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Present Day Towns of Lassen County

Bieber Card IconBieber

Terms and Vocabulary
  • livery
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Bieber is in the northwest part of Lassen County in Big Valley on the Pitt River. This was the best place to cross the Pit River. In May 1873, Theodore Pleisch claimed 160 acres and built a house. It was known as Chalk Ford until 1877 when Nathan Bieber opened a store and a post office there. He purchased the town from Pleisch for $600. People started calling it Bieber. By 1882 there were 43 people, two stores, two hotels, a restaurant, barbershop, two saloons, a livery stable, a post office, a weekly newspaper, and lodges.

Doyle Card IconDoyle

This area was settled by John Doyle in 1859. He had lived there all of his life. Doyle boomed because of the railroads. In 1888, the Nevada-California-Oregon came there and the Western Pacific came in 1909.

Herlong Card Icon

Terms and Vocabulary:

Herlong was originally built to serve as the junction for the Nevada-California-Oregon and Western Pacific railroads. Stanley Rayl wanted the post office named Rayl, but the president of the Nevada-California-Oregon railroad wanted it named after his mother-in-law, Clara Hackstaff Adams. The Postmaster General decided on Rayl. When Rayl left in 1921, the post office was taken care of by Cyrus Helman. Rayl later sued Helman for stealing funds. In 1930, the court dismissed the lawsuit because no trial date was ever scheduled. The post office name was changed to Hackstaff on March 18, 1922. It operated until that December and was closed because the Western Pacific moved its crew to Doyle.

The area was known as Hackstaff until the Sierra Army Ordnance Depot was established in 1942. It was named after Captain Henry W. Herlong, the first ordinance officer killed in World War II. The post office was opened in 1942 with a problem; all the stamps, money orders and equipment were stamped with the name "Hurlong". The error was corrected within 5 days.

Janesville Card IconJanesville

Terms and Vocabulary:

The present day town of Janesville was originally claimed by Thomas Mitchell in 1856. Malcomb Bankhead purchased the property from Mitchell. In 1857, he built a 20 feet x 30 feet two story building out of hewn logs. He turned it into a small hotel. Bankhead then returned to Missouri to bring his wife and four children out here to live. His father, brother, William, and two nephews joined in the journey.

There are two stories about the naming of Janesville. Some claim that it was named after Malcomb Bankhead's wife Jane. Others state it was named after Malcomb Bankhead's granddaughter, Jane Agnes, born on May 17, 1862, born to Susan Bankhead Hill and Smith J. Hill. Asa Fairfield (1916) reports that the early settlers are "equally positive that this is right. All of them are reliable people and the reader is left to judge for himself which 'Jane' the place is named after."
Throughout the early years, more people began to build in the Janesville area. There was a store, a shoe shop, a sawmill, a blacksmith, and a school house. The first post office was established in 1869. In 1864, Janesville and Susanville were the two communities suggested for the county seat to be voted on in second day of May in 1864. Susanville prevailed.

In 1860, many of the Janesville area residents were worried about Indian troubles in Nevada. So, on Bankhead's property, Fort Janesville was built. They built a stockade sixty-three feet by ninety feet and twelve or fourteen feet high around a log house. It was loopholed for rifles. Some people stayed one or two nights and left the next day for Quincy. Others soon went back to their ranches, and others stayed all summer.

Fort Janesville was never used as a fort and was abandoned. People looted the windows, doors, wood, and anything else of interest. By 1867, the house was gone, but the stockade stood until it gradually fell down. In 1989, the Nataqua Parlor of the Native Daughters of the Golden West erected a monument to the historic fort.

The Janesville cemetery is the oldest in the county. Charles Crawford was the first person buried there in May, 1858. The cemetery is now called the Lake Cemetery. It is no longer used.

Janesville continues to grow and more homes are being built. Janesville still has a post office and a school.

Who do you think Janesville is really named after? Why?

Johnstonville Card IconJohnstonville

Johnstonville was named after Robert Johnston. It was nicknamed Toadtown because of a large number of toads seen there after a rain storm. Johnston and his brother-in-law Eber Bangham traded a cow and a calf to William Dow for the land in 1859. In 1864, the Lassen County Board of Supervisors changed the name from Toadtown to Johnstonville.

Leavitt_Lake Card IconLeavitt Lake

Originally called Clinton, this area was known as Leavitt Lake in 1973 when the houses were constructed. It was named after Benjamin Leavitt who built the reservoir in 1875. In 1889, the reservoir was enlarged. It is told that Leavitt's son-in-law, Victor Perry, planted a gold nugget near the reservoir. The workers were told they could keep any gold they found. This speeded up construction considerably.

Litchfield Card IconLitchfield

The Shaffer Brothers Ranch and Station was purchased by Andrew Litch and Thomas French in 1868. In 1874, the partnership ended and Litch received the western part of the property. He moved to Reno. In 1895, his daughter Clara married B.F. Gibson and moved to the ranch.

In 1912, the Fernley-Lassen Railroad came through and the area was called "New Standish." Free home lots were offered to residents of Standish if they would move their homes and business to the new town. In 1913, the area became known as Litchfield named for Andrew Litch. The post office opened in 1914.

Madeline Card IconMadeline

There were two towns called Madeline in Lassen County. The first one was built as a stage stop for travelers going to Hayden Hill. It was settled in the mid-1800's by George O. Ford and Merrick L. Cheney. The post office ran from 1875 to 1882. It is named for a little girl who died there. The town was then sold and called Yorks.

The present town of Madeline was built in 1902 as a train stop for the Nevada-California-Oregon railroad. The town grew but World War I and the Great Depression caused 70% of the residents to leave.

Milford Card IconMilford

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Milford was named in 1862 for the mills that operated there. Robert J. Scott first settled there on May 10, 1856. He sold his farm to Peter Lassen. After Lassen was murdered, it was purchased from his estate by Fredrick Washburn and Thomas Fairchild. They thought it was Lassen's original homesite (where Lassen's monument is now). They built a water-powered sawmill in 1860 which remained in operation until 1883 when it burned. In 1861 Judson Dakin and Joseph C. Wemple built a gristmill. Wemple named the town Milford because of the two mills. By 1882, the town contained a sawmill, gristmill, hotel, store, blacksmith, butcher, post office, schoolhouse and 15 houses.

Nubieber Card IconNubieber

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The community was created in 1931 for the Great Northern and Western Pacific Railroads. The first name chosen was Big Valley City, but the post office rejected it because it had three words which was against policy. The name Bieber (the original town of Bieber was just two miles down the road) and West Bieber were considered, but Nubieber was finally chosen. There was a large celebration in 1931 and a bottle of wine was broken over the entrance sign as a christening. In 1940, Byron Greenwood traded his unsold lots in Nubieber and his 630 acre ranch for a 60-room apartment building in San Francisco.

Pittville Card IconPittville

Pittville is a small community near the Lassen and Shasta County borders. For awhile, it was thought to be in Shasta County, but a survey in 1896 determined the county line was in the middle of the town.

Ravendale Card IconRavendale

Terms and Vocabulary:
Ravendale was established by Jim and Laura Coe in 1909. They had moved their five children there from Kansas. It was suggested that it be named Coeville, but Laura Coe had already named it Ravendale. It carries the distinction of being the only town in the United States with that name.

Standish Card IconStandish

Terms and Vocabulary:

Standish was built as a utopian community in 1897. The first residents arrived in 1898. It was thought that people in the East wouldn't want to live in large, dirty industrialized cities and would move to a better place.

The people lived close and traveled to the fields to work. This gave the people living there a community instead of the isolation of farm life. The town is named for Miles Standish who traveled on the Mayflower with the Pilgrims.

Water was a problem for the town so the people built a dam. The residents downstream fought the dam. It was in the courts for years which hampered the growth of Standish.

Termo Card IconTermo

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photo of sage brush, mountains and water tower in Termo CaliforniaTermo was established in 1900 as the terminus of the Nevada-California-Oregon Railroad. Previously it was called Juniper City, named after Juniper Ridge. There was quite a settlement in Termo including a depot, livery stables, barns, hotels, restaurants, and warehouses. One warehouse was 8,500 square feet with a concrete floor. When the railroad extended its line 14 miles north to Madeline, Termo fell on hard times.

In 1912, Termo sprang back to life due because of the Eagle Lake Lumber Company. The company used Termo as its shipping point for the railroad. The mill closed in 1942. The town was sold in 1920 for $1,439. The entire town burned down in 1937, but it was rebuilt by its owner George Thomas Wood. The post office operated from 1900 to 1908 and 1915 to 1989. It was finally closed because the post office officials believed the building to be unsafe.

Wendel Card IconWendel

Wendel was a railroad stop built in 1914 for the Nevada-California-Oregon and Southern Pacific Railroads. It was known as Upper Hot Springs, Schaeffer Hot Springs, Smithon, Boyd, Hot Springs Station, Purser, Antola, and Caloreta. It was either named for a major investor in the railroad, Charles de Wendel or Wendel Riesebman, a friend of the president of the railroad.

The town was not created until 1929. It was destroyed by a fire in 1936 that started in the attic of a restaurant, then spread to the pool hall, restaurant, and residences. The only remaining business buildings were a store, boarding house, gas station, and the depot. Wendel had fallen on bad times as a town. The post office closed in 1993 and the Sierra Pacific Lumber Mill in Susanville, which still used the railroad line, closed in 2004.

Westwood Card IconWestwood

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Thomas Barlow Walker built the town of Westwood as a company town for the Red River Lumber Co. in 1913. The area was known as Walker's Camp, Forestville, and Meadows. The town was only meant to exist twenty years or so - until all the lumber in the area was harvested. Then the Red River Lumber Company would move to another forest and begin again. In 1923, the company announced it would be a permanent town.

Logo drawing of man with mustache, wearing a hat and in writing "Paul Bunyan's Pine"

It was once the largest mill town in the United States. Westwood had a theater, an opera house, a dance hall and the largest department store in northern California. In its heyday, every house had electricity with indoor plumbing and the sidewalks were steam-heated so snow removal wasn't necessary.

The mill and town was sold to the Fruit Growers Supply Company in 1944 for two million dollars in cash. This mill made wooden boxes for packing fruit. In 1950's, packing houses began to use cardboard boxes and Fruit Grower Supply closed. While many people left the area, the town survived.

The Walker family brought the legend of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox from Minnesota. They promoted this legend for 30 years turning him into a nationally known legend throughout the world. Wooden statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox stand outside the historic railroad depot. Paul Bunyan Days yearly celebrations bring many visitors to the town.

photo of large wooden carved blue ox Babe and Paul Bunyan

Sources: Card IconSources:

Fairfield, Asa. Fairfield's Pioneer History of Lassen County
Purdy, Tim. A Lassen County Almanac: An Historical Encyclopedia, 2002
"Susanville Centennial," Lassen Co. Advocate 1965

Information presented on this page was researched and contributed by:

Holly Azevado
Marilyn Chapman
Heather Cluck