Was called Squaw Rock now called Frog Woman Rock or in Pomo Native American Maatha kawao qhabe – 5 miles north of Cloverdale

This blog started when I found this pic:

Squaw Rock near Cloverdale

Squaw Rock near Cloverdale

I didn’t recognise the pic ‘cos to me it was the wrong way round. The next time wife Sarah and I went south I realised that the rock is opposite where the road construction is always taking place and where we look down to see how much water is in the river there. When I got home I looked at a map to see exactly where it might be. Here’s the best map that I found:

Map of Squaw Rock whereabouts

Map of Squaw Rock whereabouts

Click on the map to make it full size then look at Route 101. Hopland Elementary school is at the top. The other places shown on the map as being alongside Route 101 were news to me.

For reasons unknown I didn’t blog my “find.” Quite some time later this photo came into my possession:

Squaw Rock on the NWP line

Squaw Rock on the NWP line

I was sure it was Squaw Rock but there was no evidence of a road? And, if you look closely the rail line disappears into the rock. So I started scouring the web and I found a piece in the Press Democrat that tells what turns out to an interesting story ……..

A landmark rock formation towering over the Russian River and Highway 101 in southern Mendocino County is about to get a new — and more politically correct — name. The California State Historical Resource Commission today is expected to re-designate what for more than 50 years has been known as Squaw Rock. Henceforth, it officially will be known as Frog Woman Rock, reflecting a Pomo Native American legend of a man-eating creature, part frog and part woman, who lived in a cave in the face of the rock.

Squaw Rock from the east side of Route 101

Squaw Rock from the east side of Route 101

Squaw Rock is being jettisoned as the name of California Landmark No. 549 because of its questionable roots in local Indian lore and also to eliminate the word squaw, originally an East Coast Indian word that has taken on a derogatory connotation, said tribal representatives and state historians. Local tribes have lobbied to have the name changed since at least 1996. 

Mendocino County Board of Supervisors member John Pinches is among those unimpressed by the impending historical commission act. “It’s been Squaw Rock forever,” he said. “People are still going to be calling it Squaw Rock.” The moniker is believed to stem from a Lovers Leap tale cited in the 1880 “History of Mendocino County,” said William Burg, a state historian.

As that story goes, a young chief named Cachow from a Cloverdale tribe promised to marry Sotuka, daughter of the chief of the Sanel tribe in Hopland. But he instead married another woman. In anger and despair, Sotuka, holding a great stone, threw herself from the cliff, killing herself along with Cachow and his new wife, who were camping at the base of the cliff. At least two other stories have been cited to explain the name. One is that the stone face bore the likeness of an Indian man killed by his brother out of jealousy over a beautiful woman. Another tells of a band of women camping at the base of the rock after leaving their men in protest over threatened intertribal warfare.

State officials said further research by the Hopland Band of Pomo Native Americans and historians has determined that the Lover’s Leap account was never adequately verified as legitimate local Pomo lore and that an altogether different story is a better fit.

In central Pomo dialect, the name for the rock is Maatha kawao qhabe, which translates as frog woman rock, according to a study by linguist Victoria Patterson in 1985. And in local Pomo legend, the giant rock north of Cloverdale was home to Frog Woman, a mythological figure often portrayed as the clever and powerful wife of Coyote, who makes many appearances in Pomo lore as a trickster. She also makes appearances as the wife of Obsidian Man. Frog Woman had a beautiful human face and the body of a frog. She could jump 100 feet and snatch a man who she would devour after he gave her pleasure, according to the historians’ report.

The name change is on the commission’s consent calendar, indicating that no opposition is expected. By whatever name, the rock is situated on a 300-acre ranch owned by Robert and Jeanne Bradford. Jeanne Bradford said Thursday that she signed a document indicating she would not object to a name change. But she also said she would have preferred the Pomo name, followed by its English translation. Her husband, 88, was less than enthusiastic, she said. “He thought it was a ridiculous idea but he didn’t do anything about it,” she said.”

So much for the name. The piece that shed no light on the NWP rail line and tunnel? So, back to the books. The mother lode I found was on Wiki. It’s a bit long but well worth reading:

The Russian River canyon has long been a transportation corridor between the agricultural Ukiah Valley and seaports around San Francisco Bay. Northwestern Pacific Railroad tunnel number 8 was bored 1270 feet  through Frog Woman Rock in 1889 to bring the railroad up the west side of the canyon. Early wagon roads up the east side of the canyon were improved to form United States highway 101. The present highway alignment crosses Squaw Rock Slide on a bridge at milepost MEN 4.9. Early travelers through the canyon noted the upper portion of Frog Woman Rock resembles the profile of a head and face, with imaginatively humanoid or frog-like features. This profile can be most conveniently observed traveling southbound on highway 101 from mileposts MEN 6.4 to 6.2.”

That para provided info on the road and the NWP line. When I read on there was a rather different version of the Press Democrat story:

The European name Squaw Rock may have derived from the story of Lover’s Leap cited in the History of Mendocino County, California, published in 1880. The legend tells of a young chief named Cachow from the village in Cloverdale who promised to marry Sotuka, the daughter of the chief of the Sanel in Hopland. Cachow did not keep his promise and instead married another woman. The newlyweds were camped at the base of a large rock cliff along the Russian River. All three were killed when Sotuka, holding a great stone, jumped from the precipice onto the sleeping pair below.

The veracity of the above description has been debated. The 6th December 1891 Sunday Morning Star newspaper published a legend written by Dr. J.C. Tucker from the recollections of an elderly native American woman. This legend of Squaw Rock may have metamorphosed in retelling: A native American woman who died in the 1850s was said to have lived with a daughter, known as Pancha, fathered by one of the Russians stationed at Fort Ross. Pancha fell in love with a gold prospector identified as Archie Henderson. Henderson had broken his leg in a fall and was nursed through recovery by Pancha and her mother. Pancha became despondent after Henderson was later found dead. A man identified as Concho was believed responsible for Henderson’s death. Concho was expelled from his tribe and the bereaved Pancha jumped or fell to her death. When people observed rocks falling from the cliffs through the following years, some said Pancha’s spirit was casting stones down at some passing person she thought to be Concho.

In 1956, Squaw Rock was designated California Historical Landmark number 549, with a description based upon Palmer’s 1880 Mendocino County History: “This early landmark, also called Lover’s Leap, is associated with the purported legend of a 19th-century Sanel Indian maiden, Sotuka. Her faithless lover, Chief Cachow, married another; all three were killed when Sotuka, holding a great stone, jumped from the precipice upon the sleeping pair below.”

Archival research at the Grace Hudson Museum in Ukiah revealed specific ethnographic information relevant to the California Landmark. John Hudson [husband of Grace Hudson the famous painter of the Pomo Native Americans] was a medical doctor and ethnologist living in Mendocino County in the late 1800s. A vast amount of primary information concerning Pomo tribes is recorded in various journals, notebooks, sketches, paintings, photographs, maps, recordings, and collections of the Hudson family. The following extract is taken from John Hudson’s unpublished Pomo Linguistic Manuscript Ukiah 8 21,069 (circa 1892). The Pomo words identified in the Hudson notebook appear to be in the Northern Pomo language. The orthography (spelling of the words) is as it appears in Hudson’s notebook.

  • Ka-lo’ko-ko. Small flat opposite Squaw Rock. Trail to the west of the rock. The rock is avoided because of Bi-tsin’ ma-ca living there.
  • Bi-tsin’ ma-ca Ka-be’. (frog woman cliff) Squaw Rock. A bold headland near Pieta.
  • Bi-tsin’ ma-ca (frog woman) syn. (Ba-tak’ ma’ca) The white woman of beautiful face but body of a frog. Could jump a hundred feet and snatch a man who after administering to her pleasures was devoured. She had a den in the face of Squaw Rock.

Frog Woman is an important figure in Pomo traditional beliefs. She is generally portrayed as the clever and powerful wife of Coyote, the principal trickster character in many Pomo stories. In some of the stories, she is the mother of Obsidian Man. Frog Woman lived at the place that later became known as Squaw Rock. Pomo people avoided the rock for fear of being eaten by Frog Woman.

In 1985, as part of her doctoral dissertation, research linguist Victoria Patterson conducted ethnographic interviews with Frances Jack, one of the last fluent speakers of the Central Pomo language. Patterson documents that in the Central Pomo dialect “Squaw Rock” was called kawao maatha qhabe, Frog Woman Rock. Thus, there is cultural and ethnographic evidence from speakers of both the Northern Pomo and Central Pomo language that this location was, and still is, known by local Native Pomo as the dwelling of Frog Woman.”

So when you pass the Rock you can say, “I know all about that there Rock. and its name is Frog Woman Rock,”