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California Genealogy and History Archives


Modoc County History


A Memorial and Biographical History of Northern California


This county is named after an Indian tribe that formerly ranged in the northeastern part of California. Their true name is Moadoc- a name which originated with the Shasta Indians and means all distant, stranger or hostile Indians. The name was applied by the whites to this tribe in early days from hearing the Shastas speak of them. The county is bounded on the north by Oregon, on the east by Nevada, on the south by Lassen and Shasta counties, and on the west by Siskiyou County. 

Modoc may be considered a high sage plateau, the plains broken by low ranges of mountains, the general elevation being over four thousand feet above sea level. The more elevated mountain range, the Warner, strikes north and south across the eastern border. 

There are numerous lakes, which, though covering a large area, are for the most part, shallow. Pit River is the only large stream within the county limits. It has its origin in Goose Lake, on the northern border. A portion of this lake 
lies in the state of Oregon. Issuing from its source, the Pit flows in a southwesterly direction centrally across the county. 

Excepting on the slopes on the Warner Range, before mentioned, where grow heavy forest of pine and cedar, there is but little timber of Modoc. The plateau is covered with a variety of wild grasses, which afford good pasturage, and the 
stock subsisting thereon are generally in fine condition. In the valleys good farming land is found. Surprise Valley is the largest in extent, and is noted for the richness of its soil. 

Mineral springs abound everywhere, for the waters of which medicinal virtues are claimed. The principal towns in the county are: Alturas, the county- seat; Fort Bidwell, a military post; Cedarville and Adin, the principal mining center; and Eagleville. 

While Modoc may and, no doubt, does maintain mineral deposits of many kinds and of much importance, none of ascertained value has yet been discovered. Many years ago a number of silver-bearing lodes were located in the mountains, near Surprise Valley, and some prospecting work done. One of the locations a quartz mill was erected, but owing to the remoteness of the place, and, in some measure, to Indian hostilities, the work of development was tardy, and when the mill was destroyed by fire, finally abandoned. The amount of bullion obtained from the working was inconsiderable, so the extent and value of existing deposits are left, as yet, undetermined. The settlers in the county have turned their attention chiefly to farming and stock-raising; mining is nearly altogether neglected. In Lassen County, just over the southern boundary of Modoc, quartz mines are being worked. (For further description see Lassen County) Modoc's mineral wealth is yet lying dormant, awaiting the awakening hour of enterprise. 

A Memorial and biographical history of Northern California : containing a history of this important section of the Pacific coast from the earliest period of its occupancy to the present time : together with glimpses of its prospective 
future, full-page portraits of its most eminent men, and biographical mention of many of its pioneers and also of prominent citizens of to-day.- 

Lewis Pub , 1891- page 160 Transcribed by Carolyn Feroben.


South Fork – The town Destined “Likely-to-Be”

South Fork – The town Destined “Likely-to-Be” The town of Likely was names partially through bureaucratic bungling. Situated at the upper end of South Fork Valley it was originally called “South Fork”. This name was rejected by the post office department in Washington because there already was a town of that name in California. So the search began for another suitable name. Four times the residents gathered in solemn conclave, four times they decided on a name, four times they sent that name to Washington, D.C., and four times it came back “rejected”. At last one of the frustrated citizens stated aloud at the fifth meeting “It ain’t likely we’ll ever get a name.” Whereupon another, believed to be James T. Laird, spoke up an said – “Then why not call it “Likely”.” The Post Office agreed and “Likely” it has been ever since. The town and area was first settled in the 1870’s and among some of the illustrious citizens who first name to live here were the Flournoy family, who had much to do with the development of Modoc County; the Bayley family,the families of Joe Stone; the Cox Brothers, William and Thomas; the Haldens; Cooleys, Trumbos; Nelsons; J. T. and Steven Booth; and others. The town was primarily a stock raising town and during its early life it was pretty well isolated. Mail came by way of Susanville and Alturas, then known as Dorris Bridge, and as 
there was no regular carrier anyone who was going that way brought the letters when he came back. It was a three day trip in those days to get from Likely to Susanville. It really wasn’t until the railroad came through that any reliable means of transportation was established and in a sense of the word the trams came just in time. The year was 1917 was a very hard one and if it had not been for the N. C. & O. bringing in baled hay much of the livestock thereabout would have starved. In the summer of 1932 a “new Industry” was discovered in the South Fork – that of peat. It was cut and shipped to all parts of the country. Actually the existence of peat had been in evidence for some time, it was just that its commercial values had not been recognized. Fires set by purpose or accident were known to have burned for months. Around the turn of the century the citizens of Likely, at their own expense and initiative drained the swamp to provide a right of way for the railroad, yet to come. At that time they also cut two canals which today make, or assist in making, of one the richest agricultural areas in the state.