Behren’s-Eaton House Museum
A trip back to the turn of the century – the 19th Century – is possible in Redding. Just head to the Eaton House on West Street where history is preserved and comes to life. Judge Richard Behrens Eaton served Redding and Shasta County much of his adult life and left his family home as a living museum for residents and visitors alike to enjoy.
Eaton, a longtime judge in Shasta County, died in 2003 and ensured that his home at 1520 West St. in Redding be preserved to allow the public to “step back in time.” It’s run by his trust with three governors – one from the Shasta Historical Society, one from Shasta College and one from the legal community – who were tasked with restoring the home and bringing back the original furniture.
The home museum is open to all from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday and from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free, but contributions are accepted. More information on the Behrens-Eaton House Museum can be found at www.eatonhousemuseum.org.
Richard Behrens Eaton was born in 1914 to Walter Eaton and Edna Behrens in Oregon, where Walter worked as a surveyor. Judge Eaton’s grandfather, Charles Behrens, was elected Shasta County sheriff in 1898 and moved from Shasta to the West Street home, as the sheriff was mandated to live in Redding. The house, lot and grand piano were bought for $2,500 and that original deed is on display in the home, along with many other historic papers and books.
Judge Eaton’s father joined the Army during World War I after also being a veteran of the Spanish-American War. Walter Eaton contracted the Spanish flu in Ohio, where he died. Upon the death of her husband, Edna Behrens and young Richard Eaton moved from Oregon back to Redding, where he was raised in the West Street house by his mother, aunt Ella and his grandmother. Stories of his upbringing are on display for visitors of the Behrens-Eaton House.
The museum is staffed by volunteer docents, many of whom dress in period costume for events. The gardens are manicured and delightful as the Shasta-Cascade Wonderland Garden Club has worked to restore them to their original look. “As you can tell, we are very proud of what has been accomplished through the efforts of the community,” museum curators say.
Judge Eaton began practicing law in 1946 after serving his country in World War II, one of his proudest accomplishments. In 1940, with the war looming, Judge Eaton joined the reserves and served in San Francisco as a captain until shipping out in 1942 for North Africa as a first lieutenant. He also served in Italy and Germany, and was a great asset as he spoke German. He returned to the states as a Major with decorations and three stars. In 1946, he made his way back to Shasta County but remained in the reserves until 1974, reaching the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
And while Judge Eaton spent most of his adult life serving the residents of Shasta County – including his tremendous support of the Boy Scouts of America – he wasn’t the only one in the family to give of themselves to the North State.
In addition to Sheriff Charles Behrens, Judge Eaton’s mother Edna was the Shasta County treasurer for 17 years. His aunt Ella was one of the first female bank tellers at Shasta County Bank, which would later become the Bank of America. And Uncle Earl Behrens was the political editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, and was asked multiple times to run for office. His clout, however, was undeniable and he even received the Medal of Freedom from President Richard Nixon.