Monday, April 6, 2020


The town of Shasta, or Old Shasta, as it is commonly referred to, in order to differentiate it from a newer town by the same name, is a Northern California mining settlement established in 1849. Shasta was the primary market town servicing the mining population for a large surrounding area, and the county seat for Shasta County,  until the mid-1870’s, until the California & Oregon Railroad chose to build a rail station about six miles to the east, which became known as the City of Redding. Shasta began its decline about 1880 and Redding became the County seat in 1887

The old town of Shasta. Judging from the size of the street trees the photo was probably taken circa 1875. Its many brick buildings were a hallmark of the town, which were constructed because of the many fires it had experienced over the years.

The first mention of the Westcott & Bartlett soda factory in Shasta was noted in passing in the Shasta Courier of September 30, 1854. The advertisement below implies that their business also included a partnership with Pain & Beers in San Francisco, with the company name noted as Westcott, Bartlett & Co. This partnership was dissolved on December 12, 1854.

By 1855 Bartlett decided to move to San Francisco in order to be closer to the source of goods arriving in the port of San Francisco, which could then be purchased and shipped up the Sacramento River, then overland to their store in Shasta. (Shasta Courier, January 20, 1855)  There is scant evidence that Bartlett remained in San Francisco for any length of time.

 While soda water was a mainstay of the company, their primary venture was general merchandising, and later focusing on groceries and provisions, which they simultaneously carried on in the town of Shasta. As with most individuals in California’s mining region the partners also maintained a financial interest in the mines, and by whatever source, appeared to prosper in their ventures. Likely the defining moment, at least for the fate of their soda water bottles, came in early 1858, when the partnership of Westcott & Bartlett was dissolved and re-organized as Gilbert, Westcott & Bartlett.

The partnership between Westcott and Bartlett was dissolved on January 23, 1858, when a new partnership was formed that included J.R Gilbert, S.B. Westcott and B.L. Bartlett. The actual purpose of the business did not change, which was the sale of groceries and provisions – including the sale of soda, ale and porter. It must be assumed that no new bottles were blown for the soda works that included the names of all three partners, so the old W&B bottles must have been continued in use to service their bottling operations. (Shasta Courier, January 23, 1858)

Gilbert, Westcott & Bartlett successfully carried on their business for another two years, however, Westcott had recently married the widow, Mary A. Tuttle, in Providence, Rhode Island, and wanted to permanently return to the East to start a new chapter in his life.

The newspaper notice apprising citizens of the impending dissolution of Gilbert, Westcott & Bartlett and the removal of S.B. Westcott. (Shasta Courier, February 18, 1860)

The business of Gilbert, Westcott & Bartlett ceased to exist after September 26, 1860. (Shasta Courier, October 13, 1860)

Westcott was still trying to sell his property interests in Shasta even after he moved back to Rhode Island, including the soda works.  Interestingly, both Westcott and Bartlett had an affinity for horticulture which was also expressed in various newspaper articles throughout their lives, as indicated by Westcott’s long list of items for sale. (Shasta Courier, November 29, 1862)

On one of the last of his frequent trips between Shasta and his home in Rhode Island, Westcott had a bit of a scare on the ship Moses Taylor. This article is a stark reminder of the dangers encountered on sea voyages when the ship encountered a violent storm, breaking her shaft and her mainmast, rendering her completely helpless. (Alta California, December 18, 1862)

The soda works partner, Samuel Budlong Westcott, was born Nov 15, 1823, in Coventry, Kent, Rhode Island.  Probably on his first trip to California, he is noted in the Daily Alta California, 30 August, 1850, as arriving in San Francisco on the Sarah and Eliza. After his life in California Westcott moved back to Providence, Rhode Island, and joined his new wife, Mary Ann Tuttle, nee Whitman. Her first husband, Joseph Tuttle, died in Cranston, Rhode Island, on January 22, 1856. With the inception of the Civil War, Westcott joined Company F, Rhode Island 4th Infantry, 4th Regiment, on Oct 30, 1861, and mustered out March 19, 1863.

Westcott and his wife had seven children, all born in Providence. The big boost to the family came from the rare natural birth of triplets, on October 2, 1867. Carl Heinrich, Samuel, jr. and Blanche Rosamond were all born on that day. Samuel, jr, died a year later, but Blanche and Carl lived well into the 20th century.

Westcott continued in the field of fruit, produce, and similar victuals in Providence. He also invested heavily, with a family member, in the manufacture of silk, dry goods, gloves and other dry goods, in Boston, but that venture failed.

This carte de visite portrait of Samuel Budlong Westcott was produced by Providence, Rhode Island, photographer John B. Thurston. The information on the reverse includes Thurston’s address as 94 Westminster St. He operated at this address as a photographer from 1864 to 1865, and then moved to 106 Westminster St. It is not known if the address change was a physical move or a re-assignment of street numbers. Regardless, these two years are the probable dates for the photograph. Westcott would have been about 42 years old. Prior to 1864 Thurston advertised himself only as an ambrotypist.

Westcott retired from active business by 1878. He died June 5, 1888 in Cranston, Providence, Rhode Island. Also of interest is that his wife, Mary Ann, moved to California about 1890 along with her son, Carl. She died in Los Angeles on October 10, 1911. Carl never married and died in Los Angeles on April 14, 1937. Another daughter, Sarah Rhodes Kilton, also moved to Los Angeles, and established herself as an actress in the early silent film industry. She died there on October 29, 1920, when she was struck by a car.

The other partner in the W & B soda water business was Backus Libbeus Bartlett, born in Fonda’s Bush, Fulton, New York (now called Broadalbin), January 4, 1822, the son of Martin Bartlett and Abigail Smith.

After leaving Shasta in 1861 he moved to the town of Red Bluff, about 60 miles south on the Sacramento River. Red Bluff was the northernmost town on the river that could be reached by boat from San Francisco, with any degree of reliability. This put it in a strategic position for mercantile trade. Bartlett partnered with Thomas W. Hinchman as ‘forwarding and commission merchants’. In other words, they bought and shipped goods.

Advertisement for Hinchman & Bartlett in their commission merchant business. By the end of the following year the partners dissolved the business and both moved to San Francisco. ( Red Bluff Independent, September 26, 1862)

By 1864, after his short partnership with Thomas Hinchman in Red Bluff, Bartlett was in San Francisco in partnership with Charles C. Jones as commission merchants, and in 1865 he was an assistant assessor for the U. S. Internal Revenue Service, a job he held until 1873. Bartlett is missing from the San Francisco directory listings until 1877 when he is listed as a “commercial adjuster”, and living at the Cosmopolitan Hotel. From 1879 until 1883 Bartlett continued in the same occupation and living as a “roomer” in San Francisco, with the son of his former Red Bluff business partner, Thomas Hinchman.

By 1891 Bartlett was no longer living in San Francisco and likely moved to Los Gatos with his sister, Mrs. Laura Lee, about this time. From 1894 until 1902 he was listed in the Los Gatos business directories as an “orchardist”, living with his sister and her children.  He died there on September 7, 1903.

San Jose Mercury News, September 9, 1903.

Vacant and mostly roofless brick buildings line the main street of old Shasta, stark reminders of this once great mining town.  The old town virtually died and the State of California acquired the site, now known as Shasta State Historic Park. It is essentially in a state of arrested preservation, with some buildings being fully restored.

The iconic soda water bottle produced by Westcott and Bartlett, embossed W & B / SHASTA. The ten-sided mug base style bottle was somewhat generic during the decade of the 1850’s in the United States.

The reverse is embossed UNION GLASS WORKS PHILA / SUPERIOR / MINERAL WATER. This is common wording found on many examples blown at the Union Glass Works. This glass factory was established by partners William Hartell & Joseph Lancaster in the Kensington District of Philadelphia in 1847 and ceased operations in 1858.