The Oregon- California Trails Association is an organization dedicated to the preservation, appreciation and enjoyment of all transmigration trails to the west, the trails that made the United States an ocean-to-ocean nation.
See Something, Say Something
This is a story of how watchful eyes of trail enthusiasts, relaying on the ground reports to OCTA at all levels, can preserve some of the most notable sites, as well as the more obscure ones, along the Emigrant trails. It doesn’t always have to be a fight against large power companies, natural resource developments and encroaching urban development. Sometimes it’s just a matter of getting information about the condition of the trail into the right hands so preservation can be accomplished.
In 1857 tragedy struck an emigrant party traveling on the Nobles Trail, north west of Susanville, California. Mrs. Nancy Allen died within days from the end of a long journey that started in Missouri. She was buried besides the trail and her family took the time to make and place a headstone of local material at the grave.
Fast forward to today. The Nancy Allen gravesite is one of the best examples of emigrant graves that have been preserved through both luck and local action. It lies in the Bridge Creek Valley of Lassen County where trout in the creek are abundant and cattle still graze.
In 2000, the original deteriorating metal pipe fencing around the grave, which was erected by the Women’s Study Club of Westwood in 1924, was replaced by the current post and rail fencing and a plaque was placed by the CA-NV Chapter of the Oregon-California Trails Association. At that time, it was noted on the plaque that very little was known about Nancy Allen. In 2016 OCTA members had developed additional information through research about Nancy Allen’s life. A second plaque with her background was placed at the grave so visitors would be able to know who the person lying underneath their feet was and not another “unknown” along the Emigrant trails.
Now we come to the point of the story. In August of 2019 a woman, Andrea Silva, visited the grave site and discovered the post and rail enclosure had been damaged by grazing cattle. There was at least one post broken and several of the rails were on the ground allowing cattle to possibly walk over and destroy the pristine gravesite. The Andrea went to the internet and found the OCTA National website. She sent an email and relayed her concerns to Headquarters. Kathy Conway pushed the information out to our Graves and Sites National chairman Randy Brown. Randy who lives in Wyoming recalled from a previous visit that OCTA had a member that lived in Susanville and reached out to the California Nevada chapter to see if we could do something to repair the site.
Through the Chapter, Herman Zittel of Susanville was asked to confirm the damage and see what we could do. Herman drove out to the grave site located 20 miles northwest of Susanville. He assessed the damage, made a list of needed materials and volunteered to help with the repair. The Chapter began planning a work day for the Fall of 2019. Unfortunately, before the Chapter could organize a work party both weather and Covid-19 struck.
This is an example of what happens when people pass on simple information. With the determination of members, cooperative efforts of landholders, agencies, and trail enthusiasts the trails will remain a visible reminder of our history.
On June 17th, 2020 a small crew, in keeping with California’s Covid-19 restrictions, gathered at the grave site. Sierra Pacific Industries (Almanor District) gave permission to access the site. Over a four-hour period two replacement posts were set into the ground. Horizontal rails were replaced, refitted and attached.
The enclosure will be strong enough to resist cattle back scratching for the next several years!
OCTA would like to thank CA-NV chapter members Ken and Jo Johnson, Herman’s Zittel, Dan Murray, and Dick Waugh and USFS Archeologist Jacob Martin for the willingness to gather and facilitate this preservation effort. Kudos to Sierra Pacific Industries for their willingness to work with volunteers to preserve the history that crosses their holdings throughout Lassen County.
See something, say something!
Article prepared by Dick Waugh
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Roller Pass Hike – Truckee River Route
The hike to Roller Pass on July 15th was a great success. It was over six miles, up and down, round trip but it was worth it!
Seeing yet another amazing feat accomplished by the emigrants was incredible.
Our thanks to CA-NV member David Fullerton for his well planned leadership and informative narrative during the hike.
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Reno Gazette-Journal August 8, 2017