A Bit of Lewiston History
The reminiscences of Edwin W. Scott, providing a fascinating glimpse into one man's life as a resident of turn-of-the-century Lewiston.
Presented by John R. McNickles

This historian thanks Ms. Martie Colley of Lewiston, who recently discovered this valuable artifact. This is the most informative piece of early Lewiston history that I have ever seen. My notations are in parentheses throughout.

Dear Friends, The things I am going to tell you about may not be in regular order as to dates, but they are all things that have taken place here at Lewiston and the surrounding country.

Lewistown (as Lewiston was originally called), was started about 1850 by a Mr. Lewis with his Trading Post, and the town grew around his place of business and was named for him. In those days, and til about 1858, it was spelled Lewistown.

Mr. Lewis hired men to build a bridge across Trinity river in 1852 that was used by pack trains because there were no roads that early. This bridge was washed away by floods on March 3, 1855. A new bridge was completed in October the same year.

Several bridges were lost at Lewiston. They were all toll-bridges until Mr. Phillips sold the next to the last bridge to Trinity County. This was a covered bridge and was operated by the county as a free bridge for a number of years until the floods of December, 1899 washed it away.

The present bridge was built in 1900. I lived in Lewiston at this time and watched much of the construction.

I might add that Mr. Lewis built a house and lived in it these early years. This house was purchased by my parents in 1891. I was born in 1892. Our family lived in this house most of the time...In 1948, William Richards and May Richards, my sister, moved to Weaverville. My father added a two-story addition to this house and it is still in use today. (The historic "Lewis-Scott House was lost to fire in October, 2005)

One branch of the trail from Shasta came through Lewiston and crossed the lower end of Rush Creek, then continued over Browns Mountain to Weaverville. Another branch of the trail went farther south and came down Grass Valley Creek past Lowden Ranch and after fording Trinity River, went over Browns Mountain and on to Weaverville.

William Lowden put a bridge across Trinity River at Lowden Ranch in 1854. This was used by pack trains until Mr. Lowden's road from Weaverville to Tower House was completed in March of 1858.

The Lowden Road from Lewiston via Rush Creek to Weaverville was completed in the fall of 1857. I do not find the record of when the road was built from Lewiston to Lowden Ranch, but I think it (was) about this time or possibly after Lowden's Road to Tower House was completed.This road was also extended during this period on down to Douglas City. The Lewiston to Tower House road known as the Turnpike was not completed until May, 1866.

In March, 1867, all the road traffic was going over this new road because floods had completely destroyed parts of the road going down Grass Valley Creek.

(A "Mr. Pendleton" came to Trinity County in 1849. He headed a supply company for miners. He and the others in his company built a bridge across the Trinity on or near the Lowden Ranch. But a "freshet" came in the fall and took it out. That group of supply men saved many miners on the Salmon River during the "killer" winter of 1852. It is estimated that that winter killed 5000 miners in northern California and the Sierra's. Mr. Pendleton, in the 1860's was hired to build a stage road from Trinity Center north over Scott's Mountain, now Highway 3. Six miles of the original road on the south slope is saved by Cal Trans. So when you hit those first few steep turns, thank Mr. Pendleton. It was a "new" road to Oregon to bypass problems with the Modoc Indians on the "Old Oregon Trail" northeast of Redding during the 1860-1870 period.)

In 1874, there was a post office established at Lowden's Ranch and the stage contractor changed the stage to the road over Buckhorn, Grass Valley Road. This made a side run of the stage from Lowden's to Lewiston. This did not please the Lewiston people and their repeated protest finally caused the return of stages to the Turnpike Road.

I have no record of when the road was built from Lewiston to Deadwood, but the road from Deadwood to French Gulch was completed in 1883. Soon afterwards, the stages from Redding were coming through French Gulch, Deadwood, Lewiston and via Rush Creek Road to Weaverville.

From then on, there was a seperate mail contract to Lowden Ranch. When I was young, this mail was carried horseback by Jean Wilson, whose married name was Jean Widner.

The road to Minersville was not all put on one side of the river until 1902, but there was a road with many fordings of Trinity River that was in use many years earlier. This road with many fords continued on up to Trinity Center.

The road from Weaverville to Trinity Center was completed in 1860 and was one of the first roads built with county money. Most of this money was Poll Tax. Each adult man had to pay $7.50 per year to be eligible to vote, or in lieu of cash payment, they could work three days on road work (for) $2.50 per day, which was good wages in those days, even though they had to board themselves. In those years, there were no women voting, so this did not apply to them.

In all the years of stages through Lewiston, which continued until about 1915, the stages changed passengers in Lewiston and the stage passengers going towards Weaverville had supper at the Lewiston Hotel. Going towards Redding in the early years, they ate at Tower House and later at French Gulch.

In the earlier years, the Lewiston Hotel was run by a Mr. Berber and, at one time later, it was run by Mart Van Matre. Then, in the early 1890 years, John Koll took over and was still running it in the middle 1920 years. In 1897, John Koll's hotel was lost to fire and was rebuilt in 1898. One time afterward, there was a roof fire, but it was put out. This is when they replaced the shake roof on the hotel with with corrugated galvanized iron roof. I lived in Lewiston when the hotel burned and can vividly remember the fire, although I was not permitted to be very close.

All of these early stopping places, besides having meals and beds, had barns where the horses were kept with hay and grain to feed them. In many places, they also had horses and buggies, or carriages, for rent and they were well patronized.

There were many freight teams on the roads and all would have the bells on the lead team. In my memory I can still hear those bells coming down the road nearly every day.

In those days, the roads were very dusty in the summer and (had) much mud in the winter...At times they had much snow to struggle through. In Lewiston, there usually was less than two feet of snow, but I can remember in the winter of 1900 there was four feet of snow. Many people had much trouble with sagging or broken roofs, and the services of snow shovelers was much in demand

With all the horses in use, there was a big demand for hay and all the ranches had a ready sale for much baled hay. It was a common sight to see large loads of baled hay passing with four horses pulling the load.

With the freight teams, they used either six, eight or ten horses and one teamster, William Larson, (used) twelve horses and three wagons. In most cases they used tow wagons with them needing to drop one wagon at the foot of a long hill and pull one wagon at a time, then downhilll and (along) easy grades they pulled both wagons. When they left one wagon, they would be away from (the other) wagon for many hours, sometimes for a whole day. In all of my years of remembrance, I have never heard of any theft from a freight wagon, and they were loaded with every imaginable assortment of merchandise*everything that was sold in a general store in those days*and they indeed had a wide scope of merchandise.

There was much mining (equipment) which was everything from gold pans, rockers and ground sluice up to hydraulic monitors, or as commonly called, "hydraulic giants".

Then, these were followed by the gold dredgers, which mined the bottom land along the river. They destroyed many fine ranches and also worked much unimproved land. Much of this is now under the water of Lewiston and Trinity Lakes. In the higher elevations was much quartz mining and the total of both has produced many millions of dollars worth of gold from this area.

In early mining days, there were lots of Chinese around Lewiston and quite a few were still living across the bridge from town when I was a boy. We used to buy firecrackers from them and if we were there on Chinese New Year, they would give us firecrackers, candy and dry abalone. We always made it a point to be there.

They had a religious temple called a Joss House. I have been inside it many times to look at the Oriental atmosphere. I have read accounts of the fire in Chinese town in the 1870 years destroying the temple and (that) it was not rebuilt, but this is not so becuause I was born in 1892, and I have seen it many times. Also, Florence Morris tells me it was there up to near 1920 when the remaining interior furnishings were move to Weaverville (at their Joss House).

I have records of when the old schoolhouse was built by a Temperance Society in 1862. I went to school in the schoolhouse as did my brothers and sisters. In my time, it had one teacher and from forty to fifty pupils with nine grades. We got a good education, which included many subjects that are now left for high (school) and junior college.

All dances and shows were in the schoolhouse because there was no other place. This meant that each child had to put their books in a flour sack and they were put in a locker in the corner. The desks would be piled in the woodshed, and for a dance, the stove was set up in the girls anteroom where the coffee would be made in a big wash boiler. Shelves along one side would hold the cakes, sandwiches and other food. Then the benches would be put around the edges of the hall for the women to sit on. The men usually collected together outside between dances. The other anteroom was reserved for the babies and usually there was a good lineup of them in big baskets. Always, there was one or two women to watch them and they usually had a chance to get in a good visit. The women took turns in watching. The older children were always in attendance. In those days, the word "babysitter" had not been coined, and the entire family would attend. If it was only a show and we had a good many (in attendance), the seats were taken out but (the) stove stayed in place, with rows of benches on both sides the full length of the hall.

The butcher shop was just south of the store, and the slaughterhouse was mid way between the shop and the school. It was right in the edge of town and a rather smelly place, but in those days people were not too critical. About 1900 or later, the slaughterhouse was moved to the hill side of the road just below Deadwood Creek. This shop handled much meat but it had to be butchered in the evening...(with) next-morning delivery to the mining camps one-a-day, and there were many. (With) thelocal sales, the meat was several days old.

I remember in the early 1900 years we had a very severe wind which did much damage. It blew down many trees and wrecked some roofs. Everything that was loose was blown away. Many days afterward people were looking for things and much was never recovered.

One road I overlooked earlier is the old Canfield Road. This went over the mountain to the left of the present road and joined the Lowden Road just to the west of where the present road joins Highway 299. This road connected most of the Grass Valley people with the town of Lewiston. There were a number of sawmills on Grass Valley and much lumber was hauled over with this road. This road has been closed for a good many years.

There is so much more that could be told and I may have the opportunity to give you another installment at a later date. Thanks for your patience in listening.

With kindest regards, Edwin W. Scott

The author's reference to "listening" in the final sentence leads me to conclude that this "letter" was originally presented as a formal speech and probably later sent as a letter.

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