On the Banks of Deer Creek


Out there beyond the trees is Deer Creek

Yesterday I went on a treasure hunt an archeology field trip to Vina to dig around in the dirt and see what we could find. My friend Josie Smith invited me to join Dr. Eric Ritter’s Shasta College Field Archeology class, looking for any remains of Peter Lassen’s occupation of the property that is now the Abbey of New Clairvaux.

Peter Lassen’s ranch lay along Deer Creek in Tehama County. Historians only have a general idea of where his house and other buildings were located, but it was somewhere next to the creek. We were working in an area behind the current monastery buildings.

On a previous visit flags had been planted all over a field about the size of a two-car garage — each flag marked a spot where a metal detector indicated that something lay beneath the surface. It was our job to dig down and see what it was.


Josie in a field of flags

Well, most of the time it was an old square nail, or the fragment of a nail. Sometimes we couldn’t find anything at all. But once in a while something interesting turned up — the rivet for a wagon wheel rim, a hand-forged link of chain, and a bent, hand-forged door hinge. (Eric found the hinge.)


Chain, chain, chain

DSCF6982 (2)

Four hours of digging — door hinge, mystery piece of iron, rivet, nails

Four hours down on my knees in the dirt, chopping away at the weeds and the soil, rooting around in the dirt for a scrap of iron — what fun! I’d do it anytime!


About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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