Monday, October 5, 2015

The Denny Bar Stores

The Denny Bar Store

Selections From the 1956 “Siskiyou Pioneer,” story by Karl V. and David C. Denny.  Pioneer Entrepreneur of Scott Valley, and the 1991 “Siskiyou Pioneer,” story by Jim Denny.  The Story of Denny Bar Company in Gazelle.
Denny Bar Store building in Gazelle in 2015

            Albert Hendricks Denny (A. H.) was born in New Providence, New Jersey in 1835.  Times were hard, and in an effort to improve their lot the family moved to Wisconsin in 1843 when A. H. Denny was eight years old.
                  Albert and his older brother, Edgar, wanted to go to California for gold, so to make it possible, their mother sold the family silverware to finance their trip.  With this money they bought a yoke of oxen, one milk-cow, a light spring wagon, provisions and a gun.  Only $1.50 was left over.
                  They left in May 1852, from Waukesha County Wisconsin with another family, all bound for California.  This method of traveling with oxen was soon too slow for the Dennys, so they traded their oxen and cow for horses and moved along faster in the part of the trip which seemed safe, and when it was unsafe they joined up with oxen trains again.
                  When the boys arrived at Salt Lake City, they were broke and out of food.  The Mormons were haying, so they worked for them at $1.50 per day.  They traded their wagon for a pack animal and went on horseback from there.  Upon their arrival at the Humboldt River in Nevada they saw an outfit from Scott Valley, California by the name of Hurd and Lytle who were picking up worn out cattle and horses from the emigrants, resting them up and taking them to Scott Valley.   The boys joined Hurd and Lytle on the trip to Scott Valley by driving the herd and standing guard two hours at night.
                  After reaching Rushing Springs in Modoc County, the company fell in with Captain Ben Wright who took them through the Modoc country, arriving in Yreka October 28, 1852, just six months after leaving their home in Wisconsin.
                  With winter coming the boys were advised to go to Deadwood to mine.  They went there with no tools, not knowing how to mine, and with winter coming.    It looked tough, however, William Davidson of Fort Jones had a store and butcher shop in Deadwood and sold them beef on credit.
                  In the spring of 1853 the boys came down to Fort Jones and worked on the Davidson Ranch to pay their meat bill by making nails.  By the fall they had mined or earned enough money to buy enough flour to last through the winter. 
                  The Denny boys mined for three years, then Albert bought a few cows and began to sell milk to miners on the South Fork of the Scot River.  Around 1860, Albert and Edgar Denny bought a ranch in Noyes Valley where they farmed.  They would load up hay and the next morning start with four horses hitched to their hay wagon before daylight, come down six miles to the crossing of Scott River going to Trinity County, go up from Scott Mountain six miles, and unload the hay on the mountain top.  The hay was for oxen used to haul a sled to keep the road open in the winter for the California-Oregon Stage Line.
                  In 1857 the boys bought a ranch on Wildcat Creek, and in 1858 they brought their parents (Amasa and Sally), sister Jennie and brothers Tom and Joe out to the Scott Valley. 
                  While the older boys were farming, the rest of the family had gone into business in Callahan’s Ranch, owning the Callahan’s Ranch Hotel from about 1863 to 1873. 
Denny Bar Store in Callahan, date unknown
Albert Denny came into the mercantile business around 1866 staying with it until his death in 1907.
                  Denny Brothers Stores were originally run by the three brothers – Tom, Joe and Albert.  Stores were in South Fork and Callahan’s, with Albert running the South Fork store and Tom and Joe running the Callahan’s branch.
                  Of interest to note – A. H. Denny qualified as a Justice of the Peace in 1873, the same year that he moved to Callahan’s Ranch and took over that store.  He also was the agent for Wells Fargo.
                  Abe Bar was a boy of sixteen when Albert Denny put him to work in his Callahan’s Ranch store.  He taught him the mercantile business.  The combination of A. H. Denny as head of the company and Abe Bar as general manager was never changed until Albert’s death in 1907.  Under this set-up the Denny Bar Company formed the first chain store in northern California, with nine branches at various times – at Callahan’s, Etna, Fort Jones, Greenview, New River, Gazelle, Yreka, Montague and Cecilville.
                  It was to the branch store in Gazelle
Store in Gazelle
that the forwarding of all of the freight business to their other stores was handled.  In the very heavy winter of 1889-90 the railroad was blockaded for several weeks and the manager of their Gazelle store raised the prices of everything from flour to sugar and other necessities, which riled the people around Gazelle.  A. H. Denny heard of this, came to Gazelle, had him put the prices down and refunded to everyone he could locate who had bought at the inflated prices, which made good feeling again.
                  Three of the Denny Bar Store buildings are still standing.  The Gazelle Denny Bar store stands in the little town of Gazelle along the old Stage Road, the store in Etna that most recently held a drug store, and one in the town of Callahan (formerly Callahan’s Ranch).  It is made of green granite from a local quarry.
                  The Board of Directors of the Denny Bar Company decided in 1928 they could no longer make a profit out of their stores because of mail order competition, so they decided to liquidate.  The last of the Denny Bar stores in Gazelle was put up for sale, but there were no takers at the time.  After several rounds of negotiations the buildings and contents were finally sold in 1936.  The building continued to function as a store until November 1972.
                  The old style general merchandise store that had worked so well in the development of the west was disappearing from the scene.  A safe from the Denny Bar Store was donated to the Siskiyou County Historical Society by Jim Carter and his sister Jeannie Reid, and it resides in the Denny Bar Store building in the Siskiyou County Historical Society’s Outdoor Museum.
                  Much has been written about the Denny Bar Company and its several incarnations.  This information can be found in the Siskiyou County Historical Society’s research library housed in the Siskiyou County Museum.  Information can also be found at the Genealogy Society of Siskiyou County, the public library and Yreka Preservation.

Denny Bar building in Etna in 2015

Store building housed a drug store, closed in 2014

Callahan Denny Bar building in 2015

The Wells Fargo Office was housed in the store building

Fort Jones Denny Bar Store building

Denny Bar Company Store on the right in Fort Jones

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