“We were established on Poverty Flat, not far from Hardscrabble and on the way north to Starveout.”
The first engine chugged into town September 1, 1872, dragging
a few coaches occupied by railroad officials and local notables. The event was celebrated in proper style, but the Shasta County residents
soon got a shock. As predicted by the Shasta Courier, the new town
would not be named Reading but would instead be called Redding, honoring
Benjamin Bernard Redding.
Pierson B. Reading had been the County’s first white settler and so was the favorite in the choice of a name, since he was also prominent both in the area’s development and in politics. The highly regarded Reading had died in May of 1868, but it might have been just as well that he was not alive when the bitter dispute arose over the name issue which was not settled for about eight years.
During that time the town was Reading in most newspapers, and Redding in the timetables, as the battle went on in both the Legislature and the courts until the railroad won. The old adage in the West said that if you wanted a town named for you, it paid to have worked for a railroad.
Benjamin Bernard Redding contributed little to the development of Shasta County except as land agent for the Central Pacific, predecessor of the Southern Pacific. Redding was certainly a jack-of-all-trades. Born in Nova Scotia he had worked as a store clerk in Boston, and at 19 opened his own grocery store. But as a temperance leader, he refused to sell liquor and soon went broke. At 22, he was a ship’s chandler, and in 1849 he bought a brig in which he took lumber to California. After this, he was a prospector in the Yuba diggings. He got local recognition for his successful defense of a suspected slayer, went broke as a newspaper publisher, changed his politics from Democrat to Republican and was appointed State Printer. Later, he became Mayor of Sacramento, Undersheriff of Sacramento County, State Commissioner of swamplands and Secretary of State, a post he held for six years. This is the person that Redding was named after. After retiring as land agent for Central Pacific, he was appointed State Commissioner of Fisheries.
By 1877, the new town had 77 businesses, including the McCormick-Saeltzer Company store. By 1880, the county census showed 9,592 inhabitants, 1,326 of them Chinese and 1,037 Indians. And Redding had a bridge over the Sacramento as well as gas lights in the business district.
Gold panning had almost disappeared, and dredging and quartz mining came along. Agriculture showed signs of becoming the County’s most important enterprise . Nearly 6,000 acres were under cultivation for crops ranging from cattle and sheep to grapes, peaches, prunes, pears, walnuts, olives and almonds, much of them without irrigation. By 1885, the area had eight mills and the Shasta Courier reported 300 applicants for timberland in Shasta County with land selling at the same price as mineral land—$2.50 an acre.
Taken from OUTPOST ON POVERTY FLAT by Charles J. Gleason
Source: Shasta Historical Society