Even today people ask how Greenhorn Creek, an early mining district south of Yreka, Calif., got its name.
The most colorful story was related by a Mr. Bean and Bill McConnell, who were among the first miners on the creek. They said they were working their claims one day when an Englishman appeared with “a good outfit of mules, saddle horses, etc...” The Englishman stopped to watch as Bean and McConnell sluiced and panned their claim and asked why they were “mixing dirt with water.”
Bean explained that to separate the gold they had to wash away the dirt and gravel. The Englishman asked where he might settle and take up his own mining claim. Bean cleverly pointed up the hill to a spot he thought very unlikely to produce gold, and, to add insult to injury, said the gold might be found “up there under the oak tree.”
The Englishman took the advice and began “scratching” around the tree. As luck would have it, he struck a very rich channel, which produced about $7,000 in gold. The creek was dubbed Greenhorn, because a greenhorn had indeed stumbled across good luck.
Source: Herzog, Frank. "Greenhorn Creek Gold Mining." The Siskiyou Pioneer and Yearbook, vol. Two, no. 10 , 1957, pp. 66-67.