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.

A camp in the Mattole Valley, photograph by A. A. Burgess. Probably taken before 1900.

A camp in the Mattole Valley, photograph by A. A. Burgess. Probably taken before 1900.

Here’s how: go to this link: http://library.humboldt.edu/humco/holdings/photosearch.php and in the lower right box, “Photographer,” scroll down to “Austin Burgess” and you will get to the list of ten of his photographs in the Peter Palmquist collection. The wonderful, painterly photograph above is #2 on the list. The men on the left look familiar from our MVHS archives; could the one next to the horse be Charles A. Johnston?
The MVHS already has copies of most of these Burgess photos, and several are on this West of the Redwoods site already, but a few were new to me. This one below (#3 on the Burgess list), of women and children sitting on the beach, seems to be of a Native, or part-Native family. One of the women on the right looks like a Hadley family member. Note the daring individuals atop, and just below, a precariously-perched boulder in the background.
Women and Children Sit on Rocks at Beach, by A.A. Burgess.

Women and Children Sit on Rocks at Beach, by A.A. Burgess.

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.

Men Gathered around Horse-pulled Wagon Stopped on Road next to Barn, by A.A. Burgess

Men Gathered around Horse-pulled Wagon Stopped on Road next to Barn, by A.A. Burgess.

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!

Children and Teacher Gather at Schoolhouse in Mattole, by A.A. Burgess

Children and Teacher Gather at Schoolhouse in Mattole (?), by A.A. Burgess.

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!

View of the town of Petrolia in the valley of the surrounding hills, by William Wax.

View of the town of Petrolia in the valley of the surrounding hills, by William Wax.

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 building  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!

Union Mattole, Squaw Creek, New Jerusalem… all designations of the mid-lower Mattole area favored by perfectly warm weather and clear skies all summer, lacking the harder frosts and snow of winters further inland as well as the cooler ocean effects, and occasional fog, of the mild Petrolia summers. In short, an agricultural paradise.

Photo taken in Ferndale, found in the Mary Rackliff Etter collection.

Photo taken in Eureka, found in the Mary Rackliff Etter collection. Click on this and other photos here to enlarge.

The picture above, of a truck carrying fruit trees to the Joseph Bagley orchard, seemed a good starting point for an introductory exploration of the apple business in this area of the 1910s and ’20s. Bagley’s original orchard covered land presently owned by the Yonts and the Burroughs families.

Luckily, the MVHS has a wonderful document compiled by Susie Van Kirk, a Humboldt-area historic resources consultant, called “MATTOLE RIVER: Newspaper references from the Mattole River Watershed.” I called Ms. Van Kirk some time back and asked if i might quote from her collection and she generously said “Of course,” since the text is all from local newspapers anyway; but she sure saved me a bunch of work! So, a big “Thank you” to Susie Van Kirk.

Around 1907, rumors began appearing of a wharf near the mouth of the Mattole River, mainly for the shipping of tanbark (since it was being promised by tanbark bigwigs Calvin Stewart and Thomas Johnson, previously involved in that business in the Fort Bragg and Needle Rock wharf areas)– but also anticipated as a route to world markets for Mattole dairy products, livestock, and fruit. The Ferndale Enterprise of Oct. 29, 1907, reads, “Mr. Stewart of Needle Rock and his son Horace arrived in Upper Mattole Tuesday evening, the former on business connected with the projected landing… Mattole people are very enthusiastic concerning the wharf which it is now nearly certain that Messrs. Stewart and Johnson will build next summer. Many years have the people of the Mattole valley waited for something of this kind, and in the meantime for the lack of an outlet have seen the community go backward instead of forward… Our ranchers are still busy hauling apples.”

The Nov. 1 Enterprise of that year goes on about the “… good and substantial promise of the building of a wharf and the construction of a railroad by Messrs. Stewart and Johnson of Bear Harbor, in order to ship from this valley and the surrounding hills the vast quantities of tanbark found thereon which has been growing there many years to swell that particular industry…. No one can regard this matter as idle gossip, for the promoters of this enterprise mean business and are men of their word. It is one of the greatest opportunities this community can ever expect, so it stands every property owner in hand to boost the proposition and help it on with their shoulders to the wheel for its earliest construction and completion. For what does it mean to all? Why, it means a cheaper and more rapid way of marketing your beef, orchard and farm produce and thus increase their production and make such industries profitable ones. It will bring ten people here where there is only one now, and all this means more work, more money in circulation, cheaper living than that of today…. and you should not forget that it will give the oil companies a chance to bring their operating machinery here and land it almost upon the fields of proposed operation, and what better prospects of prosperity could anyone ask than the creating of such an industry as oil mining…” Well! Probably oil would have been more profitable than apples. But you can eat the apples!

Many more newspaper references to the promise of the wharf appear in the next few years, mainly in the Ferndale paper. By March 3, 1908, the fruit market comes up again: “Our people now think the landing a certainty and it is hard to estimate what this may mean to the Mattole. For this valley is not like the little communities further south, where, when the bark is exhausted, there is nothing left to support a landing. We have the capacity to raise apples equal to those of Hood River and with the same care in cultivation, spraying and packing, ought to be able to gain the same reputation and command the same price.” An entry unrelated to the wharf confirms this (April 30, 1909): “Prosperity at Mattole–Frank K. Howard of Upper Mattole came up to Ferndale… [He] said that the fruit crop in the Mattole section this season promises to be the most successful one in many years… Mr. Howard himself has over six acres of fruit-bearing land now under cultivation… Last year he put in a dam and irrigation ditch, the latter running about a quarter of a mile from Wood creek. Mr. Howard has over 4000 strawberry plants set out, thirty different kinds, and over 1000 blackberry plants, as well as seventy-five peach trees…”

The Roscoes were avid apple-growers. Ken Roscoe has a couple of pages on the Valley’s apples in his book Heydays in Humboldt, which i highly recommend to Mattole history lovers. I can’t resist including this little story, though: “When I was nine years old, I picked a select box of King apples off a tree from the ‘King of Tompkins Company, New York,’ and another box of Baldwins and sent them to the Panama Pacific Exposition, the 1915 World’s Fair in San Francisco. I said nothing about being nine years old and won the Blue Ribbon on each. Possibly on the strength of that showing, we sold King apples to the Palace Hotel in San Francisco for many years at a remarkable price for those times.” (p. 120.)

Back to the newspaper references, we find on Dec. 21, 1909, that “Fred Roscoe, who has been in San Francisco for several weeks, having been in charge of the shipment of Mattole apples, returned to his home last evening. Mr. Roscoe was very enthusiastic concerning the future of the apple industry in Mattole, although the venture of last Fall was not especially successful, owing to the fact that many boxes reached the city in badly damaged condition due to having gotten wet and other causes for which the growers were not responsible. The apples that reached the city in good condition brought a good price…”

In 1909 the wharf was up and running. The Mattole Lumber Company, the Stewarts, the railroad, the wharf, and the tanbark business are together a daunting topic and should be addressed another time. Pertinent to the apple subject, I believe that the promise of the wharf led those with already existing orchards to focus on, or expand, their production capabilities, and caused others to plant fruit trees, which led to the apple boom of the late 1910s and ’20s. Let’s skip to the Ferndale Enterprise of Dec. 23, 1913: “Mr. Joe Bagley has been making another visit to his property here. The logging donkey that was used in the operations of the old Kelsey mill is now busily engaged in pulling stumps, and soon, where there was once a tangle of brush, there will be orderly rows of young fruit trees. According to rumors, there will eventually be a greatly increased population in the Mattole valley, especially in the summer, as it is said that numerous small tracts of land are being sold to outside people, who intend to set out either nuts or apples, and erect summer homes…”

“W.E. Roscoe has received an order for 4000 trees, apple, pear, and walnut, to be grafted this spring. Mr. Bagley will specialize on the Jonathan apple, which he believes to be best adapted to the Mattole valley, an opinion that is shared by some Mattole orchardists…” was the news of Jan. 6, 1914.

And next, on Feb. 13, 1914, comes the information for the picture above (though i didn’t realize this until i typed it!): “Ten Thousand Trees for Mattole Ranch–Last Tuesday and Wednesday there arrived in Ferndale by auto truck from Eureka 8760 walnut, almond, peach, apple, pear, cherry, and plum trees, as well as a large variety of grape vines for the Mattole Orchard Company of Upper Mattole. Later other shipments will follow, bringing the total number up to more than ten thousand. Four, four-horse teams were required to take the trees from Ferndale to Mattole, two of which left yesterday and the others will go today.

“Joseph Bagley of Eureka is the manager of the Mattole Orchard Co…. Mr. Bagley some time ago purchased the Kelsey ranch and another place or two at Mattole, his holdings there being approximately one thousand acres. Several Eureka men are associated with him on the project. … Mr. Bagley had Farm Adviser Christiansen, Prof. B.H. Crocheron and other soil experts visit the land. Upon their judgment and from other evidence, it was determined that the land would grow to perfection walnuts, pears, apples, peaches, plums and other fruits and nuts, and also grapes…. It was determined to bring the land to a full state of development, and to this end men have been employed in clearing up and making improvements to the property in preparation for setting out an immense orchard. Twelve men are at present at work there and twenty will be employed while the trees are being planted… The Mattole is aptly termed the garden spot of the world and it has no more enthusiastic booster than Mr. Bagley, who is backing up his faith with hard cash…”

Another scheme to produce more fruit and more Mattole residents was proposed on March 20, 1914: “The new development work will be on the ranch of 320 acres at Upper Mattole belonging to Mr. and Mrs. D.A. Francis of Ferndale…. The land will be subdivided into tracts to suit purchasers from five acres up. Mr. Francis is to clear the land where necessary, set out the varieties of trees specified by the purchaser, care for them four years, and at the end of that time deliver a deed for the land to the buyer. In this way, the non-resident purchaser will be relieved of the care of the young orchard and is assured of having a well-growing lot of trees on his land when he takes possession. It is anticipated that there will be a lively demand for small acreages with a growing orchard thereon…”

A month later, April 30, 1915, the Enterprise reports that “Joseph Bagley, manager of the Mattole Valley Orchard Tract Company, recently made an extended tour through the southern part of the state, where he visited famous orchard sections and upon his return he is more than ever convinced that the Mattole country is the best in the state… [the MVOTC] has nearly 200 acres of land set out to walnuts and fruit at present, and is steadily increasing this area.”

The old Bagley orchard, looking southwest toward Cooskie Mtn. Thanks to Linda Yonts for sharing this photograph.

The old Bagley orchard, looking southwest toward Cooskie Mtn. Thanks to Linda Yonts for sharing this photograph.

We do not see Mr. Bagley’s name mentioned much after this. He was also involved in many other Mattole ventures, including extensive walnut tree plantings, 150 acres of beans, a sawmill (probably the one that had been Sam Kelsey’s), and in 1918, 25 or 30 acres of peas. His apple dream appeared to be materializing, although he didn’t seem to be around to enjoy it. (I can’t find much, in a quick search, of his personal life, but he does appear to be living in Eureka up until at least 1932.)

Although by then the Mattole wharf was no longer functioning, having been smashed repeatedly by winter storms, many of the Mattole orchards were just coming into their own. Joseph Barksdull noted in the March 28, 1919, Ferndale Enterprise that the completion of the Bull Creek Road, planned for the coming summer, promised renewed economic activity for the Mattole.  Mr. Barksdull “is planting out a large acreage to various orchard fruits and his neighbors are following suit. Enough fruit is being raised there to afford a profitable run for a good sized cannery and apple dryer, another factory which will add  to the prosperity of the Mattole valley.” By Aug. 22 that need is answered: “Messrs. Elphic and Lyman, who are building the apple dryer… state that they expect to employ about ten girls during the drying season.” Oct. 3, 1919: “The dryer is now running, but has not yet a full crew of helpers. It is the intention of Elphic and Lyman to dry 40 tons of apples this year.”  Nov. 21, 1919: “Mr. Mullen is hauling out the dried apples with Mr. Elphic’s truck as fast as they are dried. They are shipped from Dyerville.” (I suppose this means the apples boarded the train south at Dyerville, over where the South Fork meets the main fork of the Eel?)

Elphic appears in Ken Roscoe’s book as Jim Elphick of Sebastopol. Ken assigns him the responsibility of having carried in coddling moths on apple sacks he brought up from the south, unwittingly no doubt. They spread all over the Valley and necessitated the spraying of arsenate of lead, which may have negatively impacted the health of the soil from that point on. However, he says the Mattole continued to produce good apples, and that a problem more pressing than the moths now would be the modern apple maggot. I’ve noticed that bears can take quite a liking to apples, too!

Dr. Harry Perkins showed up as a sugar daddy to the Valley. I’m not sure if he financed the dryer that Lyman and Elphic were using, or if there were two, but there is a lengthy and admiring article about him in the Jan. 2, 1920 paper. “To him is due the credit of securing a sawmill and apple dryer, both of which were financed by outside capital and located on the place owned by the doctor [a fifty-acre ranch in Upper Mattole]. Dr. Perkins stated that [the apple dryer] filled a long-felt want in the community. Practically the entire apple crop of Union and Upper Mattole, with the exception of the extra choice apples which were shipped to the Eureka and San Francisco markets, was put through the dryer, several hundred tons having been cured by the process. Practically all of these apples in past years went to waste. Their preservation this year not only adds greatly to the food supply of the country, but has resulted in the distribution of many thousands of dollars to wage earners and growers throughout southern Humboldt. At times during the rush season, the dryer provided employment for as high as 40 workers.”

However, Ken Roscoe says in Heydays in Humboldt that around 1924 “Elphick’s apple dryer burned down, so we built one on our property and had no trouble getting the apples we needed to keep it in full operation. It took about eight pounds of fresh apples to produce one pound of dried apples. The dryer was profitable, and we operated it for many years. Young people in the valley could have gone into that business in recent years and made a success of it, if they had the ambition and did not have a much easier way to make a living. ” (His book was published in 1991.)

Albert Etter was in Ettersburg at this time, but his attention didn’t turn to apples, with spectacular results, until the late twenties. For many people, his name comes up immediately when one mentions Mattole apples–particularly his popular Pink Pearl and Waltana varieties. There are a couple of issues of our MVHS newsletter, Now… and Then, with stories on Etter and his fruit, one by Ram Fishman and one by yours truly.

An earlier passionate apple-growing family was the Gardners of the Union Mattole neighborhood.

1921 Belcher's map section. Note Bagley's orchard area to the east of the right-hand stroke of the "W" in the river. Gardners are all around, and Dr. Perkins' place is on the far right of the map, which also begins Roscoe country.

1921 Belcher’s map section. Note Bagley’s orchard property to the east of the right-hand stroke of the “W” in the river. Gardners are all around, and Dr. Perkins’ place is on the far right of the map, which also begins Roscoe country.

Millard F. Gardner is mentioned in the Sept. 14, 1894, Enterprise as “M.F. Gardner, our Populist friend of Union Mattole, was up Saturday on his way to Singley Station [train stop near Fernbridge] with a wagon load of Hungarian prunes and crab-apples of the General Grant and Van Dyke varieties, intended for the Eureka market.  This fruit was grown on the places of Mr. Gardner and Geo. Hill and was of the very finest quality… Mr. Gardner has a fine place in Union Mattole and is rapidly improving it, and he can grow as fine fruit there as can be raised anywhere in the state. He hopes to make a market for his products and we earnestly hope he succeeds.”

A generation later (not sure of the date), M.F. Gardner's son Grover Gardner was shipping crates with this label. Note the misspelled apple name--you just can't get everything to be perfect, then or now.

A generation later (not sure of the date), M.F. Gardner’s son Grover Gardner was shipping crates with this label. Note the misspelled apple name–you never could get anything to be perfect…

Note that there will be an Apple Festival at the Mattole Valley Community Center this Sunday, October 20, 2013, from 11 ’til 4. All are welcome… let me know if you want more information. But don’t let it stop you from coming down to the Mattole Valley Historical Society meeting at the Mattole Grange just after the Pancake Breakfast the same day… from noon until 2 at the latest, we will discuss the Mattole estuary and beach with old-timer Erwin Frederickson and BLM employee Gina Jorgensen. Hope to see many of you there… and off to the apple celebration afterward!

Inquiries from Jolene Hassenfritz concerning the Indian boy adopted by the Morrisons of Bear River led me to this article. Jolene explained, “My great grandmother, Elizabeth Morrison, helped her husband Marc Morrison probate Squire’s estate when he died and I have acquired that paperwork. Whatever documents you can find or sources you can lead me to would be much appreciated.” It so happened that Native researcher “Olmanriver” had given us a copy of this story by Evelyn McCormick not too long ago; i also had the obituary on hand, and Jolene provided the one photo of Squire known to exist.

Please comment below if you have any information that can help Jolene Hassenfritz put together a biography of Squire Morrison.

As usual, anything in [brackets] is my comment.

Dateline: Sunday, Nov. 19, 1967 (p. 26), [Humboldt] Times-Standard. Handwritten copy (by Martha Roscoe or Viola McBride or perhaps the author herself?).

  *    *   *   *   *

An Indian, snatched from death and slavery became an accepted member of a family and a community’s life.


by Evelyn McCormick


RIO DELL—Squire Morrison, an Indian who survived the Mattole Massacres, was described as intelligent, alert and a friend to his fellow man. He was also designated as extremely cautious and superstitious.

            The Mattole Massacre occurred in the Mattole Valley during the early 1850’s [note in same hand reads, “Date 1863.” This correction agrees with most other conjecture as to the year]. At this time Squire was little more than a baby and undoubtedly bore an Indian name in his native tribe. He remembered being carried on someone’s shoulder to safety. While fleeing, he and his companion ate sweet clover, which grew abundantly on the nearby hills. The little Indian was left in the care of a man named Bundle [other notes spell it “Bunnell”—William Bunnell]. Because coal was unavailable, Bundle was obliged to burn his own charcoal for heating his forge. One day Squire accidentally fell into the coalpit and was badly burned and scarred on his back and side. Bundle had no love for the boy and was irked by his presence.


            About this time “Dutch Mike” Schallard happened by and purchased Squire for the sum of $30. Schallard was single and earned his living by loaning money at one percent interest a month.

            Schallard and the boy traveled to Bear River, where Schallard knew Si Morrison, a pioneer rancher. Here he left Squire, a real livewire gift for the bachelor who lived in a log cabin with a dirt floor close to the river.

            Morrison was married in a few years and he and his wife raised Squire along with their own children. Squire proved to be a great help as a ranch hand.


Dad Morrison, who furnished the greater part of this story, remembers Squire well. Squire was 17 or 18 years older than he was. Dad will be 92 next March. [92 in 1968 means Dad born in 1876, and Squire around 1858 or ’59– consistent with being four at the time of the massacre, and with his age at death.]

Before Dad was born, the Morrisons had built themselves a lovely ranch home. Dad likes to inform his friends that he still sleeps in the room in which he was born.

Squire spent his boyhood days working on the ranch. He also enjoyed hunting and fishing when in need of food. He was never known to kill just for sport.

Squire liked to ride on a pole between the two sets of wheels of the wagon which Si Morrison built. One day when the river was quite high Squire was settled on the pole under the wagon when Morrison decided to pick a deep spot and give Squire a friendly dunking.

All went well and Morrison was enjoying his little joke. His horse was swimming and he was wet to the waist himself when he happened to glance about to find Squire high and dry on the bank with a puzzled look on his face. He was wondering why Morrison was crossing at such an unlikely spot.


Dad Morrison tells of another occasion on the river when Squire saved Si from drowning. Si was planning to cross the river with his cows when a pesky Merino lamb insisted on being taken too. The ram was shut in the barn.

Si mounted his pinto pony and made for the crossing with his herd. Somehow the ram broke loose and waded into the river which dragged him down when his fleece became soaked.

Morrison reached the ram and was pulling him by the horns when the pinto panicked, leaving him in deep water. Morrison drifted downstream and was plucked from the water by Squire, who had run out on a log.

Squire had a quick head and a good mind but refused to go to the local school even though there were some Indians attending with the white children. However, he learned to read during middle age. Mrs. Morrison is credited with giving him his book learning.


At this time he was living at Rainbow, the high mountain between the Mattole Valley and Bull Creek. He hiked into Ferndale every week to pick up the local newspaper, The Ferndale Enterprise. He enjoyed all its news and perused other periodicals of the time.

Squire in front of his cabin at Oil Creek (Upper North Fork/Rainbow Ridge area). Undated picture came to us thanks to Jolene Hassenfritz.

Squire in front of his cabin at Oil Creek (Upper North Fork/Rainbow Ridge area). Undated picture came to us thanks to Jolene Hassenfritz. Click to enlarge.

By the time Squire had reached his teens he had learned to use an axe and a saw and became a chopper or a peeler in the woods. He learned felling from a man named Hugh Smith. Squire hiked down the beach to Fort Bragg to work in the woods. When the rainy season began he packed his blankets and returned to Humboldt. During several seasons he hiked to Crescent City where he was employed by Hobbs Wall Co.

            He often spent several days or months on the Morrison ranch where he fashioned the cypress trees in arches and other clever designs which suited his fancy. He had an uncanny faculty for finding lost articles which made both him and friends most happy.

According to Dad Morrison, Squire hewed the walking beam for the North Counties Oil Well at Upper Mattole in the early 1920’s.

He lived at Devil’s Hole country at Rainbow where the winters are often severe with high snowpacks. In the dead of winter he cut trees for the starving cattle to eat. They ate leaves of the madrones and oaks and also feasted on mistletoe, a parasite of the oak.


Joe Etter of Ferndale also knew Squire quite well. His mother, Mrs. E.J. Etter, the former Minnie Schallard, was a niece of “Dutch Mike,” who had purchased Squire.

Etter reports that Squire never married though he had hosts of friends and was liked by everyone. He remembers that Squire would grow hungry before he would take the last of anything on a serving dish.


At one time when Etter was visiting Squire at Rainbow, the Indian was gathering deer bones for burial after a hunting trip.

When Joe picked up some bones and threw them into the pit, Squire reprimanded him, telling him that next year the deer would all die and there would be no hunting. To prevent such a curse, Squire straightened all the bones and gave them a proper burial.


Having been raised by the white man, Squire spoke very good English without an Indian accent. He was revered by the white man as a fine fellow with lots of friends.

He died during the early 1930’s [July 25, 1928] south of Petrolia and was reportedly buried in the Indian graveyard in the Mattole Valley.

Here is Squire’s obituary from the Ferndale Enterprise (click to enlarge):



A while back, Ann Roberts passed on this poem celebrating the beauties of the Mattole River and Valley. She mentioned the question of whether this was the first occurrence of the rallying cry, “Mattole Against the World!” which Stephen Goff was rumored to have shouted from the bartops of Ferndale. (Some people have noted the warlike tone of that slogan and taken exception to it, but i like to think of it more as an expression of our sense of escape from the “world”–in the weary spiritual sense– where we feel like walling off the news, the noise, and the nuisances of the modern and materialistic world in favor of pleasures sublime.) I don’t know if this was the first written appearance, and could never know whether it was it was the first time used conversationally. But it’s interesting to see the existence of the sentiment in 1889. Outback Mattolians then may have felt they needed to “represent” when in the big town of Ferndale.

The poem was printed in the Ferndale Enterprise of August 16, 1889, by an author who often wrote in flowery terms of the pioneer years and spirit of the area. Ann also pointed out the writer’s amusing name. Commentary elsewhere in the Enterprises of those years suggests there was some friendly joking about the windiness and pomposity of the regularly-contributing poets, so a self-deprecating joke like this is fitting. (If anyone can suggest a true identity for I.N. Khorn, please let us know… i suspect a woman.)

I suggest listening to “The Moldau,” by Czechoslovakian composer Bedrich Smetana and first performed in 1882, as you read the poem. It is 13 minutes long so you’ll probably finish the poem first…  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3G4NKzmfC-Q

NOTE:  “The Moldau” is not just some random Laura taste in music. It represents the birth, meanderings, and final destination of the river Moldau. My mother used to listen to it and point out to us the wonder of a classical work that directly represented Nature. Here is Wikipedia on the topic: “Smetana dedicated Má vlast  [the larger work] to the city of Prague; after its first performance in November 1882 it was acclaimed by the Czech musical public as the true representation of Czech national style.[121] Its Vltava (or “The Moldau” in German) movement, depicting the river that runs through Prague towards its junction with the Elbe, is Smetana’s best-known and most internationally popular orchestral composition.[131] ”

(Open another window on your browser to return to this page if the link makes you lose it temporarily)


The Mattole River

by I.N. Khorn

In a region robed in verdure, Filled with scenery sublime,

In the landscape’s savage grandeur, Mellowed by the march of Time;

In the highest Coast Range mountains, ‘Midst the wildest of the hills,

Gush forth the tiny fountains, And sparkling little rills;

Down the rugged mountain flowing, To join each other in the glen,

Then out, increasing growing, They chatter on their course again,

Through that wild romantic region, Where the bear and panther roam;

Smaller beasts, whose name is legion, And wild deer, have their home.

Dashing down the hillside, Into the deep ravine,

The flashing waters swiftly glide Between their banks of green.

Now through forest winding, With many a twist and crook,

The added waters finding, The spring becomes a brook.

Where the water leaps in bright cascades, Another fork joins in;

As they sweep away from gloomy glades, The river doth begin.

As the river now the valley seeks, The rapid torrents roar;

Fed all the way by brooks and creeks, That swell its volume more.

Through country wild, where campers go For the climate, unsurpassed;

The bright clear waters swiftly flow Through varied scenes and vistas vast,

And find the upper valley, grand, And filled with sweet repose;

With rarest fruits on every hand, And every flower that grows.

As surging ’round the mountain’s hem, The rippling waters leap,

It wanders through “Jerusalem,” And the haunts of cows and sheep.

Past fruitful farms and ranches high, Amid the mountains, brown;

Then soon the river hurries by The little country town.

‘Neath the buckeye and magnolia, reposing in their shade,

Is the pretty town Petrolia, Center of the valley’s trade.

Still the waters keep in motion, And hold their onward way;

But soon approach old ocean, Who welcomes them with spray.

And we watch the sunbeams quiver, Where the crystal waters roll;

As we muse beside the river–The sparkling pure Mattole.

And hear in loudest trumpet notes, Of proud defiance hurled;

As through the air the challenge floats,–Mattole against the world!

mouth of river

This story was shared with me by Bob Stansberry, part of whose spread lies on the old Kreps place. I am printing it with the kind permission of Roy Forcier of Ferndale, the son of Myrtle Kreps Forcier. The accompanying photos came through the same channels. Notes in [brackets], subtitles, and captions are mine.

I am grateful to Bob and to Roy, and certainly to Judith Hokman, for making this story accessible. I will not comment on it, but let you enjoy it as is, other than to remark that the day Myrtle was born–August 30, 1913–was almost exactly a century ago. The Kreps family’s pioneer lifestyle, which was the only lifestyle that allowed one to enjoy the advantages of the fresh water and other pleasures of Wilder Ridge in the 1910s and ’20s, is described as something the earliest American settlers of a half-century before, and to some degree the back-to-the-landers of a half-century later, would recognize. John, Charles, and Sylvia Kreps were like latter-day pioneers in search of purity and the American dream, and were willing to work very hard for it. Let’s hear their story:

    The Kreps of Kreps Ridge: A Family History

by Judith C. Hokman

     John Kreps was born in 1850 in The Dalles, Oregon. [However, the writer’s own notes say he was born in Illinois; censuses say born in Ohio of Swiss parents.] He was thirty-two and an accomplished blacksmith when he married Minnie Laura Camron, eighteen. They had a son, Charles, born July 6, 1883, [and] two daughters, Ethel Ann and Mary Elizabeth.  John and Minnie Laura led a nomadic life in Oregon and California searching for the perfect place to live and raise children. They moved from one rapidly growing community to another where John always found work in the blacksmithing trade. Sometimes they moved because the water in a community became impure, causing outbreaks of typhoid fever and hepatitis. The quality of the water became a very important factor in John and Minnie Laura’s search.

            Traveling was hard on Minnie Laura, and she died of consumption in 1886 at the age of 24. [Research indicates her dates as 1864-1888; married to John Kreps September 3, 1882, in Wasco Co., Oregon.] Her two daughters were cared for by their grandmother and an aunt, and stayed occasionally with their father. John kept his son Charles with him as much as possible.

            When Charles was twelve, John heard of the fresh pure water of Humboldt County and moved from Salinas to Rohnerville. Not long afterward, John, more fiddle-footed than ever, left his children with relatives and took a trip to the gold fields of Alaska. He did not find what he was looking for there, as returned to Humboldt and his family. He knew Humboldt had what he wanted, but felt that it was not in Rohnerville, where neighbors could get near enough to pollute his water.

Arrival in Mattole         

      In 1903, Charles Murphy showed John 160 acres of wilderness land he had acquired three years before at a tax sale. The land stood on the Mattole River near the trail which ran between Honeydew and the Garberville-Shelter Cove trail. A previous homesteader had cleared an area of nearly ten acres and planted fruit trees and built a small cabin. A year around spring with delicious soft pure water flowed down this gently sloped side of the jagged mountain. A quarter of a mile from the cabin was a plateau of 10 to 15 acres suitable for raising grain and hay. When the plateau was cleared, the meandering Mattole would be seen at the bottom of a 500-foot cliff.

            John bought Murphy’s 160 acres in August, 1903, for $560.00, and decided to homestead another 160 acres adjoining to the south and west, on which he found several springs and a better southwestern exposure for a homesite. He was convinced that this and an additional purchase of land toward Fourmile Creek would enable him to bring his family, at least his son, near him. When his son should marry, there would be plenty of room for him to settle and raise his family.

Kreps, Sec15, center right

            See Section 15, center right, for Kreps place on this 1921 map by Belcher.

     There was demand for a blacksmith in the Mattole Valley, so John first built his forge and shop, then set about the task of building the house. It was built entirely of hand split redwood, except the living room floor which was fir planking. Redwood shakes covered the roof. At first the house contained only a living room, approximately 20’ x 20’, and two 10’ x 10’ bedrooms. A kitchen and pantry were added to one side of the building, their floor level three steps down from the rest of the house. There was a porch on the pantry end of the kitchen that held a water tank. Water was pumped from the spring by a water ram to the huge oak water tank. From there, the water was piped to the redwood kitchen sink, hand hewn by John. After the house was completed, he built fences and the barn, smoke house and other outbuildings. This was an impressive sight on the sloped hillside of the rugged mountain ridge. The buildings were all made of the same material and spaced to give adequate room for the purpose of each. The hand split fencing was whitewashed and made a nice frame for the seasoned redwood buildings.

            Meanwhile, Charles had grown and was working for shingle mills in the Fieldbrook area. He worked mostly for Burns Shingle Mill at Camp #4, and helped his father at the homestead when he was out of work. Charles drove himself at any job he did. He was never idle. Whether gainfully employed or helping someone else, he worked hard and furiously.

The Hansen family’s eldest daughter

            Sylvia Hansen was a very pretty girl with dark hair and eyes and delicate features. She was small boned and slender which made her look taller than her 5’ 3” height. Born in Wisconsin of Norwegian and German parents, Sylvia was the second of nine children, the oldest being her brother, Henry. Her family came to Humboldt from Elko, Nevada, where two younger brothers had died on a fever blamed on the water. They settled on a homestead site in the Bald Hills area [between Orick and Weitchpec] where after they had built a cabin and outbuildings, and cleared and planted fruit trees, they were told that they were on someone else’s land. The newly disclosed owner paid the Hansen’s $1,000.00 for their improvements on the land. The Hansen family moved to Trinidad, and there Sylvia met Charles Kreps at a young people’s dance.

            Sylvia and her brother Henry were close friends as well as being close in age. Their mother occasionally worked as cook and dishwasher for nearby mills, leaving Sylvia to do the housework and care for the younger children. When he had no paying job, Henry helped her with the household chores. By the time she turned eighteen, Sylvia wanted very much to leave home to make a life for herself. It was very practical for her to accept the marriage proposal of Charles Kreps. He was a mature 28 years old, was of pleasant nature and worked hard. With her meager education and no training for such jobs as a woman was allowed to hold in 1912, plans for her future had to include marriage as the primary goal.

            Charles and Sylvia were married June 1, 1912, and went to live at Camp #4, where some of the cabins were taken over, redecorated and made cozy by young married couples. Their first child, Myrtle May, was born August 30, 1913, in the old Trinity Hospital in Arcata. Three months later, the little family moved to the nearly completed homestead.

            The weather in late November was foul. It took three days to get from Arcata to Petrolia, and almost as long from Petrolia to what had become known to them as Kreps Ridge. The horses mired down in the mud and had to be rested often. There was much concern for the tiny baby, who was wrapped in extra coats to insure her keeping warm.

            Their largest possession to be moved from Camp #4 to the ranch at Kreps Ridge was a piano Charles had won in a raffle shortly before his marriage. The new piano had stood for some time in the dining hall at the camp and was slightly banged up around the edges. It could not be carried in a wagon to the homestead because the trail was rough and the combined heights of the wagon and piano made the load impossibly top heavy. A sled had to be built for it. The piano was then laid on its back on the sled which was pulled by two horses up the trail that ran along the tops of the ridges. It was a slow process, but the piano arrived at the house intact, if somewhat out of tune.

The young Kreps family– with grandpa John

            John adored Sylvia from the first. The quiet-mannered, youthful girl reminded him of his lost Minnie Laura. He soon found out that Sylvia knew little about homestead life. He taught her how to make soap and patiently showed her how to can and dry fruits, salt pork, make jerky, and smoke fish and meat.

            In the midst of all these lessons, Sylvia gave birth to her second daughter on October 11, 1914. Ethel was born in Petrolia at the house of Mrs. Booth [Mrs. Boots, most likely] who was a midwife. Following pioneer tradition, Mrs. Booth often exchanged her skilled services for produce from people with little money. She gave a much-needed service and without her help, there would have been a much higher mortality rate of both mothers and children in the Mattole Valley.

            When World War I started in 1916, both Sylvia’s brothers Henry and Oscar went off to serve their country. She had never been so completely out of touch with Henry. Since she had been at the ranch, he and Oscar had come to visit when they were out of work. Having never been as close to anyone as to Henry, she could talk to no one of the fear she lived with that she might never see her beloved brother again. Her hands were busy with hard physical work, but her mind was uneasy.

            She washed clothes on a washboard for three adults and two tiny babies, which was no easy job. The water had to be carried by the bucketful to the washtub, whether it was heated indoors or out. Clothes, heavy with water, had to be lugged from the wash to rinse tub, then wrung out by hand and slung over a line to dry. It took all day. She was interrupted frequently to feed and care for the babies and prepare meals for two hungry men. In order to ease life for the girl, her father-in-law bought her a treadle sewing machine and eventually a hand-operated washer with a clothes agitator and wringer.

            Charles worked hard and expected everyone to do as much as he. When he ordered Sylvia to help with the butchering, John took over her part of the hated job and sent her and the children for a walk. He thought it enough that she have the job of preserving the meat. Though there were some jobs she detested, Sylvia was not lazy. In pioneer life, there is no room for shirkers. She worked hard in both the summer and winter vegetable gardens and grew some flowers of which she was very proud.

A welcome addition, and a sad loss

            January 1916 came with little word of the war. Sylvia was ready to deliver her third child and there was 18 inches of snow outside the cabin. Her labor started. There was not enough time to struggle through the snow to Mrs. Boots’ in Petrolia. The best Charles could do was to go to Ettersburg for Mrs. Etter. Not long after he had gone, the baby came. John carefully and gently tended her while she gave birth to her son, Clyde Leland. It was a thrill for the old man to hold his only grandson in his arms. During her recovery, he let no one except himself care for the infant. This was what he had been waiting for. The land, this long-searched-for homestead would provide for his children and grandchildren.

            John died suddenly of a heart attack on June 11, 1916 when his grandson was 5 months old. He was buried in a graveyard on the Roscoe place at Upper Mattole. How sorely his gentle nature and kindness were missed by Sylvia. She was separated from the two people she loved most.

            Life, after John’s passing, was extremely lonely for the young mother. There was a period of more than a year that she did not leave the ranch. The only breaks in the monotony of chores and children were occasional travelers who saw the cabin from the trail on a nearby ridge and stopped over for a meal or shelter. Of course, Charles brought her stories about his trips to Petrolia for supplies and mail. The nearest woman with whom to visit lived three miles away over a steep trail. As the children got older and were better able to manage, the trip could be made as often as once a month in summer.

            Henry and Oscar came home from the war in 1918. They had many stories to tell of places they had been and things they had seen. The several weeks they were with Sylvia and her family were spent hunting, fishing and telling of their adventures. The time flew by. Long after the boys had ended their visit, Charles and Sylvia, in their evenings by the firelight, sat and thought about the adventures the boys had had.


 Sylvia and Charley with their children Ethel, Clyde, and Myrtle.

            In the fall of 1920, Sylvia and Charles were raking hay in the grain field. There was an approaching storm that threatened rain, so they both were working at a hurried pace. Sylvia was leading the horse which was pulling the rake. She was deathly afraid of horses, but had learned to swallow her fear in the face of necessary work. The sound of thunder grew nearer.  [Bob Stansberry notes that “During this time of year they were probably planting grain hay (oats) and raking the seed in with a spike tooth harrow.”] The horse grew skittish. At a loud clap of thunder, the horse shied and ran toward the trees. Sylvia kept hold of the reins and ran alongside of the horse until she tripped over a small stump and fell. The rake ran over her, the outside tine catching in the fleshy part of her side just below her ribs. The rake had missed her lung, but she had a terrible gash in her side that had to have the attention of a doctor.

Town trip, circa 1920

            Charles had not been to Petrolia for their winter supplies of flour, sugar, coffee, tea, and spices, so decided to go to Eureka for those supplies as well as to get Sylvia to the doctor. He loaded the wagon with hay and grain for the horses and boxes of pears and other produce from the garden. Food, cooking utensils, blankets, clothes and other things needed for the three-day journey were added to the load. Sylvia struggled to prepare her family for the trip despite the wound in her side. They arose at 4:00 the next morning for their long ride.

            It was the first time the children had been so far from home. They watched the stars go by as if they were a special show put on only for them. The first night’s camp was made at Bull Creek Flat and the awesome redwood forest was met before dawn the following day. At the second night’s camp near Scotia, a train passed by in the middle of the night and spooked the horses. Charles got up to calm them. The children were wild with excitement and were almost uncalmable themselves with so many new experiences in the middle of the night. Late afternoon of the third day, they could see Eureka.

            A horse-drawn wagon with a canvas cover, carrying a pioneer family was a rare sight in Eureka in 1920. Automobiles had already taken over the majority of the roadways. Children and dogs chased behind the strange looking wagon, but older folks, their eyes full of nostalgia, watched as it traveled the streets of Eureka to Sylvia’s parents’ Eureka home.


      Team and surrey was the family transportation before 1921 when the family purchased their first car, a Model T Ford. Sylvia, Ethel, and Myrtle are in the backseat; Charles, Clyde, and unknown passenger in the front [per Bob Stansberry].   


      Nearly seven years had passed since Sylvia had seen her parents and their younger children. She divided her time between listening to her mother’s reports on the family’s activities during their separation, introducing her own young family, and visiting the doctor’s clinic.

            The trip lasted over a week, then the trip home began. Supplies were packed in the wagon where produce had been before. Fresh hay and grain were loaded. Clothes, camping equipment and children were made ready for the long trek.

            Hours from Eureka it started to rain, pouring day and night. Small slides that had to be cleared in order to pass caused them to take an extra day to get as far as Pullen’s Elbow. There they had to stop to clear away a huge slide. The slide took nearly two weeks to clear. During that time, Sylvia and the children stayed in a cabin owned by Charles Davalt. The kind bachelor moved into his barn to make way for the family. Clyde, nearly five at the time, was fascinated by the fact that chestnuts covered the entire floor of one room of the cabin.

            Home was reached over a month after it was left. The animals had been turned out to fend for themselves and had to be gathered up and brought home. Supplies had to be dried out and put away. Then life settled down for the winter.


 Between house and woodshed on Wilder Ridge place. Charley and Sylvia holding horses with results of the hunt in the saddles. Myrtle said that they would hire out with their horses for work on the county road, at times [per Bob S.].

            In November, Henry was out of work. He and his brother Chester, then a clumsy teenager, went to the ranch to visit and hunt. Sylvia was always glad to see her favorite brother even though extra work came with him.

Fate’s cruelty

            One morning shortly after they arrived, Henry and Chester went on a bird hunting trip toward Upper Mattole. They crossed a new bridge being constructed near the old Way summer home. As Chester followed Henry across the wet slippery boards that rainy morning, he tripped and knocked the gun against a projection on the bridge which released the safety catch. The gun discharged and Henry took the full load of shot in the small of his back. Chester pulled him off the bridge and laid him in the road bed. Then he ran for help.

            Henry was so badly wounded that only a doctor could save him. Stan Roscoe had a Studebaker Special with high clearance between the frame and the ground. It was the only car in the valley that could possibly make the trip over the deep muddy roads to Eureka. There was room in the back of Stan’s car for a cot to be made for Henry to lie on. A trained nurse who lived in the valley had morphine and administered it to him to ease his pain. At what seemed to be hours later, the car was ready to go to Eureka.

            Between Upper Mattole and Honeydew, the car bogged down several times. Near the Honeydew bridge, stuck again, the cause seemed hopeless. Chester and the three other men making the trip with Henry frantically dug the car out again, then went to check on Henry. He was dead. He died with no last words, under the big oak tree on Hadley Flat [this should probably read “Hindley Flat”].

            They took Henry to the Hindley Ranch to await the coroner. After the coroner came, he was taken to his family in Eureka who buried him in Ocean View cemetery. Chester went alone to tell Sylvia of her brother’s death, a most pathetic boy who would carry a great burden with him ever afterward.

            Sylvia did not attend Henry’s funeral. Winter was coming on and Charles thought it unnecessary for her to go to Eureka. She could do nothing for Henry. She grieved alone in the cabin on the ridge.

Expanding horizons

            That winter, Clyde turned six. Since there was no school near enough for his children to attend, Charles had to move his family to a place nearer a school. In the spring of 1921, he purchased 15 acres on the east bank of a bow in the Mattole River just west of Honeydew. The Kreps family moved to the site and lived in a tent while Charles built a cabin with the help of some of the men in the valley.

            Three redwood logs used as a foundation for the cabin gave a feeling of solidity except during earthquakes when they would roll, causing the cabin to pitch violently back and forth. The children had been dreadfully afraid of earthquakes all their lives, having had quite a number of them at the ranch. When they were small, their Uncle Henry used to scare them with a tale of the 1906 earthquake in Bald Hills. He said that the trees leaned over so far they almost touched the ground. An earthquake in the rocking house was a far worse experience for the timid children.

            Clyde remembers an earthquake that came in the middle of one night after he and his sisters, all with colds, had had their chests plastered with rendered skunk grease, given a homemade cough remedy and sent to bed. Uncle Willie was staying with them. The earthquake hit. It dumped Uncle Willie and his bed over, whipped things out of cupboards onto the floor and threw the sourdough and all the medicines into a giant mess all over the kitchen. Clyde was sleeping in a cot by the piano. With each tilt of the floor, the piano bashed his cot, moving it halfway across the room. In the midst of the chaos, the house gave a lurch, the door flew open, and the shotgun fell out, the stock leaning against the outside wall. The house lunged back again and shoved the gun’s barrel into the ground. Although he was scared out of his wits, Clyde’s fear was overcome by relief that all those old medicines were ruined.

School days

            The cabin, which was almost exactly halfway between Honeydew and Upper Mattole schools, was in the Upper Mattole School district. The children walked three miles to Upper Mattole school until the road slid out making it dangerous for them to pass. From then on, they walked three miles to the Honeydew school. Spring, summer and fall were the months school was in session, leaving the winter with its bad weather for vacation time.

            After adjusting to being with children other than themselves, school in the one-room schoolhouse was fun for the Kreps children. Clyde, young, inexperienced, and gullible, took the longest to adjust. He thought school an unnecessary evil that kept him penned up inside and he wanted out. Believing everything anyone told him, he was more than happy to help the older boys when they said they knew of a way to close down the school forever. He filled a tobacco can full of skunks’ stink bags and one afternoon smeared them all over the schoolhouse. Caught by the teacher, who could smell him a mile away, he was made to clean the stink off the building. She was very angry with the boy and threatened him with reform school. This made a believer out of him, and all trouble he was a part of after that was minor. He didn’t realize for years, though, how she had known he was the culprit.

            Charles divided his time between the place on the ridge and the 10-acre garden he and Sylvia had made on the river. Wherever he worked, his family went with him and worked right along beside him.  One would have thought they were all men, the way he worked them.

Seven-year-old man

            When Clyde was between seven and eight years old, Charles decided to take him on a sheep drive to the railroad at South Fork. Sylvia argued that the boy was too young, but Charles could not be dissuaded. He must learn the ways of men sometime, and there would never be a better time.

            The Lindley, Etter, Shinn, Roscoe, Hindley and Kreps families put their sheep together for the drive. There were more than 3,000 sheep to drive to the railroad. Each family packed a roll of fencing which when connected together, corralled the sheep at night. They also packed provisions and camping supplies for the three-day drive to South Fork. The sheep were all brought to Honeydew where the drive began.

            The destination of the first day was Nigger Heaven, where the sheep were weighed. Halfway through the weighing, it started to rain. The job was hurriedly finished, as they buyer didn’t want to pay for water retained in the wool.

            The second day the sheep were driven to Bull Creek Flat, rounded up and corralled for the night. People who lived in the Bull Creek area came to visit the camp that night to trade news and gossip. Guy Curless and one of his sons were among the visitors. The son, while wandering around in the dark, stepped ker-splatt into the frying pan. This was one of the high points of the trip for seven-year-old Clyde.

            By dark the third day of the drive, the sheep were loaded in the railroad cars. The job finished, the tired herders ate supper in a diner made from a railroad car. They were relieved that the successful drive was over. The camaraderie of the men in the diner was loud and jovial, making a comfortable happy feeling for the exhausted little boy.

            The next day brought them home. Sylvia became anxious for her son as he slept the clock around, talking in his sleep the whole time. On his waking, she and the girls enjoyed the vivid account of his trip.

A boy and his dream

            When he was 11, Clyde wanted a bicycle. Since he had been trapping animals for quite some time, his father told him he could trap and sell pelts, using the money to buy a bike. The one in the Montgomery Ward catalog cost $39.00 plus shipping. It seemed like an impossible amount, but Clyde was determined to have his bicycle.

            With the company of his dog, Mush Hound, he spent the winter trapping. Skunk pelts brought $1.50, and raccoons, $2.50. A mink hide, which Mush Hound assisted in catching, sold for $10.00.

            Of course, one could not work all the time. When trapping was slow, Clyde used to tease Mush Hound. The dog loved to eat hard Christmas candy. He would stand and chew and chew and chew until he had finished the candy. Clyde piled a few pieces of candy in the middle of the trail and while Mush Hound slowly ate them, he ran as fast as he could up the trail, then stopped, doubled back on his tracks for a way, and jumped off into the brush where he could watch the dog.

            Mush Hound finished the candy and raced along the trail Clyde had taken. When he came to the end of Clyde’s tracks, he nosed around trying to find the boy. After several moments, Mush Hound doubled back along the trail and finally found his friend. Both boy and dog delighted in this game and it was played over and over.

            Clyde used to take a .22 caliber rifle with him when he checked his trap lines. One winter day, darkness overtook him long before he reached home. Since he did not trust the dark, he saw things and heard noises all around him. As he rounded a bend in the trail, he saw the unblinking green eyes of a panther staring straight at him. He stopped dead in his tracks and with his heart beating wildly, raised his gun to his shoulder. he shot. he saw feathers everywhere. His dangerous panther had turned out to be a harmless old owl.

            He had one other mishap with a bird. He caught a large grey heron in one of his traps. Its leg was not hurt, but it was held fast by the trap. He did not want this bird and approached the trap to set it free. The great wings of the huge bird flailed away at him. When the heron was free, it flew away with no thanks to the bruised and battered boy on the ground.

            By the end of the winter, Clyde had earned $80.00 and the bike was on its way. By coincidence, he and his father were at the Honeydew store when the bike came down the hill aboard the Albee Stage. The boy waited excitedly as John Albee untied the carton from the side of the big Dodge truck. Clyde and his father took the bike right home and put it together. He was proud to ride his new bicycle the three miles to school. He worried, though, for the safety of this prized possession when he was naughty at school and had to stay in at recess. the other children would play with his bike, while he sat fidgeting at his desk, hoping they would leave it in one piece.

Farewell to all that

            In 1929, the Kreps family was forced to move again. It was time for high school for Myrtle and Ethel and junior high for Clyde. Charles was determined that his children would have a better education than he, so moved his family to Eureka.

            The children, old as they were, were beings of the forest. City noises and the great numbers of people encountered there, confused and frightened them. Sylvia saw how terrified they were. She remembered her search in the woods for three very small children who had run away from the cabin on the ridge. Uncle Willis had told them he would cut off their ears if they were naughty. But that was many years ago. This was 1929. They would adjust. She had known the loneliness of life out there and would never go back.


            A short while ago, Clyde’s grandchildren visited the ranch at Kreps Ridge. The original house and outbuildings had burned down years ago and had been replaced by a summer cabin. Though the trees are old, Murphy’s orchard and the orchard on the homestead still bear fruit. There is no electricity or telephone there, and the springs still run sweet and clear. The solitude and quiet of 1903 still prevail.


*Notes from writer Judith C. Hokman, from 1976: “This account was written with love of history and even more love for some of the people in it. Thank you all who helped me so unselfishly. Special thanks to: Mrs. Elizabeth (Toots) Clark, Mrs. Myrtle Forcier, Mrs. Ethel Armstrong, and Mrs. Martha Roscoe [all of Eureka]. Very special thanks to Clyde Kreps of Bridgeville, whom I love and for whom this story was written.”



Sharon Porter Moxley, now of Santa Rosa, has written (with help from Susan Dregey) a wonderful book about growing up in the Whitethorn of the 1940s and ‘50s. It’s the kind of “sleeper” book that at first seems like a quaint little set of historical anecdotes, but the more you read, and the more you reflect on it, the more you realize there’s a lot more to it than local color. Among the Silent Giants: A Young Girl’s True Adventures is as much the story of a girl’s coming of age as it is a tale of mid-century Humboldt logging-camp life.

In the very first few pages, seven-year-old Sharon is introduced by her mother, Ruby, to a strange new man who is now her stepfather. “I want you to meet Al Sharpe. He lives in Whitethorn… I’ve a surprise for you.” Ruby had married him the day before. But since Al, owner of the Whitethorn Lumber Co., needs to be in Thorn, and there is no house yet available there to fit the whole family, Ruby leaves young Sharon with her Aunt Maude in Bull Creek. Maude seems as unlikely as her sister to do what needs to be done in the backwoods to feed a family, so Sharon takes her first steps to adulthood: she catches a young rooster and whacks its head off with the heavy axe, thus providing herself and her guardian a longed-for fried chicken dinner. Then she goes to her room and packs away all the teddy bears she associates with helpless childhood.

With all the boisterous masculinity associated with the tough life of loggers, it seems especially poignant that a young girl should have to act as both the adult and the man of the family, but it often comes to that amidst the sink-or-swim childrearing philosophy of Sharon’s world. She becomes, largely through circumstance, a very tough little girl; however, her bravery and willingness to go up against even the big boys in her community are balanced by her innate thoughtfulness and compassion. Far from growing up to be a desensitized brute, in fact, Sharon Porter Moxley became a school psychologist (besides developing her love of horses, kindled on her beloved Stardust and others, into a lifelong passion for horse breeding, training, and racing). Her writing has a mysterious quality of seeming to come directly from the mind of a pre-teen girl; adult commentary rarely intrudes. Still, the young girl’s voice varies from that of a practical jokester and stubborn survivor to a doubting brooder. Sharon lived the life, but kept her secret thoughts, many of which are now ours to contemplate.

Although Among the Silent Giants is set mainly in Whitethorn, there are intriguing descriptions of people and places in Eureka, Arcata, and Bull Creek. One of my favorite passages reveals a rare natural wonder near the mouth of the Mad River that she sees while on an early-morning fishing trip with her natural father, George Porter. Throughout the book, many details jarred my own memories of growing up in Maine when much of that state’s woodsy lifestyle was also based on logging; the catalog of smells alone—endless cigarette and pipe smoke, boozy breath, sawdust, teepee burner and pulp mill emissions, kerosene lamps and stoves, mildewy cold rooms—is enough to evoke the material essence of life in any American logging town from New England to the north woods of Michigan to the Pacific Northwest. However, the scale of the Coast Redwoods, and the nearly impenetrable denseness of our lush forests, may have made for an even tougher breed of lumberjack here than around Paul Bunyan’s original stomping grounds.

The book is illustrated with enough charming photographs, and enough details of the Doer and Porter family connections, that you can match the names with the faces and feel that you are getting to know the family– for instance, Grandma Blanche Doers, a tall, regal, yet often “blue” lady who raised three beautiful women and one tough logger, Sharon’s Uncle Allan. The reading experience is like entering a completely furnished world; the only problem is that the book ends. I would like to have kept on exploring those trails, watching the mysteriously alcohol-obsessed adults, riding those horses, and learning about the different walks of life even in a tiny town like Whitethorn, for much longer. (At 200 pages, it is not, however, a meager volume.)

I believe this book holds a wide appeal, and that I needn’t add “If you like local history,” or “If you are fond of childhood reminiscences.” However, if you are reading this blog, chances are you will be especially likely to appreciate it.

You can buy the book locally at about any local bookstore, or find it online at amazon.com.

Also, Sharon has a Facebook page for her book.

As a postscript, i want to include an email i received from Sharon when i wrote to congratulate her on the publication of her memoirs:

“I went to Whitethorn a couple of weeks ago and was floored to find it has vanished. They do have the green and white highway sign nailed to a stump but the buildings, with the exception of the skeletons of the grocery store and the post office, are almost completely gone. The school is still there and looks like it is alive and well but it must serve people from out in the mountains.
“I had a hard time finding where my house used to be. I only discovered where it was by locating a nearby creek that ran by our yard. My step-father’s mill (Whitethorn Lumber Company) was also gone, along with the church, the bar and my neighbors’ houses.
“I must admit I came more in touch with my own mortality that day. If my childhood town could die, my extinction seemed closer.
“On a good note the redwoods, tan oak and fir trees were thriving. They are back. Gone are the old slashings of my youth. Nature has replenished itself. It is beautiful.”

Note: i don’t have a category for “Photos” alone, since so many of these posts have a few. However, if you put “photos” in the Search bar above, you will see the blog entries that are basically just pictures– such as this one!

From an album given to us by Dayton Titus. This is only the second picture i’ve ever seen of the John A. Mackey store. It burned in 1903, so this is a very early photograph. Since the original was only about 2 inches in diameter, even this much detail in it (when blown up; to make it bigger, click on it, and click again…) is gratifying. The store was opposite the southwest corner of the Petrolia square.

Here’s another from the same page, same Titus album. I didn’t clean it up or Photoshop the scan in any way but to enhance the contrast… it was quite washed-out. But it’s a treasure, in that we only have two or three other views of this hotel, which was the one on the square. The structure must have been enlarged many times; i think this was the north wing, seen from the west; that is, it’s directly across from the present Petrolia Store. The main and original part of the hotel is to the right, on the southwest corner of the square.

A double exposure, probably accidental as nobody’s trying to look like they’re astride a horse; still, it does look like that one guy’s on a ghost horse, no? From the Titus album.

View northwest toward the hill at the end of Chambers Rd., which is the cliff above the narrow part of Conklin Creek Rd. There are a couple other pictures we have of this same view, from different times. This one shows a little more of the grazing area, perhaps giving more of a clue to the exact location of this enclosure. I believe it was between the curves of the road going down Shenanigan Ridge toward Petrolia, two turns below the present dump… land marked Mike Shallard on some of the very old maps. But i am not sure.

Old bridge not necessarily in the Mattole area (some of the pictures in Dayton Titus’s album are from Ferndale, maybe other places), but it could well be any of at least four in the lower Mattole (Honeydew and downstream) that cross between steeper, treed banks.

This picture was sent by Doris Long, the lady who knew the John W. and Florence Mackeys as a child. A nice view of the mouth of the river in 1941- ’42.

The story Doris Geib Long told, and several great pictures she sent, are here.

Lisa (Mrs. Laurence) Hindley sent these next few pictures. This is Joseph N.D. Hindley with a tamed fawn.

I can’t get my orientation right for this picture… are we looking upstream?

Another Hindley photo, of the structure for a straw barn at the family ranch in Honeydew.

Wind or lightning? Something felled this lone tree, but its regrowth is vigorous and beautiful. Thanks to Lisa Hindley for sending this and other photos.

Speaking of Hindleys, something tells me there might be some Hindley children in this group. Perhaps it’s a group of Honeydew schoolmates. The photo was in the Mary Rackliff Etter collection. I see some Native faces, and a few of the people strongly resemble those in other Honeydew group photos.

Jerry Rohde sent me this photo a couple of months ago. It is by A.A. Burgess, a Petrolia-area photographer, and it was filed with the Bear River-Petrolia pictures at the Humboldt Co. Historical Society. We are wondering if anybody knows where this apparently beachfront bachelor’s cabin was located. I sent it to John McAbery, wondering if he had any ideas about whether it might have been a previous structure on the location of his home at Four Mile Creek, but he said No. Anybody?

Well, many more photos upcoming when i find the time.


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