From the early 1860s up until World War II the two dominant social institutions locally were the Masons and the Methodist, which were hand in hand. The majority of the Masons were Methodist, and vice versa. By the early 1900s the Methodist were so predominant in the Honey Lake Valley that they had churches at Janesville, Johnstonville, Standish and of course Susanville. The Masons on the other hand had lodges at Janesville and Susanville, which have since been combined.
For nearly the first fifteen years of Susanville’s existence it could said it was somewhat a scene of the old wild west, plenty of saloons, but no houses of worship. It was in the mid-1870s when two churches—the Congregation and Methodist—that the community started to become more civilized.
The construction of the Methodist Church at the corner of Lassen and Cottage Streets began in 1875. In 1877, with church nearing completion a bell was installed. The Lassen Advocate of June 23, 1877 reported: “The bell is already hung in the tower of the new M.E. Church. It is really a tony bell, its reverberations are heard for miles around. Our town is gradually taking on city airs.”
The bell it should be noted served a dual function for not only calling the faithful to worship, but it was the town’s fire alarm system for nearly three decades. However, it was no match for June 1900 fire that destroyed the church and three city blocks from Roop to Union. The bell survived that fire and when a new brick church replaced the old wooden one it was re-installed. The church was destroyed in the August 1915 fire and this time the bell did not survive.
Who knew back in 1917, when Father P.J. O’Reilly announced the Sacred Heart Church would celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, that it would be an enduring tradition now in its 100th year. It is the oldest continuous event in Lassen County, surpassing even the Lassen County Fair. This year’s event will be held on Saturday, March 18 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., at Monsignor Moran Hall on Weatherlow Street Believe me, as I can attest they serve the best corned beef around. There is always the cake wheel that can be very entertaining.
Father O’Reilly’s first event was nearly an all nighter. As was the custom of the day, entertainment and dancing occupied the first half of the evening. Then at 11 p.m. a supper was served and then the dancing resumed into the “wee hours of the morning.” At the conclusion, Father O’Reilly commented that it was a a very successful affair socially and financially.
When Westwood was established, its Catholic community was a part of the Sacred Heart Parish—it had only been created in 1912 and covered the territory of Lassen and Modoc counties. The first pastor was Father P.J. O’Reilly. There seems to be some confusion as to when the first Mass was celebrated in Westwood. On December 12, 1913, it was reported in the Lassen Weekly Mail: “Father P.J. O’Reilly made the trip to Westwood to attend to spiritual wants of the Catholic Church in the new lumber town.” However, under the heading of Remarks in the Parish Death Register, Father O’Reilly wrote, “Mass was celebrated in Westwood for the first time by Rev. P.J. O’Reilly on 19 April 1914 in the school house situated near the present fire department. Mass is now said in the school situated on the hill facing Delwood Street.” Father also wrote, “The first Catholic funeral that was held in Westwood was on July 24, 1914. The internment was made in the new cemetery, portion of which viz the North East section is devoted to the use of the Catholics who die in and around Westwood for Catholics only. This cemetery is 3 1/2 miles from Westwood.” That internment was for Jose Alvarez, a 22 year-old millworker who died from typhoid fever. Continue reading Our Lady of the Snows→
The Ladies of the Sacred Heart were an energetic bunch during the early days of the parish. One of their most popular annual events were Christmas dances. The first one was held in December 1910, and was not only well attended, but was a successful fund raiser–as usual the proceeds were used to make improvements to the church. However the next year, when Deputy Sheriff William L. Blake was killed in the line of duty in November 1911, the proceeds of the Christmas dance went to aid his widow Minnie instead. Continue reading The Christmas Ball→
As mentioned in a previous post concerning Father Moran’s quest for a new Catholic church in 1939, had some major obstacles to over come. First and foremost, was his crusade would coincide with World War II, the latter overshadowed much the daily life of the parishioners and the community as a whole. Continue reading A New Sacred Heart Church→
First, I am wishing everyone a wonderful and memorable Thanksgiving holiday. Some annual events come and go, and then some such as Sacred Heart’s St. Patrick’s Dinner just keep going on. While working in the filing bin, I found the above ticket. In my preliminary sleuthing, I have not been able to locate more information about this Thanksgiving Ranch Breakfast. I am examined the Lassen Advocate newspaper, and the only item the paper reported was it being listed under Make It A Date column. So if anyone has ever attended, or knows anything more enlightening please share with the rest of us.
Spread the word, and encourage a friend to subscribe.
One of the more disastrous fires in Susanville occurred in August 1915, when a large portion of the block containing the Emerson Hotel, the Hyer House Hotel and the Methodist Church were destroyed. The losses were heavy, none of the buildings were fully covered by insurance.
Members of the Methodist Church were determined to rebuild their church that was constructed in 1901. The skeletal walls were deemed fit for re-use. While insurance covered a large percentage of costs to rebuild, more funds were needed. It was decided to hold a Kirmess Festival. Those not familiar with the term, is of Dutch origins. While it has several meanings one is that it involves an outdoor fair/festival for charitable causes, usually affiliated with a church.
In early March 1916, members of the church announced a four day Kirmess festival to raise funds to rebuild their church. The kirmess was scheduled for March 28-31. On the first day, it took on air of Mardi Gras with a parade that included the majority of the community. Entertainment was held every night at the Orpheum Theater. On Thursday night Guy P. Johnson won the election and was crowned Kirmess King. A good time was had by all and nearly $1,000 was raised for the Methodist Church.
On April 9, 1939, Father Patrick J. Moran during his Easter Sunday service announced his intention that Sacred Heart Parish needed a new church. It was rather dramatic, since Moran had only been appointed to take care of the spiritual needs of Sacred Heart four months prior.
The old wooden church was built in 1892, and it was originally located on Richmond Road, adjacent to the bridge over Susan River. In 1909, the church was moved to the corner of Union and Nevada Streets. However, the years had taken a toll on the wooden frame structure, and many parishioners complained that it was cold and drafty in the winter months, since the only heating was an ornate wood stove.
Moran, in his address, concluded that a new church would be built on the site of the current one. The following year, Moran received Bishop Robert Armstrong’s blessing. Shortly afterwards Sacramento architect Clarence C. Huff was awarded the contract to design the new church.
However, Moran’s quest would take nearly ten years for it to come to fruition. More about that in a future post.
Delbert Lester Brown (1890-1966) gave this most unusual address to his homestead that was situated on the bench above Pittville. Brown located there in 1914, after moving from Lakeview, Oregon. When Brown was digging a well by hand, he reached a point when it was necessary to blast out the rocks with dynamite. Brown set his charges into the well hole and tried to detonate them. Nothing happened, so he crawled into the hole to locate the problem. Brown discovered the charges had become damp. Since there was little light, Brown, with the claw end of a hammer, accidentally struck one of the blasting caps. Luckily, it did not go off. At that moment, Brown decided that the hand of the Lord was on his side and that he must change his ways. After that incident Brown began spreading the gospel and he became widely known as Preacher Brown.