Nicholas McNamara

Nicholas McNamara, one of the first businessmen to set foot in Crescent City, arrived here on March 12, 1853. McNamara was born on February 10, 1829, in Dungarvin County, located in Waterford, Ireland.

He was naturalized on April 12, 1858, in San Francisco.

McNamara and his brother, Mark, built the ‘American Hotel’ seven years after their arrival in Crescent City. McNamara also was half owner of the ‘Point Saint George Dairy Ranch’ with a man named Mr. Emetsburg.

The ‘American Hotel’ was the second in Crescent City, with the first The Del Norte being built by Major Ward Bradford. McNamara was the hotel’s proprietor until his death on May 15, 1893.

McNamara married Margaret Driscoll in San Francisco in about 1859. She was born March 21, 1840, in County Cork, Ireland.

According to a Crescent City census taken on July 19, 1870, McNamara was no slouch when it came to fathering children either. McNamara had 12 children with Margaret.

There were four boys, one of whom died young and nine girls. Two of the girls Rose and Margaret were twins.

From 1869 to 1877, McNamara was the Crescent City’s road overseer, kind of like a transportation director in current cities. Between 1880 and 1892, he was the county supervisor for District 1.

McNamara also was a school trustee at the time of his death.  Margaret died in Crescent City at 74, on Sept. 23, 1914, outliving Nicholas by 10 years.

Gold Bluff as its Name Implies

Gold Bluffs boasts the perfect name for the beaches near Orick, along the coast of what would become Prairie Creek State Park. Gold digs along the Trinity River in the 1850s attracted prospectors to the stretch between the river’s mouth and Klamath City, according to historical information from the National Parks Service.

The fine blend of gold and sand, though, proved too well mixed together to easily separate. Businessmen took a new interest in the site during the Civil War, as gold fetched top prices.

When the tides allowed, miners would load bags of the gold-sand onto mules who would carry them off the beach before waves crashed in again. Operations ended with the war’s end.

Reports vary on whether waves washed the treasure in from the ocean’s depths or stripped it from the shore’s bluffs. The California Geneology and History Archives, an online database, describes the early success in collecting gold from the region.

But that source, too, notes a decline in discovery and a difficulty in separating the sand and gold mix that would fool later prospectors.

“The accounts of the gold found in those olden days read like a romantic story from the times of the Spanish conquest,” states an archive entry on the 1850s reports of gold discoveries.

The Doctors

The last horse and buggy doctor in Del Norte County was Dr. Ernest Maxwell Fine. Whether delivering a baby, setting a broken bone, or administering medicine, he was always on-call.

With no doctor in the area at the time, he moved to Del Norte County in 1899 to help the sick. He was the only doctor in the area from Smith River to Orick.

“He wanted to be some place where people really needed him,” said Mrs. Murdock Roeder.

Dr. Fine’s first office was on the corner of Third and J streets, which contained a hospital room and a combined office, laboratory, waiting room. An old motto hung on the wall in his office that read: “Nature is the Best Remedy.”

No hospital existed in the county at that time. He often performed amputation of patients on a kitchen table.

Mrs. George Berry said, “If a patient never paid him, he still answered the next call to their home with as much gladness to serve.”

Dr. Fine traveled on a bicycle, in which he used to come to Crescent City. He began using a horse and buggy.

He invested in a Harley Davidson to make short house calls and for trips to work. Fine was his own mechanic performing operations on the engine.

In 1905 he purchased a Ford Roadster, one of the first cars in Del Norte County.  The red, one-seat vehicle carried a four-cylinder engine.

Later, Dr. Fine moved his practice to the corner of Third and E streets, where he created a five- room hospital called the Dr. Fine Hospital.  In 1927, the hospital burned down, and Dr. Fine retired.

When the stock market crashed, he lost his savings and began practicing again. He shared a joint waiting room with another doctor above Endert’s Drug Store with his own examination and x-ray room.

Dr. Fine died on September 30, 1939. high blood pressure and hard work was the cause of death. A Catholic Cemetery is his final resting place.

Two other physicians early to Del Norte County affected the growth of the area positively. Drs. Gustave H. and Anna R. Douglas had a hand in the development of the Klamath Bridge, the growth of the county and the health of early families in the area.

Gustave Douglas moved to Del Norte County from Portland, Oregon, in 1920 at the age of 57. Gustave had intended to retire, but busied himself with civic affairs in the southern end of the county.

He was elected as state representative of Siskiyou and Del Norte counties two years later. Immediately he began working to replace the old ferry across Klamath River with a bridge.

Although he died of a sudden heart attack in 1923 the day before the final approval of his bill by the Senate, a rider was attached to the bill, and approved, to name the structure “The Douglas Memorial Bridge.” After his death, Douglas’ wife, Anna, taught school in Del Norte County.

She also served as county superintendent for a year, until her health forced her to retire. She was born in Horicon, Wisconsin on March 29, 1869, and graduated from Normal School at Winona, Minnesota, in 1899.

A few years later, she received her degree from Northwestern University at Evanston, Illnois, to practice medicine. After she graduated, she and Gustave, who she had married by that time, went to the Jordan Valley in Oregon, built a drug store and practiced medicine.

At the time, some of their patients required the physicians to travel 20 miles to treat them. The two doctors also set up a hospital in Grants Pass that accommodated area mine workers.

Anna outlived her husband by 28 years. Both are buried in Sacramento.

James Andrew Jackson McVay

James Andrew Jackson McVay was born in 1834 in Indiana. In 1850 at the age of 16 he joined a wagon train and came west with his wife and child.

On the long trip west, his wife and child both died of the fever. When he arrived in Del Norte County, he settled in Smith River.

He acquired land and established his ranch. In 1858, James A. J. McVay married Lucinda Bledsoe, the daughter of Anthony Jennings Bledsoe Sr. and the sister of Anthony J. Bledsoe Jr., the noted Del Norte County historian.

James and Lucinda had four children, two sons, Nathaniel Green and Asa, and two daughters Ella and Lillian.The children were raised on the ranch and didn’t receive very much formal education.

In 1880, at the age of 15, Nathaniel left home to work on a ranch in Humboldt County, near Ferndale. He remained there for nearly a year, during which time he learned the carpentry trade and became very proficient at it.

Next, Nathaniel went to work in the logging camps. His first job was pulling rigging.

He was a hard worker and rapidly advanced to higher positions with more re-sponsibility. Then he suffered a serious accident and couldn’t work in the logging camps any longer.

Nathaniel had to return to Crescent City.

For the next four years, Nathaniel worked in Crescent City as a clerk and bookkeeper. He became very proficient at bookkeeping and knowledgeable of the total operation of a business.

He felt competent to have his own business, so he purchased a general merchandise store at Smith River in partnership with C. F. Goodrich. Nathaniel conducted the business for 18 months and the store was very successful.

Nathaniel became bored with the business so he sold his share of the business to his partner. Nathaniel married Lucile Bolt in December 1890.

Then Nathaniel went back to his real love, carpentry. He worked for the next four years in Smith River and Wedderburn, Oregon. There he had complete control of the contracts he worked on.

Nathaniel then spent five months in Seattle where he worked at constructing railroad bridges in the construction yards of the Northern Pacific Railway. He returned to Crescent City to accept a position with the Crescent City Mill and Transportation Company.

After driving a team for a year he was put in charge of their extensive transportation yards, a position which he filled for two and a half years.

In 1902 Nathaniel McVay was nominated on the Democratic ticket for the office of auditor and recorder of Del Norte County. Nathaniel was elected and took over the office in January 1903.

He was repeatedly re-elected auditor and recorder and held the position for 40 years. Nathaniel Green McVay died on March 20, 1942.

He was still in office at the time of his death.

The State of Driver’s Education Today

Everywhere I turn I see that the media is down on “teen” drivers. I don’t get it. Driving has not change all that much since Henry Ford dropped an engine in a wooden frame and scared the crap out of all the horse and buggy types in town.

What has changed is how driving class is taught. It has gone to ‘Hell in Model-T’ just like the rest of the school system.

As far as I am concerned it is the parent’s responsibility to teach their child how to properly operate a motor vehicle. The problem is that parents aren’t allowed to do that anymore. It’s now up to the school district.

From where I’m standing it’s all about money. The more the school district is involved the greater the possibility that someone’s palm is getting greased somewhere in the chain of your child’s driving education.

When I went to school, we had so many hours of classroom and so many hours behind the wheel with a school teacher turned driver’s ed instructor. The rest of the time I was out with my father. I drove around the block, up and down the highway, out to the Klamath Glen and back, Crescent City and back, learning to Parallel Park, safe backing, etc.

In class we studied for our driving test. We watched the messy movies of highway death. We learned about drinking and driving. Yet out biggest educators were our parents, grandparents or someone else other than the school system.

Of course, I see adults driving around my age yakking on cell-phones, reading newspapers, drinking coffee, correcting kids and such while burning old dinosaur meat at 70 mph on US 395 and I-80. What makes it worse is to see the Nevada Highway Patrol zip right on by the majority of these folks as if they were late for their next donut stop. And we wonder where teens get their big ideas.

Driving Out the Celestials

In January 1886, Del Norte County leaders called a meeting to draft a legal way to drive out the local Chinese population. The outcome would force the county’s hundreds of Chinese residents and workers onto boats and wagons headed for San Francisco and Oregon in the following weeks.

Similar expulsions would take place up and down the West coast. Crescent City’s expulsion followed one in Eureka a few days earlier that rounded up Chinese residents and sent them to San Francisco by boat. The story remains well-known along the Northcoast.

Other communities in the West that carried out similar expulsions – meaning that Eureka and Crescent City are not isolated episodes in racial fights against the Chinese. The West’s white settlers expected Chinese immigrants, known as hard workers, to take jobs at mills, gold mines, road and railroad construction projects.

Labor organizers drummed up support to expel the Chinese on the Northcoast and would prompt similar moves in Tacoma, Wash., and Rock Springs, Wyoming. The expulsions followed a killing of a Humboldt County politician in Eureka, blamed on a Chinese man, and complaints of prostitution and drug use in Chinese neighborhoods.

Connecting the Northcoast expulsions to other incidents against the nation’s Chinese immigrants can clarify American history. Nearly 31 California communities kicked out Chinese residents during the late 1800s.

Ads in Del Norte County publications at the time touted businesses that refused to hire Chinese people. Material from Humboldt County’s 1886 chamber of commerce and business leaders promoted the county’s scenery, climate, homes and lack of Chinese residents.

Chinese American families refused to send their children to the school because of the county’s past. Old newspaper accounts in cities and towns along the West Coast from Seattle to Crescent City to San Diego and east into Wyoming, Nevada and Idaho.

The articles chronicle the often brutal expulsions and racist acts in various western communities, as respected community leaders drafted zoning and employment laws to ban Chinese residents. Labor organizers sought to protect mining and other jobs for white settlers.

City mayors, county supervisors, a high school principal and newspaper editor led anti-Chinese movements. White residents rounded up Chinese families at gunpoint and loaded them onto ships in winter.

Town residents looted or auctioned off the goods that Chinese people left behind after forced evacuations. Besides oral and written accounts, a timeline detail the purges.

Notices for town meetings call for ideas on crafting legal methods to evict Chinese people, while ads boast of Chinese free towns. The federal Exclusion Act of 1882 would ban Chinese immigrants from the U.S. until it was repealed in 1943.

Chinese fought back After being forced from their Eureka homes, Chinese people filed the first lawsuit in America for reparations. They organized a militia in Amador and a vegetable strike in Truckee in response to evacuation attempts.

Chinese workers on the railroad line won the right to keep their own cooks who boiled water for tea and saved their health as diseases spread among whites. In an 1885 roundup in Tacoma, Washington, town leaders forced Chinese residents onto a train to Portland.

Those who couldn’t pay hiked the 140 miles. Upon arriving, the Chinese sued Tacoma’s government leaders.

Eureka’s roundup in 1885 followed the death of a city councilman, caught in the crossfire of a shoot-out in Chinatown. A local crowd wanted to kill all of the city’s Chinese residents and burn down Chinatown.

Leaders settled on immediately driving them out by loading them onto boats for San Francisco. When they arrived, the Chinese sued Eureka for racism, lost wages, fishing vessels, crops and horses.

They eventually won.

The USA Patriot Act

The USA PATRIOT Act is a ten-letter acronym that stands for “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism” Act of 2001. It is an Act of Congress that was signed into law by President George W. Bush in October 2001.

I’m amazed at the bull-shit that can be sold to the American public in a time of duress, when it’s wrapped in the U.S. flag.

All this bill is – is an overreach of the federal government’s powers. It claims to use the U.S. Constitution as a checks-and-balance on its limits, but I think that’s nothing more than smoke being blown up John Q. Public’s butt.

My prediction is that it’ll be around for the next 100-years. If you need an example jus’ look at the Federal Reserve which has been impeding the U.S. economy since 1903 and it’s not even a part of the government.

Mining Versus the Tribes

Soon to follow the friction between miners and this area’s indigenous population was more friction between the two groups on the Klamath area in January 1855. Miners there began to desert their claims and rally on the camps for protection, while the tribe moved its families to the mountains.

At a January 6th mass meeting at Orleans Bar, the incoming population decided to disarm the tribes and take action against whites they suspected of or found guilty of selling the tribes arms. Although many of the Indians complied, a few refused and prepared to resist.

Led by the Red Caps, they made their plans, but did not strike the first blow. That was done by the whites, who burned several rancherias and “committing outrages” on the women of the tribes, and the powder keg was lighted.

Whites called for help, and Captain Buchanan at Fort Humboldt organized a volunteer company in Trinidad and began attacking the peaceful Klamath Indians who had been living peacefully with the encroaching whites. Buchanan ordered out a company led by Capt. H.M. Judah, who began negotiating with the Indians when he reached Weitchpec.

The local Yurok then offered to help suppress the Red Caps, but the miners would not agree to their offer. Judah was close to a settlement when Capt. Buchanan recalled him.

At about that time, Special Indian Agent for the County of Siskiyou, A.M. Rosborough reached Weitchpec to assess the situation. Sensing it was critical — Yurok on the rancherias, the Red Caps in the mountains and a serious threat that minors would attack the peaceful Indians if the Red Caps killed any packers.

The volunteers had unsuccessfully sought the Red Caps during their one patrol into the mountains.Weitchpec was critical to the pack trains supplying the miners, so a company of regulars was permanently posted there in the Hoopa Valley.

Nothing less than “the prosperity of that part of the state,” was at stake. Relaying details to his boss, Commissioner of Indian Affairs G.W. Montgomery, Henley told of his conviction that the miners were poised to massacre the Indians.

In the hope of holding off the tragedy, S.G. Whipple was named as Special Agent for Klamath County. Rosborough worried as the uneasy situation continued that it would be impossible for the law-abiding whites to maintain their control over the camps.

He feared that any more killings by the Red Caps would lead to attacks on the rancherias and mass exodus of the peaceful Indians into the mountains. At the same time, no one could locate the 40-50 Red Caps who remained at large.

Judah pleaded to Buchanan to order a company of infantry to Weitchpec and at least establish law on the Klamath, but Buchanan would not budge on his own initiative and ordered Judah to Oregon. Rosborough, in turn, begged for a company of soldiers and a deputy marshal, believing that if an officer of the law was in Klamath and could enforce and arrest offending participants the lawlessness would be curbed.

The Yurok offered to help find the Red Caps, but were disarmed instead by the miners. Rosborough organized more volunteer companies to war with the Red Caps and the inevitable happened.

Guides leading one of the units led them into an ambush. Although no lives were lost, marshals condemned 26 Indians to death, captured a number of others and burned two villages.

Judah, returning to Klamath, was told to help Whipple find a site for an Indian Reservation. The atrocities, perpetrated by the whites, continued.

Judah hoped that fears resulting from the volunteers’ deeds would abate. He traveled down the Klamath hoping to meet with the Indians who wanted peace, but found the camps empty.

In his stead, two of the Indians accompanying Judah traveled farther, returning with about 50 Yurok who shared to goal of peace. Following a council attended by representatives of most of the tribes, he agreed to form a war party, arm the Indians and hunt down eight Red Caps and execute them.

They would also urge the Indians they found on the way to turn themselves in while a reservation was formed Although Whipple found a site he thought would make a good place for the reservation, he was also causing problems for Judah and others. The troops remained on the Klamath as Whipple talked to the Indians there about the reservations plan.

The plan was to follow through, locating the reservation on the Klamath. Congress had already passed an appropriation to fund five reservations in California.  U.S. President Franklin Pierce signed off on the agreement, issuing an order November 16, 1855, to establish the reservation on a piece of land one mile wide on either side of the Klamath that ran for 20 miles — roughly 25,000 acres.

The Warning

It was somewhere along the State Route 215 near San Bernardino, that I learned what makes Californians different from the rest of the nation. It’s in their approach to driving and a highway patrol officer pointed this out to me.

The 215 at that point is a stretch of three-lane freeway. I was in the center lane doing 70 miles per hour. In the back of my truck I had a rotor tiller strapped down. It was about 2:30 in the afternoon.

On either side of me, traffic was whizzing by me at a faster pace than the posted speed limit. However I was doing the posted limit, so  I felt I was okay.

Suddenly and without warning I saw the unmistakable sight of a black and white unit pull in behind me . Seconds later his lights came on, beckoning me to pull to the side of the roadway, which I did.

This nice youthful officer approached me, asking for my driver ‘s license, registration and proof of insurance. I had that all available for him before he got to the truck’s window.

Be inspected them and handed them back to me .

Then he said, “Mr. Darby, do you know how fast you were going?”

I politely answered, “Yes, 70 miles an hour, the posted speed limit.”

The nice officer responded, “Yes sir, you were, but in the center lane.”

By this time he could see that I was confused. Be went on to explain that the posted speed is for the right lane, the center lane is for those vehicles traveling 75 miles an hour or faster and that the far left lane is for the 80 plus crowd.

“Oh,” was my only comment to this.

“I pulled you over,” the officer finally stated, “because you were going too slow for the flow of traffic.”

He let me off with just a warning.

Edwin Young

Edwin Young was born in Tennessee in 1799, and later moved west to what was then territory belonging to Spain and Mexico. He primarily worked out of Taos, New Mexico, during the 1820s, making forays into California through that decade.

But he never got farther north than the San Joaquin River. In 1833, he came close to Del Norte County, though, reaching what is now the Humboldt and Mendocino counties line.

As Young and a company of men searched for streams containing large populations of the prized beaver, they kept moving northward along the coast. The company tried to cross the Coastal Range several times in hopes of reaching better hunting ground.

After successfully doing so, they following Smith’s old trail to the Rogue River in Oregon. They turned eastward, and upon reaching Klamath Lake moved south into California again on their way home to Taos.

Young would go on to become a famous pioneer of Oregon.

In autumn 1834, he settled in Willamette Valley. As head of the Willamette Cattle Company, in January 1837 he traveled to California and purchased 630 head of cattle, which he brought back along the Siskiyou Trail to sell to settlers.

Because of his efforts, a provisional government soon formed in what is now Oregon, a key first step in defining what is now Del Norte County’s northern border.

Mom’s Final Gift

There’s a man out in the hallway,” said the Charge Nurse, “and he wants to talk with you.”

She turned and slipped quietly out of the room. I was standing by Mom’s bed, where she lay curled on her right side.

Debating with myself as to whether I should leave or not, I leaned down and whispered into Mom’s ear, “I’ll be right back.”

Quickly stepped out of the room and met with the man who was leaning patiently against the ICU nursing station, “You needed to speak to me?” I asked.

“Yes,” answered the man, then he added, “I’m your mother’s attorney and she wanted you to have this.”

He handed me an envelope.

“What is it?” I asked.

The man stepped back and said, “Your mom told me to give it to you when the time was right.  You’re to open it after she’s gone and find out.  Those were my instructions from her.”

With that, he turned and walked down the long, empty corridor towards the parking lot.

Frowning, I didn’t have time for games right now, so tucked the envelope into my back pocket, turned around, and went back inside the room.  It was just before 9 pm and all of the family was there.

For nearly four days Mom’s breathing had remained labored as she laid in a semi fetal position on her right side.  Her doctor stated with a resigned finality that her lungs were filling up with fluid and she was slowly drowning to death.  Her heart raced over one hundred and six beats per minute as she struggled to hold on to her tenuous life.

“We’re all here,” Deirdre gently spoke into her ear.

Then each person in the room called out their name letting her know that they were indeed present.

I suggested, “Let’s reposition her on her back so she can see us.

“Okay,” agreed Deirdre.

We quickly moved to different sides of the bed and tenderly lifted the bedding up and adjusted the tiny figure lying on the mattress from her side to her back.  Then the two of us gently slipped the extra pillows down into the areas between her body and the bed to keep her from rolling one way or the other.  It was the first time I had seen Mom’s face since I had arrived earlier that day

“Now you can look at all of us, Mom,” Marcy said.

There was a minute or two of awkward silence, as no one knew exactly what to say.  The void was broken by a sniffle or a heavy sigh as tears continued to be shed.

Suddenly, I realized the monitor that was attached to Mom, which had shown her heartbeat as racing, was now showing a rapidly dropping heart rate.

I said aloud, “Look at the monitor.”

Adam replied, “She’s crashing.”

Their mother was quickly dying. Before anyone had a chance to react her heart rate was below 65 beats per minute.  Everyone started sobbing wildly.

When it dropped beneath 50, everyone joined hands and started praying through their tears.  Soon there were no more heartbeats on the monitor and her breaths, which had slowed, to nothing more than hiccups became nonexistent.

As the person given the final control over their mother’s medical wishes, I waited one minute, then reached over and switched off the monitor.  The display had gone into silent alarm the moment Mom’s heart stopped beating.

The room seemed almost tranquil, except for the hissing sound of the oxygen escaping from the mask still attached to Mom’s now motionless face. And for the crying of those who felt the loss and had not yet fled the room.

After waiting another minute, in a futile hope that Mom might take a breath, I reached over and turned the oxygen off at the wall.  I gently lifted the mask from his Mom’s face, noting the creases it left in her skin and hung it up on the flow meter.

“Deirdre,” I asked, “Hand me that hair bush and grab a damp wash clothe, please?”

She did both without saying a word.

While I washed Mom’s face and brushed out her hair, Adam lovingly straightened out her legs and arms, which had been bent without moving for days.  It was the least that her two sons could do for their mother,

A few minutes later I wandered out into the hallway.

“Are you okay?” I asked Kyle.

It wasn’t the brightest question to ask but it was the only one I could think of at the time.

“No,” Kyle answered as he sat in the semi-darkened hallway on a couch.

I sat down next to him and put an arm over his shoulders, pulling him closer.

Kyle sighed deeply, “It’s not fair.”

“I know, I know,” I responded.

We sat there quietly for a few minutes, both allowing the other to cry.

After a while, they got up and walked outside to the truck, and headed towards Fortuna and Deirdre’s house.  While southbound on Highway 101, Kyle looked at me and said, “Now that Grandpa and Grandma are gone, that makes you an orphan.”

I thought about it for a few seconds, smiled then chuckled as I answered, “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

The drive was quiet the rest of the way we were lost in their own thoughts.  Within minutes though Kyle, tired from emotional exhaustion was asleep and I was left to my memories.

Reflecting back, I recalled how just after Mom had passed away, Deirdre and I were waiting for the doctor to come in and pronounce her dead.  Deirdre was seated in a chair by the bed and I was leaning against the wall by the doorway when I looked down and saw something shiny underneath the open door.

“Hey, look at that,” I said as I bent over to pick it up.

“What is it?” Deirdre asked with excitement.

“It’s a penny,” I answered.

“Oh my gosh!” she exclaimed, then asking “What’s the date on it?”

Quickly I checked. When I told her, she screamed, bringing the Charge Nurse rushing into the room.

“What’s the matter?” she demanded.

“My brother just found a penny from the same year that our step-dad Delmar died.  We think he was here!” Deirdre said with great excitement.

The nurse let out a squeal as she looked at the penny in my hand.

Her body shivered as if she was suddenly cold and she exclaimed, “I have Goosebumps!”

The scene kept playing over and over in my head until I pulled my truck into the driveway of Deirdre’s house.  I had witnessed the goosebumps and before I got out of the truck I felt for the penny in the visor one more time.

It wasn’t until the following evening that I thought about the envelope I had been given.  It wasn’t that it had slipped my mind; it was just that it seemed trivial given all the other things he had yet to accomplish like completing funeral arrangements and signing over my power of attorney.  I figured I’d have enough time to look at whatever was in the envelope later.

Kyle spent the day playing with his cousins while I spent the day with my sisters making arrangements for the care of their mom’s body and its final resting place.  By the time we were finished, it was nightfall and I felt exhausted.

Trudged up the narrow stairway from the backdoor to where Kyle and I were sleeping, I fell across the double bed.  I lay there for a couple of minutes looking at the nightstand where the envelope rested.

I rolled over, picked it up, and opened it as I sat up.

Inside were a couple of legal forms instructing what everyone was expected to do with what and who was in charge of this or that.  I sighed, realizing the scale of those duties and happy that I didn’t have to do any of it.

Beyond that I found two-typed pages and an enormous gift as I began to read:

“This is a history and I leave it to you.  I am writing this to help you fill in some of the gaps in my life and perhaps yours as well.  I know that you have always been interested in our families’ history.  I think that it is a good thing, as you like your brother are gifted with a talent for storytelling and writing.  I will go back as far as I can remember.

Let me start with my grandfather, Jose Luis Olivera.  He was born in Sao Gorge, Portugal, on January 4, 1881.  I believe he was a carpenter by trade.  I am told that he always smelled of sweet cigars and rum aftershave.  Grandpa Jose left the United States and returned to Portugal in 1920, leaving grandma behind as well as all of his children.  No one really knows why.

Grandma Rosa was an Acosta by birth.  She too was born on the island of Sao Gorge.  Her birth date was June 6, 1892.  She ran a boarding house to make ends meet.  She had 4 children, which included Fredrico, Luis, Maria, and Joaquin.

A man named Estrada, who was either her lover or her boarder, shot Grandma Rosa to death in 1921.  No one has ever been certain of the facts and Estrada never made it clear before he went to his death in the electric chair at San Quentin.

She is also rumored to have had a child with him, a girl named Rose.  I don’t know who raised her; however, she grew up and joined the Air Force.  You met her once, when we lived at Mather Air Force Base, in Sacramento.

Your Grandfather Joaquin Luis Olivera was only 10 or 11 years old at that time and was raised by your Great-uncle Fred.  He was born in Arcata, California, on June 28, 1910.  He worked as a bartender for the majority of his life when not pounding nails as a part-time carpenter.

This is also where you get your middle name.  I know that you sometimes joke that your father and I had a sense of humor when we named you, but all kidding aside, your father and my father were the two most important men in my life at that time and this is why you came to have such a lengthy name.

Finally, it is true that you were born as a twin and his name was to be Timothy Edward Junior, after your father and his father.  He was 3 minutes younger than you and his lungs were not fully mature therefore he never took a breath.  Your father and I were heartsick and I cried off and on all night until the first time I got to hold you.

As for my mother, Leola Gertrude, we had an on-again/off-again relationship.  She was born a Hufford, which at the time was still a very well-respected name in Humboldt County.

Her date of birth was August 16, 1913, in Bridgeville, California where your great-granddad owned the Bridgeville Overland Express Company.  She was literally born in a barn, as the house was not yet completed.

She was also a member of the Hupa Indian Tribe.  You still have the 1903 booklet that she hid behind her wall and you discovered when you and Delmar were repairing the dry rot after her death.

The reason she did this, I speculate is that at one time it was illegal for area Indians to own a liquor license.  And I believe your great-grandfather fronted her money to put her and your grandfather into the saloon business.  In fact, as I think of it now, I believe this is about the time your grandfather anglicized his name to ‘Jack.’

That mysterious little booklet leads me to other questions needing research at another time. Did it belong to Jenny May Babcock or Irma Gillespie, as the date is too young to be my Mothers?  And which lady was Grandpa George’s first wife?  I will leave this up to you to seek an answer.

The mystery deepens here as Grandpa George Washington Hufford had 3 children, yet only 2 are really only spoken of in the family histories.  That would be because William H. Hufford at age 11, the eldest child, reportedly crowned his mother Jenny May, on the head with a heavy bedstead, fracturing her skull.

She lingered a few days before passing, with a Dr. Caudill listing the cause of death as a brain tumor.  According to family legend, your great-grandma carried several gold pieces about her neck in a cloth bag and the bag turned up in William’s possession.

I never knew him, though I saw him in a grade school photograph once at the Fortuna museum, we visited.  He reportedly died in prison back east after a life spent in crime.

Both of my grandparents and my mother are buried on the hill in the family plot.  You and I went up there once and placed flowers there.  I have always found it to be a quiet spot, but lonely and drab.  I am happy not to be buried there.

It still leaves me embarrassed to recall your cousins from Washington carving their initials in your grandmother’s fine oak casket prior to the ceremony.  Furthermore, I am still upset that Grandpa Hufford still does not have a marker befitting a man of his stature in Humboldt County.

After all, he was a pioneer in the area, just like Peter Darby, one of the co-founders of Crescent City who has one of the finest headstones erected in the cemetery in Del Norte County.  The money that was supposed to be used for that was drunk away in sorrow by your Grandma and Great-aunt Madge.

Still, I giggle my self silly when I remember you with your ear planted to the ground, thumping the earth in earnest hoping to find a hollow spot and thus locating your Great-grandfather’s resting place.  I imagined him looking down on you with his large mustache, laughing at the grown man, his Great-grandson, with the large mustache, face nearly buried in the dirt, listening.  Such irony an old lady does not get to see every day.

My parents had a total of five children, four girls, and a boy.  The boy, Gary Russell Olivera died, not making it beyond infancy.

Mom and Dad did not speak of it much as I assume it hurt too much.  They also had a set of twins, your Aunts’ Leona and Leora.

The oldest child was your Aunt Barbara and I was the baby of the family.  I was born in Eureka, a little more than a year before World War II.

The house that we used to go to when we visited your grandma was the house that your grandpa built and I grew up in.  If you stood at the side of Rohnerville Road, looking at that house, then to the left of it, that two-story house was the home that my grandfather built when he moved into town.  I used to love to play in that house.

We all attended Rohnerville Elementary.  It is now called Toddy Thomas Elementary.  He was the principal there when I graduated from eighth grade.

This is about the time my parents separated.  They had been having difficulties off and on for a number of years and I was the last child left at home.  I decided to go live with my father in Klamath after graduation.

He was owner and operator of the Three-7’s Bar in Klamath.  He had a small three-bedroom place in the back.  I had a bedroom all to myself and I enjoyed it.

My mother would sometimes come up to stay with us.

At the Three-7’s, I helped behind the bar, bussed the tables, and cooked hamburgers as Father also had a small grill.  I especially enjoyed the music, the dancing, and the attention I would get from the young men.

It’s also where I learned to smoke, drink and cuss.  After all, I was just a teenager, so what did I know.

Three things stand out in my memory when it comes to the Three-7’s.  The first one is Bill Shaw, who became your grandmother’s common-law husband, as they were never legally married.  I held him in contempt for a number of years because he insisted on courting Mom through me.

When my father was not around he would come to the door and give me notes or flowers and such to slip to her.  One time I got so angry with him I pushed him off the back porch of the Three-7’s Club and he landed flat on his back.  I put my hands on my hips and told him that he needed to be a man and go give Mother the note himself and to quit sneaking around the back door like an ally cat.

During one of the many Klamath Floods I survived, your Aunt Leora, her husband Jerry, who was also in the Air Force there, and I had to escape the rising water by climbing on top of your distant cousin Tony Ramos’ market and then hop-scotching back to the Three-7’s Club.  We were finally rescued by boat.  The man who piloted the craft was married to a former Miss USA or Miss California.  His name was Davis or David or something along those lines.

Lastly, the Three-7’s is where I met your Father.  He was handsome and dashing in his Air Force policeman’s uniform as he came through, reminding the other airmen that it was time to head back to the base.  It was a whirlwind romance.  We knew each other for a very short while before he popped the question and I found myself saying ‘yes.’

We were married in Reno, Nevada on September 24, 1956, at the County Courthouse in a legal ceremony.  I was a mere sixteen years old and he was 23.  We had a one-night honeymoon at the Mapes Hotel and then it was back to Klamath.  The drive was pretty much the same then as it is now, long, winding and tedious.

When we got back home he had to leave me at the Three-7’s and go back to the base, as he had not made formal provisions for me yet.  My husband left me with my Father!  I was mad at him and did not speak to him for a week thereafter, but I did do a lot of pouting and crying.

About two years later your Father received orders to report to France.  I would spell the name of the airbase but my memory is not what it used to be.

I remember when I used to be able to speak Portuguese and French with ease.  I would speak in Portuguese with your Grandfather and my Aunt and Uncles, and French with your Father.   Now, I am lucky if I can pronounce the name of the medications I must take from day to day.

At the time that we were leaving for France, I thought I was going on a grand adventure.  I had never been farther than southern Humboldt to Bridgeville or north to Crescent City and high school at Del Norte.

Incidentally, that’s where my education came to an end as a teenager. I dropped out when I was a sophomore.  I did not pick up the mantle of education again until you started high school and proved to be woefully unimpressed with the education system and we ended up taking college night courses together so we would both graduate.

As for my adventure, it was placed on hold in Muskogee, Oklahoma for about ten months.  Your Father left me with his parents and sister and her husband.

I had to threaten him with a divorce to get him to finally ship me overseas.  Once I was over there though, I was surprised to discover that the chateau-villa we were to live in was nothing less than a house of ill repute on a gravel road.

In fact, your very first babysitter was a 21-year old redheaded prostitute named Mimi.  In one of the many boxes of photos you have, there is a picture of her holding you in a standing position against the wall, under that gaudy landscape painting we brought back from France.

It was always damp and cold and your Father always seemed to be away on duty.  I became very good friends with those women and I was not ashamed of their profession at all as they were good to us.

In fact, they kept us from starving a few times.  Your Father did not make very much in pay, seventy dollars, I think, and those women shared their cheese and stale crackers and wine as the local market would gouge me for the price of eggs, butter, and bread in a false belief that all Americans were made of money.

It was also about this time that your Father started talking about getting married in the church.  I think he was concerned that I was talking too much to the other women in our chateau-villa.  They spoke of things and I listened, learned, and used them and they worked, causing the man of the house to worry.

Then again it could be that I had suffered two miscarriages and I was continually sad and he could tell this.  And I must admit I was sad, I came to France expecting to nibble on chocolate bon-bon’s, sip champagne while wearing the latest in fashion and here I was 18 years old, hobnobbing with whores, drinking cheap vino, eating day-old cheese from the market from down the dirt lane and pregnant for the third time.

Yet, the idea of church felt good at the time.  It felt right, like an old pair of slippers set before the fireside waiting for me on a rainy day.  Your Father had been raised Lutheran and I had never really been to church.  We decided on the Catholic faith.

Years later when your Father and I would divorce and I would seek refuge from the church and Father Brady would condemn me and tell me that I was excommunicated from the Catholic Church for wanting a divorce, those slippers would come to feel more like cement shoes.

We studied our catechism lessons under Father Fink.  I remember thinking it was such a funny name for such a funny man.  He was very portly, jolly, and kind. And the good Father was terribly addicted to gambling, so much so, that the church finally resorted to purchasing a one-armed bandit and placing it in his room so that he could get his daily fix without going broke.

We were finally married in the Holy Roman Catholic Church, two months prior to your birth.  Looking back, I must have been a sight to see.

You were born on Wednesday, July 20, at 2:23 in the afternoon.  I often joked with you that you were born in the back seat of a taxi.  This is almost the truth.

Your Father was on duty when my water broke and he sent a car around for me from the base.  I still feel sorry for the poor airman driving because I screamed bloody murder when the top of your head popped out as I lay in the back seat.

Fortunately for you and for your Father, he was there to greet me at the hospital.  As I have already said your twin brother was born about 3 minutes later.  He was stillborn and never had a chance.

I have always thought it was strange how you would sometimes say you felt split in two.

When we shipped out a year a half later, it was because we were now uninvited guests of the French.  They had elected a Socialist President, who wanted nothing to do with America.  To be completely honest with you, I was happy to be going home.

We boarded the ship “S. S. United States” and crossed the Atlantic.  I thrilled at the sight of the Statue of Liberty, realizing that my Grandma Rosa and Grandpa Jose must have had the same feelings about the opportunities and life that lay ahead of them.

Things seemed to happen at an awfully quick pace once we were stateside and settled.  Perhaps it was because we were living on base and I was suddenly part of a social circle, something I had not and would never really be used to.

Perhaps it was having a child and another one on the way.  Perhaps it was the political climate of the time.  I don’t know.

What I do know is that you loved to play with our black lab, Tippy.  One day you came into the house for a drink of water, your face covered in blood and a gash in your forehead.

You said that Tippy had bitten you after you had bit Tippy on the end of his tail.  I wasn’t sure who to be madder at, you or that dog.

Then there was the time we were next door at the Quako’s home.  They were having a small party.

You were supposed to be in bed asleep, suddenly the doorbell rings, and guess who was standing there…you.

You demanded that Mommy and Daddy come home now.  We did.  It is scary to think that parents go to jail for things like that nowadays.

And it has always amazed me how you could recall the assassination of President Kennedy.  You were so young!

You are right, there was a woman in our front room crying and your father did come home and then leave for a long time afterward.  The woman was Kim-Yong Johnson; she was Korean and lived next door to us.

As for your father, he was placed on alert for several days.  He came home long enough to get some equipment, kiss us and go.  I was scared because I didn’t understand what was going on and I was pregnant with your brother.

When your brother arrived on August 4th, 1963, I was so happy.  He was healthy and he had a full head of hair just like his grandfather.  I think your father was jealous of the get-go as he was starting to get thin on top.

We brought him to where you were staying, the Mattel’s, who lived 3 houses up from us.  I laid him in your lap and you were scared to death, frightened of the doll that moved. He had just started to walk when your father got new orders to his old assignment, Klamath Air Force Station.

Then there were the young men, boys really, who would come over for dinner just before they were to ship out for Vietnam.  And those miserable nights that I couldn’t console your father and he could not console me because one or more of them would never return home alive.

And how General Curtis Le May and your Godfather Colonel Bud Laux used to come over and bounce you boys on their knees.  It must have been a wonderful distraction for them for those few minutes, as they had to live through years of sending young men into harm’s way.  God bless them and you two little boys!

Things were changing though.  Suddenly the base commander was putting up chain-link fencing around each home.  This was a field where you and all the other children used to run and play and now it was forbidden.

Of course, it did not prevent you from having one last shot at creating some sort of excitement.  It was dark and you were crossing the field with us when you simply vanished from sight.

It took about ten minutes for your father to get a flashlight and find you.  You had fallen into a posthole that had been dug earlier that day.  What a fright!

And I knew it was time to go the day I found you and your brother sitting out by the fence, crying, watching the billowing black smoke rise skyward as a fully loaded B-52 Bomber burned on the runway.  You both thought your father was never coming back because you knew that he walk around those airplanes all day.

And I cried too because I did not understand enough about the nuclear age we live in.

That covers pretty much what I know about my family plus the first 25 years of my life or so.  Now it’s your turn.

Finally, I encourage you to help your brother and sisters to try to get along.  History is only worth the paper it’s written on, but family is priceless.”

Once I finished what Mom had so kindly left behind for him to read, I sat there, thinking, “Why would she want me to have this?”

I couldn’t come up with a clear answer, so he set it aside and went downstairs for dinner.

Later after Kyle was in bed fast asleep and I was resting, I recalled a conversation Mom and I had a year or so before.  She had said to me, “We all live through history and we all have a story.  So write about what you know.  Write from life.”

I picked up the autobiography Mom had written, re-reading it and I was finished, I laid there with my hands folded beneath my head, knowing that once again Mom was right.

I blinked and a tiny tear trailed its way down the left side of my face, then I said aloud, “Okay, I’ll start writing, but I’m going to start with your obituary, Mom.”

With that, I rolled over, pulled the covers on top of myself, reached over switched off the bedside lamp, closed my eyes, and fell asleep.

The Fight for Whalers Island

In June 1855, a company was formed in Crescent City for the purpose of whaling. Whales were frequently seen near the harbor and this company was sure that whaling operations would be profitable.

The company established whale rendering facilities on a large rock in the harbor. The rock was about 10 acres in size.

It became known as Whaler Island. Eric Lyders was a prominent San Francisco attorney. He had purchased a small portion of an option that was owned by Thomas Valentine.

This option was called scrip. In 1930 Eric Lyders filed Valentine’s scrip on Whaler Island and claimed it as his own.

Thus began a six-year legal battle over the ownership of Whaler Island. Two court cases were decided in favor of Lyders, and he had been dubbed the King of Whaler Island in several San Francisco newspapers.

Del Norte County citizens felt that the county was entitled to ownership of the island, which had been quarried and reduced to 3.65 acres in size. The county kept up a strong fight to retain the property as it was considered vital to the development of the harbor.

Lyders likewise realized that the property possessed a huge potential value and kept up a vigorous fight to keep ownership. Lyders had made the fantastic claim that if he did not retain possession of Whaler Island, he was entitled to the city of Petaluma in 1934.

The Del Norte County Chamber of Commerce led the fight to obtain the ownership of Whaler Island for the use of the people of Del Norte County. The chamber didn’t want the island turned over to private interests.

The hearing was conducted by the U.S. Department of the Interior Land Office in Sacramento on March 7. Government attorneys representing the War Department and the Department of Interior were in attendance with carefully prepared cases.

The hearing was held before the Registrar of the U.S. Land Office. The government supported its claim to Whaler Island based on the grounds that the island is mineral land, being composed of rock suitable for building stone, which falls under the minerals land classification.  The government also claimed that the land was not suitable for agriculture.

Lyders countered that the time for contesting his filing was when the filing was made, which was when the due notice was given for the purpose of hearing objections.  George Howe, a local attorney, was aligned with Lyders in his bid for ownership of Whaler Island.

All of the evidence of the case was submitted to the Department of the Interior secretary for his decision.  On July 1, 1936, Emma Cooper, Board of Supervisors clerk, received a penny postcard, saying the county had been awarded ownership of Whaler Island.

Copper North of Crescent City

It was 1860 when seven years of rumored wealth in the hills north of Crescent City proved to be true. In March of that year, several miners took samples of ore to be tested by D.S. Sartwell and Dr. Henry Smith.

The ore tested out to have a large percentage of copper. The news prompted geologist D. C. Gibbs to form a company to take full advantage of the vein — found to be a mile long.

The vein was opened first on a ridge east of Smith River near Peacock’s Ferry.

Eventually, several shafts were dug to 20 and 30 feet to enable the geologists to more accurately determine the ore’s quality. They, too, underscored the high quality of the ores.

Summer 1860 saw excitement rising here, and attention is given to the find from as far south as San Francisco. A group of Cornish miners agreed that the ore was high quality, calling it the richest they had inspected.

Better yet was its accessibility. And so the fever spread.

Locals picked up the mining lingo quickly, the streets of Crescent City were thinned of crowds, and McClelland’s Livery Stable had no animals available for hire. The first mining company, ‘Evoca,’ dug its mine about a mile east of the bank of Smith River, on the plank road that led to Peacock’s Ferry from the Illinois Valley.

One mile north of Evoca was the second mine, ‘Excelsior.’ The ‘Pacific’ was a one-half mile farther north.  All were on the same ridge.

Soon to join them was the ‘Del Norte,’ on the east side of Myrtle Creek, the ‘Alta California’ on Low Divide (on the wagon road from Crescent City to the Illinois Valley), the ‘Union,’ opposite the ‘Alta California,’ and other mines, including the ‘Crescent,’ ‘Bamboo,’ ‘Mammoth,’ and the ‘Chaplin’ and ‘Bradford’ claims, all near Low Divide. They sprung up during a two-month period, lasted a while, but petered out 20 years later.

Between 1860 and 1863, about 2,000 tons of high-grade copper ore were mined. High as the value was, however, transportation and labor prices prevented the mines from turning a profit.

At the same time, “Many persons who should have known better seemed to forget that it required a large amount of capital to operate a successful copper mine (and) most of the mines soon failed,” according to the Redwoods National and State Parks Website.

By 1880, only one mine was left – the ‘Condon Copper Mine’ of Big Flat. Wages dropped to $40 per month room and board, and the cost to transport ore to San Francisco to $10 per ton, in spite of the fact that the ore could fetch $50-$60 per ton there.

The bottom line was that the mine owners could not afford to run their facilities.

Klamath City Established

In 1850, settlers to the Del Norte County region established Klamath City, an attempt that would fail to serve as the envisioned stop on a shipping and mining route. Explorers and miners arrived in the region and set up houses, gardens, and farms at the mouth of the river where the Yurok people had long lived.

Shifting sandbars would lead to strandings and shipwrecks that would block the city’s success, according to “A Memorial and Biographical History of Northern California.” And a failure to quickly get federal money to improve the harbor would prompt its new residents to abandon the town, according to history information from the Redwood National and State Parks service.

The settlement was one of many along the coast as settlers arrived to seek gold and claim land. It’s not called “gold fever” for no reason.

Although the Gold Bluffs area south of the mouth of Klamath River didn’t yield much of anything during miners’ earlier attempts to get rich there, it took on the aspects of a myth that would not die. Captain Taylor – no first name recorded by early Del Norte County historian A.J. Bledsoe in his 1881 “History Del Norte County, California, with a Business Directory and Traveler’s Guide” – visited the area in 1872 to harvest the supposedly rich gold-bearing sands he heard were deposited there.

From New York, Taylor couldn’t use a diving bell he owned to assess the vaunted riches of the area. It had been damaged in an accident, forcing Taylor to use a different method.

Use it, he did, returning from his foray with “sufficient” gold-bearing sands to announce that they contained “a great quantity of gold.”  Taylor proceeded to spin tales of black sand that assayed at $23,000 per ton in gold.

His boasts spurred the formation of a new company organized explicitly to exploit the Gold Bluffs area a year later. Called Gold Bluffs Submarine Mining Co., its officials chartered the steamer ‘Monterey,’ loaded her with mining machinery, and sailed north to Gold Bluffs.

“The existence of vast deposits of gold-bearing sands on the sea coast … has been a matter of notoriety for a quarter of a century,” Bledsoe wrote.

Even Bledsoe bought into the belief that the wealth of the deposits “is fabulous.”

“So great was the rush of miners to this new locality, that it was feared the placer mines … would become depopulated,” Bledsoe wrote.

Of the beach mines, Gold Bluff was “the most extensively worked,” he wrote as he traced the workings from 1852. One claim harvested $25,000 in gold in a year.

Miners theorized that gold was washed from the bluffs when the surf broke across the beach at their base at an angle, but not when it smacked them head-on. The gold was so light, that it floated on the water’s surface.

During the three weeks that the Gold Bluffs Submarine Mining Co. operated, it raised more than 100 tons of sand from an area one-half mile up to 40 yards from the bluffs, in depths of 24 to 48 feet. Of that quantity, hardly any gold was found by an assayer imported from San Francisco to examine the sands.

Gray sand, black sand, coarse gravel, and shells — but no gold after sucking sand from the ocean floor down to bedrock. Despite the high expense and disappointing results, more miners came to check the area for themselves.

As information posted by the National Park Service on its Web site puts it, “where gold was involved, such words of caution had little effect.”

Several months after the failed submarine company attempt, a party of Humboldt County residents led by Captain Buhme, Frank and Robert Duff, and Harry Rogers visited Gold Bluffs. They, too, returned with reports of “very rich” beach deposits of gold.

True to form, the Gold Bluffs Submarine Mining Co. began negotiating with the group for its exploitation — and the legend of gold laying of the beach perpetuated further.

General George Crook: Indian Fighter

The man who would eventually battle famous Native American warriors Crazy Horse and Geronimo came to Del Norte County during one of his first Army missions. In 1853 George Crook followed the Lost Coast from Fort Humboldt toward the Klamath River, where he encountered Gold Bluffs and everything they had to offer – gold and 49ers.

Crook was widely considered one of the Army’s best Indian fighters. In 1876, Crook went into the Black Hills of South Dakota to fight the rising Lakota and their chief, Sitting Bull. In a fight at Rosebud Creek, Crook and his company were forced to retreat from Lakota and Cheyenne warriors led by the indomitable Crazy Horse.

This may have contributed to the massacre of Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer at Little Bighorn because he did not have reinforcements. The last time Crook fought in the Indian War was from 1882 to 1886 against Geronimo, who was the leader of the Apache’s in Arizona.

During those four years, Crook was unable to subdue the ever-defiant and aggressive Geronimo. Crook was relieved of his command. His rival General Nelson Miles conquered the Apache leader and exiled him to Florida.

Returning to Crook’s Northcoast exploits, the miner’s told Crook – who was one year out of the West Point military academy – that the area contained an estimated $40 million worth of gold. Unfortunately for the miners, their method of collecting the gold was so slow that the ocean would wash much of the precious metal out into the open sea.

From the Gold Bluffs, Crook continued north to fight Indians, notably the Rogue River and Yakima tribes of Oregon and Washington, respectively.

Even though Crook spent most of his career fighting and killing Indian’s, he was thoroughly respected by his adversaries. He was known just as much for his negotiating skills as for his tenacious pursuit of his enemies.

Red Cloud, a Lakota chief who fought against Crook, said about his adversary, “Crook never lied to us. His words gave the people hope.”

Crook died of a heart attack on March 2, 1890.

Bumper-sticker Shock

Driving is always an adventure of sorts for the person truly seeking an adventure. One of my favorite past times while on the road is reading bumper stickers and the license plate wrap around.

One of my all-time favorite bumper stickers is, “Warning! I flick boogers.” Just last week I saw a license plate wrap-around that made me do a double-take. It said, “I like to drive topless.” It was on a little, red convertible sports car driven by a red-headed female.

This one I call my all-time oxymoron award winner. It was on a car driven by a woman who looked to be about sixty years old.

The wrap-around stated, “If you’re going to ride my butt, pull my hair.” And in the passenger side of the rear window was a sticker decrying “Don’t Abuse Women!”

Someone needs to tell her to make up her mind.

The holy trinity of stickers is the U. S. Marine Corps insignia, the National Rifle Association insignia, and the Number 3 Dale Earnhardt Memorial Sticker, all on the same back window. No, they don’t need to be in that order, but you can bet that if the Corps insignia is first then that’s what branch of service they were in or are in.

Don’t mess with the driver of this vehicle!

There is a part of me that worries about the poor soul that has the bumper sticker, “My President is Charlton Heston.” Two things have occurred in this driver’s life. They have either confused Charlton Heston with Ronald Reagan because they both have the same disease or this driver somehow thinks Moses is now a political figure.

Seeing “Rush is Right,” bumper stickers crack me up. I cannot help myself, because I know that eventually that driver is going to have to turn left at some point and where does that leave their sticker? It’s just a point of observation.

Then there’s the “Barbie has everything…” crowd. Uh, driver — Barbie is just a very well-built toy.

A Fiery Fourth

The first celebration of the Fourth of July in town occurred in 1853. Still, an event in 1855, perhaps carries the deepest significance in festivities.

On June 24 of that year, a fire destroyed the Steamship America and stranded 132 soldiers of the 21st U.S. Infantry. After delivering mail to the city and unloading a few passengers,  America, a side-wheel steamship began burning while the vessel was anchored.

Smoke bellowed from the ship. Every attempt was made to stop the fire, and the boat was run into shallow water about 150 yards offshore. Residents used buckets, ropes, and ladders to fight the fire, but the America burned.

While in transit to San Francisco for rebuilding, the hulk of the ‘America’ broke loose and sank mid-ocean. Fittingly, ”America’s’ cannon were salvaged from the wreck and moved to Battery Point.

The 1855 festivities began with the firing of the cannons on Battery Point followed by a parade. At the park, a salute of 13 guns was fired at sunrise under the direction of Capt. Thos. R. Lawson.  The 13 guns also were fired at sunset.

A lantern was fixed on a pole at Battery Point in place of the lighthouse. A procession including the stranded soldiers marched through the city under the command of Maj. Henry Prince, accompanies by the Crescent Hook and Ladder Co. and local military companies. It traveled down E Street to Front Street, down Front Street, through J Street, up the beach to Battery Point, and to the Ball Park.

W.A. Hamilton was grand marshal and J.J. Arrington and F.E. Weston were the assistants. The Declaration of Independence was read by J.B. Roseborough and the invocation was delivered by Jno. J. Hayness.

One Year Later

It has been a year exactly today since my mother passed away. I did not handle her death very well, I am sorry to say. I had to struggle and learn a few lessons along the way. I fought with those lessons so hard that I nearly destroyed myself a couple of times. Now I have to live the rest of my days without her and all I have are my memories.

One of my favorite memories is coming home on a rainy afternoon from grade school. I rode the bus home. I would get off old Number Six at Camp Marigold and walk past the firehouse.

Once inside, the warming aroma of fresh-baked cookies from mom’s oven would greet me. I would rush to strip myself of my wet rain slicker and boots and hurry into the kitchen. I always wanted the bowl holding the last little drippings of batter and the beaters, and then I would scramble for a cooling cookie or two along with a fresh glass of milk. To a seven-year-old, this was as close as a kid could come to heaven with his feet still planted on the ground.

A couple of years later I invited several school friends home because my mom was going to make a pineapple upside-down, cake. I bragged all over school about my mother’s skill at baking this particular goody — although I had never really seen her do it before. Talk about a kid being embarrassed when he discovered that his mother really wasn’t going to stand on her head to make the cake as he had informed everyone.

Baking was not the only skill my mother had. I was nine years old when we got into a dirt clod fight. I believe I started the fight by throwing a clod at my mother. She picked one up and flung it back.

Earlier my father had developed a grand idea of creating a large rose bed in our back yard. We called it the ‘ditch’ in secret because it was nearly eight feet wide, five feet deep and fifty feet long and all dug out with a backhoe.

her aim was deadly accurate as she hit me squarely in the crotch. I happen to have been standing on a five-foot-high fence at the time and I fell off it and into the ditch. It was the first, last, and only time I threw anything at my mother even in play.

Six months before she died I visited with her one final time. We were sitting at the dinner table at her home, talking about the things we did and did not remember. I suddenly thought to ask her about the old witch that visited my eighth-grade class. I wanted to know if she knew who it was. This witch had come into my class unannounced the day of Halloween.

She was clothed from head to toe in black. Her face was hideous green shade and her nose was long, bent, and pointy. On the one side, it had a wart and her chin supported a mole that sprouted several hairs. She howled and laughed a haunting cackle as she served each of us a small plate of cold noodle-worms and ice-cold, pea-green punch from a black cauldron that steamed as she moved from aisle to aisle.

She smiled warmly and answered that it was she. I nearly fell out of my chair at that revelation.

The evening she died, my son and I rushed to be at her bedside. I promised mom that I would be there, as did her grandson. We cried and we prayed and we cried some more. When she had breathed her last, I spent some time washing her face and combing her hair. It was difficult, to say the least.

Yeah, all I have are memories now. But they are some of the best memories I could have ever asked for.

Crescent City: The Beginning

As miners seeking gold moved into Del Norte and Humboldt counties, the distance between them and the supplies they needed became a sore point. Some of the mines were clustered near the Oregon border.

The distance to the port cities of Trinidad and Humboldt Bay probably seemed longer each time miners traveled it. In eyeballing the area for a likely supply-oriented town, residents hit on the road and anchorage south and east of Point St. George — laying out a town there during spring 1853 and calling it Crescent City after the name of its beach.

The town was born when A. M. Rosborough bought a land warrant in J.F. Wendell’s name for the 320 acres of land that became Crescent City. T.P. Robinson surveyed the area that month and divided it into town lots, according to “A History, Del Norte County, California,” written by A.J. Bledsoe and printed by The Humboldt Times in Eureka during 1881.

Twenty-eight people bought lots in the new town for prices ranging from $100-$1,000. Of them, seven had invested in an expedition to Point St. George.

“These gentlemen should be looked upon as the founders of Crescent City,” wrote Bledsoe.  He included F.E. Weston, G.W. Jordan, A.K. Ward, R. Humphreys, P.M. Peters, and J.K. Irving in the group.

Because Wendell’s land grant was later declared void, the U.S. Government claimed the land. Those who had invested came close to losing their lots and money but were spared the loss when the Common Council of Crescent City bought the land at $2.50 per acre and issued investors certificates of title.

The area soon grew from a small collection of tents to “a good-sized town,” writes Bledsoe.

Workers opened a road into the interior, and the town immediately went into the business of supplying miners. The area boomed that summer, quickly bypassing Trinidad in size and logistic importance.

Large numbers of settlers, attracted by the area’s mineral and agriculture resources, soon arrived. Although inland mines didn’t produce as much as those of other parts of California, they yielded enough gold to whet miners’ appetites.

So legislators acted in February 1856 to make Orleans Bar the county seat for Klamath County, which encompassed what later would become Del Norte County. Although voters in Klamath favored the idea by a large majority, Crescent City’s residents found it a lot of trouble to transact any business there because of the mountains that separated the two places.

In 1857 legislators carved Del Norte County from the northern portion of Klamath, making Crescent City the new county’s seat. Twenty-three years later, the state’s legislators approved a measure annexing the territory of Klamath to the counties of Siskiyou and Humboldt, disincorporating one of the old California counties completely.

Following the Trails

Though sparsely populated by East Coast and Western European standards, American Indians had lived along the coast and in the mountainous interior for at least 3,000 years. Before Crescent City was established in 1853, a trail existed down the coast from Pebble Beach to the mouth of the Klamath.

It was used primarily by the Tolowa and Yurok tribes. Jedediah Smith is later said to have used the trail.

The route followed the beach and was more easily used at low tide. It ran over Ragged Ass Hill to end at Last Chance.

Some travelers also accessed the beach via Damnation Creek to end at Wilson Creek. The trail was improved from the Klamath area to Crescent City during the mid-1850s when a second trail that led from Fort Ter-Waw to the False Klamath was cut.

About five years earlier, a trail had been cut from Trinidad to the mouth of the Klamath. It also followed the beach at the base of the Gold Bluff hills.

It was used by J.F. Denny after 1862 to transport mail between Arcata and Crescent City via Trinidad and Gold Bluffs. Denny made $1,750 a year to make one round trip per week.

The trail paralleled the beach from Stone Lagoon to Lower Gold Beach, then split. One branch continued down the beach.

The other led up over a ridge north of Major Creek and went east to Boyes’ Prairie on Prairie Creek. It next headed west and rejoined the other trail at Upper Gold Bluff.

It then paralleled the ocean to the mouth of the Klamath River. Peter Louis DeMartin, one of the settlers who lived on Wilson Creek, used mules to pack in when he began living there.

For trips that involved larger quantities of goods to be moved, he rented a boat owned by Jim Isle. It was rowed by six men.

Travel along coastal areas was usually by boat, except when high seas affected their travel. When that happened, travelers generally rode horses and follow the trails to Eureka.

Yurok rowers would ferry travelers across the Klamath. When they negotiated Ragged Ass Hill, travelers dismounted to ease the horse’s way but held onto its tail to make their own upward passage easier.

My Foul Weather Plan

Summertime is here, although one would not know it with the way the weather has been the last few months. Several years ago I had the job of doing the weekend weather forecast at a station in Eureka, California.

I’ve never received so much hate mail in all of my life. It seemed that everything I said the weather would do was wrong.

It appeared my forecasts messed up a lot of people’s weekend plans. And I have never worked as a weather forecaster since.

What makes me different from those people is that I have something greater to believe in — I have a backup plan.

It can be something simple like reading a book or writing a friend a letter, taking a Sunday drive on a Wednesday afternoon, window-shopping is a fun activity, going to the movies is great heat relief, taking the dog for a walk, riding a bike around the block, hanging out at the library, washing the car, truck or motorcycle, packing a picnic lunch and eating it on the living room floor, drawing chalk pictures on the back patio, filling a wading pool and sitting in it, doing some gardening, taking photographs, flying a kite and having rain ponchos ready.

It’s very easy if you look at what you are trying to do. Generally, my initial plan is to get out of the house and do something with the family.

That’s my first plan and it always falls in line with my backup plan.

The Laura Virginia

The Yurok Tribe had long lived along the banks of the Klamath River by the time European and American explorers found the waterway. Those included a group of miners aboard the Cameo on its second voyage exploring the Northcoast in 1850.

The vessel docked and the group sought the mouth of the Klamath River. The Yuroks helped the explorers across the river and the group claimed land on its south bank.

A gold rush to the region would disrupt salmon spawning in the waterway that the Yurok depended on. The name Klamath comes from the word Tlamatl, which means swiftness in Chinook.

In March 1850 a vessel built in Baltimore, Md., sailed along the Northern California coast in search of an entrance to the Lost Coast. The Laura Virginia, captained by Lt. Douglass Ottinger, left San Francisco and sailed northward looking for Humboldt Bay.

They passed the entrance to the bay due to the shape of the coastline and the sea crashing into the breakers, however. On their northbound voyage past Humboldt Bay, Ottinger and his crew reconnoitered – or inspected – the coast from Cape Mendocino to Point St. George.

While in the area of what is now Crescent City, they discovered the Paragon, a 125-ton fishing boat from San Francisco, stranded on the beach. The wreckage of the Paragon is considered the first vessel to be lost along the Del Norte Coast.

A few days after finding the Paragon, the Laura Virginia turned southward, eventually “finding” the mouth of the Klamath River. Ottinger’s second officer H.H. Buhne was deployed in a small boat to inspect the river, though he did not attempt to cross it or move upstream.

From Buhne’s mission, Ottinger reported: “The Klamath is a river of considerable magnitude … with but few little breakers on its bar … This stream, I have no doubt, can be safely entered by vessels of 50 or 100 tons, and rafts of timber floated to ships outside where the anchorage is good …”

From the Klamath, the Laura Virginia continued south until stumbling upon the elusive entrance to Humboldt Bay. Ottinger named the bay after Baron Alexander von Humboldt, a German naturalist, geographer, and explorer.

The sailors on the Laura Virginia then named themselves the Laura Virginia Association and began settling the area. Within four days of discovering the bay, Warnersville was founded with Arcata and Eureka soon to follow.

Watch What You Ask For

Jus’ over a year ago I bit down hard on my faith. I became a true and hardened believer in Christ Jesus.

To this end, I have made it a practice to study my bible daily, pray as often as I can, attend church regularly and work on my spiritual habits. That also means I have stumbled and fallen more than once. And there have been more than a few times I have discovered myself surprised by occurrences.

I visited my sister’s church and went through the first steps of a ‘Sozo.’ I was uncomfortable with it when someone said I was a ‘prophet.’ That put me up there with Moses, Isaiah, Daniel, and the likes. I know better than that.

My prayers have placed me on the humorous end of God’s funny bone a couple of times as well. There are days I feel as if I am about to be crushed by my debts, so I have prayed to God to give me the strength to carry on with the burden.

Well, my friends, I opened my mailbox and found a bill from California for 108 thousand dollars for my mother’s hospital care when she was dying. It came with an envelope and receipt that said. ‘Please remit in full.’

I looked up at Heaven and said, “God, this ain’t what we discussed.”

But I knew that I had to trust in him and I jus’ kept praying and going about my work, trying hard not to worry. At the end of the week, I received another notice from California. This one said that because my mom had a child with a disability, state law exempted me from having to pay the bill.

There is also a bit of humor in what I call the ‘Novice’s Approach to Prayer Mistake #l.’ It’s like jumping out of an airplane with a parachute and no operating instructions.

You have an idea how to use it but you’re not certain of the way it works and you have no reference point of what will happen when pulling the rip chord or landing on the ground.

My prayer was simple, “God, please make me more like Jesus.”

I had no idea about its ramifications. Suddenly, I suffered things that were horrible.

My mom passed away, my wife was in a head-on accident, my wife’s mother died, I lost my job, a close friend died, my family stopped talking to me. The list went on and on.

I got mad at God for letting all these bad things happen to me. It dawned on me a few months back that I had gotten pretty much what I had asked for. I had asked to be more like Jesus.

Jesus suffered. He had no home of his own, his home town disowned him, his family thought He was off his nut when he claimed to be the Messiah, he was nearly stoned in the Temple, nearly tossed off a cliff, was wrongly accused, was beaten, and finally nailed to a Cross.

First, I am not comparing myself to our Lord, Jesus Christ. I jus’ asked for something that was unattainable for me and God had to show me how unreasonable my request was.

Secondly, this is not to say that God had anything to do with all those ‘bad’ things.’ I realize He lets Satan doing things to us so that God can draw us closer to himself, which is what He did.

I am close enough now to know that I’m certainly not good enough to be like Jesus, so I am back at Prayer 101, “God, please be in me in everything that I do today, amen.”

Finally, I am happy that the Lord blessed me with the ability to beg for mercy when I know that I am overwhelmed. And that He gave me a sense of humor, too. I have used both wisely in this case, because I am certain that had I not asked God for his gentle mercies, Satan would have found some sick son-of-a-gun willing to staple my hide to a wall somewhere.

Flame On

Time once again to start that annual outing to your family’s favorite vacation spot. If your family is anything like mine, then that spot is a campground. And like every year we have to be careful about the use of fire.

Here are some simple – rules to follow: use the regulation burn areas for fires, never leave a fire unattended, put out your fire by adding water, stirring, adding more water and stirring again . Continue until you can touch the ashes with your bare hand and not get burned.

With that said …

Wildfire season is here and this season promises to be one of the most explosive seasons on record. We had a late, rainy season, creating new vegetation. Unseasonably high temperatures have followed this, which has dried out that vegetation.

One strike from a thunderhead, one carelessly tossed cigarette butt, one spark from an exhaust pipe and there will be a wildfire. This will cost thousands, if not millions of dollars this year throughout the western United States.

Prior to the crossing of Prairie Schooners , the native populations that lived and thrived on the plains used fire as a tool. They would set fire to the grasslands to help control the over growth of grasses and wild life.

This activity is also reported to have occurred in the desert areas on the United States as well as the forest lands. It is still used to a lesser extent by the forest service and other agencies to help curtail wild land fires. It is commonly called ‘Controlled Burning.’

But what happens when a fire starts high in the mountains, say by a couple of misguided hikers? The Forest service and other agencies move in and attempt to stop the fire before it completely burns the woodlands down.

This is a waste of time and money!

Firefighters should immediately move to protect homes and businesses in the area and the fire should be allowed to burn its self out. It will eventually do exactly that.

Tree-huggers everywhere are gasping for air at the suggestion that a fire should be allowed to decimate an entire forest. They are crying out, “What about the birds, the plants and the animals that cannot escape?”

They will escape, or enough of their kind will escape and they will repopulate.

When Mount St. Helens erupted over two decades ago, scientist and environmentalists both proclaimed that it would be dead zone for at least a hundred years. Some one forgot to tell that to the deer and bear that popular the area as well as the trees that are growing and the new grasses that have sprouted since that catastrophe.

Let us all save some green this fire season.

First, be careful with fire. Second, firefighters should protect homes and businesses first. Lastly, let wildfires burn wild.