This post is something I wrote for my grandparents publication for October. I wrote a history piece on the community that my ancestors helped settle in the 1870's. I'm also including my column for October, which is a tie-in to the history story. I promised friends and family who read my blog but don't get to read the publication that I would post these stories on my blog for them to read. With it are pictures I took during my "tour" of the community and the museum in Fall River. Only 3 pictures were used in the article, as there isn't endless space, but here I can give you guys more pictures. I apologize for the lengthy post, but I hope you enjoy it. I certainly had fun with this!
The History of Day, CA
The small community of Day, also known as Little Hot Springs Valley, has a long and lively past. The ranching community is located in the extreme southwest corner of Modoc County, just 15 miles north of McArthur.
Day Road turns off Highway 299, five miles east of McArthur. During the ten mile drive, you will cross county lines twice. The junction of Day Road and Highway 299 is in Lassen County; as you travel along Day Road, you cross briefly into Shasta County and then shortly before Day, you cross into Modoc County.
Little Hot Springs Valley gets its name from a natural hot spring that rises on the northwest edge of the valley. The valley is surrounded by mountains on the north and east, and lava beds on the south and west.
There were many Indians residing in and around the valley who made their living by hunting and fishing, or even working for farmers and ranchers. Many of them lived around Big Lake, as it’s not too far from the valley.
There is a trail, known as Squaw Trail, which goes over the black lava from the lower end of the valley to Big Lake. The lava trail was worn smooth and, in some places shiny, by the footsteps of the Indians walking back and forth.
White settlers began homesteading ranches in the valley in the early 1870’s.
The town was named for the Day family, who moved into the area having traveled west from Maine.
Nathanial Thurston Day was born in 1806 in Maine. He later married Rhoby Green in 1839, and had five children. The family came across the plains by ox team, in 1861. He and his family homesteaded the land that now belongs to the Oilar family.
George Day, brother of Nathaniel Day; he never married. He came out west with Nathaniel.
Nathaniel Day and Moses McCarter were partners in two of the ranches above the Lorenzen place, near the hot springs. When the partnership dissolved a few years later, Day took the upper ranch and McCarter took the lower one, around the hot springs.
Day eventually sold his ranch to a Walter Weast, and it was sold again to a Clifford Oilar. The Oilars still own the property.
Another one of the early homesteaders was Pete Lorenzen. He came to the United States from Denmark at age 17. In the 1870s, he settled in Little Hot Springs Valley, having purchased land from Bill and John Payne. The ranch has been in the Lorenzen family ever since.
Jacob Seiger, an immigrant from Germany at age 15, was another settler. To pay for his passage across the plains, he drove ox teams. He eventually settled in Little Hot Springs Valley, living there until he died. His homestead is now owned by the Oilar family.
The original Oilar ranch was purchased by Hugh Oilar from Calvin Hall. Hall was an army man from Fort Crook. Five members of Hall’s gang were lynched from the Lookout Bridge in 1901.
At one time, Little Hot Springs had its own paper, called Four Corners, and was published by Mr. Stanley. The paper was established for the purpose of printing homestead grants and timber claims. There were many people coming from the Bay Area to claim timber. It also reported the goings on for the week.
In the early days of this small community, daily mail and passenger stages traveled through from Yreka to Alturas. The Pete Lorenzen’s home was a stopping place for drivers and their horses. Unfortunately for the Little Hot Springs, this route wasn’t used very long, as a better route was soon made.
The door to the left is the Post Office. The larger part is thought to have been a blacksmith shop.
Little Hot Spring’s first post office was established in 1888 by Pete Lorenzen, and the community took the name of Day. The mail was carried twice weekly on Tuesdays and Saturdays from the Juniper post office. When the toll road was no longer in use, the Juniper post office was closed and the mail was routed through Pittville. The Day post office operated until 1925. It was opened again in 1926 and closed for good in 1953. Route service is now used. The original building is still standing.
The Post Office was established in 1888.
A few of the original buildings are still standing, as well. The old barn that was built around 1890 of hand-hewn timbers by Nathaniel Day’s son, Samuel, has finally started collapsing.
It’s unclear when the first school was built. A newer school house was built on the Oilar ranch in the late 1920s. The first teacher was Anna McArthur.
The barn built by Samuel Day (Nathaniel's son) circa 1890.
Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Day. Owned the ranch in Day until 1910, then moved to Fall River Valley.
There are tales of summer Saturday evenings, gathering at one of the ranches to have a dancing and feasting. Sunday afternoons were for picnicking, often times using the ice caves eight miles northwest, to freeze the ice cream.
For winter fun there was always sledding and ice skating.
There has never been a church in the community of Day, and in the old days, church was often too far away. Many families would take time on Sundays to read passages from the Bible to their children. Once in a while, a traveling minister would stop and preach for a week or so at a time. Those meetings were held in the school house.
This valley is also home to what has become known as the Day Lights. Little Hot Springs Valley seems to be haunted by a mysterious light – seen by both Indians and the white settlers. The Indians have always been reluctant to discuss these lights, when it appeared it seemed that a death in their tribe would soon follow.
One of the local tales is that Walter Lorenzen was keeping watch over his sheep with his dog, as coyotes had been a recent problem. One night, he noticed a light heading his direction from across the field. At first he thought it was someone carrying a very bright lantern. The light hopped over a fence, went around the sheep’s enclosure, and passed near enough to Walt that he could see that there wasn’t a person associated with the light. Even his dog was scared to the point where it couldn’t growl or bark. Walt packed up his belongings and quickly headed home.
Commercial power did not come to Day until 1966, when Surprise Valley Electric Cooperative completed its power lines across Big Valley Mountain.
There is a small cemetery in Day, well hidden. The last burial to take place in the cemetery was in 1933. A spring of water came up nearby and created quite a bit of surface water, making it impossible to continue using the cemetery.
The forgotten cemetery.
A fire in the spring of 1951 destroyed the wooden fence around the cemetery. It also destroyed most grave markers, as several were made of wood. In 1965, the community raised enough money to pay for a new cyclone fence, which was put up by the Schneider family. During that time, the cemetery was cleaned up. It has not been touched since.
Child's grave with name of Schneider 1880-1888. Believed to have died from diphtheria outbreak.
This quaint community has not changed all that much. It is still a small but proud ranching community. It’s far enough off the main road to keep its rural charm.
Only four of the original names left in the valley: Oilar, Schneider, Gooch, and Lorenzen.
City Girl Goes Country
“In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.” Alex Haley.
For the past ten or more years, I have dabbled in genealogy. I find it absolutely fascinating to discover where my ancestors came from and who they were. This month’s column is kind of a tie-in to the history of Day, the history of my family.
I am no expert, by any means. Whenever I have the time or a bee in my bonnet, I pour over the papers given to me by my grandmothers and find new links and information on Ancestry.com.
Family has always been very important in my life. It’s simply how I was raised. Do we always like each other? Nope. Do we love each other? You bet. And that it what is important.
As my grandfather has recently stated, I have come back to my roots – Modoc County. My great-great-great grandparents settled the small community of Day, or Little Hot Springs Valley as it’s also known. His homestead was eventually sold, and now the surname of Day does not live in the community of the same name.
I recently visited this small community, for the first time in my 31 years. I’ve passed it hundreds of times, always telling myself, “I should really go there someday.” But I never did. I always had an excuse to not stop by.
I saw the original barn, built in 1890 by my great-great grandfather. I barely saw the original post office, on my way out of town. While there really is nothing in Day except for ranches and homes, I was still in awe that my family helped to settle that small but beautiful valley.
I found the forgotten cemetery, hidden behind trees off a dirt road. No signs marked its location. Only three headstones were left, as a fire 60 years ago had destroyed all the wooden markers. It was completely overgrown. I’m pretty sure my family who settled there are buried somewhere in there. It saddens me to see it in such a sad state.
In my ancestral search, I learned that my Granddad, the late Cecil “Tuffy” Day, barely knew his parents. They had both passed away by the time he was 10 years old, had been raised by his older siblings.
In truth, his parents are pretty much the only great-grandparents I didn’t know at some point in my life. I was blessed with knowing most my great-grandparents, my last living biological great-grandmother passed away in 2006.
I learned that my paternal great-grandmother’s family has owned the Hiway Garage in McArthur.
My dad’s parents also ran a Foremost Milk distributorship in Beiber, and later in Burney.
My grandfather, Papa D, has worked in the newspaper industry since shortly after he graduated high school. He owned the Inter-Mountain News for awhile, moving it from Fall River Mills to Burney.
On my mother’s side, our ancestors hailed from England and Ireland. While I haven’t been able to find much on the Irish side, the English have been pretty well documented. My maternal 11th great-grandmother – one of her brothers was great-grandfather to John Adams, signer of the Declaration of Independence and second U.S. President.
The least fun part of searching your genealogy is foraging through all the information out there. Names are spelled differently throughout the ages, or misspellings can often lead to name “changes”.
The fun part is making connections and getting answers. The really fun part is finding connections to famous people. I have found connections to a few signers of the Declaration of Independence, presidents, authors such as Jane Austen and Laura Ingalls Wilder, Samuel Morse (Morse Code), architect Frank Lloyd Wright, aviator Emelia Earhart, outlaw “Wild Bill” Hickock, and circus performer Charles Stratton (aka “Gen. Tom Thumb”, which I’m now pretty sure is where mine and my dad’s thumbs come in). Does it matter that some of these folks are 15th cousin 10 times removed? Nope, because it’s cool just to have a link.
If you haven’t started yet, it’s never too late. Start with yourself and your immediate family, and grandparents. Chase your own tale by becoming a genealogist.