In case you haven’t heard, the Mattole Valley Historical Society has been made the generous offer of a good-sized spot of land on the Petrolia Square for the purpose of building a fireproof place to house our archives. We will also have a space large enough to start collecting and displaying all manner of artifacts… much more than what we can do at the Grange location, which is really just our office and library. In other words, we will be able to have a museum, once we have a building–and now we have been offered the site. Here is a view from Google Earth that shows, on the northwest corner of the Square in downtown Petrolia, the three-parcels-in-one that make up our future home. That’s the Petrolia Store on the left, below the Petrolia VFD firehouse and just across the road from the lower property line.

4-GoogleAir-view, site, crop

And here is the latest of a series of floor plans for the 40 x 24-foot building we (the Board) have been envisioning (note that i am not a professional architect or artist, and these are just preliminary homegrown sketches):


The museum building would be on the northernmost of the three formerly separate parcels–that is, on the northwest corner of the Square, sitting where the Knights of Pythias Hall used to be.

I have written many pages about the excitement of this promise, and also many words imploring any likely candidates in the areas of grant-writing, fund-raising, project direction, and building planning and permitting, to step forward. Mainly because of the offer, we now have an invigorated and legally functional Board of Directors. But we do need another couple of key players to get this project off the ground.

We would like to be able to pay at least one person (the Project Director) who would then be able to make the time to focus on overseeing the project. I assure you though, the money would not be the main attraction. One of the first jobs of an active push toward this vision will be to write a grant to pay the Director! So, if making a big pile of cash is anyone’s goal, this would not be a position to apply for. However, we do feel that the effort that will be required to gather our energy, time, and money and convert it into some version of a Mattole Valley historical museum in downtown Petrolia, ought to be reimbursed with a helpful stipend. So, by all means, if you are interested in working with us, please get in touch with us–contact info at end of post.

Did i mention that i will be stepping down as Director of the MVHS come December? Yes, i’ve given my several-month notice to the Board. There was too much fuzziness about who does what, and we have a lot to do. I intend to keep studying history, doing research and interviews, and writing about the Mattole Valley’s past. But i do not mean to carry on with the business of running the organization. So we will be needing a Director of the Society as 2017 rolls around;  you will be working with a cooperative Board, a competent and thorough Secretary and a great Treasurer. For now, though, we are in dire need of a Project Director and a Grantwriter for the development on the Square.

Opportunities abound!

But let me leave you with these grand visions. Of course we don’t need an all-or-nothing attitude about anything as huge (relatively speaking) as this floor plan, and we don’t need to be discouraged if it’s slow going toward an entire compound such as that depicted in the site plan below. We could certainly start our fireproof lodging of materials on the site if we could get the 10 x 12-foot shed built; or, as was just suggested to me today, we might throw up the metal building on the south end meant to be a rougher home for agricultural and industrial equipment–an easily fire-proof structure–and store everything in there, with a big sign saying “Excuse the mess! Museum building in progress,” while we work on the more homelike museum and office building.

But here are my sketches of one idea of how the site might be laid out… and my primitive drawing of a renewed and revitalized corner of the Petrolia Square. (The parking lot is just a suggestion of how cars might be able to park… we wouldn’t need that many spaces, and only the A.D.A. (handicapped) spots need to be paved… so don’t worry, we won’t Pave Paradise to put up a parking lot. More grass, native plantings, and art or outdoor equipment displays would be better. Probably most parking could be along the road around the Square.)



Please get in touch with us if you want to help make this a reality, or if you know of anyone we might tap. There are a lot of new people in the Valley lately… maybe someone would like to become an instant essential citizen, by jumping into this niche. E-mail mattolehistory@frontiernet.net, call 707-601-7300, or comment here and we will contact you! Thank you!


Channeled by Ferndale’s dramatist, Charlie Beck. We’ve seen Charlie at the Grange performing as mountain man Seth Kinman, and as humorist/philosopher Mark Twain. Now, the Ferndale Museum presents his powerful interpretation of the spirit of “Osawatomie John” in a one-man show that promises to etch the passionate idealist indelibly into our hearts and minds.

CBeck as JBrown,6-26-16 eventThe poster mentions the potluck but i need to add that the time of the meal is noon. Please come and bring something to share for lunch. It’s also fine to drop in at 1:00 for the show, but please come in quietly and respectfully if you are a minute late.

We’ll have a donations jar out for contributions to the Grange for use of the hall.

Here’s Charlie in his thoughtful and righteous John Brown persona:


If you would like to update your memory of the known facts of John Brown’s life, try this wikipedia article: (click on this link). There’s quite a bit of information there; Charlie’s show will express the agony and zeal of the man as he follows his path to martyrdom.

The local Mattole connection is that abolitionist John Brown’s daughter, champion, and personal secretary Annie Brown married Samuel Adams and settled down on a homestead and apple orchard below Shenanigan Ridge. Descendants included Gypsy Adams Evenden and Roger Brown, both passed away not long ago. Other Brown family members settled in Humboldt County, including son Salmon Brown, who ranched at Bridgeville.

Remember–tomorrow, Sunday the 26th of June, 2016, at the Mattole Grange–noon, potluck; 1 pm, Charlie Beck as John Brown. Hope to see you there!

Hello, lovers of the Mattole and of all things beautiful and bright!

I have a Carl Sammons painting i would like to sell. I posted it a couple months ago on our local Google Board and got a handful of responses, but nobody followed through. Perhaps the price was daunting. Well, i bought it for $1800 four years ago, so i think $2000 is a fair asking price. [UPDATE: The painting has sold!]

This painting is mid-size for a Sammons: Canvas 15 ¼ x 11-3/8, with frame 18 ½ x 14-3/4. It is marked “Cake Town” on the back… but that must be some inside joke, as it is a picture of the Bear River near Capetown, way back when, when the hillsides were bare through regular burning.

laura'sCAKE TOWN, sm

I would like to sell the painting to someone who would really cherish it—not just to a stranger interested in an investment. Before going to craigslist or eBay, i thought i would try one more way to reach Mattole- (and Capetown)-loving people.

Here’s another view of it on my rosy/peachy wall:Laura'sCAKE TOWN,atLKW

I have posted about Carl Sammons several times on here; simply enter “Sammons” in the Search bar in the upper right corner of this page, and you can go directly to each title. In short, Sammons was a painter of the Mattole Valley and Humboldt County from the 1920s, when he married local Queenie Stewart, until his death in the late 1960s (here is an art gallery’s bio on him: http://www.redferngallery.com/artistbio.php?at=CarlSammons ).

One reason i have to sell it is that i couldn’t resist buying another beautiful painting, this time a watercolor by Alan Sanborn, this past month. (Darn that credit card, it makes art impossible to resist!) It was an Artists’ Open Studio weekend in Arcata, and we strolled into Alan’s home and looked at scores of striking landscapes and depictions of homes and gardens, mostly of Humboldt County but several from New England. Alan does a particularly good job with light–the effects of sunshine on a rainbow of flowers, on the gold of Humboldt grasses, and in the bright white of painted wooden porches. Living in Humboldt, of course i had seen many print examples of his work, but had never really checked out his work until that weekend. And look what i saw!


This is a big (17.5″ x 23.5″), deeply saturated watercolor. It’s behind a glass frame, which is why you see the reflections. From this vantage point, i just felt like i was there, at the foot of Cedar’s driveway, looking up at the familiar landmark. And despite the eminent paintability of St. Patrick’s Church, i really only know of three other versions: a line drawing that Tony Anderson made years ago, and had printed on a postcard; a card i saw here in town, can’t remember the artist, of a nighttime scene with the steeple next to a full moon; and of course the most famous one, by our old friend Carl Sammons:


This 1947 oil painting is the one that St. Patrick’s Catholic Church has made into a glossy blank greeting card, which they sell to raise funds for the church. Let me know if you are interested in those cards, and i will try to find out if they still have them for sale.

Speaking of local art–we’ve hit on two different media, so now let’s go to photography. Stephen Remington, about whom i’ve posted before (again, just type his name into the Search bar), now has an exhibit up in the main hall of the Arcata City Hall, corner of 7th and F Streets, just southeast of the Plaza. His photographs are great illustrations of why landscape photography is indeed an art, not just a representational tool for recording a moment in time. They are vibrant and rich without being overly jacked-up in the color department. That is, somehow they feel not real like being there, but almost more real. For instance, both the silver-gray color (not what we’d usually consider much of a color) and the perspective caused by the composition of the land, water, and sky lines, as well as the receding shapes of the clouds of birds, are hyper-real in these two scenes:


(Note: I’m sort of sorry about the bad quality of my pictures… but not too sorry, as i really hope you will go see the exhibit in person if you’re in town.)

Stephen has generously offered to give one of these gorgeous photographs to the Mattole Valley Historical Society, once the pictures come down from the City Hall at the end of July. He was thinking of making a contribution to the walls of our new museum in downtown Petrolia. I believe he is quite right–that artwork such as this, celebrating the natural beauty that helps make this place the perfect home (for some of us), will be just the right finishing touch–but when we do get hold of the picture, it will go on the wall of our new green office at the Grange.

I believe this is the one he is thinking of donating. Maybe most of us have taken photos from this spot, but the difference between Stephen’s shots (and printing expertise) and mine is radical.


I hope you don’t mind my using this Mattole history blog as my personal sales page. Since my taste in art is probably pretty much the taste of anyone who loves this place as i do, i thought i might keep you abreast of what’s cooking.

I can’t absolutely promise this, because who knows what financial hardship might compel me to sell a painting when necessary… but when i die, i think the new museum would be a good place for my Mattole and Humboldt artwork to go. Meantime, if i have to sell anything, you all– locals and lovers of local– will be the first to know.

So let me know if you want the Bear River (Cape Town) painting! (You can call my cell at 707-601-7300 and i’ll get back to you.)

Due to popular demand, the event referred to in my previous blog post will be re-tuned a bit, and you will be able to attend this Mattole Valley Historical Society event at the Mattole Grange, on Sunday, May 15. Here is the poster with all the information you should need!


In early April, Jerry gave this talk and slide show about local Native Americans of a century ago and the ethnographers who lived with them and wrote down their stories, at the Humboldt Co. Library. It was a standing-room-only crowd, with people finally turned away. At this Mattole Grange event, he will be offering the talk again, but for us, beginning with Bear River and Mattole topics, and focussing on Ike and Joe Duncan, Johnny Jack, and ethnographers Pliny Earle Goddard, Gladys Ayer Nomland, and John P. Harrington.

To paraphrase Mr. Rohde’s comments before the April gathering, “The Indians from these areas were nearly all killed during the holocaust of the 1850s and 1860s, but a handful survived to describe a nearly forgotten world, where the Lolahnkoks, Nongatls, Mattoles, and other tribal groups lived in a land that, for a time, was nearly a paradise. [Thanks to the Native informants], we are connected to people and places from an almost unimaginable past, a past that you can visit through the words and pictures that carry across the rivers, forests, and prairies of a century and a half ago. Join us for a chance to remake the connection.”

Come enjoy the sort of educational and entertaining presentation you’ve come to expect from Jerry Rohde. But first, check out the wonders of the new-old-style Mattole Grange Pancake Breakfast, with its emphasis on local and organic ingredients. Breakfast 8—11 a.m., Jerry’s “Story Catchers of Southern Humboldt” at 11:30.



Tomorrow, Saturday, April 2, 2016, promises a most interesting presentation by Jerry Rohde at the Humboldt Co. Library in Eureka. Jerry is an intelligent and entertaining speaker, and with this subject matter, I am sure we will enjoy the afternoon immensely.
Be sure to arrive a little early if you want a good seat–that little room (just off to the left as you enter the library) fills up fast!
I clipped this article and its accompanying photo from the Southern Humboldt newspaper, The Independent.


Stephen Remington is a lover of the Mattole Valley. He has been visiting for almost four years, infatuated with the beauty from first sight.

Steve has been feeding a serious photography habit for over 40 years. He lives in Napa but travels whenever possible to the places that inspire him. He has organized a few books of his pictures, and the Mattole Valley Historical Society is lucky enough to have one of them.


The MVHS’s book of Stephen’s breathtaking Mattole photos.

Now, and only perhaps for the next week, his photographs are on display at the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge, off the Hookton/Loleta exit of Highway 101. Stephen writes on an event description on Facebook, “Eleven of my favorite photographs of the Mattole River and coastline taken over the past three years. Both framed and metal prints are included and some are available for purchase. The exhibit will be up until sometime in March.”

The Humboldt Bay Wildlife Refuge, also known as the Richard J. Guadagno Visitor Center, is open daily from 8 ’til 5. For more information on the Center, go to this site. (It was named in honor of the  career biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Project Director at the Humboldt Bay Refuge, Richard Guadagno. His life was cut short at age 38 by the tragic downing of his plane, Flight 93, in the fields of Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001.) The room off to the right of the main office, holding Steve’s photos, has a gorgeous view of the bay and convenient scopes trained on the marsh, free for the use of responsible persons. I found these viewing aids to offer a more intimate view of the waterfowl than strolling along the paths, as you can get close in without disturbing the birds.


A few of Stephen’s photos visible on the far wall. Note the stationary viewing scopes for marsh wildlife in the windows to the right.


A wonderful capture of the golden October morning light along the Mattole.


Another view taken near to the one above, in the mid-Mattole (Grange/A.Way) area.

I apologize for letting February slip away, and not posting this until very late in the run of the exhibit. If you happen to be passing by soon on your way to or from town, swing by the Refuge, and enjoy both the photography and the natural beauty of the Refuge with its interpretations in the Visitor Center. If you have kids with you, it would be an especially good stop. The Center is a sort of natural history museum with an eye to developing an appreciation of nature in young people.

With great gratitude to the late Mary Rackliff Etter and her family, who entrusted her historical collection to the MVHS, I am pleased to share a humble little autograph book i found buried away, moldy and falling apart, in the depths of some heavy and confused box full of all manner of paperwork.

As i perused this tiny volume, one of the questions persistent in my mind was how it could be that in one and a quarter centuries, childhood friendships could go from being remembered like this… to the kinds of rhymes and raps you might see in a youngster’s autographed yearbook nowadays.

I am just grateful to be able to feel the warmth of those people (often lifelong friends, if not family, of Allie’s) all these years later; and i hope some of that feeling is transmitted to you when you see and read these pages.

The book was from Mary Clark Rackliff to her daughter, Alice (Allie) Rackliff, who grew up to marry Mr. Kistner and move to Ferndale. Allie, who was Mary Rackliff Etter’s aunt, was born in 1880.

Opening page:

Opening page: “Miss Allie Rackliff, A Christmas present from Mamma. Petrolia. Humboldt Co. California. Dec. 25, 1888.”

“To Allie. May he who clothes the lilies And marks the sparrow’s fall, Protect and save you, Allie, And guide you safe through all. Your Sister, Jennie M. Rackliff. Petrolia, Jan. 23, 1889.” Jennie was Allie’s elder sister, ten years old when she wrote this.

“To Allie. May Future, with her kindest smile, Wreathe laurels for thy brow; May loving angels guard and keep thee Ever pure as though art now. Sincerely, Emma Giacomini. Petrolia, June 20th, 1890.”

“Dear Allie: Perhaps at some time we must part, and oh! ’tis with an earnest heart That I ask thee, while in glee Or in sorrow, to ‘Remember me.’ From your cousin, Addie Johnston. March 30th, 1889.” Addie was the daughter of Sarah Clark, sister of Mary Clark Rackliff and wife of Charles A. Johnston. Sarah  died young, and Addie and brother William were adopted by their aunt Cavy Johnston Miner.

“To Allie– May your life be blest; With the joys thou lovest best; Is the wish of your teacher; G.A. Cummings. Petrolia, May 26, 1889.” George was Miss Katie Cummings’ father and was one of two teachers at the Petrolia School, located on the spot where the Yellow Rose sits today.

Here’s another angle: a picture of Allie’s schoolmates, with her sitting right near the middle, to our left of the one girl wearing white in the middle of the photograph. With her hair pulled back, she looks a bit like a little boy. Her sister and several others who sign her book are also in this picture, which many of you have seen in the Petrolia Pioneer Cemetery Guide.

1890 student body with teacher George Swain, Petrolia (Mattole Union) School.

1890 student body with teacher George Swain, Petrolia (Mattole Union) School.

Front row, l-r (9 boys): Tommy McDonough, Alvin Johnston, Ben Walch, Jesse King, Charlie Boots, Jim Hunter, Fred Crippen, Frank Wright, Malcolm Cady.

2nd row (10 girls & 2 boys): Alta Dudley, Sarah Johnston, Nora Mackey, Mertie Cady, Della Walch, Allie Rackliff, Lena O’Leary, Daisy O’Leary, Jennie Rackliff, Addie Giacomini, Jim Newland, Arthur Lindley.

3rd row (6 girls & 3 boys): (starts with the girl with round white collar and distinct center hair part) Mary Burris, Nettie Boots, Carrie Giacomini, Joanna Walch, Addie Johnston, Louise Walch, Ellis Hunter, Morgan Wright, Gilbert Crippen.

Back row (after Mr. George Swain, 3 girls & 8 boys): Christa Dudley, Mary Smith, Grace O’Leary, Arthur O’Leary, Albert Boots, William Johnston, Smith Dudley, John O’Leary, John Giacomini, Tom Newland, Joe Mackey.

So, next up in the autograph book, we find teacher Mr. Swain.

” ‘He liveth long who liveth well: All else is life but flung away. He liveth longest who can tell Of true things truly done each day. Then fill each day with what will last; Buy up the moments as they go; The life above when this is past Is the ripe fruit of life below.’ You are now learning the lessons of school; the lessons of life may prove harder, but patience, courage, and perseverance will solve both. Your friend, Geo. R. Swain, Lake Village, N.H. Petrolia, Cal., Apr. 19, ’90.”

“May your joys be as deep as the ocean. And your sorrows as light as the foam. From your Brother, Clark Rackliff. Sep. 19 1892.” Charles Clark Rackliff, father of Mary Rackliff Etter, was born in 1882.

“Cousin Allie, May he, who clothes the lilies And marks the sparrow’s fall, Protect and save you, Allie, and guide you safe through all. Wm. Johnston. Petrolia, Cal., March, 19, 1890.” Yes, he wrote just what his cousin Jennie wrote to her sister!

“Dear Allie, When rocks and rills divide us, And me no more you see, Just take your pen and paper, and write a few lines to me. Your friend, Lou Meng. Ferndale, June 9th, 1891.” The words “truth,” “faith,” “Love,” and maybe “Pray” fill the four corners of the page.

“Dear Allie–Love for those who love you For those whose hearts are true For the Heaven that smiles above you. And the good that you may do. Your Friend, Emma Edmonston. Island, July 16, 89.” (Island meant that area southwest of Fernbridge that used to bounded by the Eel and the Salt River.)

“The virtues of modesty candor and truth In woman exceeds all the beauty of youth. Your friend Joseph Collins. July 29th, 1889” Mr. Collins was a bachelor, born in England, 47 years old at the time of this writing.

“Let not our friendship be like the rose to sever. But like the evergreen may it last forever. Your Loving Friend, Joanna E. Walch. July 21, 1889.”

“In the golden chain of friendship Regard me as a link. From a friend, Clara Miner. June 10th, 1891 Ferndale.”

“May you walk the path of duty, Whether strewn with thorns or flowers. Till you reach the land of beauty, Where there are no storms or showers. From your sincere friend, Grace O’Leary. Petrolia, Cal., April 9, 1890.”

“Dear Allie, May your cares all fly away, Like dew before the sun, And when you’ve nothing else to [do], Just think of me for fun. Your friend and Schoolmate Nettie Boots. Petrolia, April 21st 1890.” Nettie was the daughter of Flora Hadley and Martin Boots, and first cousin of Jim Boots. She grew up to marry Peter Hansen; their daughter was Hattie Hansen Titus, the lady who befriended the Coast Guardsmen in the 1940s.

“Dear Allie, May your path be strewn through life with roses. Your Sincere Friend, Stella Benjamin. Ferndale Cal. June 7th 1891.”

Although the public school was obviously not a Christian school per se, you can certainly see that the Rackliffs and their close friends and relatives were strongly influenced by the teachings of the Bible. But not all the entries are that way:

“Dear Allie, As sure as comes your wedding day, A broom to you I’ll send; In sunshine use the brushy part, In storms the other end. Your friend, Louise Walch. May 30, 1889.”

But let’s end this on a more sublime note. These lines were penned a hundred and twenty-four years ago:

“Dear Allie–When the name that I write here is dim on the page, And the leaves of your Album are yellow with age, Still think of me kindly, and do not forget, That where I am I remember you yet. Your friend Jennie Atkinson. June 10th 1891, Ferndale Cal.”