In the mid-1960s, around 1964, the “Big Three” southern Humboldt ranches were broken down and subdivided, all being in the tens of thousands of acres each. Prosper Ridge (owned by Chief Wally Matthews), Panther Gap, and Ettersburg / Whitethorne (then owned by Albert Etter of nearby Ettersburg) were all suddenly for sale. And for cheap. The timber boom of the 1950s was dying, and the new industry was on the horizon, but still decades away from being realized. If only they knew what they were selling: the most valuable farmland in America. These areas are now known the most hard-core pot growing communities in America.
1960, Mr. Eugene Crawford was arrested in McKinleyville (northern Humboldt) for cultivation but there were no widespread grows in southern Humboldt at that time. In the 1960s, cannabis in Humboldt was generally imported from Mexico, or from Thailand (by way of Hawaii, whose connections to Humboldt remain strong to this day). Humboldt was a major import hub for imported grass, but it was generally not seen as a domestic product.
By the late ‘60s it had entered the consciousness in Humboldt. Legalization was discussed publicly at the Presberyrian Church in Eureka, in northern Humboldt, in the spring of 1968, hosted by the Humboldt State chapter of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. A few HSU professors were in attendance.
Things moved quickly once the hippies arrived. In 1971, the Back To The Earth movement (see my post on 1971) drove masses of freedom-seeking hippies to northern California, in seek of cheap land. They found Humboldt County. Although their VW buses rear-wheel drive did already on the beach, they did not so easily survive the treacherous southern Humboldt hillsides. Many tried roughing it in the Whitethorne winters, only to nearly die. Cold and wet, the locals took pity on the poor hippies and taught them how to live well in the harsh Humboldt winters and dry summers. Soon, the hippies integrated, and became homesteaders in their own right. Many are still with us today, in the very same houses they built in the early- to mid-seventies, especially in Whale Gulch and Whitethorne.
In 1972 an LSD chemist living in the Alderpoint named Dirk Dickerson was killed by the FBI in a raid. No cannabis or other drugs were found, because the lab was not on Dickerson’s property. The Brotherhood, and others, already knew never to keep the labs where they could be easily found.
Large scale farms by were well-known by ’75, especially in Briceland, Whitethorn, and Honeydew. “Humboldt Homegrown” was a well-known brand of American Cannabis by ’77. A domestic product.
The famously wonderful Garberville Sheriff, Gene Cox, was threatened by two rifle-wielding guerilla growers while on a hunt in southern Humboldt, and publicly bemoaned the dangers of responding to calls in Panther Gap. Then, in 1980, the murders began, in Alderpoint. Murder Mountain they called it. But that’s another story for another time…
- Lumberjack (newspaper); April 26, 1968
- Rolling Stone, May 24, 1973
- TIMELINE for Marijuana in Northwest California, Compiled by Edie Butler for the Community Study of the Emerald Triangle Project© Guerra & McBane, http://www2.humboldt.edu/hiimr/docs/MJTIMELINE.pdf
Picture: Gopherville Homesteads, copyright The Cold Spring Tavern