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It Was (Mostly) Those Women

by Kathy Bailey, December 21, 2011

In May 2011, if you had asked pretty much anyone in Anderson Valley why it was that the ancient redwood groves of Hendy Woods State Park had been spared the axe and sawmill fate that befell most of the original two million acres of giant Coast Redwoods, you would have been told about Joshua Hendy. Joshua Hendy owned the woods and he wanted the groves spared. And as far as we know, this is true. But Joshua Hendy died in 1891. What happened in the 72 years between his death and the dedication of the park? It is one of the upsides of the state’s threat to close down Hendy Woods State Park on July 1, 2012, that the community has dug into its files and has begun to fill in some of the almost forgotten history. Although more is bound to surface, here are the outlines of what we now know.

Joshua Hendy was actually quite a guy. According to the Wikipedia entry for the Joshua Hendy Iron Works — sorry, but it’s the best source I could find for the moment! — he was born in Cornwall, England in 1822 and at the age of 13 migrated with his two brothers to South Carolina. He grew up to be a blacksmith, living with his wife and two children in Houston, Texas. But a yellow fever epidemic extinguished his young family, so in 1849 he did what so many young men were doing: he came around Cape Horn and arrived in California. According to several sources, Hendy built one of California’s first redwood lumber mills in 1853 with Samuel Duncan and then sold his interest in the mill to Alexander Duncan in 1855.

A better understanding of the history of Hendy’s mill and the extent of his forest ownership will have to await more research. However, the history of his Iron Works is fairly well understood. By the 1890s the company had become a leader in mining technology and exported equipment worldwide with Joshua Hendy’s technical innovations continuing as the industry standard far into the 20th century. Long after Hendy died in 1891, the company continued to thrive, with its giant hydraulic crushers used to dig the Panama Canal. Later its marine engines were important in both World War I and II. In 1947, the Joshua Hendy Iron Works, making a variety of military equipment including radio telescopes, was sold to the Westinghouse Corporation. In 1996, Westinghouse sold the company to Northrop Grumman, and the company is now called Northrop Grumman Marine Systems. It seems likely that few at Northrop Grumman know much of Joshua Hendy himself, nor of his redwood groves.

We would be at a great loss to remember what came next had it not been for Jack Clow, the Jack of Jack’s Valley Store outside Philo and descendant of the well-known settler family that has given its name to Clow Ridge, which forms the north side of Anderson Valley from Philo to many miles west. Many of the Clow family still live here, and Jim Clow, of course, only recently died. Fortunately, like many people of his generation, Jack kept a few newspaper clippings from important events. At the store, he tucked away a small file with clips of two articles from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat at the time of the dedication of Hendy Woods State Park, a Souvenir Supplement of the Anderson Valley Advertiser, and a photo of the store before some of the existing buildings were built, with Big Hendy Grove in the background across the river. Just as fortunate, when the store changed hands in 1987, one of the new owners, Bill Boger, who bought the store from Jack Clow along with his business partner Jack Moyer, not only kept the folder with the newspaper clippings, but offered to find it when a representative of the Chamber of Commerce came by in July 2011 soliciting his signature on a letter to Sacramento asking that Hendy Woods be taken off the park closure list. The articles, one of which was written by Mike Pardee and the other without a byline, provide a lot of the history and point the way to more.

When a newcomer arrives at a place like Anderson Valley, say for instance in 1971, it is more or less like the beginning of time. Depending on one’s interest in local history, one can assume for weeks, years, or decades that the Valley had always been as one found it. If one stays long enough, little by little, some historical realities eventually sink in, often catalyzed by the observation of changes happening in front of one’s face. After 40 years, it was with a sense of considerable surprise to realize that Hendy Woods became a park less than a decade prior to my own arrival in Anderson Valley. Of course, the groves had always been there. And it’s no small miracle that they still were.

According to the Press Democrat, when Joshua Hendy died in 1891, his nephew Samuel Hendy inherited the property and “carried on with protection of the twin groves until it became economically necessary for him to dispose of the acreage.” He sold the property to the Pacific Coast Lumber Co. The land then passed to the Albion Lumber Co., and in 1930 it was purchased by the Southern Pacific Land Company.

It was during this era that renewed community concern for saving the groves is documented. A subhead in one of the Press Democrat articles says it all: “Women Started It.” The article gets it a little wrong as to the date, but not the organization: “Largely through intervention of the Anderson Valley Unity Club, a women’s club that boasts valley-wide membership, the wooded tract was saved from logging operations.”

This is, indeed, the same Unity Club, affiliated with the California General Federation of Women’s Clubs, that just hosted the annual Holiday Bazaar earlier this month, organizes the Anderson Valley Wildflower Show every spring, and spearheaded the fundraising drive for our new police dog, Bullit. And, extraordinarily, has a diligent member who had taken it as her project to transcribe minutes from meetings decades past.

Thanks to this selfless soul, Ms. Mary Darling, we know that on “February 19, 1938 — Mrs. Millie Brown presented the Speaker of the day, Mr. Al Strowbridge of the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco who gave us an extremely interesting and much appreciated talk on the Redwood forests of Sonoma and Mendocino Counties, Hendy Woods and suggestions as to ways in which these various woods might be obtained by the Government and thus saved for ourselves and future generations.” “The Chairman appointed the following committee to try to promote this work. Chairman: Mrs. Patterson, Dr. Dorothy Jordt, Miss Blanche Brown.” On March 19, 1938, “Blanche Brown reported Mr. Strowbridge had written a resolution about Hendy Woods to be sent to Senators and Congressmen.”

Of course, the call for protection was not immediately answered, but the women were not deterred. January 18, 1941: “Jessie McCarty asked that a group from the Club meet with the Farm Center Monday night to urge that Hendy Grove be included in the State Park area. A committee consisting of Jessie McCarty, Alice Tindall, and Millie Brown, be appointed to attend to this matter. Suggested also that a letter be sent to Senator Biggar regarding Hendy Grove.” And so the work went on for a very long time.

In 1948, the groves, along with most of the hillsides forming the south side of Anderson Valley and on out to the Coast, were sold to the Masonite Corporation, which established a giant panelboard mill in Ukiah. Thus began the post-war lumber boom, which brought new technology, equipment, and energy to the North Coast logging industry and Anderson Valley. And with it, new threats to the virgin redwood groves of Hendy Woods.

Not all the activity to save Hendy Woods was spearheaded by the Unity Club. All sorts of folks with a love for the place where generations of Anderson Valley families had swam, picnicked, and camped did their part. 7th Grader Lenore Lamb was one of them. Lenore, now Lennie Roberts, is part of the Clark family, and a cousin of Christine Clark. She had spent many of her summers on the family ranch in Anderson Valley and enjoying nearby Hendy Woods. According to Lennie, her family thought that the only reason the groves were still standing was the absence of a mill that could handle the huge timber. But all that was changing after World War II and the family believed the groves were in danger. So on March 8, 1950, Lenore, having recently visited the Capitol with her Orinda school class, wrote a letter to Governor Earl Warren asking him to permanently protect Hendy Woods. Less than two weeks later, on March 23, Lenore received a letter back from the Governor thanking her for bringing the matter to his attention and stating that he was forwarding it to his Resources chief. Lenore went on to have a career in land preservation and conservation and she had a hand in preserving much of the open space one can now see in the San Mateo area and the Peninsula south of San Francisco. Governor Warren went on to do interesting things as well.

According to the Press Democrat, in 1954 the “first formal action came … when the Mendocino County Planning Commission petitioned the Masonite Corp. to donate what would amount to one-half of the area for state park purposes.” The Unity Club minutes note: “Once after a news item about the grove appeared in the Press Democrat, a Masonite executive commented somewhat testily, ‘Don’t those women know by now we’re not going to cut those trees!’”

“Those women” knew they had better keep pressing forward!

Success was at hand the following year when, in 1955, a bill by State Senator James E. Busch for the state appropriation to buy the property was approved. Finally, in 1958 the state purchased the land from the Masonite Corp for $350,000.

It was another five years before the park officially opened, with campgrounds, trails, a picnic area, a good paved access road, and 11,000 feet (about two miles) of frontage on the Navarro River. The 604-acre Hendy Woods State Park was dedicated on Sunday, July 7, 1963.

The June 30 and July 28, 1963 Press Democrat articles on the dedication ceremony and the new park feature names and faces so familiar in their day. Here are Veryl Baxter and Jack Clow, President and Vice President of the Chamber of Commerce, along with Dick Winkler, manager of the Mendocino County Fair, holding the dedication program in front of a very large old redwood. Camp Fire Girls Patricia Maddux, Rhonda Peterson, and Carolyn Self, in uniform, gaze at a fallen giant. Austin Hulbert stands dwarfed by another fallen tree. Jack Clow, holding little Larry who looks to be around 3, shows some feature of a fern covered tree to the new park Supervisor, James Davis. The women of the Anderson Valley Methodist Church are serving a box lunch after the dedication ceremony. Speakers include State Senator Frank Peterson. Veryl Baxter, a timber cruiser in his day job, notes there are individual giants that would “scale 50,000 feet — at $28 a thousand.” Somewhat incongruously, Blues singer Ethel Waters, famous for her rendition of Stormy Weather, is performing two numbers at the dedication. She was recruited by her personal friend Miss Ida Jackson, a retired Oakland schoolteacher who lives part of the year on her ranch in Anderson Valley. Robert Rawles, secretary-manager of the Chamber of Commerce will be master of ceremonies, and members of Boy Scout Troop Number 60 will be the color bearers. “Pretty Eileen Carlson, a teen-aged … 4-H girl who was crowned the ‘Anderson Valley Apple Queen’ at the recent Boonville Buckaroo Days, will be the official hostess….”

The Souvenir Supplement of the Anderson Valley Advertiser adds another slew of prominent names in the form of small sponsorship ads, as well as some key details: Austin Hulbert is a County Planning Commissioner. Would he, perhaps, have been the person who pushed the vote in 1954 to petition Masonite to sell the land? Jack Clow was the Chairman of the Dedication Ceremony, a good enough reason to put aside a few newspaper clippings of the event. There is a map showing the park in relation to the Pacific Ocean and the local roads, the program for the dedication, a full-page photo of giant trees and a few smaller photos of people at the park. Many of the little ads have an interesting omission — last names. “Anderson Valley Market — Clarence — Frank.” “Philo Market — Cecil, Birdie.” “Valley Inn — Alyce & Ray.”

You could do the same today.

Representing Governor Edmund G. (Pat) Brown at the dedication in 1963 was state Resources Agency Administrator Hugo M. Fisher. Now, slated for July 1, 2012, in the 49th year of Hendy Woods State Park’s existence, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. is overseeing the opposite of a dedication. He proposes the deliberate dismantling of a great park and a great park system.

The history of Hendy Woods did not stop at the dedication. The Unity Club went on to create the Gentle Giants All Access Trail in 1980-81, the Year of the Disabled, under the leadership of Joan Bloyd, its President between 1979 and 1982. One assumes that Elinor Clow also played a role in creating the trail that would have allowed her to find her way through the grove even though she was without sight. Building on their lead, the park now has a few wheelchair accessible campsites, an accessible bathroom and shower facility, and one of the four little sleeper cabins is also wheelchair accessible, making Hendy Woods one of only two state parks in Mendocino County that comply with the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Acquisitions by the Save-the-Redwoods League added a total of about 204 acres to the park in four transactions between 1979 and 1988, bringing the total park acreage to its current 816 acres.

Over the years the community has hiked, camped, taught kids to ride bikes, breathed deeply, pondered fate, played tag, watched bats, chipmunks and falcons, celebrated birthdays, gotten married, stood in awe in the ancient heritage groves, and welcomed people from throughout the state, nation, and world to do the same.

Now the history of Hendy Woods also includes Occupy Hendy Woods, a recent visit by a prominent legislator, and the formation of the Hendy Woods Community (HendyWoods.org), which is planning to volunteer time and skills, raise money, and generally do whatever it takes to keep Hendy Woods the way it is supposed to be: Open.

For the 72 years between Joshua Hendy’s death and the dedication of the park, you know there were threats and some were likely imminent. Having finally achieved a measure of safety, today’s community is not likely to let down those before us who worked hard so we could enjoy the great pleasures of a beautiful park. People come, they live, and they pass on. Now, 121 years after Joshua Hendy’s death, it’s our turn to make sure the ancient groves will always be here.

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