Later, as I read through old newspapers, I was able to piece together some of what happened. Two Native American men both known as “Jack” were accused and hung for murdering a white man living on an island in the middle of the Eel River near Loleta. They were given no trial and their deaths were added to the many already suffered by the aboriginal people during the settlement period of Humboldt County’s history. But this time we knew their names. We could learn their story.
I imagined them terrified as their “jail” was broken into (I’m jumping ahead in my story, I know, but maybe this is part of the story, too). I imagined them dropping as dead weight or pleading for their lives as they were brought to the waiting noose, the crowd loud and volatile around them (or quiet and secretive to avoid detection from citizens who might object to such vigilante justice).
I focused on the fact that the two were jailed on the testimony of Indians, when no white man could be arrested on the same type of testimony, no matter how many witnesses there were [See Law for the Government and Protection of Indians]
I started posting their story here… and then faltered. It took me a while to realize that I’d erred. That I’d been focusing on only two of THREE murdered men. That I’d forgotten Casebeer entirely.
Yes, I mentioned Casebeer’s letters to his mother, but this was more affect than real sentiment. I mentioned his homestead, but I was alluding to the conquering of Native territory, and not his risk, investment and hard work . Whether the two men named Jack were involved in Casebeer’s murder remains to be explored, but that Casebeer cruelly lost his life is of no question. And I’d dismissed it as a trivial detail.
So I’m backing up. Learning more about ALL the people that shared this coast during the settlement period and the circumstances that brought them together. The story of the three murdered men will back, eventually. And better, I hope.