We know Castle Crags as the beautiful Northern California wilderness area settled just between Shasta Lake and Mount Shasta, with stunning rock formations and bountiful springs. But it was in 1855 when multiple parties took part in a bloody battle at Battle Rock in the Castle Crags Wilderness.
It is said that Joe deBlondy, also know as Mountain Joe, sent rumors throughout the gold mining community that the Lost Cabin Mine was located in the Castle Crags area in order to bring business to his trading post in Lower Soda Springs. Hundreds of of gold miners flooded the area overnight, causing a litany of issues in the otherwise quiet area of NorCal.
The enthusiastic miners immediately caused problems while searching for the mine. They ruined the salmon run by filling the river with mud and they either killed all of the wild game in the area or scared it off with excessive noise.
Needless to say, this didn’t sit well with the local Native American tribes.
In retaliation to the miners, the Modoc Indians began attacking travelers on the Old Oregon Trail, forcing authorities to close the trail and making it impossible for mail, supplies and the traveling public to get through the area.
Then the tribe set their sites on Mountain Joe’s trading post, ransacking the shop and clearing out the supplies to the hills of Castle Crags. Unfortunately for them, as they carried Mountain Joe’s sacks of flour up the hill, they created a trail for the white settlers to find them.
Mountain Joe and famous writer Joaquin Miller spread the word in the area, rallying forces to find and attack the Modocs in Castle Crags. First, Captain Crook and his troops marched up the hill and attacked the tribe, losing the fight and marching down the mountains defeated.
The next attack was led by Reuben Gibson, who had a stake in the matter since he was married to the daughter of Chief Wielputus, chief of the Shasta Indians, who were ruthless enemies of the Modocs. He led a large group of Shasta Indians, the Shasta County Sheriffs, Mountain Joe, Joaquin Miller, volunteer militiamen and local gold miners up the mountain to attack the Modocs.
The Modocs were hidden high up in the crags between Castle Lake and Battle Rock, and were surprised when this large group ascended on them in the mountains. And that’s when the Battle of Castle Crags began.
The Modocs put up a fight, but they were no match for the guns on the other side, and were defeated in the bloody battle. The tribes casualties were high, losing two chiefs. Joaquin Miller was injured by an arrow in the battle, an experience he would document in his book “The Battle at Castle Crags.”
The battle was just one of many in the conflicted history of Northern California and at the time, signaled a shift in power in the area from the Native American tribes to the white settlers.
Battle Rock is now a historical landmark officially known as California Historical Landmark No. 116. A historical monument memorializing it is inside the Castle Crags State Park. The plaque reads:
“Battle of the Crags was fought below Battle Rock in June 1855. This conflict between the Modoc Indians and the settlers resulted from miners destroying the native fishing waters in the Lower Soda Springs area. Settlers led by Squire Reuben Gibson and Mountain Joe Doblondy, with local Indians led by their Chief Weilputus, engaged Modocs, killed their Chief Dorcas Della, and dispersed them. Poet Joaquin Miller and other settlers were wounded.”
Today, Castle Crags sits as a beautiful area for visitors to hike, climb and take in the gorgeous views of the area surrounding Mount Shasta. And although it brings joy to many, let’s not forget that it was once a battleground for the residence of NorCal.
Northern California’s Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine