Old Table Bluff
by Kenneth B. Samuelson 1914-2011 – BIO
The name “Table Bluff” is known in three connections: the name was applied to that geographical feature, a prominent bluff which rises abruptly from the ocean beach at a point between the mouth of the Eel River and the entrance to Humboldt Bay, sloping southeastward to the foothills of the Great Range. The bluff was undoubtedly sighted by the Spaniards in their Pacific Coast explorations. In 1850 it was observed by the Laura Virginia Expedition and given the name “Ridge Point”. A short time later, when the Brannan party made their trek from the Eel to Humboldt Bay they were forced to drag their boat around the bluff, giving it the name “Brannan’s Bluff”.
It is probably not known who gave the area its present name, but it was called “Table Bluff” by the earliest settlers in the area. One of these men, Jackson Sawyer, described the Table Bluff ridge as an elevated area of land approximately seven miles long and one and one-half miles wide, rising abruptly from the sea and terminating in the redwood belt at an elevation of some six or seven hundred feet. He noted that the surface of the ridge is broken by numerous ravines or gulches which extend in various directions. These have since provided fascinating areas for explorations by small boys. One such gulch was a distinguishing feature of the “Tierney Place”, which was our family home from the fall of 1920 to the late spring of 1927 when my father, John H. Samuelson, gave up farming and moved the family into Loleta.
The name of “Table Bluff” was quite naturally applied to the principal settlement of the ridge. This was once a town or village of considerable importance, but by the time of my boyhood days it had become, in some respects at least, almost a ghost town.
Table Bluff was also the name of the township which embraced not only the hill country, but also a considerable area of the Eel River Valley, and in which Loleta has long since replaced Table Bluff as the trade center of the region. The township itself was established in 1853. being one of seven then in existence.
PIONEER SETTLES AND EARLY GROWTH
The discovery of Humboldt Bay by the Gregg Party in 1849 was followed almost Immediately by an influx of settlers. In the Table Bluff area settlement was begun as early as 1851, when Seth Lewis and his brother Stephen W. Shaw, together with Willard Allen, made an attempt at farming near the west end of Table Bluff ridge. Prolonged dry weather made their crops a disappointment to the three men, however, and their subsequent move across theEel River was to result in the founding of Ferndale by Seth Shaw.
The claim furthest west on Table Bluff was taken up by Numa Duperu in 1852. After occupying the property for seven years and making certain improvements upon Its he left for the San Francisco area. Adjacent to Duperu’s claim on the east was that of Jacob D. Myers. This was to develop into a shipping point of some importance, as It included considerable frontage on
Humboldt Bay, with access to deep water. In 1873 Myers sold his property and departed for San Diego.
On the other side of the ridge a Captain Wright acquired holdings at the head of a waterway which was to be known as McNulty Slough, and established a shipping point for freight to and from the Eel River. Wright, an old man when he arrived in the Table Bluff area, later became mentally deranged. It is said that he wandered off one day and died, his body remaining undiscovered for some five or six months.
Richard Woffenden occupied land adjoining that of Wright on the east. Later, he too left the area and made his way to Mexico. Elisha Marks whose name was later given to the western school district of Table Bluff, settled on an area of land east of Myers’ holdings.
Other settlers in the 1852-53 period were G. H. Brown, William Espie, Jackson Sawyer, and Allen Hawks. By the end of 1854 the following settlers had joined the ranks of thosee named above: Richard. Hefley, C. A. Sherman, James I. Whitten, Frank Legg, Arthur Wigmore, W. H. Gilman, Richard Cox, J. P. Albee, Elephalet Bulkeley, John Van Aernam, C. Garrett, Lemon Stark and Seth Kinman.
Not all of these men settled in the immediate area of Table Bluff. They were, however, located within the township. J. P. Albee, for instance, settled in the Salmon Creek area. There, the ruins of his home could still be seen when my grandfather, B.C. Schnoor leased the adjoining E. P. Vance holdings in the early 1900’s.
According to the Eighth Census (1860) the population of Table Bluff Township was listed as 157, with 111 males and 46 females. By 1870 the total population had increased to 408 and it continued to grow.
EARLY PIONEER LIFE
The homes of early Table Bluff settlers were small, and were, no doubt crudely constructed. The Elephalet Bulkeley home on Singley Road was perhaps typical. It consisted of two rooms and garret. One of the rooms was lighted by two half-sash windows. The other had one half-sash window, while the garret was lighted by a single pane of glass. A wheat bin and an oat bin served as beds, while the “chairs” were three-legged stools.
Farm life must have been discouraging at times. It has already been noted that three of the first settlers gave up very quickly because dry weather produced poor crops. Jackson Sawyer remarked that among the hazards of pioneer farming were flocks of crows and blackbirds which greedily snatched up newly-sown grain. This frequently resulted In the necessity for replanting.
Bears, too, were a menace to crops, fences, and farm animals, Nowadays one can scarcely imagine this to have been true. They destroyed grain fields, eating some of the crop and trampling the rest. They were fond of pork, and could devour quite a large hog. Sawyer found it a tiresome chore to get up at night and help the dogs scare the bears away from the hog pen. “The bears,” he said, ” were usually willing to run,” and he was willing to let them go.
THE TABLE BLUFF SCHOOL
In January of 1921 I transferred from the Salmon Creek School to the Table Bluff School where, a few months later, I completed the first grade under the expert tutelage of a well—known and much—loved teacher, Miss Anne Canty of Ferndale. At the end of the school year, on Friday, June 11, I took part in the annual graduation “exercises” with a recitation entitled “My Speech.” Also on the program were a flag drill by Annie Cate, Margaret Barry, Don Musser, Eleanor Barry, and Gordon and Elizabeth McKenzie; a valedictory by Norman Clough,, and a group of songs “rendered” in chorus by the school. The latter were accompanied by a high school student and recent graduate, Miss Delma Clough (now Mrs. Melvin Swain of Fortuna) on the school’s always somewhat wheezy reed organ. That organ usually required to be dried out by several hours’ proximity to the schoolroom stove before it would function in a manner at all similar to that intended by its manufacturers.
All I knew, as a pupil, about the history of the school was that it, like all the other buildings nearby, was old. Table Bluff had originally been Included in the Bucksport school district, but in 1859 The Table Bluff Township was constituted a separate district. Classes were being held as early as 1863, but the school building did not come Into existence until 1865. At that time a building measuring 24 x 32 ft. was erected. In 1869 the district was divided, and the West Table Bluff district was formed in the Eel River Valley. In 1883 the upper part of the district was divided, the western portion forming the Clark School District, named for the pioneer Elisha Clark.
The School building itself was probably much like its one-room counterpart in any American rural community. Entry to the main room was by way of a vestibule or “ante-room” as It was called, which was surmounted by a belfry and flagpole. The ante-room provided hooks for the disposition of coats and caps during school hours, shelves for the storage of lunch “buckets,” and a porcelain sink which drained directly Into the earth beneath the floor.
At no time in its entire history did our school have running water. Water for drinking and for the washing of hands and faces as required, was carried and stored in a galvanized pail. Each day two pupils were detailed to the chore of carrying a fresh supply of water from the blacksmith shop nearby. This was usually a welcome assignment, particularly If the need for fresh water should develop during class time A tin dipper and an agate-ware wash basin completed the indoor “sanitary” facilities, until, eventually, a stoneware water cooler was acquired. “Outdoor facilities” flanked a large woodshed behind the schoolhouse. As I first knew it, the Table Bluff School presented an attractive appearance with its yellow paint, white trim, and green shutters.
In the center of the schoolroom stood the inevitable large cast iron stove. Ours was flat-topped, and on it, in winter time, the teacher prepared a lunchtime drink of hot chocolate from ingredients supplied by pupils’ mothers. Anyone who has known a one-room school can imagine the rest of the details for himself: a teacher’s desk of the usual design, pupils’ desks of graduated sizes arranged in four rows, a bookcase, an assortment of wall maps, a globe suspended from the ceiling, and the afore-mentioned organ which, as I recall, was eventually relegated to the woodshed and complete disintegration.
The learning process of schools such as ours was simple but effective. We actually learned our “readin,’ writing’ and ‘rithmetic.” The close proximity of the several grades within a single room did something to further this process, I suppose. There was a tendency, if one was at all interested in book learning, to assimilate the contents of the lessons of other grades as well as one’s own.
It was always something of an occasion when the school had a visitor. Occasionally, though not often, a parent (usually a mother) would drop in. One of the regular visitors was a Mr. Parker, one of the county school supervisors. I remember him as a kindly man, probably in his sixties. The outstanding physical characteristic of Mr. Parker was that he had no feet. His lower extremities terminated in two leather-covered “stumps” broad enough at the base to provide solid footing.
The County Superintendent of Schools, Mr. Robert Bugbee, was also an occasional visitor.
One of the delights of the lunch-hour at school was the swapping of various items of the lunches with which our mothers had provided us. My brother Jonathan and I were sometimes provided with extras of especially desirable tidbits just for that purpose. We could either trade them for something we fancied, according to the bartering moods of the other pupils, or give them outright, as we often did, to someone whose own lunch was skimpy that day, or who expressed a desire for them.
My uncle Jack (John A. Mouat) recalls a time at the Table Bluff School when each pupil was required to recite a short aphorism, stating the author thereof. In time, fresh supplies of these became difficult to find. It seems that on one occasion a girl named Lucille Vetter, in desperation offered this on a rainy day: “It is raining. Shakespeare.” It is said that the teacher, though amused, called Miss Vetter’s bluff.
The last day of school, prior to summer vacation, was nearly always the occasion of a school picnic. Sequoia Park In Eureka was the favorite picnic place in my own school days, while Fortuna’s Rohner Park made an acceptable substitute.
My uncle recalls a time in his own school days when the annual picnic was held on the “south spit,” in the area called “the Apron.” (a landing place for barges during the construction of the south jetty.) The entire school was transported to the picnic place on board a scow owned by a man named “Scoopnick” (spelling uncertain). The scow was equipped with sail. To get under way from Heney’s landing it was necessary to sail on a high tide, and to land again at Heney’s the scow had to return on the next high tide, six hours later.
In 1951, due to decreasing enrollments in the Table Bluff, Clark, and Cannibal Island School Districts, these were consolidated with the Loleta School, thus forming a new district nearly identical in area to the original Table Bluff district.
With the closing of the school, only one of the old Table Bluff institutions remained, the blacksmith shop, and It was soon to pass Into history along with the rest of Old Table Bluff.
ST. PATRICK’S ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
Churches have always held a fascination for me, even as a small boy. Table Bluff’s one church, St. Patrick’s, was the first church of which I had ever seen the Interior, for It was the only church near which our family had ever lived. My brother and I occasionally visited St. Patrick’s on a Saturday In the company of our neighbor, Mrs. David Fitzsimmons, when she went to prepare the altar for Sunday Mass. I understood little or nothing of the symbolism of the various furnishings and ornaments of the church, but as a small boy I thought them beautiful, and I was captivated by the mysteries at which they hinted.
The exterior of the church was certainly plain by any standards. The walls were of white clapboards. There were frosted windows of pointed, arch design, and there was a minimum of “carpenter gothic” gingerbread. The interior, too, was probably plain by most standards, but to me it was beautiful, and no doubt several generations of devout Catholics had felt the sane way about it.
My interest in St. Patrick’s was heightened by the fact that it had been built on a corner of the farm on which our family was living, and moved at a later date to its present site.
As Roman Catholics had increased in Humboldt County, there had been a concern on the part of Archbishop Allemany of San Francisco to provide the Church’s sacraments for them. This was done, at first, on an occasional basis. The first recorded visit of a Catholic priest to the area was by Father James Croke in the early 1850’s. Father Croke, a traveling missionary, came at Intervals from southern Oregon during 1853 and 1854, making his headquarters with the Shanahan family of Bucksport. From there he travelled to outlying areas to minister to the scattered Catholic settlers. In 1867 Saint Patrick’s church was constructed on its original site, and the newly completed building was valued at $500.00. By 1869 the congregation consisted of approximately 150 persons, not all of whom were Table Bluff residents. The church ministered to the entire Eel River area.
The site first chosen for the church was the upper end of a ridge called “Windy Point,* which sloped toward Humboldt Bay. According to one source, the point was then so windy that Father Walrath, the priest in charge, was distracted during Mass by the howling breezes. This led him to seek a new site for the church, and in March of 1872 St. Patrick’s was moved to a location on the outskirts of “downtown” Table Bluff. It is said that the entire removal operation was the work of but a single Sunday afternoon, a claim which I suspect is ill-founded.
In its new location, old St. Patrick’s continued to serve as the spiritual home of succeeding generations of Catholic families for over fifty years. However, as the Catholic population of Table Bluff diminished, and that of the Loleta area increased, constant pressure was exerted for the building of a new church In Loleta. In due course this was accomplished, and in 1926 the furnishings of the Table Bluff church were transferred, on a Sunday afternoon, to the new buildings and the old one was abandoned and razed. This left only two of Table Bluff’s venerable institutions, the school and the blacksmith shop still functioning.,
Despite its long history, St. Patrick’s has never been a true parish. It began as a mission of St. Bernard’s parish, Eureka. Later it was served by the Fathers of the Precious Blood Monastery and the priests of St Joseph’s College, Rohnerville. With the founding of Assumption Parish in Ferndale, the Table Bluff Catholics were under the cure of the Ferndale pastors. Still later, when St. Joseph’s Church was established In Fortuna, St.Patrick’s became a mission of that parish, and remains such today. Since Loleta is not likely to grow as a community in the forseeable future, St. Patrick’s will undoubtedly continue as a mission church or “chapel of ease” for many years to come.
Although the new Liturgical Constitutions of the Second Vatic Council have brought about certain changes In the material adjuncts of Catholic worship, the people of St. Patrick’s still assist at mass before the same altar, the same statues of St. Mary and St. Patrick, the same altar appointments, and in the same pews which graced the old church in Table Bluff.
TABLE BLUFF BLACKSMITH SHOPS
The otherwise quiet atmosphere of Table Bluff was for many years punctuated by the clanging of the anvils of two blacksmith shops. Of one of these I know nothing, save that it once existed at a location near the present home of Mr. and Mrs. James Clark. The present shop building, now well over a century old, was sagging in certain spots even during my schoolboy days In the 1920’s.
My uncle, Jack Mouat, was the blacksmith, and I often paused at his doorway, coming to or from school, to see what he was doing. On almost any weekday horses could be seen in the process of being shod or awaiting their turn. In the shoeing area there always stood a round footed tray which held hoof-rasp, pincers, hammer, nails and other shoeing equipment. Shoes of all sizes were always ready at hand. I remember too, kegs of nails of different sizes, ready either for sale, or for use in the many kinds of repair jobs brought to the shop. Oft-repeated jobs were the resetting of steel rims on wagon wheels, the sharpening of plough-shares and mowing-machine sickles, and the building of wagon beds. Not a few present day Humboldt ranchers still use at branding time irons which are the product of the forge and the anvil of “smithy” Mouat.
As the machine age progressed, farming methods changed, and so did the work of the blacksmith. In time, the “smith’s” art was to be all but lost. The Table Bluff blacksmith shop was the only one left in the county.
The shop had been established some time prior to 1875, for in that year it was sold by the original proprietor, Henry Huden, to E. L. Plath. It was later purchased in partnership by Carlin Kinman and W. H. Holland. When Michael J. Barry took possession of the premises in 1894 the building had fallen into serious disrepair.
After Barry had operated the shop for twenty-six years he turned it over to his stepson, J. A. Mouat Sr. (husband of my aunt, the former Anna Schnoor of Beatrice). He ran the business for forty-six years, until his retirement in 1962, and still owns the building and equipment, much of which is no doubt as old, as the building which houses it. (Editor’s note: as of 2017 the smithy is set up and sometimes demonstrated at the Ferndale Museum).
TABLE BLUFF HOSTELRIES
Standing a few feet from the old blacksmith shop is “The Hotel” as It has long been known. The last survivor of several Table Bluff hotel buildings, it is now the home of John and Anna Mouat. The exact age of the present building Is not known. At least two hotels were in operation In the town of Table Bluff itself. Others existed to the southeast and northwest of that location.
Wallace Elliott states that the first hotel at Table Bluff was kept by John Van Arenam (Aernam) and was at that time the only hotel south of Eureka. It was said to have enjoyed a large patronage, serving dinner to as many as fifty persons at one time.
It Is recorded that some time prior to 1853 John Catherwood and W. D. McGuire settled near “town” (Table Bluff) and that Catherwood had built the Table Bluff Hotel. In 1853 John Van Aernam filed claim to the land on which the Table Bluff Tavern had already been built.
According to the licensing records of the County Auditor for 1853-1854, Jacob Keiffer was licensed in 1853 to conduct business under the name of the Table Bluff Tavern. In 1854 an establishment of the same name was licensed to Bradbury and Chillis who had, presumably, taken over Keiffer’s business. Nine years later, In 1862, the Tavern was purçhased from the Van Aernam estate by L. S. Hicks who renamed It “The Table Bluff Hotel.”
It is reported-that in 1875 a hall, suitable for dances and other entertainment was added to the building. This would seem to tally with the description of the present day building. However, there Is some doubt as to whether the building referred to above is actually the existing one. According to local hearsay and the findings of the Mouats in making certain repairs and alterations, the saloon or hail Is the older part of the building, the rest of the structure having been added In later years. The wall separating the present kitchen and a downstairs bedroom from the “hail” (now a living room) was found, very clearly, to have been an outside wall, not of the hotel, but of the saloon or hall.
Another hotel within the townsite stood on property now owned. by Mr. and Mrs. James Clark, near what would have been the northern outskirts of the town. At the same location there was also a livery stable. These have since been destroyed by fire. Dates pertaining to this hotel are unknown, as far as can be ascertained, at least. When Wallace Elliott stated in 1881 that Table Bluff had one good hotel, did he mean that there was only one in existence, or only one which was good? One can only speculate.
Approximately two miles southwest of town, Elephalet Bulkeley homesteaded in 1852, and there erected the Union House a few years later. This was located on Singley Road near its intersection with Peugh Road, now Echo Lane. This hotel was a popular gathering place, and the scene of many dances and other social events.
Near the other end of Table Bluff, still another hotel was operated by H. Neibur in the flourishing days of the port. The old Charles H. Heney home itself is said to have been used as a hotel. Whether this was the one operated by Neibur, whether it was operated by Heney himself, or merely used as a family home (it has a total of 22 rooms) is not entirely clear. At any rate, the building is still In good repair, and is occupied today by Yr. and Mrs. Sonnick Christiansen. Incidentally, Sonnick’s parents once lived In the old. Union House, later known as the DerIng place and now part of the holdings of Henry Perrott.
I cannot recall ever having seen the building known as the Union House, but one of the outbuildings remained at least into the 1920’s, together with some gnarled fruit trees, and even today some, old eucalyptus trees remain to mark the spot
In the latter 1920’s and the 1930’s the present Table Bluff Hotel building was occupied by the A. Pasini family, and was a popular gathering place for their many Italian Swiss friends. One of their additions to the premises was a bocci court. Bocci (boccie or bocce) or Italian lawn bowls, was Immensely popular with the men who visited the hotel in those days.
During World War II the hotel was taken over by the United States Coast Guard as a barracks for beach patrol units. It served as a sub—station for the Coast Guard Installation on the Samoa peninsula, and housed between twenty and thirty men, the hail or saloon part of the building serving as a dormitory.
Following the war, the property was acquired by the Mouats, and it has been their home for nearly thirty years.
In 1881 Wallace Elliott described Table Bluff as having “one good. hotel, two general stores, and a Granger hall.”General merchandising had begun in the Table Bluff area within two years after the arrival of the first settlers, however. In 1853 a license was issued to Mr. B. Sanger for general store* This was located in the townsite proper. A similar business was established in the following year by Numa Duperu at a location somewhere west of Myers’ Landing (later Heney’s). In the same year, 1854, Richard Cox was licensed as a purveyor of Liquor and Merchandise. The location of Mr. Cox’s business is not now known.
E.B. Patrick established a general store”near the hotel” In 1871. Again one wonders: did Mr. Patrick establish a new business, did he purchase an existing business, or did he re-open one which had been closed for a time? One wonders also, near which hotel did the Patrick store stand?
The firm of McNamara, Kinsey, and McNulty either established or purchased a general store in 1876. Another business establishment mentioned in early sources is that of Mr. Joseph Otto who, in 1878 was operating a boot-making establishment in Table Bluff, being regarded there as a respected citizen.
The last store proprietor of Table Bluff was a Mrs. Dillon. Her establishment was located near the James Clark residence on Table Bluff Road. (The building has long since disappeared) One Table Bluff store building still survives, however. It’s last proprietor was Bob Lathrow.
Mrs. Christine Barry told, in her reminiscences of early days, of walking from her family home (later the Antognazzi place) over the hill, through the Perrott ranch, to the Lathrow store. The Lathrow store building, later part of the John McNaughton property, was acquired in 1921 by J. A. Mouat Sr. along with the house to which it was attached. The house became the first home of John Mouat and his bride, Today, the store, now turned into living quarters, is occupied by Archie Heney, grandson of Charles H. Heney of western Table Bluff.
As was characteristic of frontier towns and pioneer settlements all over the West, the saloon was a flourishing Institution, much frequented by at least the male element of the population. Most residents of Table Bluff, even today, are probably aware that the one—story portion of the Mouat home was once a saloon. It was, however, only one of several such scenes of old—time conviviality.
One Jacob Keiffer, in 1853 obtained a license to operate the Table Bluff Tavern, later known as the Table Bluff Hotel. This may have been on or near the site of the one referred to above’ In the same year, Messrs. Delassaux and Pulsford opened the Table Bluff Bar. This was located near the western end of the ridge, somewhere between Waite’s Landing and Myers’ Landing. In 1854 a license was issued to Bradbury and Chillis, who had, apparently taken over Keiffer’s Table Bluff Tavern.
Elliott, in his History of Humboldt County, points out that early settlers in new communities were either unmarried, or had left their wives and families behind them temporarily. They were forced to take up living quarters in all sorts of crude and unattractive places. It was no wonder that these men turned eagerly to the amusements afforded by the saloons, for in addition to the stimulants offered for sale, there was always some attempt to make these places as attractive as possible, thus providing a welcome contrast to the crudeness of their surroundings. Music was always in demand, and anyone who owned an instrument such as a fiddle, concertina, or guitar would be assured of cash remuneration, free drinks, or both.
Seth Kinman became the proprietor of the saloon adjacent to the blacksmith shop in 1881 and began the development of a museum which contained, among other displays, a collection of fiddles. This, as far as is known, was the last addition to the town of Table Bluff.
TABLE BLUFF GRANGE
On October 29 1873, T. H. Merry, General Deputy of the California Grange and Patrons of Husbandry, organized. Table Bluff Grange #101. Jackson Sawyer became its first master, and represented Table Bluff Grange at the annual meeting of the State Grange on October 14 of the same year. By 1877 the Grange had completed a two-story building on Table Bluff Road, facing the schoolhouse.
In addition to Sawyer, the charter members of the Grange were: B.H.C. Pollard, Secretary, Elan B. Long, T. T. Clyde, Edwin P. Vance, Elizabeth Long, D. A. De Merritt, Samuel Foss, Jerry Quill, James Wolgamott, Mary Foss, Julia Quill, Owen McNulty, Patrick O’Rourke, I. P. Walsh, Ellen McNulty, Catherine O’Rourke, Mary Walsh, John McNulty, Louis Buyatte, Hannah Pollard, Hannah Sawyer, Minerva Buyatee, P. J. Knight, B. Tierney, I. E. Still, H. P. Dothen, and Patrick Quinn.
During the early 1900’s the Granges in Humboldt County died out, due, it was said, to a waning interest in their work, and the formation of cliques. The Table Bluff Grange had disbanded earlier than that, however. In 1882 the hail was sold to another organization, and the Grange went out of existence.
Although the Grange as an institution has again come into importance, Grange #101 was never re-activated. Its charter now hangs on the wall of Humboldt Grange Hall, Spruce Point.
The old Grange hail was still standing in the early 1920’s. Both the building and the land on which it stood were eventually purchased by Byron Fasset, a newcomer to the area, who dismantled the building and used the lumber for the construction of a chicken house. The chicken house has since succumbed to a heavy windstorm
THE INTERNATIONAL ORDER of GOOD TEMPLARS # 460
It was inevitable, perhaps, that wherever saloons flourished, as apparently they did, in Table Bluff and its environs, temperance organizations were to be found also. In Humboldt County the first such organization, probably, was that established in Arcata in 1857 and known as the “Reformed Drunkards.” The Sons of Temperance also flourished for a time, being first organized in Eureka in January of 1858. The “Sons” were followed. by the Good Templars, an organization which soon established branch lodges throughout the bay region from Arcata to Rohnerville. District officers were elected. periodically. Female lodge members were referred to as “Sister So-and So,” and presumably wale members were addressed as “Brother.”
Members of the Order were dedicated to the purpose of “combatting the fell-destroyer—intoxicating liquors” and their attendant “baleful and evil” influences.
The Table Bluff Lodge, International Order of Good Templars, #460 was organized probably in the late 18709s or early ‘801s. Their first elected officers were Mr. & Mrs. W. H. Perrott, W. H. Ellery, Miss Essie Vance, Mrs. J.M. Eddy, and Mrs. J. Adams. In 1882 the Table Bluff Templars purchased the edifice of the Grange, which was then disbanding.
There is no evidence that the IOGT existed for any considerable length of time in Table Bluff, or elsewhere for that matter, or that they had any appreciable effect upon the consumption of alcoholic beverages. It has been remarked that the organization. must have had heavy going among the hard-drinking Irishmen of Table Bluff.
It was reported that in 1881, however, the Templars were instrumental in the arrest of a Salmon Creek saloon owner, MoNalley, for keeping his premises open on Sunday.
TABLE BLUFF CEMETERIES
The northwest corner of our farm, “the Tierney Place”, was known as “the graveyard field.” There, surrounding the original site of St. Patrick’s Church, had been buried the bodies of the earliest Table Bluff Catholics. According to Mr. & Mrs. Hubert Long and Mrs. Theresa Kerfoot from whom my father had taken over the Tierney place, all the graves but one had been removed when the church was moved in 1872. The somewhat ornate (and originally white) Gothic style picket fence which had surrounded the supposedly one remaining grave had been ploughed around for a number of years by succeeding owners of the property. Final to save trouble, the fence was removed to the northeast corner of the fields and the location of the grave, as well as the name of its occupant, was forgotten.
According to another tradition however, (and this is probably the truth) none of the bodies was ever transferred from the old to the new cemetery. It is said that a severe grass fire swept up over the ridge and burned all but one of the picket fences surrounding the graves. As a result, the locations of the various graves were lost, except for the one, the fence from which was indeed removed. Covered with briers and weeds, it still existed in my boyhood days, and I have seen it often.
Apparently, then, that first Catholic cemetery still exists to this day, though no one knows the location of any of the graves, nor for that matter, even the exact boundaries of the graveyard.
The present St. Patrick’s Cemetery is still In use. The most recent burial there was that of Mr. Frank Davy of Loleta, in 1972.
Another cemetery, non-denomination in origin, and known as the Table Bluff Cemetery, was established by a group known as the Table Bluff Cemetery Association in 1887. In that year the association secured a tract of land sufficient for cemetery purposes from Mr. V. H. Perrott. Many of the Table Bluff pioneers, including Jackson Sawyer and Seth Kinman are burled there. The earliest date of burial there, according to a well-preserved marker, is 1875. This was, of course, before the cemetery had been officially established.
From time to time throughout the cemetery’s history there has been agitation to build a new fence around It. This has now been done, after many delays. At one time, In the early 1930’s when Frank Bertsch was an officer of the Cemetery Association I heard him say: “They want a new fence around the cemetery. What for? The ones outside don’t want to get In, and the ones Inside can’t get out. Why do we need a fence at all?”
ROADS AND STAGES
Early Table Bluff settlers had the advantage of living within a few miles of all early stage routes between Eureka and the south. Roads of a rudimentary sort were quickly developed and by 1854 several stages were passing through the area regularly, either by way of Bannher Hill at the extreme east end of the ridge, or by way of Singley Road, through the town itself.
By January 4, 1862, according to the Humboldt Times of that date, stage service had been established between Eureka and Petrolia via Table Bluff, Ferndale, and Pacific (Centerville). By 1871 there were daily runs to Centerville.
Bi-weekly mail service between Eureka and San Francisco, via Table Bluff, Hydesyille, and Cloverdale had developed by 1868. In July of that year mall service was increased to three trips weekly.
The road which linked the town of Table Bluff with its nearest port facility, Hookton, was petitioned for in 1858, and presumably was built shortly thereafter. Since some of the roads In the township were not graveled before 1872, one can readily Imagine their condition, especially during the rainy months of the year. An Increase in taxes levied in 1872 was earmarked for road development, and this brought about the graveling of certain sections of the Singley and Hawks Hill roads.
Much of the gravel used was the yellow-colored hill gravel found in pits developed on the Tierney and Richard Cloney properties,
THE PORTS OF TABLE BLUFF
No one today is likely to connect Table Bluff with waterways, but the fact Is that three separate ports, Waite’s Landing, Myers’ Landing and the Hookton port made significant contributions to the development of the township. Waite’s Landing on McNulty Slough developed out of the earlier work of Captain Wright.
Across the ridge, on the south shore of Humboldt Bay, the landing developed by Jacob D. Myers had, by 1859 gained considerable importance as a shipping point. At that time the steamer Laura Ellen was making three trips per week to the south bay port. The vessels Sam Slick, Ida, Gussie McAlpine and Glide were also making regular trips to Myers’ Landing. The last-named of these ships was, incidentally, the first vessel to be built on Humboldt Bay. Completed in 1854, her regular run at that time was between Eureka and Arcata.
Charles Hook’s landing, Hookton, was the port nearest the town of Table Bluff. There, on an arm of the bay still known as Hookton Slough were a wharf and warehouses for grain and other items of freight.
In 1873 Charles H. Heney purchased both Waite’s Landing and that of Myers, and laid ambitious plans for a port community on the south bay to be known as Southport. Among other business establishments in Southport were a hotel operated by H. Neibur, a saloon, and a general store.
These two landings were to be the terminals of a unique transportation venture known as Heney’s Railroad.
Having acquired port sites on both sides of Table Bluff, Charles H. Heney conceived a plan for linking the two waterways, McNulty Slough and Humboldt Bay, by means of a railroad. McNulty Slough gave access by water to both the Eel and Salt Rivers, and the channel to Pacific or Centerville.
The proposed railroad would link the entire Eel River Valley to Humboldt Bay, replacing the freight wagons which had formerly connected Waite’s and Myers’ Lándings The route of the new railroad lay west from Southport to the ocean beach, and around the point at the base of the bluff, thence to the head of McNulty Slough
Mr. Heney made a trip to San Francisco, ostensibly to purchase conventional railroad equipment: a steam locomotive, steel rails, and freight cars. However, the trip having been made, the locomotive and rails were nowhere in evidence. When the railroad finally commenced operations, its freight cars were powered by two mules hitched in tandem. The rails were of wood, not steel. They were fashioned of pepperwood, a specie of timber found to have the quality of not splintering easily. The space between the rails was planked so as to provide solid footing for the mules.
For a time all went well, and cargoes moved easily from the valley to the bay. However, in February of 1876 heavy storms in the Eel River Valley resulted In the formation of a sandbar across McNulty Slough, blocking it to the passage of freight vessels. As cargo piled up In the valley warehouses, Eel River shippers sought an alternate source of transportation for their goods. An answer came in the form of the steamer Continental, which began hauling cargo from valley wharfs on a regular basis. By the time McNulty Slough was again open to vessels, the Continental had made such inroads into Heney’s business that he closed down the operation of the railroad permanently on September 239 1877, although both ports remained open for some time thereafter
During the winter of 1878 heavy seas dashed waves against the bed of the railroad, washing sections of track against the bluff, and reducing the railroad to a shambles. Thus closed the relatively brief history of Table Bluff railroading.
A look at the Table Bluff of today would never lead one to guess that the town had ever had a post office of its own. However, local postal service was begun in 1867 when a post office was opened in the Union House on Singley Road. This was transferred, in 1879 to the Table Bluff Hotel. In 1875 a telegraph office was opened, thus making possible comparatively rapid communication with outside areas.
The building of what was later to become the Northwestern Pacific Railroad, through Loleta, had a marked effect on the development of that community. The opening of the Loleta Post Office was accompanied by a decline in the importance of the Table Bluff office, and in 1891 the latter was closed.
When a railroad station was opened in the Salmon Creek area, a post office was opened in conjunction with it, with Miss Beatrice White as the first postmaster, In her honor, the railroad station came to be known as Beatrice, a name which survives, though the station and post office have long since closed. Residents of Table Bluff were patrons of the Beatrice post office until rural tree delivery was provided out of Loleta.
The Table Bluff people were social folk, and dances and parties were frequent affairs. The completion of a new home was sure to call for a housewarming. The erection of a new barn was Invariably the occasion of a barn dance, and a newly-married couple had to be “shivareed.”
The Union House has already been mentioned as being a popular place for dances and other social events. Doubtless the same thing was true of the Table Bluff Hotel and other local hostelries.
The Irish loved their jigs and reels, and the various square dances, polkas, schottisches, two-steps and waltzes were always popular. Music for dancing was furnished by such instruments as the fiddle and concertina. t was said of pioneer Seth Kinman that he could call a square-dance, fiddle, and spark a woman all at the same tlme. In later years my uncle, Martin L. Schnoor was one of the fiddlers for these occasions.
As late as the 1920’s there were large social gatherings occasionally In various Table Bluff homes. I can remember accompanying my parents to one such party at the Patrick Quinn home. Invitations had been extended to neighbors for miles around. One of the delights of the evening was seeing Pat and Mary Quinn, then In their seventies, dance an Irish jig.
One of the highlights of Table Bluff social life must surely have been the dedication of the Grange Hall in 1876. A ball was held, music for which was provided by Kausen’s Quadrille Band of Ferndale.
A number of early Table Bluff settlers were involved in the political life of Humboldt County, serving both county and township as elected or appointed officials.
A roster of early constables of the township Includes the following: Jackson Sawyer, Patrick Quinn, and Thomas McNaughton.
Elephalet Bulkeley served a term as County Sheriff between 1871 or 1872, and 1875.
Elisha Clark became County Clerk In 1857, and Jacob Myers was appointed Coroner In 1854.
A list of early Table Bluff polling places Includes the following;
1853-85 Table Bluff Hotel
1856-57 Jacob Myers’ Residence
1858-60. Table Bluff Hotel
1861-64 Union House
1865-66 Table Bluff Schoolhouse
1867-70 Union House
1871-84 Table Bluff Schoolhouse
VIGNETTES OF HORSE AND BUGGY DAYS
The horse-and-buggy era had, I suppose, its equivalent of “dragging,” and drivers were fond of a good race now and then. A source of amusement to the few who were ever let in on the secret was the outcome of a race between John P. (Jack) Schnoor of Beatrice and another driver of high-stepping horseflesh whose name is not presently known. Jack drove a spirited little mare named “Cassie”, a sorrel with a white blaze. The race was from Loleta to Salmon Creek via Hawks Hill. Jack, who was in the lead, apparently feared that his opponent was gaining too rapidly. Where the road makes a sharp curve around the Table Bluff blacksmith shop, Jack wheeled his horse and buggy into the shop and closed the door as his opponent rushed past without again sighting his competition.
My uncle tells of a woman who, tired of riding in her buggy, was walking walking up Hawks Hill leading her horse. The reins were wrapped around the buggy-whip socket. Suddenly the horse was “spooked” and took off with the buggy, leaving the woman behind. As the buggy rounded the curve by the blacksmith shop it collided with the butcher’s van (also horse-drawn) which was standing outside the hotel. The buggy rolled over into the willows across the road from the shop, while the horse streaked off toward Salmon Creek with the shafts. There he was stopped, either by my Grandfather B. C Schnoor or one of his sons. The butcher’s horse took off toward Singley Hill with Barry, the blacksmith, In hot pursuit. The runaway was halted at the Union House, with the butcher’s change box and meat all present and accounted for, though the doors of the van had been open all the way.
Agriculture and transportation seem to be the two factors which have had the most to do with both the growth and decline of Table Bluff. With the coming of the railroad, virtually all commercial traffic by-passed the little community, and its businesses closed one by one until today, there is nothing left of old Table Bluff but a few scattered dwellings.
Hill farming proved to be not very profitable, and farms have been turned into grazing land, most of which is now owned by valley ranchers who pasture their livestock there but live elsewhere.
Nevertheless, the population of Table Bluff is growing. Some twenty years ago while a group of “Bluff” residents were reminiscing about the “old days” one of them, “Ma Linder” as she was affectionately known, made the prediction that Table Bluff, like the fabled phoenix, would one day rise again. Today, the people seek “view” property upon which to build their homes, and the influx of mobile homes, of which there are a number, may bear out the truth of Ma Linder’s words.
It may be, as M. A. Parry says, that grazing will go the way of farming, and that the area will become largely a residential one. It may even be that retail business will one day return to Table Bluff Town.
Editor’s note: This article was written in 1973 by Ken Samuelson for Andrew Genzoli’s class at College of the Redwoods. Reverend Samuelson – Father Ken – Ken or Kenny to some – was age 59. Andy graded the paper “A – a pleasure to read”.