Wooden Cemetery Markers

The wooden marker for Jesse Cole, Susanville Cemetery, November 1977.*

Those who have attended my cemetery tours, I tend to point out that there is a large percentage of unmarked graves.  For many, it was a financial issue.  A less expensive alternative to the traditional stone markers was wood. For whatever reason, wooden markers in this region were not widely used except for the Hayden Hill Cemetery. Of course, wooden markers do not hold up as well with the elements like stone, and eventually become so weathered that they are no longer legible. Or in the other extreme, a fire at Hayden Hill went through that town’s cemetery and destroyed all the wooden markers. There are only a handful of wooden markers in the Susanville Cemetery, and time has taken its toll on them, especially the Conkey graves of the 1860s. If would be a great project for someone who likes to do woodworking, to make replacements.

*On a final note, the other day I came across the following tidbit published in Susanville’s Mountain Review of January 1880 about Jesse Cole: “Hunters are slaying deer within a mile of town. Saturday, Jesse Cole found a herd of seven and killed all of them. The snow is so deep on the mountains that they cannot run far and are easy prey.”


Secret Valley School – Lassen County

Karlo, Secret Valley, 1920

Secret Valley is located approximately thirty-five miles northeast of Susanville. In the late 1880s, the region saw a surge in population with homesteaders arriving with the expectations of great things to happen by promoters of some reclamation projects.  Thus, on May 6, 1890, the Secret Valley School was established.

During the late 1920s and early 1930s the school was known for its unusual schedule—it operated during the summer and was closed from November to February. The school closed in 1938. The last graduating class consisted of Emelia Diaz and Ida Nye. In 1940 the school district was annexed to Soldier Bridge.


Piute Logging Railroad – Part II

Flood waters from breached earthen fill trestle, April 1938. Courtesy of Betty B. Deal

Construction of the line was stalled during the early 1930s, while Red River went through its financial reorganization. Finally, in July 1933, construction began at the west end near Hog Flat. A station was established where the Piute line connected with the Southern Pacific, and named Blair, after Kenneth Walker’s wife. At Hog Flat, Red River established logging camp #2. That summer Red River logged eight million board feet of timber and sold it to Fruit Growers. The following year the line was extended further east to Big Springs, and Camp #8 was established.

The year 1935 was a pivotal one for the Piute. Early in the year it was announced Red River would complete the line to Susanville—a distance of twelve miles from its terminus at Worley Ranch to the Fruit Growers plant. Continue reading Piute Logging Railroad – Part II

Piute Logging Railroad

Map of the line, showing spurs. 

The completion of the Western Pacific’s highline in 1931 was not the only railroad development to make news. In the 1930s, Red River’s most unusual railroad logging line, the Piute, came to fruition—so named as it followed Piute Creek in its approach to Susanville.

Red River owned a large swath of timber west and north of Susanville. While they had already logged over its easily accessible timber in Mountain Meadows and Lake Almanor, the Piute line was not intended to service Westwood. The Piute was built to generate much needed revenue to sell timber to other parties, such as Fruit Growers and Lassen Lumber & Box. However, they had a back-up plan; should Red River’s timber sales fall flat, they could mill the timber at Westwood. Continue reading Piute Logging Railroad

Termo to Madeline

Estate Sale: I need to make room for items from my mother’s estate. This a great bargain at $10.95you save $8 off the regular priceWhat a deal!

This is Don Garate’s epic account about the history of the west side of the Madeline Plains, that covers the period from 1868 to 1935. This 436 page book covers a lot of territory from the earliest settlers, the arrival of the NCO Railroad, and the Basques, too. Interspersed are amusing anecdotal stories like the “Characters of the Madeline Plains.” Garate starts that introduction with:  “Generally speaking  to be a certified and accredited Madeline Plains Character, a person had to meet three qualifications, all of which were easy to pass if one worked at it just a little.  First off, a bachelor status was required. This was not too difficult because the fairer sex (or should be said “wiser’) was still not plentiful enough to go around. Secondly, he who aspired to be one of the infamous characters of the Plains had to be a stranger to water. Again, this was easy during the drouth, water was seldom seen on the Madeline Plains.  But a true character had never heard the word “bathtub.”  At least, if he had he could not know what it meant.  And lastly a real character had to get involved in alcohol–whether in the drinking or the manufacturing.  Generally, a top notch character did a little–a lot–or both.”

To order, click here.


A Marijuana Tale

The Ravendale Garage.

While the City of Susanville and the County of Lassen debate marijuana issues, lets take a look of some historic accounts from the 1920s. It was not until the late 1920s that marijuana appeared on the scene locally.  In November 1928, Sheriff Jim Leavitt conducted a raid on the Brunswick Pool Hall near the Susanville Depot.  Leavitt confiscated ten kegs of whiskey and ten pounds of marijuana and arrested Emma and Pete Ovalle on a narcotics charge for the possession of marijuana.

Marijuana was something new to the local residents. The local press described it as a Mexican tobacco that is smoked like a cigarette, and said it has an exhilarating and soothing effect for the smoker and can also make one feel “goofy.” Continue reading A Marijuana Tale

Washington School Condemned

The grammar school, 1915.

On March 18, 1948, the Trustees of the Susanville School District condemned the Washington School as it would no longer pass certain safety codes.  Built in 1900, the two-story brick building was showing its age prematurely. At that time the McKinley School was located on the same campus, and officials considered it just a matter of time that it too, would have the same fate. The state considered it a “distressed district” and provided some funding to rebuild the schools. However, the school district had to pass a $174,000 bond measure, to qualify, and the voters approved it.  Washington School remained at its Cottage Street location, while McKinley was relocated to Fourth Street. In 1980, Washington School closed. It later re-opened as Credence High School.

The school as it appeared in 1948.





Davis Cut – Lassen County

Davis Cut under construction. Courtesy of David Ross

In April 1912, the Southern Pacific Railroad announced construction of the Fernley & Lassen Railroad, and awarded the contract to the Utah Construction Company. That company hired a numbered of sub-contractors, the most prominent of which was J.H. Maxey Construction Company. No time was wasted on construction as there was a deadline to reach Westwood by March 1, 1914.  In the fall of 1912, a construction train reached Davis Cut, near Johnstonville.  There were several fatalities associated with the construction of the railroad, and one of them occurred at Davis Cut. On April 13, 1913, James Cook, a powderman for the J.H. Maxey Construction Company, was killed there in an explosion to blast the rock.

For those not familiar with the location, it is just past Brockman Slough, near Johnstonville on your way to the prisons. It was named after the John C. Davis family who owned the property there.


Honey Lake

Honey Lake from Tanner Ranch, March 18, 2017

First of all, I want to thank those who stopped by and checked out Saturday’s Estate Sale.  It should be duly noted that there will be a Phase Two Sale, since there is still more to assort through.

Instead of being at the sale for numerous reasons, I journeyed out to the family (Tanner) ranch to have a glimpse of Honey Lake. There are various features there, that provides a good indicator of the level of the lake.

The blacksmith shop, near the lake, March 18, 2017.

While there is considerable water in the lake, it still has a way to go before it reaches historic levels.  This evident of the above and below photographs, both showing the blacksmith shop.

Honey Lake, from Tanner Ranch, January 1997.

However, for some people, seeing water in Honey Lake is something they have never seen. I am currently working on a future post about the tugboat that was originally used in the San Francisco Bay, that plied the waters of Honey Lake from 1907-1915. In addition, if you want to learn more about the history of the lake, you can purchase a copy of my book Sagebrush Reflections: The History of Amedee and Honey Lake.