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Table Bluff Cemetery 

To get to the (non-Catholic) Table Bluff cemetery, take the Loleta exit off U.S. Highway 101, head east on Loleta Drive for ¼ mile to a T-junction with Singley Hill Road. Turn left and the cemetery's a mile up on your right.

Photo by Barry Evans

To get to the (non-Catholic) Table Bluff cemetery, take the Loleta exit off U.S. Highway 101, head east on Loleta Drive for ¼ mile to a T-junction with Singley Hill Road. Turn left and the cemetery's a mile up on your right.

Seeing today's sparse scattering of a few homes and farm buildings, Table Bluff's two cemeteries — one Catholic, one "Other" — might seem like overkill. But the Table Bluff community was once a going concern, a lively stage and wagon stop atop the ridge for which it's named. Raluaka, its Wiyot name, is a gnarly mélange of sand, gravel and clay humped up over the millennia by the Pacific tectonic plate into an anticline, or ridge, impeding travel between the Eel River Valley and south Humboldt Bay. It's still in motion, as anyone who's lived through a Humboldt quake can attest. (That's basically everyone reading this.) 

Before 1884, when the Eureka and Eel River Railroad avoided the ridge entirely by going through it (via the ¼-mile-long Loleta tunnel) the village of Table Bluff included stores, inns, blacksmith shops, a church and a schoolhouse. According to Phil Nunnamaker, writing in the Humboldt Standard in 1938 (reprinted in Jerry Rohde's Both Sides of the Bluff), "It was not uncommon for 150 to 200 four- and six-horse teams to pass through Table Bluff daily on their way to ... Humboldt Bay. Their loads consisted of wood from Blocksburg and Bridgeville, grain, potatoes, peas, beans ... from Hydesville, Rohnerville, Ferndale, and the Rio Dell country." The railroad pretty much killed off the community, and any remaining life was drained out of it when the Redwood Highway was completed in 1924.

Back to the cemetery — the Other one, once 10 minutes' walk from the Catholic cemetery before U.S. Highway 101 intervened in 1962. The photograph shows the small marble monument erected to Luella Perrott, who died from a pistol shot through the heart on June 14, 1891, five days after her 20th birthday. That we know. Less clear is whether her death was murder or suicide. She'd been having an affair with Samuel Jackson, a Native American hired hand who worked on the Perrott ranch in Table Bluff. While Luella's death was initially deemed suicide, Jackson was subsequently tried for her murder. He was held a prisoner in Eureka for three months while the court heard the evidence. Apparently, determining his innocence or guilt wasn't easy: The jury's first vote came in 7-5 for acquittal. Seven (!) votes later, the jury unanimously found him not guilty. 

Interviewed by reporter George Ringwald ("A Legacy of Greed," Sept. 30, 1999) more than 100 years later, Bill Perrott, great-grandson of Luella's mother, Sarah Jane Perrott, begged to differ. "It looked like [Jackson] couldn't have her, and so nobody else would, he shot and killed her. Sarah Jane wouldn't let them lynch him, and so it went to trial." I'm persuaded (as is historian Rohde) that her death was suicide, given the poignant words on her monument: "A Soul by nature pitched to [sic] high/By fortune pitched to low."

Luella isn't the only interesting person buried there. Her elder sister Laura Perrott Mahan is a personal hero of mine for her role in saving the Bull Creek and Dyerville Flat redwoods — perhaps the finest stand of redwoods remaining on the planet — from being harvested by the Pacific Lumber Co. ("Heroes of the Redwoods, Part 2," Feb. 2, 2023). A couple of gravesites away lies the awful Seth Kinman, Indian killer, grizzly killer, elk killer — "He pretty much killed anything that moved," according to another local historian. He also, in his old age, owned the Table Bluff Hotel. You can still see the name painted on the side of one of the few original buildings remaining there.

Barry Evans (he/him, [email protected]) is a taphophile, aka tombstone tourist.

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About The Author

Barry Evans

Barry Evans

Bio:
Barry Evans lives in Old Town Eureka with his girlfriend (and wife) Louisa Rogers, several kayaks and bikes, and a stuffed gorilla named “Nameless.” A recovering civil engineer, he is the author of two McGraw-Hill popular science books and has taught science and history. His Field Notes anthologies are available... more

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