One of Many Lucys

October 8, 2015

Lucy.Murder in Arcata.NCJCover..F.2015.1008

I recently (finally) finished a story about Lucy Romero for the North Coast Journal. It is an important story and I am thankful to Thad Greenson, their editor, for working so long and patiently with me to get it done.

There is one point I failed to include though and so want to share it here. This is from a post I did years ago, but it is just as important to remember now…

In the western movie, Broken Trail  , there is a scene where Robert Duvall struggles to learn the names of five Chinese girls under his care.  They speak no English and growing frustrated, Duvall’s character points to each one in turn and names them, “One, Two, Three, Four… “.  The girls accept the names, because they have no choice.

The same thing happened here.  When the white settlers arrived, they re “named” the native people.  Smo-Wa became Henry Capell (he was from the village of Capell).  Corn-no-wish became Weichpec Oscar.  Zo-wish-wish, a Wiyot woman related to Lucy’s daughter, Annie, was also known as “Rose”.

Lucy, the woman I write about, was only one of many “Lucys”.


Illegitimate children expose illicit relations

August 30, 2011

Researching Lucy has given me an opportunity to learn many, many things about our history, including the court’s attitude toward illegitimate children in the early 1900s.   The following came from the Superior Court of California (County of Humboldt) probate record for Charles Mulberg (Lucy’s son) , who died “on or about March 23, 1928″.

Inheritance in all other cases is eliminated on account of public policy founded upon a moral reason.  If every illegitimate child could claim inheritance from his brothers and sisters, public scandal would be placed upon the head of many otherwise decent and respectable citizens.  The legislature therefore evidently considered it a better policy to lessen public scandal and deny inheritance to an illegitimate, than to throw open the doors of public scandal and gossip, subject many persons to questionable ridicule and permit an illegitimate to expose the  illicit relations of his or her ancestors, merely for the purpose of sharing the estate of his parent’s kindred.   It therefore left the right of inheritance of an illegitimate to these cases where the parents themselves had exposed such illicit relations by admitting parentage. …

 Sucks for the poor bastards (literally) whose parents didn’t want to claim them.

Now the Probate Record, which revealed much about Lucy and her children

Read the rest of this entry »

Founding of the Klamath (now Yurok) Indian Reservation, 1855

August 28, 2011

Klamath Modoc Indians, 1860

Hello everyone,
To those who enjoy regular posts I must apologize.  Work and … life have gotten the better of me lately.  Hopefully I’ll get back into regular postings.
I do want to keep on the thread/topic of Lucy and plan to continue discussing her limited options and the dangers she and her children faced during the settlement period.  The focus of the next (this) post was going to be the risks inherant to those on reservations but… but, as often happens with me, I’ve gotten distracted.  Sort of.
Looking through my notes regarding reservations I found the following, which discusses the founding of the Klamath (which is now the Yurok) Indian reservation.  It may be dry reading for some, but I chose not to edit any of it.
It was very surprising …. well, Please also be sure to catch the newspaper editor’s response to the founding of the reservation which follows the letters–his perspective is very different from how reservations are viewed today.
Klamath River Reserve.

Office of Indian Affairs, November 10, 1855.

SIR: Referring to your communication of the 8th of August last to the Acting Commissioner of Indian Affairs, advising him of the approval by the President of the United States of the recommendation of the Department that it was expedient to expend the money appropriated on the 3rd of March last for removing the Indians in California to two additional military reservations, I have the honor now to make the following report:

Read the rest of this entry »

Arcata Union Newspaper; various dates: 1895-1905

June 23, 2011

Visitor “Skippy” was generous enough to share the following as a comment after my post/photo of Arcata High  and (Skippy, I hope you understand that) I just didn’t want to risk anyone missing this great info…

Per Skippy:

Here’s some of the exciting Arcata news that these pictured high schoolers likely would have known about at the time. Arcata was a happening and progressive place:

“One of the large timbers on which the engine and dynamos for the Arcata Electric Light Works will be placed in position shortly was hauled Wednesday. One end was fastened to a pair of truck wheels and the other end dragged. It required three span of horses to drag it and then considerable difficulty was experienced in turning corners. Electricians Taylor and Littlefield are hard at work wiring the residence on the hill. About 500 lights have been put in up to date. The arc lights are ready and so soon as the incandescent dynamo arrives and is put in place Arcata will have her lights.” Read more about electricity in Arcata here

Advertisement: ‘”The Glorious 4th is coming so let the Eagle SCREAM and Old Glory FLUTTER to the Wind from the mast heads. Arcata Celebrates and Begins the Day’s festivities with a National Salute of 13 Guns at Sunrise. A Grand Procession will form at Armory Hall, at 9 o’clock in the following order: 1) The Arcata Cornet Band. 2) Co, B, 10th Inf. Bat., N. G. C. 3) Citizens on foot. 4) School Children in Floating Palace. 5) Officers of the Day in Carriages will parade though the principal streets, terminating on the plaza which will be beautifully decorated for the occasion. …’”

“Arcata has demonstrated the fact that a good (4th of July) celebration can be gotten up on short notice and carried to a successful issue in spite of the fact that almost every other place in the county had a celebration also. As early as Monday morning the decorating committee commenced delivering redwood trees around the plaza and up the principal streets … by Tuesday night the town looked like a miniature park. …The 4th opened with the firing of the national salute on the plaza … The first event of the day was the hose tournament … The Calithuptian parade from Alliance came into view … There were about 75 wheels in line and some very funny and original costumes were seen. The man who couldn’t keep his pedals caused much merriment as did also the man with the hay rope whiskers. After circling around the plaza they gathered around the bandstand where Grand Calithumpian Orator Tim Spaulding, addressed his motley followers. … After the noon intermission, the afternoon games and races were called. The first was a 6 mile, free for all, bicycle road race, beginning and ending on the plaza … Celebration Gossip: Everybody said those 2 little girls in the Calithumpian parade were “just too cute” and those 2 boys fooled lots of people including the Calithumpians themselves.”

See a similar parade on the plaza here

From “Special Notes: ‘”$25 Reward will be paid for information that will lead to the arrest and conviction of the party or parties that stole my chickens. We have in our midst a genuine chicken thief. Chickens come home to roost, and this thief will be caught, for I know you just as well as if I had caught you in the act, for you, like some other thieves, forgot to cover your tracks. … It is well known that I am a confirmed invalid and a party that would steal chickens from me, would steal acorns from a blind sow. I live in the Frances house, and my name is Peter McGeorge.’”

In the “Special Column” : ‘”For Rent — A nice six room, sunny cottage, two blocks west the plaza. Rent $5.50 per month, inquire of Gustave Muhlberg.”

Mulberg adopted Charles, Lucy’s son.  Read more about Charles here

“T. J. Crawford has accepted the agency of the Imperial ($105) and the Elliot ($85) Bicycles– and will have four new wheels up on the steamer to-day. Any prospective buyer may have use of wheel for one week, and if not satisfactory in every respect, have the privilege of returning the same. Mr. Crawford will sell on easy installments to reliable persons. Call and inspect the wheels at Crawford’s store.”

“Russell, the bicycle, horse and all around thief, was finally captured at the Jacoby Creek quarry last Saturday and Howell’s horse and Martin’s rifle and pistol recovered. He is now in jail in Eureka awaiting conviction and sentence. As well as being a first-class thief, he is a first-class liar. He denies, without blinking his eyes, that he was at Trinidad, or that he robbed Martin’s cabin or stole Howell’s horse.”

See cool bikes here

Advertisement: “Back Again From Europe! By the solicitation of many friends and patients, Dr. H. Ehrlich the Eminent Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon From Berlin, Germany, will make his next visit to Arcata, Tuesday, April 25th, Union Hotel, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., One Day Only and return once a month. Do you want that Catarrh cured? Do you want that Deafness cured? Do you want to see with those Weak, Watry, Dim Eyes? If so, go and consult Dr. Ehrlich this trip.”

</b “Advertisement: Customers should bear in mind that with every purchase made by a lady amounting to $1 or over, she receives a high grade toilet article free. And every school child, with a purchase of a pair of shoes, receives a valuable and instructive pocket encyclopedia. Humboldt Manufacturing Co.”

Front page news: “Arcata not only has a fine natural park now, but a beautiful picnic ground as well, and the number of spirited men and women who helped to make Park Day a success may well be proud of their efforts… Men were seen wending their way up towards the park carrying axes, brush hooks, mattocks and other tools, and by the middle of the forenoon, a considerable clearing was the result, and brush fires were burning in every direction … People were surprised at the extent of the level land available for a ground, there being about 5 acres in one piece. Just above this is a sort of bench, making an ideal place for a band platform. The place where the dance platform will probably be located is level, without stumps … Several trees suitable for hanging swings were left, and when the work is completed, as fine a picnic ground as can be found in the country will be seen. …”

(Arcata Union Newspaper; various dates: 1895-1905)


A deadly “cold”

February 5, 2010

I’ve  been having a lot of fun with this blog lately.  I LOVE finding random historical stuff to share and the great, encouraging feedback I get (thanks, everyone!)

 That said, every once in a while I need to return to why I created this site in the first place.   Learning about Lucy’s murder and the “settlement period” of Humboldt County (1850s and 1860s)  opened my eyes an inportant aspect of our community’s history. One that I believe is too often ignored or swept away.

The rugged isolation of our northcoast region protected the Native Americans living here long after the rest of the state had been settled by the Spanish, and the missions dominated the landscape and altered indigenous life forever. 

Unfortunately, the discovery of gold, and a desire for a faster, easier routes to the inland gold mines brought an end to Humboldt County’s isolation.  White settlers came into the area and began competing for resources,

 And women.

Out-armed and unprepared, the indigenous people were soon dominated by the whites. Most that didn’t surrender, died.  There were a few, however, that resisted the white’s incursion on their ancestral land and were successful for a time.  One was “Chief Lassik”,

(From an earlier post)

One website,   quoting  Genocide and Vendetta, says:

  • Further north in Humboldt County there was widespread resistance. One of the most active was Chief Lassik’s band, which succeeded in driving the settlers out of their territory in southeastern and southwestern Humboldt County. Chief Lassik and his band were captured in 1862, but were able to escape from the Smith River Reservation. After escaping, he headed south along the Klamath River and “stirred up discontent and revengeful feelings.” Although Chief Lassik was finally caught and killed in 1863, for over one year he was able to carry on a campaign of resistance against the settlers.


I’ve been looking through old newspapers lately, and just ran across the following regarding the demise of Chief Lassik, which is in sharp contrast to his niece’s recollection, which I’ll repost after this “official” newspaper report.  Yeah, I know it was “war”, but that doesn’t make learning about it any easier.

Humboldt Times, 23 January 1863– “It is pretty well know that an inveterate hatred exists between that portion of the Wylackie tribe … known as the “Gun Indians” and the whites living in the valleys living and canons north of here.  A few days since, a number of them, including Lasseck, then chief, ere captured by teh whites, and taken to Fort Seward. From then they attempted to take them to the Reservation–to Round Valley, we prsume–but “on the way they took cold and died.”  This, at least, is the way we get the word.  But knowing,m as we do, the animosity existing between these Indians and the whites inhabiting the region of the Humboldt mail route, and the numerous depredatiknos supposed to have been committed by them, we susepct the “cold” they died with was mainly cold lead.–Quoting the Mendocino Herald.

We have received a letter from Fort Seward corraborating the above intelligence.  Five of Lassux’ band died with the same kind of “cold” as himself.  As the alternative is now Smith River, or Round Valley, we are under the impression that Superintendent Handon will not be under the necessity of squandering any more of the “small pittance” allowed him by the Government in removing Indians from this county to eighter of the above named Reservations.  Unless Government provided other quarters, this “cold” epidemic will rage fearfully among Indians that fall in to the hands of citizens, if not the soldiers. 

As a little girl, Lucy Young, Lassik’s niece, witnessed and  later told the story of her uncle’s death.

At last I come home. Mother at Fort Seward. Before I get there, I see big fire in lots down timber and treetops. Same time awful funny smell. T think someone get lots of wood.

I go on to house. Everybody crying. Mother tell me, “All our men killed now.” She say white men there, others come from Round Valley, Humboldt County too, kill our old uncle, Chief Lassic, and all other men.

Stood up about forty Inyan in a row with rope around neck. “What’s this for?” Chief Lassic say. “To hang you dirty dogs,” white men tell it. “Hanging, that’s dogs death,” Chief Lassic say. “We done nothing to be hung for. Must die, shoot us.”

So they shoot. All our men. Then build fire with wood and brush. Inyan been cut for days. Never know it their own funeral fire they fix. Build big fire, burn all them bodies. That’s funny smell I smell before I get to house. Make hair raise on back of my neck. Make sick stomach too.


Pay attention, damn it.

January 19, 2010

I am fortunate enough to live on Glendale Dr. (near Blue Lake) about 1/4 mile from the foot of Liscom Hill.  Liscom Hill Road goes up about three miles before turning into a private road at the old Ford Ranch, where there is an amazing view of the ocean.  I walk up a little, or a lot, of the road depending on the weather and the time I have.  The road follows the old trail to Hoopa and thoughts of others who’ve gone before me always keeps it interesting.

The other day I had some time on my hand and a break in the rain and so I went.   About a mile and half up I heard a crunch in the woods and turned to see an elk looking at me.  I said “hello” and about five other heads popped up not twenty feet from where I stood.  I said hello again and started a mild stampede away from me (which was good because some of the bulls had very big horns), and was amazed to see at least twenty other elk nearby.  If I hadn’t heard the one, I might have passed them by completely, never aware that they were there.

Which is my point.  There are so many things in this world that we don’t, or won’t see.  Regular things, but magical things, too, that surround us.

I have posted (and talked) often of Lucy, a Native American woman murdered in Arcata in 1862, and in my stories, I always try to include my discovery of  her son, Charles’ , obituary in our house.

I’ve recently, with a lot of help from Humboldt Historian editor Suzanne Forsyth, completed an article about Lucy Romero for the Spring 2010 edition of the Historian.  In the article we’re including the story of finding Charles’ obituary in my house,  along with a photo of the clipping.

The thing is, I hadn’t looked at that obituary for a long time.  It is upstairs in a room used for storage  and I covered it to protect it, probably over a year ago… and hadn’t seen it since.  And sometimes, I must admit, I feared it wasn’t there at all.  That I imagined the whole thing as some sub-conscious push to keep working on Lucy’s story.

So it was with more than a little trepidation that I walked upstairs the other day to take a photo of the obituary to go with the article for the Historian.

It is there.  Placed on my wall some 66 years after Lucy’s murder, to be found two years after I learned about Lucy.   The odds…. I can’t calculate the odds of this being so.  Yet is is.  There is magic all around us folks.  Ghosts whisper in the creaking of old floor boards, in the rustling leaves.  There are stories, too.  Just waiting to be heard. 

Charles was Lucy Romero's son

The murder that began an obsession…

August 22, 2009

Lately I’ve had folks ask me why I’ve started this blog, and thought it might be good to repost my little “story” for those who missed it before.

 A few years ago I was combing the basement of the county courthouse looking for old records and ran across the copy of an inquest that occurred after an Indian woman was murdered in Arcata in 1862. She was blind, her children were with her, and the murderers used a hatchet to do the job.  Oh, and she was warned she was in danger and chose to stay in Arcata anyway  because she thought her kids would have a better chance of surviving if she was killed here… Crazy stuff that got me fascinated with her and obsessed with learning her story…

I started researching the “settlement period” of Humboldt county and learned so much I’d had no clue about, even though I’d grown up here.  Things like California made it legal to “indenture” (pretty word for legally inslave) Native Americans in the 1850s and 1860s.  That Humboldt County was infamous for our human traffickers who kidnapped and sold Indian children.   That Eureka was once dubbed “Murderville” by those in San Francisco because of the blatent atrocities that happened here against the natives.

I also kept learning about the murdered woman, called Lucy.  I tracked some of her descendants and kept trying to write something, anything,  about her.

So I was still working on Lucy’s story on and off when we moved to an old farmhouse in Blue Lake about a year and a half ago.  I was upstairs waiting for a house inspector, and among the old newspapers used to insulate the walls I found the obituary of Lucy’s son, dated 1928. It describes his mother’s murder.

So, Lucy’s ghost was giving me a poke and I’ve gotten back into it. I am working on an article about Lucy for the Humbodlt Historian and will figure out where to go with it after that. In the mean time, all these stories I’ve found about that time period are in my head and I want to share them.  I think it is important that people know the history here… it wasn’t that far back and if you talk with Native Americans , you’ll find the effects of previous oppression (and aggression) still ripple through the community.

I also want people to know about Lucy, that she existed. That she was courageous and her courage probably saved her children’s lives.   So many natives died here and we’ll never even know their names.    I hope to honor them through the story of Lucy.