“A good white man”

June 10, 2010

Continued from previous posts, Early Polygamists &  The Ratio


Recently OlManRiver discovered an incredible document entitled:

The Arrest of Jerry Bailey at Usal, Mendocino County, California, 1866, written by Jeremiah “doc” Standley, an early pioneer. *

While Bailey’s arrest is interesting, I am going to focus more on the story of the murder victim, Johnson Heacock.

According to Standley,  

“Heacock had apparently migrated from somewhere on the Atlantic slope as an escapee from justice, having killed a man in self-defense. Innocent or guilty, he was on the run from the law and chose to leave and head “out west” for the isolated… Leggett Valley… inhabited by a tribe of half-civilized Indians and a few white pioneer settlers.”

Once in Mendocino, he met and formed beneficial trading relationships with the local indigenous people.  According to Standley, the Natives came to trust Heacock and when he asked for the hand of a local Indian maiden, her father Ishoma was “… delighted that his daughter, Lillie, was to become the wife of a good white man like Mr. Heacock…” 

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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…

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).

Things I wish I’d said

March 30, 2010

Yesterday I got the opportunity to tape a radio show, Through the Eyes of Women, which airs at 1:30p.m. on Mondays on KHSU.

It is hosted by my friend Kathy Srabian and because it was National Women’s History Month, she asked me to come on and we would focus on women in history, as participants and as recorders.  I prepped with questions she provided and took my notes with me, only to forget and skip most of the things I’d planned to say (something about that darn microphone in my face and that recorder going mushed my brain). 

Anyhoo, this is what I’d hoped to say…  It’s not pretty (and you must ignore the typos), but hopefully the thoughts are clear.

Kathy’s Intro:

A recent article in the north coast journal and my last show on National History Month made me curious about women who record history.   And the roll it plays, the way it affects our stories about ourselves. 

The NCJ article on the Indian Massacres  made several references to journals that women had written.  The only personal account of the Indian island massacre was by a native woman… 

The stores we are told about who we as a people, as a population are affect our perception of ourselves.   And our expectations of  our children. 

Our lives are paved with our history, we walk on it everyday, we follow the paths our history has  laid out for us Unless we make a conscious effort to change it. 

Lynette..  You are a historian?   In your blog you speak of your passion for research.  What is it you are looking for?


I’m still trying to articulate it.  I know there is value in history, but honestly it is still the magic I love the most.  It is the only time travel I know—and the only way to talk to ghosts. 

History, its written records and images transcend time and space, mortality, even.  It allows us to discover and learn about the people, places and events that occurred before we even existed.  And the only way to know about these people, these events, is through those records.  See what they saw.  Learn what they learned, and experience, or at least imagine to a certain degree, what they experienced.  Who wouldn’t want to study and preserve that?

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Ignoring the dead white man

March 25, 2010


I discovered the copy of the inquest that occurred after the lynching of  two Indians at the same time I discovered Lucy’s inquest

Later, as I read through old newspapers, I was able to piece together some of what happened.  Two Native American men both known as “Jack” were accused and hung for murdering a white man living on an island in the middle of the Eel River near Loleta.  They were given no trial and their deaths were added to the many already suffered by the aboriginal people during the settlement period of Humboldt County’s history.  But this time we knew their names.  We could learn their story.  

I imagined them terrified as their “jail” was broken into (I’m jumping ahead in my story, I know, but maybe this is part of the story, too).    I imagined them dropping as dead weight or pleading for their lives as they were brought to the waiting noose, the crowd loud and volatile around them (or quiet and secretive to avoid detection from citizens who might object to such vigilante justice).

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Saw dust sleep for two bits a night

March 23, 2010

Saw dust sleep for "two bits" a night at a billard saloon

I found this in a collection of  illustrations created during and about the Gold Rush, so am assuming (dangerous, I know) that it reflects the lodging enjoyed by some of the emigrants on their way to California.

A Murder in Loleta, Part 2

March 1, 2010

Continued from this post

James Casebeer was a 33 year old from Ohio who, by May of 1860, was farming 160 acres of “The Island” located between the Eel and Salt Rivers (between Ferndale and the Loleta Bottoms) in Humboldt County.  There was a house  on the property and he had made some small improvements, but at the time of his death Casebeer had yet to make any real money from his enterprise.   He lived alone and was, by newspaper accounts, a “peacable and unoffensive citizen”, the only living son of a poor and sickly widow living in Ohio.  Casebeer wrote his mother letters, but didn’t do it often.

He seems to have kept to himself.  Neighbors had noticed him missing, but supposed he’d gone away on business. No one investigated. 

In September of 1860, William Johnson, a barber originally from New Jersey, was out walking  when he discovered the body of his neighbor, James Casebeer.  The body was lying a short distance from his house, and appeared to have been dragged from where it was hidden in the brush.  Observers guessed that Casebeer had been dead about three weeks and the remains appeared to have been partially eaten by his dog.   Johnson noticed a deep cut on the back of Casebeer’s skull and found a hatchet nearby.  

Casebeer’s house was locked, but nearly empty of valuables.  Even the bedding was gone.

To be continued…