The stories of Siskiyou County during the Gold Rush are like something out of a Wild West movie. The town of Weed was once dubbed the “Sodom and Gomorrah of Siskiyou County” by the Redding Free Press. Black Bart and Rattlesnake Dick were known to rob stagecoaches in the area along the Siskiyou Trail. It was an era of Gold Rush prosperities and vigilante justice in an area known for its beautiful surroundings.
There’s one specific road in Siskiyou County that illustrates the Wild West mantra held in the area in the late 1800’s – the legendary Whiskey Row in the town that’s now named Mt. Shasta City.
The town was first established in 1887 as the town of Sisson, a boomtown sitting in between McCloud and Weed. Unlike its neighboring towns, Sisson wasn’t established as a “company town,” meaning it didn’t adhere to the same moralistic regulations. Without a moral compass like McCloud and Weed, Sisson became a destination for loggers and lumbermen looking for whiskey, cigars and brothels. Thus began the famed Whiskey Row, which from the late 1800’s through the early 1900’s had 72 saloons on one stretch of road. The block had a saloon on every lot.
Whiskey Row stretched from Castle to Alma Streets on what is now Mt Shasta Boulevard, with the El Monte Hotel and Berryvale Hotel on either end. For decades, the road was almost exclusively the home of saloons, brothels, cigar shops and barbershops, with many hotel rooms upstairs in each business.
The one remaining relic of Whiskey Row is now the Mt Shasta Vet’s Club (currently named the Watson’s Vet’s Club), which has stood in its location since 1896. The Vet’s Club has been known by many names over the past 100-plus years, including its original name Mugglers. In its Wild West days, Mugglers had a brothel upstairs and if you look closely at the ceiling, you can see a cut out where a bucket would be lowered down to the bar. The bucket would be filled with drinks by the bartender and pulled up for the patrons upstairs.
From 1904 to 1917, a series of fires would completely devastate the town of Sisson, burning much of the boomtown to the ground. Although the buildings were quickly rebuilt during the first couple of fires, the firestorm of 1917 consumed much of the town during the beginning of California’s prohibition (and subsequent national prohibition). Only brick and concrete buildings survived the flames (including the Vet’s Club). The town that was once know for Wild West debauchery could no longer operate with that many bars. It was the end of an era under the shadow of Mount Shasta.
Today, the road once dubbed Whiskey Row is now a beautiful downtown block of restaurants, bars, outdoor stores, coffee cafes and crystal shops. The road provides residents and visitors with a charming small town feel, one that may have been the complete opposite of Whiskey Row. It remains the heart of Mt. Shasta City, with the Mt Shasta Vet’s Club remaining as the relic of a once rowdy time in Siskiyou County.
The history and legends of Siskiyou County remain some of the most fascinating stories in the Northern California. While we may never know the crazy stories from Whiskey Row, it’s certainly fun to imagine.
For more information on the history of Sisson, check out the The Sisson History Project.