Stump House

June 24, 2010

Stump House, South Broadway, Eureka, c. 1933

Just last night, after too many months of trying,  I was able to access the historic photos stored on my old computer.  I started looking through them  and am posting this one just for fun. 

I remember The Stump House on South Broadway when I was a kid growing up here, but don’t know what became of it.  I think it was where Verizon is now.  Or maybe Dutch Bros. 

I also remember some odd sort of land-bound boat just south of the King Salmon freeway exit.  Maybe once upon a time it was a restaurant, or maybe my parents just dreamed of turning it into one.  I think it burned one night and disappeared…

Fathers that kept their families intact

June 22, 2010

Unfortunately I realized rather late that perhaps I should have posted a more positive blog about fathers because of the holiday.  Ooops. 

I’ll try to rectify that now.

Though there were men who regretted their early domestic choices in Humboldt County, there were far more that built what resembled, at least from the outside, traditional families with their Native wives.

My husband is descended from a white miner who came into the Orleans area in the 1800s and a native woman taken as his wife. 

Unfortunately the wife died-though I can’t remember if it was during the birth of their first son, or shortly after.  After the wife’s death, her sister came to care for the child, as the miner/father was often away in the hills for long periods of time.  Once, when the miner was gone for an extraordinarily long period, the sister took the baby and returned to her village in the hills.  The miner came home and found his son gone.  According to family lore, the miner walked to the village, straight to where his child was, retrieved the boy and left.  It was his child and the fact that he was of mixed race and motherless was irrelevant. 

Today we go to the family cabin in Orleans and see photos of that  first Humboldt County pioneer. And his son, John. And John’s children… You get the idea.   The first pioneer raised his son in Orleans and the family has remained in the area ever since, a legacy intact.

OlManRiver recently pointed out that a majority of the early settlers in upper Mattole, Briceland and Elk Ridge were squawmen and many of those families are still intact, generations later.

And perhaps the others, men like Heacock,   ultimately did their families a favor by going away.

Bad fathers

June 18, 2010

 I belong to Toastmasters, an international organization that focuses on helping folks improve their public speaking skills.  Recently I had the honor of listening to an Icebreaker speech (the first one given by a new member), and the speaker talked about how his father left the family when the speaker was three years old.  This speaker also shared that as he grew and matured, he realized his father’s leaving may have been the greatest contribution his father ever made to the family.


When I began researching Lucy,   I talked to everyone I could find about local history.  

 One member of the Yurok tribe sadly shared a story he had heard about a white man in Weichpec who, when the county became more populated with emigrants, or “whites”, “bashed his own (Indian) child’s head against a rock to kill him-and hide the fact that he had had an Indian family here”.   Some men weathered the social stigma of taking an Indian “wife” and having half-breed children,  but apparently too many did not.  The following was reported by a local military commander, Charles Hubbard, from his camp on the upper Mattole in 1862.  

“So far as I can ascertain, all the Indians in this portion of the country are hostile; in fact, will ever be so, so long as there are no active and vigorous steps take to put an end to cold-blooded murder, kidnapping, and treachery. These are in my opinion the sole causes of all these difficulties with the Indians, more especially in this portion of the country and on Eel River. Cold-blooded Indian killing being considered honorable, shooting Indians and murdering even squaws and children that have been domesticated for months and years, without a moment’s warning, and with as little compunction as they would rid themselves of a dog, and, as I am informed, one man did, beating his own child’s brains out against a tree and killing the squaw, its mother, for no other reason than that he had no means else of disposing of them, and to keep them from falling into other persons’ hands…”

Admittedly this confuses me… maybe the man needed to leave…  I really don’t know and Hubbard doesn’t elaborate, but the resultant deaths of the woman and child are horribly clear. 

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“Injun”, not “Native American”

June 18, 2010

My brother-in-law is a  Hupa “Indian”  and  just asked me not to call him “Native American”.   This is  because, he said, his people were here long  before this land was discovered and called “America”. 

He is thirteen, and swears he thought of this himself.  He wants to be an “Injun” instead.

I’m going to honor his request.

“A good white man”

June 10, 2010

Continued from previous posts, Early Polygamists &  The Ratio


Recently OlManRiver discovered an incredible document entitled:

The Arrest of Jerry Bailey at Usal, Mendocino County, California, 1866, written by Jeremiah “doc” Standley, an early pioneer. *

While Bailey’s arrest is interesting, I am going to focus more on the story of the murder victim, Johnson Heacock.

According to Standley,  

“Heacock had apparently migrated from somewhere on the Atlantic slope as an escapee from justice, having killed a man in self-defense. Innocent or guilty, he was on the run from the law and chose to leave and head “out west” for the isolated… Leggett Valley… inhabited by a tribe of half-civilized Indians and a few white pioneer settlers.”

Once in Mendocino, he met and formed beneficial trading relationships with the local indigenous people.  According to Standley, the Natives came to trust Heacock and when he asked for the hand of a local Indian maiden, her father Ishoma was “… delighted that his daughter, Lillie, was to become the wife of a good white man like Mr. Heacock…” 

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When the ratio of men to women was 76:1

June 8, 2010

There was a California census taken in the summer of 1852.  At that time there was no Humboldt County and so folks here were enumerated in the Trinity County census.

The information reported to the state legislature was:

Population: 1,764


Male: 1,741

Female: 23

The number of females noted neglects to count the number of Native American women that were in this area when the whites came in.  I would like to think that at least some of the early (male) settlers missed, and wanted, more domestic lives (and not just sex),  and these numbers help to explain (to a limited extent) why so many became “squawmen”.

Though taking a native “wife” was not uncommon in the early years of the settlement period, it was also not widely accepted by the wider population, as this short article, like many others,  shows…

1859, Dec. , Humboldt Times, DUEL Indians MATTOLE. … The duel occurred between a Mr. Lafferty and his brother-in-law.   The social positions of the parties is about equal, one of them being an Indian, and the other , though claiming to be white, lives with the Indian’s sister.  They were both wounded at the first fire, after which a reconciliation was brought about by the sister.  Unfortunately their wounds are not considered dangerous [emphasis mine].

Many squawmen didn’t care about public opinion, and at least a few, like “Duncan” of Eel River,  legally married their wives.  Unfortunately, many others came to regret their early relationships, and chose to hide them (or worse) instead.  

To be continued…

Polygamists in Early Humboldt

June 1, 2010


Mad River Joe and his two wives

Just this weekend I had reason to look at 1900 Indian Census and noticed that one of the questions included in the bottom section, “Special Inquiries relating to Indians” was “Conjugal Relations; Is this Indian, if married, living in polygamy?”

 Which indicates that the government, at least, believed multiple wives to be common among the local natives.   Early census records and stories (about Jack Mann, for instance, and Sherwood ) give evidence that more than a few white settlers took up this practice when they arrived on the isolated north coast. 

I thought this to be a bad thing from the women’s perspective , but Ol Man River’s comments about the Heacock situation show (if the account is accurate) that at least some of the women (or girls, let’s face it, they were young), preferred not to be alone with these strange, white men.

Per the account that ‘River discovered, when Heacock took a “wife”, she ran away and refused to return until Heacock arranged to have her sister move in with them.  Later, the two girls insisted he take in a third.   All three then acted as “wives” and bore Heacock’s children.

Which may have been okay had Humboldt stayed isolated forever.  It didn’t.  And the influx of settlers (and modern “society”)  brought disastrous consequences for many of these native “wives” and their “half-breed” children.

To be continued…