Lassen Mail – March 14, 1930 – Wendel Promises A Big Boom
Shades of the days of forty nine or of the oil fields are about to be created and materialize in the near future if current rumor and certain things that are more then rumor prove to be true. The scene of the séance is to be at Wendel, and from the evidence it is a good place to hold one.
There is much to be said in favor of Wendel. During the past week there have been eighteen engines in one day, three new men added to the force in the roundhouse, and an extra telegraph operator put on. Everything indicates a big boom which will do its booming in the near future.
Certain people may prefer to scoff at Wendel as a possible metropolis of the plains, but the fact that there is more than sagebrush down there has been proven throughout the past two weeks. There is a good future in Wendel, and farsighted people will soon be watching this place to see what happens.
My grandmother Purdy was an avid rock hound, so I experienced some interesting outings as a child. One of these adventures was to the Apache tears mine in the Smoke Creek Desert. The mine dates back to World War I when Smoke Creek resident Gordon Mott while exploring a small canyon came across a mica deposit. He developed a tunnel and a vertical shaft hoping that he would find gold. What he did find was small pieces of obsidian embedded in the soft mica, sometimes referred to as Apache tears or Black Diamonds.
Awhile back I received an inquiry about the status of my research on the Western Pacific’s Highline. For those not familiar it is a 200 mile stretch of railroad between Keddie, California to Klamath Falls, Oregon. Western Pacific would construct a 112 mile stretch from Keddie to Bieber, Lassen County. The Great Northern Railroad would construct the segment from Klamath Falls to Bieber. The rail line was completed in November 1931 with a golden spike ceremony at Bieber.
As to the question at hand, the project literally got derailed. In future posts, however, we will explore some of the history of this line, which someone Western Pacific’s dubbed the line the Mountain View Route, but it was never adopted.
Are dry Decembers a prelude to a dry winter? Record snowfalls occur in January, and some times the preceding December was drier than normal and some times not. I will share a bit wisdom. As a young naive lad, I once asked my Uncle Bob Rea what his winter prediction. His reply, “I will tell you in March.”
Today’s featured photograph is train load of logs arriving at the Fruit Growers Supply Company mill in Susanville. It was taken in 1921, the same year the plant opened. Notice how very little had been developed nearby. Two buildings with a Tudor style like facade were the office and dining hall. Today it is now the site of Riverside Park.
By far one of the Westwood’s largest attractions was its company store. This was not your typical company store. Westwood would not have a so-called Main Street complete with a business district, but Fletcher was intrigued with the development of department stores in major cities. Adaptations, of course, were made for what worked in San Francisco or Minneapolis would not apply to Westwood.
Of course the building needed to be conveniently located. What better location than near the mill entrance and adjacent to the railroad depot. This store was dubbed the Big Store and during its evolution kept getting, bigger and bigger.
On Christmas Eve 1913, the Big Store opened its doors for business. The Plumas National provided the following description: “A complete butcher shop, a drug store, grocery department, men’s furnishings, women’s goods, hardware and shoe departments are all under special heads, each of whom is a specialist in his line. Nineteen men are employed in the store at the present time.”
In time, certain features in the original store would be relocated elsewhere such as offices, thus providing the Big Store with even more room to expand its merchandise. In February 1916, the Big Store got even bigger with another forty-foot addition. The facility could boast 73,125 square feet of retail space, with an additional 8,800 square feet utilized for offices and other purposes. It was the largest department store north of Sacramento.
In 1920 the Christian Scientists organized locally and held their meetings in the hall of the Knoch building. On August 26, 1931, they purchased property at the northwest corner of Mill and Lassen Streets from Gladys Burroughs and Iva Raker. In the fall of 1937 they announced plans to build a church. The following spring, Enoch Strom began construction of the church. The first services were held in the new church on June 12, 1938. During the Thanksgiving Services of 1938 the building was dedicated. At the same the congregation was pleased to announce that is was debt free. In 1999, with a dwindling attendance, the local church disbanded.
On April 7, 1925 a group of local and outside business interests formed a company to raise $300,000 in stock to build a hotel on the vacant site of the former Emerson Hotel on the corner of Main and Lassen Streets. Construction began that summer for the three-story reinforced concrete structure. The new hotel opened with little fanfare on April 27, 1926.
In the meantime, during construction a contest was held for a name of the new hotel, the winner to receive $25. To be creative, the names Susanville and Lassen were barred. On November 25, 1925 a name was selected. Frank Coffin, who had secured a ten year lease to operate the hotel, asked the Susanville Hotel Company that it be named “Hotel Mount Lassen.” Coffin told the board that the name had better advertising appeal. The board was reluctant, but adopted the request.
While it is officially the first day of winter, some in the meteorological field considered the seasonal change on the first of the month, as the weather conditions have already changed. Anyhow, remember last year’s flooding. Today’s photograph is of the flood of 1955 of Susan River on Riverside Drive. You will note back then there was not a bridge but culverts. After the flood, the culverts were replaced with a bridge. Of note, in the background is the log deck of Fruit Growers Supply Company.