Eureka Wharf, Earlier Days

October 9, 2013

Eureka Wharf [Source: Humboldt State University-Palmquist/Yale Collection]

Eureka Wharf [Source: Humboldt State University-Palmquist/Yale Collection]

I’m not sure how to date this photo. If anyone sees any clues, please let me know…


More about Helena

July 20, 2011

Of course now I regret not taking a photo of this one from the road. Actually, I regretted that before I ever took this photo as my socks (worn with open-ish shoes) were completely filled with terrible, sharp, pokey burrs hidden in what looks like lovely grass.  If you go to Helena, wear solid shoes and long pants.  But I digress…

Our friend Skippy was kind and generous enough to share some great historical info about Helena.  I’ll just pass it on from him. Thank you, Skippy !

By far one of the best histories of the area comes from editors/authors Jerry Rohde and Lowell Bennion in their 2000 book, Traveling the Trinity Highway. Mr. Rohde, Bennion, and others, have devoted 6 pages of interesting stories, excellent old pictures (including an old Trinity County Historical Society’s picture of the Schlomer building as Lynette photographed), and a well documented history of the ghost town, North Fork, later known as ‘Old Helena’. I encourage the reader to check out their book. It’s a fascinating and well documented history taken from primary sources– and a delightfully good read. A highlight is the sidebar story, The “Wedding” of Craven Lee, a surprising account of one of the first residents.

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Lost Coast in 1906

June 2, 2011

Lost Coast, 1906

From Humboldt Harbour, May 1850 (or: I killed an old crow to furnish me a pen)

May 1, 2011

Training for “the enemy”

July 29, 2010

Historic Church in Santa Barbara

A few years ago I watched the movie Jarhead and while I’m sure there was drama and suspense, the thing I remember most was the waiting.  Soldiers preparing and waiting.  Training and waiting.  Anticipating  and waiting while nothing happened. 

Here   is a synopsis of the movie 

 Jarhead (the self-imposed moniker of the Marines) follows Swoff (Gyllenhaal) from a sobering stint in boot camp to active duty, where he sports a sniper rifle through Middle East deserts that provide no cover from the heat or Iraqi soldiers. Swoff and his fellow Marines sustain themselves with sardonic humanity and wicked comedy on blazing desert fields in a country they don’t understand against an enemy they can’t see for a cause they don’t fully grasp.  

 which doesn’t really give you a feel for that whole waiting thing, but offers a great segue into another good point.  Often soldiers are trained to fight whatever. You know,  “the enemy”. 

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Soldier on his way to Humboldt in 1862

July 28, 2010

Several months ago I began a series of posts about the murder of an early Humboldt settler, James Casebeer

Part 1

 Part 2

Part 3

But it was as I was working on the fourth post that I realized I’d forgotten something.  I’d gotten so caught up in the drama of the lynchings of the murder suspects that I’d forgotten Casebeer entirely.

It was then that I decided to back up and more thoroughly examine the bigger picture.  Who were ALL the people sharing the Northcoast during those early years?

 I had looked at the hopeful homesteaders, like Sarah Royce and her family ( here and here)

And the renegades with little regard for human decency here

But the naïve gold miners also needed to be considered… here

There were also the soldiers , sent to Northern California to protect the settlers during the “Indian wars”.

Civil War Soldiers posing in front of Sibley Tent

James Brown  was  a soldier stationed here in 1862 & 1863.  He kept a diary of his experiences, which provides rare details about his journey to Fort Humboldt and his experiences with the other soldiers, the community and the natives he came to “hunt”.

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When the ratio of men to women was 76:1

June 8, 2010

There was a California census taken in the summer of 1852.  At that time there was no Humboldt County and so folks here were enumerated in the Trinity County census.

The information reported to the state legislature was:

Population: 1,764


Male: 1,741

Female: 23

The number of females noted neglects to count the number of Native American women that were in this area when the whites came in.  I would like to think that at least some of the early (male) settlers missed, and wanted, more domestic lives (and not just sex),  and these numbers help to explain (to a limited extent) why so many became “squawmen”.

Though taking a native “wife” was not uncommon in the early years of the settlement period, it was also not widely accepted by the wider population, as this short article, like many others,  shows…

1859, Dec. , Humboldt Times, DUEL Indians MATTOLE. … The duel occurred between a Mr. Lafferty and his brother-in-law.   The social positions of the parties is about equal, one of them being an Indian, and the other , though claiming to be white, lives with the Indian’s sister.  They were both wounded at the first fire, after which a reconciliation was brought about by the sister.  Unfortunately their wounds are not considered dangerous [emphasis mine].

Many squawmen didn’t care about public opinion, and at least a few, like “Duncan” of Eel River,  legally married their wives.  Unfortunately, many others came to regret their early relationships, and chose to hide them (or worse) instead.  

To be continued…

Polygamists in Early Humboldt

June 1, 2010


Mad River Joe and his two wives

Just this weekend I had reason to look at 1900 Indian Census and noticed that one of the questions included in the bottom section, “Special Inquiries relating to Indians” was “Conjugal Relations; Is this Indian, if married, living in polygamy?”

 Which indicates that the government, at least, believed multiple wives to be common among the local natives.   Early census records and stories (about Jack Mann, for instance, and Sherwood ) give evidence that more than a few white settlers took up this practice when they arrived on the isolated north coast. 

I thought this to be a bad thing from the women’s perspective , but Ol Man River’s comments about the Heacock situation show (if the account is accurate) that at least some of the women (or girls, let’s face it, they were young), preferred not to be alone with these strange, white men.

Per the account that ‘River discovered, when Heacock took a “wife”, she ran away and refused to return until Heacock arranged to have her sister move in with them.  Later, the two girls insisted he take in a third.   All three then acted as “wives” and bore Heacock’s children.

Which may have been okay had Humboldt stayed isolated forever.  It didn’t.  And the influx of settlers (and modern “society”)  brought disastrous consequences for many of these native “wives” and their “half-breed” children.

To be continued…

The women left behind

April 6, 2010

I suspected that many women were left behind during the gold rush and I ran across this lithograph that seemed to support my theory.

Abandoned by the adventurer

An expectant father leaves his wife behind (I think that is her father trying to comfort her).

Not even ready for California

April 5, 2010

Ready to go to California?

 The caption at the top says :  “I am sorry I didn’t follow the advice of Grammy to go ’round the Horn.” 


I just finished reading George R. Stewart’s The California Trail, which covers the various routes early emigrants took to reach California and details the various challenges they met along the way.  

The most striking thing about these early adventurers, as the illustration indicates, is that they really weren’t prepared for the journey.  Many didn’t even know how to get to California.   There were no maps, no established roads or even proven trails, and yet 

“…so many of all kinds and classes of People should sell out comfortable homes in Missouri and Elsewhere pack up and start across such an emmence Barren waste to settle in some new place of which they have at most so uncertain information…”

Pretty much just crossing their fingers and heading west.

Very crazy, or very cool, depending on your perspective.