Tag Archives: Agricultural

Leavitt City


Stock corrals at Leavitt, circa 1922.
Stock corrals at Leavitt, circa 1922.

In the fall of 1912, Benjamin H. Leavitt proposed the town on his original ranch. Leavitt wrote to his granddaughter, Edith Elledge, of his intentions: “I am going to cut the old ranch up into small tracts and sell it off in ten and twenty acre tracts . . . I am also building a road down from Rice’s Canyon, you know that is directly north of the town of Leavitt, to connect with all the northern trade clear out to Big Valley. The R.R. Co. have agreed to put their stock yards there. I have given them the land for the stock yards. I am also going to extend the road through the ranch to intercept the Janesville Road near Billey Indian. All the merchants of Janesville have agreed to order their good shipped to Leavitt which will make it one of the largest shipping points on the Fernley & Lassen.”

In addition, Leavitt offered railroad officials land if they would construct their roundhouse there. That proposition did not occur as Susanville’s business community convinced the railroad to locate that operation in their town. “The City” consisted of only the store, a few dwellings, and several large corrals that held livestock for shipment on the railroad.

Yet, years later, one could say a city of sorts of was built just north of Leavitt, the home of the California Conservation Center and High Desert State prisons.

Don’t forget to examine the Subscribe feature.

Said Valley Reservoir

Said Valley Dam
Collapse of the Said Valley Dam, May 8, 1938. Courtesy of Betty Barry Deal

In September 1885, James W. Shanklin constructed the first reservoir for irrigation and stock purposes at his ranch in Grasshopper Valley. That dam was 25 feet high and 300 feet across. Over the years it had numerous owners. In 1934, it was purchased by George Heath, who became the owner of this reservoir as well as one on nearby Slate Creek. As early as 1929, the State Department of Water Resources stated neither dam was in compliance and requested that spillways be constructed for each reservoir. The winter of 1937-38 was one of the wettest on record for the 20th century and, in Susanville, 33.68 inches of precipitation was measured. On May 8, 1938, the dam at Said Valley breached and caused considerable flood damage. On August 24, 1939, Heath sued Percy L. Castro for $50,000 in damages that were caused by dam failures. It was Heath’s contention that, since Castro leased the reservoirs and his Grasshopper Ranch, it was his duty to install the spillways that the Department of Resources requested. However, during the Department of Water Resources investigation, it was noted that even if the proper spillway had been installed at Said Valley, it would still have failed because of defects in the dam’s original foundation. The court ruled in favor of Castro and stated it was Heath’s responsibility and ordered Heath to pay Castro’s court costs. The dam was rebuilt, albeit on a smaller scale.


Unfortunately, not the best photograph of Spoonville.

This was a small town located several miles northeast of Janesville on the way to Standish. In 1897, William E. Spoon established the Honey Lake Creamery near the Missouri Bend School. Spoon also opened a general store and, for a time, it was operated by the Christie Brothers. Thus the nucleus of a town was formed. In 1903, Robert Dunn built the 20-room Spoonville Hotel. On May 29, 1905, Spoon sold his remaining interests there to Ebenezer Cooley Brown, for an undisclosed amount. Though a small town, with less than thirty inhabitants, it was the “corporate” headquarters of the Lassen Mill & Lumber Company, Baxter Creek Irrigation Company and the Pacific Coast Bear Club. Members of the Pacific Coast Bear Club included such dignitaries as President Theodore Roosevelt and Nevada Governor John Sparks. In 1913, the town’s name was changed to Edgemont, as part of a real estate promotion scheme. M.E. “Mul” Mulroney, a native of Spoonville, recalled the town was already in decline and the name change did nothing to correct the situation. In addition, Mul stated that in the early 1920s the second story of the Dunn Hotel was removed and the building was converted into a dance hall. He further stated it was torn down sometime in the 1930s.

Spoonville Map
One afternoon, many yeas ago, Mul Mulroney and I sketched a rough map of Spoonville. B=Barn, C=Creamery and S=School (Missouri Bend)

Buggytown Ditch

Buggytown Ditch
Survey crew to enlarge the Buggytown ditch near Johnstonville, 1889. Courtesy of Betty Barry Deal

Originally known as Batcheldor & Adams ditch which portions were constructed in 1858. It later became known as Buggytown ditch, for the area just west of Leavitt Lake in the 1870s. It was so named as one of the first settlers possessed a buggy when such luxuries were rare on the frontier. The ditch/canal is what feeds into Leavitt Lake.


Dairy Industry

DM Creamery
Diamond Mountain Creamery, Johnstonville, 1897

The dairy industry played an important role in the region’s history. After all, before grocery stores and transportation, one needed to be self sufficient. In the late 1800s, butter was a major product. For example, A.L. Tunison who resided in Willow Creek Valley wrote in his diary: October 21, 1880 – Started for Oroville with 3200# of butter. Virginia City, Nevada during its boom times was another big market. It was not until the late 1890s,, that saw the development of creameries. Then by the early 1920s, with a huge population increase in Lassen County caused the establishment of the large lumber mills, saw the establishment of numerous dairies to produce milk. In future posts I will be exploring the history of those dairies. Of course, if you happen to have knowledge of any of these, I would like to hear from you, as very little has been documented on this topic.


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.