History of Burney
The town of Burney received its name from an event that occurred in March of 1859 when, according to The Shasta Republican newspaper dated 2 April 1859, some men were returning to Shasta from the Pit river valley where they had “been snowed in” during the winter. On their way down, they passed the place lately located by Mr. Predmore for a ranch about eighteen miles west of Fort Crook. It was here that they discovered the bodies of Samuel Burney and a Sacramento Valley Indian boy who had been recently killed by local Indians.
The men buried the bodies in a shallow grave northwest of the present-day Shasta County Sheriff’s substation. In 1887, R. M. (Dick) Johnson and others moved Burney’s remains to their present location in the Burney Cemetery on Mountain View road. The grave today is clearly marked with a gravestone; however, the death date on the stone is incorrectly written as 1857.
For some time after this event, the area was know as “the valley where Burney was killed”. Mr. Predmore left his land too long unoccupied, so William L. Cayton (who had been living with the Indians at the lower end of the valley, (which bears his name today) came to “Burney Valley'” and Occupied the Predmore site. Cayton was granted a patent on that l60 acres on 1 April 1871. He also acquired 160 acres of adjoining land from L. L. Y. Hastings, who received a patent on it May of 1872; both patents were signed by President Grant.
In 1872 Cayton sold all 320 acres to A.S.A. White for $5000. Mr. White also acquired 440 more acres of adjoining land. On 3 July 1877 he sold all 760 acres to John M. Kelly for $12,000. Three months later, Kelly sold the 760 to brothers D.C. and R.M. Johnson for $10,000 – a $2000 loss.
Until 1887, the area was one big farm with a huge orchard, potato fields, hay fields and a big garden that grew every kind of vegetable one could want, which Mr. White had planted. The first post office in the area was named Burney Valley and was established on 6 December 1872. Henry Murphy was the first postmaster; and it was located at “bunker hill” which was in the same building that also served as a stage stop, trading post and saloon.
It was R. M. Johnson who gave Samuel Burney’s name to the mountain, creek and falls, and consequently, the town became Burney. After the death of D. C. Johnson, his widow and R. M. Johnson sold the 760 acres to Dr. C. W. Pierce for $8863 on 16 April 1881. Dr. Pierce and A. W. Gale opened a general merchandise store, hotel and post office in the 1880’s that was located along main street.
Local Historian: Thelma Shiplet