Pioneers of Elk Valley, Del Norte County, California

In the heart of Northern California lies a hidden gem steeped in history and natural beauty: Elk Valley in Del Norte County. This manuscript, titled “Pioneers of Elk Valley, Del Norte County, California: Fifty Years in the History of Elk Valley from 1850 to the Turn of the Century,” authored by Frances Turner McBeth, embarks on a vivid journey through the transformation of this enchanting valley over half a century. From the early days of exploration and settlement to the bustling activity of the turn of the century, McBeth’s narrative weaves together the lives of the pioneers who braved the unknown to establish a community in one of California’s most picturesque landscapes.

The manuscript is meticulously organized into chapters, each focusing on a pivotal aspect of Elk Valley’s history. Beginning with the early explorers like Jedediah Strong Smith, who first glimpsed the northern reaches of California, to the discovery of gold that spurred a wave of ambition and dreams of prosperity, readers are transported back to a time of adventure and possibility. The narrative then shifts to the naming of Elk Valley, a testament to the abundant wildlife that greeted the settlers, and the subsequent development of the area, marked by the arrival of pack trains, the establishment of Crescent City, and the struggles and triumphs of the early settlers.

As the manuscript unfolds, readers are introduced to the pioneering families of Elk Valley, their endeavors to forge a life in the rugged terrain, and the communal spirit that bound them together. The establishment of the Crescent City and Yreka Plank and Turnpike Company, the challenges of living in close quarters with Native American tribes, the development of local infrastructure like schools and roads, and the personal stories of families like the Waltons, Nickels, and Howlands, offer a comprehensive look at the evolving landscape of Elk Valley.

Through tales of hardship and celebration, community and isolation, the manuscript paints a vivid picture of the pioneer spirit. The establishment of Camp Lincoln, the dedication of early educators, the social and cultural developments of the valley, and the economic shifts from agriculture to lumbering, highlight the dynamic changes over fifty years.

“Pioneers of Elk Valley” culminates in a reflection on the remarkable progress made by the settlers and their descendants. What began as a wild and untamed land transformed into a thriving community, a testament to the resilience and determination of those who called Elk Valley home.

Table of Contents

  • Early Explorers, page 2
    This section discusses the early exploration of the northern coast of California and the discovery of Paragon Bay.
  • The Valley Is Named, page 3
    James Brooking’s journey to found a town along the Northern California coast and the hardships faced along the way.
  • The Valley Echoes to the Tramp of Pack Trains, page 4
    The section discusses the arrival of Richard Humphrey and the schooner of supplies, the construction of a log house, the organization of “The Point St. George Exploring Company,” the laying out of the town of Crescent City, the arrival of the first store and merchandise, and the establishment of a trail through the Valley.
  • Early Stopping Places, page 6
    This section discusses the early settlers in Elk Valley, including John Mavity, Eli Howland, and the Nickel family.
  • The Turnpike, page 8
    The section discusses the establishment of the Crescent City and Yreka Plank and Turnpike Company and the survey for the turnpike road from Crescent City to Yreka via Oregon.
  • The First Settler in the Valley, page 9
    The Walton family’s journey to California, their settlement in Del Norte County, and their life on the ranch.
  • Camp Lincoln, page 11
    Camp Lincoln was established in 1862 in California to address tensions between settlers and Native Americans. It served as a military camp and had various buildings and facilities.
  • Lincoln School, page 16
    This section discusses the early schools in Elk Valley, including the first school in the old barracks building and the later construction of a new schoolhouse. It also mentions some of the early teachers and their contributions to education in the area.
  • And Promenade All!, page 36
    This section provides a biography of Robert Howland, his upbringing, education, marriage, and his life in the Valley.
  • Elk Valley School, page 38
    This section discusses the Elk Valley School District and the Alexander Ranch, including the school grades, the Alexander family’s dairy ranch, and neighboring farms.
  • Grandma “Mac”, page 40
    This section provides a detailed account of Eva Alpaugh McNamara’s life, including her family background, education, marriage, and involvement in various community organizations.
  • The Winter of ’90, page 43
    This section describes the heavy rainfall and flooding that occurred during a winter in the county.
  • Crystal Springs Creamery, page 47
    This section discusses the history of the Turner ranch and the family who lived there.
  • The Cooper Shop, page 51
    This section discusses William Edwards, who owned and operated a cooperage in Crescent City, making barrels for shipping produce to San Francisco and Oregon.
  • Landmarks-Jordon Creek, page 52
    This section discusses the pioneers and landowners in the Valley, including George Jordon and the Roy family.
  • Lumbering, page 55
    The section discusses the history of sawmills and the utilization of timber resources in Del Norte County from the mid-19th century to the early 20th century.
  • The Turn of the Century, page 57
    The section discusses the advancement the valley had made in the hundred years it had been settled by white people.


McBeth, Frances Turner, Pioneers of Elk Valley, Del Norte County, California: fifty years in the history of Elk Valley from 1850 to the turn of the century, Angwin, Calif. : Pacific Union College Press, 1960.



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