Everyone Is Welcome
The Historic Little Shasta Valley Church…
Siskiyou’s backroads still hold the scenic allure of its pioneer history, and perhaps none more so than Lower Little Shasta Road in Montague. Along this quiet stretch is arguably one of the most Insta-worthy shots in the county: The Little Shasta Valley Church. Imagine a small, picturesque white church surrounded by the wide-open frontier, dwarfed by the silhouette of majestic Mt. Shasta. Long a favorite of shutterbugs, it’s not just a pretty site. The pioneering spirit of its members has kept the church going even in the leanest years. “Where there’s a church, there’s a way. We’ve kept it open for the last 150 years. And, even though we’re a small congregation, we get enough donations to keep our doors open,” explains Jon Burke, president of the church’s board and a third-generation devotee. “My father and grandfather both attended, all the way back to the late 1800s.”
The Little Shasta Valley Church is what Burke describes as a “framed Gothic structure” with an iconic steeple. The responsibility for its organization fell to Rev. Roswell Graves, a famed church builder in the mid- to late 1800s who crossed the Great Plains from Wisconsin in 1863 and established several churches throughout Northern California. Back then, Burke describes the appeal of setting up a church near Little Shasta because the area was part of a “booming valley with a much larger community.” The nearby towns of Montague and Yreka also provided a large population base from which the church could draw members. Eventually ground for the new building was broken in 1876, and it took two years to complete. Most of the church still dates back to 1878, but Burke is quick to note that the steeple is not part of the original structure. “Around 1899, lightning struck the steeple, so the one that you see today was rebuilt back in the 1950s.”
These days, the all-denominational congregation still gathers on the first and third Sundays of the month, with Communion offered on the third Sunday. Burke notes that while many members belong primarily to the local ranching community that the Little Shasta Valley has become known for, Sunday services regularly see attendees from Mount Shasta all the way to Oregon. “Everyone is welcome. They all seem drawn to the beauty and the scenery.” The romantic setting has also made weddings a frequent and welcome occurrence.
The church isn’t the only historic draw to the site. The building sits directly across from Little Shasta Elementary School, which happens to be the oldest operating two-room schoolhouse in California, and one of the first schools in Siskiyou County. The nearby cemetery also regularly draws genealogists and taphophiles with tombstones dating back to the 1850s. In fact, Burke notes, “there is active movement” to get a historic cemetery tour started for visitors.
To experience the picturesque beauty of the church at its finest, Burke recommends coming by at sunrise when the colors reflect brightly on the white exterior and Mt. Shasta sits luminous in the distance. Sunset twilight is equally breathtaking, and many recommend visiting the area by bicycle to experience the epic views in the quiet solitude of the Little Shasta Valley. However someone decides to pay a visit, the best advice is to take time and enjoy the scenery. •
Little Shasta Valley Church • 8312 Little Shasta Road, Montague
(208) 867-5350 (call or text to visit the church) • (530) 459-3833