Archive for January, 2011

Hindley family, late 1890s

The Hindley family of Honeydew. From Mary Rackliff Etter's collection, where there are many more like it.

Here is another randomly-found letter that tries to explain the members of a family picture. A few years ago, I wrote to Wendy Lestina of the Ferndale Museum about this photograph of the Hindleys, which was on a page with several other sittings of the same large group, taken in roughly the same period. I had asked Laurence Hindley (of Fortuna; the guy who collects and fixes up all the old farm and tractor equipment, including steam engines) and he couldn’t tell for sure who everyone was, so i don’t feel so bad. Maybe putting out the pictures online like this might find some answers.

Dear Wendy,
I only know that George and Margaret Jane Holman Hindley were married on December 25, 1866, in Weaverville, CA, and by 1874 were in the Upper Mattole (now Honeydew) area. They had 13 children, 4 of whom died in childhood. The remaining 9 were:
1. George Lawton H., b. 1867, married Mary J. Hogan
2. Annie Maud, b. 1872, married Walter E. Hackett
3. Ernest Richard, b. 1876, have no marriage info; died 1936
4. (Margaretta) Cora, b. 1881, married Walter C. Reishus
5. Verna Verena (?), b. 1883, married George C. Lindley
6. Hazel Enid, b. 1886, married Martin Waddington
7. Rebecca Elizabeth, b. 1888, married Joseph Keating, then Gordon Nichols
8. Joseph N. D., born 1893, married Blanche Cecil Haywood (their children were Vera Jean [Myers], Harlan, Cecil Joseph [C.J.], and George Hindley)
9. Henry C., born 1895, married Mary Ann Holbrook

My guess is that the picture shows Offspring 1 through 7 at the top of the picture–2 young men and 5 girls–and that the bottom group is the two youngest boys, Joseph and Henry, with 5 of their nieces and nephews–children of the older siblings.

If the picture were taken about 1897, when the eldest son was 30 and the eldest girl was 27, this would make sense. The two youngest of the George and Margaret children would have been ages 4 and 6 then.
Laurence and Lisa Hindley couldn’t figure it out, though they were sure that it is George and Margaret Jane flanking the children. So (maybe) our guess is as good as anyone’s.

P.S. George Hindley was a well-known public servant. He was county supervisor and had much to do with getting the Fernbridge built. One of his misadventures was being shot in the face by a neighbor with whom he had seemed to get along, and with whom he worked and traded; the man is mentioned often in his diary. Cyrus C. Fitzgerald, or was it Fitzpatrick? Anyway, the man turned out to be quite a rogue, and i believe died in a jail, in ill health, in his 40s. Speaking of the diary… Laurence Hindley gave the MVHS a copy of a solid year of George Hindley’s journal from the 1880s. There is only a paragraph, sometimes a couple of lines, for each day; but it is very revealing. I will see about posting bits of it on here. Might be kind of fun to do several entries for the appropriate month, i.e., “125 years ago this month.”


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In the recent Now… and Then newsletter (#33; print copy available by contacting me here or at the MVHS), an article from the Humboldt Times of September 23, 1854, mentions “Grizzly Bear, Deer, Elk, and Antelope…” in our area. I noted that i wasn’t sure about the antelope, thinking of the African animal. But i kept thinking of that ultra-American folk song with the line “…where the deer and the antelope play; where seldom is heard a discouraging word…” and realized that yes, there are American antelope– but in the Mattole Valley?

It would be interesting to learn more. If there were any such animals here, they would be Antilocapra genus, which is not the same as the African antelope. The American antelope is commonly known as the Pronghorn (the true Antelope having single-spike horns, rather than the antler-like prongs of our genus), and its scientific name means “antelope-goat.” The Pronghorn is yet numerous in northeastern California, where hunting licenses are issued, and are one of the attractions of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. They seem to prefer high-desert, relatively arid grasslands… but who’s to say that the summer Mattole hills, so perfect for other ungulates, would not host a happy population. I have not seen other accounts of them here, but will keep my eyes open.

The official report of the USDA/Forest Service ( http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/animals/mammal/anam/all.html ) tells us of the Pronghorn’s known traditional territory, but in very general terms:

Historically, pronghorn range extended further north in Alberta and
Saskatchewan; west through most of California (my italics)
and all of BajaCalifornia; east to western Minnesota and Iowa; and south through
east-central Texas to San Luis Potosi in Mexico [76]. Warm desert
populations have declined greatly from historic size and range.
Pronghorn from the United States have been introduced in all Mexican
Chihuahuan Desert states from the international boarder south to San
Luis Potosi. The largest pronghorn populations are first, in Wyoming,
and secondly, Montana.

Antilocapra americana. If this one looks familiar, consider that these Pronghorns are more closely related to giraffes than to African antelope.

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Here are a couple of pictures from the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley that i found online.
(As always, click on the photo to expand it; then do whatever your computer does to zoom in further.)

Joe Duncan, who learned his language before the first white person was seen in the Mattole Valley. Born perhaps c. 1850, he was informant to anthropologists here in the 1920s. His Indian name was something like "Taralash".


Both these pictures are of Isaac (also called Ike) Duncan, Joe’s son. I recently learned that Leonard Bowman, chair of the Bear River Band (Rohnerville rancheria) is Ike’s descendant. 1923 photo.

Ike and Joe Duncan were a couple of those Natives left living near the mouth of the river after the official Indian Wars were over. They hired out as ranch hands, and seemed to be generally well-liked and well-respected. In 1927, a linguist famous for his work with Tibetan as well as Native American languages spoke with the Duncans; i have had a few clues leading me to the conclusion that it was Joe and Ike, rather than, say, the Denmans he spoke with. I found online an interview with Dr. Fang-Keui Li from the 1970s about his visit to the Mattole and his experiences with the Duncans:

After a few weeks he [his mentor and boss] said, “Well, now you can go. You know all the techniques of how to ask questions, how to handle your informant. Now you can go and try to look for the Mattole Indians.”

The Mattole Indians were known to be along the Mattole River, but they were supposed to be extinct. That is to say, all the Mattole Indians had died. But there was news that there were still one or two still alive. One of our projects was to make a record of all those Indians that were still alive, because after that, that language would be dead; it would be no more. As a matter of fact, that is the case.

I took the material of the Mattole Indians after I got to that place and did about four or five weeks of recording texts and grammar and so on. After I left, I know that all the Indians of that tribe died [this is not quite true; however, Native speakers of the tongue were probably hard to find by the 1920s], so my record of that language is still the only record of the language.

After I left Hoopa Valley I went to some place called Fortuna, in order to look for the Mattole. So I wandered around all over that area in a taxi, asking where the Mattole Indians were. It was a kind of wild goose hunt.

But some people said, “Well, further south along the Mattole River you may find some Mattole Indians.” There was no bus or anything but a kind of a so-called post truck, that sent letters from one village to the other. So I took one of those trucks and went down to a small town called Petrolia. It was called Petrolia because it was thought at one time that there would be oil in that area, so that little town was called Petrolia.

I stayed in a hotel and started asking whether there were Mattole Indians there or not. They said, “Well, yes there are Mattole Indians, but they are on the mouth of the Mattole River on the Pacific Ocean. There is one family we know there who are Mattole Indians.” It was about, oh, three or four miles from Petrolia.

The only thing to do for me was to take a walk to the mouth of the river, and so I started walking. There was just the Mattole River going one way, so I forded it one way, and forded back and forth the other way, until I came to a farm house. I found it too hard to walk further (some 10 miles), so I borrowed a horse from a farmer. I said, “Can you lend me your horse so I can ride it to the mouth of the river?” The farmer was very nice, he said, “Yes, you can take my horse.” He started to put on the saddle, you know, for me, and I said, “I want a very old, very good-tempered horse, because I never learned how to ride.”

He said, “Oh, this is an old horse.” He said, “Now you take this, and if you follow the river, you’ll go down and get to the place. When you come back, take the horse to the stable.” He didn’t want to have any money paid.

So now the first time I took a trip on that horse, and went down to the mouth of the river and met these two old Indians. One was very old, seventy something, the other was about forty, fifty, something like that. I started asking them questions about their language.

The old man, I think was blind or something.

I asked them, “Will you teach me how to speak the Mattole language?” He apparently was willing. I said, “It is impossible for me to make a trip every day to your house. You have a horse.
You can ride down to town every morning, and I will provide you with a lunch at the hotel, and after we work, about four o’clock, you can ride back, and I’ll pay you for your trouble.”

At that time I inquired of Kroeber what was the normal rate to pay an informant. This is important, because you have to know the local rate in order not to pay more than the University of California, you see. Because that would have spoiled their game. Kroeber said, “Oh, pay him about forty cents an hour.” Forty cents an hour, for one day of six hours. “You pay him two dollars something, and you give him a lunch.” At that time that was quite sufficient; forty cents an hour was the going rate for the University of California.

So I told him, “I am going to pay you forty cents an hour,” and he was happy because he wouldn’t be able to get anything, normally. So he came every day to me, and I got some material for a little bit over a month.

I found him very dull, a very dull person. He didn’t know how to get your point, what you asked. And he could not–I said, “Can you tell me a story?” I thought I would give him–. No, he didn’t know how to tell story. [all laugh] It is a difficult thing. You do get informants that cannot tell stories. If you ask you, yourself: “Can I tell me a story?” You’ll search, but you may not be able to find any story to tell.

So he could not tell a story.

This was the younger person?

Yes, the old man could not come out; he was blind and over seventy years old. He could not come to me.

Lindy [Li’s daughter]:
He probably knew the stories.

I got mostly grammatical material, like “I come, you come, he comes,” and so on. This kind of grammatical material which you could easily get from him. Or, say, “I go from here to there,” and so on.

So, after a little over a month I found that this was getting a little bit–the, how would you say it? Economically it is called what, the limit of returns?

Diminishing returns.

You stay longer, you get less. So I said, “I had better try another Indian tribe.”
~ [Can’t seem to post an active link here, so just Google “Linguistics east and west: American Indian”, type “Mattole” into the Search box, and you will find lots more good stuff where this came from.]

John Jackson, a.k.a. Johnny Jack, at his cabin at the mouth of the Mattole. He had a daughter named Cora (Greslik, then married to an Everett Anderson) who was around here up until the 60s, at least. This photo from the Mary Rackliff Etter collection.

The Merrifield family of the Phillipsville/Miranda area, c. 1915; courtesy of the HSU Library, Humboldt Room

Truman Merrifield, or Mayfield as the name is sometimes spelled, was the son of Daniel Merrifield, a white man originally from Vermont, who got together with a Native Mattole woman in the 1860s. There was a daughter (Rhoda?– let me correct this later when i’ve looked that up), and son Truman, who married another Native or half-Native woman– here is their large family.

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In 1999, Kenneth G. Nelson, born February 20, 1921, and raised in the Honeydew area, presented his seven grandchildren a book of his memoirs. The cover photo of Thoughts of a Boy Growing Up shows young Ken with his brother Roy, Mildred Lindley, Jack Smith, and Leland Hadley, laughing in the sunshine of a long-ago school day outside the Upper Mattole School. It’s a great photo, truly eliciting the “era of ‘boyfoot boy with cheeks of tan’,” as Ken describes that time, in the volume’s dedication.

The cover photo from "Thoughts of a Boy Growing Up," both editions

I loved the book, which has not been widely available, though i wished it contained more pictures. I can’t quite recall where i picked up my first copy, a hardback book. The first 69 pages concern Ken’s days in the Mattole, which ended when the family, due to Depression-generated financial difficulties, was forced to move to Lodi in 1930. Ken’s mother, Sue Black Nelson, had been raised there and Ken’s maternal grandparents gladly welcomed the family into their home until they got themselves set up, eventually as dairy farmers.

Ken Nelson’s paternal grandparents were Steven D. and Grace Nelson, who in the 1920s built the camp long known as Nelson’s, then as the Mattole Resort, and most recently as the Mattole Country Cabins. The scenic retreat is between Upper Mattole and Honeydew. Maud Nelson Hunter was Ken’s father Roy’s sister; she and her husband Ray Hunter took control of the Resort when Steve and Grace passed away. Maud and Ray’s daughter was Virginia Hunter Mast (also a Curzon and Tuxon in there, though i am not sure of the order), who finally sold the place out of the family, i think in the 1980s. Another daughter of Maud and Ray (and thus Kenneth G. Nelson’s first cousin) was Velma Hunter Childs Titus, who is as regular as she can be at MVHS events, and always quick with a fact, a story, or a picture whenever i’ve asked. These cousins are a pair of dynamos– you would never be able to guess their ages by their energy and sharpness of mind. I spoke with Ken on the telephone tonight, and he was, as they say, sharp as a tack, with his 90th birthday in a month. He gave me permission to reprint whatever i wished from his book.

The book! That’s the good part. He recently republished his memoirs with a great selection of photographs. Just a couple of days ago i received a signed copy in the mail, via Velma Titus. What a wonderful surprise! The book itself was already delightful reading; Ken’s is a very honest and humble voice, and he’s an enjoyable, smooth writer. But the photographs– well again, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Here are a few of the photographs from the book, along with Ken’s own captions. Please excuse the funny textures… something seems to happen when my pixels interact with the book’s pixels.

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Yesterday’s post mentioned the earthquake damage to the old two-storey school in Petrolia which made it unsafe for holding classes. Here is a photo of the building taken by a Mr. Eakle in 1906, and found in the Bancroft Library’s easily searched online photo collection– along with two others found there.

This was the school used for over four decades, until 1906, located near the site of today's Yellow Rose restaurant, on the east side of the lower North Fork, Mattole.

The rear (west) ell of the hotel built around 1880 as a family home by John Walsh. Later Modest Giacomini converted it to a hotel, and by 1906 Jack Wright and Ellis Hunter were running it.

The Knights of Pythias had a chapter here which met in this building, later the Mattole Lumber Company Store. Not positive precisely when Calvin Stewart and the MLC set up shop here. Northwest corner of the Petrolia Square (view toward southeast)

Calvin Stewart’s daughter, Lavinna– variously spelled– was married to Tommy Few-Hairs Johnson, and the Johnson couple ran the Mattole Lumber Co.’s merchandise business. Since the store in the downstairs (upstairs was retained as a meeting and dance hall) seems not to have had any other names before “Johnson’s” or “Mattole Lumber Co.” we might assume that the Stewart family bought the building after the earthquake, fixed it up, and were ready for business by the time the Mattole Wharf was up and running in August, 1908.

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I found this synopsis of events leading to the beginning of Cabaret culture at the Community Center in my computer archives. It was put together about five years ago; i think i did it to help someone write an article that was part of a push to get funding. The renovation and expansion of the MRC offices upstairs, and the kitchen and bathrooms downstairs, was Phase One of a plan that should soon start taking the next step– pushing out the north wall to make room for a stage and dressing room, creating an even more entertainment-friendly venue. More than one lovely article could be written– this is only the outline of the earlier years.

So much has happened in this building, both as a school and in its many functions as the Community Center; important things in our lives (besides the obvious schooling and graduations) like friendship, play, drama and sports, parties and dinners, graduations, and now birthdays, memorials, baby blessingways and women’s circles, classes, workshops, breakfasts, and the ongoing work of the Mattole Restoration Council. At the MVHS’s Grange office we have a couple of binders of articles and pictures of the Community Center’s formation, and of the moving of the building across the street to its present location.

Brief history of Mattole Union School
and Mattole Valley Community Center connection

1859—Mattole School District established
1860—First building destroyed by falling tree (Humboldt Times, August 4, 1860)
1861—New school building completed (“according to county records,” says Book of Petrolia, p.56) on northwest side of North Fork creek
1862—Schoolbuilding burned down by vandals (Book of Petrolia)
1862—New two-storey wooden clapboard structure built about 100 yards east of the North Fork and north of the county road—near present Yellow Rose restaurant (Book of Petrolia)
1869—Mattole District counts 83 students, compared to Eureka’s 282 and Ferndale’s 54 (Humboldt Times, August 29, 1869)
1871—Or perhaps this is when the two-storey white clapboard school was built. Humboldt Times of August 26, 1871, states that “Trustees of the Mattole School District invite proposals for the building of a schoolhouse near Petrolia.” Also, some county records (according to History of Humboldt County Schools) date a “Petrolia School District” to 1871
1877—120 students in Mattole District; 57 at Upper Mattole (Humboldt Times, August 31, 1877)
1880s-90s—Ninety or more students in two classrooms (one upstairs and one down) covering twelve grades (Book of Petrolia)
1906—Schoolbuilding seriously damaged by April 18 earthquake. School held temporarily in Community Church (now Seventh-Day Adventist). Plans made by District Trustees to raise a tax and build a fine new school (Ferndale Enterprise, April 19, 1907)
1907—Contractor P.T. Petersen building new schoolhouse. (Ferndale Enterprise, April 19, 1907). Frank Adams and Jack Wright hired; some of the lumber from local mill run by Frank Etter. (Local newspaper clipping by Laura Stansberry Hunter Smith, 1962). Other wood is fine lightweight redwood hauled from Ferndale to Petrolia at 3000 feet per load by John Titus (Enterprise)
1907 or ‘08—Bell and its cast-iron frame salvaged from old school and placed in belfry atop new schoolbuilding, located on southeast crest of Crane Hill, in present grassy playfield just east of paved area. West end of building was main entry with a porch-wide flight of steps and eventually two separate doors. School begins here in fall of year (Book of Petrolia vs. memories of oldtimers at Petrolia Day—see Now… and Then, v1, n4)
1920s—Additional building (present office building) constructed separately, north of original building on site, as high school. Grades 1 through 11 taught through 1948, when students are sent to Ferndale on boarding-out basis, through agreement with their district (Book of Petrolia)
1924–Mattole Union District formed when Union Mattole School (located near Squaw Creek) is closed and the Petrolia “Mattole” School absorbs its students. (History of Humboldt County Schools, Vol. III)
1926—Mattole enrollment at low of about 10 (County records)
1950-51—Mattole average daily attendance is 15. One teacher (Directory of Public Schools, 1951)
1954-55—Larger population due to logging boom. Two teachers at Mattole School: 1-4 and 5-8 grades (Directory)
1956—Belfry torn down and bell taken to County Fairgrounds (Book of Petrolia)

Student body of Mattole Union School, 1955-56. Teacher for the upper grades was Mr. William Johnston, and for the lower, Mrs. Inez Johnson. Photo courtesy Tom Fisher

1962—Bell returned to school grounds (is now atop water tower on northwest end of school property). Map of Mattole Valley painted on inside west wall by students for Petrolia Day (Book of Petrolia)
Mid-1960s—Last graduation ceremonies held in old Mattole Union School building; henceforth held at Mattole Grange, as they had often been previously (1940s) (Memory of Ray Azevedo, 1960s school principal)
Early 1970s—Replacement classrooms set up at Mattole Union School site (Ray Azevedo); old schoolbuilding condemned as unsafe for use under Field Act for Earthquake Safety (MVCC archives)
1975—First meeting of the Mattole Valley Community Action Planning Committee in June (MVCC archives)
1977—Mattole Valley Community Center with more than 70 members negotiates with School Board for purchase of old school building. Sold for $100 (MVCC archives)
1978—Mattole School Song written by Dorothy Short
1978, August—Building pulled across street by volunteers to present location on west side of county road. Keeps old east-west orientation so that entries are reversed: the old back door now fronts the county road
1979, January—New front porch added, woodstove installed, electrical wiring completed. By March, building ready for use. By fall, Mattole Valley Preschool begins operation in old building; new office space upstairs, later to be the Mattole Restoration Council office, opened as library (Now… and Then, v1, n4)
1979, fall—First Cabaret held at Mattole Valley Community Center (MVCC archives)

The Mattole Valley Community Center in 2006, after first expansion

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Store built by John Mackey in early 1880s. Burned down in downtown Petrolia fire, April, 1903. Across road from south side of Petrolia Square. Photo from Mary Rackliff Etter collection

Click to zoom in and enlarge! (Isn’t it amazing how much detail is in the tiniest photos from before 1900?)

Check comments below “Downtown near Major’s…” for more information about the store and its vicinity.

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