Fruit Growers Supply Company
By Tim I. Purdy
8×11; 164 pages, hardcover,
Sunkist & The Wooden Box
Through the first half of the 20th century the piece of furniture found most often in a newlywed’s home or a college student’s dorm wasn’t really a piece of furniture. It was a wooden box. Turned on its side it held books, knickknacks, canned goods and spices. Covered with cloth it was topped with lamps, flowers and photographs . . . These wooden boxes, now pieces of history were some of the United States first recyclables. Before they found their way into the nation’s homes, they were used to ship the nations produce. One of the most prominent producers of these wooden boxes, were surprisingly a group of California citrus growers.”
And so the story begins with the origin of the California citrus history to the formation of one of the most succesful cooperative marketing associations–The California Fruit Growers Exchange, known simply today as Sunkist.
In 1907, the year the famous trademark Sunkist name was coined, the citrus growers were faced with a lumber shortage of boxes. Prices soared from 12 to 23 cents per box! The box shortage combined with inflated prices, prompted the Exchange to seek alternatives for an adequate supply of boxes. The Exchange formed a separate company to purchase supplies for its growers, and primarily for boxes. On October 5, 1907 the Fruit Growers Supply Company was incorporated.
Fruit Growers first task was to secure boxes for the growers at a reasonable price, which they did sort of. It is from there this work explores Fruit Growers’ Northern California logging and sawmill operations, along with changes in the citrus industry that led to the conversion from wood to cardboard in 1955.
Hilt located two miles south of the Oregon border in Siskiyou County, was Fruit Growers smallest sawmill operation, but operated the longest, for 62 years closing in 1973.
It was Hilt how Fruit Growers entered into the lumber business and not necessarily by choice. The Northern California Lumber Co. owned a mill at Hilt. The Company had financial problems and Fruit Growers loaned them money in return for a supply of boxes. In 1910 the Northern California Lumber was on the verge of bankruptcy and forced Fruit Growers to foreclosed upon the Company.
Once Fruit Growers took over, it also made it the owner of a company town, a unique one too, though it has disappeared like its sawmills. In addition, Fruit Growers was presented with the challenge of logging the rugged Siskiyou Mountains surrounding Hilt.
Distinct of all of its operations was Susanville, in Lassen County , the only mill designed by Fruit Growers. A severe lumber shortage created by World War I and the successful advertising campaign of the Sunkist name required to Fruit Growers to expand its lumber interest. Exchange growers needed 14.8 million boxes compared 6.6 million boxes when Fruit Growers was established.
In 1919 Fruit Growers purchased the Collins Tract in western Lassen County that contained a billion board feet of timber, and thus the Lassen Operation was established. In 1922 Fruit Growers was high bidder of the Pine Creek Unit Timber Sale for an additional billion board feet of timber.
The Lassen Operation unfolds from bonds to box covers, railroad logging camps to logging trucks, to the planned conversion of mill to a paper pulp plant in the 1950s.
In 1940 the citrus industry continued to expand and the Exchange now required 40 million boxes annually. That factor combined with critical demands on the lumber market with World War II forced Fruit Growers to seek additional timber. They bought Red River Lumber Company’s 81,000 acre Burney Tract and its town of Westwood . But changes were on the horizon with growers experimenting with cardboard boxes. Fruit Growers sought an alternative container Craveneer in 1954. That experiment proved futile and in 1955 the citrus industry converted to cardboard and the wooden box retired.
The History of Amedee and Honey Lake
By Tim I. Purdy
7×10; 66 pages, illustrated;
This classic work was Purdy’s humble beginnings. As mentioned elsewhere, about “Buster” McKissick’s exploits, he was also a talented teamster, and Amedee gave him a wonderful place to showcase those skills.
In 1881, Lewis W. Brubeck, grandfather of famed jazz musician Dave Brubeck, located next to a group of hot springs on the east side of Honey Lake.
In 1890, the Nevada-California-Oregon Railroad extended its line north to Brubeck’s and transformed the latter into the commercial hub of Northeastern California, to be named Amedee. It became an overnight boomtown, boasting two hotels, a commercial center, mineral baths and more. The town went into a slump in 1900, when the railroad extended its line north. By 1907, Amedee was in the midst of a revival with the dry farming experience attracting numerous homesteaders to the area. In 1912, it was serviced by another railroad, the Fernely & Lassen. However, the good times did not last long, and by the 1920s, the town was nearly abandoned.
Honey Lake is a remnant of the ancient inland sea known as Lake Lahontan that once covered Northwestern Nevada and portions of Northeastern California. Honey Lake is a playa body of water, at times of drought the lake dries up. When the lake is full it has served many purposes, from one large ice-skating rink, commercial boating enterprises, and of course, its water has been used from reclamation purposes.
Sacred Heart Church
By Tim I. Purdy
6×9; 105 pages; illustrated;
The history of Susanville’s Sacred Heart Church begins with the humble beginning in 1869 when Father Charles Lynch rode horseback from Downieville to Susanville to celebrate the first Mass there to a small contingent of Catholics at the home of Ned Mulroney.
The first segment chronicles the early struggles of the circuit priests whose far flung territory rarely allowed for more than one visit a year to the Honey Lake Valley. Yet, as the community began to grow, so did the Catholic population, prompting them to build their first Church in 1892. That church was dedicated in 1896 as the Church of the Sacred Heart.
In 1912 the Sacred Heart Parish was established comprising the territory of Lassen and Modoc Counties. Father O’Reilly would become the first parish priest, though he would fist reside in Alturas. That would soon change with the arrival of the railroad and lumber mills to Susanville, creating the need for a resident pastor.
Various aspects of the parish history are explored. Examples of such is when Father McCarthy not only went on a campaign to build the Rectory in one month, followed by the next month of the construction of Our Lady of Snows Church at Westwood. There is, of course, the story of then Father Moran’s quest and fulfillment of building the current church among other goals.
The parish organizations, too, have left their imprint on the community. After all, it is the church’s St. Patrick’s Day Dinner, first held in 1917, is the old continuous annual event held in Susanville
Sixty Years of Siffords at Drakesbad
Drakesbad is a unique guest ranch located in the Warner Valley of Lassen Volcanic National Park. In 1900 the Sifford family acquired E.R. Drake’s holdings and began the transformation of developing the resort. Roy Sifford recounts the family operations for the sixty years the family owned Drakesbad.
To accompany his memoirs, are a variety of vintage photographs, plus recollections of people closely associated with Drakesbad—Les Bodine, John Pelkan and Nancy Carruthers Rorty.
Lassen County at 150
April 1st marks Lassen County’s 150th anniversary. My sesquicentennial gift to the county is a quirky, entertaining look of the past 150 years. As Jane Baxton Little of the Sacramento Bee observed: “Purdy, Lassen’s self-appointed historian, juxtaposes the rural area’s colorful history with its not-so-distant past. He pairs a 1910 sighting of the Honey Lake serpent with the Army’s efforts in 2003 to get rid of the lake and its new monster, reportedly oodles of explosive debris from decades of Army operations. Honey Lake eventually was sold to the state for $8.6 million, a figure Purdy reports was redacted in public documents.
“His sardonic account of the cycles of history does not flatter the democratic process. In 1915 voters approved a $125,000 bond to build a new county courthouse. Its $39 million replacement was completed in 2012 without voter approval.”