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JPR Feature
John C. Heenan, Miner and World Heavyweight Champion   
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
By Gail Fiorini-Jenner

John C. Heenan, born in New York in 1833, was an early miner on the Scott River in the 1850s. He was partner to Stephen Crary and then worked for Gus Meamber, who later became prominent in Siskiyou County history.

Twenty-one-year-old Heenan stood 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighed 200 pounds. He dressed well and often wore a Lincoln-like stovepipe hat and swallowtail coat. Everyone in the mining camps liked him, but one night, a group of rowdies decided to challenge him.

It happened at Iunker’s Saloon in Yreka. Seven men entered the bar, locked the door, and grabbed Heenan’s stovepipe hat. Normally considered even-tempered, Heenan quickly over-powered them and threw them into the street.

Heenan later won two fights in San Francisco. Considered a “bare-knuckle” fighter, he traveled to England and fought the world champion – Tom Sayers.  The fight was declared a draw – after 42 rounds – when spectators broke into the ring.  Both contestants were awarded championship belts.  Heenan retired in 1863 after being defeated by English heavyweight Tom King in 24 rounds.

Heenan died in 1873 at age 40 in Green River, Wyo.

Sources: Doggett, Charles D. "My Pioneer Grandfathers." Siskiyou Pioneer Vol. 3, No. 2 1959: 28. Print; "John C. Heenan." Enclyclopaedia Britannica. Web. 15 Aug. 2013. <>.

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