Archive for the ‘Native Mattole’ Category

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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Inquiries from Jolene Hassenfritz concerning the Indian boy adopted by the Morrisons of Bear River led me to this article. Jolene explained, “My great grandmother, Elizabeth Morrison, helped her husband Marc Morrison probate Squire’s estate when he died and I have acquired that paperwork. Whatever documents you can find or sources you can lead me to would be much appreciated.” It so happened that Native researcher “Olmanriver” had given us a copy of this story by Evelyn McCormick not too long ago; i also had the obituary on hand, and Jolene provided the one photo of Squire known to exist.

Please comment below if you have any information that can help Jolene Hassenfritz put together a biography of Squire Morrison.

As usual, anything in [brackets] is my comment.

Dateline: Sunday, Nov. 19, 1967 (p. 26), [Humboldt] Times-Standard. Handwritten copy (by Martha Roscoe or Viola McBride or perhaps the author herself?).

  *    *   *   *   *

An Indian, snatched from death and slavery became an accepted member of a family and a community’s life.


by Evelyn McCormick


RIO DELL—Squire Morrison, an Indian who survived the Mattole Massacres, was described as intelligent, alert and a friend to his fellow man. He was also designated as extremely cautious and superstitious.

            The Mattole Massacre occurred in the Mattole Valley during the early 1850’s [note in same hand reads, “Date 1863.” This correction agrees with most other conjecture as to the year]. At this time Squire was little more than a baby and undoubtedly bore an Indian name in his native tribe. He remembered being carried on someone’s shoulder to safety. While fleeing, he and his companion ate sweet clover, which grew abundantly on the nearby hills. The little Indian was left in the care of a man named Bundle [other notes spell it “Bunnell”—William Bunnell]. Because coal was unavailable, Bundle was obliged to burn his own charcoal for heating his forge. One day Squire accidentally fell into the coalpit and was badly burned and scarred on his back and side. Bundle had no love for the boy and was irked by his presence.


            About this time “Dutch Mike” Schallard happened by and purchased Squire for the sum of $30. Schallard was single and earned his living by loaning money at one percent interest a month.

            Schallard and the boy traveled to Bear River, where Schallard knew Si Morrison, a pioneer rancher. Here he left Squire, a real livewire gift for the bachelor who lived in a log cabin with a dirt floor close to the river.

            Morrison was married in a few years and he and his wife raised Squire along with their own children. Squire proved to be a great help as a ranch hand.


Dad Morrison, who furnished the greater part of this story, remembers Squire well. Squire was 17 or 18 years older than he was. Dad will be 92 next March. [92 in 1968 means Dad born in 1876, and Squire around 1858 or ’59– consistent with being four at the time of the massacre, and with his age at death.]

Before Dad was born, the Morrisons had built themselves a lovely ranch home. Dad likes to inform his friends that he still sleeps in the room in which he was born.

Squire spent his boyhood days working on the ranch. He also enjoyed hunting and fishing when in need of food. He was never known to kill just for sport.

Squire liked to ride on a pole between the two sets of wheels of the wagon which Si Morrison built. One day when the river was quite high Squire was settled on the pole under the wagon when Morrison decided to pick a deep spot and give Squire a friendly dunking.

All went well and Morrison was enjoying his little joke. His horse was swimming and he was wet to the waist himself when he happened to glance about to find Squire high and dry on the bank with a puzzled look on his face. He was wondering why Morrison was crossing at such an unlikely spot.


Dad Morrison tells of another occasion on the river when Squire saved Si from drowning. Si was planning to cross the river with his cows when a pesky Merino lamb insisted on being taken too. The ram was shut in the barn.

Si mounted his pinto pony and made for the crossing with his herd. Somehow the ram broke loose and waded into the river which dragged him down when his fleece became soaked.

Morrison reached the ram and was pulling him by the horns when the pinto panicked, leaving him in deep water. Morrison drifted downstream and was plucked from the water by Squire, who had run out on a log.

Squire had a quick head and a good mind but refused to go to the local school even though there were some Indians attending with the white children. However, he learned to read during middle age. Mrs. Morrison is credited with giving him his book learning.


At this time he was living at Rainbow, the high mountain between the Mattole Valley and Bull Creek. He hiked into Ferndale every week to pick up the local newspaper, The Ferndale Enterprise. He enjoyed all its news and perused other periodicals of the time.

Squire in front of his cabin at Oil Creek (Upper North Fork/Rainbow Ridge area). Undated picture came to us thanks to Jolene Hassenfritz.

Squire in front of his cabin at Oil Creek (Upper North Fork/Rainbow Ridge area). Undated picture came to us thanks to Jolene Hassenfritz. Click to enlarge.

By the time Squire had reached his teens he had learned to use an axe and a saw and became a chopper or a peeler in the woods. He learned felling from a man named Hugh Smith. Squire hiked down the beach to Fort Bragg to work in the woods. When the rainy season began he packed his blankets and returned to Humboldt. During several seasons he hiked to Crescent City where he was employed by Hobbs Wall Co.

            He often spent several days or months on the Morrison ranch where he fashioned the cypress trees in arches and other clever designs which suited his fancy. He had an uncanny faculty for finding lost articles which made both him and friends most happy.

According to Dad Morrison, Squire hewed the walking beam for the North Counties Oil Well at Upper Mattole in the early 1920’s.

He lived at Devil’s Hole country at Rainbow where the winters are often severe with high snowpacks. In the dead of winter he cut trees for the starving cattle to eat. They ate leaves of the madrones and oaks and also feasted on mistletoe, a parasite of the oak.


Joe Etter of Ferndale also knew Squire quite well. His mother, Mrs. E.J. Etter, the former Minnie Schallard, was a niece of “Dutch Mike,” who had purchased Squire.

Etter reports that Squire never married though he had hosts of friends and was liked by everyone. He remembers that Squire would grow hungry before he would take the last of anything on a serving dish.


At one time when Etter was visiting Squire at Rainbow, the Indian was gathering deer bones for burial after a hunting trip.

When Joe picked up some bones and threw them into the pit, Squire reprimanded him, telling him that next year the deer would all die and there would be no hunting. To prevent such a curse, Squire straightened all the bones and gave them a proper burial.


Having been raised by the white man, Squire spoke very good English without an Indian accent. He was revered by the white man as a fine fellow with lots of friends.

He died during the early 1930’s [July 25, 1928] south of Petrolia and was reportedly buried in the Indian graveyard in the Mattole Valley.

Here is Squire’s obituary from the Ferndale Enterprise (click to enlarge):



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Here are a couple of pictures from the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley that i found online.
(As always, click on the photo to expand it; then do whatever your computer does to zoom in further.)

Joe Duncan, who learned his language before the first white person was seen in the Mattole Valley. Born perhaps c. 1850, he was informant to anthropologists here in the 1920s. His Indian name was something like "Taralash".


Both these pictures are of Isaac (also called Ike) Duncan, Joe’s son. I recently learned that Leonard Bowman, chair of the Bear River Band (Rohnerville rancheria) is Ike’s descendant. 1923 photo.

Ike and Joe Duncan were a couple of those Natives left living near the mouth of the river after the official Indian Wars were over. They hired out as ranch hands, and seemed to be generally well-liked and well-respected. In 1927, a linguist famous for his work with Tibetan as well as Native American languages spoke with the Duncans; i have had a few clues leading me to the conclusion that it was Joe and Ike, rather than, say, the Denmans he spoke with. I found online an interview with Dr. Fang-Keui Li from the 1970s about his visit to the Mattole and his experiences with the Duncans:

After a few weeks he [his mentor and boss] said, “Well, now you can go. You know all the techniques of how to ask questions, how to handle your informant. Now you can go and try to look for the Mattole Indians.”

The Mattole Indians were known to be along the Mattole River, but they were supposed to be extinct. That is to say, all the Mattole Indians had died. But there was news that there were still one or two still alive. One of our projects was to make a record of all those Indians that were still alive, because after that, that language would be dead; it would be no more. As a matter of fact, that is the case.

I took the material of the Mattole Indians after I got to that place and did about four or five weeks of recording texts and grammar and so on. After I left, I know that all the Indians of that tribe died [this is not quite true; however, Native speakers of the tongue were probably hard to find by the 1920s], so my record of that language is still the only record of the language.

After I left Hoopa Valley I went to some place called Fortuna, in order to look for the Mattole. So I wandered around all over that area in a taxi, asking where the Mattole Indians were. It was a kind of wild goose hunt.

But some people said, “Well, further south along the Mattole River you may find some Mattole Indians.” There was no bus or anything but a kind of a so-called post truck, that sent letters from one village to the other. So I took one of those trucks and went down to a small town called Petrolia. It was called Petrolia because it was thought at one time that there would be oil in that area, so that little town was called Petrolia.

I stayed in a hotel and started asking whether there were Mattole Indians there or not. They said, “Well, yes there are Mattole Indians, but they are on the mouth of the Mattole River on the Pacific Ocean. There is one family we know there who are Mattole Indians.” It was about, oh, three or four miles from Petrolia.

The only thing to do for me was to take a walk to the mouth of the river, and so I started walking. There was just the Mattole River going one way, so I forded it one way, and forded back and forth the other way, until I came to a farm house. I found it too hard to walk further (some 10 miles), so I borrowed a horse from a farmer. I said, “Can you lend me your horse so I can ride it to the mouth of the river?” The farmer was very nice, he said, “Yes, you can take my horse.” He started to put on the saddle, you know, for me, and I said, “I want a very old, very good-tempered horse, because I never learned how to ride.”

He said, “Oh, this is an old horse.” He said, “Now you take this, and if you follow the river, you’ll go down and get to the place. When you come back, take the horse to the stable.” He didn’t want to have any money paid.

So now the first time I took a trip on that horse, and went down to the mouth of the river and met these two old Indians. One was very old, seventy something, the other was about forty, fifty, something like that. I started asking them questions about their language.

The old man, I think was blind or something.

I asked them, “Will you teach me how to speak the Mattole language?” He apparently was willing. I said, “It is impossible for me to make a trip every day to your house. You have a horse.
You can ride down to town every morning, and I will provide you with a lunch at the hotel, and after we work, about four o’clock, you can ride back, and I’ll pay you for your trouble.”

At that time I inquired of Kroeber what was the normal rate to pay an informant. This is important, because you have to know the local rate in order not to pay more than the University of California, you see. Because that would have spoiled their game. Kroeber said, “Oh, pay him about forty cents an hour.” Forty cents an hour, for one day of six hours. “You pay him two dollars something, and you give him a lunch.” At that time that was quite sufficient; forty cents an hour was the going rate for the University of California.

So I told him, “I am going to pay you forty cents an hour,” and he was happy because he wouldn’t be able to get anything, normally. So he came every day to me, and I got some material for a little bit over a month.

I found him very dull, a very dull person. He didn’t know how to get your point, what you asked. And he could not–I said, “Can you tell me a story?” I thought I would give him–. No, he didn’t know how to tell story. [all laugh] It is a difficult thing. You do get informants that cannot tell stories. If you ask you, yourself: “Can I tell me a story?” You’ll search, but you may not be able to find any story to tell.

So he could not tell a story.

This was the younger person?

Yes, the old man could not come out; he was blind and over seventy years old. He could not come to me.

Lindy [Li’s daughter]:
He probably knew the stories.

I got mostly grammatical material, like “I come, you come, he comes,” and so on. This kind of grammatical material which you could easily get from him. Or, say, “I go from here to there,” and so on.

So, after a little over a month I found that this was getting a little bit–the, how would you say it? Economically it is called what, the limit of returns?

Diminishing returns.

You stay longer, you get less. So I said, “I had better try another Indian tribe.”
~ [Can’t seem to post an active link here, so just Google “Linguistics east and west: American Indian”, type “Mattole” into the Search box, and you will find lots more good stuff where this came from.]

John Jackson, a.k.a. Johnny Jack, at his cabin at the mouth of the Mattole. He had a daughter named Cora (Greslik, then married to an Everett Anderson) who was around here up until the 60s, at least. This photo from the Mary Rackliff Etter collection.

The Merrifield family of the Phillipsville/Miranda area, c. 1915; courtesy of the HSU Library, Humboldt Room

Truman Merrifield, or Mayfield as the name is sometimes spelled, was the son of Daniel Merrifield, a white man originally from Vermont, who got together with a Native Mattole woman in the 1860s. There was a daughter (Rhoda?– let me correct this later when i’ve looked that up), and son Truman, who married another Native or half-Native woman– here is their large family.

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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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Major Boy

(Another photo from the MRE Collection, of Major Boy Clark and an unidentified woman)
Major Boy was adopted by the Charles Clark family around 1862. He was said to have been found as an infant, abandoned by his people, rolling around in the bear clover; Charles and Martha raised him alongside Mary Jane (Clark, the first white child born in the Mattole), and dressed him in her cast-off clothes. Other children in the family were William or Bill “Grampy” Clark, the father of TK, Knowles, or “Boss”; and Sarah, who died young, after marrying Charles A. Johnston and bearing two children.

The “abandoned by his people” story seems a little cruel when you consider that his people had been killed. Major Boy, however, grew up to be a well-known and well-liked Petrolian, and had a home across from the south side of the square. I believe he lived until the 1940s.
(Please note that i have been posting these photos from my computer at home, and most of my historical notes and books are at the office. I can fill in some gaps in these stories sometime when i am over there at the Grange.)

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