Poor miserable half naked half starved wretches

July 20, 2010

Fort Humboldt, c. 1885

I realized last night that it might be time to warn new visitors that if they are looking for linear content on this blog, they’d best look elsewhere.  My vocation is project management,  where everything needs to be organized and run in straight lines.  This, on the other hand, is a hobby.  I get distracted, leave topics in the middle, find new sources at random times and insert  tangential facts.  Those with a low tolerance for such things likely don’t come back.  To all you others, I am glad to have you here.  

I recently received a transcript of a diary written by a young man named James Brown (no relation to the other, more infamous James Brown) who served in the military during the 1860s.  

The more “innocent” Brown’s entries are from 1862.  He describes his journey to our rugged and isolated North Coast  and his experiences while stationed here during the beginnings of the civil war (which became the height of our “Indian Wars”). 

It was an excerpt of the following entry he wrote while at Fort Humboldt  (which was located above the Bayshore Mall in Eureka)  that grabbed my attention and prompted my request for the entire document. 

May 9, 1862: On guard.  40 or 50 Squaws and children brought in by the Calvary.  Poor miserable half naked half starved wretches.  The sight was sickening. 


Truth cloaked in “fiction”

May 28, 2010

While digging through the books in the county library, oh, probably 2 years ago, I ran across Blaxine, Halfbreed Girl, published by Garberville resident Margaret Cobb in 1910.

It’s been awhile since I’ve read the book, but here is the “gist”:

A young man, Stanley Carwood (I just double checked the name) moves to small, isolated Sargent Valley to board in the Sargent house and teach at the Sargent School.   Living in the house are Sargent’s young , sweet white wife and four “half-breed” children, that Sergeant claims as his .  The children have different Native mothers and Sargent and the white wife are raising them.  The mothers (except the one killed by another mother/squaw) live in a nearby Indian village and stay involved, to one degree or another, in their children’s and Sargent’s lives. 

“Carwood” predictably falls in love with one of Sargent’s daughters, drama ensues, and all eventually ends with… well, e-mail me if you want to know the ending, otherwise I’ll let you read it yourself.

The thing that struck me, though, and the point of this post, is that Cobb’s “fictional” story didn’t feel like fiction.   The multiple Indian mistresses/wives in the background, the innocent, lovable white wife… it all felt too real. And when I accidently ran across the census records for Alfred Sherwood, something clicked.  Sherwood “founded” Sherwood Valley, just northwest of Willits,  in the 1850s.   

 In 1860, Sherwood was living withhis son,  a 3 year old half-Native boy, Robert.  There is no woman in the house.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mail Tree in SoHum

March 24, 2010

Early Mail Box

This tree is just a tree.  Until you read this…

(Harris is near present-day Garberville).

Casebeer shot through the breast

March 3, 2010


Continued from Part 1

And Part 2

An inquest was held by Justice Jameson of Eel River (the Fortuna area).  Jameson examined Casebeer’s body and declared the case a homicide.     

Neighbors, as is typical, talked about the murder and a “squaw” “intimated” to James Tukesbury,  a local farmer (and white man) that Indians may have committed the crime. 

Though many of Humboldt County’s indigenous people died at the hands of whites (in early September, seven were killed for slaughtering  “a few head of cattle”), the murder of a white man was uncommon.   The murder of a white man at the hands of an Indian was considered an egregious and intolerable crime.

Local Natives were questioned and Jack, an Indian living with Tukesbury, most likely as a servant, finally admitted that he witnessed the murder.    According to Jack, he was walking by Casebeer’s house with another Indian , “Big Jack” , and two Indian women when they spotted Casebeer’s gun through a window.  Casebeer was in the distance chopping down trees and hadn’t seen them.   Big Jack decided to steal Casebeer’s gun and shoot him for being “very bad”.  Jack said he protested, fearing the murder of a white man would prompt the whites to “plenty kill Indians”, but Big Jack climbed through Casebeer’s window and retrieved the gun. He then approached Casebeer and shot him “through the breast”, killing him.   Big Jack then hid Casebeer’s body by pulling it into the brush.

To be continued…

Frail but invulnerable shield

February 9, 2010

 The following was printed in the Humboldt Times on March 23, 1859, and gives, as the writer generously notes,   “ a good illustration of the Indian character, and shows a spark of the old heroic fire, that the degeneration of a race could not wholly extinguish.”

This is why our history haunts me.  It was rare that a story like this one made the papers, though I’m sure incidents like this one happened often.   I could say so much about this event and the way the editor described it,  but today I’ll let the excerpt speak for itself.

“… At an attack upon one of the Indian ranches, a number of the braves were captured, who had, with squaws and children, deserted the ranch—an inglorious prey.  An old chief, the Moweema of his band, then took his stand in the centre of the ranch—his household goods shattered around him—deserted and alone, but armed and resolute and would not be taken…  The volunteers were brave men, but there were none that could be found to face the imminent muzzle of the old man’s leveled rifle.  A word given, and he might have been dropped, riddled like a colander; but, their orders were to take him alive, and thus one man held at bay, a score.

Nevertheless he was taken; he who would not yield to numbers—who feared not death—was taken by one of his own…. stratagems.

The only surviving wife of the old man—a young squaw, was brought forward and, taking her before him, Lient. Winslett, advanced, covering his body with this frail, but to him, invulnerable shield.  Afraid to fire upon the pair, the old man, after a moment’s hesitation, lowered his weapon, and was immediately surrounded and ironed.”  [Humboldt Times, 23 March 1859]