Archive for the ‘Bear River-Capetown’ Category

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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Dear Mattole History people,
I am sure you’re getting tired of all the maps. Here’s a pleasant little story sent in by one of our readers. He sent a few postcards of local shipwrecks i will post soon, also. Here are excerpts from Mr. Smith’s email, and the bridge story.

As always, click and zoom in to make readable.

My name is Paul Smith. My parents – Ron and Arleen Smith – still live in Ferndale, but I now reside in Houston Texas.
I enjoy learning about Humboldt history and love the West of the Redwoods website. I found it only recently – from a mention of it on the Ferndale Museum facebook page.

In answer to your question about the Smiths, my great grandfather was George Smith who lived at Fleener Creek (south of Centerville). My great-grandmother’s family were the Fleeners who named the creek. The Fleeners lived in Petrolia for a while in the 1860’s, then moved to Fleener Creek. My maternal relatives were Ambrosini’s of the Bear River area.

I don’t know if the MVHS includes Bear River, but I have attached a fun
story about the Bear River Bridge which we found in my Grandmother’s (Audrey Ambrosini) belongings. Since my Grandparents lived next to the bridge, I assume the rancher with the unpronounceable name was my Grandfather Walter Ambrosini.

Thank you, Paul Smith, for the contribution!

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