Dunsmuir History and Facts

About Dunsmuir - Today

Population: 2,080  
Elevation: 2,289 feet  
Location: 300 miles north of San Francisco on Interstate 5  

Historic Dunsmuir

Established in late 1880's when a rail line was built through the Upper Sacramento River canyon.  Originally centered about a mile south of the current town and named Pusher because in this location extra engines were needed to push the train up the steep canyon.  Name was changed to Dunsmuir in 1886 when Canada's Alexander Dunsmuir fell in love with the town and promised the town a water fountain if they named the town after his family. The fountain is now at the city park.  

In early 1950's Dunsmuir was largest town in all of Siskiyou County, then the diesel trains started to be used and the rail workforce was cut by 50%. Dunsmuir's population dropped down from approximately 5,000 to about what it is today (2,080).  

The rail and healing waters attracted visitors to the local resorts, the Shasta Springs and Shasta Retreat at the turn of the century. Both resorts are gone.  
For a more complete, accurate look at the early history of Dunsmuir, click here to visit Larry Cook's web site. Read local historian Steve Cutting's account on the establishment and naming of our town.


Castle Crags Gold. After a stage robbery a great fortune in gold was hidden in the Crags and to this day it has not been found.  
In 1935 a "criminal" was in town. The sheriff went to catch him and was found dead. The criminal was caught and put in jail up in Yreka awaiting trial. A group of vigilantes from Dunsmuir went up to Yreka, broke the prisoner out of jail and lynched him right there. To this day no one knows the identity of those vigilantes - or at least they are not talking.  

Dunsmuir: A Survivor

"The town should have been called "Phoenix" because many times it has risen from the ashes of destruction, only to be better than ever." Reva Coon  

  • 1902 A crushing avalanche came through the town and left one big boulder still seen today.  
  • 1903 Most of the town burned to the ground  
  • 1921 Big Travelers Hotel Fire  
  • 1924 Big fire on Sacramento Street burnt two churches and everything else in its way.  
  • 1944 The Weed or "Upside Down" Hotel burned  
  • 1974 The Big Flood floated houses away  
  • 1991 The Cantara railroad spill dumped 19,000 gallons of a herbicide, Metam Sodium, into the river killing fish, plant, and animal life for 45 miles downstream.  The river has recovered fully, and is stronger than ever thanks to protections enacted following the spill.

Celebrities Came in on the rail to the Dunsmuir California Theater

President John F. Kennedy, when running for office, stopped and talked from the back of the train.  
Clark Gable was on a private train car of the Hearst Family and stopped to talk with the townspeople on the way to the Hearst McCloud estate. (Late 20's)  
Claudet Colbert came to town and presented herself at the California Theater.  
Herbert Hoover stayed at the Traveler's Hotel in what is now downtown Dunsmuir in 1933.

4727 Dunsmuir Avenue | Dunsmuir, CA 96025 | (530) 235-2721 | Toll Free (888) 235-2721 | Belinda and Louie Dewey, Hosts

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