Archive for September, 2011

Please see this introduction for info about these three 1921 maps.

Gee! Too bad we didn’t quite make it to Shelter Cove… well another trip back to the DNR and i may get that, too.

Read Full Post »

Belcher’s 1921 map, upriver

See previous post,the first in this series of three, for a little info about these 1921 maps.

Read Full Post »

1921 Belcher’s map, north

This is one of the most complete and accurate property-ownership maps we have. They are especially interesting for the I.A. notation, meaning “Indian Allotment,” on several of the parcels on Prosper Ridge. I got the map sections from the Department of Natural Resources in Eureka, on two different occasions. The first set (downriver near Petrolia) i had copied years ago. Over the years i realized i should have the whole watershed on hand, so i went back… but this time i took photos of the map. These are the more blue-toned pictures. Anyway, a big thank-you to the DNR and its caretakers (in this recent case, Andrew Bundschuh) for keeping these maps on-hand, organized, and available to serious researchers.

As always, for explanations as to how to use the maps (if you have the description of a piece of property and are looking for it, for instance), go to this earlier post.

Note: This map is so big, i am splitting it into three sections… the lower Mattole Valley, and its coast; upriver (Upper Mattole to the Briceland area), and the “Lost Coast.” All sequences will travel north to south. Click on the map to open and enlarge; use control and the + sign to enlarge further.

Read Full Post »

Dan Huddleston gave us the memoirs of Grace Hunter Christensen from which I draw today. His grandmother, Fran Graves, was given them by Grace (although Fran’s mother, Hazel Kelsey Flowers’, name is handwritten on the typed document).

Grace Ellen Hunter was born in 1895 in Petrolia to George Walker Hunter and Mae Maud Ellingwood. Her siblings included Levina, Dora (Mrs. Oscar Smith), Ray, Ira, twins Russell and Blanche, Clara, Myrtle, Lewis, and Madge. Her father, George, was the son of Walker S. Hunter, who for a time owned the business center of Petrolia, and Nancy Bellamy. Grace passed away in 1985.

I have omitted some of the earliest descriptions of Petrolia’s history from this entry, as they are Grace’s retelling of stories she heard secondhand and not, in my opinion, reliable. You may read the entire document if you ask me for a copy to borrow. Here I begin with, mainly, Grace’s memories of her own family’s tales, and the start of what she titles the story of her life. [My notes are in brackets.]


Grace's great-grandmother, Eliza Ann Martin Hunter (1804-1894), mother of Walker Sanders Hunter.

Walker Hunter’s mother [Eliza], whose husband was killed in the Civil War, lived with her son and his family. Walker and Nancy Hunter’s children were Ann, Elvira, Maggie, Angie, Sarah, Pascal, Elias, George [Walker], Thomas and Edward. [Hunter family genealogists: I am not sure about Sarah. Grace also doesn’t mention Melissa, who died at the age of 15, either through drowning or from a fever.]

Before Grandma [Nancy] bought a spinning wheel and small sewing machine on which the wheel was turned by hand, she made the boys pants and jackets of buckskin. When they thought the buckskins had become too dirty and stiff from being wet, they’d ask their mother to make new ones and she’d answer that they’d last for some time yet. So, the boys would take turns lightly sitting on the grind stone while another turned the wheel until a hole appeared—so of course new ones must be made.

Later there came the grist and small sawmills. They had wheat and corn ground for their own use and bought lumber for new homes. Nancy Hunter had the first wood stove that was shipped in. Her first cookies were made of very short baking powder biscuit dough, rolled thin and sprinkled with sugar. Each year there was a beef stock round-up. The cattle were driven by trail over the hills to Sacramento where buyers were waiting. The Indians liked the white man’s bread and if a few along the way saw the herd, they would gather white worms from the bark of trees, ask for two slices of bread, place the worms between, and to them it was a delicious sandwich.

In 1863, because of the killings and atrocities done by some of the boldest Indian warriors there was a massacre at Squaw Creek. They killed every Indian they could find in the encampment including women and children. The Indians’ cruelest warrior, called Snagle Tooth, was also killed at the time.

The Mountaineers gathered and captured many and took them to Round Valley Reservation, but there was quite an encampment left at the mouth of the Mattole.

Trust was something unknown between them for some time. One day when my father was walking home with his sisters and brothers, three Indians came riding by—one of them swooped him up and placed him in front of him as he rode. His father and some hired hands saw it as they were riding the range not too far away, they took chase and got him back before the Indians reached their encampment.

Most of the Indians living there died when an epidemic of measles hit their tribe. Most of the ones left were taken to a reservation. Those left built cabins, the men worked when it was available, the women dug willow roots, dyed them with solution they made from certain weeds and flowers and sold them to anyone wishing to buy.

Grandpa Hunter [Walker Sanders Hunter] was the first to start a dairy in Mattole—he bought wooden kegs from my Grandfather Giles Ellingwood who owned a cooper shop in Port Kenyon to put his butter in for market—the milk he fed to the calves and hogs. One day when he had the kegs of butter packed on horses and was taking them by trail to Ferndale, some Indians suddenly appeared. They took his horses, broke the kegs, and wiped butter all over the trees—he was lucky to get away with his life.

Walker S. Hunter, father of George Walker Hunter; Grace's grandfather.

In the mid-1890s, Grandma Hunter died of cancer. Grandpa had saved his money and wanted to extend his holdings, so he bought the business part of the small town of Petrolia which consisted of the stable, general store, saloon, and barber shop. Times had been hard and many couldn’t pay their bills. The former owners had lied about their heavy indebtedness which Grandpa found out when he took over the businesses. In those days a new owner was responsible for past indebtedness—this was Grandpa’s downfall. Rather than lose everything he turned two of his large ranches over to his foreman, Mr. Zanoni, who was supposed to return them as soon as business was straightened out and things cooled off. But when the time came, Zanoni would have no part in returning them nor would he with a Mr. Wright who had trusted him with his large ranch the same way. There was nothing they could do about it. They didn’t know the laws until they were confronted with them.

[Walker Sanders Hunter was in a partnership with Charles Gill at the Petrolia Store in the early-mid-1880s… the partnership did dissolve, and I never saw his name associated with the store after that. Don’t know if the order of things is mixed up in Grace’s memory, or if we are missing written information re: the mid-1990s. Nancy Bellamy Hunter did indeed die in 1893–very close to the time of her mother-in-law, Eliza’s, death.]

Grandpa was downhearted and disgusted about the whole thing—he sold all he had—salvaged enough to return to Missouri where he married a widow with a family and bought a ranch. Times were hard and after a few years his ranch was gone, his wife and family didn’t want to support an old man, so he came back to Mattole. He spent the end of his days in Tehama County with a daughter. Times were hard too for the land owners in Eel River Valley. Incomes were low and taxes extremely high. The only one my mother knew who was able to keep his ranch was Mr. Chapin. One traded his ranch for a team of horses. He could get fair wages for himself and his team.

Some Danish men and their families came to Eel River Valley, cleared land of brush and trees, sold the wood and trees to help build their houses and barns. Everything they did themselves with hand tools. Their children went to Port Kenyon school at the same time as my mother. She shuddered at the sight of their eating lard on their bread instead of butter which they couldn’t afford. Ingvard told me after we were married that they cooked onion in the fat and added a touch of salt. Professor Inskip was their teacher.

My Grandfather Ellingswood was born in England. He didn’t like his home life so when in his early teens, he stowed away on a ship headed from Maine, which perhaps stopped at New Brunswick Island [?] for it was there he lived until he married Alice Guptil at Portland, Maine. From there they came to California. He was a cooper at Santa Cruz for a few years before they and family settled at Port Kenyon.

Mother told of how the Chinese worked so cheap in the fish [business] that it took work away from the people living in the valley. They finally got tired of it—they rounded up all the Chinese except one man named Moon who had married an Indian girl, and because the people liked him, they let him stay. The others they took to the beach and told them to swim to China—they all drowned in the ocean. People made many of their own laws in those days. [That is not the way the deportation of the Chinese from Humboldt County happened… at least I hope it was not some incident that occurred apart from the well-known story of the roundup in Eureka!]

There wasn’t any road between Petrolia and Ferndale and my dad [born 1866] as a young man almost lost his life and that of his saddle horse in the heavy surf on the beach just south of Centerville on his way to Ferndale. Even after a road was built, they still travelled the beach from the Ocean House, where the Russ home stands, [south] to the foot of Domingo Hill, the old road to Petrolia [now Zanones’ corrals, at the foot of the road up to their and the Scientology places].

One day a Mattole man accidentally cut his leg with an axe. Two men helped the best they knew, and made him a bed in the back of a spring wagon and headed for Ferndale and a doctor. On the way, a hungry cougar smelled the blood and they had a hard time keeping him out of the wagon.


The first thing I distinctly remember of my life was my first day at Grammar School—I walked about a mile with my two older sisters, Levina and Dora, and two brothers, Ray and Ira. The large two-storey school house had two class rooms. First to fourth grade taught by Laura Cuddeback; the upper floor, the fifth to eighth, by Nelly McSweeney. A high board fence surrounded the large play yard on three sides and one down the center which divided the boys from the girls—sometimes the teachers would sit cross-legged on the ground and correct papers while the boys and girls played together in the front part of the yard. It was interesting to play with the pollywogs and minnows that nestled near the edge of the north fork of the Mattole River which wasn’t far away. [This was the school building on the east side of the lower North Fork, just west of downtown Petrolia, which was deemed unsafe after the 1906 earthquake.]


Photos here are lifted from ancestry.com. The one of Walker Sanders was put up there by Carl Christensen. More next time, folks!
See Part 2 by clicking this

Read Full Post »