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Murder in Arcata 

The story of a Native American woman who — marginalized, blind and alone — faced death to save her children

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It was January of 1862 and Arcata's last adult Native American resident, Lucy Romero, had been told her life was in danger but she and her children had nowhere to go. Indians in the mountains were being hunted like animals and those sent to the reservations risked starvation. Women faced the threat of rape and children became easy prey for traffickers.

Four months earlier — 153 years ago this month — the white settlers in Humboldt County had forced the Native Americans living along Humboldt Bay to relocate north to the Klamath Reservation. Many were made to leave young children behind to work as servants for the whites, and those who refused to leave or tried to escape could be treated like enemies and shot.

For unknown reasons, Lucy was allowed to remain, living in a small cabin in the Sunset area of Arcata owned by Humboldt County pioneers John and Sarah Preston. Lucy shared the modest home with her 3-year-old daughter, Annie, and 16-month-old son, Charles. The eldest of Lucy's three children, 7-year-old Carrie, lived with Sarah Preston's parents, Findley and Rebecca Lindsey, in a house that still stands on Arcata's Seventh Street above HealthSport.

Now, in January of 1862, Lucy was told that Arcata wasn't safe for her either. She heard the warnings and chose to stay, facing almost certain death in order to save her children.


Though there is conflicting information, most historical records indicate Lucy was living on Humboldt Bay in 1850. She would have watched the arrival of the white pioneers, witnessed the conflicts between the indigenous people and newcomers, and suffered the effects first hand.

After settlers discovered Humboldt Bay in December of 1849, stories of gold and the possibility of an inland route from the Pacific Coast to the mines along the Trinity River reached the San Francisco Bay area and beyond, prompting hundreds to pack their wagons and board ships bound for for the North Coast. Some came searching for gold and others, unsuccessful or unsuited for the hard life of a miner, settled in newly formed towns where traders were positioned to supply the mines where gold was said to be abundant, but provisions scarce. Speculators also came, envisioning expanding shipping lanes and a prosperous Humboldt Bay harbor that would make it easy to export north coast timber and other commodities to San Francisco markets and beyond.

Humboldt County also offered opportunity for young men lacking other prospects and families seeking a new life in the West. Pioneers could claim 160-acre plots of the area's rich agricultural land, free, as long as they made improvements and established homesteads. Still other settlers were drawn to Humboldt to escape their pasts. The isolated coastal area, surrounded by towering redwoods on three sides and a formidable ocean to the west, was the perfect haven for "renegades ... escaped convicts ... and outlaws," according to a March 23, 1861 military dispatch later published through an act of Congress.

Many of the settlers came from the east, where conflicts with natives had escalated and fears, often exaggerated, colored their perception of the California natives. The Indians on the North Coast were inclined to be peaceful and "exhibited more astonishment at the sudden influx of white men than any other feeling," according to a story in the Daily Alta California. Unfortunately the natives were also fascinated with new tools and supplies brought by settlers, and often wound up accused of stealing property, such as hatchets, axes and knives, which were crucial to the newcomers' survival. The white pioneers often marginalized the Indians, forcing them from their villages in order to build homes in prime areas and thoughtlessly taking their resources as well. Pioneer Isaac Cullberg wrote casually of taking material from an Indian house to build a campfire. Other settlers were more aggressive, with one Daily Alta California editor lamenting the conduct of "certain reckless men, who regard an Indian as they would a dog, and think they have a right to give him a kick whenever he crosses their path."

Despite Native American attempts (and pleas from some of the whites) to improve relations, conditions continued to deteriorate.

Conditions were even more dangerous for native women. In 1854 the local paper observed that almost from the time of their arrival in Humboldt County, white settlers often "ravaged" Native American women. Lucy's daughter Carrie was born in 1856, fathered by a white man who'd likely raped Lucy. Annie and Charles, Lucy's younger children, were fathered by Jose Romero, a veteran of the Apache Indian Wars. At that time, many Native women were taken as companions by white settlers known as "squawmen." Romero was considered a Squawman and, while many of these relationships were forced, Lucy's association with Romero may have helped keep her and the children safe. Though squawmen could be violent, women claimed by settlers were generally treated as property and less likely to be raped by other men. In fact, some native families actually encouraged their daughters to stay with white men as a means of protecting them.

Staying with Romero in a settled area would have also allowed Lucy to better protect her children from a booming state-sanctioned human trafficking trade. In 1850, California passed a law allowing for the legal indenture of natives that granted their "master ... care, custody, control, and earnings of such minor, until he or she obtain the age of majority." At that time, the age of majority was 18 for males and 15 for females. Initially native children could only be indentured if the justice of the peace was convinced that no compulsory means was used to obtain the child. But in 1860, the law was expanded to allow for the indenture of any child considered a prisoner of war. The law also extended the terms of indenture to 30 years old for men and 25 for women. While men and women were indentured under this law, native children were especially coveted, likely because adults were harder to control and could more easily escape their masters. Indian children, on the other hand, "when tamed" were described by the Humboldt Times as quite docile and could learn to speak English quickly. Children as young as 4 or 5 were used to help with childcare and other household chores, and children as young as 7 or 8 worked in the fields.

The practice of domesticating Native American children would have been more widespread, a story in the March 1, 1860 Humboldt Times lamented, "but the Indians have been hitherto loath to part with their offspring at such ages as would make them most susceptible of training."

Despite parental protests, the demand for child servants grew and, by 1860, the kidnapping of Native American children was rampant. Humboldt County became an infamous base for those "in the nefarious trade of stealing Indians ..." with traffickers literally hunting and killing native parents in the mountains in order to obtain their children. The incentive was high when buyers would willingly pay $50 or $60 for a young Indian to cook and wait upon them, up to $80 for a hog-driving boy or $100 (an amount equal to more than $2,700 today) for a "likely young girl," according to a Dec. 6, 1861 story in the Marysville Appeal. Some of these children were kept by local families, but many were sold as far off as Colusa County, more than 200 miles away.

Lucy's union to Romero made her children less vulnerable to traffickers and provided her some protection, at least until 1860, when Romero was murdered by Native Americans.

Growing Hostilities

Adding to the hardships brought on by thoughtless or hostile whites, pioneers over-harvested fish, elk and other wildlife and allowed livestock to graze native clover grasses, a significant food source for local tribes. These factors combined to lead to starvation among native tribes in the mountains. When a steer or hog could not be found (they were often taken by mountain lions or suffered natural deaths) settlers accused natives of "depredations." These alleged offenses prompted militia groups or vigilantes to "chastise" the Indians by raiding villages and killing inhabitants, which often included women and children. Squawmen and human traffickers also likely participated in offensive strikes designed to discourage the natives from retrieving kidnapped women and children. Other hunts were lead by unsuccessful miners and speculators looking for the steady income paid by the government to local militia volunteers recruited to quell perceived Native American hostilities. Still others were ranchers fearing future losses of valuable livestock. The most extreme also went on "Indian hunts" for sport, scouring the mountains to shoot at unsuspecting victims.

While the mountain tribes developed a reputation for aggression in response to frequent attacks, many of the natives living around Humboldt Bay adapted to the new arrivals, learning to speak English and work for the settlers. Women like Lucy were employed as domestic servants while men worked as laborers and farm hands.

This assimilation was not enough, however, as fear, prejudice and a desire to have full reign of the abundant resources in the county prevailed. In the early morning hours of Feb 25, 1860, following a ceremonial dance on Indian Island in Humboldt Bay, a small number of white men attacked the sleeping revelers and killed all they could find.

Out of some 60 to 70 killed on the island, at least 50 to 60 were women and children. "Neither age or sex had been spared," one witness described in the Feb. 29, 1860 edition of The Northern Californian. "Little children and old women were mercilessly stabbed and their skulls crushed with axes." Similar attacks were reported at other villages. Lucy was on the island at the time of the massacre with Carrie and Annie. Just a few weeks pregnant with Charles, she had slept with her children away from the main camp and remained hidden during the massacre. At daybreak, she and her two girls made their back to Arcata. In the weeks that followed, Romero (father of Annie and Charles) was accused of helping the massacre's perpetrators by spying on the Native Americans and he was killed for his alleged complicity, leaving Lucy pregnant and alone with the two young girls and few options. There was no obvious instigating incident for the massacre as the natives on the bay were known as the most peaceful of the local tribes. One justification offered for the murderous rampage was that the natives on the bay and in the mountains were leagued together and constantly killing cattle, but there was no proof. Following the massacre, journalist Bret Harte predicted it would spark the "beginning of the end," suggesting local tribes would finally band together against the white settlers in revenge for their slain families.

In response, local citizens petitioned the Superintendent of Indian Affairs to remove the massacre survivors and other natives still living along Humboldt Bay. The Indian agent in charge of the Klamath Reservation, Col. D.E. Buel, arrived within days to secure them. After threatening to treat any who resisted as enemies, local citizens helped Buel force more than 130 natives from their homes to be "herded like cattle" more than 60 miles through mountainous terrain to the Klamath Reservation, according to a May 11, 1860 story in San Francisco's Daily Evening Bulletin.

Though squawmen were urged to give up their native wives, at least one man saved his mate from expulsion by legally marrying her. Many Indian children between the ages of 5 and 14 were kept in white households while their parents were sent away. Some children characterized as "half breeds" (those with white fathers and native mothers) as young as 1 year old also remained in white homes while their mothers were forced to the reservation. Only a handful of young men were able to stay as laborers and none were over the age of 18.

It is unclear if Lucy and the girls were forced to go to the reservation at this time but government mismanagement, poor conditions and a lack of food plagued the operation and most of those sent away soon returned to Humboldt County. Unfortunately, continuing conflicts and white fears of Indian hostilities lead to the second expulsion of the natives in the fall of 1861. The only exception, according to an Oct. 12, 1861 Humboldt Times report, was made for "tame or pet Indians ... who have homes with white men, under the age of ten years, and who have lived as apprentices with the whites for one year ..." While the expulsion was racially motivated for many, at least some residents believed it was the only way to protect the local Native Americans from further massacres.

For unknown reasons, this time Lucy was able to stay in Arcata, living in the cabin with Annie and Charles on the Preston property. John Preston had helped bury the victims of the 1860 massacre and it is possible that Lucy, by that time nearly blind and a single mother of three, elicited his sympathy.


By the end of 1861, Union had changed its name to Arcata, become a thriving community of more 600 people, and served as a trading post for those in the surrounding hills. Residents enjoyed the convenience of stores, churches, a school and more than one saloon. They also talked a lot about the "Indian wars." There were some in the county that sympathized with the plight of the area's original inhabitants, but by 1862, many in the county no longer framed aggression against the natives as defense or revenge. The editor of the local Humboldt Times openly advocated for extermination of the local natives. When contingents of volunteer militia headed into the mountains on "Indian hunts," as they often did, the Times regularly reported the number of "bucks" (Native American men) killed as well as the frequent numbers of women and children murdered on these forays.

On a Saturday afternoon in late December of 1861, neighbors gathered at Findley and Rebecca Lindsey's house. The Lindseys were Sarah Preston's parents and lived at the foot of Fickle Hill — likely a popular gathering spot for those coming off the mountain and seeking the latest community news. Those present that day included John and Sarah Preston, Findley Lindsey and others, and the conversation turned to Indian affairs.

Conflicts had escalated, and most gathered agreed that it was best that all natives be sent to the reservation. James Brown, a neighbor of the Lindseys who made no secrets about his hatred of local Native Americans, was also there that day and predicted there would be another massacre in town to eliminate any who remained, including children. Already known as a violent man, Brown was one of the few known perpetrators of the Indian Island massacre. He openly advocated for extermination of the local natives and even shot one in Arcata, telling James Barnes that he had done so because the man "was a saucy and impudent digger and he did not think it would be a loss to anyone to shoot him."

After a time, the conversation turned to Lucy, the only remaining adult Native American in Arcata. Rumors had been circulating recently that Indian footprints had been seen near her cabin and she was suspected of helping the more hostile mountain tribes, sheltering them or supplying them with arms and ammunition. Despite the fact that the Prestons saw no such footprints on their property, the rumors had continued and, by that Saturday at the Findleys, most present thought Lucy's life was in danger. More than one believed Lucy would be killed within weeks.

The rumors alarmed Sarah Preston and her father, both of whom warned Lucy, urging her to flee to the reservation to save her life. But Lucy refused, saying that she hoped that if she was killed in Arcata, the whites would take care of her children. It is possible that Lucy feared that Annie and Charles, fathered by someone alleged to have helped the Indian Island massacre's perpetrators, would face retribution on the reservation. She may have also been familiar with conditions there and known that, as her eyesight failed, she would be unable to protect and care for her children.

Whatever the reason, Lucy remained.

In the early morning hours of Jan. 12, 1862, Annie Romero made her way to the home of John and Sarah Preston, and told them her mother was ill. The Prestons sent her home. Hours later, Annie tried again, this time towing little Charles behind her. The toddler's head was covered in blood, but neither John nor Sarah checked the boy for injuries. Later, John would explain that he assumed the boy had a bloody nose, while Sarah would say she thought Lucy had been "whipping" him again. A visiting neighbor, 20-year-old Alan Hill, did examine the tiny boy for injuries but found none and the children were sent home. Later, as Hill walked through the Prestons' orchard, he looked through Lucy's cabin door and saw blood on the floor. He entered to discover Lucy's body and saw her head was cut in several places. He reported it to the Prestons, and he and Sarah returned to the cabin to find the children in bed with their mother's corpse. Hill and John Preston then searched the property, but the perpetrators were gone. When questioned, little Annie said only that two white men had killed her mother.

Three days later, Byron Deming, a 35-year-old, part-time coroner and wheelwright, held an inquest. He called prominent members of the community to serve as jurors, including merchants Augustus Jacoby, Henry Stern and Isaac Cullberg, barkeep Edwin Wallace, hotel owner J.C. Bull and four others.

The men met at the Preston's property, viewed Lucy's body and called witnesses that included John and Sarah Preston, Findley Lindsey, Sarah's brother, William Lindsey, Allan Hill, James Bishop and James Barnes. From their testimony emerged a picture of Lucy's last day.

The Prestons last saw Lucy alive at about 6 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 11. Annie couldn't say when her mother was killed but witness James Barnes recalled seeing two men walking down the middle of the road past Leon's hotel (around 10th and H streets) and across the plaza toward the brewery around dawn on Sunday. Barnes said the smaller of the two men had a stooped shoulder and he recalled that one wore a blanket and the other a coat.

When Sarah's brother, William Lindsey, later testified, he said he knew of no one else with a stooped shoulder like himself. But when questioned further, William insisted he was home all of Saturday night and didn't sleepwalk. He also denied spending time with James Brown that night.

Findley Lindsey explained that he and his wife went to visit their neighbors, the Phillips (original owners of the Phillips House museum), on Saturday night. Lindsey recalled seeing Brown head into Arcata about sunset that evening and remembered hearing Brown's gate open when they returned from the Phillips' house around midnight, believing he'd heard Brown returning home. Findley Lindsey also testified that he believed Brown owned a rifle, a butcher knife and Tommy Hawk (hatchet) with a 3-inch blade.

When asked to testify, Sarah Preston recalled a conversation in which Brown asked her if she wanted Lucy killed so she could have an unhindered claim to little Annie. Sarah said she told Brown she would send Lucy to the reservation herself rather than have the child under those circumstances.

For reasons that aren't clear, the inquest concluded without Brown being called to testify.

During the inquest, John Preston was asked if he'd seen evidence of Indians on his property. Preston was sure he hadn't, but did recall seeing barefoot tracks, though he believed they were made by boys cutting through the property to go duck hunting.

The question of tracks was pertinent. The local papers regularly carried accounts of families attacked in the hills and residents lived in fear of an attack in town. In fact, the (then) one-story brick Jacoby Storehouse had been identified as a place of refuge for women and children should an assault take place, but it was never needed.

Annie had said that two white men killed her mother and the inquest showed no evidence of native incursions into Arcata — which meant residents had nothing to fear. This seemed to satisfy the motives of the inquest, which never really focused on finding Lucy's killers.

After three days of interviews and an examination of Lucy's body, the jurors determined Lucy died due to "the effect of four wounds inflicted upon her head ... with some sharp instrument ... by some person or persons unknown." The local newspaper called the investigation "thorough" and the coroner expressed regret that the perpetrators were not identified.

Lucy Romero's murder remains unsolved today.

The "Indian Wars" continued and thousands of Native Americans were killed, kidnapped or forced to live on reservations under deplorable conditions. Cabrillo College estimates that in the first two decades of white occupation, California tribal populations were reduced by up to 90 percent.

Lucy's decision to stay in Arcata and bravely face death helped ensure her children didn't become lost to those statistics. Annie was raised by the Prestons, Charles was taken in by a childless German couple and Carrie was given to a widow, Sarah Bowles, though she was indentured as a servant. Unlike many children who did not survive the "Indian Wars", enslavement or conditions of the reservations, Lucy's sacrifice allowed her children to survive. Carrie, Annie and Charles all lived to adulthood and Lucy's descendants can be found throughout California today.

When not tracking down local history, Lynette Mullen operates Projects Delivered as an independent project manager. She also has Lynette's NorCal History Blog ( She wishes to thank local historian Susie Van Kirk and countless others for sharing their research, and Kathy Srabian for her shared commitment to tell Lucy's story.

Excerpts from the Humboldt Times:

For these reasons, would it not be better to break up these establishments and let a temporary reservation be formed at Fort Humboldt? The old indians, squaws and children may collect there and should then be provided with the means of subsistence. To send them to any of the Indian reservations now, would be a mockery. Those already sent there are obliged to leave or starve. The management of Indian affairs in this state is a burning shame and disgrace to our Government and we see no prospect of any immediate change for the better.
- March 3, 1860 Humboldt Times

For the past four years we have advocated two — and only two — alternatives for ridding our county of Indians; either remove them to some reservation or kill them. The loss of life and destruction of property by the Indians for ten years past has not failed to convince every sensible man that the two races can not live together, and the recent desperate and bloody demonstration on Indian Island, is proof that the time has arrived when either the pale face or the savage must yield the ground. Hunting the guilty and protecting the innocent Indians is a worn out theme, and one that we have warred against for years. Just so long as our maintain ravines and secret resorts for hostile Indians are unguarded by troops, and the Indians allowed to inhabit them, just so long will they receive aid and support from our friendly Indians. It is an evidence of insanity for a man to argue that Indians will not sympathize with Indians, particularly where they speak the same tongue, engaged in the same friendly dance, and intermarry as is the case with the Indians that inhabit this Bay and those who have preyed upon the lives and property of our citizens for years past. Indian sympathizers may talk as they please about innocent Indians on this Bay: we are satisfied that the very implements of death and destruction which are now in the hands of the mountain Indians came, in a great measure, through the friendly Indians, and that they received beef and trinkets as a recompense for their wages of sin, we have no doubt. The only plan, then, is to remove them all, and the sooner the better.
- March 17, 1860 Humboldt Times

From time to time since the Humboldt county Indians escaped fro the reservation we have referred to the subject, always urging that for the good of the community and the welfare of the Indians themselves, it would be much the best to have them live at the Klamath, where Government has prepared a home for them, in preference to roaming about their old homes, obtaining a precarious subsistence by doubtful means. This opinion seemed to be that of all of our citizens with whom we conversed. A doubt however prevailed in the minds of some whether provision had been made for their comfortable subsistence at the reservation, which created a division of sentiment, in some degree, as to what course should be adopted. To allow the Indians to remain with us as in years apst, after having been removed and assured that they must not come back, was objectionable for many reasons; to require them to return to the reserve and remain there, while the supplies were inadequate, was equally so. From representations made by former agent, Mr. D.E. Buel, we were of the opinion that the quantity of food provided for them was more than sufficient.
Jan. 6, 1861 Humboldt Times

Private Casey of your Company was badly wounded this morning, in an engagement with the Indians, near Mad River, about 20 miles from here. He was shot with an arrow, about two inches below the right shoulder blade and near the back bone. I pulled the arrow out but the stone head was so deeply embedded that it broke off and, of course, remains in him. He was carried from the ranch, where the fight took place to where heis now on a litter; complains of suffering much pain and is really so bad that I could not move him here. Will you please send medical attendance for him?
I had a fight with the Indians yesterday not far from where I again attacked them this morning and killed between fifteen and twenty; — today five were killed and three wounded. The Indians are very troublesome and almost continually killing cattle..
Respectfully, J.B. Collins, Lieut. 4th Intfy. Comd’g Detachment
April 20, 1861 Humboldt Times

A man who will kill an Indian boy in this manner, without adequate cause, but merely because he belongs to that race of human beings, is not exalted above the savage. It is cowardly acts like this that costs a foul stain upon the reputation of this county, and paralyzes the efforts of those who endeavor to secure aid from Government to protect the lives and property of her citizens from the attacks of hostile bands in the mountains.
June 22, 1861 Humboldt Times

We also hear that a number of cattle owned by Mr. B. Lack of Hoopa were run off recently by Indians from the mouth of Willow Creek. The war is not yet ended.
July 13, 1861 Humboldt Times

Mr. Robenson of Eel river, called upon us yesterday, and showed us a petition which he was circulating, asking Capt. Lovell to take charge of the domesticated Indians, now in the neighborhood, until the Indian Agent shall have time to remove them to the reservation. In the present hostile state of the savages, when incursions are constantly being made, there is great liability that they may suffer the fate intended for hostile Indians only. These peaceful Indians should certainly be placed upon the reservation immediately, and kept there in future.
Aug. 10, 1861 Humboldt Times

Reports reach us that parties in a remote portion of the county are engaged in the business of kidnapping Indian children and disposing them to families in the towns and settlements, receiving such a sum of money as may be agreed upon between the high contracting powers, in each instance from 30 to 50 dollars, according to the “trouble” incurred in obtaining possession of the children. It is intimated — and upon pretty good authority — that stratagem, and sometimes force, is made use of to capture the children, the consent of the children and their relatives being considered of but little importance. What amount of force or cunning is required to obtain possession of these little savages we do not pretend to say; but anyone who has lived long on this portion of the Pacific coast does not need to be told that Indians do not, as a general practice, willingly consent to have their children taken to a distance to reside among strangers. Let us have no more of this business. The law of last winter which provides for the apprenticeship of “vagrant Indians” is perhaps well enough when strictly complied with, but does not contemplate the establishment of a domestic slave trade. Those of our citizens who desire to apprentice Indians under the State law, should carefully scrutinize the manner in which they are separated from their tribe, and offered to them as servants.
Dec. 22, 1861 Humboldt Times

A Brutal Deed
A horrible and atrocious deed was perpetrated on last Saturday night near Arcata. A blind squaw, living with her two children upon the farm of J.C. Preston, was, in cold blood, cruelly butchered!
Our Arcata correspondent, “Q.K.,” thus speaks of the matter, and his sentiments are those of nine-tenths of the people of this county: “The despicable deed causes much indignation in our midst against the cowardly wretch that could, while wearing the form of a man, be so forgetful of manly principle and human feeling as to perpetrate such a foul and damnable outrage. It is not known who the person or persons connected with the affair may be; but a Coroner’s Jury are inquiring in the matter and endeavoring to affix upon the guilty one of the vague suspicion that hangs over the community.
“I know that the publication of such deeds is an injury to us; but when such events occur, they should be made a public example of, to assure the wretches themselves as well as the outside world that we do not assent to such atrocities. It is to be earnestly hoped that the law may trace out the offenders and meet justice to them, for if such be not the case, the searching eye of Vigilance will next essay the task.”
I tis too true that the publication of such deeds of darkness have cast reproach upon this community; those who condemn such crimes and are anxious to bring the offenders to justice are unjustly held responsible. It is just as reasonable to charge the citizens of San Francisco with the crimes of arson, rape and murder, because those crimes are constantly committed in that city.”
Jan. 18, 1862 Humboldt Times

Lynette Mullen's 2013 TEDx talk on slavery in Humboldt County.

Telling a Mother’s Tale

It was pure chance that led me to Lucy Romero but much more than that fed my obsession with her story.

Years ago, I was searching through historic documents in the basement of the Humboldt County Courthouse when I came across the coroner’s inquest from Lucy’s murder. There was so much incredible and appalling detail. I learned that a mother of three young children was brutally murdered in Arcata and that she knew she was going to be killed. And she was almost blind. And that she was encouraged to leave to save herself but chose to stay to save her children. I had so many questions. “Who was she and why would anyone want to kill her?” I became obsessed with finding the answers.

I spent countless hours researching Lucy and learned about the North Coast’s painful settlement history of violence and human trafficking. I looked through every newspaper printed in Humboldt County from 1854 to 1863, pored through military records, census data and Bureau of Indian Affairs documents, and conducted countless personal interviews. Lucy’s story stayed with me but the more I learned about the conditions she faced here, the more overwhelmed I became. I felt guilty I wasn’t sharing Lucy’s story — like I was failing her, but that didn’t help me write it.

It wasn’t until I moved to an old farm house in Blue Lake four years after finding the inquest that things changed. The attic was insulated with old newspapers and among them was the 1928 obituary of Lucy’s son, Charles, which talked about her murder. I went from feeling bad about not telling Lucy’s story to living in a house where her story was literally over my head every day. I don’t know if I believe in ghosts but I do know the odds of finding her story in my attic were astronomical. She was telling me to quit stalling and get to work.

I think it is important to remember that Lucy Romero was one of many who faced unimaginable challenges here. We need to honor those who lived, and died, in our “Indian Wars” and acknowledge that shameful time in our history. Even today, war and violence continue and people face inconceivable choices. Our terrible stories are still being written.

— Lynette Mullen

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Lynette C. Mullen

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