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.
Fortunately not all Native families suffered the fate described by Hubbard, but many suffered. Heacock, (background HERE) an early settler in northern Mendocino County, adopted local indigenous customs early in the settlement period and “married” not one, but three Indian wives. Unfortunately, according to Jeremiah Standley, who later told his story, Heacock eventually
“realized that he had made the biggest mistake of his life in taking these women into his life as his wives and that his life with them and the half-breed children was not what he now wanted to do.”
He grew fond of a white woman, Agnes Stokes, and determined to marry her, despite his existing family. He “decided to propose marriage to Miss Agnes… and make some moral attempts to take care of his little family of red people.”
Unfortunately Heacock neglected to tell Agnes about “little family of red people”, and failed to treat that family well.
To be continued…