How Did Weed, CA Get It’s Name? A Story of Achieving the American Dream in the Wild West

Although the town was known for its whiskey brawls and gunshot murders, it's truly a story of a man achieving the American Dream

You see many people snicker when you bring up Weed, California. After all, it seems to be named after Cheech and Chong’s favorite pastime. The locals have even used this name with a number of marketing ploys, most specifically their I (Heart) Weed, California t-shirts:

But the history of Weed, California is not related to marijuana. In fact, Weed was named after great man in the history of the United States.

This beloved small town was the namesake of Abner Weed, who was born on September 18, 1842 in Dixmont, Maine. Abner served as soldier for the Union in the United States Civil War and he was even present at Appomattox, Virginia, to witness Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Ulysses S. Grant.

At the age of 27, Abner subscribed to the idea of manifest destiny and crossed the country, eventually settling in Truckee, CA. After becoming heavily involved in developing industry in Northern California, he moved his family to Mount Shasta where he started Weed Holdings, working in industry and lumber, and eventually opening the Hotel Weed in Dunsmuir.


As he settled into the area, it’s believed that Abner recognized the wind patterns surrounding Mt. Shasta and put his lumber yard approximately five miles north of Black Butte, catching the winds descending down the mountain and drying his green lumber very quickly.

Hence, a company town was born – Weed, California.

In the early days, Weed was like other towns in the wild west. With a number uneducated laborers settling in the community and stories of whiskey brawls and gun shot murders being whispered throughout Northern California, Weed gained a bad reputation from surrounding towns. The Redding Free Press even described Weed as the “Sodom and Gomorrah of Siskiyou County.”

Eventually, Abner sold his shares of the company and went into politics, serving the district as a Senator from 1907-1909 and the Siskiyou county supervisor for 8 years.

When Abner’s original company was sold to the International Paper Company in the 1950’s, they sold all of the company housing to its residence, transforming a company village into a California town.

While the town’s locals use the name to sell swag with marijuana references, the town’s history sits as an important tale in California. And the town’s name remains as a remembrance of a man who lived the true American dream – Abner Weed.

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California


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