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Society preserves history of Colusi County
More than 160 years of regonal history is preserved in large part because of the efforts of the Colusa County Historical Society.
"Any organization goes up and down and ours, fortunately, has been around for 64 years" said Charles Yerxa, president of the Historical Society, which hosted its annual meeting on Saturday in Colusa.
"It was started in 1950 by a group that included Lee Otterson and Charles Lambert of Willows, and a group of people. The idea is to preserve the history of Colusi County," Yerxa added.
Colusi County — sometimes spelled Coluse — was founded in 1850 as one of the original 27 California counties and included what is now Colusa, Glenn and part of Tehama counties. Glenn and Colusa County were split in 1891.
The dividing line was in part due to politician John Boggs, according to Yerxa.
The jog in the northeast part of Colusa County is referred to as the Boggs Jog because a straight line across the land would have divided the property between his barn and house.
The Historical Society is different than the Colusa Historical Preservation Committee, which is charged with designating historical sites in the city of Colusa.
"We (the Historical Society) are not a government entity. We are out there just to sort of keep the general history alive. We don't legally mandate anything. We just try to keep people interested in history by preserving it," said Yerxa.
The group works to keep history alive by hosting speakers and publishing a bi-annual journal called, "Wagon Wheel."
"They are actually very informative and the speakers are always delightful to talk to before and after, " said Terri Harter, the membership secretary.
The spring and fall meetings are often field trips around Tehama or Glenn counties, while the winter annual meeting is in Colusa.
"We meet in some strange places you wouldn't otherwise have heard of, like the dam at Lodoga," said Yerxa.
Often the topics are on Native Americans, or at the very least, Native Americans are heavily involved in the discussion.
"I believe we did have a Native American speaker sometime in the last two years," Yerxa said.
Billyjean Durst, the Historical Society's recording secretary, said the group has experimented with speakers, from academics to musician storytellers like Bruce Isham, who told stories of the Old West.
"He talked about early horseback riders and trains. He played a guitar and sang, and he changed his costume with every story," said Durst.
"I just love the meetings and, of course, Wagon Wheels. It has the history of families and the history of the counties. It's informative about who we are today and how we got here," said Harter.
An upcoming article in Wagon Wheels will be on the city of Prize.
"It was on the junction of Hahn Road and the Grimes-Arbuckle Road. It was on the old wagon train from Sacramento to Red Bluff. There was a store and school, named Franklin, where my grandfather and father attended. But there is nothing there now, its all gone," said Durst.
"It's amazing what you can find in the index after 63 years of articles," said Yerxa.
"We've been able to keep together Wagon Wheels. Partly because the editor (Gene Russell of Orland) is willing to put in an ungodly amount of hours," said Yerxa.
Yerxa has been president of the board for about seven years, and on the board even longer.
"I grew up here. I came back about 15 years ago. When I got back in 1991, (Judge) Dick Patton told me, 'I'm getting off, so it means you have to get on,'" said Yerxa.
"If he told you to do something, you did it," he said.
Yerxa said he enjoys receiving e-mails from people researching the area for books or because they grew up here.
One such message was from an author in New Hampshire writing about the 1901 Boston Red Sox, and a player named Ben Beville, who grew up in Colusa and played for the team.
"I figured out which house he lived in. We provide information along those lines," Yerxa said.