Humboldt’s Oil Lands, 1908

October 19, 2021

The text (which I’ve enlarged below the map- just click on it) gives a detailed history of early oil exploration in Humboldt…

Source: HSU Map Collection

Prohibiting Those Disgraceful Wiggle Dances…

October 12, 2021

A quick search shows that Arcata and Santa Cruz were not the only communities working hard to protect their women and girls from the harm certain to come from the “degenerate animal dance” and barbarous contortions. Nor was this just a California campaign…

And and following may be my favorite, published in the Santa Cruz Evening News on 2 December 1912…

Mass Historia, a blog written by Walter Nelson, offers a great history on prohibited dances.

St. Joseph’s Institute for Young Ladies (Opened 1866)

October 6, 2021

Photo: St. Joseph’s Institute, 2 Aug 1878 (source: HSU Special Collection)

Per HSU: “On block between F and G and 7th and 8th on the current site of Eureka Inn, built by Methodists, opened 16 May 1866, used as a convent; note Sisters of Mercy nuns in yard”

Please click to enlarge the photo- and you will see a number of nuns and girls in the yard!

I also found this…

Tthe last mention I find of the institute details their July 1892 graduation…

Humboldt Times, 2 July 1892: The commencement exercises of St Joseph’s Institute of this city took place Thursday in the presence of a large assemblage of friends and relatives of the pupils. A lengthy and well selected program was presented, consisting of vocal and instrumental music, recitations, tobleaux, farces and a drama, and was very creditably rendered by the pupils. The valedictory was delivered by Miss Katie Cahill, the gold medalist.

I’m not sure when they closed.

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.

Pacific Gas Engine Works Still Standing…

September 22, 2021

This is the corner of 2nd and C Streets, Eureka and if you ever wondered what used to be there…

Humboldt State University Special Collection. Note this photo is cropped. You can find the complete photo HERE

And then I found this interesting (and a little bit scary) history about early power plants (including PG&E’s nuclear facility….). The report contains some cool old photos as well.

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