Tag Archives: Honey Lake Valley

Lassen Roller Flour Mill

Lassen Flour
The Lassen Flouring Mill, 1901. Courtesy of the A.J. Mathews family.

In spring of 1863, Dr. John Briceland of Cow Creek, Shasta County had a problem. The stream which his flour mill was located had begun to erode the foundation. He made an agreement with P.W. Cunningham and Fred Johnson to relocate the mill, or rather the equipment. For their efforts they received one-half ownership. They found a new location for their enterprise at Johnstonville in the Honey Lake Valley. The mill was located along the Susan River, which was needed for power. They built two small reservoirs and at night they would dam the river and fill the ponds. The two ponds held enough water to power the mill until the next night.

During the late 1860s through the early 1870s, mill changed hands numerous times. In 1875, William H. Hall and Henry Snyder took possession and would operate it for thirty plus years. In 1907, Snyder sold his interest in the mill to Hall, as he desired to retire and move to a warmer climate. Shortly thereafter the mill closed and would remain idle for nearly a decade. In 1919, it was sold to M.A. Taylor of Oakland who dismantled it and took the machinery to the San Francisco Bay area. It should be noted that Standish resident, Sam Alexander purchased some of the lumber that he used to build a barn at his place. Finally, for the record the mill was located at the site of the Gables.


Fairview School District

Fairview School District Map, 1910.
In January 1910, east side residents of Honey Lake petitioned for the formation of a school. They cited that there were twenty-seven eligible students in the proposed district. The nearest school was at Amedee, and the majority of the petitioners resided some 12 miles distance. However, the Lassen County Board of Supervisors did not approve the new school until November. The residents built a schoolhouse in the center of the district, since there were no towns in the area. That would suddenly change with Calneva Station established by the Western Pacific Railroad and Stacy on the Southern Pacific. In 1915, Calneva experienced a boom of sorts, and separated from Fairview to form the Fort Sage School. Fairview continued on even as the population dwindled and in 1936 the school closed for a lack of students.


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.


Dayton, Lassen County

Thomas J. French. Courtesy of Elburna McClelland
This was a wide spot in the road better known as Mapes Ranch, near Litchfield. In 1868, Thomas French and Andrew Litch formed a partnership and purchased the Shaffer Brothers ranch, hence the origin of the name for a nearby school and mountain. On January 27, 1873 the Dayton Post Office opened Thomas French as the first and only postmaster. Litch at the same time opened a small store that the Shaffer’s had previously operated. The post office closed on January 18, 1875, but that was not the only change on the horizon. Later that year French and Litch dissolved their partnership.


Commanche Creek

Baxter Creek, circa 1950s
This was the original name for Baxter Creek. In the summer of 1855, Marion Lawrence, better known as “Commanche George,” made one of the first water diversions of any stream in the Honey Lake Valley. In 1864, Lawrence and B.F. Murphy claimed the Buffalo Salt Marsh in the Smoke Creek Desert as a salt mine—that Murphy developed into a profitable enterprise. Lawrence died in 1868 and was buried in an unmarked grave, one mile north of Peter Lassen’s grave


Frederick West Lander

Worth the segment alone dealing with the Nobles Trail.
Frederick Lander was part of several expeditions of the 1850s to locate a route for a Pacific Railroad. There would be many turn of events during this time period, among them the nation’s civil war. When Lander arrived in the Smoke Creek/Honey Lake area, it just happened with the outbreak of the Pyramid Lake War of 1860, and there were several contributing events in the Honey Lake Valley that had a bearing. Lander was caught in the middle. He did keep an excellent account of those activities, which were published by the Desert Research Institute in 1993 with Joy Cleland as editor.

On a side note, even though he died in 1862, one hundred and thirty three years his estate funded a re-photographic survey of Eagle Lake; where in using photographs of the early 1900s, Desert Research Institute went back to those sites to photograph and examine the changes.


Fort Sage School

Superintendent of Schools, Fred Brunhouse letter of approval.
For those who have traveled the east side of Honey Lake Valley, it may seem to difficult to fathom the number homes and schools that once existed. On January 6, 1915, the residents of Calneva, the Western Pacific Station on the stateline north of Doyle, petitioned for the establishment of the school citing that the proposed district had nineteen scholars. The request was granted on February 2, 1915. The school was located in a small one-room building on the Harry Hill homestead. It was later moved to the Aldrich House, a larger building, located in the center of the district. In the summer of 1918, the school was on the verge of being suspended, as enrollment declined to four. The trustees persuaded County Superintendent of Schools, Julia A. Norwood, to keep the school open, as they promised an additional four students would attend in September. The request was granted. The school’s existence was brief and it was closed in 1924. In 1926, the furniture from the school was purchased by the Janesville School District. But, like the proverbial phoenix, the name was resurrected in November 1986. The voters of the Herlong and Long Valley School Districts approved the consolidation of the two schools and the new district was named the Fort Sage Unified School District.

Hot Springs vs. Honey Lake

Wendel Hot Springs, circa 1940.
A reader wanted to know about the naming of Honey Lake, since originally it was known as Hot Springs Basin/Valley. In the summer of 1850, when Peter Lassen and a group of prospectors traveled through there, they named the lake and the valley (Honey)for a sweet dew type substance found on the wild grains.
In 1943, the Oakland Tribune published an article about Fred Lake’s 1892 dream town of Honey Lake City. That prompted a question from several readers as to how Honey Lake received its name. John S. Thomas of Oakland wrote the newspaper and stated: “They call it Honey Lake on account of the honey dew that fall on the borders of the lake. In haying time, if you lay or stand a pitch fork out all night, the handle in the morning will be as sticky as if it had been rubbed with honey. However, W. E. Booth of Hayward questioned Thomas’ claim in a letter to the Tribune. They published his response: “Booth used to live in the Honey Lake Valley and worked on a dairy ranch. Booth insists that he never saw such phenomenon and never heard the story. It would seem that if such a phenomenon was the source of the name of the lake and region, it would have been a matter of common experience and knowledge. The phenomenon of which Mr. Thomas speaks may have been incidental, the sticky handle may have been caused something other than the dew.”


Honey Lake Valley, 1844

Honey Lake Valley, 1898. Courtesy of Betty Barry Deal
Long before, Lassen and Roop set foot in the Honey Lake Valley, numerous Anglos had frequented the area since the early 1820s. For a time, Honey Lake Valley was referred to as Hot Springs Basin. In July 1844, William Thomas Hamilton (1822-1908), member of a fur-trapping group, was one such early day visitor. Hamilton wrote in his memoirs: “We reached a beautiful valley called to-day Honey Lake Valley, but at that time without a name. We remained here three months, enjoying ourselves as only men can who love the grandeur of nature. Our time was spent in exploring, hunting, fishing, reading and practicing with all arms.”

Whitehead Slough – Lassen County

Whitehead Slough, near the old Whitehead Ranch. May 24, 2017

Once the Susan River flows past Standish it starts breaking up into various sloughs. Whitehead Slough was named for John Wesley Whitehead.  On September 10, 1886,  Whitehead, then a resident of Pyramid Lake, Nevada purchased 321 acres in the Tule District from Joseph D. & Sarah Smith for $3,000. In 1920, Whitehead retired and moved to Pacific Grove. On April 5, 1922, Whitehead sold his ranch to David and Royce Raker for $1,000.

Remnants of the Whitehead diversion dam. May 24, 2017

One final picture . . .

Whitehead Slough where it enters Honey Lake, 1984.