Last month, I lost a dear friend David Wemple (1931-2017). While a contemporary of my mother, I had known David for forty years. The truth be known, I was probably still wearing diapers when I started researching.
Two years ago, I asked David, the story behind the Milford Creamery’s demise and he wrote: “The main trouble with the creamery was too many bosses and too few laborers. They had to put a lot of money into both buildings, the creamery and the milking shed, that they built. This milking shed may still be standing. It could be that Joe, their father, helped monetarily with the venture. Anyway, the short of it is, the brothers simply didn’t get along that well. My great grandfather, Joseph C. Wemple was, according to Dad, [Claude Wemple] was generous to a fault and John, the oldest son told Dad on one occasion that it was not uncommon for Joe to have in excess of $10,000.00 in cash in his house. This was money from the flour mill located in Milford. I remember these mill stones. They were eventually broken up with a sledge hammer to rock up a spring with.”
Various members of the Masten family first arrived in Lassen County and have been involved in many activities over the years, and many descendants still reside in the region. Pheobe was born in 1834, the third child of Peter and Nancy Masten in Ohio. In 1851, she married William S. Hamilton and the following year with her two brothers John and Benjamin Masten crossed the plains and settled in Amador County, California. Several years later, the Masten clan moved to Knights Landing, Yolo County, where he only child, died.
In 1864, at the urging of her brother-in-law Heiro K. Cornell the Hamiltons moved to Susanville. The Hamilton’s stay in Susanville was brief and they relocated to the Tule District and located on what is the present day Fleming Unit of Fish & Game. In 1868, an event had a major impact on Pheobe. Her, and her neighbor, Lurana Sharp dressed prepared the two female bodies of the Pearson Massacre.* In 1880, her husband died unexpectedly, and she carried on with the ranch. In 1882, she not only sold the ranch, but remarried to J.H. Slater, a civil engineer. Slater had visions of a Susan River irrigation system, but could not find any supports. The couple then moved to the San Francisco Bay area, where he died in 1913. In 1918 Pheobe returned to Susanville to make her home with her nephew John Cornell, and died there on 21 January 1919.
*The Pearson Massacre site is one of the few sites I have never attempted to locate.
There are a number of varieties of smoke trees which are known for their colorful foilage in the spring and fall. In addition, they are quite hardy, and once established need little care. The reason why bring up this topic, is that they were favorite with desert homesteaders. So when you are out and about in the desert country and you see a smoke tree indicates that at one time there was a homestead there, though the tree outlasted that person’s dream.
This rather obscure hill located in Honey Lake Valley’s Belfast District has an interesting tale behind it. Isaac Coulthurst was one of the first Anglo settlers of the region, but in time his sanity came into question.
In 1873 Coulthurst stated that the Lord commanded him to go to the top of this hill. Coulthurst held communion with the Lord in a cave there. He spent a portion of the winter in that cave. Coulthurst stated it was warmed by supernatural heat, but the cave became unbearably hot in the summer. It was then that he discarded his name of Coulthurst and changed his name to the “Second Coming of Christ.” His wife, Mary, had him declared insane. Twice he was placed in mental institutions, each time he spent only a few months. In 1881, a third examination was held on his competency. The courts two examining physicians stated he was fine in all aspects, especially keen in business dealings. They admitted to his religious peculiarity but did not think he would derive any benefit from being institutionalized. After that court hearing, the court proceeded with the divorce proceedings that had been filed by his wife and the court approved it. Coulthurst agreed to the divorce and to pay alimony, but would not divide the property with her. Coulthurst’s refusal to divide the ranch property was based on his belief that it would be the site of a new Jerusalem. Coulthurst contended that a large city would be built there, the streets paved with gold. In 1893, Coulthurst transferred the ranch to his son, Henry, with the provision that his son clothe, feed, maintain, and support him during his natural life. Coulthurst signed the deed “Christ the Lord.”
An interesting footnote when Coulthurst died in 1919, he was the first person interred in the Lassen Cemetery.
Constructed in 1889 as part of Benjamin Leavitt’s expanding reclamation enterprise and now part of the Lassen Irrigation District. Lassen National Forest Service Supervisor, A. G. Brenneis, wrote an article about the origin of its name that was published in the California Ranger, August 1938: “Many years ago the residents of Honey Lake Valley joined together to start the Susan River Irrigation District and, as a first step, began the construction of the dams at the present sites of Hog Flat and McCoy Flat Reservoirs. The first winter this country received heavy storms and as a result the dam at Hog Flat was destroyed. The entire meadow, which should have been a lake was covered with a rank growth of vegetation and in order to salvage something from the reservoir, the farmers of the district banded together, placed a huge herd of hogs on the meadow, fattened them, and made some money to repay them for the loss of the dam. Ever since then the reservoir has carried its name of Hog Flat.”
In the early 1870s, when Captain Charles A. Merrill proposed to tap Eagle Lake, he found it necessary to have Congress pass a homestead act that focused on arid lands, as nothing existed. Thus, on March 3, 1875, Congress approved the Lassen County Desert Land Act. Under the Act, an individual could claim up to 640 acres of government land. They had two years to reclaim the land by irrigation, and then could purchase the land from the government for $1.25 per acre. Residence on the land was not a requirement. It proved so popular that in 1877, Congress approved the Desert Land Act, which covered all arid lands in the western United States. The latter Act has had a lasting impact, and is still one of very few homestead acts in existence. In the 1980s when Franklin Jeans proposed his water export scheme of the groundwater on the Nevada side of the Honey Lake Valley, he used the Desert Land Act to increase his holdings and to put more wells to accomplish that goal.
Ebenezer Cooley “Ben” Brown lived an interesting, varied life. The Louisiana native wore many hats during his tenure in the Honey Lake Valley, a rancher, shop keeper, tugboat captain, to name a few.
Orphaned at an early age, in 1874 he left his native Louisiana for Baker City, Oregon to work on a ranch, save some money and further his education. His brother, Rutherford Brown had come to California in 1861, first working in mines, and later became an attorney. Ben followed in his brother’s footsteps, at least with the mining portion and for eight years prospected various places in the West, with not much success. His brother, Rutherford came to his aid. In 1884, he purchased the Hamilton Ranch in the Honey Lake Valley from Pheobe Masten Hamilton Slater for $12,000. (The property is known today as the Fleming Unit of the Honey Lake Wildlife Area.) Continue reading Introducing Ebenezer C. Brown→
One of the greatest assets for a frontier town, was to have its own newspaper. It was in fact, a defacto chamber of commerce extolling the virtues of the new upcoming community.
Amedee, the railroad town on the east side of Honey Lake, could even boast its own newspaper the Amedee Geyser. S.N. Griffith one of the original promoters of the town was able to entice 19-year old, Henry A. “Hal” Lemmon to relocate from nearby Sierra Valley where he was publishing the Mountain Mirror. On March 30, 1892 the Amedee Geyser made its debut. The four-page newspaper, common for the era, was quite informative from the exchanges published elsewhere. There is only one known surviving copy, which is in private hands.
The good times at Amedee, and across the nation would not last long due to the financial panic of 1893. On September 28, 1893, Lemmon published the last issue with the following statement: “We have nothing to say–we have done the best we could. We shall continue residence in Amedee and when our patrons have more, we can give them a newspaper worth the subscription price, the paper will appear again. ”
Lemmon had hope to revive the newspaper the following month, but that did not transpire. He moved on to bigger things and at the time of his death in 1947 he was President of the Sierra Pacific Power Company in Reno, Nevada.
At one time, small schools could be found throughout Lassen County. After all, back in 1900, the two main requirements were there was at least ten school age children living in a proposed district, and the nearest school had to be more than five miles distant.
The Poplar School was located near the entrance of the present day Dakin Unit of Fish & Game in the Honey Lake Valley. This school was created on November 10, 1913. A bond election was held on June 6, 1914, at George Hartson’s residence, to approve $1,750 for the construction of a schoolhouse. All ten voters approved the measure. In June 1935, the school closed for lack of students. Orlo Bailey purchased the schoolhouse and moved it to his nearby ranch, converting it into a bunkhouse. The school was named for the abundance of poplar trees that had been planted by the Hartson family, though, like the school, the trees do not exist today.
This district some three miles or so east of Janesville was orginally known as Missouri Bend, due to the fact that a large percentage of the original settlers came from that state. The community has seen better days, and now falls under the proverbial category of a “wide spot in the middle of the road.” The town once boasted a two-story hotel, two stores, blacksmith shop, creamery and a school. The only original buildings is the residence of E.C. Brown and the Missouri Bend Schoolhouse. For those who want to do a drive through, it is located today near the intersection of County Road A-3 and Cummings Road.