Tag Archives: Agricultural

Dodgeville – Lassen County

Ward Lake, October 26, 1969. Photo by D.B. Martin
This was the name of the construction camp of the Balls Canyon Reservoir Company. Established in 1889, when construction of a dam across the lower end of Secret Creek, near Belfast, to capture the spring floodwaters to create Ward Lake. It was named for Edmund R. Dodge was the President of the Company. Dodge, it should be noted wrote the Lassen County segment of Farris & Smith Illustrated History of Plumas, Lassen and Sierra Counties, 1882, among other things.

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Ash Valley

Ash Valley School
Ash Valley School, as viewed from the cemetery, 2002.
Ash creek and valley were named by Adin G. McDowell who settled along its banks in 1869, establishing what became the town of Adin. Those not familiar with the valley it is located between Adin and Madeline. In 1869, Solomon Geller, one of the Madeline Plains first settlers, had the distinction of being Ash Valley’s first Anglo resident. By 1873, Geller had plenty of company with the arrival of Walter Briscoe, David Finnegan, Peter Hagan, George Sturdevant, Milbern Hill and Joseph Richardson, mostly bachelors as he was—a stigma the valley would carry for many years. Hagan received the distinction of being the first person buried there in 1878, and thus the Ash Valley Cemetery was established. These gentlemen would soon witness the arrival of the Bath and Fulstone families, whose descendants continue to ranch there.
In 1892, the Adin Argus correspondent provided the following glimpse of the conditions found at Ash Valley: “Farming in the Valley has been looked upon as unprofitable for years past but experience has taught us differently. Every old plow has got the rust of idleness knocked off and assumes a brightness equal to the owner’s ambition. The fact is, if a rancher can cut two tons of hay off one acre of land by plowing and sowing, it will surely cost less than to cut two acres of swamp land for one ton of hay and get a much poorer quality of hay. We would harvest lots of grain in our valley if a market could be had. Mr. Spooner has enough oats on hand at present to supply Lassen County for a year.
“Mr. Moll is waiting for favorable weather when he will commence to sow his wild oats for experiment. Mrs. Spooner is having an addition built to their residence and improvements in the shape of building will be lively soon. Mr. Moll will soon have a new one under headway, and if we could get lumber, there would be still more hammers in use. Mr. R. F. Comfort will have his house finished in a short time. There are more old bachelors in our Valley to the square inch than in any other part of the State, and still we don’t seem to catch on. But still we all wear a smile that denotes happiness and content and live to forget the past and look to the bright side of the future.
“Big Valley and especially Adin, ought to be proud of its neighbor, Ash Valley, it being the prettiest in the northern part of the State, corralled by one side by juniper capped hills and on the other by lofty pines for which the Sierras are widely noted. It furnishes the water to run their mills, trout for its angler’s good sport, water for stock and in fact, the best of society.”

Harvesting the Crops

The last memoirs of the late Glenn Wemple.
Harvesting the Crops: the Final Recollections of a Milford Rancher are the memoirs of the late Glenn Wemple which was released last month. Glenn wrote and many a soul has experienced this a similar episode: “As I have written earlier I always said I was never going to be a rancher, but honestly I didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do. Thanksgiving dinner in 1950 was the turning point in my adult life.” For those interested the publication is available in Susanville at Margie’s Book Nook.

Decious Ranch

Decious Ranch, 1886. Courtesy of Judith Matley Gibbons
In 1875 Joseph Decious purchased 213 acres five miles north of Milford. It was in a primitive state, only a small portion was under cultivation, and a log house for a dwelling. This would, of course, change over time. In his 1906 biography he boasted: “Visitors to the ranch notice with interest, on the shore of Honey Lake, the only steamer that ever sailed upon its waters, a small craft built in 1895, capacity thirty thousand pounds, which has been used principally for the bringing of freight to the residents of the valley.” In addition, his biography noted he had rented the ranch and retired to Chico, before he was sixty years of age.

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Willow Creek Valley, 1915

Haying York Ranch, Willow Creek Valley, 1912. Courtesy of Hazel Moller
This is a continuation of excerpts from spring the pamphlet entitled Lucky Land of Lassen that was produced and distributed at the Panama Pacific International Exposition that was held in San Francisco during 1915.

“Willow Creek Valley is situated about ten miles north of Susanville and contains some 15,000 acres of agricultural and meadow land. Here is an abundance of water for irrigation, derived from Willow Creek, which heads hear Eagle Lake and flows through the valley on its way to Honey Lake and from Round Valley Reservoir, situated in the mountains south of the valley. Its principal industry is stock raising, although considerable grain and alfalfa is grown and on the north side in the rich peat land vegetables grow to perfection.”

This is a continuation of excerpts from spring the pamphlet entitled Lucky Land of Lassen that was produced and distributed at the Panama Pacific International Exposition that was held in San Francisco during 1915.

“Willow Creek Valley is situated about ten miles north of Susanville and contains some 15,000 acres of agricultural and meadow land. Here is an abundance of water for irrigation, derived from Willow Creek, which heads hear Eagle Lake and flows through the valley on its way to Honey Lake and from Round Valley Reservoir, situated in the mountains south of the valley. Its principal industry is stock raising, although considerable grain and alfalfa is grown and on the north side in the rich peat land vegetables grow to perfection.”

A Belfast Revival

Belfast Land Company subdivision map.
In the spring of 1922, with the anticipation of the completion of the Bly Tunnel brought Belfast to the forefront. Captain C.A. Merrill one of the original instigators of the tapping of Eagle Lake spent twenty-five years on the project that in hopes one day it would be transformed into a major agricultural center. Charles Emerson and D.G. Beale plan to resurrect Merrill’s dream by acquiring 4,360 acres at Belfast from the B.F. Porter Estate. It was their intention to form a “colony” and sell 40-acre tracts. The two men formed the Belfast Land Company to orchestrate their goal. The major obstacle, of course, was financing. The Porter Estate wanted $100,000 for the property and the Belfast Land Company could not arrange financial backing.

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Eagle Lake Pumping Plant

Dodge’s Bay, Eagle Lake, 1916
Before there was a completed tunnel at Eagle Lake, there was one company, the Eagle Lake Land & Irrigation Company who successfully tapped the lake and sent water flowing all the way to the Honey Lake Valley at Amedee. They did this a Hooker Hydraulic pump that had the capacity to move 60,000 gallons of water per minute. In summer of 1892, it was installed on the eastshore at Dodge’s Bay. While it was being installed, twenty-one miles of irrigation canal was constructed. On September 15, 1892, it was tested and water was sent flowing to Amedee—a reality. The company considered it a temporary measure—one to raise funds while they would embark on their own tunnel near the same location as the pumping plant. The company was so far in debt that in 1894 it was shut down. In 1903, the machinery from the plant was hauled to the Wilson sawmill near Susanville.

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Jensen Barn

The Jensen barn, 1900. Courtesy of Abe Jensen
The Jensen barn, 1900. Courtesy of Abe Jensen

Over the course of time the region has seen a wide variety of barn styles. Some had lasted through time and others not, for one reason or another.

In 1864, a German immigrant, Jurgen Jensen located in Susanville, where entered into a partnership with William Brockman, to operate a blacksmith shop. In the ensuing years, the two men, went off on their own, each locating on property along Johnstonville Road.

In 1891, Jensen had a large three-story barn built on his ranch. On September 11, 1923, the barn was destroyed by fire and it was believed to be caused by spontaneous combustion. Stored inside was 200 tons of hay, valued at that time around $3,500. The barn was insured for $1,500, but it was not enough to cover the cost to replace it.

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Farmer’s Market

Susanville Main Street, 1924.

Susanville’s Farmers Market returns today for the season. It is temporary being relocated on North Gay Street, next to the Bank of America parking lot, while Pancera Plaza is being renovated.

It was my intent to share some interesting historical production figure from the Honey Lake Valley agricultural community in the 1920s.  However, I have misplaced my notes. I was hoping to locate them over Memorial Day weekend, since I tackled a backlog of filings, but they did not surface. When they do, I will post the same.

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Chicken Nuggets

Vic Perry’s Store on Wheels, Standish, 1911. Courtesy of Alphozene Terril

This story has nothing to do with the kind of chicken nuggets people purchase at fast food outlets. Early on in my research career, I heard a lot of stories, some were true and others, not, but nonetheless they were good tales.

One particular tale was told to me many times, and that a particular incident occurred more frequently especially in the Gold Run and Richmond area. It was not unusual for a person who while prepping a chicken to eat, during the dressing stage, would find a small gold nugget stuck in the chicken’s craw. To add credence to this story, I came across the following tidbit:  Lassen Advocate,  March 25, 1897 – Vic Perry, the rustling poultry and egg denier, so reports say, recently killed and dressed a chicken for market, in the craw of which he found two dollars and seventeen cents worth of gold. We do not mention the matter as one that is particularly noticeable in this section, however remarkable it might be in other localities but simply present it as an ordinary every day sort of a fact.

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