A Brief History of the Shasta Historical Society

May Southern was the first president of the Shasta Historical Society in 1930.

Recognizing a need to obtain, preserve, and perpetuate the history of Shasta County and its citizens, a group of 16 people formed the “Trails of ’49” on January 18, 1930. In March of the same year the name was changed to Shasta Historical Society.

With the assistance of the Shasta County Board of Supervisors, the newly formed organization started collecting interviews of then-living pioneers to be used in a pageant written by Society president May Southern. About 8,000 people gathered at Shasta on June 8, 1930 for the pageant.

During the 1940s, the Shasta Historical Society purchased several lots in Shasta and then presented them to the State of California for the creation of a historic monument. The goal was to restore the former courthouse and establish a pioneer museum and park. The goal was successful and both the museum and park are still in operation today.

Mabel Frisbie stands in front of a historic monument dedicated by Shasta Historical Society at the Shasta State Park for the 1950 Centennial Celebration.

Other notable projects of the Society were the placement of more than twenty historical markers, acquisition of the Reading Adobe site (transferred in later years to the County of Shasta), the moving and restoration of the old Igo School, and assisting in the purchase and microfilming of a complete file of issues of The Shasta Courier, a newspaper founded in Shasta on March 13, 1852. Copies of these microfilms are now at Shasta College and the Shasta County Library. Shasta Historical Society has also published an annual book called The Covered Wagon since 1943. It’s filled with short articles of Shasta County’s history and its people, written by various individuals who share a love and pride of our county.

The Igo School, late 1960s, before it was moved to the Shasta Fairgrounds and restored.

Up until 1998, the Shasta Historical Society didn’t really have a permanent home. In the early years, the Society held its monthly meetings in the Chamber of Commerce rooms next to the Carnegie Library. In 1961, a new library building was being constructed and that left the Carnegie library vacant. Shasta Historical Society went to the Redding City Council with an appeal for them to dedicate the empty building as a museum. Unfortunately, the Redding City Council denied the request and the building was eventually torn down. Then, in 1963, the Shasta Historical Society moved into a small house known as the Carter house in the city park just west of the municipal pool. 

It truly was a small house, and eventually the Society was moved into a building a few hundred feet away from the Carter house that was specifically built to be a museum.  The Society shared its space in both buildings with the Redding Museum of Art and History. In the late 1990s, the Redding Museum of Art and History was going in a new direction that evolved into Turtle Bay Exploration Park.

Desiring to keep its own identity and to stay non-profit, the Society knew it was time to move yet again. Due to the generosity of our benefactor Carlos Alzueta, our former president Jack Beale moved forward with purchasing a more permanent home for Shasta Historical Society.

Shasta Historical Society located at 1449 Market. Photo taken in 2009.

The Shasta Historical Society currently resides in the former downtown mall area at 1449 Market Street. While the locations have changed over the years, the purpose of the Society hasn’t. We still collect, preserve and promote history for the enjoyment and education of generations to come.

It never ceases to amaze me when a person steps into our building and says something along the lines of “I never knew you guys were here” or “I didn’t know Redding had a historical society.” When I’ve asked them how long they’ve lived here, more often than not I find they’ve been here almost all of their lives. I wonder how that’s possible?

One of the answers may simply be that while we enjoy sharing our county’s rich history, we’ve been comfortable sitting in the background gathering history and sharing it with those who came to us. Now, it’s time to start taking history to the people.

Renee McKean feels she has had the best job in the world the past five years working at Shasta Historical Society, helping to preserve and promote our county’s rich history. Married to a 5th generation Shasta County resident, she feels the influence of history even at home with the old family photographs and memorabilia her in-laws have cared for through the years.

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5 Responses

  1. Avatar Budd Hodges says:

    The Shasta Historical Society, all these many years, has collected all this valuable information of where we've been and what we've become since the early days of Shasta, The Queen City to the beginnings of Redding or Poverty Flats.

    Such an asset to historians and future historians to come.

    Thank you Renee for all you do at The Shasta Historical Society in the old Redding Post Office building at 1449 Market Street.

  2. Avatar S.P. Sims says:

    I loved this article, and I have spent some time at The Shasta Historical society. Their information is wonderful, and they have a very helpful staff. History is something to be cherished and remembered, and if we didn't have people like Renee and the other volunteers/employees to help us find and learn this history it would be a loss to the community. I noticed they do have a website http://www.shastahistorical.org and a facebook page wich is fun to watch as well. I hope they stay around for a long time to keep logging our history here in Redding. Thank you for this article Donni.

  3. Avatar Damon Miller says:

    "When I've asked them how long they've lived here, more often than not I find they've been here almost all of their lives. I wonder how that's possible?"

    My first guess would be that they probably work for a living; having hours of Monday through Friday from 10 to 4 is not particularly community friendly. It's a pity the SHS is not open on Saturdays.

  4. Avatar Renee says:

    I'm happy to get feedback and appreciate the time you've each spent in commenting. Thank you!

    Damon, I confess that when I was writing this article and made that comment, I was mainly thinking of our current customer/membership base. Generally, they're older and retired people, which I guess makes sense considering the hours we're open. We are always open to suggestions and want to be more accessible to the public. To that end, we are currently in the process of several exciting changes which we hope will help to bring us out more in the community and in return, we hope the community will come to us more. Quite honestly, an organization such as ours, which is primarily a service organization, can't function without the support of its community and its dedicated volunteers.

    In the meantime, we welcome you to visit us on the third Saturday of each month (Sept-May) when we have our membership meeting. Also, if you have a research request and can't quite make it by our office before we close, give us a call. We'd love to try to help in any way that we can. And finally, if you know of anyone that would like to volunteer to help man our office on an occasional Saturday, give us a call. 243-3720! Hope to get to meet you one day. 🙂

  5. Avatar susan harwell says:

    Hi, I'm looking for info on Robert Van Allen, lived in Shasta County, started many Granges in California in the late 1920's. He died in Modoc Co in 1940. Any leads would be appreciated. Also was known as R.P. Van Allen. Visited Lassen, lived in Sacramento, and Modoc Co. Thank you , Susan Harwell