Uniontown (Arcata), Summer of ’53 (1853)

Folks that have known me awhile can attest that I seldom stick with any interest in particular (outside of my family obligations) for any length of time.  Yet… yet, two years later I am still posting to this blog. 

I’d like to think I’m not often motivated by external influences, but the local interest and extremely generous contributions of visitors makes this, well, just a heck of a lot of fun.  This time around “thanks !” goes, once again, to Skippy…

What a beautiful ‘Grand Old Dame’ of a school building gracing Arcata in 1897. Arcata had become a booming and thriving town by this time; electricity already having made its appearance a few years prior along with the other modern marvels at the turn of the century. It wasn’t always this way for the previous generations– the pioneering parents and grandparents– of the Arcata youth pictured here.

44 years earlier Arcata– then called Union– was just becoming a settled place; a crossroad of lush agriculture, supplies, and transportation for the Trinity mines to the east. Judge John Carr gave his first impressions upon visiting Arcata, reminiscings likely to have been remembered by the immediate ancestors of these school children:

“A Trip To Humboldt”
“During the summer of ’53, hearing of the beauties and richness of Humboldt county, I made up my mind to visit that section. Buying a mule, I started from Weaverville, to take a more extended view of the resources of this county. On my arriving at Big Flat, on the lower Trinity, there were rumors of the Indians having broken out and being on the war path. I found waiting for company Judge Peters and two others, and we were joined there by General Denver, all bound for Uniontown, now Arcata…

“We laid by for a couple of days before starting and, in the meantime, word came to Big Flat that Johnson, the packer,  was killed by the Indians while encamped on a prairie in the redwoods. The five of us held a consultation whether to venture over the trail or not. We came to the conclusion to take the chances and go through, and did so. We started next morning, quite a band of us, for Uniontown, and arrived all right about the middle of the afternoon, and found the place a good deal excited over the Indian troubles.

“We found Uniontown quite a town for those days; everything had a sort of permanent look about it. We put up at the American Hotel, then kept by “Kease” Wiley, a good place to stop at, with lots of fresh vegetables and fresh milk and butter, something we were not accustomed to getting in the mines. The hotel was on the northeast corner of the plaza. Nearly opposite on the other side of the street, was Murdock’s store, and opposite that was Boles & Coddington’s store. Boles & Coddington did quite a large business.   They had a branch store on Big Bar, on the Trinity River, where they sold a large amount of gold-dust. Near the southwest corner of the plaza W. C. Martin and H. J. Dart kept store. Old man Jacoby kept a restaurant on the south side of the plaza, and a bar and billiard room, which was considered the ‘tony’ place of the town. Old Mr. Nixon had a dwelling-house on the northwest corner of the plaza, which was the best private dwelling I had yet seen in the State.

“In about eight or ten days the volunteers returned from the war, with not a scalp to adorn their shields. It was a bloodless war, so far as they were concerned. Here the General and myself were in a pretty fix, wanting to get home, and no one but us two willing to take the chances. We had about eighty miles of Indian country to travel through, and not even Judge Peters to accompany us or give us the benefit of his experience. We left Uniontown in the afternoon…

“My first sight of Arcata was a pleasing one. I thought it one of the most beautiful places for a town I had seen in the State, lying in and surrounded by a beautiful and productive country, with a forest of majestic redwoods for a background, and Humboldt Bay tying in front of it. All vegetation round the town looked green and fresh—so different from what I had been accustomed to. To me it seemed like an earthly paradise. We did not visit Eureka or any other portion of the county. I made up my mind then that at some future day Humboldt county should be my permanent home.”

(Pioneer Days in California, Judge John Carr, 1891; pp.245-249)

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