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Siskiyou County









      Among the prominent and honored citizens of Yreka is numbered Charles R. Herzog, who has passed the psalmist’s span of three score years and ten, but is still active in business and keenly alive to everything relating to the prosperity and welfare of his community.  Born in Siskiyou County, California, on the 18th of June, 1856, he is a son of Charles and Mary Ann (Phiffner) Herzog.  The father was born at Gotha, Germany, in 1837, and lived to be eighty-six years of age.  When a youth of nineteen he came to the United States to avoid military service which the law compelled every male citizen to render to his country.  Going to Chicago, Illinois, he worked for a Mr. Farnsworth, a butcher, but later went to St. Joseph, Missouri, where he remained a short time.  At that time trains were being made up for the overland journey to California and he joined a company of one hundred people who followed the Oregon Trail through Utah, and arrived in Yreka in 1852.  They had to guard against trouble with the Modoc Indians and were so closely connected with one of the great tragedies of that period that an account, which appeared in an early history, is repeated here in part:

      Early in the summer of 1852 word was received that a party of emigrants was coming on the old Oregon Trail to Yreka, and a request was made that the party be met with a supply of provisions to prevent great suffering.  This was the first emigration into Yreka by this route and, as the character of the Modocs was well understood, it was though necessary to send armed protection as well as supplies. . . .  As quickly as possible preparations were competed and the expedition started in the direction of Lost river.  One band of emigrants was encountered before reaching the Modoc country.  The volunteers hastened on.  At Tule Lake they met a party of eight or nine men who had packed across the plains.  These continued on to Yreka; at Bloody Point they were suddenly attacked by the Modocs and all were killed except one named Coffin, who cut the pack from one of his animals, charged through the savages and made his escape to Yreka with the news of the massacre, which occasioned great horror and excitement.  Another volunteer company of twenty-seven men was quickly organized and bountifully supplied with arms, horses and provisions by the benevolent citizens of Yreka.

      While this was being done, the work of death still went on in the Modoc country.  Two more trains had combined and were guarded by three of the first party of rescuers.  About the last of August the trains encamped on Clear Lake and in the morning, when all was ready for the start, the three guides rode ahead to pick out a camping place for noon.  One of the trains, having repairs to make on their wagons, remained behind, while the other, consisting of thirty men, one woman and a boy, with six wagons, took up the line of march.  In this group was Charles Herzog, father of Charles R. and A. L. Herzog.  Many of this party afterwards became well known citizens of Yreka.

      As the train came over the divide between Clear and Tule lakes and saw the road spread out before them, they could plainly see the Indians swarming in the rocks about Bloody Point, which was a favorite place of ambuscade.  All unconscious, the three guides were riding leisurely into this ambuscade awaiting them.  All efforts to warn the victims were futile and they soon disappeared around Bloody Point and were never seen alive again.  Soon the reports of their rifle shots were borne back to the anxious ears of their friends, who hastened on and reached the fatal point of rocks.  The Indians had again concealed themselves in the rocks and tules to await their victims.  As the train wound along the bank of Tule Lake past Bloody Point, the Indians set up a demonical yell, and poured in a volley of arrows, wounding two men.  These were put into the wagons, the company divided into a front and rear guard and, with their rifles (of which there were but a few in the train), they kept the savages at a respectful distance until they emerged upon the open flat, where they made a corral of their wagons and retired within it for protection.  All night they lay behind their defenses, surrounded by hundreds of watchful foes, unable to go a few hundred yards to the lake for water.  Eternal vigilance was the price of their safety, for, by being constantly on the alert, they kept the Indians beyond bowshot, as they feared to place themselves within the range of the deadly rifles.  Once the savages set fire to the tall grass and wild rye that grew thick and high about the camp, intending to rush in under cover of smoke and take the place by storm, but were frustrated by the building of a counter fire that burned out and met the coming flames, leaving an open space they dared not cross.  With yells of rage and disappointment the Indians retreated to the rocks and tules.  Morning was welcomed with joy by the beleaguered emigrants, who could then see the movements of the foe.  About noon they saw the savages again take their station near Bloody Point and by this they knew that another train was approaching.  With this train, however, was an old mountain man who had seen Indians before and knew better than to walk into the trap he could plainly see was set for him.  Roads were nothing to him and when the emigrants in the corral were listening to the sound of the conflict, lo! Over the brow of the ridge appeared the old trapper and his train, and entered the corral with the others, leaving the Indians to howl their rage and disappointment.

      As the afternoon wore on the beleaguered emigrants descried a body of horsemen to the westward, riding down upon them at breakneck speed.  Fearing the arrival of a new enemy, they prepared to receive them with a storm of bullets.  As the riders approached nearer it was discerned that they wore broad slouch hats, red or blue shirts, and carried rifles to which they tied waving handkerchiefs, tokens of peace and friendship.  It was Ben Wright with his band of brave men, rushing to their rescue.

      They grasped the situation at a glance and, not stopping to speak; on they rushed past the corral of terrified men, down towards Bloody Point, between the Indians on the bluff and their canoes on the water.  Leaping from their saddles, and leaving their animals free to run, they made a furious onslaught on the surprised and terrified savages, who also had seen their approach and from their dress knew them to be Californians who had come to fight.  The Indians stampeded for their canoes—then followed a slaughter, a carnage.  The Indians and fighters were all mixed up.  For a mile up and down the lake the battle went on, each man fighting independently and being sometimes among a dozen fleeing savages, dealing death on all sides.  Even when the terrified savages reached their canoes they were fired upon and a great many were killed before they could get beyond range.

      For several days thereafter search was made for the remains of the Modocs’ victims.  About thirty-six bodies, mutilated and disfigured in a most horrible manner, were found and buried, and evidence of the complete annihilation of an emigrant train was discovered.  During this time other trains of emigrants had arrived, other scattered bands were collected into large trains and sent through the hostile country under escort.

      After his arrival in Yreka, Charles Herzog engaged in the butchering business in partnership with Dr. M. D. Julien, a Frenchman.  A year later he and George D. Meyer bought Julien’s interest and conducted the business together for about ten years.  Mr. Herzog then sold to Meyer and engaged in ranching, buying horses, cattle and sheep, which business he followed until about ten years prior to his death, his interests lying in Butte valley, with land holdings also in Klamath County, Oregon.

      To Charles and Mary Ann Herzog were born eight children, as follows:  Charles Robert; Henry, who is living on the old home place of about four hundred acres, about one mile from Yreka; Robert, who died at the age of forty years, from the effects of a fall on the ice; George, who was killed by falling from a horse, at the age of fourteen years; Mary Ann, who died in infancy; Fred, who was killed as the result of a fall at Ft. Jones; A. L., who is represented elsewhere in this work; and Alexander, who was accidentally killed in a slaughter house at the age of five years.  The father was a democrat in his political views and he and his wife were devout members of the Catholic Church.

      Charles R. Herzog received a common school education, and was also taught by William Duenkel, a German teacher in Yreka, so that he speaks both English and German.  For seven years he worked at the butchering business for his father, who had a slaughter house near Yreka.  He then took over the management of the Franco-American Hotel, in Yreka, which he conducted for fifteen years, when his brother, A. L., assumed charge.  Charles R. Herzog then engaged in the real estate business, and during the subsequent years had handled a large number of farm, business and residence properties.  Though now practically retired from active business, he still handles realty when the opportunity comes to him.  He is also manager of the estate of J. Mueller, of Yreka.

      In 1879 Mr. Herzog was united in marriage to Miss Zula Le May, who is a native of Siskiyou County, having been born on Humbug Creek.  She speaks the French language, being a daughter of Frank and Addie (La Bree) Le May, who, in 1854, made the overland journey from Canada to Minnesota, whence they came to California by way of the isthmus of Panama.  Landing at San Francisco, they came to Siskiyou County, where Mr. Le May engaged in mining on the Humbug Creek.  Later he sold out there and bought a ranch south of Yreka.  Mr. and Mrs. Herzog had two children, Frank, who has worked for the Long-Bell Lumber Company at Tennant, this state, for the past twelve years, and May, who died at the age of sixteen years.  Frank married Miss Ada Banks, whose family has large land holdings at Grants Pass, Oregon.

      Politically Mr. Herzog supports the democratic ticket and has been active in local public affairs, though the only office he has held was that of constable, a number of years ago.  He is a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows at Yreka, belonging to the lodge and encampment.  He is a lover of outdoor life and rides, hunts and fishes, and, despite his age, can still outwalk most of the young people.  Blessed with a remarkable memory and possessing the gift of telling things in a most interesting way, he is very entertaining when he relates his own experience and that of others in the early days in this part of the country.  He is a member of one of Siskiyou’s honored old families and is greatly esteemed throughout the community.




Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.

Source: Wooldridge, J.W.Major History of Sacramento Valley California, Vol. 2 Pages Pages 168-172. Pioneer Historical Publishing Co. Chicago 1931.

© 2010  Gerald Iaquinta.



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