Sunday, January 13, 2013

Orland history, from water towers to Whiskerinos


Orland native Gene Russell has now published some seven books on Orland history. His latest is a collection of pieces that appeared in Wagon Wheels, "journal of the Colusi (co-loo-see) County Historical Society," which he now edits. Arranged in geographical and then chronological order, the well-researched stories begin with Orland proper and then extend out to "Orland in Glenn County ... and Orland in Colusi/Colusa County--remember that Orland was part of Colusa County until the formation of Glenn County in 1891."

"Orland's Colorful Past: Scrapbook" ($20 in paperback from Rustle Inndustries; available at The Rusty Wagon, 420 Walker Street in Orland, or from the author at collects twenty-four articles that not only consider serious topics, such as "Glenn County Civil War Veterans," but more whimsical ones, such as "The Orland Area Whiskerinos and the 1925 Glenn County Fair." The cover of the book shows the "original 1849 Whiskerino emblem" which appeared on kerchiefs. "The first meeting of a Whiskers Club of Orland was held on Friday, July 31, 1925, when 18 former bald-faced men, organized and signed their names to the charter. Officers were chosen and plans made to begin a 'reign of terror for the beardless.'"

Another article charts the history of the Orland Water Tower, still standing today, "126 feet from the ground to the top of the tank," now ringed by "modern communication devices." Back in 1911 Orland had purchased the property but there was some question about how deep the water was. So an expert was brought in, a man named Cofer. "Visiting from Red Bluff was a noted north valley 'water wizard' who reportedly could tell the location and depth of water 'because his vision pierces the innermost bowels of the earth.'" Cofer told town trustees they wouldn't find water much higher than 800 feet. Later, when the actual well was dug, water was just 170 feet down. Oops!

There are also stories of the Ku Klux Klan in Glenn County in the 1920s; the coming of the Chautauqua educational movement (proponent William Jennings Bryan spoke in Willows for a dollar a ticket); and the "Orland Rabbit Drives of 1922-25."

The book contains documentary sources and an extensive name index. It's an authoritative volume that's also fun to read.

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