Orr Hot Springs

Orr Hot Springs (also known as Orrs Springs, Orr’s Hot Sulphur Springs or Orrs) is located 15 miles almost directly north of  Boonville. it is also accessible from Ukiah or Mendocino by following Orr Springs Rd. The Orrs post office operated from 1889 to 1911 and from 1915 to 1933. The name honored Samuel Orr, an early settler. Orr’s son established a stage coach station and a resort there. The springs flourish on 27 acres at the headwaters of Big River.

Pomo Native Americans regularly passed through on trading expeditions and on annual treks to the Mendocino coast. Unfriendly tribes agreed to co-exist peacefully while stopping at the hot springs. In the late 1800s, “Orr Hot Sulphur Springs” became a resting spot on the Ukiah-Mendocino stagecoach line. It developed into a popular resort for city-dwellers who came seeking health and relaxation. The mineral waters were heralded as bringing great relief to arthritis and rheumatism, and to blood, kidney and liver disorders.

The original bathhouse at the springs, now a dormitory for guests, was built in the 1850’s. In the logging heyday of Mendocino County — the 1870’s to 1890’s — local lumberjacks came to Orr Hot Springs to bathe and socialize. In addition to a post office, saloon and a dance hall, a hotel catered to families that came to visit their husbands and fathers. When a daughter of the Orr family married a Weger (WAY-gur) in 1880, the ownership of the property changed names. The hotel burned down in the late 1930’s and was replaced by a lodge and eight bungalows, which are the main buildings today. In 1975, the Weger family sold the 26-acre hot springs to some hippies who turned it into a commune and grew food on the land. Leslie Williams, who lived at the Orr commune on and off for 18 years, became the sole owner in 1994.

I have known for several years that the hot springs were a stopping place for the Pomo. Alas that was all I knew. The above I have gleaned from several Internet sites and the following picture is the one and only I have so far collected of its early days.

Orr Hot Springs

Orr Hot Springs

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Pomo Massacre near Kelseyville, Lake County, California May15th 1880

A lady at our train layout asked me what the relationship was like between the Pomo and the white man. I told her the white man exterminated the Pomo. She did not like what I told her. Here’s a ghastly piece of history taken from a site called http://www.chrisanddavid.com.

 

Clear Lake Massacre

or the Bloody Island Massacre

One of the first heroes of the Union cause during the Civil War, was General Nathaniel Lyon. On August 10th, 1861, in a daring attack on superior forces, Lyon would fall achieving his goal of securing Missouri for the Union. Today, one can visit the location of this battle and the spot where Lyon fell on the nationally protected Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield in southwest Missouri. While the exact spot where he fell is not known, a marker stands today on a hilltop ridge to mark the area generally accepted. It is also unknown if this particular hill bore any name before the battle, but afterwards , it would be called Bloody Hill. Sadly, this would not be the only geographic location that would be changed by actions taken by Nathaniel Lyon. Far to the west, in Northern California, another historical marker tells of the name change attributed to his visit there – Bloody Island.

Bloody Island is today a small hill. But in 1850, it was completely surrounded by the waters of Clear Lake. Times were very different then. Indians did not enjoy the rights of the white man, or the black man, and were enslaved and/or killed at random. This same year, California passed the “Act for the Government and Protection of the Indians”. While sounding good, this act allowed white men to enslave any Indian they found without means of support. Since the Indian held no rights and could not testify in court, nearly every Indian in California suddenly became a candidate for slavery. For those who could afford it an editorial in the Marysville Advocate put the price tag of a young Indian fit for cooking and cleaning at $50-$60.

The public attitude of the time could best be summarized in this editorial from the Yreka Herald. “Now that general hostilities against the Indians have commenced we hope that the government will render such aid as will enable the citizens of the north to carry on a  war of extermination until the last redskin of these tribes has been killed. Extermination is no longer a question of time – the time has arrived, the work has commenced, and let the first man that says treaty or peace be regarded as a traitor”. In 1851, California would pass a law compensating groups for expenses incurred on Indian hunting trips.

Among the early pioneers to enter Northern California were two ranchers, Andrew Kelsey and Charles Stone. Kelsey and Stone purchased a cattle operation from a Mexican, near what is today Kelseyville. While the former Mexican owner had hired Indians as ranch hands, Kelsey and Stone adopted the policy of enslavement. The treatment of these Indian slaves would go from bad to worse. In 1849, Kelsey took 50 Indian slaves with him to see if he could strike it rich in the gold rush. Unsuccessful, it is said Kelsey sold all the supplies meant to feed the Indians to other miners, and only two Indians made it back to the ranch alive, the others having starved to death. Starvation was a common problem among Kelsey and Stone’s slaves. Each Indian herder was paid 4 cups of wheat a day for their labor, which was inadequate to feed the families. The story is told of one Indian that sent her nephew to beg for a cup of wheat, and was killed by Stone. Whippings were a common punishment, and at least four Indian’s were beaten so bad they later died. Another way of punishing Indian’s was too tie their hands together and hang them from a tree for hours.

Among the numerous crimes committed against the Indians, rape of the Indian women and girls was common. A father who refused to bring his daughter to the house for sex with Kelsey or Stone when instructed to, would be whipped. In 1850, when Kelsey and Stone took the Chief’s wife, the Indians decided to react. During the night, the chieftain’s wife poured water into their muskets and the next morning, five braves attacked the house. Both were killed. The tribe, knowing there was no such thing as ‘justifiable homicide’ by an Indian, fled into the hills.

Word of the murder of these two men spread and word was sent to the Army of a Pomo Indian uprising. Captain Nathaniel Lyon was dispatched with a detachment to find and eliminate the Indians. From the National Park Service website – “Captain Lyon arrived at the lake (Clear Lake) in the spring of 1850 with a detachment of soldiers. Since he could not reach the Indians’ hiding place, he secured two whale boats and two small brass field cannons from the U.S. Army arsenal at Benicia. While waiting for the boats and field artillery, a party of local volunteers joined the expedition. Soldiers took the cannons aboard the whale boats, while the remaining body of mounted soldiers and volunteers proceeded to the west side of the lake. The two groups rendezvoused at Robinson Point, a little south of the island. The artillery was taken to the head of the lake in order to be as close as possible to the Indians. In the morning, soldiers fired shots from the front to attract the Indians’ attention while the remaining force lined up on the opposite side of the island. The soldiers then fired the cannon, which sent the Indians across the island where they met the rest of the detachment.”  

Bloody Island – courtesy NPS

In a time when chivalry, mutual respect and fair play was common on the battlefield, what happened next can only be described as an atrocity. The number of Indian’s killed on the island that day vary from 75 to near 200, but few survived. The fact that only two of Lyon’s force were wounded reflects the lack of resistance the Indians offered. The fact that no prisoners were taken, even among the women and children reflects the actions of the men under Lyon’s command. Many were killed as they attempted to swim off the island. Others were shot. Many of the women met their deaths by bayonet. But most horrific of all were the stories of the deaths of children. One Pomo historian later wrote “One lady told me she saw two white men coming, their guns up in the air and on their guns hung a little girl. They brought it to the creek and threw it in the water. And a little while later two more men came in the same manner. This time they had a little boy on the end of their guns and also threw it in the water….She said when they gathered the dead they found all the little ones were killed by being stabed<sic>”

After the destruction of the village, Lyon’s forces continued throughout the area, killing Indians they came into contact with. In coming months, hundreds of Indians of all tribes would be hunted down and killed. Nine years later, after the Gunther’s Island massacre near the Pacific coast, one young editor by the name of Bret Harte was so appalled he wrote in the Northern California “Indiscriminate Massacre of Indians: Women and Children Butchered”. Harte was then run out of town for daring to tell the truth.

For those who have studied the life of Nathaniel Lyon, what happened that day at Clear Lake is not unexpected. Lyon was a fanatical disciplinarian, who felt every situation was black or white, right or wrong. In this case the Indians were wrong and had to pay for their indiscretion. 11 years later, he would take a similar attitude into the Civil War. On May 10, 1861, forces under his command would take part in what would be called the St Louis Massacre (also called the Camp Jackson Massacre), where 28 civilians were killed. On August 10th of that same year, his actions would forever change the name of yet another landmark – Bloody Hill.

(Even in death, Nathaniel Lyon could not escape the stigma of massacre’s. On 11/29/64, Colonel John Covington left Fort Lyon in Colorado, named for the fallen Union General, and attacked and killed nearly 200 peaceful Indian’s encamped nearby. It would become known as the Sand Creek Massacre. )

Today, all there is to tell of this massacre is this marker:

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Pomo of Southern Mendocino and Northern Sonoma Counties

This map comes from a book, “The Mendonoma Coast.”

Map of Pomo Villages along the Southern Mendocino Coast and Northern Sonoma Coast

Map of Pomo Villages along the Southern Mendocino Coast and Northern Sonoma Coast

As you can see there were lots of villages. Many of the villages were along the coast – the Pomo preferred the open spaces to the shadowy redwoods.

And today? Narry a one. Why? Well, I can assure you that they didn’t all die of old age.

Sue Miller’s Basketry – inspired by the Pomo Indians

Our website section on the local Pomo Indians contains pictures of baskets woven by the Pomo. The baskets are unbelievably beautiful. Fortunately the weaving skills of the Pomo are not lost but are being practiced and taught.

I was very fortunate to attend one of Sue Miller’s basket weaving classes here in Fort Bragg (CA.). Just like the Pomo Sue collects her own materials including the dyes to make her baskets. Sue tried to teach me how to weave like the Pomo Indians. It turned out that an inept English born CPA and basket weaving were a bit of a mismatch. Sue and another student brought to the class a number of beautiful baskets. I tried but …..

Isn't this basket amazing

Isn’t this basket amazing

Another beautiful basket shown in Sue;s class

Another beautiful basket shown in Sue;s class

Just look at the symettry of the pattern

Just look at the symmetry of the pattern

As beautiful from above

As beautiful from above

As below

As below

 

The Pomo at Point Cabrillo

Our club, the Mendocino Coast Model Railroad and Historical Society, has connections with the folks who volunteer at nearby Point Cabrillo lighthouse. Club member Joe Green works at the Gift Shop; Roger Thornburn, our website guru and his wife, Nancy, help with the maintenance and the gardens respectively. Joe told me that the historical displays had been updated and were first class. As I had not visited the lighthouse since I was quite sick I persuaded my wife Sarah to take a hike to see if what Joe had told me was right.

Point Cabrillo lighthouse must be one of the most photographed “things” along the Mendocino Coast – witness these shots:

Point Cabrillo at Sunset

Point Cabrillo at Sunset

Shot from the headlands at Mendocino with Point Cabrillo in the distance

Shot from the headlands at Mendocino with Point Cabrillo in the distance

Point Cabrillo

Point Cabrillo

Just had Joe had told me the exhibits inside the lighthouse were beautifully presented. There was a small but informative display about the Pomo as well as nice section and model of the Frolic. Check out our website here if you don’t know how the wreck of the frolic was the event that opened up the Mendocino Coast to logging.

One snippet on one of the displays really got me going …… “The region encompassing today’s Point Cabrillo reserve was favoured by the Mi-toam’ Kai Pomo (Wooded Valley People) ………… within the 300 acre Preserve there are 18 prehistoric sites.” I was totally freaked out that just one sentence was devoted to what must be a major historical site. I decided on the way home that greatly enhancing our website section on the Pomo is going way up there on my to-do list.

 

Pomo, The Native Americans around Comptche

A recent e-mail from a visitor to our website has caused me to redouble my efforts to find out as much as I can about the Pomo who ACTUALLY lived along the Mendocino Coast. As a result I am re-reading/scouring all the “Sources” we have in the website for “stuff” that I have missed. My diligence has been rewarded ….. read on.

All roads lead to Comptche according to Katy Tahja’s beautifully written history of Comptche. And, where is Comptche? Let Katy tell you:

“All roads lead to Comptche It seems that way driving through Mendocino County. Along the coast on Highway 1, you see Albion-Little River Road with a sign for Comptche along the north bank of the Albion River. Then at Little River you see another sign for Comptche and Little River Airport Road headed east towards Comptche.

Just before Mendocino on the south bank of Big River the Comptche-Ukiah Road branches off from the inland ukiak Valley. Orr Springs Road winds 32 miles west to Comptche and dusty Low Gap Road will also take you there. Travel on Highway 128, and from Flynn Creek Road Comptche is nine miles north.

Intrigued you wonder what kind of town deserves so many signs and roads. If you should travel one of these forested county roads you might pass a school and the church, reach Comptche Corners with store and post office, then look around and say, “This is it?”

Comptche Corners may be where the roads intersect but Comptche is spread out through the valleys and ridges for miles around. Tucked away down dirt driveways and over creek bridges are folks who have called Comptche home for generations.”

Sketch Map by Katy Tahja of Comptche

Sketch Map by Katy Tahja of Comptche

How did Comotche get its name? Katy explains:

“According to Charlotte Hook, daughter of one of the first settlers Comptche was the name of a Pomo chief who visited the area and it meant, “in the valley among the hills”.

As Katy explains in a section of her book entitled “Native Pathways” the Pomo did not live in Comptche but had trails from the interior valley through Comptche to the ocean’s edge. Let Katy explain:

“In summer travels to the coast for foods to add variety to their diets, they [the Pomo] took two trails through Comptche. One from the Ukiah valley followed ridges west to Sky Ranch and Hayslett Hill, then down to Surprise Valley. The other route came north out of Hopland through Orr Springs area, and on west to the Hook Ranch. Both trails joined at the west end of the Comptche valley and followed along the current country road known as Comptche-Ukiah Road winding to the sea.”

Katy describes what and where the Pomo ate:

“Boulders in the Albion River show grinding holes where the Pomo used stone pestles to grind acorns gathered in the Comptche valley into a fine meal for mush. Fish, mussels, clams and crabs were from the coast by Pomo and dried in the warn Comptche sunshine as was the kelp and seaweed used for food and medicine. Abalone dried until it looked like a horse hoof, then slivers were cut off and sucked for nourishment by the natives.

Pomo hunted bear, elk, deer and rabbit and fished for trout and salmon. Pomos dug tubers and roots and edible seeds and wild oats were gathered.”

Katy on the famous Pomo baskets:

“Twelve different plants provided materials for the Pomo coiled and twined baskets. Willow brush shelters provided natives with summer homes in the valley and they were reported to have three sweat houses on the Hook Ranch valued for its curative powers by the Pomo.”

Coast Pomo Girl

Coast Pomo Girl

And Pomo relations with the Comptche settlers? Katy again:

“Settlers got along well with the Pomo and allowed them to pass and camp unhindered through the valley. Newman Hook promised never to cut “indian acorn orchards” or destroy salmon fishing spots and Charles Ottoson protected their camp on the valley’s west end. Today arrowheads and stone tools are being found in Comptche soil.”

Native Indian Pomo Between Ten Mile River and Rockport

Pomo Wikiups

Pomo Wikiups

If you have been following this blog you will see that I have been trying to get a handle on the Pomo that lived along the Mendocino Coast. Sources have appeared for Fort Bragg and the Noyo and Mendocino. I was reminded by a blog reader that there is a very, very good section on the Pomo in the book, “Belonging to Places – The Evolution of Coastal Communities and Landscapes between Ten Mile River and Cottoneva Creek”, by Thad M. Van Beuren,” which I own. Ok, no comment.

Pages 15 through 26 of the book detail the arrival and demise of the Pomo along the Mendocino Coast. These pages are replete with numerous sources for the information and I have added those sources to my “get and read” list (which is already long!)

Of particular interest is a section of the table on page 113 entitled, “Nativity of Population in Westport Area”.

Pomo and Non Native American Population

Pomo and Non Native American Population

As you can see there were not many Pomo in relation to the non-Native Americans who came into the area.

Now to update the website page whilst I have all this in my head!

The Pomo of Big River, Mendocino

Somebody out there loves me! In response to my last blog on the local Pomo Native Americans and the paucity of information about them I received an e-mail pointing me to the website of the Stanford Inn in Mendocino. Stanford Inn? You jest? No ….. just read the extract below from the website about the Pomo who lived on and around Big River at Mendocino.

The Mitom Pomo – Early Settlements

Big River’s two histories, one natural and the other cultural, converged sometime in the last 10,000 years. Ten thousand years ago, the sea level was some 300 feet below where we know it today and Big River was 3 1/2 miles longer. There was no Mendocino headland. Big River cut through a marine escarpment emptying into the Pacific. The lower sea level allowed Asians to cross to North America. Among them were people of the Hokan language family who made their way south and settled in California. The Pomo, a distinct and isolated Hokan group, occupied what are now Mendocino, Lake and Sonoma counties.

When the Pomo arrived is not known, nor do we know what they found. They may have lived along a coast now buried underwater but nevertheless, by the time Europeans arrived they were well established in Mendocino County. The Me-tum’mah, or Mitom Pomo, lived in the area of Little Lake Valley near Willits and claimed the coast from south of the Noyo River at what is now Fort Bragg, to just north of the Navarro River, eighteen miles south.

Big River is the principle stream draining land from just west and south of Willits. The area was prolific. Near Willits were abundant oaks producing the Mitom’s dietary staple, acorns. To the west was Big River and the Pacific teeming with wildlife and importantly, kelp, a source of salt. To make tools, the Mitom traded with the another Pomo group, the Mato who made their coastal encampment north of the Noyo River. The Mato had direct access to obsidian, a volcanic glass, used to make points (arrow and spear heads) scrapers and other tools. Bits of obsidian can still be found throughout the Mendocino area.

The Mitom called their coastal camp “Bool-dam”or Buldam signifying “big holes” for the blowholes on the headlands at Mendocino and Russian Gulch.

Buldam was not a permanent home for the Mitom until they sought to escape the influx of Europeans settling Little Lake Valley. They permanently moved to Buldam in approximately 1850.

Households were setup near freshwater springs and occasionally artifact remnants can be found, including pieces of worked obsidian, broken pestles used for grinding and worked pieces of chert. The fate of the Mitom is not clearly known. Some were part of 200 Pomos who were rounded up by the U.S. Army in the early 1850’s and removed from the coast.

How about them onions!!!!!!

View from Stanford Inn (taken from the Stanford Inn website) that the Pomo would have had

View from Stanford Inn (taken from the Stanford Inn website) that the Pomo would have had of Mendocino Bay