Oh My!

The carnage
The carnage

As a community service for the health and safety of those visiting the Lassen County Fairgrounds, no matter how careful one parks there are those reckless careful drivers that are of a different mindset.

Three years ago today, while part of the volunteer crew of the Lassen High Alumni Association in preparation of setting up for the all class reunion picnic in Jensen Hall, did I have one of those experiences. Some may recall when the fair manager backed into my parked 1964 TR4 Triumph.

Next came the trauma, or drama, to fix it. Needless to say, I was out thousands of dollars to repair it. More importantly, its all water under the bridge so to speak, and I am back to driving it again, though the intermittent rainy showers has made it a challenge with top down.

Before the carnage.

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Lassen Peak Eruptions

Lassen Peak
June 14, 1914 eruption.

On May 30, 1914, Lassen Peak awoke with its first volcanic eruption causing quite a commotion. In one sense for the locals, it was not a total surprise, as there had been many signs indicating that one day it would happen. What no one was prepared for how many times the peak would continue erupting or how violent they might be.

For the so-called “looky-loos” this was an exciting time. The adventerous and curious could not stay away, and a number of thrill seekers climbed the peak to get a closer look. While the forest service, (the park had not been created), attempted to stop them, but to no avail. What truly was remarkable, that Lance Graham was the only person to sustain injuries while on the peak during an eruption. There was a related fatality when Thomas Roseberry was making the descent from the peak and died from a heart attack. Roseberry is a perfect example of the kinds of obstacles one encounters while conducting research. His death occurred in Shasta County. However, his death certificate used the nearest populated place of Drakesbad, which is in Plumas County. Yet, that document was recorded in Lassen County where he resided.

To learn more about the eruptions and the park history, you might want to get a copy of Lassen Volcanic, as it will soon be out of print, with less than 20 copies in stock.

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Gold Run Road Company

The Sage Brush
The June 2, 1866 issue of The Sage Brush measured only 6 inches by 12 inches and was printed only on one side.

This toll road had a very short life, and that existed only on paper no less. However, when the company was organized they deemed a life span of twenty years, but from the only record indicates, it did not survive twenty days.

Nevertheless, it was an admirable undertaking. It was spearheaded by a group of progressive residents of Honey Lake and Indian Valleys. During the 1850s and 1860s one of the most traveled routes was a road from Gold Run going over Diamond Mountain and following Light’s Creek into Indian Valley. The gentlemen intended to put a toll gate at the summit. As required by law, they published their intent in the Sage Brush newspaper. On June 13, 1866 they held an organizational meeting in Susanville and elected A.D. Headly, President, James Ford, Secretary and W.N. DeHaven, Treasurer. The following day they filed their Articles of Incorporation with the Lassen County Clerk.

The company’s lasting legacy is attached to the articles of incorporation, was a copy of the Susanville, Sage Brush, the forerunner to the Lassen Advocate. This is the oldest known copy in existence. The paper apologized for the small size of the issue, citing their paper supplies had not arrived.

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Order of Camels

B.R. Zimmerman was a popular Susanville bar owner for many years. In 1919, he converted his famed Owl Saloon into a produce store.

Order of Camels was a fraternal organization opposed to prohibition. The camel was an ideal symbol as it could go for long spells without a drink. As we know they did not succeed in stopping prohibition. In a peculiar move, a local chapter was organized on June 10, 1920, nearly a year after prohibition took effect.

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Amedee Lime Kilns

Amedee Lime Kiln
Amedee Lime Kiln, 1975

In the early 1890s, when the railroad town of Amedee came into prominence, led to many interesting developments. One of these was the discovery of lime deposits, then a key ingredient used in cement. In 1893, a lime kiln was constructed on the hillside above Amedee. However, due to the nation’s economic depression and the NCO Railroad’s refusal to lower freight rates the enterprise abandoned.

In 1913, with another railroad at Amedee and a surging economy, Susanville businessmen fired up the abandoned lime kilns. After over a year in operation, this they discovered was not the most prudent business investment, and once again the kilns were abandoned.

If you don’t succeed the first time, try again and again. In the 1920s, Janesville resident William B. Hail operated the lime kilns. In 1927, he used the lime for construction of the Bigelow Apartments in Susanville. After that it they were finally abandoned once and for all. Hail stated it was due to the poor quality of the lime.

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Lassen’s Most Influential Person

The Fernley & Lassen Railroad under construction, February 1914.

On January 29, 1912 a contract was signed in San Francisco that would forever change Lassen County. On that historic date, T.B. Walker signed an agreement with the Southern Pacific for the construction of the Fernley & Lassen Railroad.

T.B. Walker with his need for a railroad transformed Lassen County in countless ways. It brought an era prosperity that has seen before or since. The huge influx of population provided a huge market for the local farmers and ranchers. Take for instance, there was not a single dairy, by 1920 there fifteen.

Of course, if opened the door to the timber industry, and transformed Susanville in a major lumber manufacturing center. What was thought with sustained yield and other forestry practices it was believed that it would remain the dominant industry for well over a hundred years if not more. Within fifty years, the writing was on the wall, and Lassen County’s citizens sought a new industry—prisons.

In future posts we will explore those exciting times, as well as T.B. Walker.

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A Main Street Problem

Main Street, 1909
Main Street looking west from Lassen High before the fill, circa 1909. Courtesy of the A.J. Mathews family.

In 1914 Susanville’s uptown business district went through a major transformation when such buildings as the Del Mar and the Star Hotel were constructed along with other properties. There was a byproduct from this construction. The buildings had basements and the problem was what to do with all the dirt piling up in the streets. It should be duly noted that the city ended at Weatherlow Street. In the winter months it could be rather hazardous to get to the east entrance. This was due to the fact that between Weatherlow and Grand it was mainly bottom land where Piute Creek flowed. At least for pedestrians an elevated wooden plank bridge spanned the creek crossing. So all the excess dirt from the excavations was used as a fill for that segment of Main Street.

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Lassen Flouring Mill

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

Back in March 2015 I wrote about the first flour mill built in Lassen County at Milford. As promised, I would follow up with the other ones. The second mill was constructed in the spring of 1864 near Johnstonville, approximately where the defunct Gables is located. The machinery came from a mill located on Cow Creek, Shasta County, which belonged to John Briceland. The operation was leased to various individuals and it was not until the 1870s that stability of the ownership came to be. In 1875, William Hall and Henry Snyder became partners and remained until it closed.

In 1907, Snyder desired to retire and move to a milder climate. Hall purchased Snyder’s interest, but he too, decided to retire and by 1908, the mill shut down. The mill sat idle for over a decade, and in 1919, as part of the liquidation of Hall’s Estate the mill was sold to M.A. Taylor of Oakland. Taylor attempted to sale it, but there was no interest. He gutted the machinery and took it to the Bay area. Sam Alexander of Standish, salvaged some of the lumber from the building which he used to build a barn at his place.

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Alexander Howell

Alexander Howell
Alexander Howell, courtesy of Donna Howell

Photographers, of course, is a favorite topic of mine. After all, thanks to their work we have a visual record of our past. It has been important to document the photographers of the late 1800s, so as to know the time frames when they chronicled the events. Due to a small population many photographers only remained a year or two, and even then they rode the “circuit” traveling to Modoc and Plumas counties to drum up business.

Alexander Howell came to Susanville from Oregon where he learned the photography trade. On April 15, 1891 he opened his Susanville studio. The following year he was lured to Amedee, with the prospects afforded by this boomtown. After a two-year stint, he traveled throughout Northern California and finally settled permanently at Auburn, California. Very few of his Lassen County works remain, but there is one of the Golden Eagle Mine at Hayden Hill, another topic for another time.

The current issue of the Lassen County Historical Society features an article of another photographer, Jervie Eastman.  The article has a number of flaws, so just be be aware.

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Edsel Dealership

80 N. Roop St.
80 N. Roop Street, Susanville, May 3, 2015

A wide variety of people read the daily posts, and that is a good thing, in the sense for everyone to become more familiar with the region’s heritage.

Of course, while researching one topic, invariably I come across other items, that I was not seeking. Some days it can be hard not to get sidetracked. In a recent instance while researching the Theodore brand, I came across the Susanville Edsel dealership of yore. It was located at 80 North  Roop Street, now home to Lasco and Rooptown Bicycles What many people may not realize that the building was constructed in 1957 for the dealership. Of course, Ford’s Edsel automobile was a failure and it soon closed. Many a seasoned resident will recall this building housed the California Department of Motor Vehicles for many years.

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