Category Archives: History

Railroads

Davis Cut, Fernley & Lassen
Davis Cut near Susanville of the Fernley & Lassen Railroad, 1912

Well, now that I have included future topics on logging, mining and ranching, I need to add another—railroads. It is hard to imagine in this day and age just how important railroads were for development. In certain ways you could compare it to the internet of the 1800s and for a large part of the 1900s. Railroads were one of the most efficient ways to move goods and people. Without rail transportation, growth was stymied. This was particularly true in Lassen when politics versus common sense bypassed Lassen with the transcontinental railroad. After all which would be cheaper to build and maintain a railroad over Fredonyer Pass/Deer Creek as originally surveyed versus Donner?

Four railroads would build through Lassen—Nevada-California-Oregon, Fernley & Lassen (Southern Pacific), Western Pacific and Great Northern. In addition, Fruit Growers, Lassen Lumber and Red River operated their own logging railroads, so a lot of old iron horsepower was put to work. Stay tuned for more on this topic.

 

Hat Creek Power

Hat Creek No. 1
Hat Creek Powerhouse No. 1, 1921. Courtesy of Lola L. Tanner

The Red River Lumber Company operated many enterprises and it still as an influence concerning electricity to many residents of the region. From time to time when the Susanville area has a power outage, many times there will be a reference to the Hat Creek line. So you may ponder how did Hat Creek come to be? Continue reading Hat Creek Power

Willow Creek School

Willow Creek School 1886
Willow Creek School 1886

In the spring of 1871, the residents of Willow Creek Valley constructed and operated a private school at the west end of the valley near the Murrer Ranch. Miss Fanny Lovell was employed to teach the first classes. In June 1871, residents petitioned the Lassen County Board of Supervisors for the formation of a school district and that was granted. It was not until 1877, when John Dobler donated the land that the school was built on, with a stipulation that the property would revert back to him or his heirs when it was no longer used for a school. Continue reading Willow Creek School

Poison Lake

Poison Lake
Poison Lake, 1916

A shallow lake, along Highway 44, with water that was found to be unfit to drink by the emigrants on the Lassen Trail. The travelers also found that Lassen’s Trail was not “fit” for travel either. In 1916, it was part of the Honey Lake Valley Irrigation District’s scheme to tap into this other lakes and small streams, to transport it all the way to the east side of the Honey Lake Valley for reclamation purposes.

Jacks Valley

Jacks Valley, 1921
The cement water trough at Jacks Valley, 1921

In 1865, John C. Wright located on the abandoned homestead of Thomas Pearson, who had perished in a snowstorm on New Years Day 1865. Wright as known locally was Coyote Jack, and hence the name of Jacks Valley. In 1869, he left for parts unknown. By 1880, this had become a crossroads for travelers as five different roads converged in the valley. Frank Fluery took advantage of the opportunity provided by this unique junction and established a saloon. In 1884, as one of Fluery’s patrons noted: “. . . for ten cents he will give you enough to make you happy to cause you to forget all your trials, troubles and tribulations for a time.” In 1889, Fluery sold to A. J. Conklin who operated the saloon for a number of years. In 1907, Conklin ventured into the lumber business and built a sawmill that had a daily capacity of 15,000 board feet. In 1920, Conklin sold the sawmill to William Johnson. Johnson operated the mill for three years and then sold to the Red River Lumber Company who immediately closed it. In August 1926, a forest fire ravaged the region that encompassed some 20,000 acres. The following year, the Red River Lumber Company established logging Camp 70 to salvage the burnt timber. This was one of that Company’s earliest truck logging camps. While those enterprises have long since faded into oblivion, a cement water trough remains and is still a recognized feature to travelers. In 1913, Thomas Hill and the County of Lassen constructed the water trough. For early motorists, it was a wonderful blessing, a source of water for overheated automobiles making the trip up Antelope Grade.  For the next 80 years it was popular stop to drink the water and take a break, though it appears the water line has been disconnected. The trough is located ten miles north of Susanville on Highway 139. To learn more about other places throughout Lassen County see the Lassen County Almanac.

Potter’s Maternity Plaque

Potter's Maternity Home
Pottter’s Maternity Home

As many may be aware, Rite Aid plans a 17,400 square foot building on the 1600 block of Susanville. All the buildings on that block are scheduled to a be demolished. I do not have any problem with this, in fact I am favor of the project. My only concern is the bronze plaque at the bank be saved and incorporated in the new enterprise. Anyone who is concerned needs to contact Craig Sanders at the City of Susanville to express your concern. The details of the project can be found here.

 

 

Roop’s Sawmill

Roop's Mill
Roop’s mill taken in the early 1860s

In the spring of 1857, Ephraim Roop, Isaac Roop, and William McNaull constructed the first sawmill in Lassen County, along the Susan River at a place that would later become known as Hobo Camp. In November 1860, Perry Craig fell out of a boat at the millpond and drowned. Craig was buried on top of the hillside near the river, and from that episode the Susanville Cemetery was created. On August 18, 1862, Roop & Company sold the mill to Luther Spencer for $200. Spencer operated the mill until it was destroyed by fire in the spring of 1868.

Mining

Hayden Hill 1894
Hayden Hill, 1894

Besides exploring logging and ranching, from time to time, Lassen has an interesting mining history. Unlike our neighbors to the west, where mining had a major influence on their development, that was not necessarily case in Lassen. However, it was a mining excitement of 1856 along Diamond Mountain that brought the first wave of settlers to the Honey Lake Valley. Many of those gold seekers soon gave up mining and developed other interests in the region. However, the Diamond Mountain Mining District remained active until 1942, when President Roosevelt’s Executive Order curtailed gold mining. The other hot spot for mining was Hayden Hill, 55 miles north of Susanville. It gained in prominence in 1870 and would go through many boom and bust cycles.

 

Camp 33 – Red River

Camp 33
Camp 33

Red River operated numerous logging camps from 1913 through 1944 when it sold to Fruit Growers. The camps were assigned numbers, though in no particular order. The majority of the camps were short lived and only had a span of one to maybe three years. One of the more interesting camps was Camp 33, but referred to as Town Camp, as it was located less than a mile west of Westwood. What made it unique was that Red River’s company town of Westwood would experience from time to time a housing shortage for its employees. On occasion, this camp was used to house mill workers instead of loggers.