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….

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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

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]

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)

Varioloid (Disease) Outbreak at the Weaver’s Laundry

January 6, 2021
Source: HSU Special Collection

I have to admit, when I first read that that F.A. Weaver, owner of the Weaver Laundry, blamed “a younger sister of Dunn” for giving him Varioloid, I thought he was accusing her of a grave impropriety.

Instead this became a a great illustration of why this blog is so fun (and hopefully interesting to visitors). I set about finding just a bit of information about Eureka’s Weaver’s Laundry and ran across this story about an outbreak of Varioloid, which turns out to be mild Smallpox (there’s some photos here of Smallpox, but they are NOT for the faint of heart…). According to the Wikipedia story linked HERE, the local outbreak came out in the midst of the last major outbreak on the east coast. Clearly scary stuff….

According to a help wanted ad (for a cook) in 1906 and other sources, Weaver’s Laundry was located at the corner of 1st and F Streets (between F and G) in Eureka. An article mentions a fire there in 1889 and this photo is clearly much later so the business was certainly around awhile….

Please click to enlarge and see the wonderful detail….

Attempted to Lead Her into a Life of Shame….

December 6, 2020

I looked across an empty Eureka waterfront parking lot to take a photo of an old building when it occurred to me that the parking lot might have a story too. I had no idea….

The 1900 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows the Scandia Hotel on First Street- between C & D, and there is good reason to believe it was more than just a hotel…

Per The Humboldt Times, 7 August 1915

HOTEL MEN ARE SUED BY WOMAN FOR $ 10000. Virginia Jeffrey Sues Proprietors of Scandia Hotel for Damages In Sum of $lO,OOO. ASSAULT AND BATTERY CHARGED. City Authorities Are Said To Be Investigating Alleged Attack on Woman

Alleging that she was the victim of a statutory assault at the hands of the proprietors of the Scandia Hotel at First street, Mrs Virginia Jeffrey has commenced suit for $10,000 in the superior court against Joe Costa and Emmanuel Enos. The complaint, charging assault and battery, was filed several days ago by Attorney John F. Dufur, who represents Mrs. Jeffrey. According to the woman’s story, as told to the local authorities, she was employed by the proprietors of the Scandia Hotel to care for the rooms upstairs. A few days after assuming her position she alleges Enos and Costa endeavored to lead her into a life of shame. When she refused to permit their advances the woman charges the men used violence. It is understood the matter his been laid before the city authorities and that an investigation is being made to determine whether the license under which the Scandia operated shall be revoked. Mrs. Jeffrey is the mother of seven small children. A year ago it is said her husband deserted her. The county has been contributing toward the aid of the children.

Note the men faced the possibility of losing their operators license, but there was nothing about being charged with assault….

It does look like Virginia was remarried by 1920 to Albert Pavey, a laborer in a lumber mill, and living at 1515 McFarlan Street in Eureka but unfortunately it looks like Albert was gone by 1930- even though they were still married. The 1930 census also shows that Virginia was first married at 13 years old- so maybe she’s always had a tough go of things….

1900 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map
And today…

Humboldt Bay, 1854 & 1876

November 20, 2020


Source: County of Humboldt Collection 

This post makes me sad as Don Tuttle recently passed away and he is the one that connected me to the source of some wonderful historic photos. I am thinking of you Don…

Please click the photo to enlarge for wonderful detail…

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…

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.

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).

Humboldt History Symposium 2020

October 29, 2020
Image may contain: text that says 'A collaboration between Clarke Historical Museum HUMBOLDT COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY HumboldtHistory MPOSIUM NOVEMBER 9-13 2020 Live tours and presentations at 12 and 3 pm each day on the Clarke Museum Facebook and YouTube Pages More information at: http:/wwaremusum.orghs.htm'
This year’s Humboldt History Symposium is going online, with 1-2 presentations hosted virtually each day by talented and knowledgeable local scholars. To order tickets to the Keynote Speaker’s presentation and see more details, go to the website at:

I am honored to be this year’s keynote speaker on Friday, November 13 at 6 p.m. and hope to see folks there….

History Symposium Keynote Topic:

The Spanish Flu Comes to Humboldt in 1918
Learn about the 1918 Spanish Flu in Humboldt County, how it developed, the community impact, and how the now familiar strategies of masking, closing non-essential businesses, churches, schools and more, were undertaken to protect the community.