Fort Reading
Thursday, July 26, 2012 at 2:45PM
Jo Giessner

1854, Fort Reading was established 26 May 1852. The garrison was withdrawn 1 Apr 1856, although the post was occupied occasionally thereafter. It was located on the right bank of Cow Creek, a mile and one-half above its junction with the Sacramento River.

The following is the report of Colonel Joseph K.F. Mansfield on his inspection tour of 1854:

This post is on Cow Creek, an eastern tributary of Sacramento River, and 25 miles above Red Bluff, the head of navigation of that river in the Sacramento Valley. It is 25 miles by good wagon road south of Shasta City. It is 185 miles by mule trail over mountains from Fort Humboldt on Humboldt Bay, 120 miles by mule trail over mountains from Fort Jones, 115 miles by wagon road from Marysville.

There is abundant of grazing, wood, water, and facilities for a good garden. All other supplies, except fresh beef, must come from San Francisco via the Sacramento River and [are] landed either at Colusa, 120 miles off, at the low stage of the water, or at Red Bluff, 25 miles off, at the high stage. Thence to be transported in wagons.

The Indians in this vicinity within seventy-five miles number about 400 warriors, armed with bows and arrows, known under different local names, but are disposed to work for the whites in many instances. The Americans within the same distance are, inclusive of Shasta city, scattered as miners and farmers, and may be said to number at least 2,000 souls.

It appears to me, however, that this post is not at this time properly located, however suitable it might have been when established in 1852. I would therefore recommend this post should be removed further eastward towards the emigrant trail at the mountains, after a suitable reconnaissance, as a post in that quarter seems necessary.

Another objection to this post is its decidedly sickly locality (the Sacramento Valley) where the ague and fever prevails and the officers and men are kept constantly sick and unfit for duty in the field. further it is exposed to overflows in the rainy season, and a bridge has been actually constructed to communicate with the soldiers kitchens on such occasions.

Taken from Mansfield on the Condition of the Western Forts 1853-54 Edited by Robert W. Frazer. 1963. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma.~

1854, Statement of the Posts, Companies, Departments, Commissioned Officers Present & Absent; Enlisted Men Present and Absent, Military Store Keepers & Citizens Employed; Serviceable Small Arms and Artillery when visited by Colonel Mansfield sometime between 4 May 1854 to 30 Sep 1854:

Field and Staff, 4th Infantry - Commissioned Officers present:  2; 12 Pounder Brass Mountain Howitzers:  1

3rd Artillery, Company D - Commissioned Officers present:  1; Absent:  3; Enlisted Men present:  47; Absent: 0;  Percussion Muskets:  74; Percussion Rifles:  3; Non-Commissioned Officers Swords:  4.

4th Infantry, Company D - Commissioned Officers present:  3; Absent:  1; Enlisted Men present: 41; absent: 1; Percussion Muskets:  100; Percussion Rifles:  4; Percussion Pistols: 4; Colt Revolvers:  1; Non-Commissioned Officers Swords:  12.

Quartermasters' Department - Commissioned Officers present:  1.

- Mansfield on the Condition of the Western Forts 1853-54. 1963. Edited by Robert W. Frazer.~

1855 August 31, Charleston Courier -The California papers state that the United States Surveying Expedition under charge of Lieut. Williamson, accompanied by an escort of about one hundred and twenty-five soldiers, under the command of Lieutenants Gibson and Hood, left Fort Reading on the 26th July for the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, directly east of Shasta. The object of this expedition is to discover, by actual and careful survey, the existence of a practicable route for a rail road between the Columbia River and the Sacramento Valley. It is thought the party will be out about four months. The whole expedition numbers very nearly two hundred men.~

1856 November 17, Daily Democratic State Journal -

Fort Reading - This military post situated on Cow Creek, has been some time unoccupied by troops. It is a delightful place for winter quarters. We are informed that two companies of soldiers have lately been ordered to Fort Reading, and that they will remain there during the winter. Col. Beall will be commander of the post.~

1857 June 20, San Francisco Bulletin - Lieut. Williams, of the 1st regiment of U.S. Dragoons, passed through Red Bluffs on Tuesday last, with ninety-six mounted men and eight six mule wagons en route for Fort Reading, where they wait further orders. It is understood that they are bound to Columbia River. ~

1859 December 6, San Francisco Bulletin - DROWNED IN COW CREEK - Shasta County, On Sunday, 17th November, Dr. Edward Owen was drowned, says the Shasta Courier, in Cow Creek, Fort Reading. It appears that in attempting to ford the river on horseback, both horse and rider were swept down stream by the force of the current, which, at the crossing, owing to the recent flood, was extremely violent. The horse escaped to the shore. Owen succeeded in catching hold of a bunch of willows growing in the middle of the stream, where he remained, up to his waist in water, for four hours. Several persons, after much labor succeeded in fetching a boat from below to his assistance, but just as the boat was almost within arms length of him, he sunk down suddenly, as if shot through the heart, and was seen no more alive. He was from Fort Crook, where he had acted in the capacity of steward of the Hospital. He had some $800 in gold, and it was supposed, valuable papers, upon his person.~

1881 February 17, San Francisco Bulletin - "The President* has approved the bill to restore the lands included in the Fort Reading and Fort Crook Military Reservations, in California, to the public domain." 

[*The President was Rutherford B. Hayes before he left office on 4 March 1881.]~

1913 Jan 3, Denver Post - "James Robert Keene, one time owner of the most famous string of race horses in the United States and the most spectacular speculator on the New York Stock Exchange, was born in London, England, in 1838. His parents migrated to California and settled in Shasta County in 1852. Mr. Keene's first job came soon after the family's settlement in the West. He was given a position as the guard of animal pets at Fort Reading, Cal. Young Keene saved his wages for a few months and then he bought a miner's outfit and prospected for gold. He went broke, however, and became editor of a country newspaper. Later he left for Nevada practically penniless, once more to attempt fortune in the mining business. Mr. Keene's arrival in that state was propitious. The "Comstock Lode" had just been discovered and by dealing judiciously, investing in this property, he was able to make about $125,000, enough money to return to San Francisco and engage in the stock speculating business. . ."~

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