My brother, Adam sent me 32 handwritten pages of a lecture, labeled “Early Days of Smith River,” he found in an old trunk. A note on one of the pages reads: ” Given by Grace Hight, September 3, 1948, Smith River Women’s Club.”
Not only did I have to figure out what page followed the next, and decipher, type and edit them, I also so did my best to find the original author of the notes — with no success. I returned them to Adam and I have no idea where they might be now.
I do believe those pages to be a genuine historic Del Norte County document.
“How well do you know this little town that so many of you are now calling home? Do you know that the old Willow Tree near the Creamery was planted nearly seventy years ago by Walter Brooking?
He had been visiting at the Blake home in the Chetco Valley and thinking that a willow switch might make his pony more interested in getting home, he broke off one, and, after making use of it, he planted it in the spot where it grew into the wonderful tree that stands there today. When the Creamery was built twenty-eight years ago, the Ladies Aide petitioned that the old tree be spared.
Do you know that the home of Agnes Maris is the oldest in the Village, built-in 1867 by Joe McVay, as a home for his little bride Betty, that he had brought from Kentucky?
The wonderful old Butter-nut tree and Black Walnut trees were brought from Iowa and planted there a few years later by James Haight, Father of the Pioneer Daniel. Just stop in his yard some day and see, really, what grand old trees these are.
An old Fuchsia was planted near the door by Lizzie Hargraves, a sister of Eddie Westbrook over sixty years ago. With its little red coat and Ballet skirt of purple, it has danced through the storms of many years and still furnishes its lovely blooms for Mrs. Maris.
Then there is the Old Hotel, as it has been called for so many years. The back part of this old building first stood on the corner by the old Willow Tree and later housed the first Post Office in Smith River. Was later moved to its present location, made into a hotel and owned and operated for many years by James Brooking, father of the late Mrs. Henry Westbrook, Sr.
Tragedy came to this family while living in the Old Hotel. Son, Walter, started out bright and early one morning, over the hill near town, accompanied by his little hunting dog; off to get the deer that were so plentiful at that time.
Evening came — and when neither man or dog returned, searching parties started out, but no trace of either has ever been found. Whether he fell into an old abandoned elk pit — no one will ever know and the “Old Timer” still wonders!
The Smith River had to be forded in the summer and ferried in the winter and weary travelers were made welcome at this hospitable old place, while steaming horses were given their rub down and rations in a livery stable on the corner near the Cooper Home. This brings back a memory — my sister and I had been to a dance — in those days they really danced all night.
We started for Crescent City later in the day, tired and sleepy, of course. Our means of travel was an old horse-drawn stage, driven by the veteran Stage Driver Charley Grey, grandfather of the Assistant Farm Advisor for Humboldt and Del Norte Counties, John Lenz.
When we reached the very middle of the river, one of those horses decided that he was through work for the day–right now!.
The stage driver got out and waded clear up to his pistol pockets — if you know how high that would be — and petted the horse and at the time was whispering words in his ear that we were not supposed to hear, but somehow, we knew it wasn’t just words of affection. Still the horse stood and stood — never moved or winked an eye.
We were all wondering just how long we would have to sit there when a man came splashing into the river with a horse and buggy. He stopped alongside and took my sister out of the stage and to the river’s edge and came back for me.
Just as soon as they got me out of that stage that stubborn horse just switched his tail and started on as though he had just been waiting to get rid of me. That poor wet stage driver put that horse through his paces, I assure you the rest of the way to Crescent City.
The first white men to settle in the Smith River Valley were a Mr. Domini who took up land near the Domini Creek of today. Mr. Davis and James and Daniel Haight, father and son. They settled here in 1853 and as you know, many of the descendants of James Haight still live here.
These men, I am told by the “Old Timer” first went to Portland — then down to Jacksonville, on to Waldo, or better known as “Sailor’s Diggin’s.” I am told that back in 1851 two sailors, lured by the dreams of gold, deserted their ship at Crescent City and set out overland across the mountains for the new-found gold fields of California.
They never reached this Eldorado, for when they came to the Illinois Valley they began prospecting at what was later named Waldo, but for many years it was just “Sailor’s Diggin’s.”
At Waldo the road ended and they had to cross the mountains on poorly marked trails — over to the North Fork of Smith River, then over the hill and on down the river until some how they arrived at, or near what is now the Peacock Place; there they forded the river and on into Elk Valley; there to make their homes and lay the foundation for the homes and families that were to follow through the years.
Daniel Haight took up the land where Mrs.Westbrook’s lovely old home stands today. It was later sold to the Pioneer, Henry Westbrook, and there Mrs. Westbrook, when as a bride when she married William Westbrook, sixty-six years ago, after having lived there as a child, many years before.
The McVay family were among the very early Pioneers who crossed the Plains and settled here and in the Chetco Valley. A large family — the parents, with sons and daughters, all married except one little daughter Ruthie. One married daughter, Fannie Adams, was left behind in Missouri with her husband and three small children.
The Civil War came!
One evening her husband was called to the door and shot by bushwhackers — a term used in the Civil War for men who engaged in Guerrilla Warfare, especially when carried on by pretended neutrals. The women who were left in the home had to bury their own loved ones and do the best they could for those who were left living. Of course they lived in daily fear of their own lives.
Our Eddie Westbrook was born August 27, 1864, just seven months after her father was killed and she was named Edward in memory of the father she was never to know. These marauders had driven away all the cattle and taken all the food they could find, so there was nothing left but corn meal and sorghum molasses to feed the little new life that had just arrived.
When we see the babies of today fed their strained vegetables, fruits and pre-cooked cereal — and then hear our beloved Pioneer tell of the struggle her mother had to find food for her — but — after eighty-four years she is sitting here before me smiling and happy.
When Mrs. Westbrook was two years old her Uncle Joe McVay went back to Missouri to bring his sister and family here to be with the rest of the folks. They sailed from New York to Panama, crossed there, and some way, took another boat for San Francisco.
Arriving there they found there would not be a boat for Crescent City for a month, so they went to Sacramento, then by stage to Jacksonville. There the stage line ended; so resourceful brother Joe, just bought a team of horses and a wagon and drove — no one knows how, as there was nothing that could be really called roads but he finally arrived with his charges at Elk Valley.
The children all had colds and Mrs. Westbrook said that they later learned that every place they had stopped they innocently left a trail of whooping-cough.
To me, one of the most interesting places in our little valley is the Village Cemetery. There is where you will find most of our real Pioneers, if you only know where to look for them.
The first person known to have been buried there was Hulda Tryon, in 1863 — Grandmother of the older Tryon’s. The oldest person is also buried in the Tryon Plot — Laura Tryon — Born in 1797 — while Washington was President. She was the mother of Dennis Tryon who was the husband of Hulda.
We now find the grave of Mary Blake, born 1843, and her husband, Henry Blake, born 1833. Just a bit of their lovely old home still stands on the ranch now owned by the Pedrollis, near Harbor, Oregon.
When Mary was but thirteen years old her father and three brothers were massacred by the Indians, while Mary, her mother and baby sister were taken prisoner and their home destroyed by fire. The mother felt sure that her baby had been killed, when a kindly Indian woman let her know that she had the baby and was caring for it.
Through negotiations of Charles Brown and his Indian wife Betsy — Mrs. Geisel, the mother and her two daughters were returned to the white people.
This Charles Brown, you might be interested in knowing was none other than the father of Henry Brown, husband of our little Amelia Brown who lives at the Reservation and will always be remembered by her neighbors for her willingness to go and help in time of sickness and need. At one time, Amelia had the papers that were given Charles Brown commending him for his act of mercy.
Mary, or Grandma Blake, as she was known in my days here, lived to be well past ninety.
Now we find two graves side by side — James Brooking, born 1828 — Benjamin Lane — born 1805. Partners in the early days of Smith River.
Lane had come West seeking his fortune, leaving his four motherless daughters in New York. He talked to young James of his lovely family of girls and as young men will–he commenced thinking and wishing.
The father wrote home about his young partner and young James soon wrote for himself; so before long the four girls, with sister Susan in charge, rounded Cape Horn on a Side Wheel Steamer, bound for San Francisco. There they were met by the stalwart James.
Wedding bells for Jim and Susan at the old Esswine house in Crescent City. This house still stands on Second Street.
Susan Brooking has told me many times of their brief courtship and how good he had been to her through the years of their life together. These four girls grew to be fine women.
Mary married John Bailey and Lizzie married Billy Bailey, thereby founding the two Bailey families. One family still makes their home on what we styled “The other side of the river” and Mary and John raised their family on this side where the Clarence Westbrook ranch is today.
We have three parts to the cemetery — the old — the new — and the recently acquired acre. The part still called new, although it has been in use for nearly forty years, used to be the school yard.
The old School House was long since moved down by the Cooper Residence — boosted up a bit and rooms put underneath to make, what we today call “The Cooper Apartments.” Many of the older boys and girls of today — Ches. Maris, Clarence Westbrook, Ethel Goodlin, Fred and Stella Haight and many others, through the years, played around the old stones nearby or studied in the peace and quiet of this friendly old spot where so many had gone before.
Mrs. Clarence Woodruff — Lillian Tucker — mother of Eleanor Layman, one of our Club Members, was the first young lady from Del Norte County to attend the State Teachers College. She graduated from San Jose Normal, May 31, 1888 and was my husband’s first teacher.
Should I tell? It was fifty-seven years ago!
I often wonder if any of my former pupils, after the passing of so many years will regard me with the same love and respect that Clarence has always had for Lillian Tucker. I sincerely hope so.
The very first School House was on the Corner of Tod Westbrook’s ranch, at what we style the Brogan Corner. In my younger days here at Smith River it was “The Winton Corner.”
There was an old tumble-down Hall where Brogan’s house stands today and in the Spring it was the favorite walk on Sunday afternoon. There we gathered the beautiful daffodils that grew in such abundance there.
We really thought that they were wild. Today, we with our lovely daffodils, scorn the Von Zion but it was beautiful in its abundance as it bloomed at the “Winton Corner.”
One of the first classes was Eddie Westbrook, Abbie Becksted, Marie Jones and George Winton — all gone before, except Mrs. Westbrook. The first Teacher was Mr. Harris, brother-in-law of Nettie Scott, that all of us remember as Aunt Nettie or “Ma Bamboo” by the very young.
When I think of Nettie Scott my memory goes back to “Old Dock.” Not an M.D., but just a cute little old Chinaman who lived and died here.
The Chinese were driven out of Humboldt and Del Norte Counties in 1885. Dock had worked for a couple named Rigg.
They can be found at the old gathering place too, and when the Chinese were asked to get out, or else — being a young man of thirty-five and had long since decided that he liked the way of the Caucasian, he just packed his little bag and went up to “Lone Ranch,” now known as the Colgrove Place.
There to live with Nettie and “Lollie” as he pronounced Raleigh.
Many years after, they moved to the Rigg Place at Smith River and these kindly folks brought him with them — the only Chinaman to dare come into either of these two Counties to make his home. He cooked for them and bossed them — just though they couldn’t get along without him — but in 1919 the end came for old Dock and he is resting with all his old friends.
Dock was born in 1850 and wore his queue until after he came back here to live. The old road out to Low Divide was built by Chinese Labor in the early days and the old stone foundation still stands just as good as the day it was built.
An old house still in use on the Henry Westbrook Jr. ranch — is, I believe, the oldest house in the valley. In the early days this place was used as a Reservation and is still often called The Reservation Ranch.
George Herrick of Loleta was born, while Captain and Mrs. Herrick of the Humboldt Army Post were stationed here in 1863-65. At one time there were fifteen hundred Indians on this reservation.
Many of these Indians had been brought here from the Klamath after a disastrous flood had washed away many of their homes. Captain Herrick’s wife, always a friend to the Indians, helped them all she could and in return they taught her many of their legends which had been handed down from father to son.
She found that many of them followed closely the stories in our own Bible. A story was left by this wonderful Friend of the Indian; “Little Pete’s First Christmas.”
As was her usual custom she had trimmed a tree for her own little boys and had explained about Christmas and Santa and his reindeer as best she could to little Pete. He felt sure that Santa Claus could not possibly find an Indian house, but this kindly mother assured him that Santa could, if a trail were left.
She watched Pete break off twigs on his way home and make firm marks on each bank of the Smith River with his canoe. The next morning Pete was so proud and happy to show the white children his bow and arrow and drum, that Santa had brought him. He even thought he saw the footprints of the reindeer near the trail he had left.
Another pioneer family — the Crooks — Theron Crook Sr. was born in New York in 1816 and came to Oregon in 1852. They were the parents of eight children.
One son, Asa, lived and died in his home next to our Hall where Chester, his grandson, and wife live today. How well I remember the little bench that was just outside the gate and “Uncle Asa” and his old friends used to sit and enjoy the sunshine and talk to their friends as they drove by — not at the pace people pass today, I assure you.
Lucy, a sister, came here many years later and married the widowed Peter Maas — and Sister Ellen married George Jones and spent her last years in what is now known as the Brown Apartments, across from the Hall. It is her lovely old clock that you see on the mantel today and Lucy’s equally lovely old lamp on the piano.
The Lockwood Family was also in this great Caravan of Pioneers that crossed the plains together. Ellen Lockwood married Asa Crook and there are not many women who can boast that their mother cooked her Golden Wedding dinner, but her’s did!
Grandma Lockwood, as she was known by every one who lived here, celebrated her one hundredth birthday right here in this very room. I still can vision her sitting here, with her little lace cap and shawl.
A bright little old lady, who still kept her own home and kept house for her son Cassius. She was great great-grandmother of little Gale Reichlin.
What a fund of stories those dear old ladies used to tell of this journey to the land of opportunity and I just loved to listen to them — especially Aunt Cindy’s favorite! She had only been married a few months to Jim McVay and left home and friends to make this trek with her husband’s people.
Young and full of mischief and time on her hands, so — she was always looking for something to break the monotony. One evening, one of the older women of the Caravan was climbing up the ladder that rested against the bed of the wagon. Cindy spied a hole in the knitted wool stocking that was going up the ladder — stuck in her finger, gave a pull and made a hole that was really worth while.
Every evening, inside the circle of wagons, each group had their camp fire and coffee pots with water ready for the morning meal. Imagine the little bride’s dismay when she emptied her coffee pot to find this old stocking being emptied out with the grounds. I have wondered what husband Jim had to say to his wife.
A really new bride and groom was in this same party. Martha and John.
Martha was a diminutive lass — scarce five feet and John towered all of six feet four. Martha was but sixteen — in John’s Sunday School class in Missouri. They fell in love — she with his goodness and kindness; he with her little girl ways.
His parents and brothers and sisters were ready to leave for this land of promise and Martha did not want to be left behind any more than John wanted to leave her. Her parents would not consider their marriage, absolutely not; so John and the Minister took things into their own hands and made plans.
After church, on the designated day, they met at the cross-roads — horseback. Martha has told us how she hurried her horse so fast that she lost every hair pin and her hair was flying. The Minister was there as per schedule; they were married in the middle of the road and the words had hardly been spoken when here came clattering down the road, the irate father — too late!
John McVay and Martha — Aunt Sis to most of us –raised their family in Smith River Valley and spent their last days in the little house across Rowdy Creek where their grandson Brady lives today. I might add that Brady received the Bronze Star for service in the Pacific.
In my early days in Del Norte County John was Superintendent of Schools. Martha never returned to Missouri and always loved the man, as well as the land of her choice.
There was always something about these early pioneers that commanded respect — I expect, and rather like to be called Grace, by the young folks of the Community and “Mammy” by my grandchildren and the little neighbor folks, but when I was a young lady here we always called these older women Aunt — my thoughts include — Aunt Cindy — Aunt Ellen — Aunt Phronie — Aunt Eddie –Aunt Fannie and so on and on.
I must mention the “Old Fishery” that was operated for many years by August Ulrich. He left his native Germany when he was but a lad of fourteen to escape the enforced military training that Germany was already practicing.
He followed the sea for a number of years; started out as a cabin boy on a “Windjammer” made the most of any time he might have, to study and was a First Mate before giving up the sea. He joined a geodetic survey and traveled with them from San Diego to the Columbia River.
He remembered Smith River though, as he passed through and returned here to spend the remainder of his life. He married the daughter of the pioneer Lucinda McVay Otto and raised his family in the house that was just recently torn down by Joe Sierka to be replaced by more modern buildings, and now called “Castle Rock.”
Mr. Ulrich came here in about 1876. He hired many Indians to draw the seine in the river and on one memorable drawing of the seine they had over fifteen hundred salmon.
Although the seine was six hundred feet long the load was too great to be pulled on shore so they had to lighten the load by releasing some of the fish. No one knew in those days about trolling for the King of Smith River.
The fish caught at that time were salted, put in barrels and shipped to San Francisco. Wages paid the Indians at first, was one salmon and later it was raised to one salmon and fifty cents.
The Indians used to practice seeing who could stay under water longest. They would hold rocks in their hands and wade out into deep water and see how long they could stay under.
Johnnie Lopez, who just recently died at the age of ninety-three, used to go down in the river feet first, tie a rope around a snag, and bring the rope back up so the snag could be pulled out-of-the-way of the seine. Johnnie was the champion under water “breath holder’ among the Indians.
My sister taught the little school near Fisher’s home today. Indian and white children learned their three R’s there together.
I used to visit this family quite often and loved to go out with the crew in the boats and share the excitement of the catch. They often fished at night and Mrs. Ulrich always kept a light in the window to help guide them to a safe landing.
Henry Westbrook, born in Prussia in 1829 — like many other young men of that day, became tired of the ways of their native land and left their homes to cast their lot with this wonderful country of ours. My own grandfather — born in 1827, left his native Germany when a mere lad and never regretted the move.
After spending four years in various places, Mr. Westbrook, in 1852, started overland for Oregon. He used the usual mode of travel at that time, the sturdy ox team.
It took nearly six months for the journey and to make matters more difficult for the party, some were stricken with the dread Cholera and many lonely graves were left along the trail. He stayed in Oregon for a short time until the lure of gold beckoned him to California.
He arrived at Sailor’s Diggin’s in the winter of ’52 and history tells us that this was one of the liveliest little spots in Southern Oregon. At one time there was said to be two thousand people there, today it is a ghost town.
No need for the young man to venture further for excitement; however, that winter was not so good. Provisions became scarce and at times there was nothing to eat but acorns and wild meat.
Henry stayed at Sailor’s Diggin’s for one year and later, when the rogue River Indians went on the war path and committed terrible atrocities, he enlisted as a soldier to fight the Indians. The gold of the mines had become but a dream, so this young man, like so many others, decided to come to Smith River and take up land.
He took up One Hundred Sixty acres where the old Westbrook home stands today. He added many acres to this land, but this spot was always home.
He married Mrs. Katherine Ryan O’Laughlin — a native of Ireland. They lived and raised their family in this old home; their own children, and Katherine, a daughter of Mrs. Westbrook’s previous marriage.
Katherine later married Joseph Maris and became the mother of Chester and Joseph. Joseph died in his early youth. Katherine died in her early years and Mr. Maris later married the very charming Agnes Johnson who had arrived in this county from Liverpool a few years before.
Daughter, Mary Westbrook, died when she was a very young lady and it is her beautiful dress, kept for seventy years that Mrs. Summerville is modeling today. We marvel at the difference in styles — the yards and yards of cloth — bustles — plaiting — and the tiny, tiny waists; but that dress was beautiful. There have been four Henry Westbrooks in direct line and the second and third was born and raised in the old home.
The Methodist Church was organized in Del Norte County at Crescent City by the Reverend Jeffries, a local preacher. The first class was composed of the following names: George Straube, D. Hoover and wife, Curtis Woodruff and wife and George Cleghorn.
The organization was evidently held at Crescent City but included the work in the county. The Smith River local records show that the work was organized in 1854.
In 1878 the Building Committee was appointed and arrangements started for a church building at Smith River. Our local church was dedicated in 1880.
I wonder how many of us realize that this old church still has its hand hewn Pews? It is really a landmark as well as many of the other old buildings.
Among the early missionaries in Smith River was Mrs. Avery, mother of Mrs. Curtis Woodruff and the Bailey Brothers. She has been remembered through the years for her teaching and help to the Indians. She was deeply religious and spent a greater part of her life helping those who needed it most.
Now that we have met quite a number of the pioneers of the Smith River Valley, let us go up to the Chetco Valley and hear about the pioneer that lived for so many years, where now there are so many modern homes and beautiful fields of lilies.
On the old Cooley place there is an old Family Burying Ground where rest two of the very old Chetco Pioneers — Miller Cooley — born in Kentucky 1822 — Elizabeth Hill Cooley — born in Tennessee 1825. Their request had been to be laid away on the home place where they had spent so many years of their lives.
These two were married in 1843 in Missouri. Miller Cooley and his wife’s father and three brothers fought in the Mexican War and later helped quell some Mormon trouble.
Later Miller came around the Horn to San Francisco, there to find a city, mainly of tents. Every one was excited over the discovery of gold!
He later went back to Missouri and his family; after about a year he started preparations for the trip West with his family.
What courage it must have taken, as well as a world of trust in her husband for Elizabeth to start out with her little brood — four children, Alvin, nine, and the others younger; Henry, Nettie (Scott) and a tiny Amanda.
Little Amanda became dangerously ill — but they had to keep going. At some place, the worried parents picked up a discarded box and carried it with them for days until their little girl was out of danger — from her illness at least; so the box did not have to be used for the purpose they had feared.
They had brought their cow with them to provide milk for their children but the poor thing could not stand the life, so had to be left behind; another heartache for these parents as well as the children. They had so many disappointments and dangers — rivers to be crossed and oh, so many other hardships, that it just makes one wonder how these brave people had heart to carry on.
When they arrived at the John Day River in Oregon, 1853, there, the bird that they had been trying to beat, in their hurry to reach their destination, was waiting for them — the stork! A little baby boy came to join the party, named John Day Cooley.
They rested there for two days and then had to keep moving. Two of the families, old friends, separated at this point.
The Stanton family with their children, Lizzie, Margaret and little Matilda, aged four, went into Northern Oregon and the Cooley’s to the South. They spent some time in Central Oregon, coming to the coast in 1860.
Came, as the other Pioneers — over the old road and down the river to the same crossing that the others had made.
Miller Cooley bought a place at the Klamath but the day before they were to move there, the former owner was massacred by the Indians, so the brave Elizabeth refused to take her family into any more danger. They finally bought the place in the Chetco Valley and ‘tis said that the first winter, Elizabeth, not knowing too much about the Mighty Pacific, spent the first few months with her family up on top of the Blake Hill!
This grand old couple raised nine children on the old place. I never knew Grandpa Cooley, as he was known in his later years, but I did know Grandma Cooley as a wonderfully fine old lady.
At her death, she was the oldest pioneer of Curry county. Her Christian faith carried her through many hardships of pioneer life and her cheerfulness was an inspiration to their family and friends.
Now about the Stanton family that went north.
James Alvin Cooley, aged nine, when they crossed the Plains, admired, very much, the fifteen-year-old Lizzie. You know how often a lad dreams and admires one much older than himself.
Well when he grew older, he went calling in Northern Oregon and found Lizzie married — but little Matilda had grown to be a young lady and Alvin forgot all about his childish fancy and soon loved and married Matilda and brought her home to the Chetco Valley. They raised a large family and their children and grandchildren and even great-grandchildren are living here in Smith River Valley.
There is another grave in our little cemetery, a real pioneer of Oregon and California. This grave is of my mother of Barbara Hight — therefore the great great-grandmother of my little grand children.
She was born Mary Hoptonstall, in Missouri, April 30, 1822. Her father, Abram, was born in 1785.
She married while very young and was left a widow with two small daughters, Ellen and Ann. In 1846, Mary, or Polly, as she was affectionately called by her own family, married Robert Foster, a widower with three small children — James, George and Mary Ann.
Before the Gold Rush to California, in 1847, this young couple with their combined families, the oldest but nine, started out for a new home in the West. A guide was hired, who supposedly knew the route they were to travel; however, he didn’t know too much and the way was lost many times and the journey took far longer than planned.
Fortunately the Indians were friendly, but feed was scarce and many of the oxen died by the way.
Robert and Polly finally had to hitch their cherished milk cow in with the oxen to help pull the wagons. Of course they had to give up milking her when she was put to such hard work; so they were deprived of that source of food.
However Bossy had ideas of her own; as soon as the yoke was dropped from her neck, she would reach around and proceed to supplement her scanty diet with good warm milk furnished by none other than herself. Strange to say–while the oxen grew daily thinner, she remained sleek and trim on her self-nourishment.
The men of the party rode out for meat and the women had to walk by the wagons to keep the oxen moving. One day when they had traveled far, the cattle stampeded when they sensed that they were nearing water.
The men saw from the distance what was happening and hurried back — but not too soon for Mary. She told Robert that she was through walking right now! She was riding the rest of the way.
December 1847 so much snow was encountered that they had to stop and wait for Spring. The guide was left to care for the wagons and they made camp where the City of Salem is today.
With the advent of Spring, on March 28, 1848, a baby, Barbara, was born to Mary, said to be the first white child born in that area. Mary had been kind to the Indians, helped them in sickness, so when her little baby came, they brought her gifts — among these, a little stone jar filled with some sort of sweets.
Myrtle Hight still treasures the jar that has been in her family for more than one hundred years.
The party soon was on the way again. They finally chose to stay at what is now Jacksonville, Oregon. As the years went by, Robert’s Mary Ann and Mary’s Ann — both the same age and very fond of each other — played together and worked together.
One morning when they were sixteen, Ann was not helping Mary Ann get breakfast when “Mother” came in. To all the questioning Mary Ann maintained a stoical silence.
Finally, when they just couldn’t find Ann any place — her bed not slept in — Mary told them that Ann had eloped and was married. They came home in a few days and all was forgiven.
When Barbara was quite a young lady, a party of young folks from Jacksonville rode horse back to Elk Valley, where they were to attend a Military Ball at Camp Lincoln. One old building of this camp still remains.
The day after this Ball these young folks rode out through our little valley of Smith River. Little did the young Barbara dream that some day this valley would be her home.
She married James Hight, and after one son was born, in 1869, they moved to this county and lived for a short time at Camp Lincoln’ then to Smith River Valley. Barbara raised eleven children, five daughters and six sons.
She died at the age of eighty-two and these eleven children were all living and saw her placed near so many of her old friends that had gone before.
What a difference in those days and today, and I am not really an “Old Timer.” So now, shall I quit or shall I tell you about my first arrival in Del Norte County?
It was about forty-six years ago. My sisters and father had been here several months while my mother and I had stayed behind to settle a few details, as we were planning to make this our home.
We boarded a little lumber schooner–“The Del Norte”– that made regular trips between San Francisco and Crescent City, carrying lumber, freight and a few passengers. The trip took thirty-six long sea-sick hours.
Just think how little time it takes to fly here now?
We arrived off Crescent City quite early in the morning. The sea was rough and as there were no jetties in those days to make it safe to land in stormy weather, we were told by the Purser to dress and be ready to be taken off in the lifeboats that were stationed on deck.
Well — we didn’t feel too good so loitered about our dressing and we were not ready when the boats were lowered.
The passengers who were ready were taken over the side in the lifeboats and lowered to the water. When the boat returned for us slow ones, we had to climb over the rail — or perhaps they opened a passage — I was too excited to know. We had to go down a ladder — down the side of the schooner, until we reached the little lifeboat that was bobbing around in the rough sea.
When a swell would raise the little boat we were told to let go the ladder and drop. My mother was far less stout than I am today and very much younger, but when she was told to let go, I just knew that she would go right through the bottom of that boat, but she didn’t!
We were rowed to the end of the old wharf that still stands in Crescent City. I wondered how we would ever get up to where Martha and my Dad were waiting for us. I soon found out.
A barrel with the upper half cut out — a seat across — and I was invited to sit down and hang on. Up on the wharf, a sturdy old mule was given the go ahead signal and he pulled, and up I went — round and round, until I reached the floor of the wharf — then my mother had to go through the same procedure.
I do want to thank all the “Old Timers” that are still living who have helped me with their memories, especially Mrs. Eddie Westbrook; I enjoyed my afternoons with her. Also those who have gone before, that told me the stories that I have tried to tell you.
I have always loved to hear them tell of their adventures and I am glad that I listened because they enjoyed living over the past with me, I am sure.”