Home > Uncategorized > More on Hank Larrabee

More on Hank Larrabee

Hank Larrabee, the notorious crazed murderer of Native Californians, headed West from Ohio in 1849 with his brother and other men from his hometown in search of California gold. Their goal was to strike it rich and return home. Such plans did not come to pass.

Some of Larrabee’s movement prior to coming to Humboldt County can be traced through Masonic lodge rosters, first in Shasta in 1853, and later in Healdsburg.

According to a 2005 thesis project by an HSU student,

Larrabee was a freemason, as were many of Eureka’s leading businessmen and local civic leaders. AJ Huestis, the county judge in 1860 was a member of Lodge 69. The strong fraternal ties of the Masonic Lodges around the bay (already established in Arcata, Eureka, and Hydesville) may have kept Larrabee and the other guilty parties from facing any real penalties.

Of interest, two other men with the last name “Huestis” are on the short list of likely perpetrators the Indian Island Massacre. Whether the judge was related to Sergeant Charles Huestis or Private George W. Huestis is unclear.

Henry Larrabee might well be described as a typical pioneer. He came west with an arsenal of pre-conceived and typically biased notions about Indians. He was the next in a line of whites who were using Manifest Destiny to rationalize taking Indian lands. When he arrived, his place in an isolated settlement allowed him to utilize the mentality of “self-rule” and carry out depredations against Indians in the name of protecting his private property. Ten years of government-sponsored actions against Indians allowed him to act with little fear of prosecution. Like many ranchers in the Eel River area, he was a member of the Humboldt Volunteers, mustered in response to cattle depredations, and reported to have been involved in the Indian Island massacre by General Raines, leader of Fort Humboldt. While many locals disliked him, the lack of public action against him was indicative of their unwillingness to act with real support for California Indians.

Clearly, the climate in Humboldt at the time of the massacres made it unlikely that any such atrocities committed against the Indians would be punished. The Humboldt Times editor Austin Wiley wrote an editorial a month before the February 26, 1860 massacres.

It is a shame and a disgrace…that some of the best sections of our county must be placed beyond the reach of the hardy frontiersmen by a few bands of miserable diggers…There is only one way to domesticate the Indians in this county and that is to either send them so far away that they will never find their way back, or kill them.

I found the above-referenced HSU paper by searching Google Scholar. The commonly used Google search engine searches sites by popularity, whereas Google Scholar provides “peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, abstracts and articles, from academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories, universities and other scholarly organizations.” It’s great for source material for any kind of research.

  1. Anonymous
    August 21, 2006 at 2:51 pm

    sounds like some interesting reading

  2. Anonymous
    August 21, 2006 at 6:30 pm

    First, as all of our ancestry traces back to the African continent, the term native-American holds no valid meaning.

    Second, the so-called native-Americans had no notion of property ownership, so how could it be taken from them?

  3. Eric V. Kirk
    August 21, 2006 at 10:50 pm

    Easy anon. Guns and fences.

    Heraldo – a very interesting clip from the 1860 editorial. You almost think he wanted to say “let’s send them back where they came from,” but realized as he was typing how stupid that would sound.

  4. Heraldo
    August 22, 2006 at 12:04 am

    Yeah, it must have been hard to be a smarty-smart newspaper editor trying to justify atrocities and injustice regurlarly occuring all around. I guess it was easier to take the moral low ground and advocate for mass murder.

  5. Eric V. Kirk
    August 22, 2006 at 8:02 am

    Oh, I doubt that was so hard at the time. Have you ever read the NY Times account of the battle of Little Big Horn? Calls for genocide were woven right into the text of an article that was supposed to be reporting on an event.

  6. Heraldo
    August 22, 2006 at 9:16 am

    I haven’t read it but I don’t doubt it.

  7. Carson Park Ranger
    August 22, 2006 at 11:00 pm

    “…so-called native-Americans had no notion of property ownership, so how could it be taken from them?”
    We must refrain from insult, but this is a stunningily idiotic comment.

    “So-called”? Yes, because thus we describe the indigenous people of the Americas. One wonders what other common American English usage this witless troglodyte has unilaterally dispensed with.

    To conjure a reductio ad absurdum is redundant in this case, but please indulge me: Native Americans “had no notion” of guns, so how could they have been shot?

  8. Heraldo
    August 23, 2006 at 9:46 am


  9. saf
    August 23, 2006 at 12:19 pm

    “no notion of property ownership” ?

    From what I’ve read of the Mattole tribe they definitly had tribal territory and boudaries.

    I’ve never heard of settlers asking permission from a local tribe to hunt elk in their territory. If it did happen it was a rare event. On the other hand, once the elk were all but wiped out and the native people turned to cows as a food source it was used as justfication for massacre. So goes the double standard.

  10. Anonymous
    August 24, 2006 at 12:47 pm

    Dear Carson Park Ranger,

    Choosing ignorance is no way to lead a life. Furthermore, Troglodyte should be capitalized.


    the witless (and still anonymous Troglodyte

  11. Anonymous
    August 24, 2006 at 1:41 pm

    God bless Hank Larrabee AND witless Troglodytes!

  12. Anonymous
    August 24, 2006 at 5:33 pm

    Humboldt County has a creek and river named after a dude from Ohio. Never mind that he was a gutless murderer of women and children. People from Ohio (or anywhere else outside Humboldt) can scarcely write letters to the editor about HC happenings without being throttled as outsiders.

  13. Kai
    June 24, 2018 at 9:23 am

    Im Yurok, Choctaw and Italian and ive been going to Holmes-Flat and horribly named Larabee creek since i was born petty much. My grandmother had a house down the road from Larabee ranch. I agree that they should rename anything named Larabee for respect and to show that humbled actually has some dignity.. the mouth of the Larabee creek where it empties into the Eel and all the way down a half mile down is such a majestic place. you can just feel the vibes of the previous indigenous caretakers of the land, and youll know how meaningful those giant bluffs against the river with the deepest spot on the eel river ive ever seen and even in the driest summers is like 20 or 30 feet.

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