My third post in my 100 Days of Novel Research continues to draw from “Humboldt History, Volume One: Two Peoples, One Place,” by Ray Raphael and Freeman House.
Joseph Russ and his wife Zipporah Russ had 13 children together in Humboldt County. He exhibited a keen business sense in buying up land that became available when “whites who feared local Indians fled from their homesteads in the Bear River area.” Then he rented out the parcels he had acquired…”His store in Ferndale was described as the largest in the country, and he eventually operated an impressive chain of butcher shops in Eureka and several smaller towns. Naturally, he did not overlook the county’s vast timber resources… He bought up land, cut down the trees, sent the logs to his own mill, and shipped the finished lumber to far away places such as Honolulu on his own fleet of schooners…”. The authors conclude this section with, “During an era in which entrepreneurial spirit was lauded and Euro-Americans did whatever they could to ‘develop’ the Humboldt region, more people owed their livelihoods to Joseph Russ than to any other local magnate.”
For my first day of my 100 Days Project, “100 Days of Novel Research,” I’m reading in “Humboldt History, Volume One: Two Peoples, One Place” by Ray Raphael and Freeman House, about the Native American people who lived in Humboldt County long before– and during– the late 1800’s, early 1900’s, which is when my novel takes place. One of the major ways the Euro-Americans devastated the landscape of Humboldt County was by mining the rivers for gold excessively and unwisely. As Ray Raphael writes, “In the second half of the nineteenth century, citizens of Humboldt who looked to make their fortunes by mining or logging or fishing treated these resources as gifts of nature that would ‘go to waste’ unless utilized in the here and now. They did not look very far into the future, to a time when resources might become depleted.”
Primary source, Charlie Thom, said in an interview: “I’m telling you they really raped this land, and I am a full-blooded Indian from the Karuk tribe and it really disturbs me. How this thing came about I don’t know. Greed, a lot of bloodshed, and I look at the country today. What it is. How can they turn the soil upside down and out and do nothing about it? Today we are living in a rock pile along the Klamath. We’re living in a rock pile. No more soil. The erosion came and hit.” (“Humboldt History, Volume One: Two Peoples, One Place,” by Ray Raphael and Freeman House)
This is my sketch of a Karuk woman named Dolly Sanderson, with her handwoven baskets, along the Klamath River, circa 1915.