Thursday, May 28, 2020

A HISTORY OF POLLARD FLAT

Shenanigan's Gulch was the original name of the present-day location of Pollard Flat just 35 miles north of Redding along Interstate 5. The origin of the name is unknown. Shenanigan's Gulch originally started as a tent community and it was first settled by early Portuguese emigrants.The first route in the area which these emigrants used leading to and from Shenanigan's Gulch was discovered in 1832 by Hudson's Bay Company trapper and explorer Michael LaFramboise, and became known as the LaFramboise Trail. 

Later on, the trail was reconstructed into a small road during the early 1850s to accommodate mule pack trains, and after the creation of Siskiyou County, in 1852, it became known as the Siskiyou Trail, alias the Sacramento Trail or the Sacramento River Road. Then in, 1852 the California State Legislature authorized improvements on the trail. Ross McCloud, a native of Ohio, and a resident of Dog Creek, was the man who made those upgrades to this trail. The changes included turning it into wider and smoother road system leading out of the Sacramento River Canyon, which made it passable for wagons traveling north and south. 

The name of Shenanigan's Gulch was no longer used after 1853, and it became known as Portuguese Flat (or Portuguese Flats) due to the first settlers. During the mid-1850s it was an up-and-coming place to live. People lived here due to the lucrative gold strikes in the area as a stampede of miners descended upon this place making it one of the most ramshackle mining communities in Shasta County. 

By 1855, there were three or four buildings in the area including a boarding house owned and operated by Ross McCloud, and his wife Mary (Fry) McCloud, who were still residing at Dog Creek. Ross McCloud completed the road project on February 2, 1856, when the job was done local residents rejoiced over the work on the Sacramento River Road that Ross McCloud did. 




Above: To Packers! Time and Money Saved! The notice of the completion of the Sacramento River Road by Ross McCloud. From the Shasta Courier newspaper edition of February 2, 1856.


In February of 1856, a local mining company at Portuguese Flat claimed ownership of a mining claim near a trading post owned and operated by a Mr. Bird, which discovered some gold embedded into a quartz rock. After the extraction of the precious ore from that quartz rock it yielded them $175 in value it won them some praise in the local newspaper. Later on, the same company found another quartz rock which was valued at $270, after the gold was extracted from it. 

Increase travel over the Sacramento River Road began boosting business at the local boarding houses and at Bird's trading post, that month. Most of the travelers were passing through on their way north to Yreka or south to the town of Shasta. That year, the distance from the town of Shasta to Portuguese Flat was about 47 miles.

The mines in the area were producing lucrative results as well. Bird, eventually sold his property in the area, and then he relocated from Portuguese Flat which now lacked a trading post or a general merchandise store. It would be a while before another trading post or general merchandise store was established in the area. 

During May of 1856, a new boarding house called the Chicago House came to fruition. It was owned and operated by L. Fuller (first name unknown). The Chicago House included one of the first dairies in that area and ranch connected with the property as well. Portuguese Flat was not an agricultural community but a lucrative mining community. 



Above: an advertisement for the Chicago House, proprietor L. Fuller at Portuguese Flat. The advertisement was first published on May 20, 1856, and its from the July 19, 1856 edition of the Shasta Republican newspaper of Shasta.


Five months later, on October 4, 1856, a miner and local resident named Charles Blair, also known as "Frances Blair", a native of Ohio, and his partner Jesse Stanley, attacked a Chinese camp at Portuguese Flat which was located near a tributary of Slate Creek, which flowed through the area. The incident was heralded in the Shasta Republican newspaper from Shasta, which printed the following article on October 11, 1856:

CHINAMAN MURDERED – 


On Saturday night last a camp on Slate Creek containing six Chinamen was attacked by white men. One Chinaman was mortally wounded with knives and died the next day. The other Chinaman made resistance with such vigor that the assailants were driven away – leaving behind them a pistol and hat. A man by the name of Charles Blair has been arrested for the crime. An examination took place before Justice Gibson at Oakville, and Blair was committed to our jail where he is now held in confinement. Parties have been in pursuit of another man who is suspected of having been engaged in the murder. The body of the deceased Chinaman was brought to this place on Tuesday last. On Wednesday the Coroner held an inquest on the body and the jury found a verdict in accordance to the above facts. The Chinaman were robbed of the sum of $89.”(SIC)

Stanley’s name isn’t mentioned in the above article but he was mentioned at a later date as being associated with Blair during the murder. Apparently Jesse Stanley went east towards Pit River where he was rumored by the media to be hiding among the Indians of the Pit River tribe who sheltered him at their Rancheria. Law officials eventually tracked him down and arrested Stanley for murder of the above Chinaman, not much is known of Stanley's fate.

Blair was found guilty of first degree murder when he was convicted by a grand jury in the Shasta County Superior Court on December 2, 1856 in Shasta. Blair was sentenced to be hung at the gallows in Shasta on January 16, 1857, however, his defense team opposed the original sentence and asked for a stay of execution from California Governor, J. Neeley Johnson to lower his sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Blair would learn his fate on May 1, 1857.

During Blair's confinement in Shasta the convict attempted an escape from the Shasta County Jail and he was caught in the act. On May 1st, Governor J. Neely Johnson approved the stay of execution and lowered Blair's sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He was sentenced to San Quentin Prison and taken to the prison from Shasta by Shasta County Sheriff John A. Drieblebis where Blair was received on May 9, 1857.

The following excerpt about Portuguese Flat is taken from the Shasta Republican newspaper dated May 23, 1857, which states the following:

"The bars of the river are represented as paying good wages. At Motion Creek, Dog Creek and Portuguese Flat the miners are prospering. The helpfulness of the above mentioned diggings, together with the pure water and cool summer breezes of the Upper Sacramento, offers inducements rarely surpassed in California for miners to work during the summer months."

During the latter part of May of 1857, Robert "Bob" Cranston, a local resident of Shasta, established a passenger mule pack train conveying people by wagon from Shasta to Yreka, using the Sacramento River Trail route. He hired the best drivers who knew how to handle the dusty roads and trails via mule pack, and with his employees they maintained customer satisfaction with his clients. 



Above: Robert "Bob" Cranston's office was located inside the Empire hotel on Main Street at Shasta. Cranston had promised fast travel to Yreka from Shasta leaving the Empire hotel. He made stops in the Sacramento River Canyon stopping at Dog Greek, Portuguese Flat, Soda Springs and Stevens Ranch, in Siskiyou County, ending at John Loag's livery stable in Yreka, through in two days. This advertisement is from the June 6, 1857 edition of the Shasta Republican newspaper of Shasta. 


Later, this company competed with Loag & Kenyon's Passenger Trains, proprietors James Loag and Francis Kenyon. This company also used mules to convey their passengers by wagons. They had a similar stopping schedule, each travel agency always tried to out do the other by bringing more people into the area. Portuguese Flat was booming with new settlers buying up land and erecting additional bungalows in the area, due to the recent gold strikes. 

On April 27, 1858, a dissolution of partnership occurred between Loag & Kenyon and James Loag finalized all bills and debts against this firm. Cranston's company continued to convey the customers to their destinations in the Sacramento River Canyon, and his business was good. Later on, this company did go out of business.

To conclude the story of Charles Blair, he remained at San Quentin Prison until May 16, 1859, when he was pardoned for his crime and discharged from the prison by California Governor John B. Weller. Blair departed from the State of California and he never returned to Portuguese Flat. Some records indicate he went back home to Ohio.

In 1859, newcomer Robert Pitt, a native of England, began ruling the area with an iron fist, and was a rough person to get along with. He was also feared among his peers as well. Portuguese Flat had an election precinct named after it, which other historians state this election precinct was established in 1868, and that is incorrect, because on August 20, 1859, the Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta published the following list of inspectors and judges of the Portuguese Flat election precinct who were appointed by the Shasta County Board of Supervisors at that time:

"Portuguese Flat -

Inspector: Robert Pitt 
Judges: James McMeans and Captain Myers."

It's possible that the Portuguese Flat election precinct could predate 1859. Numerous elections had been held since that time electing inspectors and judges (justices of the peace) for that area. In order to be elected for one of these positions you had to live in the designated area.

During 1860, 4,360 people were living in Shasta County, while more people were making their home at Portuguese Flat that year. Four years later, in 1864, Robert Pitt, established a general merchandise store at Portuguese Flat, and his business flourished with success. It was the first store of its kind since Bird's Trading Post was in operation at that location. 

In addition to his general merchandise store, Pitt also established a hotel and a livery feed stable that year. Pitt, who was also a miner in the area hired additional help to assist him in his businesses so he could focus on his lucrative mining claims in the area. The Portuguese Flat hotel which was owned and operated by Robert Pitt was built by local carpenter John Vart, a native of Canada, who whipsawed the lumber for the hostelry. The hostelry included sixteen rooms and a saloon with a cellar. Porcelain potties were kept under each bed of this hostelry, and each room had bath tubs which water was brought inside from the outside for baths.

Two years later, in 1866, local miners were making five to ten dollars per day by hand at Portuguese Flat, and gold nuggets weighing several ounces were frequently found in the area. In February of that year, William H. Gooch, a native of Massachusetts, relocated from Copper City and settled at Dog Creek. Gooch established a general merchandise store at Slate Creek, near Portuguese Flat, and he competed in business against Robert Pitt. 

Then, on February 21, 1866, a miner named Robert Carruth, a native of Lupkin County, Georgia was instantly killed in a quartz mine which had collapsed with thirty tons of rock striking him from above at fifteen feet deep inside the tunnel he was working. Mining accidents like this one were known to happen but they weren't frequent happenings. Portuguese Flat was not successfully known for its agricultural purposes but a few farmers tried harvesting crops in the area like Reuben P. Gibson who registered to vote there on July 12, 1866. 

Then in, February of 1867, Robert Pitt's mining claim on Portuguese Flat was yielding eight to ten dollars per day by hand. A mining company called Moore & Company built a self-discharging reservoir which introduced water to their mining claim for an easier extraction of the ore they sought after. Additional water was brought in from the Sacramento River when they needed it packed in by mule pack trains.

Then on, April 1, 1867, a man by the name of William Thomas Smith registered to vote at Portuguese Flat. Smith was a native of England and an active miner in the area at the age of thirty-four. In January of 1868 a violent winter storm caused the flooding of a creek above Portuguese Flat which swept away a bridge recently built by the Sacramento Road Company, another bridge near the area on Dog Creek was carried away as well. In that winter storm the Sacramento River rose four feet higher in only two hours, which had never been seen before by the settlers of the Sacramento River Canyon. 

On July 10, 1869, the Shasta Courier newspaper reported the following account in this column:

"Upper Sacramento Items - Alexander McMullen & Co., are engaged in digging a water race three miles above Portuguese Flat for the purpose of enabling them to mine the bed of the river in which they have found very rich prospects. The river, in the neighborhood of the Flat has been wing dammed in a number of places and generally paid well for time and money expended."

The above is the first resource that I have found of the bed of the Sacramento River in that territory of Portuguese Flat being mined for gold at an early date. 

A few events of the time in 1870, after trying his hand at farming in the Portuguese Flat area, local resident Reuben P. Gibson, changed his occupation to become the local blacksmith. Sadly, Robert Pitt had put William H. Gooch out of business at Slate Creek which forced his early retirement. William H. Gooch eventually died on November 28, 1870, in a wagon accident which carried Gooch down a steep embankment that claimed his life near Slate Creek. 

To add to Pitt's success the United States Postal Service in Washington D.C., approved the establishment of a new post office at Portuguese Flat called Portuguee on April 15, 1870, which was ordered by them to be housed in the general merchandise of Robert Pitt, but Pitt was not the first postmaster as some people believe. The following list is a complete listing of postmasters for the Portuguee post office: 


1. William T. Smith - April 15, 1870 - August 25, 1870 

2. Robert Pitt - August 25, 1870 - April 22, 1872 

3. Simeon F. Southern - April 22, 1872 - September 20, 1872 

4. Robert Pitt - September 20, 1872 - May 15, 1877

After the establishment of the Portuguee post office, the town's polling place where local residents went to cast their votes and pay for their taxes were held at Pitt's store. The following article was printed by the Shasta Courier newspaper on Saturday, October 15, 1870:

FIRE - 

At about 12 o’clock on the night of September 29th a fire broke out in the barn belonging to Robert Pitt at Portuguese Flat in this county, which defied all efforts to extinguish it. There were four or five teamsters camping there that night and their horses and mules were in the barn. Several of the mules and horses were burned to death and the loaded freight wagon driven by Bill Eddy was also consumed. Eddy himself was seriously burned in trying to save his mules. The fire caught in the loft of the barn and is supposed to have been the work of an incendiary Pitt, the owner, is absent at present, on a visit to the States.”(SIC)

Robert Pitt had great success at mining as well which is mentioned in the following column by the Shasta Courier newspaper on April 15, 1871: 

NUGGET - Last week Robert Pitt, of Portuguese Flat in this county, found a gold nugget in his claim which weighed $70. Pitt says it is nothing unusual to find pieces of gold in his claim worth from $10 to $30.” 



Above: Attention Taxpayers! Selective towns in Shasta County where local residents could pay their state and county taxes in this county during the fiscal year of 1871-1872. Thomas Greene was the Shasta County Tax Collector at the time. Portuguese Flat was among those places. This is from the Shasta Courier newspaper edition of November 11, 1871.

Then on, August 5, 1872, the Shasta County Board of Supervisors abolished the Portuguese Flat election precinct with eight additional precincts in Shasta County, that day. New election precincts were also established, and on that day, the Dog Creek election precinct which now included Portugese Flat came to fruition. It certainly changed things for the area, and the reason why it was abolished was not given by them.

During the winter of 1872, it was Robert Pitt who introduced two hydraulic mining monitors to the area which heavily washed out the lucrative ore he was searching for in his mining claim. His mining claim yielded valuable prospects. About the same time, the California & Oregon Coast Line Stage Company which was owned by Sanderson, Parker & Company began taking travelers from their office in Shasta to the new town of Redding, and afterword's their stage stopped at various places including Pit River, Dog Creek, Portuguese Flat, and Soda Springs in Shasta County. They made various stops in Siskiyou County, until they reached their destination at Yreka. They continued public transportation throughout that decade of the 1870s.



Above: Robert Pitt released this advertisement in the Shasta Courier newspaper. for his general merchandise store, hotel and feed stable that he owned and operated. This is from the May 21, 1881 edition of the Shasta Courier newspaper. 

After the Portuguee post office was discontinued by the U.S. Postal Service in Washington D.C., on May 15, 1877, the town's mail was sent to the Hazel Creek post office for delivery by their postmaster, Simeon F. Southern. Four years later on, May 1, 1881, another horrendous murder took place at Portuguese Flat involving two men, a local Indian by the name of Indian Pike and his employer, Robert Pitt, who conspired together to kill an old-man named James H. Hayes, a local miner who resided at Portuguese Flat. From a San Francisco newspaper the following excerpt of an article included the real story about the murder:

"On the night of the 1st of May, when the ground was covered with snow, the Indian taking Pitt's rifle went to the old man's cabin and shot him dead. Pitt and the Indian were arrested. The former was tried, convicted and last Saturday was sentenced to imprisonment for life. On Monday, the Indian pleaded guilty. Pike takes matter very easily. He has a strong contempt for Pitt, not inducing him to shoot the old man, but for failing to keep the terms of the contract. he says that when he asked Pitt for the $100 and a gun and a horse, which he claimed were due him for the work, his confederate told him that he was nothing but a good-for-nothing Indian, and refused to give him any part of the promised reward. Pitt is in Shasta jail, yet, and his friends claim that he is insane." (SIC)

Indian Pike was received at San Quentin Prison on August 24, 1882, he was paroled on August 10, 1906, and was pardoned for the murder of James H. Hayes and restored to citizenship on July 31, 1909 by California Governor, James Gillet. He later returned to Shasta County to live out the rest of his life, and avoiding Robert Pitt at all costs. Indian Pike died in 1912.

Robert Pitt was also tried and convicted of first degree murder in the Shasta County Superior Court for the murder of James H. Hayes. Pitt was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was received at San Quentin Prison on November 28, 1882. Local residents were rejoicing that Pitt was gone for good, and a new era of change began to put some good into Portuguese Flat’s reputation. However, only time would tell the future fate of Robert Pitt.

As if Portuguese Flat, couldn't catch a break from Robert Pitt, he was later pardoned, discharged and restored to citizenship for the murder of James H. Hayes on January 25, 1886 by California Governor George Stoneman. Two days later, Pitt was discharged from the prison and he returned home to Portuguese Flat. A hated man with a bad reputation. 

According to renown historian Gertrude Steger in her book, Place Names Of Shasta County, she states that the: "name may have derived from the few 'pollard' pines in the area." Further more, Portuguese Flat was located north of a Pollard Gulch. However, another source claims that at the time of Pitt's incarceration in 1882, a newcomer by the name of John Pollard, a blond whiskered miner who arrived and settled at Portuguese Flat purchased property in the area. This is when the local residents renamed the community in his honor, trying to put their tainted past behind them and move forward into the future. Whatever, the case may be the name stuck to the area and at the present, this community is still called Pollard Flat which remains a rural community in northern Shasta County along Interstate 5.



Above: in 1855 the community of Portuguese Flat established a cemetery. Today, it is located near La Moine. The sign states: "HISTORY - Native American Cemetery, Portuguese Flat Cemetery 1855, Baker Cemetery 1940." This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on September 26, 2015.




Above: some of the headstones in the above cemetery. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on September 26, 2015. 





RESOURCES:


The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, March 26, 1853


The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, July 14, 1855


The New Sacramento Trail - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, September 22, 1855


The Sacramento Trail - Wagon Road Practicable - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, October 13, 1855


The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, February 2, 1856


Mining on the Upper Sacramento - The Shasta Republican newspaper of Shasta, March 8, 1856


Portuguese Flat - The Shasta Republican newspaper of Shasta, April 12, 1856


Portuguese Flat - The Shasta Republican newspaper of Shasta, May 24, 1856


The Shasta Republican newspaper of Shasta, July 19, 1856


Chinaman Murdered - The Shasta Republican newspaper of Shasta, October 11, 1856


To Be Hung for the Murder of a Chinaman - The Shasta Republican newspaper of Shasta, December 13, 1856


Execution of Blair - The Shasta Republican newspaper of Shasta, January 10, 1857


Charles Blair - The Shasta Republican newspaper of Shasta, February 28, 1857


Respite To Blair - The Shasta Republican newspaper of Shasta, March 7, 1857


Miners on the Sacramento - The Shasta Republican newspaper of Shasta, March 7, 1857

Life Imprisonment - The Sacramento Daily Union newspaper of Sacramento, May 9, 1857


Suicide - The Republican newspaper of Shasta, August 8, 1857


California, Prison and Correctional Records, 1851-1950, for Charles Blair


California, Prison and Correctional Records, 1851-1950, for Charles Blair


Dissolution - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, May 8, 1858

Good Riddance - The Daily Alta California newspaper of San Francisco - May 21, 1859

Our Special Correspondence From Point San Quentin - The Daily Alta California newspaper of San Francisco, July 31, 1859


The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, August 20, 1859


1860 U.S. Census

Died - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, June 25, 1864


California Voters Register, 1866


William H. Gooch - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, February 10, 1866


Killed By Caving Of A Bank - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, March 17, 1866


Post Yourself - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, August 18, 1866


1866 California Voters Register


Portuguese Flat - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, February 9, 1867


Sacramento Road - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, February 9, 1867


Dog Creek - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, April 6, 1867


The Upper Sacramento - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, July 27, 1867


Dog Creek - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, August 31, 1867


The Recent Flood - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, January 11, 1868


Upper Sacramento Mines - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, May 23, 1868


Upper Sacramento Items - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, March 20, 1869


Upper Sacramento Items - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, July 10, 1869


1870 U.S. Census


Fire - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, October 15, 1870


Death Of Wm. H. Gooch - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, December 3, 1870


Nugget - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, April 15, 1871


Political Speaking - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, August 19, 1871


Dead - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, April 20, 1872


Trade - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, May 11, 1872


Proceedings of the Board of Supervisors For the August Term 1872 - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, August 17, 1872


Correspondence - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, May 10, 1873


Winter Arrangements! (advertisement) - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, August 23, 1873


The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, September 7, 1878


1880 U.S. Census

1881, History and Business Directory of Shasta County, California

Indian Pike - The Daily Alta California newspaper of San Francisco, August 23, 1882

California, Prison and Correctional Records, 1851-1950 for Indian Pike


California, Prison and Correctional Records, 1851-1950 for Robert Pitt

May H. Southern’s scrapbook’s. Nine binders. Unpublished personal and researched material compiled by Southern.


My Playhouse Was A Concord Coach, an anthology of newspaper clippings and documents relating to those who made California history during the years 1822-1888, by Mae Hélène Bacon Boggs. Published by Howell-North Press ©1942


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

Place Names of Shasta County by Gertrude Steiger, published by La Siesta Press, ©1966


U.S., Appointments of U.S. Postmasters, 1832-1971


Archeological Investigations in the Sacramento River Canyon by Roberta Greenwood and Laurence Shoup. Report on file at the California Department of Transportation, Sacramento, California printed in 1984.








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