Bold Holdup Near Scotia (1904)

October 4, 2021
Photo Source: County of Humboldt

Someone recently got in touch looking for old photos of Scotia and by coincidence I also just ran across the story below. I thought folks might enjoy both the old photo of the Scotia Inn above, and this story about Emerson’s Saloon ….

19 January 1904

The Humboldt Times

Heavily masked and armed to the teeth, three men held up the Emerson saloon and brothel near Scotia Sunday night, a few minutes after ten o’clock and left ten minutes later richer by between $2OO and $3OO than when they made their bold and daring entrance. Outside of a brief exchange of shots, the daring stand and deliver game was quietly played. Slipping away in the darkness no trace of the perpetrators of one of the boldest holdups in the criminal annals of this county -has yet been found.

The usual Sunday night crowd, composed of woodsmen and millmen from the P. L. Company’s big plant, gathered early at the Emerson resort to make a night of it with wine and women and cards. The evening was going along merrily enough, round after round of strikes followed in quick succession and by 10 o’clock it was a jovial assemblage. So absorbed was the crowd that the entrance of two men, with features obscured by bandana handkerchiefs, in which eyeholes had been cut, was not noticed until the piercing cry rang out, ‘hands up you ___ ____ ____ ; faces to the wall, we mean business.” So unexpectedly was the revelry disturbed that for a moment the gang of woodsmen and millmen imagined a joke was being perpetrated upon them. A repetition of the demand enforced by four six shooters persuaded the gathering that things were serious and one and all complied. Up went the hands of every man in the room as they ranged themselves in a group at the bar.

One of the masked men then approached the fear stricken crowd and while his companion kept them covered took highwayman’s toll. A confederate on the outside guarded the entrance, consequently there was nothing to fear in that vicinity. The search was progressing nicely enough when a woman in the brothel adjoining the saloon shouted to another, “we are being robbed.” “Come out herd and join the rest of the bunch,” commanded the masked men who were keeping the men under cover. “Not on your life,” shouted the woman in reply and bang went the door. A moment later Frank Wolford, a gambler, who was in the rooms with the women, suddenly opened the door and took a shot at the man making the collection. The shot was fired from an ordinary bull dog pistol and the bullet missed its intended victim several feet. Quick as a flash the companion of the man whom Wolford had taken a pot shot at fired several shots at him as he retreated through the door, but missed his man entirely.

The search then proceeded uninterrupted. As near as can be estimated, between $2OO and $3OO was secured. The bartender alone contributed $1O out of his jacket and about $47 out of the till, his wife added $2O more to the fund, another man was relieved of about $5O, another of $30, while between $15 and $2O was gathered up in small amounts from the less wealthy ones. The other women in the room contributed only a few dollars, most of their money being secreted in their stockings, and while the burglar searched for this, either his modesty or gallantry cost him a number of shekels, for his search was not extended enough to reveal the hidden coin. Every man in the room contributed all the money in his possession with the exception of Bert Leenters, but seventy five cents of his coin going into the sack. Leenters, when the command to throw up hands came, had a purse in his pocket containing $47.26. Unlike his companions, he did not believe he was being made the victim of a hoax. Up went one hand readily enough but the other found the vicinity of his pistol pocket where the purse was kept. Taking the leather receptacle out of his pocket he dropped it on the floor, at the same time scraping sawdust over it with his foot. When the collector came to him he secured only seventy-five cents carried in another pocket. After the men had left he readily recovered the purse and found its contents intact.

After relieving the men of their money the robbers, making no attempt to search the other part of the premises, where over $lOOO was stowed away for safe keeping, marshalled six of the men in line and marched them out doors. Commanding those remaining within to no noise and not to leave the premises for twenty minutes under pain of death, terrible and instantaneous, the men joined their confederate on the outside, forced the escort of six to accompany them quite a distance away from the scene of their crime. They then permitted them to return, cautioning them not to follow them further and to raise no outcry.

The robbers then disappeared into the darkness of the night. The escort returned to the saloon where all was excitement and many a wild scheme having as its object the apprehension of the men was being suggested. Finally all thought of an attempt to catch them was given up for the night.

Sheriff Brown’s office was notified at midnight, but owing to the lateness of the hour nothing was thought to be done. Yesterday a man was dispatched to the scene but no trace of the men found.

In the afternoon a report gained circulation that one of the robbers had been arrested upon the arrival of the afternoon train but he proved to be the wrong man. This proved to be a man named Carter who had been doing an acrobatic stunt at Scotia and whom some believed was mixed up in the robbery owing to his resemblance to one of the robbers. When taken from the train by Under Sheriff Ferrill he disclaimed all participation in the hold-up and stated inquiry in Loleta would show he had slept there Sunday night. Deputy Ferrill communicated with the Loleta Constable and found that this was true. Carter having proved an alibi, he was forced to release him.

Emerson’s saloon is located about a half mile from Scotia and is no admirable spot for the successful carrying out of such a crime as was committed Sunday night. The men involved in the affair, according to Leenters, who gave the story of the hold-up to a Times representative, are both of about the same size and quite large. One has a queer shambling gait and a voice which he believes he would recognize anywhere. The other man had no marked peculiarities. The confederate on the outside he did not see except in the darkness and consequently could not describe him. None of the men had been seen around the camp previous to Sunday night, but it is believed they were familiar with their ground and also with the fact that many of the men had just been paid off.

Constable Brown of Scotia and a deputy from the Sheriff’s office were busy on the chase yesterday, but up to a late hour last night nothing had been received here that could throw any  light on the culprits.

Largest Sailing Vessel in California

May 19, 2021
Bendixsen’s Shipyard. Credit to:

This shows the launch of Barkentine Jane L Stanford at Bendixsen’s ship-yard. It seems Humboldters had a habit of going big as this is noted as the largest sailing vessel ever built in California (see yesterday’s post on the largest above ground water tank). The photo was also published in In The Redwood’s Realm and was meant to demonstrate the wide utility of Redwood. As both the ship and water tank were made of the stuff, it appears our big trees may have helped set the “big” trend on the North Coast .

Red­wood, the writer in In the Redwood’s Realm, explains, will also “make an enduring foun­dation, solid walls, and an im­perishable roof. Thus it provides the substantial equipment for any structure. But it may be made to embellish and adorn the home, as well as shelter the inmates. As a finishing wood it is unequaled, and for cabinet mater­ial some qualities of it are superior.”

And for those more interested in the boat, this ship was built in Fairhaven.

The description of Bendixsen and his shipyard (below) is from a great website:

Please click HERE to see an impressive list of ships built in Humboldt County and…

Hans-Ditlev Bendixsen was a Danish shipbuilder who came to Humboldt Bay in the 1860s to work for E. & H. Cousins, but started his own yard in Eureka 1869.  He closed this yard and started a new one in Fairhave in 1874, which he sold in 1901, just before he died.  The new owners incorporated the yard as Bendixsen Shipbuilding Company but leased it to Vance Redwood Lumber in 1910 and then to Hammond Lumber Co. in 1911.  When war approached, Hammond built a new yard in Samoa and 1917 the Fairhaven yard was sold to James Rolph, a former mayor of San Francisco and later Governor of California, who not only renamed the business Rolph Shipbuilding but renamed the community Rolph, California.  The yard closed for good in 1921.  You can see the site from the air on Google here.  Note that there were several other schooner builders in the Humboldt Bay area during this period: all were much smaller than Bendixsen but there may be some overlap between their records. 

The Mendocino Coast Model Railroad and Historical Society also has some great information for those who are interested in learning more about Bendixsen and shipbuilding on the North Coast.

Bendixsen’s Shipyard. Credit to:
Bendixsen’s Shipyard. Credit to:
Bendixsen’s Shipyard. Credit to:

Environmental Damage in 1880 ?

May 6, 2021

So I’ve always thought of environmental awareness and activism as a relatively recent phenomenon, but as early as 1880, there were local folks that believed there was damage being done by the over and uncontrolled harvesting of our timber….

Source: Into the Redwood Realm, 1893

Humboldt State University Special Collection

The following is another article quoted from: LAND USES ON HUMBOLDT BAY TRIBUTARIES (Salmon Creek, Elk River, Freshwater Creek and Jacoby Creek), which was compiled by Susie Van Kirk in February 1998

DHT (4 April 1880) Eureka, Eds Daily Times:

Much has been said about Elk River–about the booms and logs and farms there.  And is it any wonder?  At the present time Elk River valley is in a worse condition than ever before.  When I came to be an owner of some land on Elk River about four years ago the banks of that stream on the back line of my land were about sixteen feet deep, while today they are no more than nine feet deep.  What is the cause of this great change if the boom and the logs placed in the river are not?  Any man who thinks he can make me believe that these booms and logs have not been the cause, I will say in a very few words, he is a fool.
        …Why is it that certain men have been given a priviledge to boom Elk River?…

If these men can boom Elk River and not become responsible for the damage they may occasion by so doing, it may be very fine for them, but I can assure you it is not fine for others…

By the first freshet [another word for flood] in December, 1879, most of my improvements on my land were washed out.  There were five inches of water in my house, my stable and horses were afloat, and I lost some seven tons of carrots and two thousand feet of lumber–and don’t forget that the booms and logs in the river were the cause of it.  Then I made up my mind to sell out to these gentlemen for something—and the answer I received to my offer from D.R. Jones was that he had done no damage; and H.H. Buhne tells me that I had no business to buy the place…B. Glatt

Jack & Charmian London in Eureka

January 30, 2021
Jack and Charmian London, Huntington Library

The fight between celebrated writer Jack London and Stanwood Murphy, son of Pacific Lumber Company owner Simon Murphy, at Eureka’s Oberon Grill in 1910 (or 1911) is the stuff that local legends are made of. According to a letter written by eye witness Hap Waters, the fight started over politics and ended with both men in the hospital recovering from their wounds.

Stories of the fight fail to mention that London’s wife Charmian had traveled with him to Humboldt and that Eureka was only one of many stops the adventurous couple made along the west coast during that time.

The Huntington Library has an amazing collection of London’s photos, including many from Humboldt County. More coming soon….

The End of Teepee Burners…

November 17, 2020
HSU Special Collection: “Eyesores” 1966
HSU Special Collection: “Eyesores” 1966

I’ve written about slash or teepee burners before HERE and HERE. They were used to burn sawdust and wood scraps from lumber operations. The material was delivered to an opening near the top of the cone by means of a conveyor belt or Archimedes’ screw,

In the 1950s and 1960s, most mills had one – but unfortunately they spit smoke and ash directly into the air. An air quality study completed by the Bureau of Air Sanitation in 1959 and published in 1961 found that “The concentrations of settleable particulate matter at the Arcata High School were higher than those for any other California city for which data are available and well above that for any known American city.” Yikes.

Thankfully they seem to have been going by the wayside by the mid 1960s though it clearly took awhile to clean ’em up…

Eyesores of Eureka: The Carson Mill in 1966

November 4, 2020
Source, HSU Special Collection

I’ve posted about the Carson and Dolbeer Lumber Mill, but recently ran across this photo cataloged under “eyesores” on the HSU Special Collections website.

Fortunately the city of Eureka has been working hard over the last number of years to clean up these “eyesores” and this site is much improved as the parking lot for the city-owned Adorni Center on the waterfront. Thanks Eureka !

Just another reminder that even when things look bleak, better days do come….

Adorni Center Parking lot (yesterday).

Pacific Steamship Company- Foot of C Street, Eureka

October 26, 2020

I am having all kinds of fun digging for interesting photos for my OLLI class coming up this Wednesday.

Above is one great example of an accidental find.


This LINK will take you to a foldable tourist brochure, published by Rand McNally and Company in 1891, which shows the main routes and schedules of the Pacific Coast Steamship Company. One side of the large sheet is a map showing the company’s routes … A table in the upper right gives distances in nautical miles from San Francisco to a large number of ports, including inland ports on the Columbia River. Railroads also are shown. The reverse side gives detailed travel information, including lists of agents, scheduled rates, and descriptions of the sites to be seen on the different excursions offered by the company, including the Eureka (Humboldt Bay) Route, the Portland and Astoria (Oregon) Route, the Alaska Route, the California Southern Coast Route, and others. THIS IS A SUPER FUN MAP- I really recommend you check it out…

Founded in 1867, the Pacific Coast Steamship Company had by the late 19th century grown to be a major operator on routes from California to Alaska. It operated both passenger and cargo services, and eventually built connecting railroad lines and other transportation links as did most such companies of the era. In its early years, its chief rival was the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, but by the early 20th century it competed mainly with the Alaska Steamship Company (the Alaska Line). The Pacific Steamship Company was sold to the Admiral Line in 1916 and was acquired by the Alaska Steamship Company in 1936.

Upcoming OLLI Class

October 26, 2020

Humboldt’s Historic Photographs and the Stories They Tell

In the midst of these challenging times, this class is strictly fun.

Coming up Wednesday….

Delve into the history of well-known and familiar Humboldt County sites and events. Discover the fascinating local history of these places, and see how structures and landscapes have evolved over time.

Wed., Oct. 28 • 2-4 p.m.


$20 • Class #: 43949


Highest single spile trestle in the world (c. 1908)

September 15, 2020
Source: HSU Special Collection

Humboldt County has always had a lot of firsts. We had the first railroad in California. And apparently the worlds largest “single spile trestle”, which was built around 1908. According to Logging Railroads of Humboldt and Mendocino County, written by Katy Tajha, train engineers didn’t like to cross because it “wobbled”. Who could blame them?

More information about the trestle above:
“Highest single spile trestle in the world being over 100 ft.” (110) Photo A.W. Ericson, Arcata. Conrad S. Bullwinkle had rented the ranch to his nephew, Herman Balke (father of this collector). The trestle crossed Little River Valley and crossed Balke Creek at the start of the canyon 1/2 to 3/4 miles south of Bulwinkle. It gradually rose to Dows Prairie then joined the Carson line who took the cars on to town. || Jerry Rohde (August 2013) states “Daily Humboldt Standard of March 20, 1908, page 3, indicates that the subject of the photos ‘the big trestle, will be completed by Saturday night.'”

And more information about trestles offered by this Mendocino Rail History Website :

Timber trestles were one of the few railroad bridge forms that did not develop in Europe. The reason was that in the United States and Canada cheap lumber was widespread and readily available in nearby forests. The Pacific Northwest of the U.S. and the province of British Columbia, Canada became the central region for hundreds of logging railroads whose bridges were almost all made of timber Howe trusses and trestles.

Timber trestles generally come in two forms. The first and most common is the pile trestle which consists of bents spaced 12 to 16 feet apart. Each bent consists of 3 to 5 round timber poles that are pounded straight into the ground by a pile driver. The centre post is upright, the two inner posts are angles at about 5 degrees and the outside posts are usually battered, angling outward for stability at about ten degrees. During construction, the top of the uneven posts are cut to the proper level for a cap which in turn supports the stringers and planks that hold the rail. Taller pile trestles contain diagonal “X” bracing across one or both sides of the bent and also between bents.

For higher timber trestles, the framed bent is used. Unlike pile bents, frame bents usually use square timbers and rest on mud sills or sub sills that act as a foundation. Frame bents are built in a series of “stories” that are usually between 10 and 50 feet high. For extremely high trestles, each section of the bent is built flat on the ground as a single or double story and then lifted and placed onto the ever lengthening trestle.

None of the dozen or so highest timber bridges of all time exist anymore. Nearly half of these 200 foot high monsters were built for logging railroads in the U.S. state of Washington and on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. For the lumber industry, rail lines were usually little more than a web of dead end tracks blanketed across the contour lines of a forested mountainside. Once the terrain was logged out, the tracks were abandoned. Since lumber was easy to find and abundant, it could quickly be cut on-site into tall piles or bents. With nothing built to last, construction standards were often low. Expensive bridges, especially those made of steel, were avoided by the loggers.

Early timber bridges had their drawbacks. Untreated lumber only lasted about 20 years and locomotives could easily cause the wood to catch fire. Collapses – rare today – were a regular occurrence on logging railroads and there are numerous accounts of train crews that regularly hopped off their slow moving locomotive as it approached a high, untrustworthy trestle, allowing it to cross before they would then run across the bridge and jump back on. On main lines that carried passengers and freight, tall timber bridges reduced efficiency as trains had to cross them at slower speeds. Initially they were a quick way to get the route open but once established, the owners usually had them replaced with steel bridges or filled.

Without trestles to bridge the “gaps” the logging companies would have had a hard time. Trestles, in more ways than one carried the logging industry. Look at the pictures (left and right) of these two incredible trestles.

Eureka Fish Market and More (c 1870)

August 20, 2020


County of Humboldt Collection

I’ve posted this absolutely fantastic  photo before but it has been a long time.

Please click to enlarge to see more detail,  including the chickens in the road..