A group of individuals interested in preserving timber industry history formed the Northern Counties Logging and Interpretive Association, a non-profit corporation, in 1977. Activities of members centered around a logging exhibit at Fort Humboldt State Historic Park in Eureka. These individuals had urged the creation of the exhibit; they now wanted to develop and expand the effort as a Cooperating Association of the park unit. The organization restored a steam donkey, Bear Harbor Lumber Co. locomotive No. 1 and Elk River Mill & Lumber Co. locomotive No. 1 to operating condition, demonstrating them at “steam-ups” at the park and taking them on the road to logging conferences and railfairs as far away as Vancouver, Canada.
The Fort Humboldt exhibit and museum was always “temporary” on the park’s master plan. Too small to house logging artifacts that were going to be lost, the organization and park officials began to search for a larger site for a State Logging Museum. At the same time, the Association began to acquire historic timber artifacts on its own by donation, through obtaining grants and by purchase, to eventually become a part of the relocated state museum. After a first storage site didn’t work out, Simpson Timber Company, in 1985, agreed to lease a site along the Arcata & Mad River Railroad at Glendale for $100 a year. For years Association leaders and state park officials looked for an appropriate site. As time passed, district state park leadership became concerned that the effort would ever be successful. They began to draw a distinction between park activities and our other efforts to save artifacts. Finally a park superintendent candidly admitted that the State was never going to build a state logging museum; State Parks didn’t have the resources to build museums anymore. The Association was at a critical point and had to decide what direction to take. The decision was that the need had not changed, the stories of a rich timber history needed to be told in a Timber Heritage Museum–the Association decided to develop its own museum.
The name of the organization was changed to the Timber Heritage Association in 2004. While the Association continues to support the logging exhibit at Fort Humboldt State Historic Park, its activities are now much broader. Its mission is to develop a Timber Heritage Museum and create an excursion train around Humboldt Bay. Major steps to restore locomotives and obtain passenger cars have been undertaken.
With change comes new challenges. In 2006, the THA storage yard at Glendale was sold. Hundreds of thousands of tons of artifacts would have to be relocated. Board member Woody Murphy generously offered temporary storage on his property along the bay in Fields Landing. Part way through the move, through a variety of circumstances, a very historic site, the 122 year old former Hammond Lumber Company roundhouse and shops in Samoa became available for short term lease. Eight locomotives were moved into the Roundhouse or other shop buildings on site. Many local businesses have donated equipment and trucks to help in this move. The leased Samoa Shops site came with a $39,600 yearly lease but the Harbor District has allowed THA to pay that through volunteer labor, business donations of materials and labor to repair and restore the buildings. Many businesses and individuals have donated to this cause.
In 2015 THA signed an Option Agreement to purchase an eight acre site. THA must access and pay for clean-up of any environmental hazards or contaminants and pay all costs for zoning changes, transfer of title and Coastal Commission approval. That process has begun but will take some time.