Brockman Ranch

Brockman Ranch
The barn is far to the left, as the Brockman Ranch appeared in 1903.

I realize that the Edsel Dealership was to be today’s topic, but a recent event prompted the change. On Wednesday afternoon, April 29, the old Brockman barn on Johnstonville Road went up on flames. In 1864, William Brockman and Jurgen Jensen were partners in a blacksmith shop in Susanville. A few years later they dissolved it. The two men located on nearby ranches on Johnstonville Road. After a 1947 suicide of a Brockman family member that occurred in the barn, the ranch after three generations of ownership was sold.

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Atlas Fredonyer

Fredonyer Summit
Ira and James Purdy posing at Fredonyer Summit, Christmas Eve, 1930

A lot has been written about Atlas Fredonyer early activities in the region. Among other things he filed a land claim in what would later become Susanville, since that town’s founder neglected to do so.

In 1862, Fredonyer was found guilty and sent to prison of a sexual assault charge involving his fifteen year old step-daughter, Sally. Many were of the opinion that Fredonyer did not commit a crime. A petition was circulated and California Governor Stanford pardoned Fredonyer the following year.

After his pardon, Fredonyer seemed to have disappeared, as he never returned back to this region. A few years ago, I finally found out what became of him. He surfaced in a most unusual way in 1880 in San Francisco. Fredonyer it should be noted used the title of “Doctor” to what extent of medical training he had, is not clear.  At this time he was suffering from bowel blockage. He attempted perform his own colonoscopy, which a bottle, which got lodged in the colon.  The heavy set Fredonyer was finally taken to St. Mary’s hospital. A colostomy was performed to remove the bottle.  He did not recover from the procedure and died in San Francisco on August 10, 1880.

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The Drought

Fire Antelope
Antelope Mountain Fire, 1926

As we enter our fourth year of drought, let us hope it does not last as long the 1917-1937 drought. The most severe was the winter of 1923-24. Susanville received less than five inches of precipitation this year. It was so dry that winter that in the middle of March, a one-inch snow fall at Susanville caused great excitement. There was even a greater commotion when eighteen inches of snow fell. It disappeared in a matter of hours. That was the extent of precipitation for the winter. Continue reading The Drought

Brand Project Update

Hulsman Ranch advertisement

Progress got stymied a bit, due to my knee injury. While my archives contain a wealth material, there is always research to do.

It was interesting to review Book A of Brands, Lassen County. The first brand recorded was for Thomas Watson on October 20, 1864.  The John Theodore brand JT was recorded on May 23, 1889 and never changed for over three generations and appears on the wall at the Pioneer. The same can be said for Hulsman Ranch brand though it was not recorded until 1917, when the State of California began enforcing the recording of brands.

Additional brands have also been included in the original list: George and Mayda Elledge, Hostetter & Johnson, Abner McKenzie and Coit Stone.



Camp Smoke Creek

Camp Smoke Creek
The camp was located near the cottonwood trees seen in the distance. It is located on private property and is now fenced off.

During the 1860s, the United States Military had a major presence in the region.

On November 9, 1862, Nevada Territorial Governor James W. Nye wrote to Brigadier General George Wright, Commander of the Department of the Pacific, and requested a Company of troops to protects the emigrants from the Indians along the Honey Lake-Humboldt Road. On November 14, 1862, the troops were dispatched. On December 15, 1862, Second Lt. Henry W. Williams arrived at Smoke Creek with twenty-five men and forty days of rations. On March 28, 1864, First Lt. Oscar Jewett, then in command, received orders from Fort Churchill to abandon the camp and to remove all valuable property from the camps as was possible. Continue reading Camp Smoke Creek

Leavitt City


Stock corrals at Leavitt, circa 1922.
Stock corrals at Leavitt, circa 1922.

In the fall of 1912, Benjamin H. Leavitt proposed the town on his original ranch. Leavitt wrote to his granddaughter, Edith Elledge, of his intentions: “I am going to cut the old ranch up into small tracts and sell it off in ten and twenty acre tracts . . . I am also building a road down from Rice’s Canyon, you know that is directly north of the town of Leavitt, to connect with all the northern trade clear out to Big Valley. The R.R. Co. have agreed to put their stock yards there. I have given them the land for the stock yards. I am also going to extend the road through the ranch to intercept the Janesville Road near Billey Indian. All the merchants of Janesville have agreed to order their good shipped to Leavitt which will make it one of the largest shipping points on the Fernley & Lassen.”

In addition, Leavitt offered railroad officials land if they would construct their roundhouse there. That proposition did not occur as Susanville’s business community convinced the railroad to locate that operation in their town. “The City” consisted of only the store, a few dwellings, and several large corrals that held livestock for shipment on the railroad.

Yet, years later, one could say a city of sorts of was built just north of Leavitt, the home of the California Conservation Center and High Desert State prisons.

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Said Valley Reservoir

Said Valley Dam
Collapse of the Said Valley Dam, May 8, 1938. Courtesy of Betty Barry Deal

In September 1885, James W. Shanklin constructed the first reservoir for irrigation and stock purposes at his ranch in Grasshopper Valley. That dam was 25 feet high and 300 feet across. Over the years it had numerous owners. In 1934, it was purchased by George Heath, who became the owner of this reservoir as well as one on nearby Slate Creek. As early as 1929, the State Department of Water Resources stated neither dam was in compliance and requested that spillways be constructed for each reservoir. The winter of 1937-38 was one of the wettest on record for the 20th century and, in Susanville, 33.68 inches of precipitation was measured. On May 8, 1938, the dam at Said Valley breached and caused considerable flood damage. On August 24, 1939, Heath sued Percy L. Castro for $50,000 in damages that were caused by dam failures. It was Heath’s contention that, since Castro leased the reservoirs and his Grasshopper Ranch, it was his duty to install the spillways that the Department of Resources requested. However, during the Department of Water Resources investigation, it was noted that even if the proper spillway had been installed at Said Valley, it would still have failed because of defects in the dam’s original foundation. The court ruled in favor of Castro and stated it was Heath’s responsibility and ordered Heath to pay Castro’s court costs. The dam was rebuilt, albeit on a smaller scale.

Future Posts

Hufford’s Sheep Camp, Eagle Lake, 1921.

Here is a preview of upcoming items for the first half of May. In addition, take a moment to review the Subscribe feature on the upper left corner.

Weather 1924 5/1/15
Atlas Fredonyer 5/2/15
Edsel Dealership 5/3/15
Lassen College 5/4/15
Local Militia 5/5/15
Moon Valley 5/6/15
Toll Roads 5/7/15
Susanville School Names 5/8/15
Asa Fairfield 5/9/15
Hotel Saville 5/10/15
Technology 5/11/15
Neversweats 5/12/15
Lassen Lawnmowers 5/13/15
Lincoln School 5/14/15
Stacy 5/15/15


Unfortunately, not the best photograph of Spoonville.

This was a small town located several miles northeast of Janesville on the way to Standish. In 1897, William E. Spoon established the Honey Lake Creamery near the Missouri Bend School. Spoon also opened a general store and, for a time, it was operated by the Christie Brothers. Thus the nucleus of a town was formed. In 1903, Robert Dunn built the 20-room Spoonville Hotel. On May 29, 1905, Spoon sold his remaining interests there to Ebenezer Cooley Brown, for an undisclosed amount. Though a small town, with less than thirty inhabitants, it was the “corporate” headquarters of the Lassen Mill & Lumber Company, Baxter Creek Irrigation Company and the Pacific Coast Bear Club. Members of the Pacific Coast Bear Club included such dignitaries as President Theodore Roosevelt and Nevada Governor John Sparks. In 1913, the town’s name was changed to Edgemont, as part of a real estate promotion scheme. M.E. “Mul” Mulroney, a native of Spoonville, recalled the town was already in decline and the name change did nothing to correct the situation. In addition, Mul stated that in the early 1920s the second story of the Dunn Hotel was removed and the building was converted into a dance hall. He further stated it was torn down sometime in the 1930s.

Spoonville Map
One afternoon, many yeas ago, Mul Mulroney and I sketched a rough map of Spoonville. B=Barn, C=Creamery and S=School (Missouri Bend)

Lassen High Alumni

Lassen High

Something a little bit different. On the third Saturday of June, the Lassen High Alumni Association holds it all alumni picnic in Susanville. Alumni come far and near to attend this event, some 400+. For me its always been fun, and I can conduct a lot of historical research in one afternoon. For your reading enjoyment, I provide you with the Alumni’s April newsletter, which has a lot of interesting reading material. Clink on the link below to open the PDF file.

Alum News Apr. 15