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

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


The Londons Head to Hoopa in 1911

February 2, 2021

After their VISIT TO THE REDWOOD COAST in 1911, writer Jack London and his wife Charmian headed inland, visiting Hoopa before heading down the Klamath River escorted by Indian guides in a wooden canoe.

Huntington Collection

I have posted about the FASHION STABLES before- which were located at 4th & G Streets (where Redwood Capital Bank is now)

Interesting that the paper failed to note that Jack was traveling with his wife Charmian. I guess a married celebrity is not as interesting- or perhaps a wife just not worth the mention…?

Huntington Collection
Huntington Collection

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….

George (Washington) Pate on a Wagon (Rio Dell)

November 16, 2020
Source: HSU Special Collection

As some folks know, I grew up in Rio Dell but have been unable to find many old photos of the place. Searching “Rio Dell” online I did find this rather simple but wonderful photo- and I think that is the hill above Belleview Ave in the background.

The information with this photo says George Pate, Rio Dell (?).

I did find Mr. Pate’s information on Find A Grave, and he was, in fact, from Rio Dell. He died in 1907 just after his 70th birthday. He doesn’t look anywhere near that old in this image, making this a pretty old photo…

Mr. Pate was a veteran and suffered “worse than wounds” (I am not sure what this means…- maybe mental health issues/trauma?). I found the following information in his online obituary


“Old Soldier Called”.  Not unexpected came the call of “taps” to Veteran George W. Pate at his home in Rio Dell on Monday, July 22, 1907.  Burdened with years and since the war handicapped with internal troubles contracted during arduous campaigns he at last succumbed.

George W. Pate was born in Maquoketa, Jackson county, Iowa, May 18, 1837.  His youth and early manhood were spent on the farm.  In 1862 when the country needed men he enlisted in Co. F. 31st Iowa regiment and served until the end of the war.  Tho present at Lookout Mountain, Chickamauga and with Sherman during his march to the sea, Comrade Pate was never wounded, though he suffered worse than wounds and was never a well man again.

At the close of the war he returned to the work on the farm.  In December of 1889 he came to California, settled at Rohnerville and farmed.  About 13 years ago he obtained his present home at Rio Dell where he has since resided.

George never married.

George Washington Pate

BIRTH18 Jul 1837 Hurstville, Jackson County, Iowa, USA
DEATH22 Jul 1907 (aged 70)Rio Dell, Humboldt County, California, USA
BURIALSunrise CemeteryFortuna, Humboldt County, California, USA
PLOTBlock 2, Lot 22, Grave 1
MEMORIAL ID17426559 · View Source

Seeking information on Jack Ryan (framed and falsely convicted for double murder in the 1920s)

November 14, 2020
Photo found among the corrupt attorney’s ego collection

Jack Ryan was framed for a double murder by corrupt Humboldt County District Attorney Stephen Metzler in the 1920s during prohibition. I’ve known about Jack ever since I found the DA’s ego collection (newspaper clippings and more) in a trunk in a Eureka antique store years ago. I wrote about him briefly on my blog HERE but I woke up this morning knowing it was time to do more.

And so… I am looking for any and all information, stories, descriptions that anyone might have about Jack, his brother Walter David (strangled with barbed wire in an attempt to get Jack to confess), Metzler and/or others involved in the case. You can email or even share in the chat so others can see it.

Below you’ll find a time line of the case outlined by Northwestern University

Chronology of the case of Jack Ryan

Compiled by Steve Art

— 2006, Center on Wrongful Convictions, Bluhm Legal Clinic, Northwestern University School of Law

October 7, 1925 — Twenty-one-year-old Henry Sweet and his seventeen-year-old girlfriend, Carmen Wagner, leave their homes in Eureka, California to go hunting on Coyote Flat, forty-five miles to the southeast.

October 11, 1925 — Sweet’s body is discovered in an abandoned cabin. He has been shot once in the back.

October 23, 1925 — Wagner’s body is found in a shallow grave near Baker Creek, a few miles from Coyote Flat. She has been shot twice and has skin and dried blood beneath her fingernails. Later that day, Walter David, Jack Ryan’s half-brother, is arrested in connection with the murders.

October 24, 1925 — Jack Ryan is arrested in connection with the murders. The two brothers have no known connection to the victims and were considered suspects only because they lived in the area and, in the vernacular of the press at the time, are considered “half breeds.” David has a verifiable alibi and is soon released. Ryan is charged with Wagner’s murder, which appears to be the stronger case.

March 12, 1926 — A jury of twelve white men returns a verdict of not guilty at the end of Ryan’s five-week trial.

January 1927 — Stephen Earl Metzler, a lawyer and bootlegger, is elected district attorney of Humboldt County after campaigning on the promise that he would solve the murders within two years. Upon assuming office Metzler sets about fulfilling his campaign promise. Rather than pursuing Bill Shields, an obvious suspect with a clear motive who has been placed at the scene of the crime by an eyewitness, Metzler makes him a strategist and consultant in the renewed investigation.

October 31, 1927 — David, Ryan’s half-brother, is found tortured and strangled to death with barbed wire.

November 1927 — Metzler attempts to intimidate Ryan, sending anonymous letters warning that a similar fate awaits him unless he confesses to the murders. This and other tactics to elicit a confession fail.

July 12, 1928 — Metzler pays a woman $100 to falsely accuse Ryan of having sex with her thirteen-year-old daughter. Ryan is arrested and charged with three counts of statutory rape. Out of fear of remaining in Humboldt County, Ryan pleads guilty to two counts of rape; the third count is dismissed. Ryan is immediately sentenced. That night, Metzler intensively interrogates Ryan.

July 13, 1928 — Following the all-night interrogation Ryan confesses to both murders. A second prosecution for the Wagner murder is barred on double jeopardy grounds, but without legal representation, Ryan pleads guilty to the Sweet murder. He is sentenced to life in prison and is taken to San Quentin State Prison the same day.

1930 — Metzler is indicted and convicted of conspiracy to violate the National Prohibition Act.

1939 — Franklin D. Roosevelt pardons Metzler.

1947 — The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs launches a reinvestigation of the Ryan cases. Metzler acknowledges to agents that he had set Ryan up, and that Shields had likely killed the couple. The Bureau’s report, issued the following year, is instrumental in Ryan’s parole.

May 11, 1953 — Ryan wins parole.

March 20, 1969 — Governor Ronald Reagan commutes Ryan’s life sentence to time served, in effect releasing him from parole.

August 23, 1978 — Ryan dies of natural causes.

April 15, 1996 — Governor Pete Wilson grants Ryan an unprecedented posthumous pardon after an extensive reinvestigation of the case by Richard H. Walton, a local DA’s investigator.

Requa Saloon and more…

November 13, 2020
Source: HSU Special Collection

I was actually looking for saloon pics when I accidentally ran across another great photo of Requa, which is located just north of Humboldt in Del Norte County, near the mouth of the Klamath River. I’m not sure what prompted the crowd, but this offers a great collection of old cars, clothes, buildings and more…

This may be located directly above the boat photo from yesterday (to the left of the Klamath Inn) but it is hard to tell for sure…

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


Humboldt’s Volunteer Relief Workers- Then and Now

September 18, 2020

Humboldt County has a long history of supporting those in need during challenging times, as clearly illustrated by the photo above. It was taken during the 1964 “Christmas Flood”.

In 2020, I am fortunate enough to work in economic and workforce development, where I hear every day about the various individuals and organizations (like the local Red Cross, Pay it Forward Humboldt and Cooperation Humboldt) who are offering support to those affected by the pandemic – AND the wildfires.

I am so thankful to live in Humboldt.

Volunteers with Pay it Forward Humboldt