"During the 1915 eruption (of Lassen Peak), Alice Olson and neighbors were fishing on Summit Lake. As smoke and ash intensified, they were forced away from their cabins.
Crossing a part of the already devastated area, they led their spooked animals and went to Lyonsville, not returning until the following spring." (That's when Olson "spotted a hole in the shingled roof, and upon entering & found a hole in the kitchen table and a five-pound volcanic stone embedded in the floor.")
History is embodied in this caption, which appears underneath a picture of the simple cabin, and it is unfolded in "Towns of Mount Lassen" ($19.99 in paperback from Arcadia Publishing) by William Shelton. Part of the "Images of America" series, the book includes more than 200 black-and-white photo-graphs, most from Shelton's collection.
According to a news release, Shelton himself "is the curator of his own museum which houses his families' collection (Gathering Grounds Museum in Durham) as well as the Bruce Mansion in Chico." A retired logger with roots in the California timber industry going back six or seven generations, Shelton is "also retired from a second career in law enforcement."
Olson, of Red Bluff, was the author's great aunt; Shelton writes that she "homesteaded on Grassy (Horseshoe) Lake and named Jakie Lake for her son, Jakie Olson."
The book begins with several mesmerizing images of the mountain, which is actually misnamed in the book's title (it's Lassen Peak).
But the story is really about people, and the photographs from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, taken in Lyonsville, Knauss Ranch, Engebretsen Town, Shelton's Camp and other locations, give a glimpse into the difficult life of logging.
Tidbits abound. "Samuel Westrope was born in Grants Lick, Kentucky (in) 1813, and was a cousin of Daniel Boone. Arriving in Chico & in 1864, (he) did not fit into city life, so he sold the family's home and came to what is now Mineral."
Another passage: "The greatest court trial in Tehama County history to this point was over whether Thomas J. Shelton Sr., who was accused of 'stealing and carrying away' 12,600 pine shingles from J.R. Markley, was guilty. He was consequently found not guilty for lack of evidence. This was mainly because the shingles in question had disappeared, having been flumed down to the Sacramento River the previous night."
Trestles, train wrecks, Dolbeer Donkey engines, the Champion Mill -- they're all here, in a volume that ends with a serene picture of the sleeping mountain, 31 years after the eruption.
Dan Barnett teaches philosophy at Butte College. To submit review copies of published books, please send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Columns are archived on the Musable blog, http://dielbee.blogspot.com.