Whiskeytown began much like most other 1849 Gold Rush mining communities – as a modest collection of shabby tents. Young trailblazers, mostly men, manned the tents in the evening and scoured nearby creeks and earth for gold during the day. Many of the early miners stationed at Whiskeytown had luck finding the shiny metal they had travelled hundreds of miles to look for. In the early days, it was common for miners to average close to $50 worth of gold in a single day. Founding fortune seekers employed rudimentary placer mining and sluice boxes in local waterways to make finds.
One of several popular mining sites was Whiskey Creek. Two different stories have come forth explaining the stream’s spirit(ual) title. Many contest that the name came about when miner Billie Peterson’s pack mule had an accident in the 1850s.
Folklore suggests that a pack came loose on the back of one of Peterson’s mules depositing a barrel of whiskey down a hillside and spilling into a creek. Henceforth, the stream was called Whiskey Creek and the ever-expanding town around it inherited the distinction (Whiskeytown). Historians have advanced another theory about Whiskey Creek’s christening though.
As rags-to-riches tales started to leach out from the Whiskeytown area, the small outpost grew and grew. More miners converged on the settlement as well as groups of travellers, stagecoaches and pack trains that restocked there. Soon, entrepreneurs saw opportunities to build around the once-tiny tent city. Saloons were constructed where miners could be found telling tall tales, giving advice about best mining practices, gambling and of course, drinking. Apparently, the original Whiskeytown miners had a nauseatingly incredible ability to drink a barrel of whiskey in a single evening. Some have argued that the miner’s whiskey-drinking exploits served as inspiration for Whiskeytown’s name.
Though we may never know for certain how Whiskeytown got its name, we’re glad things worked out the way they did. The story behind its name as well as the park itself remain secret treasures much like the gold responsible for its establishment.
Northern California’s Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine