Camp Smoke Creek

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Camp Smoke Creek

Camp Smoke Creek is located about 5 miles [1] east of the California-Nevada border at 40.5530556, -119.9494444.[2]

Sheet 47b of Wheeler's survey shows the location of the depot.

Carlson states that Camp Smoke Creek was established on December 5, 1862 and was located near a stage station, 5 miles east of the California line. [3] The stage station was Smoke Creek Station.

Tim Purdy has the date as December 15, 1862 when Second Lieutenant Henry Williams and twenty-five men arrived at Smoke Creek Station and set up camp [4]

On December 22, 1862 Captain Mellen wrote:

"I have instructed Lieutenant Williams to consider all Indians found in arms, either on the road or in its immediate vicinity, as hostile, and to kill them without any reference to depredations committed, and I consider that they will not be found there unless they mean mischief."[5]

Shooting death of John Smith

On January 17, 1863, Lt. Williams shot and killed Private John Smith. A newspaper clipping states that "Henry A. Williams" of "Snake Creek" of "Co. C 2d C V":

"while engaged in a game of cards with some of his command got into a dispute about the game, when Williams drew his pistol and shot private John Smith dead. Lieut. Williams has left in the direction of Humboldt, N. T."[6]

His full name was Henry W. Williams. We know this because the index (p. 1384) of the "The War of Rebellion",[5] states "Williams, Henry W. Mentioned ... 258, 259" and Lieutenant Williams of Smoke Creek is mentioned on pages 258 and 259.)

The 1870 California Journals of the Senate and Assembly have Smith being killed at Fort Crook or Deep Hole.[7]

In early February, Williams was found sitting at campfire 70 miles north of Unionville.[8]

Nevada Volunteers

Camp Smoke Creek was manned by California Volunteers until October 22, 1863, when Lt. Firman and fifty men of the Nevada Volunteer Cavalry Company D were ordered to replace them. [9]

On December 20, 1863, four soldiers deserted from Camp Smoke Creek. They were pursued by four soldiers who caught up with them twice with at least twenty-five shots exchanged. The deserters eventually escaped and were never brought to justice.[9]

At the end of 1863 Lt. Firman was relieved by Lt. Jewett.[9]

First Lieutenant Oscar Jewett was given orders on March 28, 1864 to leave the camp and remove any property of value.[4]

Camp Pollock

The news of the troop withdrawal prompted a prompted petitions requesting that the camp be re-manned.[10]

Captain Almond B. Wells arrived at Smoke Creek on June 26, 1864 and established Camp Pollock.[4]

Ruhlen also describes Camp Pollock (June-July 1864) as being near Smoke Creek Camp, but that Pollock[11](40.5508333, -119.9480556) was on the California-Nevada line that had recently been surveyed.

In the summer of 1864, half of the soldiers stationed at Camp Pollock deserted. After that, troops were rotated through every 2-3 weeks.[4]

The camp was closed in May 1866. One reason was because Fort Bidwell was established, which helped prevent attacks on travelers. Another reason is that the Civil War ended. During the war, travelers who passed through the camp were required to pledge an oath of allegiance. An important goal of the camp was to prevent gold from being smuggled to the confederacy.[4][12]

Another report states that the camp was abandoned by an order given on August 6, 1966.[13]

Note that "The Sagebrush Soldiers"[9] and Michno[14] both refer to the camp as "Pollack" instead of "Pollock". However, the GNIS uses "Camp Pollock".[11]

Smoke Creek Station Cemetery

The following people are buried at the Smoke Creek Station Cemetery.[15]

  • January 18, 1863, Private John Smith, shot by his commanding officer Lt. Henry W. Williams. (See above)
  • November 9, 1863, Private Gustavus W. Platt died from typhoid fever.
  • July 3, 1864, Sergeant William McCoy, age 28, died of an unknown illness.
  • November 17, 1865, Private David O’Connell killed in action near Black Rock at the Pine Forest battle (Battle Creek Ranch).

The cemetery was found by the Lassen County Historical Society in 1964. In 1968, the society erected a cross at that location.


  1. "Early Nevada Forts," Colonel George Ruhlen, p. 55, Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, Volume VII, Number 3-4, 1964. Camp Smoke Creek (1862-1866)
  2. Smoke Creek Camp (historical), 858594, GNIS. "History: temporary military camp and depot, 1862-1863", "Original Citation: Rand McNally and Co. 'Pocket Map and Shippers Guide of Nevada', New York, 1901, 20 pages, plus plate, 1 inch = 27 miles."
  3. Helen S. Carlson, "Nevada Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary," p. 27, 1973.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Camp Smoke Creek," Tim Purdy, April 29, 2015.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies," 1897.
  6. "From Fort Churchill," Marysville Daily Appeal, p. 3, January 24 1863.
  7. "Appendix to the Journals of the Senate and Assembly, Volume 2 California Legislature, p. 123, 1870.
  8. "Items of Interest,", Santa Cruz Weekly Sentinel, p. 2, February 7, 1863.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 "The Sagebrush Solidiers, Ch V. Early Activities of the Nevada Volunteers," Philip Dodd Smith, Jr., Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, pp. 32-36, Vol. 5, No.3-4, 1962. See also description of the arrest of a Confederate Sympathizer.
  10. "The War of the Rebellion: Formal reports, both Union and Confederate, of the first seizures of United States property in the Southern States (53 v. in 111)," United States War Department, Robert Nicholson Scott, 1897.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Camp Pollock (historical)," 857320, GNIS. "Original Citation:Rand McNally and Co. 'Pocket Map and Shippers Guide of Nevada', New York, 1901, 20 pages, plus plate, 1 inch = 27 miles."
  12. "Bitter Pill," Marysville Daily Appeal, p. 2, November 4, 1863.
  13. Trailing Sheep from California to Idaho in 1865: The Journal of Gorham Gates Kimball," Edward N. Wentworth, Agricultural History, Vol. 28, No. 2, April 1954, p 64.
  14. "The Deadliest Indian War in the West", Gregory Michno, pp. 64-65, 2007.
  15. "Smoke Creek Cemetery," Tim Purdy, May 30, 2022.

See Also