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
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
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.”