Montague, California

This town in northern California , situated in Shasta Valley , was named in honor of Samuel Skerry Montague.  Samuel, son of Richard, was born on July 6, 1830 in Keene , New Hampshire . The family had just recently moved from Hadley , Massachusetts .  Samuel migrated to California in the fall of 1859 and was surveying for the Central Pacific Railroad by February of 1862.  He was the Chief Engineer for the CPRR from 1863 to the time of his death in 1883.  S. S. Montague was most noted for his engineering feats while building the western portion of the first Transcontinental Railroad, over the Sierras, from Sacramento, California to Promontory, Utah.  The golden spike, with Samuel’s name on it, was driven there in 1869.  Samuel passed away, near Mount Shasta, while building the railroad into Oregon .  A little over three years later the railroad laid out the town and named it after him.  The town of Montague soon became the hub of transportation in northern California and southern Oregon with its lumber mills, grain elevators, and loading facilities for livestock.  It had a bank, several hotels, stores, restaurants, bars, and brothels during its hay-day.  Montague was once one of the largest towns in the county even though the county seat of Yreka was just six miles away.

Gold mining was the beginning for Yreka, but farming became more prevalent in the Shasta Valley when the mines started playing out.  Farming practices were greatly enhanced when an irrigation project was constructed in the 1920’s that brought water to the Valley.  Ranching and farming is the mainstay today with its crops of mostly grains, grass and alfalfa hay, and pastures for the many cattle herds.  Mining, logging, and the railroad have all declined over the years in the Montague area. This has left the town today with around 1400 inhabitants who mostly commute to Yreka for supplies and jobs.  However, one can still buy some groceries, a meal, and gasoline in Montague.  The Post office has been in service for many years with a zip code of 96064.  The city is still incorporated with its City Hall, mayor, and all.

Yreka was disappointed that the railroad passed them by.  In 1889 a local rail line was built to Montague with its connection to the Southern Pacific Railroad there.  The Yreka Western Railroad still hauls freight and also has a summer excursion steam train that has brought some revitalization to these two towns in recent years.

Montague has had a great past and still hangs on to its roots with the local farming, small businesses, and hometown atmosphere. The town has declined in importance since the routing of a different rail line into Oregon in 1926, the depression, the diesel locomotive, truck transportation, and logging restrictions.  Does this sound like nearly all of “ Small Town America ”?

Doris and I purchased and restored the vintage 1904 Opera Restaurant in town.  She continued to operate this facility, seasonally, from 1989 to 2004 while catering to the steam excursion train.

Since 1992 we have acquired 160 acres of land three miles north of Montague and now have our home in the shadow of Mount Shasta .

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