek at Shingletown. The above article failed to report the events leading up to the murder of Anna Maria (Kemmelmier) Dersch, and those facts are presented below:

A few months prior to the murder of Anna Maria (Kemmelmier) Dersch, her husband George Dersch hired three tenants on the Dersch homestead as farm hands to assist with the employment of several Indians who appeared to be friendly towards the Dersch family, even though other Indians had raided their house and property in 1863. Then one day, three Indians were punished by a severe whipping from the Dersch tenants for stealing potatoes during a potato harvest on the property. Automatically, the Indians were banished from their Bear Creek property. Due to the above events the Indians retaliated against the Dersch family on August 22, 1866. Anna Maria (Kemmelmier) Dersch was buried in the Parkville Pioneer Cemetery at the age of thirty-five years old.

The 1870 U.S. Census records George Dersch at age thirty-nine, his occupation is a farmer with a value of real estate of $2,000 and a value of personal estate at $2,000. George’s eldest child Frederick Dersch was listed at age fourteen, his occupation was driving team, and his daughter Anna was listed at age ten. George’s brother Frederick Dersch was listed at age thirty-seven, his occupation is a farm laborer. A tenant by the name of Lebon Aubushon was living with them as well at the age of thirty-three; his value of personal estate was listed at $100. Its possible Lebon was one of the tenants who whipped the Native Americans the day of the potato harvest.

On February 6, 1877, George Dersch remarried to Bridgett Moylan in Redding and George brought her to his Bear Creek property where the family remained living until George F. Dersch died on October 1, 1900. He is buried in the Parkville Pioneer Cemetery, next to his beloved first wife, Anna Maria (Kemmelmier) Dersh. His second wife out-lived George another four years. She moved to Sacramento where she died April 6, 1904. Her body was returned to Shasta County where she was interred in the Shasta Catholic Cemetery.

The Dersch Homestead became California Historical Landmark Number 120 when it was designated on March 31, 1933. The Dersch house was destroyed by fire in 1934 and it was rebuilt that same year. The only remaining structure on the Dersch Homestead is the barn. A historic plaque was placed at the Dersch Homestead by the State Department of Parks and Recreation, Shasta Historical Society, Hollis Moss Fund, and the Trinitarianus Chapter #62, E Clampus Vitus on May 15, 1999.

Above: this house was built in 1934 after the original Dersch home was destroyed by fire. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on October 10, 2018

Above:  this plaque was placed at the Dersch Homestead by the State Department of Parks and Recreation, Shasta Historical Society, Hollis Moss Fund, and the Trinitarianus Chapter #62, E Clampus Vitus on May 15, 1999. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on October 10, 2018

Above: a portion of the historic Dersch homestead. A barn in the background. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on October 10, 2018

Above: Bear Creek runs near the property, an older bridge which is out of service appears over the creek. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on October 10, 2018.

Above, L-R: the headstones of George F. Dersch and his wife Anna Maria (Kemmelmier) Dersch. They are interred into the historic Parkville Pioneer Cemetery, located on Parkville Road. Note: there are two headstones for Anna. One of them spells her given name as "Annie". The writing etched into her headstone's give her name, death date, and the following sentence, "Wife of George Dersch, was killed by Indians on Bear Creek." She was also a native of Bavaria. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on October 10, 2018.

Above: the headstone of George F. Dersch, husband of Anna Maria (Kemmelmier) Dersch. He was born on March 28, 1832. He was interred into the Parkville Pioneer Cemetery. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on October 10, 2018.

Above: "Anna Maria (Kemmelmier) Dersch" headstone number one. The is the closest headstone to the grave of George F. Dersch. She was interred into the Parkville Pioneer Cemetery. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on October 10, 2018.

Above: "Annie Maria (Kemmelmier) Dersch" headstone number two. This is the farthest lot from the headstone of George F. Dersch. She was interred at the Parkville Pioneer Cemetery. It's not known why there are two headstone's in her memory. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on October 10, 2018.

Above: the road to the left is Dersch Road which takes travelers past the historic Dersch homestead. It is named in honor for the Dersch family. This is the stopping point for Parkville Road at Dersch Road. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on October 10, 2018.


1850 U.S. Census

1852 California State Census

1860 U.S. Census

Solomon D. Baker, Declaration of Homestead dated March 27, 1862

Coroner’s Inquest Report – Mrs. William Allen dated September 10, 1864

Coroner’s Inquest Report - Helenor M. Jones dated September 21, 1864

Horrible Massacre By Indians - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, September 10, 1864

Another Indian Murder - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, September 17, 1864

Our Indian Difficulties - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, September 17, 1864

Volunteers -  The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, September 24, 1864

More Indians Killed - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, October 8, 1864

Indian Raid - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, August 25, 1866

Correspondence - The Red Bluff Independent newspaper of Red Bluff, August 29, 1866

Indians Overtaken and Killed - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, September 1, 1866

Death of Mrs. Dersch - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, September 1, 1866

The Settler’s Vengeance - The Red Bluff Independent newspaper of Red Bluff, September 5, 1866

1867 California Voters Registration

1870 U.S. Census

1880 U.S. Census

BP-005.1 Baker, Solomon Dodge Pioneer Plaque File on file at Shasta Historical Society

The Good Old Times In McClean County, Illinois written by Dr. E. Duis. Published by Bloomington. ©1874 pages 206-207.

DP-009 Dersch, George Pioneer Plaque File on file at Shasta Historical Society.

Our Storied Landmarks – Shasta County, California, written by May H. Southern, published by Balakshin Printing Company, ©1942.

Shasta Historical Society Pioneer Record - George Dersch, dated: March 23, 1943

Shasta County, California A History by Rosena Giles, published by Biobooks, ©1949.

Our Pioneers - The Dersches by Beverly Steele, Ridge Rider News newspaper of Shingletown, January 4, 1993

Our Pioneers - The Dersches Part II by Beverly Steele, Ridge Rider News newspaper of Shingletown, January 11, 1993

Our Pioneers - The Dersches Part III by Beverly  Steele, Ridge Rider News newspaper of Shingletown (no date)

Wintu Trails by Helen Steadman Hogue. Published by Shasta Historical Society ©1977. Printed by Redding Printing Company Inc.,

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