Monday, May 23, 2016

Shasta State Historic Park, 5/21/2016

Shasta was a gold mining town in the foothills of the Klamath Range about 6 miles west of Redding, CA, on CA 299. Founded in 1849 as Reading's Springs, it was renamed Shasta the following year. Once a bustling center for commerce and transportation from 1850 to the mid-1880s with a population of 3,500, the decline of the town came when the railroad passed it by in favor of Redding. The county seat was changed from Shasta to Redding as well and all county government moved there in the 1888.

Today, Shasta is a state park that consists of a row of ruins (brick buildings), pioneer barn, Masonic lodge, two cemeteries, the restored (1861) County Courthouse, and more. The ruins were businesses that served the area's townspeople and commerce. The Courthouse is a now the visitor center and a museum. A working blacksmith shop and bakery provide demonstrations and the restored Litsch General Merchandise Store is one of Shasta's original buildings. The store was not open when we visited (as it is open during summer and autumn). 

We began our visit at the Courthouse Museum ($3 admission/adults). The courthouse dates back to 1855, but has been restored to what it looked like in 1861. 

Some of the pieces in the courtroom are original; others are reproductions. We watched a 7-minute video about Shasta before beginning our tour of the museum. 

The display in the center of the room in the photo below is an authentic Wells Fargo strongbox used by stagecoaches that passed through the area. I am always intrigued by the beautiful Native American baskets and John is always intrigued by the antique rifles and handguns. So we both really enjoyed the exhibits in this room. Also shown is a desk with wanted posters of the era and a hangman's noose atop it.

Check out this combination high chair and carriage (1898) and spinning wheel (1869). Also shown is an upright slot machine, the Mills Two-Bit Chicago, that was popular with miners (1898) and a phonograph along with other artifacts involving pioneer entertainment.

This piano, a Melodeon built in 1852 of rosewood and ivory was brought to Shasta by boat in 1856. The green velour sofa and chair are made of walnut (1853) and were used in the St. Charles Hotel in Shasta. 

Mae Helene Bacon Boggs (1863-1963) donated her unparalleled collection of early California artwork to the state with the stipulation that it be exhibited in Shasta (she moved here from Missouri at age 8). What a pleasant surprise to see this impressive collection displayed in the Courthouse Museum.

Be sure not to miss the jail downstairs. The punishment for serious crimes was hanging; less serious crimes were punished by lashes. Miners frequently delivered their own punishments outside of the law by branding, clipped ears, or dunking in an icy stream. This jail was always busy and held up to 18 prisoners at one time. 

The scaffolding for hangings was located in the rear yard of the courthouse. 

Really loved a sign here that read. "Grammar Lesson: Art is hung. People are hanged."

After two devastating fires in Shasta, the town rebuilt using brick. Iron shutters were used for protection from fire and theft. The Bull, Baker & Co brick structure was built in 1853 at a cost of $15,000 and is the oldest in Shasta.

Mrs. Boggs began a campaign to preserve Shasta in the 1930s. The California Parks have completed three projects to support the preservation in the 1940s, 1970s, and 2008. 

Western Star Lodge #2 is the oldest Masonic Lodge in the state of California. It was chartered by the Grand Lodge of Missouri in 1848 and the building was dedicated in 1854. It has been in continuous operation since. Also shown is the school house, how used for county business. 

The Coyle-Foster Barn is a pioneer barn built in the 1850s. Originally located in the Old Trinity Center it was dismantled (when it was threatened by flood) and reassembled at this location 1959.

Our final stop at the park was the Union Cemetery. There are many graves here dating to the heyday of the Shasta community. I saw so many of young women who died in their 20s (I would suspect from childbirth). It must have been hard times for folks that lived here during those years. 

We were so impressed with the museum and ruins here. At first it didn't look like much, but once we were inside and learned more about the local town history it was fascinating. As history-lovers, it was very interesting to learn more about this part of the country. 

For hours of operation and additional information about when displays are open to the public, please check out the park online. There are several annual events held here that are popular.


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