JOHN J. DIESTELHORST, of Redding, came through the Golden Gate to California and sought a home in this sunny climate in 1851.
He was born in Germany, April 3, 1821, the son of German parents. His father was a carpenter and cabinet-maker. In religious belief he was a Lutheran. Mr. Diestelhorst received his education in his native land; learned his father’s trade, and worked at it there; married Miss Caroline Meine, a native of Germany, and brought her and his two sisters with him to California. After his arrival in this State he worked for six months in San Francisco, and made money. Then he purchased a land claim of 160 acres, and after living on it six months sold it and came to Shasta County and settled in the new town of Shasta. At that time it was a mining town of twenty-three restaurants and private boarding houses, besides a large number of business establishments. It was a place where supplies were obtained, and frequently there would be 500 pack mules in the town at once, and more than 1,000 transient people to be fed. When the table was ready, two men stood at the open door and collected one dollar from each one as he went in to eat, and as soon as the tables were filled the doors were shut and kept so until they were again ready for the crowd. Lumber was twenty-one cents per foot, or $210 per thousand feet.
When Mr. Diestelhorst went to Shasta he was nearly out of money, and they made fifty dollars per week by washing. Seeing the lack of garden stuff and that there would be a great demand for it, he conceived the idea of going into the business of gardening. He purchased a little mule with which he hauled brush from the hills to fence the ground. He asked a teamster what he would charge a load to haul manure to it from a corral near by. His reply was “four dollars per load.” Mr. Diestelhorst helped, and they drew nine loads in the day. He tried to get a reduction in the price, but could not; but this enterprise was a good investment. The lot he had already purchased, so he spaded it up, planted his seeds and raised some fine radishes, lettuce and onions. He had never peddled garden stuff and was ashamed to do it, so he was forced to do it by stern necessity. He suspended two large baskets from his shoulders and these he filled with his garden productions. The lettuce he sold at two bits each, or five for a dollar, and the other vegetables at the same rate. He made several trips that day before the first bell rang for dinner, and he came far from supplying the eager demand. When he went home his wife sat up in bed and asked him how well he had done. He told her to hold her hands, which she did, and he took from his pockets $26 and put in them! For some time after this his little garden yielded $10 each time he gathered the vegetables. In the meantime he purchased some cows and sold milk at $2.50 per gallon.
In 1852 there was a flood that stopped communication, except by swimming the river with the mules. Flour went up to $1 per pound, hay to $400 a ton, barley $600, and other things in proportion. Mr. Diestelhorst says he lost about $1,500 that winter. The Indians stole his mules. With some men to assist him he pursued them, but they succeeded in getting away with one mule and the other they tied to a tree and cut his ham strings, so that he was afterward of little account.
Mr. Dieselhorst purchased four cows and their calves for $380, and sold the calves to the butchers for $100. His cows and his garden brought him $1,000 per month, and he soon recovered what he had lost.
He remained in Shasta County until 1865. Four of his children were born there, namely: Louise, the first while child born in Shasta; William, Justice and Carrie. The following were born at Clover Creek and at Redding: Jennie, Charles and John.
In 1859 he purchased eighty-three acres of land, now included in the corporation of Redding. At that time, however, there was no sign of a town there. He moved to this place, built and improved it, and raised hay, vegetables and other farm products. He sold his farm to his sons and retired from active work. He resides at his home, and still cultivates a nice garden, not from necessity, but to have some pleasing employment to occupy his time. He surprises himself with almost every plant he cultivates. What may be expected, therefore, with a good system of irrigation! Mr. Diestelhorst retains his mental faculties, and is a fine representative of the worthy pioneers of this great State.
In 1889, after a useful and happy life, Mrs. Diestelhorst was called home to her reward. For forty-nine years she was a loving and faithful wife, and her loss was deeply felt by her aged companion, her children and her many friends,. She is buried at Redding.
Source: Memorial and Biographical History
of Northern California, Lewis Publishing Co. , 1891
Transcribed by: Betty Wilson, August 2004