Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Redding: A Railroad Town’s Transition Into A Flourishing City

A view of Market Street in Redding with the T.J. Houston Co., Furniture on the right and the Temple hotel on the right in the distance. Horse, buggies and wagons are on the street. The Temple hotel was built in 1892. Circa, late 1890's. (Public Domain.)

On June 15, 1872, the town of Redding was established by the California & Oregon Railroad, a division of the Central Pacific Railroad, which stopped the construction of its tracks later that year at Poverty Flats. Poverty Flats lacked settlement by the early European-American’s because it was mainly swampland and farmers couldn’t raise their crops there which is the main reason it was ignored by them.

Due to the railroad it forced Redding's settlement upon Poverty Flats. Redding gained prominence and grew rapidly as the town burgeoned with success. However, Shasta County residents made the mistake of believing that Redding was named for Major Pierson Barton Reading (pronounced like the color red), an early day pioneer who was the first European-American settler in Shasta County.

Major Reading came to the area in 1843 with the Chiles-Walker Party on his way south to Sutter’s Fort. During the next year, he received a Mexican land grant from the Mexican Governor Manuel Micheltorena consisting of 22,632.08 acres of land, which extended from the south at Cottonwood Creek to the north at Salt Creek in Redding. The grant also stretched three miles west of the Sacramento River. He named his land grant the Rancho Buena Ventura meaning “good fortune” in Spanish. He didn’t settle on his property until 1847, becoming the first settler in what is now Shasta County.

Unfortunately, the new town of Redding was not named for Major Reading but for one of their own railroad agents, Benjamin Bernard Redding of Sacramento. Local residents began spelling the new town name as Reading in honor of Major Reading. The town kept using that spelling until it was overturned in the Superior Court in 1880, when the railroad won against private citizens who were for the pro-Reading spelling of the name.

The first streets which were laid out by the railroad in the new town site were North, South, East, and West Streets followed by the nearby counties Placer, Yuba, Butte and Tehama Streets. A railroad depot was also erected on Yuba Street. The first resident of Redding was a man by the name of Chauncey Carrol Bush Sr., who earned the reputation as being the “Father of Redding”. Bush arrived in Shasta County from Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1851. 

He settled at Shasta, and then during the summer of 1872 he relocated from Shasta to the newly established town of Redding. A cellar of a building was constructed by Chauncey C. Bush Sr., on July 22, 1872, and on that same date the first permanent improvements were made to the new town site. Then on, August 3, 1872, seventeen new lots were sold at an average price of $108. Redding lots were now on the market for the very first time while many people purchased them.

Eight days later, Bush establishes the first general mercantile store in Redding. As construction took place local carpenters stayed busy erecting new buildings. Then on, September 1, 1872, the first passenger train arrived in Redding via Red Bluff, Cottonwood, and Anderson. 

It was a grand celebration at the Redding Depot. Two local Shastan’s who rode on that first train into Redding were Charles Litsch and Mary Jane (Cloud) Culverhouse. She was the only female passenger that day. Throngs of people were anxiously awaiting the arrival of the train from Red Bluff in Redding that Sunday at the depot, which was the end-of-the-line and it was very fortuitous in its role in the development of our county for ten years until the railroad resumed construction and laid its tracks north of Redding through the Sacramento River Canyon. 

Later that month, another post office was established, in Shasta County, at Redding on September 23, 1872 by the United States Postal Service headquarters at Washington D.C., who appointed Chauncey C. Bush Sr., as the first post master. Bush’s residence was located at the corner of Sacramento and Market Streets which is where he lived and raised his family. (It is now the site of the Redding hotel.) The block his house stood on was also known as the Bush Block. He was an entrepreneur who established businesses in Shasta County, a miner, a judge and he led other civic duties. He was well-known, and had a popular reputation. By November 22, 1872, there were seventy new houses which were constructed by local carpenters since August 20th.

A number of “firsts” occurred at the new town site of Redding during the upcoming months. A few of them included the following items of interest: the town’s first fire destroyed the residence of a Mr. Williams on December 21, 1872. A man by the name of George Lowry became the first person that died in the new town site on January 5, 1873, of natural causes. He was 63 years of age and a native of Kentucky. Another first occurred on June 16, 1873, when the first wedding was performed and celebrated at Redding. This matrimonial ceremony was between William F. Junkans and Mattie Todd who were both residents of Weaverville.

Redding’s first hotel was the Reading hotel at the railroad depot on Yuba Street, then in 1877, the McCormick-Saeltzer Company General Merchandise store was incorporated in Redding. It was the biggest store in town and it competed in business with Bush’s general mercantile store. It was often referred to as the “Big Store” by the local residents. At a later date, additional branches of this store were established at Delta, Keswick, Carrville and Delamar.

The Ben Frank & Company of Redding established a newspaper called the Reading Independent. It was a weekly newspaper which was printed every Thursday morning. Its first number Volume 1 was issued on August 22, 1878. Subscriptions to this new newspaper were offered at “one year, in advance $4.00, six months $2.25, three months $1.25.” Its tagline at the top of the title page claimed the following, “An independent newspaper devoted to home, the fireside, mining and agriculture.

During the next year, a fire department was established at Redding which was named the Hook and Ladder Company. Of course, Bush was right in the center of attention becoming its first foreman. According to the Republican Free Press newspaper, Redding was incorporated as a city, by the Board Of Supervisors on September 5, 1887. However, the official filing with the state was dated October 4th, and the October date is the date that we currently celebrate as our city's official incorporation date.

It was Chauncey C. Bush Sr, who began serving as the first mayor on October 10, 1887. Bush served honorably as mayor until he was succeeded by local resident Jerry Culverhouse on April 9, 1888. Then on, May 19, 1888, the City of Redding became the county seat of Shasta County, on that day, the first court was held at Redding. 

The Shasta County Board of Supervisors published their May term proceedings in the Shasta Courier newspaper on Saturday, May 19, 1888, which claimed the following:

"Supervisors Jones and Listch, committee appointed to secure quarters for the county officers, report as follows: That they have secured the entire upper story of the new brick building of Peter Hoff, to be used by the officers and the disposition of the Board for the sum of $175 per month, Peter Hoff to put in gas fixtures and supply water by pipe in at least one place in the upper story of said building. An office room for the use of the County Treasurer has been secured in the office of Edward Wood for $10 per month. The Methodist church has been secured to be used as a Court Room, to be rented for $30 per month. All of the above places to be rented from the 19th day of May 1888, until the time when a court house is built and moved into by the officers. All of said rent to be paid by warrants drawn on the general fund, by the order of the Board." (SIC)

A number of changes occurred in Redding during the decade of the 1890s, electricity would play an important role within the city. New businesses were established including additional newspapers as well. The population of Redding doubled its size. As the City of Redding flourished, Shasta began to decline, becoming a ghost town of ruins. Redding played its roll well over the years and it continued to do so past the turn of the 20th century as new industries were developed in the region giving people many reasons to settle here.

The West Side of Market Street, in Redding, California. On the left is the McCormick-Saeltzer Company. Early vehicles, buggies and horses on Market Street. Date unknown.  (Public Domain.) 

Correction to the caption on the above postcard, L-R: the Hall of Records and the Shasta County Courthouse in Redding on Court Street in 1912. The Hall of Records building was designed by Mathew W. Herron in 1908, and it was built by the Robert Brothers in 1909. (Corrected Note: Robert Lee Reading did not design the Hall of Records building.) The Shasta County Courthouse began construction in 1888 and was finished in 1889, erected by pioneer James T. Loag. From the collection of Jeremy Tuggle.

1620 Yuba Street, the present Redding Depot building. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on October 10, 2015.

A statue of the pioneer, Chauncey Carroll Bush, Sr (1831-1907). This statue is located in Caldwell Park. A plaque lies to the left of his feet. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on May 14, 2018.


New Town - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, June 15, 1872

Redding -  The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, August 3, 1872

First Train -  The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, September 7, 1872

Trip To Redding - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, September 28, 1872

First Fire In Redding - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, December 28, 1872

First Death - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, January 11, 1873

Married - Marysville Daily Appeal newspaper of Maryville, June 24, 1873

Married – The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, July 5, 1873

The Reading Independent newspaper of Redding, August 22, 1878

1881, History and Business Directory of Shasta County, California

Incorporation Prevails - The Republican Free Press newspaper of Redding, September 3, 1887

Supervisors Proceedings, May Term 1888 - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, May 19, 1888

Dethroned - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, Saturday, May 26, 1888

Election Proclamation - The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, January 19, 1889

The Republican Free Press newspaper of Redding, September 21, 1889

Plans Accepted For The Hall Of Records - The Searchlight newspaper of Redding, January 12, 1908

The Searchlight newspaper of Redding, March 16, 1909

Women Are Invited To Historical Society’s Luncheon Program – The Courier-Free Press newspaper of Redding, January 25, 1937

My Playhouse Was a Concord Coach, an anthology of newspaper clippings and documents relating to those who made California history during the years 1822-1888, by Mae Helene Bacon Boggs. Published by Howell-North Press ©1942

U.S., Appointments of U. S. Postmasters, 1832-1971, available on microfilm in the archives of Shasta Historical Society.

Outpost On Poverty Flats by Charles J. Gleeson, ©1978 published by Redding Printing Company

Redding & Shasta County – Gateway to the Cascades – by John D. Lawson ©1986 published by Windsor Publications Inc.

Redding the First Hundred Years by Edward Petersen, ©1972 published by North-Cal Printing & Litho.  (Note: Petersen mentions on page 23, that the, "Shasta County Courthouse, begun in 1888, was completed in 1899.") The above note is an error. It was completed in 1889.

Listing of Redding Mayors (1887-2007)

CP-047 Culverhouse, Jerry Pioneer Plaque File on file at Shasta Historical Society.

Trails of 49’ In Shasta – Mrs. Mary J. Culverhouse, unknown author.

A History of Redding the Early Years, 1872-1875 by Al M. Rocca, ©2014 published by Renown Publishing.

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