Category Archives: History

Inspiration Point

Inspiration Point
Inspiration Point, 1930s.
In 1930, the City of Susanville acquired Inspiration Point to become its first municipal park. However, with the nation’s financial crisis, city did not have any spare funds to make improvements. Some relief would come the federal government’s various relief programs, such as the Civil Works Administration. In an effort to put people to work, a project required that sixty-five percent of it be devoted to labor. Under the guidance of B.R. Zimmerman was in charge of crew funded by the C.W.A. to make improvements to Inspiration. This included graveling the road, clearing debris and constructing a retaining with seating arrangements.


Lassen County’s First Courthouse

Lassen County Courthouse, circa 1890s. Assembled are county officials, along with the grand jury.
Those who attended the Centennial Cemetery Tour learned that the first courthouse was held on rented property known as the Magnolia Saloon. In 1867, Henry C. Stockton, one of the original County Commissioners (now Supervisors) voted to award the contract to build the first courthouse to his best friend William Williams for $9,850. Now, we know why public officials file conflict of interest statements. While the amount may seem paltry in today’s dollars, it was a tidy sum then. Money was scarce while the country slowly recovered from the effects of the nation’s Civil War.

The Box Factory

Red River Lumber Company’s Westwood Box Factory, 1915.
One hundred years ago, the major component of the lumber mills was the box factory. It is rather a misnomer, since what was actually manufactured was box shook. Box shook were the various sized wooden slats that are used to make wooden crates, which was how the nation’s fruits and vegetables were then shipped. The shook was shipped to packing houses were they were assembled. To understand the enormity the amount of lumber used to make these boxes, was that during the early 1930s of the great depression over half of lumber produced in the United States was used for box shook. It was not until after World War II that the cardboard box would slowly become the preferred shipping container. In the future we will explore this topic further.


A Milestone

Johnstonville School
Johnstonville School, 1916
Yesterday marked the 1,000th post that started on February 12, 2015. One of those posts concerned Johnstonville School. It was one of the original Lassen County school districts established in 1864, but was originally named Susan River School District. In February 1878, the name was changed to Johnstonville. On January 20, 1961, a groundbreaking ceremony was held to build a new school to replace the old one. School board members, Harry Reuck, Mary Barr and Leroy Cramer, broke the ground for a new four-room schoolhouse which would cost the district $134,518. When completed the old school house located on an adjoining parcel was sold and converted into a private residence.


Murrer Ranch, 1950s.
In the summer of 1863, saw the establishment of Leesburg in the Willow Creek Valley. The Lee family located at the upper end of the valley and built several cabins, providing the nucleus of the community. While Leesburg’s existence was brief, the County of Lassen recognized the settlement. In 1864, the county created its initial voting precincts. The Willow Creek precinct was established and Leesburg was the designated polling place. In 1865, a German immigrant, Ben Neuhaus, located on the abandoned Leesburg outpost and it should be noted that his family still retains ownership, though it is better known as the Murrer Ranch.


Norma and the Eagle Lake Question

Norma at Eagle Lake. Courtesy of Wyn Wachhorst
What would Eagle Lake be like if it were not for Norma? It is something that crossed my mind as I scan the Gallatin photograph collection. Norma Virginia Harvey was born in 1910 at San Francisco, the only grandchild of Malvena Gallatin. It was because of Norma, that Malvena built the first summer home at Eagle Lake in 1913, which she dubbed the Cedar Lodge, but is better known as Gallatin House. For the remainder of that decade the extended Gallatin clan were frequent visitors at Eagle Lake. At that the time the house was constructed Eagle Lake kept rising to historic high levels and this troubled Malvena. After all, a portion of her timberland along the lakeshore was flooded. In 1914, she invited a civil engineer by the name of Leon Bly to Eagle Lake to see about reviving the failed attempts to tap Eagle Lake for irrigation, that at the same time would regulate the level of the lake. Bly’s tunnel and a twenty year drought would greatly reduce the water level of the lake. By the 1920s, the Gallatin’s visits were few and far between. In the 1930s, Malvena attempted to sale her Eagle Lake property to a developer, but it failed due to the low water level of the lake. In 1944, Norma passed away, and that Christmas Malvena returned to Cedar Lodge for the last time. In 1946, Malvena sold all of her Eagle Lake holdings except for her summer home that eventually would be given to Norma’s son. Thus, Norma’s birth led to an interesting chain of events at Eagle Lake.


Susanville – 601 Cottage Street

601 Cottage Street. Courtesy of JoAnn Uptegrove
In all honesty, there is no 601 Cottage Street anymore, because it is now a parking lot of LMUD, though the house that was originally there was moved a short distance to 607 Cottage Street in 1939. Built in 1901, it was the Koken residence for many years. In 1939, Safeway began construction of a new grocery store on Roop Street. They had the residence to moved to its current location and it was J.R. Packwood who added the second story.


Bank of America Closes

Bank of America, 1971.
Today, the Susanville branch of Bank of America closes. The nearest branches are now in Red Bluff and Reno. It was in the summer of 1928 when the bank began negotiations with the Lassen Industrial Bank to take over that troubled institution, which you will note that it was before the 1929 stock market crash. The Lassen Industrial Bank was noted for its liberal loan policies, but that was not the entire problem. Leon Bly’s failed Eagle Lake project took a major toll on the agricultural community and numerous farmers and ranchers defaulted on their loans. The bottom line, on December 1, 1928, Bank of America took over the Lassen Industrial Bank and its iconic two-story brick building on the corner of Main and Gay Streets.


The Non-Existant Pioneer Cemetery

Susanville Cemetery entrance prior to the February 5, 2015 windstorm
This is just a pet-peeve of mine. What really galls me is it origins are the Lassen County Historical Society, of all institutions. It seems as there is an individual(s) who refer to the Susanville Cemetery as the Pioneer Cemetery and from time to time it gets picked up by the local media using that reference It is not, nor will it ever be the Pioneer Cemetery, nor is there a cemetery in all of Lassen County that has that distinction. Furthermore, if you use Asa Fairfield’s definition of pioneer, he refers that the pioneer era for the region ended in 1870. Thus, more than ninety percent of those interred there are not from the pioneer era.


Remembering the Fallen

The send off at the Susanville Depot. Courtesy of Lola L. Tanner
For some, they may wonder where the year went as November is upon us. This month, of course, we observe two important holidays—Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving Day.

It was in November 1919 when President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the 11th as Armistace Day, to observe the first anniversary when fighting ceased in World War I, then known to many at that time as the Great War.

The United States entry into World War I occurred in April 1917. At that time there was an all out effort throughout the nation to seek volunteers to fight in the war. On August 10, 1917 sixty-five men from Lassen, Modoc and Plumas Counties gathered at Susanville’s Methodist Church for roll call as members of Battery F, Second Light Artillery Division. Afterwards the men marched down Susanville’s Main Street and proceeded to the Southern Pacific Depot to begin their journey to fight in the Great War. The initial group were dubbed the “grizzilies,” who originated the monicker is not known.

In late 1918, discussions were held in Susanville as to what type of memorial should be erected for all the men from Lassen County who perished in the war. It was first proposed that a monument be built on the bluff overlooking Susanville, that would be “inspirational.” Thus, this local landmark finally was given the name of Inspiration Point, and would later become Susanville’s first city park. For reasons unknown, no action was ever taken on this proposal.

The issue, however, did not go away. In 1922, saw the construction of the Highway 36 into Susanville at its western end. It was at this point where a bronze plaque was placed with the names of the fallen. The plaque remained there until 1966 when the highway underwent numerous improvements and it was removed and given to the Lassen County Historical Society. This organization still possesses it, though not on display.

However, the story does not end there. In 1940, the United States was gearing up to enter World War II, and patriotic fever was on the rise. Even though a bronze plaque had been placed at the head of Susanville’s Main Street, as previously mentioned, the local American Legion Post wanted to do a living memorial.

As part of a beautification project around the Lassen County Courthouse square, the legion decided to plant sixteen American sycamore trees, one each for every Lassen County man that perished in the war. It was their intention to place a small brass plaque at the base of each tree with that service man’s name. However, only one was done for Thomas Tucker, for whom the local American Legion Post was named for. Events changed rapidly and all energies were focused on the war effort, so placing of additional markers would have to wait for another time. By the time the war had ended, the project, like so many other community projects were forgotten.

The following is the list of names of the men from Lassen County who died in World War I: Harry Fitzhugh McKinsey, Clyde A. McKea, Howard Edward Waller, Frank Fleener Woodmansee, Irving R. Bullock, Thomas Tucker, George David Hatch, Thomas Jefferson Cary, Russell Ore Landis, George Roy Metcalf, Joe Carretto, Charles David McNamee, William W. Mankins, Howard S. Wilson, Guiseppe Ellena and Carl C. Bearup.