Viola May Lowry, one of eight children born to Permelia (Smith) Lowry and Joseph Flemming Lowry, was born May 16, 1860 near Etna, Scott's Valley in Siskiyou County, California.

In 1871, at the age of eleven years, Viola moved with her family to Adin, Big Valley in Modoc County, which is about 40 miles from the site of the Modoc Indian War. In her late adult years she wrote an account telling of her fright when, at 13 years old, there was an unexpected attack on the settlers in Big Valley by the Modoc Indians. (The original manuscript is in the files of the Modoc County Museum in Alturas, California.

Her advantages for education were limited but her ambition and determination kept her reading and studying until she acquired a wide general knowledge. Being naturally artistic she started painting at an early age. Over the years she produced many fine landscape paintings. The Roseberry House still has two of her original paintings hanging in the house for guests to see and enjoy.

On May 22, 1877 she married Thomas Alexander Roseberry of Adin, California, a partner in the General Merchandise Store of Roseberry and Knight. From 1885 to 1887 Thomas Roseberry served in the California Legislature as Assemblyman from Modoc and Lassen Counties. He later engaged in Real Estate, Insurance and the Livestock business in Big Valley. They raised a family of 2 boys, George K. and Thomas A. Jr., and 2 girls, Daisy T. and Mary Aileen.

In 1892 Thomas A. Roseberry was appointed Registrar of the United States Land Office and the family moved to Susanville. Viola May continued to paint as a hobby, giving many fine landscapes to friends and acquaintances. Many of these still adorn their homes and are highly prized as works of one of Northern California's pioneering early women artists.

In 1902 the Roseberrys built and occupied their Susanville home, which still stands at the original location on North Street at the end of North Lassen Street. At the time of its construction, the Roseberry House was considered one of the community's finest homes.

Thomas A. Roseberry died in 1917 while on a hike up Mount Lassen in an expedition to see the results of the recent eruption of Mt. Lassen.  As a result of his death, and after the Emerson Hotel burned down, Mrs. Roseberry, in approximately 1920, turned the Roseberry House into a Bed & Breakfast of sorts.  She called it the Green Tree House, and it was most likely the first Bed & Breakfast in the Eastern Sierra. 

Viola May (Lowry) Roseberry passed away in her home on March 24, 1936 and was buried beside her husband in the old Susanville cemetery.

Biography provided by her grandson, George McDow, Jr. 1984



609 North Street Susanville • California 96130 • Phone 530-257-5675 • FAX...530-257-8739