Humboldt County’s history is intertwined with the history of timber and the redwoods. The first settlers came north for the riches of the gold rush, but found gold in the massive trees instead. Riches from timber built our towns and changed the landscape. William Carson’s business partner, John Dolbeer, invented the steam donkey right here in our local woods in 1882, which replaced animal power to pull logs in from the woods. It was the first mechanization in the woods using steam power, and is heralded as the beginning of the modern timber industry. This is our heritage. It is also an important national story, which has not yet been told. In fact, the history of timber in America has not been taken up in depth anywhere.
Here in Humboldt county, we have an incredible opportunity. A collection of all local timber history artifacts has been accumulated by the Timber Heritage Association over several decades. From the start, the intention of our founders was a museum to tell our story of timber heritage. Our storage site has quietly received many artifacts that would otherwise have been lost. Many people ask, “What ever happened to the locomotive that was in Sequoia Park?’ It was donated and moved to our storage site. Many items, large and small, covers several acres. It is unique because it is all from one place: Humboldt county. Other such collections have been put together by getting pieces from all over.
We are very fortunate to have a collection and a historic place that they came from still in existence. Because the collection had to be relocated, THA was able to get a lease on the railroad shop complex of the former Hammond Lumber Company at Samoa, California. Within this complex is an 1890’s roundhouse, which housed the locomotives. Intact roundhouses are cov- eted and the fact that we have one still standing is extremely valuable. This Crown Jewel is set in the context of the still standing Hammond Lumber Company town of Samoa, again a rare and valuable historic asset. The complex is adjacent to Hammond’s world famous Samoa Cookhouse, which is an icon for tourists, and has been in operation for over 100 years. Our goal is to put this collection of timber history artifacts in a museum in the midst of the authentic setting. From this site, we will run an excursion train around the bay using our authentic railroad equipment. This will be a fun and exciting way to experience this history.
In addition to being able to enjoy our own history, the project has important economic impacts for our area. The Convention and Visitor’s Bureau has said that the excursion train and museum would be the core attraction that other items could be added to, so that tours can be created. Over a million tourists travel here every year to see the redwoods. Their stay is usually short because there are not enough activities to keep them here longer. The Visitor’s Bureau’s goal has been to lengthen the stay of visitors, and our project will have a major beneficial impact on that goal, increasing the tourist dollars coming in dramatically.