Tag Archives: Politics

1930s County Consolidation Movement

Lassen County Map
Lassen County, 1907
While there is plenty of chatter of late regarding a Calexit or State of Jefferson one of the more interesting and plausible movements was to consolidate California’s 58 counties into 27. In 1933, California Assemblyman B.F. Feigenbaum made the proposal, citing with highways and transportation facilities there was no longer a need to have a courthouse at everyone’s back door. He said the cost savings would be tremendous and noted rising costs that in 1911 county government cost was $39 million and in 1930 had ballooned to $299 million. In our neck of the woods, Lassen Plumas and Sierra would be combined as one. Our neighbors, Shasta and Tehama would merge, and the same with Modoc and Siskiyou.

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The Westwood Card

Lassen County Courthouse, 1922.
When the Red River Lumber Company established its operations at Westwood it had a very congenial relationship with Lassen County officials. That all change in the fall of 1916 when United California Industries wanted to rent a hall in Westwood to discuss prohibition. Red River refused. A firestorm erupted by the Susanville press the Red River’s general manager, R.F. Pray. Pray was livid with the newspapers’ coverage and their commentary of the sordid affair. First, he noted, the newspapers had no right to publish the correspondence between United and Red River, as it was a private business affair not subject to public scrutiny. Pray in his rebuttal wrote, “When commencing operations on a large way in Lassen County three years ago, we informed the public and our employees that we were in engaged in the manufacturing of lumber and not in politics, that we refused participate in them, or be drawn in any political issue.” In conclusion, Pray inferred Red River did not deserve this kind of treatment recently played out in the press. After all, he reasoned, not only was Red River the county’s largest industry and it was the largest purchaser of local produce. Finally, if Red River had its way, last year they would have defeated the bond measure for a new county courthouse, reducing the company’s tax burden. Yet, Red River stayed out of the political arena and now Lassen County citizens are enjoying their modern facility that otherwise would not have materialized.

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Chester Causeway

Chester Causeway
Chester Causeway

In 1925, Great Western Power Company announced its plans to enlarge Lake Almanor. The raising of the dam would flood a large portion of Chester Flats, thus flooding a number of roads, and also Red River Lumber Company logging railroad network. Controversy arose when Great Western informed the Plumas County Board of Supervisors that the road across Chester Flats would be re-routed to follow the high water contour. The residents of Chester and Westwood were furious, for such a proposal would add an additional seven miles between the two communities. They wanted a causeway in which the current route would remain the same. Great Western balked at the idea. After all, a causeway would cost Great Western $220,00, while to re-route the road would only cost $50,000. To make a long story short the opponents bypassed the Plumas County Board of Supervisors and had the State Highway Department intervene. In 1926, an agreement was made between the State and Great Western that a causeway would be constructed.

 

Roop County, Nevada

Roop Siding
Roop Siding on the Fernely & Lassen Railroad just north of Pyramid Lake, April 1966. Courtesy of Gil Morrill

After nearly 100 years after Lassen County was created in 1864, some historians thought it really should have been named Roop County. However, that would have been problematic, since across the stateline in Nevada was Roop County. Nevada officials were critical of the Roop name, J. Wells Kelly, who compiled the First Directory of Nevada Territory  questioned the choice of the name and stated that it should have been named Lassen County. Kelly wrote: “Every dictate of gratitude and propriety, suggested the name of Peter Lassen—the noble old pioneer who, the first to enter, finally lost his life in exploring these wild regions—as that which should have been bestowed upon the county.” The after effects of the Sagebrush War reduced Roop County to a long narrow strip of land from Pyramid Lake to the Oregon border. Since it was a sparsely settled territory, with no town, the Nevada Legislature, on February 18, 1864, attached it to Washoe County for judicial and revenue purposes. On January 16, 1883, it was officially abolished and made a part of Washoe County

Red River: The Turbulent Thirties

Purge Night, July 13, 1938. Courtesy of Frank Davis
Purge Night, July 13, 1938. Courtesy of Frank Davis

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The carefree spending days of the Red River Lumber Company came to an abrupt end. Bonds were used to finance the construction of Westwood came due. On the other hand, Fletcher Walker continued expanding operations, each at an additional cost. The bondholders on the other end were not pleased with the delinquent payment and return. A free for all battle occurred as to whether the banks or the Walkers would control Westwood. The Walkers, made concessions to keep the banks at bay.
Then there were labors problems. It began with the purge of the CIO members and their families who were driven out of Westwood in 1938.  That was the tip of the ice-berg. The following year the AFL went on strike over the same issue of wage restoration that the CIO wanted. It was a mess, to say the least, and it would be one of many factors that would seal Red River’s fate. Click here to order.

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Lassen County’s Bastille Day

High Desert State Prison
High Desert State Prison

So it is a different from the French version. On this day in 1993 groundbreaking ceremonies were held for High Desert State Prison. Long before construction of its neighboring prison the California Conservation Center as it was originally called, was highly debated. So much in fact, the issue whether to build a second prison was put before the voters of Lassen County in June 1992, that won by a 58 percent voter approval. High Desert State Prison was designed to house 4,500 inmates and opened in September 1995.

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William R. Harrison, Esquire

Harrison WR422
W.R. Harrison. Courtesy of Dick & Helen Harrison

A native of North Carolina and born on 29 April 1813, is in many ways considered the original dean of Lassen County’s legal community.  Like so many, he slowly worked his way west. His first stop Montgomery County, Indiana where his four children were born. Then it was to Iowa for a brief spell. In 1849, Harrison set out for the gold fields of California and like so many others, had never mined before.

Fortunately, when he arrived in Shasta County he was able to fall back on his original profession as an attorney. He served two different terms as county judge in Shasta, and then moved to Red Bluff. There he served a term as Tehama County District Attorney. In 1862 he was lured to the mines of Unionville, Nevada. Again, he fell back on his previous profession and passed the Nevada bar exam.

In 1863 he returned to Red Bluff to spend the winter and the following spring moved his family to Susanville. On October 18, 1865 he was elected county judge of Lassen County.  After his two year term expired, he continued with his mining interest.  In June 1868, he was appointed to the position of Lassen County District Attorney, as Isaac Roop failed to qualify for that job. He remained in that position until his death on April 24, 1870. It should be duly noted that some of his descendants still reside in Lassen County.

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Brand History – Abe Jensen

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

Abe Jensen probably has the distinction of the youngest person to record a livestock brand, which event occurred on October 11, 1917, when he was only nine years old. Albert Abel Jensen, was a member of a pioneer family. He was the great- grandson of Henry C. Stockton, who was one of three original Lassen County Board of Supervisors appointed by the governor in 1864 to organize the newly formed county and was elected to that office on May 1,1864, serving one term. It should be noted that in 1863, Stockton settled to the west of Devil’s Corral, along the Susan River and operated a sawmill. The property still remains in the family, with Abe’s nieces and nephew in charge.

Abe was a Lassen High graduate of 1926, and continued his studies at Stanford where he graduated in 1930. He continued with the ranching activities like his father, Bert. It should be noted that Bert was instrumental in resurrecting the Lassen County Fair in 1922, and the property that is the current county fairgrounds belonged to Bert Jensen. Besides ranching, Abe served as the Lassen County Fair Manager from 1946 to 1968. In 1973, Abe, and his wife Adelaide moved to Reno, where he passed away in 1989.

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Susanville Bans Fireworks

4th of July Parade, Susanville, 1912. Courtesy of Leona Byars
4th of July Parade, Susanville, 1912. Courtesy of Leona Byars

In Susanville’s early years as an incorporated city,  it was remarkable what the council did. One of their actions, I still support today, and that is the prohibition of fireworks. The first time they banned fireworks was in 1906, following the aftermath of the San Francisco earthquake and fire. It was also a nod to the insurance companies who suffered tremendous loss from that event. It was their belief, as well as many other communities, that this preventive measure would reduce the risk of fires. Continue reading Susanville Bans Fireworks

Lassen County’s Livestock Brand

Lassen Co. Brand456

Lassen County had its own livestock brand, even though they did not intentionally plan to be in the business of raising livestock. It was all accidental. Way back in the day, and especially prior to the age of automobile, there were problems with stray livestock. Routinely the county found itself taking care of various animals, in hopes eventually the owners would come forth to claim. After a period of time elapsed the animals became property of the county. Before the county could sale the livestock, they had to be branded for identification purposes. There were other instances were the county was forced to impound animals, whether for collection fees, etc.

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