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

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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Hello Fellow Fans of Mattole History!

It’s time for a little catch-up on the current situation of the MVHS.

I sent out a General Update to our email list last October (2014); that long message included the idea of a Mattole History Art Festival, which has not gotten off the ground. And this March, I mailed out a 4-page notification of the good fortune of a new building site being offered to us. All MVHS members should have received that mailing—the one with the photo of the old Rock House, the Knights of Pythias building, and a rough sketch of a  new building plan. Also, all members were updated in our Spring newsletter, Now… and Then.

Since we got news of this offer of land on the Petrolia Square in January, 2015, and particularly since our late March Board meeting where we decided that the option of building there downtown (rather than at the Grange location) was best for our Historical Society as well as for the town of Petrolia and for many of our members (though certainly not all), we have been enjoying a new wave of energy. I have been very happy to find myself working amidst a group of a dozen wonderful, interesting, and dedicated people—our new Board. Many others have come forward, also, to ask how they can help. They are not only wanting to help make the new building a reality, but are offering to conduct interviews with old-timers, help organize the present Grange office, throw in their energy in the future on actually building the structure, etc. It is a very welcome wave of community involvement.

There were certainly many arguments for a mid-Valley location (Grange property) for a new building, and several good cases made for simply carrying on as we have been, while digitizing the entire historical collection as quickly as possible, to achieve true fireproof security. However, the people most willing to be involved came forward and agreed upon seizing the opportunity to do something big and good for the whole Valley, based in downtown Petrolia, which would become a “historical town”. Here is our current situation there:

The northwest corner of the Petrolia Square, summer of 2015. Our builder, Jeff Hoalton, set this up for us.

The northwest corner of the Petrolia Square, summer of 2015. Our builder, Jeff Hoalton, set this up for us.

We have held monthly Board meetings in the open air, right there on the Square in Petrolia, but, for various logistical reasons, are skipping the August meeting. In lieu of the gathering, I am sharing, briefly,  the news of our progress.

Basically, there are two fronts we are working. One is the building plan. Jeff Hoalton has been given the responsibility of coming up with an initial plan. He is working within the general idea of making a place that fits with a historical Western theme, but is not as expensive as building entirely with natural materials. One of the first considerations is that the building be fire-safe, and of course, in our area, it must be relatively earthquake-safe, and able to withstand some mighty winds and rain. Jeff is particularly desirous of working with some of our elder members, to make sure we enjoy the old-timer seal of approval.  So we have a sort of “de facto” building committee in that Jeff says he wants to work closely with Board members Becky Enberg, Francis Sweet, Bob Stansberry, and of course our younger-generation builder on the Board, Kelton Chambers.

The other important work we’re doing is in the paperwork department. We are reviewing by-laws, articles of incorporation, and our non-profit 501(c)3 status. We have also added new official signers to our Coast Central Credit Union account, and opened a special savings account named the Building Fund. The officers we have named for these official purposes are Dyan Damron, Treasurer; Ken Young, Secretary; Laura Cooskey, Director/President (I really dislike that latter label, and have been assured that in general, my duties will be more along the lines of Historian–focussing on preserving and enlarging our actual store of historical information; for that reason, we have a new position, Connie’s, as follows); Connie Thunman, General Coordinator; and Cindy Lyman, Corresponding Secretary. These five, plus the five listed in the paragraph above, and two more Board members, Ellen Taylor and Bob Stansberry, make up our Board of 12 members.

We have discussed all the things we have to do at great length, and finally achieved some clarity with the realization that we can’t get the cart before the horse; things must go in a certain order, and I believe we are focussed on the necessary first steps now. The general order will be:

  1. Get a rough plan going, including site issues such as water, septic, utilities, and access.
  2. Meantime, establish our legal legitimacy as a non-profit corporation with the sorts of paperwork described above; basically, this means getting our own 501(c)3.
  3. Finalize the plans, including the phases needing permits, with Board approval.
  4. Make sure the lease agreement is legally tight and approved by the Board.
  5. Apply for initial permits.
  6. Apply for grants and fundraise in many other ways.
  7. The fun part—get to work on the site and the building!

It’s never too early to start gathering funds, however; feel free to mail a contribution to the Building Fund of the Mattole Valley Historical Society, acct. #104881, at the Coast Central Credit Union,  2650 Harrison Ave., Eureka, CA, 95501.

I put out my feelers for a weatherproof box to put on the signpost on the Square, and Joyce Benton of Capetown came through. There is now a stack of information sheets about the MVHS, including a plea for donations, in that plastic box hanging below our sign.

But note that since we don’t have our new non-profit number, you won’t yet be able to claim your donation as a tax write-off. (For years, we were umbrella’d under the Mattole Valley Community Center’s non-profit status. I don’t know that anyone ever used that status or the number for it, and I’m afraid I don’t even know the official number of that 501(c)3. But not to worry; our capable new Treasurer, Dyan Damron, is working on our new number, and I will let you all know when it’s ready.)

Members who pay dues should know that unless we are expressly told otherwise, from now on, whenever anyone pays their dues with a particularly generous contribution, anything over $50 will automatically go into the Building Fund. The usual dues amount paid is $20 per membership/subscription; we frequently get a bit extra from particularly grateful or interested members, and if our checking account gets up to where we’re unnecessarily storing cash there, we transfer it to Savings. Now, of course, we’ll transfer it to the Building Fund.

Slowly it goes, but it goes. Meantime I seem to have a bit more time for this blog; and my next real focus as Historian will be to set in motion a series of interviews with some of our elders. There are several “old-school” old-timers we need to talk with; and a whole crop of “newcomer” back-to-the-landers who are over 70 and, if we are not premature, well worthy of in-depth interviews. Some people like the idea of video recordings of the sessions—Living History, as they say—and others prefer the old-fashioned notes-and-essay form. We do have one eager young woman who would like to put together a collection of written interviews in the form of a new Mattole history book, and will be meeting with her next week. Please let me know if you’d like to be interviewed, or know any others whom we shouldn’t overlook!

Yet there is also the organizing and digitizing of our collection. That is surely the best bet against any threats to our photos and other paper archives. Therefore, I will try to set a regular day a week, at least, to clear up and organize our present Grange office, and to start scanning and saving as quickly as possible. Several people have offered to help with that, but I don’t yet have a system in place. I would like to use a mounted camera over a table, such as Greg Rumney uses for photographs, rather than a traditional copier-scanner—and we don’t have a camera set-up yet. It would save an immense amount of time in scanning such a great amount of material, not to have to save each image separately while re-positioning items upside-down on a small screen.

So there is a general idea of what’s up with the Mattole Valley Historical Society lately. Please get in touch if you have any suggestions or would like to get involved—or of course, to sign up for a membership, which includes the twice-yearly newsletter, Now… and Then.

Please mark this change, also, somewhere in your files: All previously listed phone numbers will not work! Since I am living in Arcata now, and the office at the Mattole Grange does not have its own phone, the best way to reach the MVHS is by emailing mattolehistory@frontiernet.net; by writing to us at PO Box 144, Petrolia, CA, 95558; or by calling me, Laura, at 707-840-6044, or my cell phone, 707-601-7300. Thank you all for your enthusiasm!

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