In the fall of 1938, Professor S.T. Harding of the University of California spent some time investigating earthquake effects and water levels in the Honey Lake Valley. He had heard that an 1889 earthquake created an outlet to Honey Lake. However, he found nothing to substantiate this claim. He noted that from the winter of 1937-38 that Eagle Lake rose seven feet, but was still twenty feet short of the high water mark.
It should be noted there was a major earthquake in the region in 1889, where in Eagle Lake dropped by two feet. Harding would return to the region to extensive research on the water levels of Eagle Lake.
In 1884, James Fritter, along with his wife Frances and three small children left Butte County and located on the northeast shore of Eagle Lake, claiming 160 acres. Nothing unusual about that. In 1903, he planted an apple and peach orchard, which he had many successful harvests, which is rather remarkable given the elevation at the lake, that even regular gardening can be a challenge.
For a brief time, Fritter had political ambitions. In 1900, he ran for State Assembly and lost. Two years later, he ran for a seat on Lassen County Board of Supervisors and was successful. However, things did not go smoothly. Willow Creek Valley resident, H.A. Morrill contested the election, citing that Fritter was not residing in the district. The matter drug on for some time in the court, but in the end he prevailed. In 1910, Fritter ran for public office for the last time, again for a seat on the Lassen County Board of Supervisors. He lost in a landslide to W.C. Brockman.
As the years went by his grown children moved onto other things. In January 1932, with his years advancing and running the ranch by himself, he opted for retirement at Pacific Grove. He died there two years later. It should be noted the family still owns the original 160-acre homestead.
It is officially known as the Lassen County Youth Camp, but its location on the east shore of Eagle Lake and just north of Chico State Biological Field Station, it received the unofficial lake moniker. On November 6, 1962, the County of Lassen received a land patent from the Bureau of Land Management to establish the camp. By 1965, various fund raising drives began and work was done with volunteer labor. In 1974 a restroom and shower facility was completed. It should be noted that a portion of that money came from left over funds from the Save Our Center campaign, which was the result when the state had intentions to close down the California Correctional Center at Susanville. In 1976, the kitchen and dining hall was constructed.
He was born on November 29, 1848 in Illinois, one of thirteen children, yet ten of his brothers and sisters died in infancy, some of whom are buried in the Susanville Cemetery. It should be noted that the family came west in 1860 and settled in Plumas County and in 1867, they moved to Susanville.
One of his more interesting jobs began in the late 1870s, when he went to work for the Fish & Game Department as a deputy. They kept him busy planting fish in the various lakes and streams to learn what would best adapt in the area. In January 1879, Sanders along with Dr. H.S. Borette and William Dow introduced the first non-native species of fish at Eagle Lake. It was two wagonloads consisting of 225,000 Great Basin whitefish. That fall they planted brown bullhead catfish at Eagle Lake. Sanders also planted catfish in the Susan River and Piute Creek, where they did quite well. Take for instance, in 1883, Masillon Martsteller caught a twelve pound catfish from the Susan River. Sanders, himself, caught a catfish from Piute Creek that weighed fourteen pounds.
While Fish & Game paid Sanders a stipend for what he did, the work was sporadic and the payment not sufficient to make a living. For a livelihood he learned the carpentry trade. He specialized in making cabinets, furniture and trunks. As most furniture makers of this era, he was called upon to make coffins. He added undertaker to his profession and continued until 1896 when he sold out to Tom Oakes. In 1897, he moved to Sacramento where his brother, Plumas Sanders resided. It was not a good move. Two years later, unable to find steady work, he committed suicide.
There are times when I am doing research I get sidetracked. In a particular instance recently resulted in an interesting revelation concerning Pelican Point at Eagle Lake. For a long time the point did not exist, though there was a Pelican Island of sorts. As you can see the above of the Government Land Office survey map of 1875, there is no Pelican Point. At that time the lake level as 5109. In 1917 began the twenty-year drought, combined with the Bly Tunnel, the lake level dropped dramatically, which resulted in the exposure of Pelican Point for the first time since Anglo settlement.
On March 3, 1853, the United States Congress passed the first Act for surveys of a transcontinental railroad route. During the next two years, government survey parties explored the West looking for feasible routes. Lieutenant E. G. Beckwith was in charge of one of those expeditions. Beckwith surveyed Northern California and Western Nevada in search of a pass over the Sierra Nevada Mountains. On July 3, 1854, Beckwith’s party discovered Eagle Lake. Beckwith wrote: “. . . soon after leaving our morning camp, the road led over a low rocky butte, from which we had a fine view of the lake, a few miles to the northeast. It is several miles in extent and is set beautifully blue in the mountains, which rise from 500 to 1,000 feet above it, covered with majestic pines. It has no outlet. We gave it the name of Eagle Lake.”
Local folklore is that the lake was misnamed for the ospreys, that are abundant at the lake, and that the ospreys were mistaken for eagles. That is doubtful, since the bald eagle population of the 1850s was much greater than it is today. It must also be taken into account that the early day explorers and settlers, too, were keenly aware of the variety of species of birds and animals. To substantiate the fact that the lake’s name was not a misnomer for the osprey, there are accounts in the 1920s by field scientists who asked the same question of the “old timers”, who replied that it was named for the bald eagles.
There have been several comments posted last year, that a short sentence would not suffice, so I will slowly start responding. One reader wanted to know the status of Eagle Lake’s Gallatin House. Malvena Gallatin spent the Christmas of 1944 there and it would be her last visit. When she passed away in 1956, she left the two-acre parcel to her only great-grandchild, Wyn Wachhorst. When Wyn visited the place once in the 1960s the “Gallatin furniture was piled high inside,” but no one ever used it. In 1975, it was sold to the Lassen National Forest.
In the mid-1980s, Lassen National Forest Supervisor Dick Henry wanted to demolish the structure. Needless to say the battle line was drawn. The late Valerie Campbell and myself began a campaign to save Gallatin House. I will spare everyone the details, but in the end we along with so many others who fought to preserve prevailed. In 1988, the forest service issued a use permit to thirty-five acres, which includes Gallatin House for Camp Ronald McDonald at Eagle Lake. The Gallatin House has been maintained and used for administration purposes and two front rooms are intact just as it was back in the day when Gallatin’s owned it.
While I have been busy with the end of the year chores, like filing, not one of my favorite tasks. Anyhow, I came across this particular photograph of the construction of the Bly Tunnel inlet at Eagle Lake that my grandmother Lola Murrer Tanner. Hopefully, in 2018 I will be able to get out and about more, and even visit this site, which has been sealed and covered with the tailings from the construction.
Awhile back a friend sent me an article about Chico State’s Eagle Lake Biological Field Station, that I have wrote about. What caught my attention was the last sentence: “Eagle Lake is rich in biological resources and is the only lakeside fresh water biological research project on the west coast.”
The fate of the university’s field station is not known, its doors have been shuttered for sometime.
If you have not purchased this special limited edition calendar, time is running out. There is a handful of calendars available at Margie’s Book Nook. I will accept orders for one more week. Here are your options (1) You can order online from this site.(2) You can purchase them in Susanville at Margie’s Book Nook. If you do this method let me know, your calendar order will be set aside to pick up when it is convenient for you (3) You can have your calendar(s)sent to you with an invoice.