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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.

SoHumStorycatchers,4-2-16,textSoHumStorycatchers,4-2-16,pic

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.”

I’m happy to be putting up more of the pictures that Phillip Nicklas, great-great-grandson of Jim Boots and Birdie Harrow, gave us. Now we are up to the 1920s, so let’s get right to it… i will try to fill in the information as the pictures come. (The earlier pictures are here.)

Except for this brief reminder of who’s who! Jim was the son of Mary Ellen “Ella” Vandecarr and Aaron Boots–Aaron was one of five Boots siblings who stayed around Southern Humboldt for most of their lives. They, and two or more others who lived in Washington, were the offspring of Upper Mattole pioneers “Granny” (Sarah) and Elijah Boots. Jim’s wife, Adeline “Birdie” Harrow Boots, was the child of Katherine “Kate” Titus (daughter of GMG Titus, and sister of LaFayette Titus) and Joel Fletcher “Fletch” Harrow (son of Asa Harrow).

Jim Boots (1883-1963) and Birdie (1889-1980) were the parents of four girls: Mabel, or “Babe,” Phillip’s gt-grandmother; Viola, called “Vie,” who married Mike Stefanini; Clara, who married John William Lundberg and had a son, Jimmy–this family was the connection to the Arcata property where Phillip and his wife now live; and Arlene, also known as “Birdie” or “Bootsie,” the baby, who married a Mr. Harvey and had a son Ted and daughter Judy.

Babe Boots married twice, to Harold Hash and to a Mr. Hengen; her daughter was Barbara Hash Smith, born in 1927, who had a daughter Cynthia–Phillip’s mother. We start these pictures when Babe, born in 1908, is a young teen girl.

(Click on the photos for enlargement and better detail.)

Top, left-right, Viola, Mabel "Babe," & Clara, with Bootsie in front.

Top, left-right, Clara, Mabel “Babe,” & Vie, with Bootsie in front.

Jim Boots with his bus and daughters, near Carlotta, 1922.

Jim Boots with his bus and daughters, near Carlotta, 1922.

Jim Boots, his mother Ella, and his four girls. (Unless that's mother Birdie on the right, and we are only seeing three of the daughters.) I am not sure where some of these photos were taken, as the family moved around to several Humboldt locations over the years.

Jim Boots, his mother Ella, and his four girls. (Unless that’s mother Birdie on the right, and we are only seeing three of the daughters.) I am not sure where some of these photos were taken, as the family moved around to several Humboldt locations over the years.

Here are Birdie (far left) and Jim with Mabel, Clara, Bootsie, and Vie; the three people in the right rear are unknown. I'm curious about the man on the far right; he shows up in several of our pictures of tanbarking crews.

Here are Birdie (far left) and Jim with Mabel, Clara, Bootsie, and Vie; the three people in the right rear are unknown. I’m curious about the man on the far right; he shows up in several of our pictures of tanbarking crews.

Babe hamming it up.

Babe hamming it up.

Here is Babe in her first true glamour shot. She resembles a certain Hollywood actress who was recently in Humboldt County, we think.

Here is Babe in her first true glamour shot. She resembles a certain Hollywood actress who was recently in Humboldt County, we think.

A gathering of the Boots and Harrow families in Arcata, 1928. I will let you have fun figuring out who everyone is!

A gathering of the Boots and Harrow families in Arcata, 1928. I will let you have fun figuring out who everyone is!

Harold Hash makes his appearance, standing next to Babe. Her mother Ella has got her hat on and is looking fancy. Is the baby in front an infant Barbara (born 1927)?

Harold Hash makes his appearance, standing next to Babe. Her mother Ella has got her hat on and is looking fancy, next to her late-life daughter Bertha Boots, and her husband Aaron. Is the baby in front an infant Barbara Hash (born 1927), held up by her aunts?

John W. "Bill" Lundberg and Clara Boots, dating in 1929. By the looks of the hills, they're in the Mattole Valley. She and Bill married in 1934, and stayed together until he passed away in1978.

John W. “Bill” Lundberg and Clara Boots, dating in 1929. By the looks of the hills, they’re in the Mattole Valley. She and Bill married in 1934, and stayed together until he passed away in1978.

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Here is Clara a few years later in a classic 1930s swimsuit.

Harold Hash, wife Mabel "Babe" Boots, and daughter with the ringlets, Barbara Jean Hash.

Harold Hash, wife Mabel “Babe” Boots, and daughter with fancy ringlets, Barbara Hash.

Young Barbara, born 1927.

Young Barbara, born 1927.

Four generations, gt-grandmother Kate Titus Harrow on right; grandmother Birdie Harrow Boots center, and mother Mabel "Babe" Boots Hash, with Barbara in Sacramento.

Four generations: gt-grandmother Kate Titus Harrow on right; grandmother Birdie Harrow Boots center, and mother Mabel “Babe” Boots Hash, with Barbara in San Jose.

Barbara Hash and friend with bicycles, 1930s.

Barbara Hash and friend with bicycles, 1930s.

Barbara Jean Hash.

Barbara Jean Hash.

This is Birdie, mother of the four sisters, at the gas station on the northeast corner of 5th and G Streets, Arcata. Clara and her husband, Bill Lundberg, owned the gas station.

This is Birdie Harrow Boots, at the gas station on the northeast corner of 5th and G Streets, Arcata. Her daughter Clara and husband, Bill Lundberg, owned the gas station. The building is still there.

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A reunion. Birdie Harrow and Jim Boots with Mabel in the middle; not sure if that is Clara or Vie on the left, but it looks like the baby, Bootsie or Birdie, on the right.

y-30s,Aaron and Ellie Boots and children

Here’s the earlier generation reunited: Seated in front, Mary Ellen (Ella) Vandecarr and William (Aaron) Boots. Behind them, their seven children: Bertha Ida, born 1904; John (Elbert or Albert), born 1909; probably Adeline Susan (Addie), born 1898; Sarah, who had married a Mr. Conger, born 1885; Jim Boots; and twins William A. and Lillian, born 1896. (Note–i am not positive of all these identities; I may have put the wrong names on the wrong faces, except where i’m sure of Ella and Aaron, and of course Jim; and that is certainly Bertha on the far left.) An aside: Addie Boots Reynolds was shot by her love-crazed cousin Walter Boots–son of Aaron’s brother Martin– in 1934. She survived, but he turned the gun on himself and died.

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Jim Boots in the 1930s.

Another picture of four generations: Jim Boots, his mother Ella, daughter Birdie (Bootsie) Harvey, and grandson Ted Harvey.

Another picture of four generations: Jim Boots, his mother Ella, daughter Birdie (Bootsie) Harvey, and grandson Ted Harvey.

Mabel Babe Boots Hengen. Mother-Daughter day at the studio?

Mabel Babe Boots Hengen. Mother-Daughter day at the studio?

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And here is the beautiful grown-up daughter, Barbara Hash.

Once again, I would like to thank Phillip Nicklas for letting us have copies of all these wonderful photos. They, and the family they represent, are beautiful, interesting, and… very Mattolian!

Now, one more old picture I want to add… this one goes back to the 1910s or earlier. Ivan Harrow, born in 1885 and dead in 1918, was the brother of Birdie Harrow Boots, they both being children of Kate Titus and Fletcher Harrow. This photo was labelled something like “Ivan Harrow and loggers.” The Harrow- Boots family, or at least some branches of it, retained its workingman-in-the-woods reality even as photographic studios and fashionable women created an uptown impression.

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I am not sure which man is Ivan Harrow, but with five brothers, it’s likely there’s more than one Harrow here. Be sure to click on this one for detail. (Oh–! when you do, you’ll find some blue ink naming Ivan.)

Hello Fellow Fans of Mattole History!

It’s time for a little catch-up on the current situation of the MVHS.

I sent out a General Update to our email list last October (2014); that long message included the idea of a Mattole History Art Festival, which has not gotten off the ground. And this March, I mailed out a 4-page notification of the good fortune of a new building site being offered to us. All MVHS members should have received that mailing—the one with the photo of the old Rock House, the Knights of Pythias building, and a rough sketch of a  new building plan. Also, all members were updated in our Spring newsletter, Now… and Then.

Since we got news of this offer of land on the Petrolia Square in January, 2015, and particularly since our late March Board meeting where we decided that the option of building there downtown (rather than at the Grange location) was best for our Historical Society as well as for the town of Petrolia and for many of our members (though certainly not all), we have been enjoying a new wave of energy. I have been very happy to find myself working amidst a group of a dozen wonderful, interesting, and dedicated people—our new Board. Many others have come forward, also, to ask how they can help. They are not only wanting to help make the new building a reality, but are offering to conduct interviews with old-timers, help organize the present Grange office, throw in their energy in the future on actually building the structure, etc. It is a very welcome wave of community involvement.

There were certainly many arguments for a mid-Valley location (Grange property) for a new building, and several good cases made for simply carrying on as we have been, while digitizing the entire historical collection as quickly as possible, to achieve true fireproof security. However, the people most willing to be involved came forward and agreed upon seizing the opportunity to do something big and good for the whole Valley, based in downtown Petrolia, which would become a “historical town”. Here is our current situation there:

The northwest corner of the Petrolia Square, summer of 2015. Our builder, Jeff Hoalton, set this up for us.

The northwest corner of the Petrolia Square, summer of 2015. Our builder, Jeff Hoalton, set this up for us.

We have held monthly Board meetings in the open air, right there on the Square in Petrolia, but, for various logistical reasons, are skipping the August meeting. In lieu of the gathering, I am sharing, briefly,  the news of our progress.

Basically, there are two fronts we are working. One is the building plan. Jeff Hoalton has been given the responsibility of coming up with an initial plan. He is working within the general idea of making a place that fits with a historical Western theme, but is not as expensive as building entirely with natural materials. One of the first considerations is that the building be fire-safe, and of course, in our area, it must be relatively earthquake-safe, and able to withstand some mighty winds and rain. Jeff is particularly desirous of working with some of our elder members, to make sure we enjoy the old-timer seal of approval.  So we have a sort of “de facto” building committee in that Jeff says he wants to work closely with Board members Becky Enberg, Francis Sweet, Bob Stansberry, and of course our younger-generation builder on the Board, Kelton Chambers.

The other important work we’re doing is in the paperwork department. We are reviewing by-laws, articles of incorporation, and our non-profit 501(c)3 status. We have also added new official signers to our Coast Central Credit Union account, and opened a special savings account named the Building Fund. The officers we have named for these official purposes are Dyan Damron, Treasurer; Ken Young, Secretary; Laura Cooskey, Director/President (I really dislike that latter label, and have been assured that in general, my duties will be more along the lines of Historian–focussing on preserving and enlarging our actual store of historical information; for that reason, we have a new position, Connie’s, as follows); Connie Thunman, General Coordinator; and Cindy Lyman, Corresponding Secretary. These five, plus the five listed in the paragraph above, and two more Board members, Ellen Taylor and Bob Stansberry, make up our Board of 12 members.

We have discussed all the things we have to do at great length, and finally achieved some clarity with the realization that we can’t get the cart before the horse; things must go in a certain order, and I believe we are focussed on the necessary first steps now. The general order will be:

  1. Get a rough plan going, including site issues such as water, septic, utilities, and access.
  2. Meantime, establish our legal legitimacy as a non-profit corporation with the sorts of paperwork described above; basically, this means getting our own 501(c)3.
  3. Finalize the plans, including the phases needing permits, with Board approval.
  4. Make sure the lease agreement is legally tight and approved by the Board.
  5. Apply for initial permits.
  6. Apply for grants and fundraise in many other ways.
  7. The fun part—get to work on the site and the building!

It’s never too early to start gathering funds, however; feel free to mail a contribution to the Building Fund of the Mattole Valley Historical Society, acct. #104881, at the Coast Central Credit Union,  2650 Harrison Ave., Eureka, CA, 95501.

I put out my feelers for a weatherproof box to put on the signpost on the Square, and Joyce Benton of Capetown came through. There is now a stack of information sheets about the MVHS, including a plea for donations, in that plastic box hanging below our sign.

But note that since we don’t have our new non-profit number, you won’t yet be able to claim your donation as a tax write-off. (For years, we were umbrella’d under the Mattole Valley Community Center’s non-profit status. I don’t know that anyone ever used that status or the number for it, and I’m afraid I don’t even know the official number of that 501(c)3. But not to worry; our capable new Treasurer, Dyan Damron, is working on our new number, and I will let you all know when it’s ready.)

Members who pay dues should know that unless we are expressly told otherwise, from now on, whenever anyone pays their dues with a particularly generous contribution, anything over $50 will automatically go into the Building Fund. The usual dues amount paid is $20 per membership/subscription; we frequently get a bit extra from particularly grateful or interested members, and if our checking account gets up to where we’re unnecessarily storing cash there, we transfer it to Savings. Now, of course, we’ll transfer it to the Building Fund.

Slowly it goes, but it goes. Meantime I seem to have a bit more time for this blog; and my next real focus as Historian will be to set in motion a series of interviews with some of our elders. There are several “old-school” old-timers we need to talk with; and a whole crop of “newcomer” back-to-the-landers who are over 70 and, if we are not premature, well worthy of in-depth interviews. Some people like the idea of video recordings of the sessions—Living History, as they say—and others prefer the old-fashioned notes-and-essay form. We do have one eager young woman who would like to put together a collection of written interviews in the form of a new Mattole history book, and will be meeting with her next week. Please let me know if you’d like to be interviewed, or know any others whom we shouldn’t overlook!

Yet there is also the organizing and digitizing of our collection. That is surely the best bet against any threats to our photos and other paper archives. Therefore, I will try to set a regular day a week, at least, to clear up and organize our present Grange office, and to start scanning and saving as quickly as possible. Several people have offered to help with that, but I don’t yet have a system in place. I would like to use a mounted camera over a table, such as Greg Rumney uses for photographs, rather than a traditional copier-scanner—and we don’t have a camera set-up yet. It would save an immense amount of time in scanning such a great amount of material, not to have to save each image separately while re-positioning items upside-down on a small screen.

So there is a general idea of what’s up with the Mattole Valley Historical Society lately. Please get in touch if you have any suggestions or would like to get involved—or of course, to sign up for a membership, which includes the twice-yearly newsletter, Now… and Then.

Please mark this change, also, somewhere in your files: All previously listed phone numbers will not work! Since I am living in Arcata now, and the office at the Mattole Grange does not have its own phone, the best way to reach the MVHS is by emailing mattolehistory@frontiernet.net; by writing to us at PO Box 144, Petrolia, CA, 95558; or by calling me, Laura, at 707-840-6044, or my cell phone, 707-601-7300. Thank you all for your enthusiasm!

Elijah and Sarah “Granny” Boots were Mattole pioneers hailing from the Midwest. They arrived in the Mattole Valley in 1866, and found a “a tract of land on the north side of the Mattole River about eight and one-half miles from Petrolia. The land suited Boots’ ideas. It was an ideal place for hog-raising, cattle-raising, poultry-raising, and bee culture. Such being the case, Boots filed his homestead right on the land and acquired title to it, and held it until his death in 1901.” So says W.W. Roscoe in his History of the Mattole Valley. The land is now part of Francis Scarpulla’s Lost Coast Farms, and Francis has generously offered to show the place and its old Boots apple orchards to people interested in this  history. (Contact me so that we can communicate with him and make a plan, if you are interested in a tour; it’s been some time since he extended this offer.)

Elijah generally claimed to have been born in Ohio in 1814, though on some censuses he says Indiana; and Sarah Rebecca Jones Boots was born in 1816 in Indiana, according to most censuses, and Ohio or Tennessee on others. She lived until 1909. In about the year 1836, the two were married in Randolph Co., Indiana. As part of the great westward migration, they lived briefly in Missouri, then, in the 1850s, in Washington Territory, just north of the Columbia. In 1865 they decided to move to Humboldt County with their four younger children (Aaron, Mary Etta, Thomas, and John). I often wonder why a place is lit upon like that–did the Bootses know someone who was already here? If nothing else, they would have heard of the oil prospects of the area, and that the Indians had been thoroughly defeated. Well, they didn’t figure prominently in the oil boom–they were more like self-sufficient, community-minded small farmers. W.W. Roscoe goes on to relate that “It was often said that with ‘Granddaddy’ Boots’ simple tastes, he was, in effect, a wealthier man than Rockefeller. He is remembered as one of the most successful hog and bee raisers of the Mattole Valley. He was also a splendid rifle shot, and many a deer or panther (he called a panther a ‘painter’) went down before his well-aimed muzzle-loading rifle.”

Local history buffs have read a respectable amount about the Boots family (there are Boots stories from W.W. Roscoe and Ken and Neb Roscoe; in the Humboldt Historian; and in several other local books, family trees, or scrapbooks). But we didn’t have many photographs until recently meeting Elijah’s great-great-great-great grandson, Phillip Nicklas of Arcata. Phillip’s great-great grandfather was Jim Boots, who lived until 1963. And the sisters of his gt-grandmother–four beautiful daughters of Jim Boots and Birdie Harrow–produced distant cousins who passed on many of the old family photos to Phillip, who has a keen love of history. He also has the generosity to have shared with us a disc full of these old pictures, organized by decade. Today we will look at some of the pictures from the 1870s until the 1910s.

For handy reference, here is a rough sketch i worked up of the family’s genealogy:

Please click on this chart to enlarge it.

Please click on this chart to enlarge it.

And to make this a little more clear, how about a simple lineage:

7 generations back: Sarah and Elijah Boots, and Sarah and Asa Harrow.

6 generations: Their respective children, Aaron Boots (who married Mary Ellen Vandecarr) and Fletch Harrow (who married Kate Titus).

5 generations: Their respective children, Jim Boots and Birdie Harrow.

4 generations: Mabel “Babe” Boots.

3 generations: Barbara Hash Smith.

2 generations: Cynthia Nicklas.

Present: Phillip Nicklas.

GrannyBoots,finalPSfrBestScan,lo-res

Granddaddy and Granny Elijah and Sarah Boots, seated, with unknown descendants.

Here is Granny, in typical dress and hairstyle for the 1860s or '70s. This one photo was from our Mary Rackliff Etter collection.

Here is Granny, in typical dress and hairstyle for the 1860s or ’70s. This photo was from our Mary Rackliff Etter collection.

Johnny, a son of Granny and Elijah. He was a blacksmith who never married, but lived in the Mattole nearly all his life, until his death of cancer in 1908.

Johnny, a son of Granny and Elijah. He was a blacksmith who never married, but lived in the Mattole nearly all his life, until his death of cancer in 1908. Another photo from Mary Rackliff Etter.

I don’t know who the parents of Mary Ellen Vandecarr were, but can say that her genes made a strong stamp on the features of future generations, as you will see in photos below. Here is her image on an old tin-type photograph:

Mary Ellen (Ella) Vandecarr (Mrs. Aaron) Boots, at the age of 14.

Mary Ellen (Ella) Vandecarr (Mrs. Aaron) Boots, in the late 1870s at the age of 14.

William Aaron Boots, known as Aaron, on the left. Unknown on right.

William Aaron Boots, known as Aaron, on the left. The young man on the right is unidentified, but the paternal hand suggests it is Jim, who was 23 years younger. Perhaps.

Ivan and Delbert Harrow, with their sister Birdie, future bride of Aaron Boots, in the middle. From about

Ivan and Delbert Harrow, with their sister Birdie, future bride of Jim Boots, in the middle. From the early 1890s.

James E. Boots as a youth.

James E. Boots as a youth.

Jim Boots and Birdie Harrow, before their marriage in 1907. Hauling tanbark.

Jim Boots and Birdie Harrow, before their marriage in 1907. Hauling tanbark.

Photo taken in 1908, with Mabel

Photo taken in 1908, with Mabel “Babe” Boots as the baby in the center; her grandfather Aaron holds her, and grandmother Ella Vandecarr Boots is in the upper left. Her parents Jim and Birdie are on the right of the picture. I am not sure of the identities of the other children, those who so resemble Babe and her father and grandmother–possibly her aunt Bertha (born 1904) is one of them, and the others perhaps Addie or Lily and Bill, a few more of Jim’s much younger siblings.

Birdie (Adeline) Harrow Boots and daughter Mabel (Babe).

Birdie (Adeline) Harrow Boots and daughter Mabel (Babe).

Three generations: Birdie and Mabel Boots, Katherine Harrow and Les--her youngest, born 1909, and Mabel's little uncle--and Allie Harrow Carr, Birdie and Les's sister, with her baby Charlie.

Three generations: Birdie and her little Mabel Boots; Birdie’s mother Katherine Harrow holding Les–her youngest, born 1909, and Mabel’s uncle; and Allie Harrow Carr, Birdie and Les’s sister, with her baby Charlie.

Recreation on the Mattole: Fletch Harrow with his daughter Birdie and Jim Boots, and baby Mabel.

Recreation on the Mattole: Fletch Harrow with his daughter Birdie and Jim Boots, and baby Mabel in front of him.

Left to right, Vie or Viola, Birdie Boots, baby Bootsie, sometimes called Birdie, Jim Boots, Clara, and Mabel

Left to right: Vie or Viola, Birdie Boots, baby Bootsie, sometimes called Birdie, Jim Boots, Clara, and Mabel “Babe”.

Mabel

Mabel “Babe” Boots at age 8, with her dog. 1916.

Aunt Lily (Jim's sister) in a 1917 Dodge, with Aaron and Mary Ellen (Grandma to the girls), Jim Boots next to Vie and holding Bootsie, Clara, Babe, and their mother Birdie.

Aunt Lily (Jim’s sister) in a 1917 Dodge, with Aaron and Mary Ellen (Grandma to the girls), Jim Boots next to Vie and holding Bootsie, Clara, Babe, and their mother Birdie.

Briceland Saloon. Possibly well-known cowboy Jim O'Dell in the front, with the wooden leg.

Briceland Saloon. Probably “Bogus” Bill Frazier in the front, with the wooden leg. Click on this one; there’s lots of great detail.

Both of these Briceland photos were marked with the studio tag “Hazeltine, Mendocino.” Martin Mason Hazeltine was a photographer who practiced in Mendocino from 1866 or ’67 until at least 1883, then off and on until his death in Oregon in 1903. You can see a photo of his Mendocino studio, which i assume carried on under his name for some time after his 1880s departure, at this link.

The old Briceland Store. It looks as if a baseball game is noted on the blackboard behind these people. Notice the blue cross next to Jim Boots, and the Native man beneath it. There were many mixed-blood families in Briceland around the turn of the last century.

The old Briceland Store. It looks as if a baseball game line-up is noted on the blackboard behind these people. Notice the blue cross next to Jim Boots, and the Native man beneath it. There were many mixed-blood families in Briceland around the turn of the last century.

Mabel at the Garberville Hotel.

Mabel and friends in front of the Redwood Inn, south end of Garberville.

Jim Boots at the wheel of old Wagner Leather Co. truck. They were the Briceland tanbark company.

Jim Boots at the wheel of old Wagner Leather Co. truck. They were the Stockton-based leather tanning company who had an extraction plant in Briceland. 

Jim hauling tanbark.

Jim hauling tanbark.

Jim Boots tell his story in the slim volume, Golden Adventures from THE HUMBOLDT HISTORIAN. His selection is titled, “The Life of an Old Stage Coach Driver and Mule Skinner (1883)”–that being the year of his birth. Jim describes his first job driving a six-horse team from Fruitland to Elinore (Camp Five); getting a job driving an overland stage from Dyerville to Harris; working a six-mule team with two wagons hauling tanbark, ties, and lumber on the Mendocino Coast, then driving team for the Wagner Leather Company from Briceland to Shelter Cove. Around that time, Jim met and married his beautiful Birdie Harrow, and spent the last of his teaming days working for Lewis Roscoe, bringing tanbark from Upper Mattole to the wharf at the mouth of the river, which was owned by Calvin Stewart and the Mattole Lumber Co. Eventually, he was driving a truck for the Wagner Leather Co., then he became a bus driver, working for a conglomerate that became the West Coast Transit Company, eventually supplanted by Greyhound. He finishes his story, “For many years I hauled for hire, logs and lumber. I sold my equipment in 1951 and have been retired ever since. My hobby was driving team and riding broncs–most of my life has been put in on this hobby.” (Read the whole story by finding it at your local library, or asking me at the MVHS office.)

This is Shelter Cove. Someone fill me in on what's going on here. Unloading hay from the loco-mobile, or barrels of tanbark extract?

This is Shelter Cove. Someone fill me in on what’s going on here. Unloading hay from the loco-mobile, or readying barrels of tanbark extract for shipment? And is “loco-mobile” another way of saying “trailer truck”–a locomotive pulling trailers, on wheels?

Before leaving this post, i would like to thank Phillip Nicklas very much for giving us these images. Please do not repost the pictures without asking permission, and giving due credit to Phillip! There will be more put up here soon, photographs from around 1920 until the ’40s. I hope you have enjoyed these!

Back to the older generation. Here are Katherine, better known as Kate, Titus, and her husband Joel Fletcher

The older generation again. Here are Katherine, better known as Kate, Titus, and her husband Joel Fletcher “Fletch” Harrow, parents of Birdie Harrow Boots. And below, a more formal portrait of the pair, probably from around their 1884 wedding:

Fletch and Kate Harrow, lo-res

Earlier this summer, I went up to the Humboldt County Public Library, enticed by a poster reading: “Petrolia 1865, California’s first oil field: A century of disappointment.” The speaker was Dr. Ken Aalto, an HSU professor emeritus who has studied Humboldt’s geology since 1974. The advertisement went on to explain that Aalto would be sharing a “tale of how Petrolia’s shear zone geology, at the noted Mendocino Triple Junction, kindled and dashed the hopes of oil explorers for a century.”

The Events room, off to the left just as you enter the Eureka library, was packed full as it has been every time I’ve been to one of these series of Saturday historical talks, which are presented jointly by the Humboldt Co. Historical Society and the Humboldt County Library. However, there were not too many Mattole faces there, so I am reporting on the presentation here, with the benefit of some of the diagrams and maps–and mostly, a paper–that Ken Aalto used in the slide show.

The clarity of the graphics on this blog site is not high; however, they make satisfactory illustrations of the general ideas, for the layperson. Luckily, I found Ken to be a generous man, and he allowed me to share any and all of the material he emailed me; so, if you would like to see any of these papers in greater detail, please let me know, and I can forward you a better copy, or more complete information. (Of course you would want to continue to give credit where it is due if you were to use his writing or maps anywhere else.)

I have been pretty ignorant of the science of our local geology, knowing little more than what I’ve read in local news reports around earthquake time, or in old-time descriptions of the oil-producing capabilities of the Mattole area. I confess that many of the words and coded designations on these maps make little sense to me. But it was the big question that drew me, and its answer was most satisfying. The question was, “With all this oil known to be around here, and with the new technologies that allow fracking to squeeze oil and gas out of previously impossible situations… are they going to try to start fracking around here?”

Dr. Aalto showed us several dozen slides, mainly of maps and diagrams of the earth beneath our feet. Some were of historical newspaper articles about the oil excitement, and a few were color photos of today’s landscape. His expert interpretation of these images was very interesting, if a bit hard to grasp and retain (for me!). However, he kindly sent me the paper he wrote, which seems to sum up his talk; and the abstract from it sums up the paper. So, here is the crystallized gist of the paper “PETROLIA, CALIFORNIA’S FIRST OIL FIELD–A CENTURY OF DISAPPOINTMENT,” by K.R. Aalto, Department of Geology, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA  95521 (kra1@humboldt.edu); published by the Petroleum History Institute in the journal Oil-Industry History, v. 12, no. 1, 2011:

“ABSTRACT: The Petrolia oil field, the first to be developed in California in the 1860’s, attracted considerable interest and investment among oilmen because of the abundance of oil and gas seeps throughout that region. The ‘Union well’, first producing well drilled in California in 1865, yielded some thirty barrels of high quality oil, but production soon slowed to one barrel per day and the prospect was abandoned. However, over the next half-century exploration and drilling continued throughout the region with little or no success.
“Although touted as a potential major oil district, the highly deformed Franciscan Complex basement rocks, that were structurally imbricated with Neogene marine strata as part of an actively growing accretionary prism atop the subducting Farallon plate, did not provide adequate reservoirs. Rather, oil and gas seeped to the surface along shear zones. The tectonostratigraphic setting of California’s only oilfield unequivocally located in an active subduction zone precluded its success.”

Here is an excellently detailed schematic of the area's geology. If i orient myself as if i were underneath King Peak and looking northwest through the Earth, it makes sense.

An excellently detailed schematic of the area’s geology. If I orient myself as if I were under the ground south of King Peak and looking northwest through the Earth, it makes sense. Click on the image to make it full-screen.

Here is an overview of the Triple Junction area, showing the older Pacific Plate, to the south, pushing up into the Gorda/Juan de Fuca Plate, which is pushing underneath the continent (the North American Plate). Volcanoes east of us are one result of the pushing of the Pacific Plate under the westward-moving North American. We all know another result!

Here is an overview of the Triple Junction area, showing the older Pacific Plate, to the south, pushing up into the Gorda/Juan de Fuca Plate, which is pushing underneath the continent (the North American Plate). Volcanoes east of us are one result of the pushing of the Pacific Plate under the westward-moving North American. We all know another result!

Aalto-oil,detail,enlarged

In this zoom view, I put a little red dot where the town square of Petrolia sits, and highlighted the river in blue. It’s a blur if you blow it up too much (though you should click on it once), but as I said, I can email you a better copy if you are interested. There is also a key to all the colors and codes–it’s a humongous bunch of information, too big to put up here. One thing I find interesting about this map is the line of some sort of fracture going out northwest from Petrolia toward the ocean at McNutt Gulch. Several people have theorized that at one time, the Mattole River emptied out to the sea through that gulch, and that a massive uplift of “the Table” with its flat, straight lines and abrupt rises, diverted it south to its present bed.

These first three images are from USGS map series MF-2336, by R.J. McLaughlin, S.D. Ellen, M.C. Blake, Jr., A.S. Jayko, W.P. Irwin, K.R. Aalto, G.A. Carver, and S.H. Clarke, Jr., et. al.; from the year 2000.

Ken Aalto’s 2011 paper on our local geology (cited above) lays out the situation far better than I can. Allow me to copy directly from his document (and note that the definition of “terrane” as used here is “the area or surface over which a particular rock or group of rocks is prevalent”–Merriam-Webster):

“MODERN INTERPRETATION: Basement rock in the Petrolia area consists of penetratively deformed Franciscan Complex Coastal belt which is divided into several tectonostratigraphic terranes that include rocks ranging from Late Cretaceous to Middle Miocene age (Fig.1). The sandstones of these terranes are highly sheared, well cemented and discontinuous, thus their reservoir potential is low. Franciscan rocks are locally depositionally overlain and structurally imbricated with thin slabs and slivers of Miocene and younger non-accretionary marine strata (the Late Cenozoic overlap assemblage) originally deposited in forearc or marginal basin settings (Fig. 1; Aalto et al. 1995; Miller and Aalto, 1983). Miocene and younger source rocks are depicted as imbricate slices in an accretionary complex (Fig. 4; McLaughlin et al. 2000). H. D. MacGinitie recognized this structural style, noting that:
‘[t]he Tertiary outcrops are found as elongated strips following the structural trends [of the subjacent Franciscan Complex]. The strips are synclinal in nature and are usually overturned toward the south and bounded by overthrust blocks of the Mesozoic rocks on the north side.’ (MacGinitie 1943, p. 633).
“Source rocks, originating in forearc or marginal basin settings, are thrust beneath False Cape and Coastal terranes, and possibly provide a source for the oil presently leaking from seeps and wells within the Coastal terrane of the Petrolia area (Fig. 4; McLaughlin et al. 1999).
“MacGinitie (1943, p. 634) noted that the abundant oil and gas seeps of the Petrolia region commonly occurred ‘…in connection with major lines of faulting’ and that ‘…the source of the oil in the seeps and from the wildcat wells may be found in black, organic shale.’ However, he suggested that ‘…the folding and faulting have been so strong in the areas where oil indications occur that the majority of the structures are too broken to furnish satisfactory oil storage’
(MacGinitie, 1943, p. 635). Ogle (1953) determined that sandstone beds of Lower Wildcat Group (Fig. 3, part of the overlap assemblage) served as reservoir rocks in the gas fields developed near Eureka. Franciscan basement rocks did not appear to be suitable as reservoirs, although some sheared areas were permeable.
“In 1997, McLaughlin et al. (1999) collected some dozens of samples from active seeps and oil and gas wells of the Petrolia region. These have stable isotopic compositions similar to petroleum derived from Miocene source rocks elsewhere in California. In assessing possible source rocks among exposed Tertiary rocks, McLaughlin et al. (1999) concluded:
‘Fair to good petroleum generative potential is indicated for thermally immature Miocene shale and mudstone [of the Petrolia region], with TOC values of 1.1-1.8 wt %, HI>200, and Tmax values of about 420 degrees C.’ (Text from poster presented by McLaughlin et al., 1999).
“These data and regional structure suggest petroleum could very well have been generated from similar forearc source rocks that were structurally interleaved with the Franciscan Complex during growth of the modern accretionary prism, and which reached thermal maturity during thrust burial to several kilometers.”

Here is a good diagram from Ken Aalto's paper.

This diagram appeared in the Ken Aalto paper “Petrolia, California’s First Oil Field…”

And now, for the all-important…

“CONCLUSIONS.
“McLaughlin et al. (1999) concluded that:
‘[t]he oil systems of this area are unique in California in having reservoir rocks within the youngest part of the Franciscan Complex and in being the only California oilfield that is unequivocally associated with an active subduction zone setting.’
“Such a setting is unlikely to persist in geologic time due to the extensive structural dismemberment that accompanies the growth of the prism by the continuous stacking of thrust plates. Ongoing faulting and duplexing of oil-generative rocks engenders leakage to the surface and consequent destruction of hydrocarbons (Fig. 4). Reservoirs, whether created within duplexed younger sandstones or within zones with enhanced fracture porosity, are likely to be destroyed by ongoing deformation. Thus the richest oil fields in the world at Petrolia were never to be.”

Or, as Dr. Aalto put it at the end of his presentation, “There is no hope. There is never enough of a reservoir or a yield to be profitable.”
Thank you, Ken Aalto!

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