Not far from Igerna, California, the home of the once-missing B.R. Logan, is the city of Yreka. Yreka, now the seat of Siskiyou County, is a place that holds onto its history as part of the Wild West — you can take a walking tour of historic buildings through the city, and municipal websites still tell the tale Mark Twain himself wrote about the town’s naming. With a population of 7,765, it’s a quiet place, held by the low noise of the nearby Shasta River.
Back at the turn of the century, though, Yreka was a gold rush boomtown. The city was founded as a mining settlement in 1851, and it didn’t take long for the bustle to begin. Its streets were full of people; there was a steady stream of immigration, with Chinese communities establishing themselves not long after the town was incorporated. The Yreka Flats, as they came to be known, ended up being a prodigious source of gold, sustaining the town for decades after it was first discovered there.
And that’s where our story begins — just a few years after the greatest game of baseball ever played in Southern Oregon. Our hero, as it turns out, was a resident of Ashland, Oregon, the antagonists in that contest; one imagines him reading the Ashland paper, shaking his head at the violence and treachery of that undefeated Grants Pass team. His name was Billy Hulen, and by the time we meet him in 1906, his titles were already plentiful: “The Kid,” Phillie and Senator, the best left-handed shortstop you’d ever seen, survivor of spring-training malaria, Northwestern League champion, member of the Order of Elks and the Knights of Pythia, and — most importantly — one of the most beloved baseball players up and down the Pacific coast.
He was in Yreka that February tending to his gold claim. One day, he headed north to Seattle on some non-specific business. A month later, no one had heard from him. None of his many friends had seen him — not since he had passed through Ashland without even telling his wife he was going to be in town. And so, on March 20, the call was put out for friends of Billy Hulen — in Vancouver and Everett, Ashland and San Francisco, all the way to St. Louis, where he was under contract for the next season — to begin searching for him. Billy Hulen simply had to be found. Read the rest of this entry »