Levi H. Tower of the Tower House

(Submitted by Joel N. Fowler)

Levi Tower & his sister Philena

Levi H Tower, son of Jason & Philena (Howard) Tower, was born Cumberland, Rhode Island, 19 September 1819, and died San Francisco 12 November 1865, age 45, of typhoid fever,  and was buried on his Tower House property, Shasta County, California. He married at the “Free Bridge House,” Shasta County, California, 11 Nov 1852, Mary Jane Shuffletown, formerly of Fairfield, Iowa. They divorced in 1854.

Levi came from Cumberland, Rhode Island to Springfield, Massachusetts and worked as a machinist at the U.S. Armory. He next had his own machine shop.  In January 1849, he went on the Edward Everett from Boston around Cape Horn, prompting the Springfield Republican to write:

Mr. Levi H. Tower, an industrious and worthy young citizen of Springfield, and well-known to many of our inhabitants, leaves today for Boston, whence he sails, next week, for the gold regions of the West.  He is a member of the Boston Trading & Mining Company, and goes out under good auspices.  Mr. T. has been employed for several years at the U.S. Armory here and is an excellent mechanic.  We wish him more success than we fear he will get.

He arrived in San Francisco in June 1849. He apparently remained there for a time, or at least left from there in March 1850, perhaps in company with Charles Camden on the Jacob M Ryerson, and in search of the mouth of the Trinity River. If he had not previously known, or met along the way, he did join with Camden, John Hindman and one other and in June left Humboldt Bay, to go overland to the Trinity mines, some 90 miles away and a five-day walk, opening up a trail from Arcata on Humboldt Bay that was long used. They stopped long enough to set up a ferry at the junction of the Trinity River and its South Fork. They then mined along the Trinity and Salmon Rivers until fall. They arrived at Clear Creek in November and mined along it and other water ways for about two years.

Levi purchased Schneider’s Trading Post and property at the junction of Clear and Crystal Creek in 1852 from one Gilmore and Samuel Francis for $575. He immediately began building the 21-room, 3-story Tower House and incorporated Schneider’s existing log cabin-trading post into the hotel. “His energy and enterprise made it what it is – the best property in northern California.” He also built the Globe Hotel at Shasta in 1852, which burned in 1853. This same year he and his sister, who married Charles Camden, had a double wedding ceremony in Camden’s log cabin. He built the first wagon road from Shasta to the Tower House, and financed improvements on the wagon road from Shasta to Whiskey Creek with Caleb Wingate and Nathan Ferrington in 1853.  He was also elected as one of the two delegates to attend the state railroad convention in San Francisco to advocate the northern route of the railroad; and was elected as one of the first two Shasta County Supervisors in 1856-58.

Tower turned the Tower House  into the county showplace and popular stopping place and social center, well known for its excellent accommodations and lavish menus. He planted beautiful flower gardens, orchards, vegetable gardens and the first peach trees north of Sacramento. His orchard was the largest north of Marysville with trees brought from Oregon, around the Horn and the Isthmus of Panama. The grounds contained 1,000 trees of apples, pears, peaches, plums, cherries, apricots, nectarines (oldest planted in 1854), 400 grapevines, a nursery of 1,000 assorted fruit trees, adding gooseberries, currants, raspberries and strawberries in 1858. The hotel became the stage depot for the California-Oregon Stage Co. in 1858. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by fire in 1919. The Tower House Historic District at Whiskeytown is named for him and includes his sister Camden’s house built in 1852 and still standing.

The friends of the deceased are many.  His genial nature made him welcome everywhere, and his pleasant smile and cordial shake of the hand welcomed all visitors to the Tower House, and made his guests feel at home.  The funeral will take place at the Tower House on Wednesday, 22d inst., at 1 p.m.

Sources

Memorial & Biographical History of Northern California.  Lewis Publishing Co, 1891

New York Weekly Tribune, 17 Jan 1849

Shasta Courier, 18 Nov 1865

Springfield Daily Post, 12 Mar 1849

Tower, Charlemagne. Tower Genealogy: an account of the Descendants of John Tower of Hingham, Massachusetts. Cambridge: John Wilson & Son, 1891

Weekly Herald (NY), 1 Jan 1853

Westfield News Letter, 10 Jan 1849

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