This, the northeastern county of the State, is
bounded on the north by the State of Oregon, on the east by the State of Nevada,
on the south by Plumas County,
and on the west by Siskiyou.
It is rectangular in shape, measures nearly one hundred miles east and west, by
nearly sixty north and south, and contains 2,750,000 acres. It was originally a
portion of Siskiyou but was erected into a separate county by an Act of the
Legislature of 1874, receiving its name from the celebrated Indian tribe whose
fierce resistance to the progress of the whites in their settlement of the
country made this section notorious over the wild United States, the theatre of
the famous “Modoc War” being in the northwestern part of the county and the
adjoining part of Oregon.
There is a good wagon road extending through the valley and thence to Reno, over which a daily stage line plies, and three wagon roads cross the mountains through easy passes to the west, giving perfect communication with the balance of the county. The climate of Modoc is exceedingly healthy. The summers are pleasant, and in the valleys during the winters the snow rarely falls over a foot in depth.
Modoc County, California was created in February 17, 1874, from the eastern section of Siskiyou County. It was first purposed to name the new county "Canby" for General who lost his life in the Modoc Indian War. Later name "Summit" was suggested but there were many objections and it was finally named Modoc.
Modoc County is a land which the Indians called "The Smiles of God" and so intense was their love for this land of ragged lava plateaus, fertile valleys and towering mountains that many hundreds of these aboriginal inhabitants defended it to their death against the invasion of the white man. Because of those fierce Indian wars between 1848 and 1911, this area was once referred to as the Bloody Ground of the Pacific.
It was felt that the land which is now known as Modoc County, underwent more government changes in its time than any other county in the state.
In the beginning, Modoc was a part of the Utah Territory, and then transferred into the Nevada Territory when it was created. When Nevada became a state, Modoc County was placed within the boundaries of California, becoming a part of Shasta County.
Shasta County contained what is now Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama, Lassen and Modoc counties. Shasta County was divided into two counties in 1852, Shasta and Siskiyou, with Modoc being placed in Siskiyou County.
In 1872, an effort was made by the residents of Surprise Valley, along with others who had settled in this area, to form a new county. On February 17, 1874, a bill was passed and signed by then Governor Newton Booth authorizing the formation of a new county -- Modoc.
An election was held on May 5, 1874, to elect county officials and to select a county seat. Lake City received the highest votes as to being the county seat; however, the county fathers decided to Make Dorris Bridge (now Alturas) the county seat, as it contained the majority of people. It was also felt that Dorris Bridge would serve the interests of the new county to better advantage than Lake City, as it was located at the crossroads of the main north-south and east-west routes.
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