In the early days , shipbuilders would make the climb to Kneeland Prairie, high above Humboldt Bay, where they would dig large trees out by their roots. Keeping the root as part of the timber gave the beams a natural curve, which were perfect for “knees” (naturally angled brackets used to fasten the ship’s deck to the hull).
This ready supply of ships “knees” give Kneeland its name.
Lovely story and makes sense. But it isn’t true.
During the gold rush, a pioneer named John Kneeland settled a big beautiful prairie overlooking the Humboldt Bay. The area was called Kneeland after him.
Less interesting, but true.
I recently visited Bill Paddock, whose family has lived on Kneeland for generations, and he shared both these stories to show how easy it is to get history twisted up. To get it wrong.
These stories also illustrate another point, though. We can learn from any story. Even the false ones generally start with ( or have hidden in ’em somewhere) some little bit of truth.
“Ships’ knees” do exist, and early ship builders may have got them from Kneeland. Who knows, maybe the name acted as a bright red arrow that led to just the timber the builders needed.
Stories are fun, even when they aren’t true. And even stories from the biggest B.S.’er in the world likely have something to offer. If you hear one especially interesting, true or not, please feel free to share it here.