Carr Fire: One year anniversary – Revisiting the devastated areas & Keswick’s history

Guest Writer’s Spotlight: Jeremy M. Tuggle

The historic and deadly Carr Fire erupted into flames around 1:30 p.m., on July 23, 2018 at the intersection of Highway 299 West and Carr Powerhouse Road, due to vehicle malfunction failure.

It ravaged everything in its course of destruction in Shasta County as it entered nearby populated places traveling into Shasta. Spot fires were a regular occurrence. On the afternoon of July 26, 2018, some spectators watched from the vista points near Shasta Dam as the Carr Fire climbed over Copley mountain, but the worst was yet to come.

SEE OTHER ARTICLES WRITTEN BY JEREMY M. TUGGLE:

The Historic Igo Schoolhouse

Gold Fever: A Tale of the Lost Cabin Mine

Visiting the Grave of Benjamin Barnard Redding (1824-1882), the Man Whom Redding Is Named For

The fire raged into Lower Springs, Keswick and Redding. Eventually, it made its way into other places in the area. It was scary, unlike anything our county has seen before, we weren’t prepared for this monster, but our fire fighters and first respondents battled the blaze.

Everyone was on high alert, and some evacuations were almost last minute. Pure fear and pandemonium spread over Keswick and Redding when the famous fire whirlwind ravaged them, that night.

The fire kept getting hotter and had its own weather pattern. Then it jumped the Sacramento river, and also made its way south-east to Harlan Drive and the Lake Redding Drive area.

Many people were evacuated from their home’s including downtown Redding at Chestnut Street. All the hotels and motels were completely booked for many miles by evacuees. Emergency shelters were set up at various places in the county.

Traffic in and out of Redding was a nightmare in its own.

The Carr Fire grew to become the sixth most destructive fire in California state history and it became the most destructive fire in the history of Shasta County.

One hundred percent containment was held on the fire at 229, 651 burned acres on August 30, 2018.

Eight lives perished during the deadly fire, a tally of 1,079 homes were destroyed, while another tally of 79 homes were damaged which included the Shasta County Fire Station No. 53 at Keswick, which was a volunteer fire company.

The Carr Fire destroyed the town of Keswick leaving only two residences standing next to each other on separate lots on Weiland Street.

However, one of Keswick’s unknown secrets were revealed. The strange metal dome shape structures seen on the property of Alan Crabtree were seen for the first time. They were usually blocked from the view of the public by his buildings on the property and they attracted much attention on Facebook and many people called into the Shasta Historical Society wondering what they were.

We didn’t know much about them, and yet we could only speculate. Through a mutual friend I was placed in contact with Crabtree and he believes that they were “covers for artillery and people sold surplus from them, years ago.” However, it’s not known exactly what they were originally used for. According to Crabtree the inside of the covers had iron in them.

Above: only two houses survived the Carr Fire which are located on Weiland Street near Bush Street at Keswick. Both houses are shown here in this photograph above. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on August 8, 2018.

Above: the residence at 11541 Weiland Street survived the Carr Fire. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on August 8, 2018.

Above: the residence at 11557 Weiland Street survived the Carr Fire. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on August 8, 2018.

Above: one of the strange metal dome shape structures, possibly used as a cover for artillery, from which people sold surplus from them, years ago. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on August 8, 2018.

You could say that history has repeated due to the Carr Fire as it’s not the first time the town of Keswick has been destroyed by fire.

The phrase “We will rebuild”, which was coined by local residents after the Carr Fire comes to mind, because in past history, it did rebuild after the destruction of those major fires. Today – July 23, 2019 – marks the one-year anniversary since the hellish Carr Fire erupted into flames.

THE ESTABLISHMENT OF KESWICK

Long before the town site of Keswick was established the present town site was bustling in action with horse racing, cock fighting, gymnastic exercises, and additional entertainment purposes for our local residents to enjoy.

A horse racing arena called the Oakland Horse Racing Track was established there in 1852 by pioneer T.J. Stump, who owned the track until 1856. It was also home to a suburb of Shasta called Hogtown which never took-off and eventually disappeared. Hogtown was located near the Stump Ranch that Stump owned and lived upon.

Stump sold out to Frank Thompson and later owners made extensive changes to the property.

The smelter town of Keswick was established in 1895, due to the nearby production of the Iron Mountain mine, which was owned and operated by the Mountain Copper Company LTD., who had purchased the mining property from Charles Camden, Colonel William Magee and James M. Sallee, that year.

The mine was located in 1865 by Camden and Magee, and it quickly became known for its mass copper production. The mining property was part of the Shasta County copper belt. Sallee became a partner in 1884, after discovering a lucrative vein of silver in their mine.

Above: the Keswick smelter was the the first copper smelter in Shasta County. It was built between 1895 to March 1896, when one of the first furnaces of the smelter began its operation. It was formerly located on Spring Creek on the site where the Spring Creek Powerhouse is today on Iron Mountain Road. Note: the denuded hill sides from the deadly chemicals of the smelter fumes. Date: unknown. Courtesy of Shasta Historical Society.

While the smelter was being erected upon Spring Creek the first order of business by the Mountain Copper Company LTD., was to erect living quarters for their personnel, and this included the superintendent residences. The living quarters consisted of a one two-story building comprised of sixteen rooms with furnishings which included baths and toilets. This made their staff feel comfortable at home. The company also built a mess hall and a entertainment hall. Construction then followed on two company office buildings.

On October 18, 1895, the Shasta Courier newspaper reported the following:

Keswick and the camps are booming, locomotives tooting up and down the new track. It’s a regular hive of industry.

The owner and president of the Mountain Copper Company LTD., was Lord William Keswick of London, England, who the town of Keswick was named for. The Mountain Copper Company, LTD., holdings on Iron Mountain included the following mines on the adjacent properties: the Complex, the Hornet, the Lost Confidence, the Mattie, the No. 8, the Old Mine, and the Richmond.

As the new settlement of Keswick boomed it flourished, even though it was a rough-and-rugged up-and-coming-place to live. The town was primarily established due to the nearby copper smelter which was designed to process the ore from the Iron Mountain mine. Then on, November 23, 1895 the local media offered the following glimpse of the area:

While the Iron Mountain improvements result in considerable benefit to the country in various respects, the inflow of tough characters, which always follows on the heels of any great enterprise, is bound to cause considerable and public exbense.” (SIC)

The settlement also contained thirty-five saloons, a railroad station, stores, boarding houses, hotels and a school. In December of that year, due to the high number of saloons in Keswick, the Mountain Copper Company LTD. banned all employees who “patronized the saloons” there. It appeared that they wanted a sober crew of employees who took the job seriously. With that many saloons in operation, one can see that this company had their job cut out for them. 

W.S. Harvey-Wray of Keswick, was a visitor here, Sunday. He is to be assistant editor of Mountain Mine monthly paper, or magazine, to be issued by parties employed with the company. The residing surgeon and physician, Dr. Kenneth Millican, A.B., M.R.C.S., will be chief editor. George A. Poor, the veteran book and job printer of Redding, has the contract to print the periodical, which will be sixteen pages, two columns to a page.” (SIC) The above magazine only operated for a period of six months at Keswsick when it was discontinued by the owners.

To see other articles written by Jeremy M. Tuggle, make sure to visit his blog, Exploring Shasta History.

A second post office called Taylor was established in the smelter town on May 18, 1897, by the United States Postal Service who appointed John K.O. Hair as the first postmaster. Keswick now had two post offices serving their community. Taylor was the post office and Keswick was the town site. This post office served Keswick until August 15, 1922 when it was discontinued and the mail from the Taylor post office was rerouted to the Keswick post office.

During July of 1897, the third branch store of the McCormick-Saeltzer Company was established in the growing smelter town at the new suburb of Keswick, called South Park. Keswick was attracting attention in the local media, and the firm was offered a room inside the brand-new Keswick hotel or Hotel Keswick at that location by its owner, John N. Stephenson. This store was owned by James McCormick, Rudolph M.F. Saeltzer and Williamson L. Smith who were all local businessmen.

Above: this undated photograph shows the Keswick hotel or Hotel Keswick building which was designed by architects W.J. Bennett and his partner Gove. The hotel was erected by carpenters McCarthy & Gillespie at South Park in Keswick. The Keswick branch of the McCormick-Saeltzer Company’s sign is visible on the left side of the building. Courtesy of the Shasta Historical Society and the Siskiyou County Museum

South Park was booming as new structures were rapidly built by local carpenters. Keswick has had its share of fires but nothing like the Carr Fire.

On May 12, 1898, the first fire in the history of Keswick ignited causing $40,000 in damages. It was opined that this fire ignited in the saloon of McCandless & Patterson, however, another account revealed that it started in a boarding house called Our House, due to careless lodger who left a candle burning inside his room. It destroyed nearly half of the business portion of Keswick. Later reports favored the boarding house fire theory. 

The Keswick hotel survived but it suffered a minimal damage of $500. A water brigade battled this fire because Keswick lacked a fire department at that time.

Keswick also lacked fireproof brick buildings, as the town was entirely made of wood by local carpenters and it still became the target of future fires. In just two years, Keswick contained a thriving population of 1,200 people, according to media reports of the era.

The United States Postal Service headquarters in Washington D.C., established a post office called Keswick at that location on January 9, 1896 with Louis Schwichman (sometimes spelled as Schwickman) as postmaster of this new post office. It stayed in business until 1923 when it was discontinued. Then on, February 29, 1896 the Shasta Courier newspaper heralded the following column:

The town had a Methodist Church which was used for their place of worship. Weekly membership meetings were held at the church. In February of 1901, Keswick raised money for improvements to be made on their church building. The expense incurred was $150. It was the Reverend Fay Donaldson who often preached inside this church. The church walls were papered through-out the building, and new baseboards were added, the interior was remodeled at that price during that month.

Above this circa 1900s photograph of Keswick was taken by the Eastman View Company of Kennett. Courtesy of Shasta Historical Society.

In addition to that month, there were many residents who were even talking about the possibility of an electric road to be built between Redding and Keswick, one article mentioned the following excerpt:

As quickly as the weather will allow the engineer corps will start a line north from Redding to Reid’s Ferry where it will cross the river and follow up the stream to the new Keswick bridge. There it will re-cross the river and proceed up the south side of Spring Creek to Keswick. Mr. Johns believes Keswick can be reached by the route in about six miles. The heaviest expense would be the buidling of a bridge at the ferry. At Keswick station the line could cross on an extension built onto the county bridge.

Then on April 20, 1901, fire struck the town of Keswick a second time when flames broke out in the Mascot Saloon, conducted by Cecil & Bray. The origin of this fire was not reported. Once again, the town’s residents kept no fire insurance, even though it had been available to them. The loss was smaller than the 1898 fire, and only did $30,000 in damage, a tally of 20 buildings were destroyed.

Another new feature to Keswick in 1901 was electricity. The Keswick Electric Power Company began generating electricity for the smelter at Spring Creek, and eventually the town of Keswick. The electricity was sent from the Volta Powerhouse on Battle Creek and channeled it towards Keswick.

After those business was re-established by July of 1902 business was booming at Keswick as an influx of shoppers used their stores to purchase goods of all kinds. Later on, another disastrous fire claimed the entire business district of Keswick on November 14, 1907. The fire was started by a “fire bug” according to local media accounts. The entire loss was $60,000, and as usual not one person in town kept fire insurance.

Minimal damage was done to the post office, as well as a butcher shop and bakery. Keswick was still without a fire department and once again the community relied on their own efforts to make containment on the fire. As Keswick emerged out of the smoke, the town laid in ashes. A new post office was re-established as the Keswick post office in 1960. With all these fires occurring in the smelter town, Keswick has shown us over the years that we can rebuild. However, additional fires would strike the town site in its future.

Our staff at Shasta Historical Society compiled an inventory of burned up or damaged sites due to the Carr Fire. Our inventory contains twenty-four entries and this listing is available to the public upon request. Most of the historic sites on the list do not include those inside the boundaries of the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area or Shasta State Historic Park; however, there are some entries that made the listing.

Above: the Shasta County Fire Station Number 53 sign at Keswick in front of their building was badly burned by the Carr Fire. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on August 8, 2018.

Above: the Carr Fire burned the Shasta County Fire Station Number 53 building at Keswick, and property. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on August 8, 2018.

Above: an interior view looking in from a window of the building. The Shasta County Fire Station Number 53 at Keswick. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on August 8, 2018.

Above: looking inside from a window of the building. The Shasta County Fire Station Number 53 at Keswick. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on August 8, 2018.

Above: near the intersection of North Street and Market Street at Keswick. Destruction of the Carr Fire. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on August 8, 2018.

Above: a speed limit sign in the town of Keswick burned by the Carr Fire as well as the property around it. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on August 8, 2018.

Above: at the intersection of Bush Street and Center Street at Keswick. Destruction of the Carr Fire. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on August 8, 2018.

Above: the intersection of School Street and Bush Street at Keswick. Destruction of the Carr Fire. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on August 8, 2018.

Above: a house in Keswick totally destroyed by the Carr Fire. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on August 8, 2018.

Above: another house and property destroyed by the Carr Fire in Keswick. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on August 8, 2018.

Above: devastation from the Carr Fire in Keswick. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on August 8, 2018.

Above: a sign at Keswick: “WARNING: ASH & DEBRIS MAY BE HOT AND CONTAIN HAZARDOUS MATERIALS.”  This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on August 8, 2018.

Above: fire fighters on duty at Keswick. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on August 8, 2018. 

Above: a private residence destroyed by the Carr Fire at Keswick. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on August 8, 2018.

Above: near the intersection of School Street and North Street at Keswick. Devastated area. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on August 8, 2018.

Above: the U.S. Mail boxes along Main Street at Keswick badly burned. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on August 8, 2018.

Above: at Keswick, burnt vehicles, power lines in the distance. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on August 8, 2018.


Meet the writer: Jeremy M. Tuggle, Research Historian – Shasta Historical Society

Jeremy M. Tuggle, born in Redding, is a descendant of 11 pioneer families who settled Shasta County between 1849-1889. Jeremy attended Shasta College and is the author of two published books, Rooted in Shasta County (2003), and A Journey Through Time: Ono and the Bald Hills (2008), as well as various articles on local history.

In 2017 Mr. Tuggle was awarded a Community Service Award, a prestigious national award for community service in historic preservation, by the Major Pierson B. Reading Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Jeremy is a member of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants in the State of California, and an Eagle Scout. Tuggle has been employed at the Shasta Historical Society as their Research Historian since November of 2009. In this role, Jeremy digitizes collections items, maintains our social media sites, conducts research for library patrons and the historical society’s programs and publications.

Additionally, he is available to visit local schools, senior citizen homes, and other area organizations, to present engaging programs and lectures about Shasta County history.

RESOURCES:

W.S. Harvey-Wray – The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, February 29, 1896.

The Smelter Magazine – The Shasta Courier newspaper of Shasta, September 12, 1896

Fire At Keswick – The Sacramento Daily newspaper of Sacramento, May 13, 1898

Keswick Partially Destroyed By Fire – The San Francisco Call newspaper of San Francisco, May 13, 1898

RISING FROM THE RUINS – The Daily Free Press newspaper of Redding, June 14, 1898.

Flames Sweep Smelter Town – The San Francisco Call newspaper of San Francisco, April 21, 1901

New Route For Electric Line – The Free Press newspaper of Redding, February 5, 1901

Keswick Improves Its Worship Place – The Free Press newspaper of Redding, February 8, 1901

Changes At Keswick – The Free Press newspaper of Redding, June 23, 1902

New Keswick Belfry – The Free Press newspaper of Redding, July 12, 1902

Town Burned – The Red Bluff News newspaper of Red Bluff, November 15, 1907

Fifty Years of Operation by The Mountain Copper Company, LTD., in Shasta County California by William F. Kett ©1947, 162 pages. Published by California Division of Mines

Shasta County, California A History by Rosena Giles, published by Biobooks, ©1949.

The Covered Wagon 1949, publishes by Shasta Historical Society.

The Covered Wagon 1954, publishes by Shasta Historical Society.

Place Names of Shasta County by Gertrude Steger, published by La Siesta Press, ©1966.

Mines and Mineral Resources of Shasta County, ©1974, Philip A. Lyden & J.C. O’Brien

The Covered Wagon 1996, published by Shasta Historical Society.

U.S., Appointments of U.S. Postmasters, 1832-1971

UPDATE: Carr Fire now most destructive in Shasta County history, by Mike Chapman, The Redding Record Searchlight newspaper of Redding, August 3, 2018

CARR FIRE 100 PERCENT CONTAINED, by Allison Woods, – KRCR TV News Channel 7 of Redding, August 30, 2018


Guest Writer Spotlight

Want to be featured in an RCNS or SCNS “Guest Writer Spotlight” article? Contact the editor: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, 47, moved last year to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, The Valley Chronicle, and Anza Valley Outlook; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 28 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 15 – but soon to be 16 – grandchildren.

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