Former Colusa Teacher Narrates Lassen Peak’s Eruption and Legacy

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It was a full house at the Sacramento Valley Museum as Alan Willendrup narrated Lassen Peak eruption and legacy.

On Saturday, February 6, 2016, the Sacramento Valley Museum hosted the first presentation of Willendrup’s book, “The Lassen Peak Eruptions and Their Lingering Legacy”.

Since he was a child, Willendrup, and his father took a fishing trip every chance they had; many of those trips were to Manzanita Lake.

There the lake is overshadowed by Mt. Lassen; the “Sleeping Giant” that erupted Willendrups curiosity.

Having a major in History and Journalism, Willendrup received his Masters Degree in History from the California State University, Chico. It was there he completed his thesis ‘The Lassen Peak Eruptions and their Lingering Legacy’ in 1975.

In 1983, Willendrup was contacted to have the book published.

“I was approached by the Northern California Records and Research Society, and they said ‘we would like to publish your work and would you be interested’, and I said ‘of course I would,’” Willendrup commented.

For years, it remained as originally published, an almost replica of Willendrups thesis. The book filled with great stories was never marketed to a broader audience.

“It sat around and collected dust in bookstores and libraries as a resource from time to time.” said Willendrup, “I think even a few historical societies.”

In May of 2015 Willendrup was contacted by the Association for Northern California Historical Research and asked if he was interested in republishing his original work, offering an expanded and revised edition.

“It was very serendipitous when they contacted me,” said Willendrup, “I was getting ready to hike up Mount Vesuvius in Naples Italy.”

Willendrup, with the help of Josie Smith, a Thesis and Dissertation Editor and Formatter, who helped with the books revision.

“The original thesis had very little photos and graphics and Josie helped with that,” said Willendrup.

Willendrup and Smith traveled around the Northstate and collected various images and stories that were added to the revised book.

During his presentation, Willendrup gave an extensive background and narration of the 1915-15 eruptions.

“The first few chapters talk briefly of the geological setting of Lassen Peak from a historical standpoint,” said Willendrup, “chapters three and four feature the eruptions and are essentially the ‘meat and potatoes’ of the book.”

Most of the stories came from dozens of eyewitness accounts collected when Willendrup interviewed the subjects during the 1970’s.

Willendrups book concentrates on the human interest stories including Lance Graham’s near death experience during the eruption, Elmer Sorahn’s heroic dash through Hat Creek Valley to warn residents of the impending mudflow. He even features the story of B.F. Loomis, who has been credited with taking several breathtaking photos of the effects the blasts and mudflows had in the area of devastation.

Willendrup taught history and journalism at Colusa High School from 1985 to 2003; he now resides in Chico, California.

Community member, Gerry Hernandez said she has loved volcanoes and has been to Lassen National Park several times on various hikes and adventures.

“It’s a beautiful and extraordinary place,” said Hernandez.

Echoing her sentiments was Jean Boyce, who also has been to Mt. Lassen on several camping trips.

“It has been several years since I have been up there. I look forward to reading the book,” said Boyce.

Willendrup was available after the presentation to sign books and light discussion.

“The Lassen Peak Eruptions and Their Lingering Legacy” is available at the Sacramento Valley Museum for Purchase or they can be purchased through the Association for Northern California Historical Research (www.csuchico.edu/anchr).

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Is the Owner, Publisher, Editor, and Reporter of the Williams Pioneer Review. Committed to publishing the news of our Community, Lloyd has been the owner of the Williams Pioneer Review since 2010. To contact Lloyd about this article or future articles, please email him at lloyd@colusacountynews.net