The old “Rat Farm” cabin near the McArthur Swamp in eastern Shasta County was demolished this week because it had become a potential hazard to visitors on the site. In recent years, the building had greatly deteriorated, was beyond a state of repair and interestingly enough, harbored rodents.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) directed PG&E with the concurrence of the State Historic Preservation Officer to remove the Rat Farm cabin due to public safety concerns as it falls within the boundaries of the Pit 1 Hydroelectric Project.
“Removing the Rat Farm cabin was not a decision we made lightly as we understood its local significance,” said Jim Nelson PG&E’s senior cultural resources specialist “Unfortunately, it was unsafe. PG&E conducted studies and researched the history of the original owner and the cabin to create a historical record before we proceeded with removing the cabin.”
In 1931, the Mount Shasta Fur Farms, owned by Jerry Masek, brought in muskrats from Ohio, Colorado and North Dakota. During the first half of the 20th century, muskrat farming was a popular business venture as muskrats were prized for their warm fur. Masek also raised western pond turtles in aquatic pens for sale in San Francisco’s Chinatown. The farm was short-lived, closing in the mid-1930s. Masek’s cabin remained and was used for recreational purposes for several decades. The old farm house became known as the “Rat Farm” cabin and it was a very visible landmark in the vast open fields of McArthur Swamp.
Although Mount Shasta Fur Farms claimed to keep its muskrats in “escape-free” enclosures, several did get away. Descendants of the farm’s original stock continue to plague the Fall River area by burrowing and destroying vegetation and damaging canals and levees. Trapping efforts are ongoing in an attempt to control their numbers.