Wednesday, September 28, 2011 at 9:59AM
Jo Giessner

1850, Tehama Lodge, No. 3, Sacramento - ". . . Thus it received a new name of Hawaiian origin. Some of the Hawaiian natives in the employ of Capt. John A. Sutter were afterward employed by Bro. Peter Lassen on his ranch on Deer Creek, one of the tributaries of the upper Sacramento River, and it was from their settlement that Tehama County took its name, and probably out of compliment to Bro. Peter Lassen, whose ranch was there located, the Lodge was thus named. Yamhill County, Oregon, was so named from the Hawaiian natives locating there  and planting yams from their native island."

"At the first Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of California, nineteen days afterward, on May 8, 1850, the Lodges were numbered and Tehama Lodge, No. 3, located at Sacramento took its place on the roll of Lodges, where it has ever since remained. . ."~

Every history book that I have read in regards to the name "Tehama" gives credit to it being a word of Native American origin. It hasn't been described as to which Native Americans or language or the exact meaning.

Upon reading the research work of Richard Burrill (2010, Historical and Archaeological Investigations of the Hi Good Cabin Site, CA-TEH-2105H. Susanville, California: The Anthro Company) I provide the following:

"Through time, the story has been passed down that 'Tehama' is a geographical description for 'a crossing place.' Perhaps 'at the bar just below Tehama [town], where the river was shallow,' that one could cross there safely.

Story has it that an Indian maiden called to the non-Indians, 'Te-ha-ma' meaning shallow. She repeated 'te-ha-ma' several more times. Finally they understood and crossed successfully, and the name stuck."

The town named Tehama, located where Mill Creek runs into the Sacramento River, was a settlement as early as 1845 when Robert H. Thomes and Albert G. Toomes constructed an adobe house on Thomes' Rancho de las Saucos grant.  The town was mapped to be a city by Thomes in 1850.

Prior to the white settlers, it was a location used by Indians when they migrated from the hills to the river for their supply of salmon. Which tribal language held the word and if it was used to name that camp or portion of the river is uncertain. As a word to describe a place to cross heard by the people who could perpetuate the concept and later have it appear on paper and hence into the history record is probably why it survived through the years.

The county of Tehama was formed 9 April 1856, by the California Legislature with Tehama the town as the county seat. Tehama county-wide elections moved the "seat" to what is now Red Bluff the following year, 1857, probably because Red Bluffs was then a thriving community at the head of navigation on the Sacramento River and where freighters and stage coaches continued to move the goods and people further north. Territory was taken from Colusi (Colusa), Butte, and Shasta, three of the original California counties, to create Tehama. Also in 1857, legislative action adjusted the Tehama County boundaries on the northwest and southwest.

" In 1857 legislative action adjusted the boundaries of Tehama County by changes both on the northwest and southwest. One change enlarged the county by relocating the northern or Shasta-Tehama line near Cottonwood and Battle Creeks. Then, a southwestern boundary change decreased the size of the county. Over the years some other changes have occurred in the boundary lines, but these acts were attempts to define already existing lines in a more precise manner." - Tehama County 1856-2006, 150 Years of Photos and History, 2007, Tehama County Genealogical and Historical Society.

Donald L. Hislop and Benjamin M. Hughes in their 2007 Red Bluff , California publication: Tehama County Place Names, A Catalogue of Names and Places, some well known, others quaint and curious, some long gone, located within the boundaries of Tehama County, give this accounting:

"Tehama is believed to be an Indian word, but authorities disagree on the meaning, which has variously been reported as high water, low land, salmon, or shallow - any of which would be an accurate description of a location where the river is normally shallow enough to ford, where fisherman are a common sight during the salmon run, and winter floods are a regular occurrence. Some sources claim that a Nomlaki Indian camp was once located on the site of the modern day Tehama on the western bank of the Sacramento River."

So there you have it. We have a word from a Native American or Indian language (Hawaiian or Kanaka) that we aren't sure about the meaning of but did in fact become the name for the oldest successful town located in the territory that was later formed as a county and named the same.Te-ha-ma, the land where a river runs through it.

Notes:  Please see Tehama County Memories, 1997, for an article on page 7 entitled:Solving the "Tehama" Puzzle by Gene Serr.

Gene Serr has also written a follow-up published in the May/June 2014 TCGHS Newsletter, Vol 33, No 5, which can be read on-line at www.tcghsoc.org



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