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

Sometimes it seems we seldom talk about history anymore around the Mattole Valley Historical Society. We are busy talking up our exciting plans for developing the Square in Petrolia and building our beautiful museum and visitors’ park there.

However, meantime, as ever, Bob Stansberry has been quietly working on a unique project. It’s a map of old homesteads, cabins, and other places of significance in his neck of the woods, which is between Honeydew and Ettersburg. He’s working from the late-1960s USGS topo maps, focusing on the townships at the Township 3 South latitude. That is, the 6-mile-by-6-mile “townships” of 36 sections (each one square mile) lying roughly in a west-to-east belt inland of King’s Peak and on toward Gilham Butte, Elk Ridge, and Salmon Creek, which is part of the South Fork Eel watershed.


This excerpt from the 1911 Denny’s map shows the western part of the area addressed by Bob’s project. He goes over into Salmon Creek to the right.

The idea is to number each of the named spots on the topo maps, and on a document have notes for that number: dates of when the cabin or development was built, names of owners and/or occupants, and mention of any related stories, etc. Some of the structures are still in evidence; others have disappeared, but are either shown as small blocks on the topo maps or were already known to Bob.

In final form, the project Bob envisions has the maps copied and printed in roughly 2-foot by 2-foot squares, and the document a simple folder of several pages; but of course we can digitize this project and make it all viewable on the computer screen.  If we had some help from someone who knew their way around web-page design, and we wanted to get so 21st-century, we could even make it so that if you clicked on a number on the map, you would go immediately to the matching description, and vice versa.

Bob has already identified 120 places for which he has notes, and figures he’s about 80 percent through looking for them. Basically, he’s interested if there’s any history to a place from before 1980, and says that many of the old structures dated from the 1860s. At least 100 of his identified sites are in his own township block, 3 South, Range 1 East, though he says he is not himself familiar with all of them. His knowledge of the places comes from his own personal history, roaming the hills on ranching or surveying duties, or merely exploring the woods and rangeland, and from anecdotes he heard long ago. His interest in spots he may not have known of otherwise derives from places denoted on the maps by either name or the aforementioned little blocks: tiny black squares for houses, little empty outlines for outbuildings. And then, his research has led him to seek out knowledgeable old-timers in the past couple of decades, with the intention of collecting and compiling what he has learned in this most local of local-history endeavors. Some of his best informants have been Gene Landergen, Les Harrow, Lee French, Greg Mullins, his own mother—Clarice Smith Stansberry—his cousin Bill Lee, and many others.

Bob is referring to some printed resources, but essentially he is creating a primary-source archive. The 1921 Belcher’s maps, which show ownership of the larger land parcels and ranchers, have been helpful; likewise the Metsker’s maps, which are from the 1950s and ‘60s. He has the book on the history of Southern Humboldt schools. I have promised to look up a few of the spots in Turners’ Place Names of Humboldt County.

While the pilot project allows only an even-handed single line of information for each place—”just the basics or highlights”—Bob has a lot more in the way of stories that will probably go into a later update. Using the same place numbers assigned for the initial list, it would be easy to attach new paragraphs of information, or old photos, to flesh out the history. In chatting with him about what he’s put together so far, I find that the Pringle for whom Pringle Ridge was named was a silver miner. There was a silver mine in the area, on Grindstone Creek, and Bob’s cousin Bill Lee is probably the only living person to know the location of the mine shaft, since covered over by slides in this steep, unstable terrain. Speaking of mines, June Lindley, who later married Leo Etter, was first married to a miner in the Queen’s Peak area. The mines there were mainly seeking manganese, which was important to our military efforts in WWII. (Manganese is a corrosion-resistant alloy used in stainless steel and aluminum.)

There was an old still from Prohibition days on Bear Creek (the river feeding into the Mattole at Ettersburg, which runs roughly parallel to the coast behind the King Range, and closely below the King Peak Road for much of its length). A man named Cy (or Si) Cole ran the still. One night, probably in the late 1920s, the still blew up. The explosion was heard for quite some distance.


If anyone reading this has something to add to the treasure trove of history on this area from King’s Peak over to Salmon Creek, and between Ettersburg and Honeydew, let us know—you can comment below, or get in touch with me.

Also, it would be very helpful if someone with the ability to take crisp photographs, or scan, large documents such as sections of the topo maps, might like to contribute a little bit of their time to make a satisfactory final version of this project—in several hard copies.

This map of old homesteads and other significant places is only one of several historical documents Bob has compiled, most based on his own family stories. But this one is special in that it’s really the result of one man’s life spent in a grand, borderless place—the culmination of a lifetime spent ranching and exploring and learning about his own back yard. There are many things to be revealed that only Bob knew about… until now.


Bob Stansberry built this footbridge across the Mattole on his property around 1968-69. The half-century-old bridge is 32” wide and 330’ long.


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Hi Everyone,
The meeting we had on November 17, our annual Membership Meeting, went off very well, and between that conference and our regular monthly meeting on Nov. 28, we have found ourselves in a mood of renewed optimism about the building project. This is the planned museum and Memory Garden Park on the Petrolia Square, which we have been brainstorming for over three years now… and on which we are finally making headway.

At the Annual Meeting, Thomas Clark, Building Project Director, gave a talk as to the status of things. He was kind enough to share with me the speech as written.  I will follow Tommy’s words  (which I did edit slightly) with a preview of the plans for the museum itself.
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Greetings! I am Tommy Clark. I am your current Building Project Director.  Love the title; here’s how I view my job. It’s not unlike a cop directing traffic at a busy intersection.

Here’s where we stand:

Becky Enberg has pledged the land, two adjacent lots located in downtown Petrolia, provided the museum is built within the next 20 years.

Kathy Major has secured $15,000 in up-front grant money, which is sufficient to cover the County fees associated with the project.

The engineering firm of Omsberg & Preston and associates have pledged a total of $20,000 in engineering services towards the project. These services include:

Lot Merger Application.

Sewage disposal testing, design, and report preparation.

A Grading, Drainage, and Erosion Control Plan.

A Field Survey of the property, Monumentation, and a Record of Survey.

A Building Permit Application Package.

And Structural Analysis of the building plan.

To date, the fieldwork for the Site Survey and the sewage disposal testing have been completed.

The lot merger application has been approved by the county, pending final document preparation, survey check and recording. The overall site design for the property will commence as these preliminary steps are completed.

The property is located in an SRA  (State Responsibility Area) which deals with wildland fire safety requirements, and it will impact on various design elements to the property as well as the Museum building. Given our proximity to the Fire Station, our board has decided to engage a land attorney to look into the possible mitigation of some of the SRA requirements, and have set a preliminary budget of $400-$500 for this exercise.

Brian Gaynor has been suggested by Jim Groeling for this purpose.

Our Board of Directors is actively moving towards final details resolution on one of two building design studies that have been generously donated by Jim Groeling. Our board is leaning towards design #1, with slight modifications and final design elements being actively discussed by the board.

The task before us, the construction of a permanent museum, is daunting. On the face of it, cost estimates for the total undertaking run between 250 thousand to 400 thousand dollars. Furthermore, by one estimate, it will require 10 to 20 thousand dollars a year to maintain and sustain the museum.

It is widely held by the board that the launch of this project be accompanied by sufficient funding, and/or pledges of labor and materials to insure its successful completion.

As a first step, a contract to engage Jim Groeling to produce a working set of blueprints for the building [for a very friendly price, which is confidential]. This has the approval of the Board, and the contract as written has the cursory blessings of Ed Gilda, Attorney at Law.

We have two pledges of Douglas-fir timber totaling 4000 board feet from Mattole Valley ranchers. I am certain that among our 200-plus member Historical Society, many more pledges of  labor and materials will be forthcoming, to help bring down the dollar cost of the project.

Throughout the entire known history of the Mattole Valley, from indigenous times to the present, her occupants regardless of stripe have shared the common characteristics of  fierce determination, rugged self-sufficiency, a can-do spirit, and above all a willingness to come together and pitch in for any cause deemed worthy. I believe that the building of a permanent Museum meets these criteria, as it serves the purpose of the collecting, preservation, and dissemination of the entire known history of the Mattole Valley, for future generations as well as visitors to the Mattole.

As I consider the current crop of citizens of the Mattole Valley, I would have to say: Yes we can and should do this!

Here then, are the design studies, and my good friend Jim Groeling to share his thoughts on them…

Thank You.

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Jim showed the group his two preliminary plans, which the Board had already had a chance to look over (except for the four new members voted in at this same meeting–see below) . We agreed that we did like Plan 1 better so I will show you a sneak preview of it here.

Look at this Plan with the awareness that it is a very rough idea, and nothing Jim Groeling, nor we, would consider close to a final word; in fact, Jim will come up with an engineer-approval-ready plan probably within the coming month. I am only posting these here so you can see what we are thinking about and why we are getting excited about it all. Also, of course, if anything appears particularly interesting (off or on) to any Historical Society followers or members, please let us know!

And look at this with our recommended changes in mind: First, we have lengthened (west to east, or left to right) the building by 4′ for a main rectangular footprint (minus decks) of 24 N-S x 36 E-W. The extra 4′ would be added to the main hall, making its width 26′. Second, instead of a separate gabled roof over the restroom push-out on the east side, we will continue the uniform-level shed roof over the porch all the way around front (south) and east sides, which will completely cover the couple of short outdoor steps between the east exit door and the restroom door. It will also enable the Third suggested change: pushing the bathroom, which is half in the main rectangular plan in the original version, out eastward to end flush with the end of the porch, thus adding about 48 s.f. to the 864 s.f. of the rectangle for a total square footage of 912 or so. The main display room would be 24′ deep by 26′ wide at the entry; minus the utilitarian/HVAC room in the right rear, that’s about 480 s.f., with around 80 linear feet of wall display space. A Fourth change is reversing the positions of the two rooms on the west side: the library/research/study room will be on the sunnier south side, and the storage/display prep room on the back. Also, putting in a door between the two rooms, rather than wasting wall display footage on a door to the storage room from the main hall, is suggested.



JimG,plan1,NorthJimG,plan1,WestJimG,plan1,SouthJimG,plan1,EastJimG,plan2,East,preferredPorchRoofThe first EAST view is of the originally planned porch roofline from Plan 1; the sketch below it is from Plan 2, but is the shape we have proposed with our second modification, mentioned above.
Although we are very happy about these plans in general, and have left our most recent two meetings with a sense that this project is in good hands, there are, of course, a couple of general building-philosophy questions that have us occasionally asking ourselves, “Huh?” The main one is probably the question of general scale and expense. Thomas and I visited a friendly Patti Fleschner, Director of the Trinidad Museum, ensconced in her enviable surroundings at the greeting desk of that beautiful building. Patti shared with us, among many other edifying remarks, that one thing they regretted was not having a bigger building from the get-go. Once the site plan is in place, and utilities established, permits obtained, etc., it might be harder to expand than to just go for what’s wanted in the first place.
Well, we have left the option open for further expansion to the west, which is basically a plain wall with nothing outside of it. Perhaps such an enlargement wouldn’t happen for a couple of generations, but it’s good to know that it could.

But I am thinking of a more general philosophy question: Should we try to build the museum and grounds of our (current) dreams, since we need to raise a bunch of money anyway–should we shoot for the moon, go for a comfortably roomy floor space, have a beautiful custom-made design with specialty materials (often donated or locally sourced, which doesn’t add to the materials cost so much as complicating things, and in some cases, costing quite a bit more to accomplish)–or should we start as small as possible, keeping things uniform and simple, just so that we can get a fire-safe foothold there on the Square in downtown Petrolia, per the original wishes of the land donor?

Heck, Buck Miner doesn’t see why we shouldn’t have a museum there for about $40,000–fire-proof and all… “You just get a rectangular metal building kit, put it on a poured slab, throw it up with volunteer labor, and there you go!” I reminded him that now in the 21st century, and with our location right out there in front of everyone, we’re getting to that cost with permits and property legalities alone, not to mention installing utility systems (water, septic, electricity)… it is a whole new world for making a public building. The SRA requirements, as well as ADA (handicapped access) guidelines must be considered; liability is always an issue and we must be careful that everything is safe and scrutiny-proof for any agency that might be interested. Also, volunteers for work parties are fine, but we will need professionals to oversee essential elements.

Yet of course, the simpler, cheaper path would happen sooner, while a more elegant plan, costing more, will take that much longer to even begin–though I don’t doubt that eventually we could raise the sums we need.

So let us know if you have any ideas. You can reach me at my cell and message phone, 707-601-7300… or comment below.

You can see that Thomas and the other Building Committee members–Gary Fish Peterson, Bob Stansberry, Thomas Dunklin, and Kay Raplenovich–have some work cut out for them. However, with our four new Board members (including Thomas D. and Kay), all our “burdens” seem a little bit lighter.

Here are a few lines about each of our new Directors, and a fine bunch they are! A very condensed version of these paragraphs appeared in limited space in the print newsletter (#43 of Now… and Then), which is being mailed out this week. These notes are from my Minutes of the Nov. 17 Membership Meeting:

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Next, the new candidates spoke their pieces. Unfortunately, our fourth Director candidate, Lori Cook, was not present, but her name was still on the ballot as she had expressed eager interest. Cindy Lyman offered that besides Lori’s solid, nay, stellar, record as co-head (with her husband John Cook) of the Grange Beef ‘n’ Beans Barbecues for many years and her well-known Petrolia Vol. Fire Dept. service, that she is an incredible git-‘er-done fundraiser who has consistently rolled up her sleeves and gotten right to work to make benefit events profitable.
Thomas Dunklin, returned to the Valley to live at Jim Groeling’s old woodshop down on Lighthouse Rd. after 20 years or so in town, mentioned the potential for a barn-raising spirit with getting this museum built. So many talented wood-workers and builders here! We can build community while building a museum, as Nick Tedesco is doing with his recently-purchased home (Lita Cook’s old place) right there downtown—having volunteer work parties. Thomas is a geologist and can contribute the long view of geological history. He mentioned that there are only 14 triple-junction tectonic plate intersections around the globe, and we are on one of them. He said he will be happy to give geologic tours. He works well with Gary Fish, as they have both been heavily involved with the Mattole Restoration Council. He has a lot of old photos. He was friends with preeminent Humboldt (and further) photo historian Peter Palmquist and shared with him a real love of historical pictures. He can clean up and blow up photos to museum-ready condition.


Jamie Roscoe said that he was just getting ready to retire when Thomas Clark collared him with the question of service on our Board. He taught history at Eureka High, and at HSU for 20 years. His grandmother Martha Roscoe was a standout researcher and recorder of Mattole Valley and Humboldt Co. history, and a founding member of the Humboldt County Historical Society. His uncle was local history author Neb Roscoe (of course Neb was much more than that, but that’s another story), and his entire family reads like a who’s-who of Mattole Valley history. (Jamie didn’t say that; he mentioned all his close family members and relatives, which do read that way!) He listened to his elders—that was his point. He is an expert on local Native American matters, and will bring that knowledge and those connections to our Society, too. He still spends a lot of time up in Bayside but is basically planning on retiring to more time in the Mattole, as he has a couple of family places to stay out here.
Thomas mentioned that Wiyot tribal chairperson Cheryl Seidner, a good friend of his, recommended Jamie’s knowledge of Native artifacts and local history—high praise.


Kay Raplenovich told us about some of her background. Although she has only been here a few years, coming here from Ohio with her husband Bob because their son Aaron had already found the Mattole Valley and settled in, she is very enthusiastic about this place. Kay taught classical voice for preschool ages up through adult professionals, and currently leads the Mattole Singers choral group. She has a lot of experience in grant writing, and has sat on Arts Councils in Ohio and in Washington, D.C. She has also been “the one” in her generation to collect her own family’s history, and notes that her ancestors were Mayflower Pilgrims. Her husband, Bob’s, ancestral home was Slovenia. They have taken trips and lived there for stints that have been amazing and eye-opening for Kay. She is an “organized worker bee who answers emails.”


Well, that’s our report re: the Board and our Petrolia development plans.

I would like to finish with a request that you consider a donation to our Building Plan. We are a 501 (c) 3 non-profit corporation. Any amount you can afford would be a blessing, but bequeathing a notable amount as a legacy would be a point of satisfaction for your friends and descendants forever. (Okay, maybe not a notable amount… a “breathtaking” amount would be better! Haha–well, anything at all is appreciated.)
We will be selling Memorial Bricks with names engraved in them soon, for our Memory Garden… but there are benches, rooms, tables, garden plots, etc., that will need naming, too!


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Major forgetfulness let me leave this notification until the last moment.

Tomorrow, Saturday, Nov. 17, at 2 p.m., the Mattole Valley Historical Society will be holding our annual Membership Meeting. Actually, although we have been a Society since 1994, and incorporated as a non-profit 501 (c)3 since March, 2016, we just realized that we need to conduct these annual public business meetings to satisfy the requirements of our status. We will meet at the Mattole Valley Community Center in downtown Petrolia–the old Petrolia or Mattole Union schoolhouse.

The purpose of the gathering is to do business, but there will be people to see and refreshments to enjoy, and I have prepared a slideshow of 160 images (and not just the same old ones we always see), which will be running in a loop; maybe after we sit down and take care of business, we can focus on and talk about the pictures. So there will be some fun to be had!

The main business is to elect or re-elect Board members and to report to our attending membership on our plans, achievements, finances, and so on, and to field any questions or requests the local public might have for us. Of course, our most exciting topics will be around the plans for our historical museum and visitor park on the Petrolia Square. Local son-returned-home Thomas Clark will report on this Building Project. If you would be interested in learning more, getting involved with your local Historical Society, serving on the Board in the future, etc., please attend if you can.

Now please don’t be too upset with me about not getting this notice out sooner, though it is a shame. The slideshow conglomeration of images will not disappear. I could always bring it to town for a private showing in your living room if you want to invite me! (There are other slide shows–without too much overlap–on my laptop computer, too, such as the one that was running at the Mattole Valley Community Center’s 40th Anniversary Party in August of this year, including many shots of the Mattole Union School and its pupils; also, the thematic one regarding sunshine and rain in Mattole history, shown early in 2018 both in Eureka and in Petrolia; and a couple of previous slideshows of highlights from our collection.) I did get the present event announcements onto our local Mattole Valley Google Board and onto Facebook, and we put up posters in Honeydew, Ferndale, and around Petrolia; but it is true that you long-distance and non-Facebook real people would have missed them.

I do sincerely apologize.
Here, however, is the poster concocted by our Director, Gary Fish Peterson, and finessed by our Treasurer, Dyan Damron:

poster,11-17-2018If you can make it tomorrow, we will be happy to see you! If not, please accept my apologies, and let’s see about making it up (the picture-viewing, at least) to you.

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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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