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Johnsville Cemetery tour raises funds for museum association

Laura Beaton
Staff Writer
7/16/2014
 
Colorful impersonations of illustrious residents of the historical Johnsville Cemetery were presented to more than 100 people June 28.

The fundraiser for the Plumas County Museum Association also included a tour of the Johnsville Catholic Church and historical downtown buildings, and cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at The Iron Door.

The event raised more than $2,500 while educating and entertaining the audience on a hot summer day.

Plumas County Museum Director Scott Lawson began the afternoon event with a brief history of Johnsville and neighboring Jamison City.

Lawson told about Jamison City’s origins: two miners in 1851 “took a meander up the slopes of Gold Mountain” (now Eureka Peak) and stumbled upon a gold-rich quartz vein. The news of gold spread like wildfire and within weeks a mining company was formed and operations were going strong.

In its heyday, Jamison City was one of the liveliest mining camps in Plumas County, Lawson said, with frequent bar brawls and “the best brand of fighting whisky and tangle-leg brandy for sale.”

Over the next couple of decades, production of gold-bearing ore and improvements to the mines ebbed and flowed — at one time raking in profits of $2,500 to $4,000 a week. One of the biggest finds was the discovery of a 7-pound lump of placer gold in Jamison Creek.

By 1876, buildings began to appear on the flats of present-day Johnsville. As the decline of mining and Jamison City continued, buildings from Jamison were hauled up to the more staid Johnsville and reconstructed.

Devastating fires burned through the town in 1882, 1896 and 1906, the last wiping out 25 buildings and taking two lives.

By 1907 an aerial tram connected the gold mines and the 75-foot tall Mohawk Stamp Mill, which still stands today and is part of Plumas-Eureka State Park.

Longboard skis were said to have been invented by miners for winter recreation, and races were held on the slopes of Eureka Peak.

By the first half of the 20th century, Johnsville had “slipped into a deep slumber,” with only occasional winter sports revivals that picked up briefly after the Eureka Ski Bowl was built.

That’s where local character Johnny Redstreake made his fame — as a mail carrier delivering mail via skis, who later went on to defeat Olympic skiers in races.

Redstreake’s wife Eleanor had her own claim to fame: she was one of four women to enlist in the United States Marine Corps. Prior to that she worked as a society editor in Winnemucca, Nevada, was an assistant to a Nevada state legislator and, after serving in the Marine Corps, worked for the American Legion Child Welfare Foundation, which she eventually went on to run.

Robert and Mary Penman were the first of the cemetery’s residents to be brought to life by actors Bob Shipp and Tina Terrazas.

They told the story of the Penmans from a first-person point of view. Both of British descent, they spoke about meeting each other in Virginia in the 1840s, their marriage in 1849 and the loss of their firstborn daughter at age 9 months. Their exciting adventure of traveling by wagon train from St. Louis, Missouri, to California was beset with many hardships.

The Penmans arrived in Mohawk Valley in 1854 and, rather than becoming miners, they chose to provide supplies for the miners. The population of the valley grew to 5,000 from an initial 200. The Penmans had 10 children and buried several of them at young ages.

Robert Penman told an interesting story about fighting an Irishman named James Delaney, who bit off a piece of his ear. Penman said Delaney was convicted of perpetrating “mayhem on my body.” He said Delaney later shot and killed somebody on his land and, while being transported for trial, was hung by a group of citizens who took justice into their own hands.

A few other “denizens of the graveyard” were depicted by Shipp and Terrazas before David Daun, of the Johnsville Historical Society, led a tour that began at the Johnsville Catholic Church.

After a brief history recounting the church’s origins, tour participants were invited to view the restored interior of the church.

From there the group proceeded down the town’s main street, Johnsville Road, viewed several historical buildings and learned about their former occupants.

Among the buildings discussed was a typical miner’s house built by the three Cunio brothers from Italy, who traveled back to their homeland to find brides whom they brought back to live with them.

The Asani house and the Pavlovich Hotel were two other historical buildings that Daun spoke about. The hotel was encased in metal-clad imitation brick, Daun said, which was a fire prevention method.

Finally, participants enjoyed libations and hors d’oeuvres at The Iron Door. Lawson thanked Chris David and The Iron Door crew; Daun and the historical society; Don Clark, president of the museum association; and Terrazas and Shipp for their superb acting abilities.

For more information or to donate to the museum association, contact Lawson at 283-6320 or pcmuseum@psln.com.

avatar
Donald Franklin Dawson Friday, 18 July 2014
Interesting, I have several members of my family interned there. Last time I visited the Cemetery was almost 20 years ago.
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