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PIONEER FAMILY
OF
HUMBOLDT COUNTY, CALIFORNIA

by Diane Hitchcock-Owens

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My grandfather, Harry Guthrie Hansell, was born into one of the earliest families in Humboldt County.

He was the son of Harry Kingston Fox and Ellen Louise (Guthrie) Hansell.

 Harry Kingston Fox Hansell was the son of Amos Hansell who was born 16 October 1825 in Upper Darby, Delaware County, Pennsylvania.

 Amos sailed from the port of Philadelphia Pennsylvania, in the early 1850’s following his service in the United States Navy where he served during the Mexican-American War on the sloop Dakota where he served as the captain’s cockswain.

He had received a grant of land in California for his service in the military. He had relatives who had preceeded him to the Golden State: a brother, William Evans Hansell and two cousins by the last name of May.

 Amos and his wife, the former Abigail Fox, and their young son, Amos, sailed down the Atlantic Coast and across the Isthmus of Panama. The family was detained along with many other people trying to reach the gold fields of California.

Amos found work with a wealthy Mexican who employed him to build a large store building. He recieved ten dollars a day for his work. Eventually Amos and his family found passage on a steamersship sailing for San Francisco. There Amos found work before going north where he found employment from his cousins, Captain and Charles May who hired him to help build the first saw mill in Humboldt County. He was also the contractor for several buildings of Fort Humboldt. Amos established a building business where he built several buildings for prominent men of the area. The business failed, leaving Amos about $7000 in debt.The debt was resolved before going to court, giving Amos enough to pay his men.

 Abigail soon followed once Amos had found a place for his family to live. Amos continued in the building trade until his wife’s death in 1859. At that time their two children, ages four and eight, were sent to live in the home of Charles Wiggins on Humboldt Hill.

 Being well informed on all points of law Amos served two terms as undersherriff ; one term under Sheriff Van Ness and another under Sheriff Joe Tracey. He also served as Justice of the Peace.

 Amos moved to Hydesville in 1868 and then on to Camp Grant where he was post master. He took up a claim on the Eel River where they established a nursery business. In 1872 his boys joined him and helped to clear thirty acres to develop a thriving nursery business. The “ranch” was located on the left bank of the Eel River, opposite Camp Grant, about two miles above Dyerville. The place was noted for its exquisite wood working, done by Amos. On the property was a walnut tree with a spread of ninety feet and a diameter of three feet and three inches.

 Amos married at the age of sixty-seven his son’s (Harry K.F) mother-in -law, Caroline Conrad-Guthrie, who came from two early families of Humboldt County. In the early 1900’s Amos’ eldest son bought his interest of the business and that of his brothers in 1904 and 1906.

Amos and his wife then moved to Rohnerville where resided until his death on 26 January 1911. Caroline died in 1913. Harry Kingston Fox Hansell was born 6 June 1855 in Humboldt County.

His mother died when he was four years old and he was placed in the home of Charles Wiggins in Eureka on Humboldt Hill for two years. He and his older brother moved with their father in 1872 to what became the family’s homestead on the Eel River near Dyersville. There they worked the land building a nursery business.

Harry married Ellen Louise Guthrie whose family was also among the early settlers of Humboldt County. They raised their family of four children near Dyersville. I heard the name Camp Grant mentioned in family stories but have never found the place.

 Harry was a nurseryman and involved in social and civic organizations in his community. He and his wife moved to Hayward the latter part of their lives to be near their children who had moved to the Bay area.

Amos died on 20 May 1941 at his home. Harry Guthrie Hansell was the eldest son of Harry Kingston Fox and Ellen Louise Guthrie) Hansell born on 6 August 1886. Harry Guthrie, grew up helping his parents to make a living from the land. Their produce were known for the wide variety of apples as well as cherries and tomatoes. He apparently had a yearning for knowledge and somehow managed to not only gain enough education but also money to attend the University of California at Berkley where he earned his teaching degree. His main interest was history. He returned home to teach the Native Americans at the Humboldt Indian School in the Arcata area. I remember him speaking fondly of his experiences teaching in the northern California area and having a great appreciation for the Indians in that area. The following is a letter I found among his belongings.

 

Mettah, Ca

July 10, 1906

 

My Dear Folks ,

Somehow and sometime since last Friday I have dropped into this little nook of the country on the Klamath River. I arrived last night pretty weary and foot sore but well and not yet homesick. I stayed all night at Mrs. Griggs and now, this morning, Tuesday, I am down at the schoohouse, taking observation of my future conflicts with the Indians. The school house is a nice cozy one, lots better than the old Camp Grant school and it sits on a little flat about 300 yds from the Klamath. On all sides high mountains tower above it and a big mountain reaches to the river on the other side. But I will save a lot ofdescription for my other letters and will tell you now, how I got here.

 I left Eureka Saturday morning at 7:30 o’clock crossed the bay and took the train for Luffenholtz. Then I took the stage for Trinidad and reached there at half past ten. There I found that the stage through Orick would not leavde until Monday morning. I wasn’t going to loaf in Trinidad all that time nor was I going back home, so I struck out afoot for Orick. My baggage I left to come up on the stage and the mail carrier will bring it over to me today. Well, I had a nice walk to Big Lagoon, 9 miles, before dinner. By the way, I fell in with a fellow who was going about 8 miles north of Orick so I ahd company clear from Trinidad. After dinner my comrade and I took the Big Lagoon beach instead of the main road and thus saved four miles. I walked right along the ocean for about 12 miles and found several pretty agates. At 6:15 o’clock I reached Orick. Well, you can bet I was a little tired and sore after that 26 mile hike.

 Next morning, Sunday, I felt fine and rested all day. I went down to the mouth of Redwood Creek about 2 miles from Orick. There is a fine beach but there are no good agates. Yesterday morning Monday, I struck out over the Bald Hills for Mettah, a 25 mile hike. I reached Sherman Lyons in the Bald Hills for dinner. It was all up hill tot there. In the afternoon I walked to Hancornes. I tell you it was hot and I was tired last night, but I feel great this morning.

 I will start school in the morning. I have met all of the trustees and they have all treated me fine. I will get $80.00 per month for 8 months. It didn’t cost me much to get here and I think I can make money. How are all the folks? Don’t work too hard (because there’s nothing in it.)

Goodbye for this time with love to all,

Harry

 

Harry moved to the San Francisco area where he met and married Lillian Gilkey who had also earned a degree in Botany from the University of California. They resided in San Francisco where Harry was principal of Presidio Junior High School for thirteen years. He also had taught history and mathematics at Lick Wilmerding School in San Francisco. He retired from teaching in 1952 after twenty-seven years.

 Harry and Lillian had two daughters: Carol Ann and Louise.

 Harry was widowed in 1941. Following his retirement he lived with his daughters.

 Harry was active in several civic and church organizations. He died March 26, 1954.

Harry carried the following poem in his wallet:

It's easy enough to be happy
When life flows along like a song

But the man worth while Is the man who can smile When everything goes dead wrong

For the test of the heart is trouble
And it always comes with the years

And the smile that is worth
The homeage of the earth

Is the smile that shines through the tears."

Author Unknown

For more on Lillian Gilkey family

Diane's Home Page

For more on my lines go to the following sites.

New England Ancestors

Ancestry of Emily Ann Dean

Haight Family

Silas Wright West (1846-1918)

Ancestors of Paul Robert Owens

Carothers Family of Swissvale, Pennsylvania

The Grand Dame

 

 

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