Archive for the ‘Current News & Links re: history’ Category

Hi Everyone,

(I posted yesterday, went directly to an MVHS Board meeting, and learned of important enough updates that I pulled the post and am starting over.)

It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted here. I’m sorry about the absence.
Partly, it’s been “just me” and my private life that has kept me away. But there’s an upside to that, which is that we have found more people to sit on our Board, take on small and large duties, network to find even more enthusiastic members, etc. The Society is becoming more like a club or team effort, with the work and the play spread out among many interested people.

We have gotten to the point where we are no longer just seeking information and trying to find our footing on the first steps toward permitting, designing, establishing infrastructure, etc.: We have actually filed with the County a Parcel Merger to make Becky’s three lots (two parcels) on the northwest corner of the Petrolia Square into one piece; and we have had an official survey done. Local favorite architect/builder Jim Groeling has drawn us a preliminary plan and will be heavily involved as we move forward. We have many promises of help and hopes of financial and labor donations for the museum and grounds’ development, and even more exciting, of materials to display once we open our doors.

One of our great boons has been the energy of Ferndale go-getter Kathy Major, whom we engaged as a grant writer, but who has been a tireless cheerleader, publicist, and advisor. Three of her press releases are included below, to fill you in on the details.

Also new since the last I wrote here is the energetic and entertaining presence of Thomas Clark on our Board. Tom is the son of Bill Clark (and brother of Paul and Sandra Clark); the three are grandchildren of T.K. Clark and thus descended from some of Petrolia’s earliest white settlers. Tom left the Valley in his youth and has returned with a great zest for all things Mattole. He is doing everything he can to spread the word and line up pledges of time, energy, materials, and finances, and to support every fundraising effort we can conceive of.

In fact, yesterday (at our August 28, 2018, meeting), Thomas agreed to take on the position of Building Project Director! I had just written earlier in the day that… “We are, however, still seeking more individuals… While we have many people with differing skill sets all contributing something to this project, the one person we would still like to find would be the one who oversees all the aspects–a Director of the building project. One who ties together the threads, cracks the whip when necessary, and makes sure communications are made when and to whom they need to be. We have a Director for the Historical Society as a whole, but the Building Project is a whole ‘nother enchilada!” and so on. I believe Thomas, who does have the requisite experience to take this on, had been a bit shy of stepping up, as (although his roots here are old) his bloom is rather new; he only joined the Board in April. However, we are all delighted to have him accept this responsibility. I like to think that he won’t really be taking on a whole lot of new work, but instead a lot of keeping track and coordination of work. I am sure he will be perfect for the job.

And the Director of the Mattole Valley Historical Society is Gary “Fish” Peterson! People with detail-oriented memories will recall that I, Laura Cooskey, never was really, or willingly, the Director. I started the club in 1994, on a suggestion from Ellen Taylor, as Secretary—we had no “head of state.” Well, now I am the Recording Secretary again (and Historian), while Gary makes the agendas, runs the meetings, signs the important paperwork, and generally keeps us in line. I am extremely grateful to Gary for assuming this role.

We also have openings on our Board that we would like to fill. We meet once monthly, usually on the afternoon of the last Tuesday of the month. Anyone can join the Board; you do not have to be knowledgeable about local history, although an interest is helpful. Please get in touch (numerous routes mentioned below) if you would like to join us!

On a more regretful note, I must add that one reason for a Board opening is that, for personal reasons, Kelton Chambers has had to resign from that group. He was a solid and helpful presence, and we were always cheered to find him at the meetings. Perhaps one day he will re-join us!

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And let me take this opportunity to invite one and all to the Harvest Festival traditional Mattole Grange Beef ‘n’ Beans Barbecue this Sunday, Labor Day weekend, Sept. 2, 2018, at noon. The MVHS, mainly in the person of Cindy Lyman, has gathered many prizes for the raffle, which will benefit our Building Fund. So please come enjoy the Barbecue, look over the goods–and drop a few tickets into the buckets. We even have a press release for this event (written by Kathy Major, amended just now by me, Laura):


Petrolia, CA  –  August 28, 2018     On Labor Day Sunday, September 2nd, the Mattole Grange will do its traditional Deep-Pit Roasted Beef and Bean Barbecue. A local tradition since 1934, the ‘beef & bean classic’ has become one of the Mattole Valley’s best loved parties. This year will feature down-home music from our own Mattole Mudstompers, starting at 12:15 and up until the MVHS raffle begins at 1:30. Possibly more music will follow the raffle, if we’re all in the mood! (We are aware of the need to keep the volume comfortable for conversation over our meals.)

The pit will open at noon sharp and will feature generous country portions of deep-pit roasted beef, a heritage recipe for deep-pit baked beans—and roasted Shively corn for an extra buck an ear. The bean recipe has been handed down from two beloved Mattole Valley girls, Mae Bugbee (1906-2001) and Miss Katie Cummings (1890-1974). According to Laura Cooskey, Mattole Valley Historical Society (MVHS) Historian, “It’s still made in the same pot the Grange has been using since the 1930s.”

It’s a true old-fashioned country picnic, so bring your own plates, cutlery and side dishes.  Mom’s macaroni, potato and 7-layer salads are always crowd favorites. This party is all about memories. Pies and drinks will be available for purchase and will benefit the Grange building fund.

Cooskey reminds families and groups to bring a large bean pot or bowl and a slab or platter for the beef if you are dining in groups. “People often forget to bring them and it’s a scramble get through the two beef and bean lines. It’s a real family-style event, where you pick up enough in those pots to feed your whole table.”

There will be a special benefit raffle in support of the Mattole Valley Historical Society’s new Petrolia town square museum and park building fund. The raffle will feature handmade items from many Mattole Valley folks including Becky Enberg and Ferndale jewelry designer Ashley Rose, among others. Bob Stansberry has contributed some hand-milled redwood lumber, and the Bear River Casino is offering a free stay. Cindy Lyman, in charge of the raffle, has collected 70-some-odd prizes so far!
It’s a perfect day to bring the whole family out for a taste of local history.

Tickets will be $15 for adults, children 6-12 for $10 and under 6 eat for free. The Mattole Grange is located about 7 miles past Petrolia at A. Way Park between Petrolia and Honeydew.

For more information on the Mattole Valley Grange Labor Day Beef & Bean Barbecue, contact Michael Evenson evenson@igc.org.

To donate a locally made item for the MVHS museum benefit raffle, contact Cindy Lyman at lymanvillewest@frontier.com  –  (707) 629-3638 home or (707) 498-7537 cell or text.

To become a member of MVHS, to contribute to the new museum building fund or for more information on the picnic, see bottom of this post.

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In case you missed it, Kathy made a concise report of our progress as of mid-May. We are getting this word out to the local papers and other media outlets. Rather than attempt to reword this, I will just reprint it so that those of you who don’t read the Ferndale Enterprise or other local papers will get some of the details up to that point (and note that some of these ideas were not set in stone; the outdoor bathrooms and food truck ideas have been reviewed and are not solid parts of the plan now. However, memorial bricks in a wall, with names of loved ones preserved in stone for posterity, will certainly be part of the Memory Garden; you should be hearing more about being able to purchase the bricks soon).


Petrolia, CA – May 15, 2018     A handful of civic-minded Mattole Valley residents led by a devoted amateur historian and a big-hearted Petrolia rancher’s daughter have designs on a new historical museum and public park to be built on the Town Square in Petrolia. Their dream of promoting and preserving the history of Petrolia, Honeydew and the Mattole Valley where it can be shared with the public is finally taking shape.

In the past year, the Mattole Valley Historical Society (MVHS) has received nearly $300,000 in donations of prime Town Square property, lumber, architectural design and civil engineering services, along with fundraising and strategic planning services. The 240-member non-profit organization has also received pledges of local contractor/builder assistance, landscaping design, construction volunteers and other financial and material contributions.

Since 1994, over 160 years of rich local history depicting the Native American, pioneer, ranching, industrial and natural history has been parked in two small rooms in the Mattole Grange building. The 83-year-old Grange, constructed almost entirely of old growth timber, is located in a heavily wooded area, seven miles from the nearest fire department. The collection has already incurred some minor water damage from a leaking roof.  Fire danger is an ongoing concern. Currently, visitation is by appointment only. The newly designed facility will provide proper fire-safe and weather-proof storage, secure built-in display cases, and expanded space for the growing collection of exhibits.

The project has been designed to include a memory garden, outdoor cooking area,and a public picnic area with ADA certified outdoor restrooms. This will open the square to food trucks, outdoor catering services and local non-profit organizations for fundraising and other outdoor cultural events. There will be easy access for nearby schools and the Mattole Restoration Council which currently relies heavily on the collection’s resources. The Historical Society is hoping to encourage tourism and economic development by combining the preservation of local history with some attractive and functional civic improvements.

Executive Director Laura Cooskey, who has been instrumental in developing plans for the museum says, “This is one way we can enrich this beautiful location and our community while preserving its history.  We love the Mattole Valley and are grateful for the opportunity to return something to a place that has given so much to us.  We hope others will join in supporting this worthy project.”

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And here is Kathy’s latest press release, again, with a few minor adjustments. This brings us quite up to date on the progress of our project.


Petrolia, CA  –  August 28, 2018    The Bertha Russ Lytel Foundation has awarded a $10,000 grant to the Mattole Valley Historical Society (MVHS) in support of their plans to build a small historical museum and park on the town square in Petrolia.  The funds were specifically requested from the Lytel Foundation to obtain necessary permitting fees and title work to begin planned construction on the new museum building.

Laura Cooskey, MVHS Historian, responded to the grant award letter, “Your generosity in light of the fact that this type of project is outside your normal guidelines is most appreciated and has given our organization and project a boost in both credibility and enthusiasm. We hope this will help to unite the communities of Petrolia and Honeydew and benefit the entire Mattole Valley by encouraging more travel to the area.”

The engineering, surveying and planning firm Omsberg & Preston in Eureka and two local independent consultants, Brian Reilly and Neale Penfold, have donated $20,000 in pro bono services to provide sewage disposal testing, design & report preparation; grading, drainage & erosion control plan; field survey, monumentation and record of survey; conditional use & building permit application packages; additional building design; merger application package and structural analysis.  Kimberly Preston, PE, PLS, Owner and Manager of Omsberg & Preston said, “We welcome the chance to be a part of this project, and lend our services at no cost to you as the MVHS Museum will be a valuable asset to the community for generations to come.”

The $10,000 Lytel Foundation Grant will primarily cover the costs of the 2-lot property merger fee, conditional use permit fee, sewage disposal permitting fee, grading permit fee, building permit fee, title work and record on survey checking and recording fees.  Work on the field survey began on Saturday, August 18, 2018 with title reports, map check and recordation fees to be completed by Omsberg & Preston’s Steve Nesvold.  Don Hindley, manager of the Lytel Foundation said in his letter to MVHS, “We look forward to the completion of your project.  It is felt your museum will be a great addition to the Mattole Valley and Petrolia.  We wish you success in the obtaining the funding to complete this project.”

A preliminary design plan with an estimated cost of construction has been submitted by Petrolia architectural engineer, Jim Groeling, who, tentatively but quite likely, will be contractor for the building.  Groeling plans to design the museum to suggest the local architectural history of the early 1900s, but with modern amenities, utilities and security.

For more information on the Mattole Valley Historical Museum and Park, to add your support or to become a member of MVHS – contact Historian Laura Walker Cooskey at (707) 601-7300 or email  mattolehistory@frontiernet.net.

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That’s it for now… hope to see soon any of you who can make it to the Grange on Sunday!


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This coming Saturday, January 6, 2018, at 1 p.m., the Humboldt County Historical Society presents a Mattole Valley Historical Society slideshow. It is a free event, held in the Conference Room of the main branch (Eureka) of the Humboldt Co. Library, at 1313 Third St (follow 3rd Street east until you’ve passed the Carson Mansion. You can’t miss the beautiful new library building with ample parking out front. The Conference Room is to the left of the lobby just as you enter).

The official press release for the event reads, in part, “Ms. Cooskey will show an array of historical photos showing the promise, and the disappointments, of the Mattole Valley to settlers, visitors, and entrepreneurs. The Mattole Valley is a land of extremes, with extraordinary beauty on one side and fickle natural forces on the other.” This is why I’m calling the show “Sunshine and Rain”–it’s not only true that we enjoy plenty of both of those actual boons in the Valley, but our fortunes here seem to drift from one state to the other, often quite indifferent to our intentions. But then, if we stay here long enough, we strike a balance and begin to feel that a lot of sunshine and a drenching of rain are just the tickets to the comfort and happiness of a real home. Closer to nature and closer to neighbors than is always comfortable, but that’s what makes the roots we put down feel real.

        A hunting cabin somewhere out in the Cooskie Range, as they used to say. From Dayton Titus’s album.


I have about 130 slides. Many have been seen in the MVHS newsletter, on the walls of the Grange, or on this blog… but several should be new to you.

Please come by the library on Saturday afternoon. The show should last about an hour. If I or we get to talking too much, just holler, “Slide!” and I’ll move on to the next image. That’s what it’s all about! Old pictures of the Mattole Valley.

P.S. I’m really sorry about being such a negligent blogger. I will try to put up some new material here soon. Thank you, loyal history followers!

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In case you haven’t heard, the Mattole Valley Historical Society has been made the generous offer of a good-sized spot of land on the Petrolia Square for the purpose of building a fireproof place to house our archives. We will also have a space large enough to start collecting and displaying all manner of artifacts… much more than what we can do at the Grange location, which is really just our office and library. In other words, we will be able to have a museum, once we have a building–and now we have been offered the site. Here is a view from Google Earth that shows, on the northwest corner of the Square in downtown Petrolia, the three-parcels-in-one that make up our future home. That’s the Petrolia Store on the left, below the Petrolia VFD firehouse and just across the road from the lower property line.

4-GoogleAir-view, site, crop

And here is the latest of a series of floor plans for the 40 x 24-foot building we (the Board) have been envisioning (note that i am not a professional architect or artist, and these are just preliminary homegrown sketches):


The museum building would be on the northernmost of the three formerly separate parcels–that is, on the northwest corner of the Square, sitting where the Knights of Pythias Hall used to be.

I have written many pages about the excitement of this promise, and also many words imploring any likely candidates in the areas of grant-writing, fund-raising, project direction, and building planning and permitting, to step forward. Mainly because of the offer, we now have an invigorated and legally functional Board of Directors. But we do need another couple of key players to get this project off the ground.

We would like to be able to pay at least one person (the Project Director) who would then be able to make the time to focus on overseeing the project. I assure you though, the money would not be the main attraction. One of the first jobs of an active push toward this vision will be to write a grant to pay the Director! So, if making a big pile of cash is anyone’s goal, this would not be a position to apply for. However, we do feel that the effort that will be required to gather our energy, time, and money and convert it into some version of a Mattole Valley historical museum in downtown Petrolia, ought to be reimbursed with a helpful stipend. So, by all means, if you are interested in working with us, please get in touch with us–contact info at end of post.

Did i mention that i will be stepping down as Director of the MVHS come December? Yes, i’ve given my several-month notice to the Board. There was too much fuzziness about who does what, and we have a lot to do. I intend to keep studying history, doing research and interviews, and writing about the Mattole Valley’s past. But i do not mean to carry on with the business of running the organization. So we will be needing a Director of the Society as 2017 rolls around;  you will be working with a cooperative Board, a competent and thorough Secretary and a great Treasurer. For now, though, we are in dire need of a Project Director and a Grantwriter for the development on the Square.

Opportunities abound!

But let me leave you with these grand visions. Of course we don’t need an all-or-nothing attitude about anything as huge (relatively speaking) as this floor plan, and we don’t need to be discouraged if it’s slow going toward an entire compound such as that depicted in the site plan below. We could certainly start our fireproof lodging of materials on the site if we could get the 10 x 12-foot shed built; or, as was just suggested to me today, we might throw up the metal building on the south end meant to be a rougher home for agricultural and industrial equipment–an easily fire-proof structure–and store everything in there, with a big sign saying “Excuse the mess! Museum building in progress,” while we work on the more homelike museum and office building.

But here are my sketches of one idea of how the site might be laid out… and my primitive drawing of a renewed and revitalized corner of the Petrolia Square. (The parking lot is just a suggestion of how cars might be able to park… we wouldn’t need that many spaces, and only the A.D.A. (handicapped) spots need to be paved… so don’t worry, we won’t Pave Paradise to put up a parking lot. More grass, native plantings, and art or outdoor equipment displays would be better. Probably most parking could be along the road around the Square.)



Please get in touch with us if you want to help make this a reality, or if you know of anyone we might tap. There are a lot of new people in the Valley lately… maybe someone would like to become an instant essential citizen, by jumping into this niche. E-mail mattolehistory@frontiernet.net, call 707-601-7300, or comment here and we will contact you! Thank you!


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Channeled by Ferndale’s dramatist, Charlie Beck. We’ve seen Charlie at the Grange performing as mountain man Seth Kinman, and as humorist/philosopher Mark Twain. Now, the Ferndale Museum presents his powerful interpretation of the spirit of “Osawatomie John” in a one-man show that promises to etch the passionate idealist indelibly into our hearts and minds.

CBeck as JBrown,6-26-16 eventThe poster mentions the potluck but i need to add that the time of the meal is noon. Please come and bring something to share for lunch. It’s also fine to drop in at 1:00 for the show, but please come in quietly and respectfully if you are a minute late.

We’ll have a donations jar out for contributions to the Grange for use of the hall.

Here’s Charlie in his thoughtful and righteous John Brown persona:


If you would like to update your memory of the known facts of John Brown’s life, try this wikipedia article: (click on this link). There’s quite a bit of information there; Charlie’s show will express the agony and zeal of the man as he follows his path to martyrdom.

The local Mattole connection is that abolitionist John Brown’s daughter, champion, and personal secretary Annie Brown married Samuel Adams and settled down on a homestead and apple orchard below Shenanigan Ridge. Descendants included Gypsy Adams Evenden and Roger Brown, both passed away not long ago. Other Brown family members settled in Humboldt County, including son Salmon Brown, who ranched at Bridgeville.

Remember–tomorrow, Sunday the 26th of June, 2016, at the Mattole Grange–noon, potluck; 1 pm, Charlie Beck as John Brown. Hope to see you there!

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Due to popular demand, the event referred to in my previous blog post will be re-tuned a bit, and you will be able to attend this Mattole Valley Historical Society event at the Mattole Grange, on Sunday, May 15. Here is the poster with all the information you should need!


In early April, Jerry gave this talk and slide show about local Native Americans of a century ago and the ethnographers who lived with them and wrote down their stories, at the Humboldt Co. Library. It was a standing-room-only crowd, with people finally turned away. At this Mattole Grange event, he will be offering the talk again, but for us, beginning with Bear River and Mattole topics, and focussing on Ike and Joe Duncan, Johnny Jack, and ethnographers Pliny Earle Goddard, Gladys Ayer Nomland, and John P. Harrington.

To paraphrase Mr. Rohde’s comments before the April gathering, “The Indians from these areas were nearly all killed during the holocaust of the 1850s and 1860s, but a handful survived to describe a nearly forgotten world, where the Lolahnkoks, Nongatls, Mattoles, and other tribal groups lived in a land that, for a time, was nearly a paradise. [Thanks to the Native informants], we are connected to people and places from an almost unimaginable past, a past that you can visit through the words and pictures that carry across the rivers, forests, and prairies of a century and a half ago. Join us for a chance to remake the connection.”

Come enjoy the sort of educational and entertaining presentation you’ve come to expect from Jerry Rohde. But first, check out the wonders of the new-old-style Mattole Grange Pancake Breakfast, with its emphasis on local and organic ingredients. Breakfast 8—11 a.m., Jerry’s “Story Catchers of Southern Humboldt” at 11:30.



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Tomorrow, Saturday, April 2, 2016, promises a most interesting presentation by Jerry Rohde at the Humboldt Co. Library in Eureka. Jerry is an intelligent and entertaining speaker, and with this subject matter, I am sure we will enjoy the afternoon immensely.
Be sure to arrive a little early if you want a good seat–that little room (just off to the left as you enter the library) fills up fast!
I clipped this article and its accompanying photo from the Southern Humboldt newspaper, The Independent.


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Stephen Remington is a lover of the Mattole Valley. He has been visiting for almost four years, infatuated with the beauty from first sight.

Steve has been feeding a serious photography habit for over 40 years. He lives in Napa but travels whenever possible to the places that inspire him. He has organized a few books of his pictures, and the Mattole Valley Historical Society is lucky enough to have one of them.


The MVHS’s book of Stephen’s breathtaking Mattole photos.

Now, and only perhaps for the next week, his photographs are on display at the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge, off the Hookton/Loleta exit of Highway 101. Stephen writes on an event description on Facebook, “Eleven of my favorite photographs of the Mattole River and coastline taken over the past three years. Both framed and metal prints are included and some are available for purchase. The exhibit will be up until sometime in March.”

The Humboldt Bay Wildlife Refuge, also known as the Richard J. Guadagno Visitor Center, is open daily from 8 ’til 5. For more information on the Center, go to this site. (It was named in honor of the  career biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Project Director at the Humboldt Bay Refuge, Richard Guadagno. His life was cut short at age 38 by the tragic downing of his plane, Flight 93, in the fields of Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001.) The room off to the right of the main office, holding Steve’s photos, has a gorgeous view of the bay and convenient scopes trained on the marsh, free for the use of responsible persons. I found these viewing aids to offer a more intimate view of the waterfowl than strolling along the paths, as you can get close in without disturbing the birds.


A few of Stephen’s photos visible on the far wall. Note the stationary viewing scopes for marsh wildlife in the windows to the right.


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


Another view taken near to the one above, in the mid-Mattole (Grange/A.Way) area.

I apologize for letting February slip away, and not posting this until very late in the run of the exhibit. If you happen to be passing by soon on your way to or from town, swing by the Refuge, and enjoy both the photography and the natural beauty of the Refuge with its interpretations in the Visitor Center. If you have kids with you, it would be an especially good stop. The Center is a sort of natural history museum with an eye to developing an appreciation of nature in young people.

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