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.


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 “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. Possibly well-known cowboy Jim O’Dell 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 Garberville Hotel.

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!


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…

“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!

About six months ago we received an email from Gail Case Davidson of Gunnison, Colorado:
“My interest stems from a visit my husband, son, and I made to the area about 5 years ago. My father had passed away in 2004 and I received many old photo albums of his after he passed.  He was a ‘coast watcher’ during WWII and was stationed at a barracks that were located at the mouth of the Mattole River on the Pacific Coast. Using those photos, we were able to locate the site of the old barracks during our visit.
“My dad was a proud member of the US Coast Guard – that was then under the US Navy Department during the war – and he took many photos using his little Kodak “brownie” camera…  I remember in the late 50’s, when I was a little girl, we visited the Petrolia area and saw an older woman named Hattie Titus who my father knew during the time he was stationed in the area.
“My father’s name was Russel Case. His nickname was ‘Casey’.  He was a Kansas-born farm boy from Wheat Ridge, Colorado, who joined up right after Pearl Harbor.  I will include some photos of some of the local ‘girls’ that had their pictures taken with the sailors.  Maybe someone will recognize them.
“He left the Mattole area around late 1943 and was sent to the east coast as a radio operator on a troop transport ship.”
These emails and the pictures Gail scanned and attached were wonderful to receive! I am sorry it has taken so long to get these out there to share with you Mattole history lovers. The final nudge was when Gail offered to send an entire album of the pictures she put together. We received it only a week or two ago, and were very impressed with both the content and the professional manner in which it was presented. Gail added introductory material and articles on the Coast Guard and the Beach Patrols at the end of the binder.
Photos are by Walter Russel Case, courtesy of Gailann Case Davidson, and are of Coast Guard Beach Patrol Station #4017, from late 1942 until late ’43. (Note that most of these photographs were tiny to begin with, and Gail did the very best she could scanning them for highest resolution. The digitized clues cannot be avoided on some of these shots.)
The barracks at the mouth, just outside the present-day beach gate near the parking lot

The barracks at the mouth, just outside the present-day gate near the parking lot

View from the hill behind and southeast of the barracks

View from the hill behind and southeast of the barracks

Russel Case in uniform

And here is Russel Case in uniform

Russel and buddies horsing around:
Russ Case WWII CalifRuss Case WWII Calif30Russ Case WWII28
Marksmanship practice:
Russ Case WWII Calif20
Russ Case WWII Calif21Russ Case WWII Calif24
Russ Case WWII Calif4
Russ Case WWII Calif18
Some of the local sights and people:
Petrolia Local Girls
Carmen (Carmella Davis) Gill, in Ferndale. There are several photos of Carmen in the album

Carmen (Carmella Davis) Gill, in Ferndale. There are several photos of Carmen in the album. Edit: Donell Hunter McCanless, seen on the right in the photo above, tells me this was not Carmen Gill, but Carmen Anderson of Ferndale. Donell, who knew Casey well, says Carmen and he were dating. She has written to his daughter Gail to express her delight in finding this tribute to such a wonderful and well-liked man.

Johnny Jackson Indian Ranch Owner Mattole River

Labelled “Johnny Jackson, Indian Ranch Owner, Mattole River”

Russ Case WWII Calif girls

73 years ago!

73 years ago!

Gail commented that “It is fun to look at the pictures of the locals with the sailors. When you think about the human side – here are the local young people, during a very turbulent time in history, meeting and interacting with the young sailors who were mostly from the Midwest, some from big cities. and all a long way from home.  Many of the local “girls” were probably born in the Petrolia or surrounding area and never had much chance to interact with guys from the “outside world”.  It was probably a little “wild” time but the sailors probably appreciated mixing with the local families to get that “little touch of home” that they left behind.  The sailors were doing their wartime duty, unsure of the outcome, but were essentially just “kids” themselves growing into manhood. The pictures of them practicing with the guns and bayonets showed that it was serious business.   What an interesting time it must have been for everyone there.”
Hattie Titus and Daughter Petrolia CA

Hattie Titus and daughter Phyllis

Hattie and Phyllis frequently entertained the Coast Guardsmen, and there are several photos in the album of them having a good time. A note from the Ferndale Enterprise of October 1, 1943, says “Sunday, the 26th, at the Titus home, a surprise party was held in honor of Ensign J. Rible. Others present were Mrs. Rible, Mr. and Mrs. Arnold Rohm, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Gardina and small daughter, Renea, Mr. and Mrs. M. S. Carter, Mrs. J.L. Hagne, Mrs. J.J. Mulsoff, and Coast Guardsmen, Harold Drier, Evans Mathern, Jonas Silver, Carl Fiore, Russel Case. Co-hostesses were Mrs. George Titus and Miss Phyllis Titus. Dancing and cards were enjoyed during the afternoon and delicious refreshments were served at close.”
Here is Rible in a couple of photos:
Lt. Perkins, Ensign Rible

Lt. Perkins, Ensign Rible

Beach Patrol Officers

Ensign Rible with Coxswain Sontwier

On a darker note, you may have heard the story of the three men who drowned when ordered to cross the lagoon in a rowboat one stormy night in 1943. Jim Cook tells the story in a YouTube interview done by the Ferndale Museum:
click this or search youtube for JIM COOK ON COAST GUARD DROWNING. I think Jim got a little confused with the story, as he says a Lt. Rible would have known better, but some Ensign (Rollay?) insisted that the men go out in the little boat. In fact, the Lt. was Perkins and the Ensign was Rible, so it’s unclear whether we go with the “Ensign” or the “Rible” story as to the person responsible for the deaths; but no matter now. I finally found the particulars of that incident. Probably for reasons of morale and security, it was not reported in the local papers, but the names can be found on a terse list in the online Coast Guard archives. “10/23/1943 [one month after the Titus party], Evans J. Matherne, Seaman 1; Jonas Silver, Seaman 2; and Sautwier, Joseph, Coxswain, Died when Boat Capsized.” Sontwier being the man in the photo above with his superior.
Beach Patrol3 USCG Mattole

The sort of heavy raingear and boots worn by the unfortunate rowers

USCG Beach Patrol Mattole CA 1942

The twenty men stationed at Barracks 4017

USCG Beach Patrol Mattole CA 1942 Names

These names are attached to the photo above; it’s unclear whether they are in order, or if only the names of the first 9 men are known, names scattered throughout the list. Either way, Russel Case is first on the right

Dogs were a big part of the patrol operation. You can learn all about how they were used in this article, which is also printed out in Gail’s photo album: World War II Coast Guard Horse Patrol .
USCG Beach Patrol with dogs Mattole CA
Russ and pups

Russ and pups

Gail concludes her introduction to the photo album thus:
“Russ often talked with pride and fondness of the time he spent and the local people he met in Petrolia. He and his wife Ann visited Petrolia a couple of times in subsequent years. Russ was a proud Coast Guard World War II Vet for the remainder of his life. He passed away in Denver, Colorado, in 2004.
“Thank you for sharing in his story.”
Thank *you*, Gailann Davidson! These pictures are only a small percentage of the photos in the album. Come on in to the MVHS office to see more!
(P.S. Note of July, 2015–my phone number has changed; to make an appt. to come to the office, please call 707-840-6044, or cell number 707-601-7300)

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):




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