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Sailor Settles in Humboldt County after Years at Sea

Canadian immigrant Joseph Edward Merriam spent many years at sea before sailing into the Eureka, Calif., harbor on June 19, 1885, with his wife, Clara Russell Webster.  A biography published 30 years later said Merriam never went to sea again.

Merriam first went to sea when he was 14 years old, sailing on coastal vessels running to New York City, and on Canadian ships out of New York and Boston on trading voyages to South America and the West Indies.

Merriam hired out as a ranch hand for several years before homesteading on 160 acres in the mountains on Boulder Creek.  He made friends with the Indians, who called him Joe.  He moved in 1898 to Blue Lake, where he became a leading insurance and real estate agent and became known as Judge Merriam as the justice of peace. The Merriams had five children, including one who died as an infant. Blue Lake is located in Humboldt County’s Mad River Valley some 300 miles north of San Francisco.

Judge Merriam became fascinated with small-tract farming, believing every foot of soil should produce something.  His 2 ½-acre garden and orchard grew small fruits, berries and vegetables.

Source: Irving, Leigh H. History of Humboldt County. Los Angeles, Calif.: Historic Record Company, 1915. Web. 20 July 2015. .

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.