John W. Cummings was native to California and was born in 1858. He came to Modoc County at the age of 20, living there for the rest of his life. He found work in Modoc cowboying and working on ranches. He and Winnie Anne Ivory were married in 1883 and they had six children. The Cummings bought land and cattle, establishing themselves as members of the community. In 1894, John Cummings was elected sheriff and served until 1898. During the period from 1916 to 1920, he served as a county supervisor. Cummings and two partners, D.R. Mulkey and I.W. Gibbons, opened a light plant in Alturas in 1909 and supplied the town with power furnished by steam. Later, the California Public Service Corporation took over the plant and installed a diesel generator. When he retired from his sheriff position, he thought of the idea of Big Sage Reservoir. He built the Big Sage Dam that stored water as a insurance against drought in the lowlands west of Alturas. John Cummings died in 1928.