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Archive for the ‘Maritime Matters’ Category

The Summer, 2011, edition of the Humboldt County Historical Society’s magazine showed up in my mailbox recently, and i was very impressed. The cover resembles a classic seascape oil painting, but from a more interesting angle than most… and it’s a photograph!

Crossing the bar, March 16, 2011. Photo by Steve Cousins; cover courtesy of
Humboldt Historian editor Suzanne Forsyth

This is the Lady Washington, a two-masted brig, carrying Marvin Shepherd, author of The Sea Captain’s Odyssey: A Biography of Captain H. H. Buhne. The trip up from San Francisco to Humboldt Bay recreated the April, 1850, adventure of Captain Buhne. For more of the story, and extra photographs, see the Historian.

Inside the magazine, an article titled simply “The Mattole” beckons. It is written by Gerald Beck, and is a beautiful, heartfelt reminiscence of a lifetime of stays in this Valley, particularly in a cabin up Conklin Creek Road, whose charms are lovingly described in Gerald’s story. Here is a teaser page from the article: (Click on the page to open it in a separate window. Then use control and the plus sign to enlarge it.)

The third page of Gerald Beck's memoir in the current Humboldt Historian. Click to enlarge the text.

Lowell Walker, 1941, courtesy of Mary Bacchetti. He and his family are mentioned in the Beck piece. Photo by Heinie Senn for the Mattole Union School yearbook

Lowell is well-remembered here; he was the last veterinarian in the Valley, and i wish we had another! He was also a very nice old guy, as i recall him. He lived up at the sharp curve of Chambers Road in the place formerly known as the Claude and Ruth Hunter place, which now belongs to Dick Cogswell.

If you are a member of the Humboldt County Historical Society, you will have already received your copy of this magazine. Otherwise, call 707-445-4342 to arrange ordering a copy and/or joining their society; visit their excellent office/research center/bookstore at H and 8th Streets in Eureka (hours are T-F, noon to 4, and Th, 3-7 p.m.); or see me at the Mattole Valley Historical Society office to review my copy (call me at 707-629-3647 to arrange a time). Enjoy!

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Yes, there were scores if not hundreds. There undoubtedly would have been more had not the U.S. government ordered the building of the Cape Mendocino (1868) and Punta Gorda (1912) light stations, as well as establishing the Blunts Reef lightship off Cape Mendocino in 1905. Though clearly the disasters mentioned below happened decades after the first-mentioned lighthouse lit up California’s furthest-west coast, it’s impossible to figure how many more would’ve happened in that locale without the land beacon and the lightship, which was added the year of the postcard-pretty disasters below. There’s a poster listing the northern-California maritime disasters, over at the Mattole Valley Historical Society office. I wish i had it handy, but i don’t. That often seems to be the case lately. But i figure, it’s better to give loyal Mattole history fans something, even without all the background information, than to post nothing… am i right? I hope so. Let me know.

The Tricolor off Cape Mendocino, accident in June, 1905

The St. Paul off Punta Gorda, October, 1905

Paul Smith, who sent the Bear River bridge story and a postcard photo of tanbark being loaded at the mouth of the Mattole (will post that with more Mattole Lumber Co. material), wrote the following about the two shipwreck pictures he also shared with us: Post card with title “Steamer Tricolor Ashore off Cape Mendocino”. It appears to be a black and white photo that had some color added. No date or information on the back. I haven’t seen any information on this ship wreck. In the lower left corner is written A28034. Apparently the same photographer as the St. Paul picture which has A28034 in corner. So probably the Tricolor picture is about the same vintage (about 1905).

Post Card of “The Steamer St. Paul, a wreck off Point Gorda.”. This same picture is in Heydays in Mattole, p. 69. Neb Roscoe dedicated much of the chapter to stories related to the wreck. The picture also appears in Images of America, Trinidad. (not sure why). Also mentioned in Regional History of Petrolia and Mattole Valley, p. 18.
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Paul mentioned that he would welcome any further information about the these wrecks, especially the Tricolor. At the MVHS office i have a copy of the big book of local shipwrecks by Wallace Martin; i imagine he has a section on that ship. I will look it up next time i am at the office. (By the way, look up The Neglected Waters of the Pacific Coast… by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, Ernest Lester Jones. This entire book is online at Google Books. Search “Tricolor” on the site, or just go to p. 15.)

Meantime, i have a couple other shipwreck stories here that i had prepared for Dave Johnson of the BLM for a talk he gave in February ’11 for the King Range Winter Lecture series. These selections are from Redwood Cavalcade…pioneer life and times, by Andrew M. Genzoli and Wallace E. Martin; Schooner Features, PO Box 491, Eureka, 95501, 1968.

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On last Thursday, Dec. 2, i attended a double book-signing party at the Humboldt County Historical Society. Dennis and Gloria Turner were presenting their new, expanded, corrected, and updated Place Names of Humboldt County, which i will write about presently; and Marvin Shepherd with his wife Patsy were meeting and greeting and signing copies of his exciting new volume, The Sea Captain’s Odyssey: A Biography of Captain H. H. Buhne, 1822-1894.

Marv had visited the MVHS a couple of time in the last few years looking for material about Petrolia during the years of Buhne’s interest here. I was looking forward to his book mainly to see what he did with this Mattole information. However, now that i have the book in hand, i find it a hard-to-put-down read! Captain Buhne, for whom many a locality and landmark in Eureka is named, left his home in Flensburg, Denmark, in 1838, as cabin boy on a whaling ship, and thus began a lifetime of ambition, adventure, and attendant hardship. His main claim to fame in Humboldt has been piloting the first ship of American settlers over the Humboldt Bar in 1850, but there is a lot more to his story than this. Fans of Horatio Alger (as the author points out), Richard Henry Dana, and of course, of any early Humboldt history, will relish the Buhne saga. There is no shortage of dramatic life-or-death struggle here.

Marv’s book is very well-written, painstakingly researched, and set up so that both the casual reader and the historical researcher will enjoy it. I was impressed with his section on the oil frenzy in the Mattole and the investment in the excitement by Humboldt Bay businessmen– it felt like he was doing my work for me!

Marvin Shepherd kindly allowed me to print a few scans of pages of his brand-new book here. If you would like to purchase a copy, the best way for now is to visit the Humboldt County Historical Society at 8th and H Streets in Eureka (call 707-445-4342 to verify hours). Eventually Marv will have copies available online, and i will have a few at the MVHS office. Enjoy!



Scanning done by permission of author Marvin Shepherd. Sorry about the dark edge

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