She was known by the name of Lucy

There are no known pictures of Lucy

There are no known pictures of Lucy. This woman and child are Yurok.

Twenty year old Allen Hill was the first to examine the bloody toddler, to see if he was injured.  John Preston had already decided the mess on Charles’ face was from a bloody nose and his wife Sarah thought it was from a whipping by the boy’s mother.

 The Prestons were wrong.

 It was also Allen that discovered Lucy’s body, after he looked through the door of the small cabin where the Native American lived with two of her three small children.  He described seeing her blood “running on the floor.”   According to Hill, the body was covered up and “the children were in bed with the corpse.”

 When questioned, Annie, Lucy’s younger daughter, could not say how long her mother had been dead.  The four year old girl claimed two white men did it.  

 An inquest was called and prominent businessmen in the community devoted three days to the investigation.  The Prestons, their neighbor Allen Hill,  and others were interviewed in an attempt, it sometimes seemed, to discover a motive and identify the killers.

  Lucy, according to John Preston was between twenty-eight and thirty years old and “very nearly blind”. At the time of her murder, on January 12, 1862, she may have been the only adult Indian in Union.  The others, according to Sarah Preston, had been removed to the reservation.

 According to the witnesses, Lucy’s murder was not unexpected. William Lindsey, Sarah’s brother, admitted that he thought Lucy would be killed because he “did not think that any but children would be allowed to live here [in Arcata]”.   A witness claimed to have heard William say that the murderers had done “a good job,” but William denied it.  He also denied another witness’s assertion that William said that it might have been better if they had “killed the little ones”, meaning Annie and Charles, as well.  

 John Preston was visiting his father-in-law,  Findley Lindsey’s , three weeks prior to the murder and remembered hearing James Bishop say that Lucy “would not live a week.” During the investigation, Bishop denied it.

 Findley Lindsey heard rumors that Lucy had been supplying information and ammunition to mountain Indians and feared “the squaw would be murdered.”  He warned Lucy about the rumors, and encouraged her to go to the reservation, but she refused to go, “saying she had no friends among the Indians.” She told Lindsey that she hoped the whites would care for her children in the event of her death.   Sarah Preston said she also tried to convince Lucy to leave, but Lucy also told her she had no friends there and “would as soon stay here and be killed as go there.”

 James Brown, a neighbor to the Lindseys, was often a focus of the investigation.  Sarah Preston described a day when Brown was at the Preston house. He wanted to know if Sarah would prefer“ if the squaw was put out of the way and then I would have the good of that child, pointing at the little girl.”  “That child” was Lucy’s daughter Annie.   Sarah said she rejected Brown’s idea, saying she would “rather send the squaw to the reservation myself than have her be killed.”

 James Bishop remembered Brown telling him that he believed “it would be better for the county if all the Indians were killed, squaws and all,” and James Barnes heard Brown brag that he killed Indians  “and that he shot one in this town.”  Brown had explained to Bishop that this had been a “saucy and impudent digger” and did not think it would be any loss to anyone to shoot him.

 Findley Lindsey described Brown’s rifle, butcher knife and Tommy Hawk with a three inch blade, but Brown himself was never questioned. 

 After three days, Byron Deming, acting as coroner, certified that Lucy met her “death from the effect of four wounds in the head… inflicted with some sharp instrument apparently a hatchet, in the hands of some person or persons to the jury unknown.”

Lucy’s body was interred in the local cemetery and the case was closed.


Finding Lucy’s Story

 I learned about Lucy’s murder by accident, while combing the county courthouse basement for historical records. 

 The handwritten transcript of the inquest had been converted to microfiche and had remained undiscovered by local historians, many of whom had heard about Lucy’s murder on the old Preston property but didn’t know the details.   I made a fuzzy copy of the record and began hunting for more information about Lucy.   It has been a slow project, but an on-going one.

 Two years after I found the inquest record my husband and I bought an old farmhouse from my husband’s great uncle.   While waiting for an inspector I went upstairs, and among the old newspapers still glued to the walls, I found Charles’ obituary.  The 1928 article describes Charles as well liked, a wall paper painter.  It also describes his mother’s tragic murder.  Lucy’s murder.

 So here I sit, with Lucy’s story above my head.  A gentle reminder to keep at it.  To share her story.


23 Responses to She was known by the name of Lucy

  1. […] is an excerpt from a new blog focusing on Humboldt History.  The author, Lynette–married to a local Native American […]

  2. Rose says:

    Nicely done. Look forward to hearing more.

  3. olmanriver says:

    Cheryl Seidner, Tribal Chairperson for the Table Bluff Reservation, suggests James D. Henry Brown had previously been involved in the Indian Island Massacre.

  4. lynette77 says:

    Oh yes, and, AND, during the inquest into Lucy’s murder, lots of attention was paid to the same James Brown, though the man, himself, was never interviewed. I plan to unveil the story of Lucy slowly, but this is just too interesting to hold back. As a side note (and will be in the main post) Lucy was on Indian Island with the two girls at the time of the massacre and survived… There were quite a few women and children who did. All the women of squawmen.

  5. […] aren’t the boss of me Lucy and her story is the reason I started this post and I don’t want to pretty it up.  After yesterday’s […]

  6. […] the massacre,   John Preston, John Danskin, John Kneeland, Louis Chevret and others helped load the bodies of the victims onto […]

  7. […] the basement of the county courthouse looking for old records and ran across the copy of an inquest that occurred after an Indian woman was murdered in Arcata in 1862. She was blind, her children […]

  8. Susan Grabek says:

    Lucy’s daughter, Annie, was taken in and raised by Sarah Lindsey Preston after Lucy’s murder. There is further information about Lucy and her children, Carrie, Charles, and Annie in a book about the Lindsey’s and Preston’s titled “The Preston Lindsey Trail”: See pages 102-109. Sarah Lindsey Preston was my great-grandmother, and I remember hearing stories about Annie as a child growing up in Arcata.

    Susan Grabek

  9. Susan Grabek says:

    Dear Lynette,

    Most of what I remember was told to me by my father, and since taking up genealogy several years ago, I have learned that some of my father’s stories were more “yarns” than true. So I trust what Rosaline Preston and Carol Huber (my Preston-Lindsey cousins)wrote in the family history book more than my father’s stories.

    Dad had told me that Annie had survived the island massacre because her mother hid Annie and her brother in a barrel. He said that after her mother’s death, Annie was raised among the Preston children as one of the large (thirteen children, with Annie) brood of John and Sarah Jane Preston.

    From Rosaline and Carol’s book I know that Annie remained close with the Preston’s after her marriage and move to Covelo in Mendocino Co. Annie first married James Simonin, and after his death she married Arthur Vick. I think Annie died in Mendocino County.

    I have been reading more of your blogs, and I commend you for your posts. Most of my family history research concerns the earlier Lindsey’s, so it is enjoyable to read about the area where I grew up.

    Keep up the great work!


    • lynette77 says:

      HI Susan,
      I’ve been in touch with Carol, and she has been a wonderful source of information. I’ve also heard the barrel story, though I read it was Carrie, Lucy’s oldest daughter, and Annie with her on the Island. Lucy would have been barely pregnant with Charles at the time.

      I did track down some of Annie’s descendants, and though her grandson remembered her, he didn’t have a lot of info and believed that Lucy was killed in a battle between two indian tribes, and not murdered.
      I don’t suppose there are any photos of Annie among your family albums…?
      I am writing a story about LUcy for the local historical society, and when I get a better draft, I’ll send it to you if you’d like. Just let me know.


  10. Susan Grabek says:

    Hi Lynette,

    If you have been in touch with Carol Huber, then you have gotten the correct information because Carol has done much research on the Preston’s and Lindsey’s of Arcata. My father’s stories were often inaccurate.

    I don’t have any photos of Annie, though I wish I did. I would be very happy to receive the draft of your story of Lucy. Thanks for the kind offer.


  11. […] wants her story told, I don’t doubt it for a moment.  Too many strange coincidences have happened over the years […]

  12. Nerdygirl98 says:

    Wow, amazing to have that sort of story lieing right under your nose… great post!

    • Lynette M says:

      Yeah, we’ve got stories all around us, I’ve come to realize. I like to look at the buildings in our old town and see the ones behind it. Ghosts of their former lives.

  13. Nerdygirl98 says:

    oops, spell check. Sorry! 🙂

  14. […] while I’ve shared some of the details of Lucy’s murder  and the stranger-than-fiction fact that I found her son’s 1928 obituary on the wall of our […]

  15. Justin Sousa says:

    I’ve been following this story, and also researching Preston land holdings along the Mad River near Warren Creek, (which of course leads one through the story of Sarah Jane Preston (Lindsey)) I thoroughly enjoyed reading the Preston / Lindsey Trail and I see there is a 2nd book that is out of print. Any ideas where one gets their hands on a copy? Thanks! -Justin

  16. Justin Sousa says:

    Susan, any amateur Arcata historians on the web (myself included) would love to see any family photos of Sarah Jane Lindsey, A.M. Preston, or John C. Preston that you are willing to post as you run across them in your journeys. Lynette already has this wonderful blog, perhaps your family would agree to let her publish a few on here! Regards, -Justin

  17. Tisha gonzales says:

    I am in Need to know if preston is Annies True last name. My husband dad is Ruth Simonin, married to john, whos dad was James who was married to Annie .. Please help!
    Thank you

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