Shasta County, California
Neither Spain nor Mexico ever succeeded in extending their political reach as far north as present day Shasta County. In the middle of the nineteenth century this became a serious problem for Mexico because of increasing numbers of American emigrants coming into the area in search of land. Mexican Governor Micheltorena attempted to resolve this problem by awarding a series of land grants to men who agreed to become Mexican citizens and work to protect Mexico's claim to sovereignty in the region. John Sutter acted as an advisor to the governor in this endeavor.
Pierson B. Reading was working for Sutter at the time in Sutter's Fort. In 1844, Reading was awarded a large land grant along the Sacramento River that stretched from Cottonwood Creek in the south to Salt Creek in the north. He did not immediately occupy the land, but did stock it with cattle and built a house for the foreman of his ranch. He named his new property Rancho Buena Ventura, after the Spanish name of the Sacramento River. Pierson was heavily involved in the events of 1846 that led to the American takeover of California and served as paymaster for John Fremont's Volunteer Regiment with the rank of major.
After California was annexed by the United States, Reading built a home on the Sacramento River and involved himself in a wide range of business activities. By 1862 it was said that Rancho Buena Ventura was the largest cattle ranch in all of California. In 1882, the town of Cottonwood was founded on the western edge of Rancho Buena Ventura as a way point for stage coaches traveling on the Siskiyou Trail between Red Bluff and the town of Shasta. Cottonwood succeeded in prospering as long as it could serve as a regional center for small farms and ranches. As the economy of the region changed and transportation routes bypassed the community, the town's importance faded. The community has preserved a few of the old buildings in it's historic district.
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