As i was wandering the Humboldt State University online archive of historical Humboldt County photos, i ran across a few gems. (There are thousands of jewels there, of course, but as a Mattole history fan, these in particular set my heart a-flutter!) Many thanks to Joan Berman, who is responsible for the archive and who maintains the website. What a huge labor it must have been to organize all these images, and to keep the collection updated!
I am posting smaller files of the pictures here (though you can click on them to magnify); for full resolution and to enjoy the myriad treasures available there, view them on the HSU website.
And this next one also offers great detail. The photo is #1 on the Burgess list on the HSU page. I don’t know who the men are, but think maybe the man just visible behind the horses, taking care of some strap or cargo, is also Native.
Peter Palmquist collected these photos and labelled them based on either “official” titles attached somewhere along the way, or on clues he gathered from the pictures or descriptions written on the reverse. Some of the pictures have two titles: one credited to the collector [pp], the other i assume a description from the current archivist, Joan Berman. So, the titles are not always accurate. This school is supposed to be in the Mattole Valley, probably because so many of Burgess’s scenes were; but i am not sure it is. It may be at Capetown or up Bear River. Comparisons to photos of the old Mattole Union School, Union Mattole, Upper Mattole, or Honeydew School show this to be a much smaller building. (I definitely could be wrong about this; anyone with any conviction about which school this is, please comment.) I love the outlaw kids on the roof, though–classic “out in the hills” stuff!
A little background information about Ammi Austin Burgess: he was Gypsy Evenden’s, and current MVHS friends Roger and William Brown’s, great-grandfather. He was born in 1842 in Maine, served in the Union Army from April 20, 1861 (enlisted in Waterville, ME)–April 20, 1864 (honorably discharged at Brandy Station, VA), was in Santa Cruz County by 1871, and in 1877 married Elizabeth A. (from New Hampshire, of unknown maiden name)–Lizzie Burgess. By 1879 the couple had their daughter, Maude Addie, and in 1882, son Wallace D. Burgess–Gypsy and the Brown boys’ (great)-uncle Wally. According to Gypsy, “Ammi” always detested his given name, thinking it sounded too feminine, and went by either his initials or his middle name. A.A. and Lizzie lived in the Petrolia area, with Mr. Burgess listing his occupation as “farmer”–but meantime he had mastered the art of studio and landscape photography, and likely took most of his photos in the last quarter of the 19th century.
I called Roger Brown the other day to tap his memories. He never knew A.A., who died in 1906 at a southern California Veterans’ Hospital; nor was Roger sure where exactly he’d lived in the Mattole Valley. However, A.A.’s two children later lived on the south side of the river across from the present Cockburn (former Molly Roberts West) place. Uncle Wally had the place right next to the river where newcomers (now gone) Sean and Becca recently established a small homestead. Maude Addie lived with her husband, Samuel F. (Frank) Adams, across the road and a bit east. The home was just up off the flat we used to call “the Reishus place” which was an opening with an old pile of bricks on it, and later Frankie Lawrence’s trailer, until recently cleared for use by Sterling McWhorter.
[A tiny bit of genealogy to fill you in on the rest of the connection: A.A. and Lizzie Burgess's daughter Maude married Frank Adams, the son of Samuel S. Adams and Annie Brown, who was herself the daughter of famous abolitionist John Brown. So Maude and Frank were Roger's (and William's and Gypsy's) grandparents. Their children included Louis Adams, father of Gypsy, and Alice Adams Brown, mother of the Brown brothers. Alice was born in the house above the old Reishus flat. And Wallace D. Burgess married Edna Williams of Ferndale in 1905. Wally was an engineer for the Northwestern Pacific railroad.]
A.A. Burgess’s photos not only function as valuable historical records of people and places, they are beautiful. There is one photo he took of three deer carcasses hanging in a row (doesn’t sound pretty, but it was– and i as a vegetarian assure you of that!). Gypsy gave us a print of the photo, and also once showed me a wonderful pencil rendering of the photograph, which she knew was done by Wallace D. Burgess. I always thought that Wally must have been the “Burgess” photographer too, but no, it turns out he was a sketch and painting artist. Roger said he “knew Uncle Wally real well. He had a little coupe, and i remember him sitting in the back of that car, with an easel, sketching.” Roger has a charcoal of the St. Paul aground near Punta Gorda, and another painting of the Petrolia area from the vantage point of the hill west of town, done by his great-uncle–perhaps while sitting in his car.
By the time Austin Burgess made it to the Veteran’s Hospital in early November, 1906, he was suffering from Pulmonary Tuberculosis, something else i couldn’t make out, Chronic Inflammation, and Deafness. He succumbed to his many ailments on the 20th of that month. Veteran’s benefits began coming to his widow Lizzie in Ferndale. She passed on to join her husband in December, 1916.
I am grateful to Ammi Austin Burgess for his loving and careful artist’s eye and his photographic skills, and to the late Peter Palmquist, the HSU library, and Joan Berman, for preserving the images and making them available to us.
But before you go away, i want to share one more picture. I am currently unable to download this image, but took a screenshot. This is an unusual photograph of Petrolia, taken before 1903 (when a fire destroyed many downtown buildings), from the hill to the east: just a bit north of the present Catholic Church, behind Cary’s house. I love a new picture of old Petrolia, especially one from this early a date!
Do you recognize any of the buildings? Not many remain. You’re looking over the square, toward the ocean. There’s a white frame house where the Franklins’ place is now. Mary Day’s house is in place. On the far right, there’s a little church which was the predecessor of today’s Seventh-Day Adventist Church building, on the same site. The large white buildingÂ on the left, with four windows in a row along its side, was the two-storey John A. Mackey store and ballroom.
The picture is from the Peter Palmquist collection, and can be seen in excellent detail here: http://library.humboldt.edu/humco/holdings/photodetail.php?S=&CS=All%20Collections&RS=ALL%20Regions&PS=Wax%20William&ST=ALL%20words&SW=&C=26&R=13
Photographer was William Wax, about whom i know nothing. Googling shows that a William Wax was active in the photography businesses of Columbia, CA (in the Sierra foothills) and the Chico/Redding areas. Perhaps he travelled with his photographic equipment, and luckily for us, passed through Petrolia one fine day.
Enjoy some winter hours enjoying the thousands of pictures available on that fantastic HSU site!