Shingletown Historical Society
By Christy Milan
Preserving the Past
Story by Christy Milan
Photos Courtesy of the Shingletown Historical Society
“A people without the knowledge of their past, origin and culture is like a tree with no roots.” ~Marcus Garvey
THE SHINGLETOWN HISTORICAL SOCIETY'S roots are buried deep with the history and artifacts of the “ridge.” It began with Eva Johnson in 1961, who found other people interested in preserving the history of the area. The longtime residents decided to collect and display heirlooms and collectibles in a local museum. In January 1981, the first official newsletter was printed and distributed as Mt. Lassen Historical Society to include Inwood, Viola and Shingletown, all of which stand in the shadow of Lassen Peak. In 1991, the name was officially changed to Shingletown Historical Society.
The society’s mission is to collect, conserve and communicate historical information about the area and its people. Nancy Johnson continues her mother’s legacy of protecting and collecting the local history, along with other members.
For decades, the society saved money in hopes of purchasing property for the long-awaited museum. Early members offered baked goods and quilts to raise funds for the effort. The dream was more than 50 years in the making. In 2013, the society purchased buildings on Wilson Hill Road in Shingletown. “The society is blessed with dedicated, capable, smart people who have made repairs on the buildings, created displays and have seen to the day-to-day operations,” Johnson says. During 2016, the museum was opened during the summer for limited viewing.
One of the first projects was to retrieve an antique cog wheel from the Dry Mill. Myrtle McNamar, born in Shingletown in the late 1800s, recalled where the cog wheel lay lost in the woods. A pine tree had grown through the spokes and was removed. The cog wheel is on display at the Inwood/Ogburn Cemetery in Shingletown.McNamar and her husband ran the Cottonwood newspaper in the 1950s and ‘60s. She wrote a book, “Way Back When,” and gifted it to the society.
It is the best reference of the Shingletown Ridge that the society has. The book has been reprinted several times and is for sale to the public.
Last year, the society hoped to get the traction engine back after it had been sold to Oakland. The traction engine was a feature of the Big Wheels Restaurant, and it had worked and retired in Shingletown in 1935. The society had built a fence, made gravel pads and built a shed in anticipation of the traction engine, which was awarded to the Roots of Motive Power Museum in Willits. The area will now be used to display antique logging equipment and a doctor’s buggy that has been restored by the society.
“The Shingletown Museum boasts having the oldest Steinway Square grand piano in Shasta County on display,” Nancy Johnson says. Other displays include tools used for shingle making as well as other tools used by the pioneers, as Shingletown’s boom-or-bust lifestyle was created over the years through shake making, sawmills, ranching and logging. “The museum is a fantastic place to visit. It’s filled with great exhibits, lots of ridge history and friendly people who love to share their knowledge with anyone – a great way to take a break on the way to Lassen Park or Redding,” Josie Reifschneider-Smith says. On June 1, the museum opens for the summer and will have music, food and new displays.
The Shingletown Historical Society is a living resource for teachers, students, travelers, residents, historians and all who visit. It helps illuminate the importance of preserving the past, and helps people value those who came before. It will serve as a bridge and connect generations to the past while helping move them forward to the future. •
Shingletown Historical Society • Open June–September
31187 State Highway 44, Shingletown • (530) 474-3291