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Genocide and Extortion 

150 years later, the hidden motive behind the Indian Island Massacre

The dance was over [in] one day. The wind blew and rough weather. On account of this nobody went home. That night after the dance all were asleep. There were four houses and one sweat house….The door was blocked by white men as the people were asleep, not expecting anything to happen. They were not on the lookout. When they found out what was up they began to scatter and was struck down by clubs, knives, and axes, all met the same fate, children, women, and men. I got out and hid in a trash pile. That was how I was saved.

This was what Jane Sam saw on the morning of February 26, 1860. She was witnessing what became known as the Indian Island Massacre. Only a handful of Indians survived; of those only Sam left a detailed account, which, as far as can be determined, is being published here for the first time.

She saw more. Much more.

When I got away from the trash pile I sneaked away near the edge of the marsh by a blind slough [and] laid there. I did not hear any noise or scream from the people. Must of all been killed, sure enough. These white men took all things such as beads, baskets, fur, hide, bows, and arrows. All the property belonging to the dead that was not taken was destroyed by burning. Women and children were killed when they lay asleep or they did not make any effort to escape, as they thought the white men would not molest them. A few men got away, the exact number being forgotten. At break of day I saw two boat loads of white men going across to Eureka. These were the men that done the massacring.

Then Sam described the aftermath:

It took all the forenoon to gather up all…[the] bodies [of] men, women, children, and babies [that] could be found. One living child was found in the arms of his dead mother and today he is [still] living….It took all day to bury the dead. The next morning they was through burying what bodies were buried on the Island. The rest of the bodies…were taken to Mad River for burial. Some were taken to the Peninsula and some to South Bay, some to Freshwater. That same night there was a massacre at the mouth of Eel River and at the South Jetty where men, women, and children were killed. What got away were taken to Bucksport [Fort Humboldt] by the soldiers. I do not know how long they were kept at Bucksport. From there we were taken to the Indian reservation….1

All of this happened 150 years ago this week. In the time since, much has been written and said about the Indian Island Massacre. It is often characterized as the only, or at least the biggest and most ghastly, massacre of Indians in Humboldt County. When attention now focuses on the attack, it usually revolves around the question of “who did it?” But there is a larger, deeper question that should be asked, one that might make some sense out of the otherwise senseless slaughter, and that question is: “why did they do it?”

And there is an answer to this question—one that was never given directly at the time, and which has since faded into obscurity. But the answer is still there, and now, with the perspective that comes with the passing of 150 years, it can at last be revealed.


The answer begins with the sense of entitlement the whites brought with them when they landed on the North Coast in 1850. Almost as soon as they arrived, most of them began taking whatever they wanted. They appropriated choice parts of the bayshore for their first communities; they commandeered Indian trails and improved them for pack train use to the inland mines; they harvested the fish and game in ever-increasing quantities; they converted prairies that had served as hunting and gathering areas into rangeland for their stock. Throughout it all, only one white is known to have given anything in return. When William Carson wanted land for his lumber company, he traded some items to Captain Jim, the Wiyot who owned the property—a sack of flour, an old musket, and some powder and shot.2

Some whites, the direct opposite of Carson, took more than most of the others: they kidnapped Indian children and sold them as slaves;3 they captured young Indian women for sex;4 and sometimes they simply took Indian lives.5

Within weeks of their arrival on Humboldt Bay, whites had murdered their first Indians and destroyed their first Wiyot village6 (see “The Sonoma Gang” in the Sept. 11, 2008 Journal). For a while, at least near the coast, such killings were isolated incidents, but by the late 1850s their frequency and intensity had increased. Jane Searson, a Wiyot woman born about 1842, witnessed the change:

When the people came here [white], was friendly with us. Traded grub. Was on friendly terms….People settle around in [Eel River] valley friendly. Trouble started over trifle, such as losing a piece of bread. We was chased from place. One morning we heard that three men come up the river had guns….I heard shots up the river….They burnt our houses, disturbed everything. Indian was killed while sleep. No white people was killed. Most of my relatives was killed at that time….My husband said that this murder was committed just for the purpose of ridding us to get our land….7

And the land, whether violently or peacefully, was rapidly changing hands. By the end of 1856 some 20,000 acres in Humboldt County had reportedly been taken over “for agricultural or grazing purposes.”8 A. J. Bledsoe, writing in Indian Wars of the Northwest, proclaimed, “Ill prepared as the pioneers were for rapid settlement…there was nothing slow about the process of civilization in 1856. The whites were crowding the redskins to the wall.”9

But the Indians could only be crowded so much. They had lost a large part of their homeland, but they had gained something else.


On March 30, 1856, whites in the Hoopa Valley, fearing an attack by the local Indians, initiated a parley with members of the Hupa tribe. The Indians indicated they did not want to fight and agreed to hand over their weapons. By the next day they had delivered 23 guns.10 It was a peaceful but portentous gesture.

That day, the Hupas laid down their arms. But there were other days to come when some of the Indians took up their guns and fought back. In September 1858 Paul Boynton was shot and killed by Indians at his ranch some ten miles east of Union (Arcata).11 This particular attack loosed the floodgates of wrath in the Humboldt Times. Its editor, Austin Wiley, recounted the toll for the three months preceding Boynton’s death: four whites killed by Indians; four wounded. Wiley then proposed a solution to the problem:

We have long foreseen the present state of things and have been well satisfied, and so expressed it repeatedly, that it could be averted by placing the Indians on the Reservations or by extermination: in other words, by removing them from the range they now inhabit, either alive or dead.12

At the time there was no word to describe what Wiley was advocating, but today it would be called genocide.

Less than a month after Wiley’s editorial, he received part of his wish. Although soldiers from the United States Army had been stationed in Humboldt County since the establishment of Fort Humboldt in 1853,13 the commander of the military’s Pacific Division informed Governor J. B. Weller that there were “insufficient” troops available to keep the trails open between the coast and Weaverville.14 Weller accordingly sent State Adjutant General W. C. Kibbe to inspect the Mad River and Redwood Creek areas. Kibbe reported that he found between 300 and 350 “warriors,” and, more alarmingly:

The hostile tribe was generally well armed with rifles….The warfare they were waging did not seem to be entirely a predatory one. The Indians cared little for plunder, and were seeking to destroy men and animals, but would shoot a man or Indian for his gun, being anxious to obtain arms. They also sent the friendly Indians with gold dust to the camp to purchase guns and ammunition for them, and frequently offered $150 for a rifle worth only $10.15

Backed by this dire (but unverified) account, Kibbe on October 14, 1858 organized a state militia unit called the Trinity Rangers at Pardee’s Ranch on Redwood Creek. Soon the Rangers were hunting and attacking Indians with such vigor that after five months the unit was mustered out of service. Their success was not limited to attacking Indians; a month after they disbanded, the Trinity Rangers were granted “payment for indebtedness incurred by the expedition” in the amount of $52,527.86 by a grateful state legislature.16 After deducting for expenses, including “providing for the wounded,” each Ranger was left with a payment of about $50 per month.17 Converted to a wage in today’s dollars, this would amount to roughly $8,400 per month.18

How eyes must have widened when the payment was announced. Not only had the state allowed locals to take Indian fighting into their own hands, now it was rewarding them with a small fortune for their work. Men with profit on their minds had something new to think about.


It was soon apparent that the Rangers had merely disrupted Indian resistance, not destroyed it. Only weeks after the unit disbanded, there came reports of “a most exasperating slaughter of cattle on all the Yager Creek ranges,”19 a ranching area that covered the vast uplands between modern-day Bridgeville and Kneeland. No mention was made that the local Indians, who were members of the Nongatl tribe, had seen white expansion deprive them of much of their food supply and likely needed the cattle to survive.

In May rancher James C. Ellison was killed while pursuing some of the Nongatls.20 A volunteer company, financed by the citizens of the nearest town, Hydesville, set out to avenge Ellison.21 Regular army troops were also in the field, but the locals felt they obtained little result.22 Finally the volunteers, short of funds, disbanded.23 But they would soon be replaced.

On February 4, 1860, a public meeting was held in Hydesville with E. L. Davis, one of the wealthiest locals and a former member of the state assembly,24 presiding. Those present chose Seman25 Wright as Captain of the Humboldt Volunteers, Second Brigade, which was to be a cavalry company.26 The next issue of the Northern Californian announced that “the Indians continue their depredations upon the stock,” but mentioned only one casualty, “an ox belonging to Mr. Titlow.” In any case, “the volunteer Company…has taken the field under Captain Wright, without waiting to be regularly mustered into service by order of the Governor.”27 Wright’s speedy response proved to be a mistake.

On February 25, the Humboldt Times noted that “the Volunteer Company of dragoons, under Capt. Wright, are still in the field.” According to later reports, the volunteers had gone all the way to the South Fork of Eel River, where they had killed 40 Indians.28 The Times, however, only mentioned that

the Indians are still killing the stock of settlers in the back country and will continue to do so until they are driven from that section, or exterminated. Last Wednesday they killed two head of stock belonging to the band of Larrabee and Hagans and drove off twelve others which were, however, recovered.29

The article concluded by indicating that a petition had been sent to the Governor, asking him to keep Wright’s “company in the field until the redskins are driven from our country.” By the time this issue of the Times hit the streets, a plan was in motion to coerce Governor Downey to act on the petition.

The victims of the latest Indian attack, Henry P. Larrabee and Wallace M. Hagans, had a cattle ranch at the edge of Larabee (an “r” was dropped by the mapmakers) Valley.30 It was about this time, according to later reports, that both men vented their feelings against the Indians. Hagans, perhaps with Larrabee’s help, had a Nongatl named Yo-keel-la-bah “tied to a tree and shot in cold blood.”31 Larrabee, for his part, took offense at an Indian boy who worked for him but who would periodically run off to visit his relatives. Larrabee “went down one morning and slaughtered the whole family of about six persons, boy and all. He then made a rude raft of logs, put the victims on it…and started the bodies down the river.”32

Wallace M. Hagans was the son of William B. Hagans,33 a well-to-do stock raiser34 who had a ranch at the forks of Elk River, a few miles south of Eureka.35 His property lay along the pack train trail that connected Humboldt Bay with the interior, including the Yager Creek area.36 It was a convenient stopping place for men on their way to do business at Humboldt Bay.

Their business, in February 1860, was killing Indians.

By then, according to Bledsoe, a “league” of some 50 to 75 individuals had formed. It “included some of the prominent men of the county. All were men of intelligence and nearly all men of family.” An oath was taken that “the names of members were not to be revealed under penalty of death.” The league met and plotted for a month. 37 Then, as February drew to a close, they were ready to act.


The same week that Larrabee and Hagans lost their two head of cattle, the Humboldt County Court of Sessions met in Eureka. The court was sure to draw a crowd, and so the appearance of a group of ranchers from the outlying parts of the county would not be noted.

The court concluded its business on Saturday, February 25.38 In the early hours of February 26 the league struck. In a series of attacks over the next five days, they attacked not only Dulawat village on Indian Island but at least eleven other sites: on the lower Eel River, at least two locations on the South Spit,39 at Table Bluff,40 in the Fortuna area, in the Rio Dell area,41 at Humboldt Point,42 “several ranches” on Elk River, and—just under the noses of the soldiers at Fort Humboldt—the village of Kutserwalik at Bucksport.43

The number of deaths were never fully calculated, but fragmentary accounts made it clear that several hundred Indians were killed. The chief law enforcement official for the county, Sheriff Barrant44 Van Nest, was faced with a series of mass murders that could have taken months to fully investigate. Instead, the Times reported that

Sheriff Van Nest is on Eel river procuring petitions and affidavits which will be forwarded to the Governor to day with the hope that the arrival of the next steamer will bring the sanction of that officer for Capt. Wright’s company to take the field.45

Van Nest was diligent in his work. He quickly collected affidavits from 26 ranchers attesting to loss of property, a statement from Seman Wright, and a citizens’ petition asking for the volunteers to be mustered into service.46 In a cover letter to Downey, Van Nest made no mention of the recent massacres. Instead he complained about the lack of government protection for the ranchers, ominously announcing that “if they must protect themselves, and fight their own battles, they will fight them in their own way.”47 The packet was promptly sent to the Governor on March 10.48 Downey was equally prompt in his response. Before the month was out he had notified Van Nest that the U. S. Army was sending an additional company of regulars to Humboldt County and that there was thus “no need of the aid asked by you.”49

E. L. Davis, who had presided at the meeting where Wright’s company was organized, had tired of waiting for Downey to act. Before the Governor’s note reached Van Nest, Davis vented his frustration and anger by writing Downey. The letter, which was intended to intimidate the Governor, instead served quite a different purpose—it explained the real reason behind the massacres.

After railing against the ineffectiveness of U. S. Army troops, Davis focused on the importance of mustering Wright’s volunteers into service, and, most revealingly, what would happen if their muster was not approved:

This company is needed for the protection of lives & property & if we do not get it we will never ask the state again & I for one shall oppose paying any more state Taxes & [we will] fight our own battles in our own way—Exterminate the Indians from the face of the earth as far as this county is concerned. In fact, the little mess at Indian Island near Eureka is only a beginning if we can’t get our just protection from [the] state or [federal] government that American citizens are entitled to.50 [Emphasis added.]

With this last sentence, Davis inadvertently answered some of the most nagging questions about the massacres, for he indicated the true purpose of the attacks—to extort payment for Wright’s troops from a reluctant state government. Viewed on the surface, the massacres made no sense: the attacks were made on Wiyot Indians, who lived on the coast and were not the tribe taking cattle in the distant Yager area; the attackers killed mostly women and children, not adult males who might cause trouble for the ranchers; the attacks were made near populated areas—two of them, at Bucksport and on Indian Island, adjacent to Eureka—where the chances of detection were highest.

But with Davis’s letter, everything falls into place. If the aim of the massacres was to intimidate the state government and extort money for Wright’s troops, then you would do exactly what the “league” did: attack the peaceful Wiyots because they suspected nothing and were therefore easy victims; focus on gruesome killings of women and children because this would result in the most repellant, shocking aftermath; do much of your destruction near Eureka so that the maximum number of people would learn of it and be shocked by it. In short, create a “little mess” so horrible that the Governor would do anything to avoid the further, perhaps bigger attacks that Davis’s letter threatened. This would force the Governor to grant what the perpetrators so desperately wanted—the official recognition, and the lavish pay that went with it, for Wright’s Hydesville Volunteers. The remorseless advance of the dollar crushes everything in its path.

Except that it did not work out that way. Downey, despite Davis’ intimidating letter, stuck to his guns and refused to enter the Hydesville unit into the state militia. Wright’s troops continued to chase and attack Indians in the back country for a short while and then disbanded, mostly unsuccessful and entirely unpaid.51


On the coast, little information was forthcoming about the massacres. A grand jury heard testimony about the attacks but tried no harder than Van Nest to find the culprits; they failed to issue any indictments.52 Although Bret Harte wrote a scathing editorial in the Northern Californian,53 the local papers covered the massacres for only a single week and did nothing that could be considered investigative reporting. The entire incident might have slipped into enforced obscurity were it not for the efforts of a few outspoken locals. A stream of letters flooded the San Francisco newspapers expressing outrage at the killings and, more significantly, naming names. One, written the day of the Indian Island attack, stated that “the…massacre was headed (as reported by an Indian, and believed by a majority of the people,) by a white man named Brown, and four other savages of the same hue.”54 Later investigation by local historian Martha Roscoe determined that the reference was to James D. Henry Brown,55 who, when ranching in the Kneeland area, reportedly “tried to run everyone out and was said to have scalped people in order to blame it on the Indians.”56

An “Eye-Witness” wrote that more than 150 Indians “were barbarously murdered…on the Sabbath…by lawless white men belonging to a Christian community, without cause or provocation, calling themselves volunteers of Capt. Wright’s company….”57 These charges were echoed by Major Gabriel Rains, the commander at Fort Humboldt, who wrote the Commissioner of Indian Affairs that upon learning they would not be mustered into service, “a portion of Capt. Wright’s Company held a meeting at Eel River ... and resolved to kill every peaceable Indian—man, woman, and child in this part of the county.” Rains then described how “some 15 or 20” of the company attacked villages at Humboldt Point (near today’s King Salmon), Indian Island, and Eagle Prairie (Rio Dell), killing more than 130 Indians in all.58

An anonymous author claimed that “the Thugs [a nickname for the group that plotted and executed the attacks on the Indians] are largely in the majority, led by Wiley of the Humboldt Times and by Van Nest the Sheriff.” He added that “two or three men who were on the last Grand Jury...were Thugs,” and that “the man L------ is the same person who boasted of having killed sixty infants with his own hatchet at the different slaughter grounds.”59 (From other statements in the letter it is clear that “L------“ stood for Henry P. Larabee.60) When William B. Hagans ran for state assembly that fall, another letter revealed that Hagans was “intimately associated with the horrid massacre of Indians on the bay….Hagan’s [sic] house was the place of rendezvous for the Thugs. He was present at this meeting and his son, partners, and laborers were of the party.”61

Hagans won the election in a landslide.62 In 1863 genocide advocate Austin Wiley was elected to the same seat in another landslide.63 For at least several years the Thugs and their supporters dominated both the local press and local politics.


Meanwhile, what had happened to the Wiyots? Although E. L. Davis’s threat of more massacres proved empty, the killers were still at large and remained a menace. Many of the surviving Wiyots were forcibly taken by Subagent David Buell to the Klamath River Reservation, ostensibly for their protection but in violation of state law.64 Later they were moved to the Smith River Reservation.65 At both locations they were used for hard labor, whipped, starved, and sometimes murdered.66 Eventually many made their way back to Humboldt County, where they attempted to reconstruct their shattered communities and rebuild their shattered lives.

If anyone looks for justice in the aftermath of the massacres, they will be disappointed. Indians eventually killed over 30 head of cattle belonging to E. L. Davis67 and sacked the ranches of both William B. Hagans68 and Larrabee.69 One young Thug, filled with remorse, committed suicide a short time after the attacks.70 Other retributions are not recorded, and for the whites, it appears that a great bleakness of the spirit settled over the land.

But there is another chapter to the saga of Indian Island, and it glows as golden as the dawn. It is the story not of what happened to the perpetrators of the massacres, but rather of the people they overlooked. In the chaos of the attacks, more than a score of Indians managed to escape. Out of the ashes of Dulawat came lives that illuminated the landscape for decades.

Jerry James, the young boy found in his dead mother’s arms, became a leader in the resurrected Wiyot community at Bucksport.71 He provided information about the Wiyot tribe to several ethnographers,72 including Edward S. Curtis for his renowned study of American Indians.73 James’s obituary stated that he “carried no malice toward the whites for the murder of his people.”74

Cousins Matilda and Nancy Spear gathered up their three children at the start of the massacre and hid with them on the west side of the island. Afterwards, they found seven other children left alive. They put the entire group in a canoe, rowed them across the bay, and then walked to Matilda’s husband’s homestead in Freshwater.75 Nancy later described the massacre to her nephew: “They came like weasels in the night, crawling on their bellies. We were without any men to protect us. We had never fought the white men and had thought they were our friends.”76

Polly Steve was badly wounded during the attack and left for dead.77 She survived, moved to the Klamath River, and became known as an expert basket maker. She taught her descendants well; her daughter Elizabeth Conrad Hickox and granddaughter Louisa Hickox are today regarded as “the most famous basketweavers from Northern California.”78 Polly also worked for the Ten Eyck mine and “was always the trusty one to carry the gold and registered mail from the Somes Bar post office to the owners of the mine ....”79

Mad River Billy escaped from Indian Island by jumping in the bay and swimming to Eureka. He then made his way to the Nixon Ranch in Arcata where he fell through the door in a faint. When he revived he said, “Bad white men, he murder my mother, my brothers, sisters, and all my children. Just butcher them.”80 Despite this, Billy was always friendly toward whites. Once he warned William Preston of an Indian plot to kill him;81 another time, he “swam Mad River in a wild torrent and saved a white girl, Mary Masten from drowning.”82 Billy joined Arcata’s Methodist Church and “never failed to attend the funeral of a pioneer.”83

Jane Sam was not the only member of her family to survive. Her sister Annie, a brother, and their mother all hid in the brush and escaped with their lives. Annie, who became blind at an early age, lived in late life at Bucksport, where, despite her lack of sight, she was known as “an immaculate housekeeper” who even did her own sewing.84 Jane married Alex Sam, a well-known and well-to-do Wiyot from the mouth of Mad River.85 And in 192186 it was Jane who preserved the history of what had happened so long before, when she reached back through the decades to recall that dreadful night at Indian Island, when white was the darkest color to be seen.




1 (Jane Sam, unpublished statement. Copy in author’s collection.) Sam’s statement is one of several by Wiyot elders that were recorded in the 1920s; they are currently being prepared for publication. Punctuation and spelling of this and subsequent statements have been altered slightly for clarity.


2 (Jerry James, unpublished statement. Copy in author’s collection.)


3 “Kidnapping,” Humboldt Times, November 2, 1861, 2.


4 “Indian Murder,” Humboldt Times, September 22, 1854, 2.


5 Llewellyn L. Loud, “Ethnogeography and Archaeology of the Wiyot Territory,” University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 14, no. 3 (1918), 324.


6 Jerry Rohde, “The Sonoma Gang,” North Coast Journal, September 11, 2008, 17.


7 (Jane D. Searson, unpublished statement. Copy in author’s collection.)


8 A. J. Bledsoe, Indian Wars of the Northwest, (San Francisco: Bacon & Co., 1885), 210.


9 Bledsoe, Indian Wars, 211.


10 Bledsoe, Indian Wars:204-205.


11 “Horrible Murder by Indians,” Humboldt Times, September 18, 1858, 2.


12 “Serious Indian troubles—removal or extermination,” Humboldt Times, September 18, 1858, 2.


13 Wallace W. Elliott, History of Humboldt County, California, (San Francisco: Wallace W. Elliott & Co., 1881), 163.


14 Owen C. Coy, The Humboldt Bay Region: 1850-1875, (1929; repr., Eureka: Humboldt County Historical Society, 1982), 147.


15 Work Projects Administration, “The National Guard of California: 1849 – 1880,” vol. 1, (typescript, 1940), 239-240.


16 Works Project Administration, “National Guard,”240-241.


17 “Good News for the Volunteers.” Humboldt Times, April 23, 1859, 2.


18 Lawrence H. Officer, and Samuel H. Williamson, “Purchasing Power of Money in the United States from 1774 to 2008,” MeasuringWorth, (accessed February 14, 2010). The calculation was made using the “unskilled wage” computation; the exact total is $8,395.49.


19 Bledsoe, Indian Wars, 292.


20 “Death of J. C. Ellison. Humboldt Times, May 21, 1859, 2.


21 Bledsoe, Indian Wars, 293, 295; “Another Volunteer Company,” Humboldt Times, May 28, 1859, 2. Bledsoe calls the group the “Hydesville Volunteer Company” but this name does not appear in the various articles in the Times.


22 “From the Volunteers,” Humboldt Times, June 4, 1859, 2; Bledsoe, Indian Wars, 294-295.


23 Bledsoe, Indian Wars, 298.


24 Susie Baker Fountain Papers, vol. 81, 201, Humboldt State University Library; Hunt, Ann, Humboldt County, California: 1860 Census Schedule 1, Er-10, (Photocopy, Humboldt County Library, Eureka); “Indian Hostilities—Volunteer Company,” Humboldt Times, February 4, 1860, 2.


25 Wright’s first name is sometimes spelled “Seaman” but his signature shows it as “Seman.”


26 “Hydesville Volunteers,” Northern Californian, February 8, 1860, 3; Works Project Administration, “National Guard,” 275-276.


27 “Indians continue their depredations upon the stock...” Northern Californian, February 15, 1860, 3.


28 An Eye-Witness [pseud.], “The Massacres of Indians on Humboldt Bay,” San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin, March 13, 1860, 2; Maj. G. J. Rains, Letter to Thomas J. Hendricks, April 30, 1860. Quoted in Robert F. Heizer, The Destruction of the California Indians, ( Santa Barbara: Peregrine Smith, Inc., 1974), 156. Attempts to locate the original source have not been successful.


29 “Indian Depredations,” Humboldt Times, February 25, 1860, 2.


30 [J. A. Adams], “Former Humboldt Resident Writes of Early Indian Wars,” Ferndale Enterprise, December 28, 1934, 1; Belcher Abstract & Title Co., Atlas of Humboldt County, California, (Eureka: Belcher Abstract & Title Co., 1922), 13. The Belcher Atlas shows property belonging to F. R. Adams in sections 11 and 14, Township 1 North, Range 4 East.


31 Captain Chas. S. Lovell, Report to Major W. W. Mackall, March 23, 1861. Quoted in Susie Baker Fountain Papers, vol. 32, 379. A different version of the incident appears in: *** [pseud.], “Atrocities by White Men on Indians in Humboldt County—Record of a Baby-Killer,” San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin, June 1, 1860, 2.


32 *** [pseud], “Atrocities by White Men on Indians in Humboldt County—Record of a Baby-Killer,” San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin, June 1, 1860,2; Reprinted in the Sacramento Daily Union, June 4, 1860. The writer uses “L-----“ instead of the perpetrator’s full name, but other information in the letter, linking him to Hagans and the killing of Yo-kill-la-bah, makes it clear that “L----“ is the Larrabee referred to in Captain Lovell’s dispatch cited in note 31 above..


33 William Boyd Hagans, http// (accessed November 11, 2009).


34 Susie Baker Fountain Papers, vol. 117, 239.


35 Susie Baker Fountain Papers, vol. 128, 223.


36 Surveyor General’s Office, [Map of] Township No IV North, Range No I West, Humboldt Meridian, ( San Francisco: Surveyor General’s Office, 1855) ; A. J. Doolittle, Official Map of Humboldt Co., Cal., (San Francisco, A. J. Doolittle, 1865).


37 Bledsoe, Indian Wars, 302-303. See also: Frances N. Hanover, ed., Humboldt Days: Recollections of Frances Dinsmore Hosmer, as set down by her daughter Anne Hosmer Wrightson, 4. Photocopy, Humboldt County Historical Society, Eureka.


38 [County of Humboldt], Court of Sessions Having Criminal Jurisdiction: From July 1853 to June 1861, non-paginated entries for February 1860 sessions. Original, Humboldt County Historical Society, Eureka.


39 “Indian Massacre,” Humboldt Times, March 3, 1860,2.


40 “Terrible Slaughter of Indians,” Butte Democrat, March 2, 1860, 2.


41 “A large ranch of Indians,” Humboldt Times, March 3, 1860, 2.


42 Charles Rossiter, “More of the Humboldt Bay Butchery,” San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin, March 2, 1860, 3.


43 “Indiscriminate Massacre of Indians, Northern Californian, February 29, 1860,2. Hanover, Recollections of Frances Dinsmore Hosmer, 4.


44 Van Nest apparently didn’t like his first name and usually used the initial “B” instead. It appears that the name was Barrant. See: Joseph Prince Tracy, Joseph Tracy—Pioneer of 1857, Humboldt County Historical Society Newsletter, May 1963, 8.


45 “Indian Matters,” Humboldt Times, March 10, 1860,2.


46 Various documents, Inventory of the Military Department, Adjutant General, Indian War Papers, folder F3753:542-566.


47 B. Van Nest, Sheriff, letter to Governor Downey, March 10, 1860, Indian War Papers, folder F3753:481.


48 “Indian Matters,” Humboldt Times, March 10, 1860, 2.


49 Governor Downey, letter to Sheriff Van Nest, March 29, 1860, Indian War Papers, folder F3753:567.


50 E. L. Davis, letter to Governor Downey, April 3, 1860, Indian War Papers, folder F3753:568.


51 “Proceedings of County Convention, for the Consideration of Indian Affairs,” Northern Californian, May 23, 1860, 2; Maj. G. J. Rains, letter to Barratt Van Nest, reprinted in Humboldt Times, June 30, 1860, 2.


52 Bledsoe, Indian Wars, 312-313.


53 “Our Indian troubles,” Northern Californian, February 29, 1860:2. This editorial is unsigned, but see the following, which establishes Harte’s identity as the author: Ray Raphael and Freeman House, Two Peoples, One Place, (Eureka: Humboldt County Historical Society, 2007), 165.statement from Seaan be determined, is being published here for the fir


54 Rossiter, “More of the Humboldt Bay Butchery, 2.


55 Martha Roscoe, “Indian Island Massacre—Perpetrators” file, Humboldt County Historical Society, Eureka; J. Michael Kellogg, Minority Groups in Humboldt County: A History of the Treatment of Indians, 47-48. Photocopy, Humboldt County Collection, Humboldt State University Library, Arcata.


56 Chet Schwarzkopf, “Kneeland—Prairie and Mountains Meet,” Humboldt Times, May 8, 1949, 17., Sterling Paddock, interview by Jerry Rohde, September 29, 2001.


57 An Eye-Witness [pseud.], “The Massacres of the Indians on Humboldt Bay,” San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin, March 13, 1860, 3.


58 G. J Rains, letter to Thos. J. Hendricks, April 30, 1860. Quoted in at least three sources: Robert F. Heizer, ed., The Destruction of the California Indians, (Santa Barbara: Peregrine Smith, Inc., 1974), 156-157; Lynwood Carranco and Estle Beard, Genocide and Vendetta, (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1981), 129-130; Edwin C. Bearss, History Basic Data: Redwood National Park, (U. S. Department of the Interior, 1969),108-109. Recent attempts to locate the original document in the California State Archives have not been successful.


59 *** [pseud.], “Atrocities by White Men,” 2.


60 The account here should be compared with: Captain Chas. S. Lovell, report to Major W. W. Mackall, March 23, 1861, Susie Baker Fountain Papers vol. 32, 379.


61 “From Humboldt—One of the Douglas Nominations.” San Francisco Herald, October 11, 1860, 2.


62 “Vote of Humboldt County…” Humboldt Times, November 10, 1860, 2.


63 “Election Returns,” Humboldt Times, September 12, 1863, 2.


64 Exodus [pseud.], “The Expatiation of Guiltless Indians at Humboldt Bay,” San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin, May 11, 1860,2; Bearss, History Basic Data, 105, 108-113).


65 Bearss, History Basic Data, 113-114.


66 (Jane Sam, unpublished statement; Mollie Brainard, unpublished statement. Copies in author’s collection.)


67 “More Indian Depredations,” Humboldt Times, December 28, 1861, 3.


68 “Indian Raid,” Humboldt Times, April 22, 1864, 2.


69 Bledsoe, Indian Wars, 338.


70 (Jane D. Searson, unpublished statement. Copy in author’s collection.)


71 “Humboldters Volunteer Tribute to Jerry James, Bay Massacre Survivor,” Humboldt Times, April 3, 1929, 2.


72 C. Hart Merriam, Papers, vol. 1, (Berkeley: University of California, 1998) microfilm reel 32, frame 9; Elaine Mills, The Papers of John Peabody Harrington in the Smithsonian Institution: 1907-1957, vol. 2, (New York: Kraus International Publications, 1985), 3-4; Gladys Reichard, “Wiyot Grammar and Texts,” University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology, vol. 22, no. 1, 4.


73 Curtis, The North American Indian, 69-70, 190-198.


74 “Humboldters Volunteer Tribute to Jerry James, Bay Massacre Survivor,” Humboldt Times, April 3, 1929, 2.


75 Chris Hunt, “Island of Tears” Times-Standard, March 15, 1998,A-7; Susie Baker Fountain Papers, vol. 68, 195.


76 (The Matilda & Nancy Spear Memorial Foundation. Brochure. Photocopy in the “Indian Island Massacre” file, Humboldt County Collection, Humboldt State University Library, Arcata.)


77 “Noted Indian Woman Passes at 97 Years,” Blue Lake Advocate, October 19, 1929, 2.


78 Ron Johnson and Coleen Kelley Marks, Her Mind Made Up: Weaving Caps the Indian Way, (Arcata: Humboldt State University, 1997), 118.


79 “Noted Indian Woman Passes at 97 Years,” Blue Lake Advocate, October 19, 1929, 2.


80 “Early History of Arcata Told by Harry C. Nixon,” Arcata Union, March 15, 1940, 5.


81 Susie Baker Fountain Papers, vol. 54, 187, 191. The information appears to have come from H. H. Gastman.


82 “Famous Indian Found Dead,” Blue Lake Advocate, June 27, 1908, 2.


83 “Friend of the Whites Gone to Rest,” Arcata Union, June 27, 1908, 5.


84 Beatrice Burton, “Escape from Massacre Told by ‘Blind Anne’,” Humboldt Times, November 29, 1925, 1.


85 “Alex Sam Dead: Last of Put-ta-wots,” Arcata Union, June 25, 1925, 1; Nelson Rossig and Irene Rossig, interviewed by Jerry Rohde, September 9, 2008.


86 (Jane Sam, unpublished statement. Copy in author’s collection.)


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About The Author

Jerry Rohde

Jerry Rohde does investigative reporting — 150 years too late. He’s working on a multi-volume geographical history of Humboldt County when he isn’t distracted by glitzy writing projects.

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