James Drummond Blair was born in the
Raloo, County Antrim, northern Ireland September 27, 1829. He was the son of
Patrick and Janet (Drummond) Blair. He was named in honor of
his mother's brother, James Drummond. As a young boy James came to America
in 1835 with his
father and step-mother, Mary Sloan Bell.. He grew to manhood on the
family farm in Woodcock township, Crawford County, Pennsylvania.
When James came of age he moved to Illinois and
when gold was discovered in California
in 1849 he made plans to head West in search of his fortune. He made the long and
difficult overland trip in 1851, staking his claim on Whiskey Creek in northern California.
Gold had been discovered there in 1850. Whiskey Creek was so called
because a barrel of whiskey dropped off a mule-back, burst and wasted its
heartening contents in the flowing stream. A town named Whiskeytown, took root nearby. A post office
was established in 1856, but later postal authorities rejected the convivial title and
substituted the name of "Blair", named after James Drummond Blair's wife, Eunice
(Crocker) Blair, who was the postmistress at the time. The Blair name did not stick and
after being called "Stella" and Schilling" it eventually regained its
original title of "Whiskeytown". Today the town's remains rest
near the waters of
Shasta Lake which was formed when the
Shasta Dam was built
1938-1950. The area around the lake is now known as the
Whiskeytown Shasta Trinity
National Recreation Area.
James was not a man to wait for his fortune to
wash down a creek. He had many entrepreneurial pursuits in his lifetime. He
worked as a cooper (barrel maker), butcher, miner and proprietor of the Whiskeytown Hotel
and the Blair's Saloon. A 1881 newspaper ad for the Blair's Saloon shows that he offered
the choicest wines, liquors, brandies and cigars. James also held public office as a
County Supervisor for Shasta County and was a master of Western Star Lodge No. 2, F
&A. M. of Shasta.
Finding a wife in a mining town where up to 1856
no woman had graced its streets, was not an easy task. James was nearly forty years old
before he settled down and started his family. On May 12, 1869 he was joined in
marriage to Eunice Francis Crocker. Eunice was the 16 year old daughter of James'
friend, Everett Frances Crocker. The new family took up residence in Whiskeytown and
nine children were born to the couple, six sons and three daughters. Of the sons,
James Drummond Blair Jr. died in childhood and of the five remaining sons, four died as
young adults and the fifth never married. The only descendants today are those of the
three daughters; Mattie, Eunice and Adeline.
James died in Whiskeytown on September 2, 1892
after an extended illness. Eunice died at her daughters home in Alameda, California
on May 21, 1930. James, Eunice, their six sons and one daughter-in-law are all
buried in the Shasta Masonic and IOOF
cemetery in Shasta, California.