On the Nobles Emigrant Trail

Last Sunday I enjoyed a field trip on a portion of the Nobles Emigrant Trail. This trail, first developed by William Nobles in 1852, proved to be a desirable alternative to the rigors of the Lassen Trail. It brought gold-seekers to the Northern Mines in Shasta County. Thanks to Ken Johnston, who organized the field trip, our group of trail enthusiasts from the Oregon-California Trail Association were able to see a bit of this historic trail.

We started our journey at the terminus — Shasta State Historic Park, formerly Shasta City.

In the spring of 1852, William Nobles convinced the merchants of Shasta City that he had discovered a viable wagon road to their thriving town.  Nobles had explored this new wagon route the previous year and asked for a fee of $2000 to develop the route. The trail branched off from the Applegate-Lassen Trail at Black Rock and headed southwest across the Black Rock and Smoke Creek Deserts to Honey Lake Valley and Susanville.  From there the trail continued westerly through forested and volcanic country, passing Lassen Peak, until it descended to the upper end of the Sacramento Valley at Shasta City. 

We drove about 40 miles from Shasta City to Shingletown, mostly along Dersch Road. Here are some of our stops along the way.

The Canon House marker sits next to Redding Fire Hall No. 3.

The Bear Creek marker is on the Dersch Ranch.

The Dersch Ranch marker reads: DERSCH HOMESTEAD: Here in 1850 “Doc” Baker established a stopping place for emigrants on what became known as the Nobles Trail. George and Anna Maria Dersch bought out Baker and homesteaded the land in 1861. Tenants of the Dersches were responsible for whipping three Indian laborers working on the potato harvest at the ranch. As a result of this incident, Indians raided the property in 1866, fatally wounding Mrs. Dersch. In retaliation, a posse was formed and killed most of the Indians at their Dye Creek camp.

This is the scene across the road from the Dersch Ranch. It’s beautiful country, especially in the spring.

Fort Reading, named after pioneer settler Major Pierson B. Reading, was established on the banks of Cow Creek in 1857. It existed primarily to protect settlers from Indians. Nothing is left of the adobe for buildings.

The view toward the site of Fort Reading.

The marker for Foot-of-the-Mountain Station, owned at one time by Phoebe Colburn. All the buildings are gone now.

The trail marker reads: Nobles Trail – Charley’s Ranch “Traveled 15 miles to Charley’s Ranch and camped there. Good water. Drove the stock 2 miles to grass. Here we heard the first chicken crow, and saw the first hog.” John S. Taylor, Sep 2, 1854

End of the trail (for me anyhow) at Shingletown.

The Nobles Trail proved to be one of the easiest of all the wagon routes into northern California and received heavy use right up until the railroad made travel to California a breeze. This wagon road, with its relatively level and easy terrain most of the way, was actually promoted as a railroad route. But it would have brought the business to Redding, and the Big Four, based as they were in Sacramento, weren’t having that.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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