Archive for the ‘Mattole Lumber Co.’ Category

I love trains. But the only way I’ve ever known them is from enjoying Amtrak trips around the country. A surprising number of people are truly “taken” by trains– railroads, model railroading, locomotive engines, etc., and especially their history and folklore. Judging from the emails I got inquiring about the logging and railroads DVD that was shown at the Mattole Grange’s Fourth of July Barbecue, our Mattole Valley Historical Society has a good showing of train buffs.

That video, by the way, is available for purchase at

One of the folks who contacted me is Corbett Petersen. He’s a grandson of Bud and Jean (Hindley) Myers, and he lives in Eureka. I will paraphrase his emails to me from the past couple of weeks:

[before July 4, 2011]
“I volunteer with an area group, the Timber Heritage Association (www.timberheritage.org) who, over the last 30 years, have painstakingly been gathering and restoring North Coast timber and railroad equipment, with hopes of one day operating a full-sized excursion train around Humboldt Bay. There has been interest in conversations about long-gone Mattole railroads and where/what/who all was involved. They would most certainly be interested in seeing this video. Or at least myself. Currently we operate an old PL and A&MR RR crew cars on the rails out at Samoa and will have a special presence in Eureka on July 4th, running on the rails in old town.

“FYI, we also maintain and operate the Bear Harbor and Falk locos at Ft. Humboldt. YES they are in fact operational and officially certified to run. We run them at our “steam ups” every 3rd Saturday, with the “speeder” running 4th Saturdays. The Falk has been down to fix some leaks but it runs.

“The 4th of July THA (of which I think Laurence Hindley is a member, actually) speeder run in Eureka was a smash hit, with over 300 people paying $4 for a 15-minute ride through Old Town. And with zero mishaps or issues with traffic and throngs of people that we had anticipated. Comments included that it was a safe, fun, professionally run operation. Although the reality was that the OK from the city came only 48 hours prior, and we had to complete considerable rail flangeway clearing that the City had repeatedly said was remediated. However ,we cleared it ourselves and in the end, had a lot of turnout and some good PR from some of the movers and shakers of the area.

“The “steam ups” of the locomotives at Fort Humboldt are the 3rd Saturdays in summer. Tomorrow is one of those days.

“The 2 locomotives, the Bear Harbor #1 and the Falk, are operational. Only the Bear has run this year on the tracks. Both are state certified to operate (and are operated by trained personnel and retired engineers). The Falk (the one with the wooden cab, and the prettiest looking) has been down with a leaky tube that has been rather difficult to repair (tube is out, but the special 70-year-old tool to fix it also needed fixing). All the while keeping it safe to run and original. Official news can be found at http://www.timberheritage.org.

“The old 1893-built roundhouse at Samoa is open to the public on Saturdays during weekend workdays and on Speeder car runs (next one is on the 23rd) every 4th Saturday in summer. We have A LOT of stuff there. One of the blogs that links to yours, capdiamont, has a photo of the roundhouse with the doors open. The A&MR (Arcata & Mad River) speeder is parked in the photo (and in case anyone asks how we move it….it’s not THAT heavy, it goes on a modified flatbed trailer for use and show-and-tell).”


The blog Corbett is referring to is here: http://capdiamont.wordpress.com/
The Samoa Roundhouse photo is the banner or masthead photo, so you’ll see it instantly.

And by the way, the Timber Heritage Association’s website (again) www.timberheritage.org, is great! It almost makes you into an instant train aficionado!

On another note, I have seen that people want information and photos of the Mattole Lumber Company, and its Engine #1. It is such a big interesting topic that I was waiting until I had time to put the whole story together into a comprehensive article. However, just last week I got ahold of a collection of newspaper mentions of the Mattole Wharf and Railroad, compiled by Susie Van Kirk. She gave me permission to use her work, so soon I will copy over the relevant entries and put those up, with some photos, as a sort of brief synopsis of the story. Meantime, here are a couple of photos to tide you over:

Mattole Engine #1 at the tanbark-loading camp, heading out to the wharf, around 1910. Photo from Mary Rackliff Etter's collection.

Old Number 1 in a bad way. Henry Sorensen dug it out of the mud and restored it. Photo also from MRE collection.


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Yesterday’s post mentioned the earthquake damage to the old two-storey school in Petrolia which made it unsafe for holding classes. Here is a photo of the building taken by a Mr. Eakle in 1906, and found in the Bancroft Library’s easily searched online photo collection– along with two others found there.

This was the school used for over four decades, until 1906, located near the site of today's Yellow Rose restaurant, on the east side of the lower North Fork, Mattole.

The rear (west) ell of the hotel built around 1880 as a family home by John Walsh. Later Modest Giacomini converted it to a hotel, and by 1906 Jack Wright and Ellis Hunter were running it.

The Knights of Pythias had a chapter here which met in this building, later the Mattole Lumber Company Store. Not positive precisely when Calvin Stewart and the MLC set up shop here. Northwest corner of the Petrolia Square (view toward southeast)

Calvin Stewart’s daughter, Lavinna– variously spelled– was married to Tommy Few-Hairs Johnson, and the Johnson couple ran the Mattole Lumber Co.’s merchandise business. Since the store in the downstairs (upstairs was retained as a meeting and dance hall) seems not to have had any other names before “Johnson’s” or “Mattole Lumber Co.” we might assume that the Stewart family bought the building after the earthquake, fixed it up, and were ready for business by the time the Mattole Wharf was up and running in August, 1908.

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Click to zoom in!

From the Mary Rackliff Etter collection, as are the other three i'm posting today. The photo border says late 1920s or '30s to me

Did the house to the left (east) of this one, the one visible in photo above with its ridgeline perpendicular to the road, just burn down and scorch the standing building? Is Major Boy's the one that is gone, or the one smoking?

I should show this to Jim Cook. Does anybody else alive know about the history of these buildings across from (south of) the south side of the Petrolia Square? Does anybody know how, why, or when Major’s house burned, if in fact it did?

First step in the tanbarking process

I like the way this photo lets you get in close enough, and the guys are wearing such casual working clothes, that they look like anyone you might see around these parts nowadays… not the stiff, costumed figures scowling out of portraits that we frequently see in early photographs.

On the way to the sorting fields and railroad at the mouth of the Mattole

Can anyone identify these people?

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Here is the article by teacher Leslie Gould from earlier in 1907, promised in the Nov. 30 blog entry, below. I believe it was from the Humboldt Standard as well. (Click on it, and click again until it’s really big.)

From the Humboldt Room at Humboldt State University. Much gratitude to the HSU librarians, especially Joan Berman, for maintaining that place so beautifully and making so much available to us!

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Article found in the Humboldt State University’s Humboldt Room

Leslie Gould was expressing the excitement of many an ambitious Mattolian in this 1907 article anticipating the Mattole Wharf, which did in fact serve the ranchers, farmers, and tanbark entrepreneurs of the Valley from 1908 until at least 1913. Its builder, Calvin Stewart, owned and ran the Mattole Lumber Co., which specialized in harvesting and shipping tanbark oak.
Leslie Gould was a Mattole Union School teacher, married to Norine Clark, the daughter of Grampy Wm. Clark and sister of T.K. Clark. He published another article that year about the wondrous glowing prospects of Petrolia– soon that, and eventually much more about the Wharf.

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