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California Genealogy and History Archives


Tehama County History


A Memorial and Biographical History of Northern California
Chicago, Lewis Publ. Co., 1891




        Tehama is an Indian word of unknown signification. Although frequently visited at a previous date by trappers and hunters on their way from Oregon to California, the first recorded visit paid to that portion of the State subsequently laid off as Tehama County, was made by General Bidwell in 1843. Like all others who visit that part for the first time he was very favorably impressed. He mapped the country from memory, named most of the streams and described it so enthusiastically that as a result attention was aroused and in 1844 the first American settlers came in. They were four in number, William G. Chard, A. G. Toomes, R. H. Thomes, and Job F. Dye. They were given grants on the Sacramento River of five leagues each. Thomes and Chard chose their grant on the western border of the river, one above and the other below Elder Creek. Toomes and Dye selected locations immediately opposite them on the eastern bank of the Sacramento. In this same year Major Redding [Reading] went still higher up and located in what is now Shasta County. These grants were taken up in the spring of 1844. Later in the same year Josiah Belden also located a grant of five leagues in the valley. This grant was sold in 1847 to William B. Ide, one of the most prominent of the early settlers in the Upper Sacramento Valley, about whom many characteristic stories are told. See pages 33-40.

        In the fall of this year also came Peter Lassen, after whom are named the Lassen Buttes, Lassen County, etc. He was a marked character, a man of no education and a thorough pioneer. Some time later he built a large adobe house and blacksmith shop, and obtained great local distinction as a manufacturer of bridle bits and Spanish spurs. He went to the mines in the early days and got very rich, but, like so many other western pioneers, let it slip easily through his fingers. One of his freaks was to go to San. Francisco in 1849, and buy the steamer "Lady Washington," load her with goods and make the voyage to the new town he was attempting to found at the mouth of Deer Creek. She took the whole five winter months of 1849–'50 to reach the spot, but she did so, being the pioneer steamer to breast the waters of the Sacramento as far as Tehama County. Uncle Peter gave a square league of the best of his land on Deer Creek in 1846 to another old trapper, Daniel Sill, Senior. Sill afterward started a rival town to that of his friend, but neither of the places came to anything. Lassen was unfitted for civilization, lost his money, sold his ranch to Henry Gerke, who in 1881 sold to Senator Stanford the celebrated "Vina " rancho. See page 150:

        The first house put up in Tehama County was an adobe put up in 1845 by R. H. Thomes, where the town of Tehama now is. It was destroyed by fire in 1858. This year (1845) saw only the addition of W. C. Moon to the list of grant-holders.

        In 1846 Mr. Toomes built an adobe on the opposite side of the Sacramento, and Mr. Chard put up a log cabin, four miles north of Tehama. This was a public stopping place for years.

         In 1847, Mr. Dye put up the adobe on Antelope Creek, which is still in existence in good repair on Major Cone's place, the oldest building in the county. In the same year Judge Ide built on what was known as Ide's Bottom a few miles below the site of Red Cliff. In the spring of this year began to appear occasional emigrant parties on the Oregon trail. They caused a good deal of trouble in running off or killing horses and stock.

        In 1848, besides those already named, there should be added to those in the county Captain Henry L. Ford and William (Uncle Billy) Meyers, the latter living with Lassen. All of these parties acquired large fortunes in the mines in the fall of 1848 and spring of 1849.

        In the fall of 1849 begins a new epoch, as people began to flock in, and we will no longer attempt to keep track of them all. On September 9, 1850, was held the first election for the purpose of choosing alcaldes. The election was held at Lassen's ranch on Deer Creek. Captain J. D. Potts was elected Chief Alcalde, and Colonel Wilson as his assistant.

        The Mexican land grants that were made within the present limits of Tehama County were as follows: Las Baulinas, 17,707 acres, patented to W. B. Ide in 1860; Las Flores, 13,315 acres, to William G. Chard in 1859; Primer Cañon ó Rio de los Berrendos, 26,637 acres, to J. F. Dye in 1871; Rio de los Molinos 22,172 acres, to A. G. Toomes in 1858; Saucos, 22,212 acres, to R. H. Thomas in 1857.

        The town of Tehama is the oldest in date of foundation of all in the county, springing up on the Thomes ranch. During 1850 it was a flourishing place with great hopes for the future. A good hotel was kept in the old Thomes adobe by a Mr. Leonard. Two rival towns, called Danville and Benton, were also laid out on Deer Creek, one on the Sill place and the other by Lassen, but they both came to naught. Tehama was mapped and a city platted, but Red Bluff, which was afterward started by S. Woods at the head of navigation and first named Leodocia, had too great an advantage and soon distanced it. It is to-day, however, a growing town of considerable business activity and of importance as a railway point.

        The first house where Red Bluff now is was an adobe put up late in 1849 by John Myers, who conducted it for a short time as a hotel. In the following spring Mr. Cooper erected a small adobe there, and Judge Ide built another at the "Adobe" Ferry, one mile north. The town was laid out in 1850. In 1851 Captain E. G. Reed, still one of the energetic men of Red Bluff, built and started a hotel and conducted it with great success for years. The first brick building was the Empire Stables, erected by Major John Brady. Being at the head of navigation, Red Bluff soon forged ahead, and during the early mining excitements in the northern mines was a great staging town, and did an immense amount of transhipping and teaming of goods. It languished later on with the subsidence of activity in the mines, reviving again in, the early '70's on the advent of the Oregon & California Railroad. Since then it has progressed rapidly, and has a promising future. In 1854 Red Bluff had a population of 1,000 people. In 1860 it had twice as many. The railroad made its advent in December, 1872, superseding river travel, and wholly changing the order of affairs. On the organization of the county in 1856, there was a strong attempt to locate the county-seat at Tehama, but in March, 1857, Red Bluff was chosen. One of the characters of the flush early days was "Captain Jane," a woman of uncertain virtue, who dressed as a sport, flourished a revolver, and could use it too, and who had all the sturdy, independent characteristics of the time. She ran a farm on Thomes Creek for some time, conducting it alone.

        In early days land was considered as worthless for farming purposes, and nothing, was attempted except stock-raising. Early :in 1852, however, Nathaniel Merrill and Augustus Eastman began farming on the Moon ranch. In the fall of that year Henry Wilson and James M. Kendricks located on Thomes Creek and also went to farming. At the same time Andy Winemiller settled on Elder Creek, and during the winter kept a public house at the crossing. Robert E. Warren also settled on Thomes Creek. In the same winter Thornelson and Woods settled about four miles north of Tehama. This was the beginning of farming. In the spring of 1853 J. C. Tyler bought out Winemiller. From that time on agriculture spread successfully, until it covered the whole county and is now being displaced by fruit-raising, the land being capable of anything that can be raised in a semi-tropical climate.

        The steamer Orient, in 1850, was the first one to enter Red Bluff. Later on she and the Plumas ran regularly to that point. From that time on till the completion of the railroad regular water communication was held. In May, 1854, the Belle, Captain Pierce, pilot, made her way through the cañon above Red Bluff. Later several other boats went above the town, but it was only an occasional thing.. See page 77.

        The industrial beginning in Tehama County seems to have been made in 1845 when W. C. Moon, a hunter named Merritt and Peter Lassen made a canoe load of grindstones on Stony Creek, and carried them down the Sacramento. They did not make a financial success of the undertaking, however, and never repeated it. In 1851 the first saw-mill was erected by a Mr. Payne on the Sacramento River above Mill Creek. The first grist-mill was put up on Mill Creek by Dr. Crosby in the same year. The representative of saw-milling now is the great Sierra Lumber Company, formerly the Sierra Flume and Lumber Company. It has 75,000 acres of timber land, has five saw-mills and a flume thirty-five miles long to carry lumber to Red Bluff, where its offices and factories are situated, in addition to as long a flume, chiefly in Butte County, to its office and yards at Chico. It began operations in 1875. In the flour-milling business there is more detail. In 1854 Bull, Baker & Co. erected, a mill on the left bank of the Sacramento, removing afterward to Colusa. In 1855 J. F. Dye built a small mill on Antelope Creek, six miles from Red Bluff. In 1857 Crosby & Kuetzer put up a mill one mile east of Red Bluff, being twice burned out. In 1870 M. C. Ellis put up the Red Bluff Flouring Mills.

        Tehama County was organized pursuant to the act of the Legislature approved April 9, 1856. Until 1860 the county rented premises for court-house and other county purposes, except jail, which was erected in 1857. The present court-house was built in 1860.

        At the close of 1853 the first school meeting in the county was held at Red Bluff to organize a school district. In the fall of 1855 the first school building was erected in Red Bluff on the corner of Oak and Jefferson streets, at a cost of $3,000.

        The first marriage ceremony in the county was performed by First Alcalde Captain J. D. Potts in 1849. The high contracting parties were a Mr. Webber and Miss May Hall. Miss Hall was a sister of Judge Newton Hall, who came to the county in the fall of 1849 with his mother, brother and three sisters, and started a hotel, long very popular, at a point seven miles south of Tehama. The second marriage took place in 1850 between Mr. Bessy and Miss Harriet daughter of Daniel Sill, Sr., to whom Lassen gave land. He brought out his family in 1849.

        Among notable old landmarks in the county may be mentioned the "Massachusetts House," on the redlands south of  Red Bluff, long used as a hotel.  In the spring of 1851 the first stage line from. Colusa to Shasta was started by Baxter & Monroe. In the spring of 1852 an opposition line was put on the other side of the river by Hall & Crandall, between Marysville and Shasta. Marshall McCummings was the first man to drive a stage coach into Tehama.

        The Methodist Episcopal Church was  the pioneer church of Tehama County, coming up and holding services in 1854. In 1855 they rented a building in which to hold services, but did not build until 1878. The Baptist Church was organized July 21, 1860. They built in 1874. The Presbyterians organized a church November 11, 1860. They built their church in 1862, but have added to it since. The Roman Catholic Church came in 1864 for the first time.

        The Red Bluff Beacon was the first paper issued in Tehama County, appearing at Red Bluff in June, 1857. Its proprietors were Steve Clark and Blanton. In September, 1858, the Tehama Gazette was published at Tehama. In August, 1860, the Independent was issued as a semi-weekly. In October, 1865, the Tehama Observer made its debut. In March, 1867, was published the Sentinel. In March, 1872, the Tehama Independent appeared for a season. All these have died. The Sentinel was afterward revived and is now ably conducted by Dr. W. B. H. Dodson & Son, as a daily and weekly. In. September, 1874, the People's Cause, now the oldest paper, was first issued. The Pendleton 'Brothers now carry it on, making it a bright and spicy paper, also daily and weekly. In August, 1875, the Tocsin was first published. In 1883 the name was changed to the Democrat, and again in 1887 to the News, under which name a lively and interesting daily and weekly is now published by E. F. Lennon. The central importance of Red Bluff may be seen when it affords field and scope for three such able papers as the Sentinel, People's Cause, and News. The latter is Democratic, and the two former, Republican in politics.




        Tehama County is situated in the north central part of California. It is bounded on the north by Shasta County; on the east by Plumas and Butte; on the south by Butte and Colusa, and on the west by Mendocino and Trinity.

        The county extends across the Sacramento Valley from the Sierras on the east to the Coast Range on the west. The Sacramento river flows through the county from north to south, dividing it into two nearly equal divisions.  Cottonwood and Battle Creeks on the northern boundary, Antelope, Reed's, Red Bank, Payne's, Dibble, Mill, Elder and Thomes creeks are among the principal streams of the county flowing into the Sacramento.

        The California & Oregon Railway, under the control of the Southern Pacific Company, enters the northern part of the county at Cottonwood and passes through Red Bluff to Tehama along the western bank of the Sacramento. At Tehama the railway diverges, one line continuing on the same side as before, through Corning into Colusa County; the other division crosses the river on one of the finest bridges in northern California, and passes through Vina into Butte County. These two routes again unite at Davisville, Yolo County.

        The principal occupations of the people of the county are farming and sheep-raising, though fruit-raising is beginning to attract many persons. The Sierra Lumber Mills at Red Bluff give employment to about seventy-five or 100 men. The grain crops of the county are large, Tehama standing in the front rank as a wheat and barley county. The lands lying immediately along the river cannot be surpassed in the State for fertility.

        The leading farmers of the county are J. S. Cone, J. S. Butler, J. C. Tyler, W. W. Finnell, John Finnell, Fountain Finnell, R. H. Blossom, A. Gallatin, Hiram Rawson, H. Kraft and Leland Stanford.

        "Berendos" is a beautiful tract of land east of Red Bluff and about two and one-half miles distant. Though planted to trees but three years many of the orchards are now bearing. Many of the citizens of Red Bluff own ten or fifteen acres here. It promises to be the garden spot of northern Tehama.



the county-seat, is situated on the right bank of the Sacramento River, between Reed's Creek on the south and Brewery Creek on the north. The city is about 200 miles distant from San Francisco. Red Bluff is a growing steadily town; there has never been a boom here yet; still, the population has nearly doubled during the past ten years, and is now in the neighborhood of 5,000. The town is situated on a low plateau, not as high as the surrounding country. The streets are wide and cleanly kept, the town is lighted by electricity, the plant being on Antelope Creek, about five miles east of town. The water used by the town is brought from the same creek.

        The court-house, between Washington and Jefferson streets, is one of the finest structures of its kind in northern California. The hall of records was added to the northern part of the court-house about five years ago. The jail is on the south side of the court-house and is neatly and comfortably kept.

        The county hospital is one mile west of Red Bluff, and is valued at about $20,000. It is a neat, commodious building, well ventilated and supplied with modern contrivances.

        The railroad company have here a large semi circular round-house, with stalls for fifteen engines. The depot is large and does a heavy business, the receipts often reaching $2,000 daily. Tickets are sold to all parts of the Eastern States.

        Wool, wheat, lumber, and produce are exported, and machinery, merchandise and provisions imported.

        Recently the citizens held a mass meeting to consider C. P. Huntington's probable railroad from Eureka to Red Bluff, and from Fruito to Red Bluff. If these roads are completed, and it is probable they will, they will open a rich country and make Red Bluff an important center.

        Besides the railroad works there are several other manufacturing enterprises in Red Bluff among them; Bidwell's carriage factory, a broom factory, glove factory, and the Sierra Lumber Company's door and sash factory.

        The latter factory manufactured last year about 45,500 doors, 27,700 sash, and several thousand blinds—not counting the thousands of feet of lumber cleared, moldings, etc. The company owns 60,000 acres of timber, seventy miles of flume, and about twenty miles of rail­way.

        About 200 men are employed by the corporation here and in the forests.

        The wool industry is enormous, Tehama County producing as much if not more than Wyoming, Utah, Montana and other States in that vicinity. The annual exportation is about 2,000,000 pounds. Red Bluff has the handling of this vast amount, which is about one-fifth of the product of the State. Much interest is taken in the proposed woolen-mill, which would enhance the value of Red Bluff property greatly.

        The finest business house in Red Bluff is that of the Cone & Kimball Company. This building is situated on the corner of Main and Walnut streets, in the business center of the city. It was completed in 1886, at a cost of $65,000. The dimensions are 100 x 115 feet, two stories high. The lower story is used by the company in their extensive general merchandise trade. The upper story is fitted for offices. The whole structure is of brick. A large tower surmounts the whole—containing a town clock. The company have large warehouses in town and a store in Vina.

        The I. O. O. F. building was dedicated March 26, 1883. It is situated on the corner of Washington and Oak streets, fronting Oak. The building is 45 x 100 feet, with twenty feet ceiling in the upper story. The building with the grounds is owned by the lodge. The cost was $16,000—lot, $3,500, and furniture $2,000; total, $21,500. The lodge rooms are on the second story, the lower being fitted up and occupied by business men. Swain & Hudson were the contractors.

        The Opera House, owned by G. L. Kingsley, situated on Main street near Oak, is one of the largest houses in town.

        The Postoffice building, corner of Oak and Main, is owned by H. W. Brown. The lower portion contains the postoffice and a grocery store. The upper story is occupied by several fraternal lodges—F. & A. M., K. T., I. O. G. T., G. A. R., W. R. C., S. V., etc.

        The Bank of Tehama County is on Main, between Pine and Oak streets. In the same building are the offices of Wells, Fargo & Co., the Western Union Telegraph Company and County Treasurer's office.

        Nearly opposite the Bank of Tehama is the banking building of H. Kraft. The upper story is occupied by Chipman & Garter, attorneys at law.

        The Town Hall on Main street deserves but little mention. The main things the town needs at present are a good town hall and hotel. The town has a very efficient fire company, consisting of a steam engine and a hook and ladder company. Many dollars have been saved by the efforts of the gallant citizens who are in the organization.

        The residences of Red Bluff are beautiful and attractive. The main dwellings are on Washington and Jefferson streets, which are as delightful places for homes as can be found in California. Among the fine residences are the homes of G. G. Kimball, G. W. Westlake, V. P. Baker, H. Kraft, C. B. Ashurst, and many others. Major Cone has a delightful residence on Antelope Creek east of Red Bluff.

        Many drug stores, clothing stores and general merchandise houses with two hardware firms speak well for the prosperity of the metropolis of Northern California. Besides these there are several stables, a candy factory, and two photographers.

        The Tremont and National hotels are the leading hotels in Red Bluff and do a good business.

        As to newspapers, see page 264 [Sutter County].

        In many portions of the town various handsome church edifices, well attended, and neatly kept, argue well for the religious tendencies of the people of the city. The Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Catholics, Christians, Baptists, Methodists (North and South), have churches.

        But the crowning gems of the many in Red Bluff are her public schools. These are two in number--the Oak Street, which is a fine brick structure, and the Lincoln Street School, completed in 1888, one of the finest public schools in the State. The system of instruction is well developed under the able supervision of Prof. O. E. Graves, who for ten years has been principal.

        In 1880 there were but six or seven teachers, now (1890) there are thirteen, and the school really needs more. There are about 900 census children in the district, out of which about 800 are enrolled on the school register. In the county there are but about 2,700 school children, so it can readily be seen that almost one-third of the children attend school in Red Bluff. Well may Red Bluff be proud of her educational facilities, which are something unusual in a town of her size.

In addition to the public schools an academy conducted by the Sisters of "Our Lady of Mercy," gives instruction to seventy-five or eighty young ladies.

        Taking all in all Red Bluff is picturesque and attractive. It will compare favorably with any town in the State in regard to healthfulness, the death rate being but a little less than nine per cent during the past few years. It is steadily growing and increasing both in population and wealth.



situated about twelve miles south of Red Bluff, is the second town in the county. In the early history of the county this place was the county seat. The population is about 350. The country round about Tehama is among the finest in the State, and immense quantities of grain are annually grown here. The most thrifty farmers of the county are found in the vicinity of Tehama; among these are the Finnell Bros., J. S. Butler, S. Chard, L. Schultz, Hon. W. P. Mathews, Charles Tait, S. A. Gyle & Co., Andrew Simpson and J. C. Tyler.

        The river is here spanned by a large railroad and wagon bridge. The California & Oregon Railroad, from the east side of the river here connects with that from the west, and makes Tehama a central point for trade and travel.

        The Star Flour Mills just across the river furnish excellent flour, and the demand is such that the mill often runs day and night.

        John Simpson runs one of the best and largest assorted hardware stores north of Sacramento; one can find anything in that line from a sewing-machine needle to a harvester if necessary.

        Christain Heider, proprietor of the noted Heider House, is one of the most enterprising citizens. His house is as well conducted as many of the hotels in large towns. Mr. Heider owns a number of dwelling houses in town and also conducts a large livery stable.

        The Tait House is ably conducted by Charles Tait, one of the heavy men of the county, and does a thriving business. Mr. Tait is a farmer on a large scale.

        I. B. Ashbrook and S. A. Giles & Company are the leading general merchants:

        Dr. W. .P. Mathews owns and conducts a neat drug store.

        John Tait and J. R. Kelly are the leading blacksmiths.

        The Presbyterian and Catholic churches are both neat and commodious.

        The public school of Tehama is a fine frame building, two-stories high; and crowned with a belfry. The school is the second in the county, being next to Red Bluff. The number of pupils enrolled is 100, average daily attendance seventy-five. The principal at present is J. D. Sweeney, who is a very popular young teacher. Misses Sallie Owens and Nellie Lowry are his able assistants.

        Corning, southwest of Tehama, is the third town in the county, and is situated on a tree­less plain in the midst of a grain growing country. The town supports one weekly newspaper, The Observer. The public school is one of the best of the kind in the State. Professor Webb has been the principal for a number of years.



        If one wishes to see a vineyard—the largest in the world—he must visit that of "The Leland Stanford, Jr., University" property at Vina, near the southern part of the county. The town though small is pleasantly situated on the railroad not far from the river, which is west of town. A goodly number of business houses are found in the little hamlet.

        The vineyard is the leading feature in this vicinity; about 4,000 acres are planted to vines and fruit trees. Besides a vineyard and orchard a large grain farm is owned by the same institution. The large wineries contain millions of gallons of wines and brandies. A number of thoroughbred stock is to be found on the farm. About 200 persons find employment in and about the ranch.



        Kirkwood, near the Colusa County line, is a small village in the midst of a fine farming land. Paskenta and Henleyville are small towns southwest of Red Bluff. Champion and Belle Mills are lumber camps high up in the Sierras. Proberta is a small station south of Red Bluff.

        A chrome mine of some value is operated near Lowrey's, southwest of Red Bluff.

        The land west of Red Bluff is at present not very fertile. A scheme is on foot to build a reservoir on Red Bank Creek, near Jackson Eby's place, about fifteen miles west of Red Bluff. If such a plan can be found feasible and the reservoir constructed, thousands of acres will be rendered valuable which are now comparatively barren. The hills west of town afford abundant location for such reservoirs.



        Tehama is really a great county and ranks among the first in the State in the production of grain. The area of the county is about 3;000 square miles, or about 1,920,000 acres; of these 400,000 are under cultivation and about 700,000 yet unsold. The average yield during the past few years has been about 10,000,000 bushels of grain, the average acreage being about twenty bushels of wheat and thirty bushels of barley.

        Near Tehama fifty-eight bushels have been harvested and forty bushels is nothing unusual.

        The land here can defy the State to equal the above.

        All varieties of fruit grow in abundance. The lemon and peach, orange and pear, olive and apricot, citron and apple, grow side by side. Bartlett pears, of the finest quality, grow. Prunes and grapes also grow abundantly. Oranges at present bid fair to rival those of Riverside in Southern California, and may become a staple product.

        May Tehama come to the front in the next ten years, and when the new century is ushered in may there be none to compare with grand Tehama with her glorious climate, rich soil and picturesque landscapes.

        In the State Assembly Tehama County has been represented by John F. Ellison, in 1885, and others for the other years, a list of whom is given on pages 126 and 234. [Colusa and Sierra Counties]


Transcribed by Kathy Sedler.