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:

The Nelson Woman and a Murder…

May 11, 2021

Months ago I did a post on the North Coast Journal article regarding old Eureka Police Dept. arrest records and the photo of one woman caught my attention. Something in her expression just touched my heart.

Humboldt County Historical Society/North Coast Journal

Her name was listed as Jenice Nelson and I searched old records and newspapers, but couldn’t find her anywhere. I eventually gave up, resolved to try again some day.

Coincidentally, as I was recently researching information for my upcoming OLLI class, I found Jenice and an explanation for the sadness so evident in her photo.

In 1930, Clarence King killed his common law wife Minnie McCoy and left her body by the side of the highway near Orick. King was caught and convicted, in part, thanks to testimony given by William Martell, who witnessed the couple fighting shortly before Minnie’s death. Martell was a business owner and lived with his wife Dorthea in Eureka.

Prior to the trial, Jenice (AKA Janice Murray) heard that Martell’s life was in danger- and warned him. Janice was a prostitute and Martell denied knowing her.  Janice was then arrested for prostitution, plead guilty and was sentenced to 60 days in jail.

Many who talk about Red Light Districts do so in hushed, titillated tones but these ladies had a hard life- even when they tried to do the right thing. Very few would have taken their path, given any other choice…

Blue Lake Advocate, 5 April 1930

Soiled Doves Replenish EPD Treasury

May 10, 2021

On Friday, April 3, 1903, the Ferndale Enterprise ran the following:

“Eureka is short of funds, and as a result, another raid is to be made on the “soiled doves” of that city, who will be arrested and fined $25 or $30 apiece to replenish the treasury…. About eight months ago the girls were rounded up and forced to pay tribute.”

The Eureka Police Department had been collected fines from operators (madams) of brothels in the Red Light District since at least 1900, though they often disguised the fines by charging the women with distributing “intoxicating liquor without a license.”

1900 EPD Arrest Record

By 1908, the city had raised the “semi-annual” fines to $50 (using an online inflation calculator, this was about $1,440 in today’s dollars). And the ladies paid….

Block image
Block image
The Humboldt Times, 15 July 1908

Folks can learn more about Eureka’s early “Resorts” by attending my OLLI class, The Abduction of Ida Ballard and Other Stories of the Red Light District, presented through Humboldt State University next Thursday, May 20. HERE is a link to the class information/registration page.

EPD Arrest Log, July 1910

First Car in Eureka, July 4, 1899

May 10, 2021
Source: HSU Special Collection

I came across this photo by accident while looking for pictures of cable cars. I can only imagine how exciting it would be to see an “auto” for the first time right here in Eureka. And I just realized, it likely needed to come in by barge. I can’t imagine that any of the roads coming into Humboldt County at the turn of the century would have been suitable.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any newspaper stories about this big event though I’m sure it made headlines at the time…

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

Once Inhabited by the Festive Clam… (1892)

May 5, 2021

Over the years, much of Humboldt’s wetlands have been diked and converted to pasture. We’ll talk about negative environmental impact another day (it is extreme). Today I’ll just share the history….

The Arcata Land Imp. Co.’s Dredger, Arcata (1893?)

The following was published in 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

Arcata Union (18 June 1892)

The Harpst and Spring Dike…starts in on the bank of Butcher Slough just beyond the town [Arcata] line and follows the course of the slough as near as possible to the bay.  Here it follows along the edge of the mudflats for a mile or more and crosses Flannigan and Brosnan’s railroad at the edge of the bay.  It then goes down along the bay comes up and crosses the big slough by the draw bridge where a flood gate will be put in, and follows down the further bank of the slough to the mouth of Jacoby Creek.  From there it follows up the bank of the creek till it gets out of the reach of the highest tides and there ends…
        The first owner who took up this marsh as swamp and overflowed land never dreamed that this large stretch of country, from Arcata to Jacoby Creek, inhabited only by the festive clam and the busy little crab would some day be pasture for hundreds of cattle… [emphasis added]

Upcoming OLLI Class- Eureka’s Red Light District, early 1900s

May 5, 2021
Old Town Eureka Red Light District

Please consider attending my upcoming OLLI class offered through Humboldt State University

The Abduction of Ida Ballard and Other Stories from Eureka’s Red Light District

With Lynette Mullen, Historian

On May 13, 1907, 18-year-old Ida Ballard disappeared in broad daylight from the middle of downtown Eureka — turning up the next day disheveled and in apparent shock over her terrifying ordeal. Hypnotized by a “witch-like” woman in front of Barry’s Grocery (currently the Lost Coast Brewery Restaurant in downtown Eureka), Ida said she had been spirited away by the old hag and imprisoned overnight in a shed behind a 4th Street bordello. Ida was confident that the owner had planned to force the girl into a life of shame. What happened next reminds one of the Salem Witch Trials, when Mamie Wright, the Eureka Resort’s black madam, was accused of orchestrating the crime and was arrested. Learn more about the Ballard abduction case, Mamie Wright, and other sporting women who populated Eureka’s Red-Light District in the early 1900s.

Thurs., May 20 • 6-8 p.m.


$20 • Class #: 24281


4th and E Streets, Eureka, c.1902 [updated]

February 6, 2021

This location looks a bit rough for those kids, but then again, maybe a lot of Eureka was a little bit rough back then… Interesting that most of their hats seem to match in pairs. Siblings, maybe?

This photo is inscribed with “4th & F Streets” and 1885. I did try to find reference in online newspaper archives to some of the attractions posted on the billboard but had no luck. I was also unable to read any of the business names…. [Please note that we now have an update on the date and location below the photo. Milt Phegley recognized the location as 4th & E, which was the previous location of Eureka’s Chinatown and after the Chinese Expulsion, a fish market and other businesses…] .

Either way, it is a fantastic old photo. As always, please click to enlarge. I’m guessing that lumber on the left was for extending the wooden sidewalk…

Source: HSU Special Collection

Update: Fortunately we have local historian, Milt Phegley, who after my original post, shared the following on Facebook:

I believe that the photo is misidentified in two respects. First, an enlargement of the posters on the side of the building shows coming entertainment “American Girl”, “Secret Service” and “Man of Mystery” being presented at the Ingomar. The Ingomar Theater in the Carson Block was not constructed until 1892 so the dating of the photo is incorrect. Those plays were performed in June 1902 at the Ingomar (confirmed by Humboldt Times newspaper articles). Second error is the location stated at Fourth and “F”. I believe that it should be Fourth and “E”. Below [per LM: on the Remember Eureka Facebook Post] is a picture previously posted of that location in what is said to be 1870 but is also incorrect as to date. [per LM: I have linked the referenced photo HERE].

The Eureka Fish Market was not established here until shortly after the Chinese expulsion in 1885 [per LM: CLICK HERE for a photo of the same area, which was part of Eureka’s Chinatown prior to the expulsion]. Also, the photo shows the expansion of the Ricks’ Stables to the east which did not occur until post-1892. Notice also the shape and lettering on the fish market sign which was subsequently relocated onto the building. And notice the juxtaposition of the two buildings at the corner.

The Fort at Martin’s Ferry, built 1853

February 4, 2021

This photo of the Fort at Martin’s Ferry was among the pictures Jack and Charmian London kept from their visit to Humboldt County . If you click on the photo to enlarge, you’ll see an inscription at the bottom stating that the fort was built in 1853.

Huntington Collection

A post about Martin’s Ferry on, however, states that the military “Camp at Martin’s Ferry” was established in March 1864 and occupied for only two weeks during the Army’s campaign against “hostile Indians”. In truth, unfortunately, the area was occupied by whites, militia and not, for much longer than that during a brutal campaign against the Native inhabitants in the 1850s and 1860s.

THIS SITE offers links to a number of essays, source documents and more about the ugliest time in our local history, California’s “Indian Wars”.

And HERE is The Legislature’s Majority and Minority Reports on the Mendocino War of (1860). The details offer a pretty good reflection of what was going on in Humboldt County as well.

This will likely be the last of the London’s photos posted (for a little while at least). We are fortunate they kept so many from their time in Humboldt

Hoopa Baskets, 1911

February 3, 2021

Before Jack and Chamian London headed down the Klamath in a wooden canoe, they went through Hoopa and took a number of photos, including one of this stunning basket collection. As always (hopefully) click on the photo to enlarge and see more detail. The artistry is beyond description…

Huntington Library Collection

It appears at least some basket makers sold their beautiful creations to local merchants. Perhaps the woman on the right made the baskets displayed on the center table in this photo of the Underwood General Store.

Source: HSU Special Collection
“Brizard’s Collection” (Source: HSU Special Collection)