The Humboldt Beacon last week received a new book on Fortuna and the greater Eel River Valley to review. Titled, “Fortuna and the Eel River Valley,” it's published by Arcadia Publishing of Charleston, South Carolina and offers over a hundred pages of great old photos with informative captions that educate and amuse the reader.
The job of writing, researching, and compiling the slim volume was undertaken by Alexandra Service, curator of the Fortuna Depot Museum, and Susan O'Hara, a school teacher in Rio Dell. O'Hara and Service hope that their book will inspire further interest and research into the rich history of Fortuna and the Eel River Valley, and possibily raise awareness of the Fortuna Depot Museum. The book is on sale at the Fortuna Depot Museum, located at 3 Park Street, Fortuna, in the Rohner Park. Just look for the caboose on the right and you'll find the museum.
Call 725-7645 for hours of operation.
Those interested in local history may find some answers to questions in this book about the past. Readers can also get a sense of what some things (still standing) may have looked like long ago. Green's Pharmacy for instance was once the Star Hotel and looked quite a bit different. Photos of prominent citizens are featured as well, like Gustave A. Jasper, founder of the Humboldt Beacon (page 25). The book also gets a high rating from the current editor of the Beacon for it's generous use of quotes taken from old issues of our own Eel River weekly paper.
Before the book on Fortuna, Service had written another book in the same series for Arcadia Publishing, entitled “Hot Springs County, Wyoming” when she was director at the Hot Springs County Museum in Thermopolis, Wyoming.
”When I began work at the Depot Museum, I proposed to the Fortuna Historical Commission that we should do an Images of America book for Fortuna and the Eel River Valley, using the photographs in the museum's collection,” Service said.
Susan O'Hara, who is Fortuna's Chair of the Historical Commission, is the author of several works on Humboldt County history. Service asked O'Hara to be her co-author on the book, and the rest is history.
Service explained that O'Hara's father (Harry Pritchard), was a past Humboldt County District Two Supervisor, and was a passionate supporter of the Humboldt Redwoods Visitor Center, where Susan currently serves as President of the Board of Directors.
”From this family background, Susan gained a deep understanding and love for the redwoods and the history of the Humboldt County timber industry. Susan and I spent several months searching the Depot Museum's voluminous photograph archive to choose photos for inclusion in the book, and we made an initial selection of over 500 photos, which had to be drastically decreased, since the book could use a maximum of 240 images,” she said.
”In addition, we used photographs loaned by area organizations, residents and businesses, including the Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department and Clendenen's Cider Works. After we had determined the themes of the various chapters, we divided the writing duties between us,” Service explained. The two then divided up who would write first drafts, then later, they worked together to edit the main text.
Asking Service, what some of her favorite stories from the book are, she mentioned that some photos were loaned to them by the Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department, showing a fund-raising Firemen's Games held on May 1, 1911.
”Included in these images is a photograph of the pillow fight between different companies of the Fire Department. We also used an image of the June 12, 1911 fire that devastated Main Street in Fortuna, as well as several photos from the large Fourth of July parade that Fortuna succeeded in mounting only weeks after the fire. As well, we included several images of the construction of Fernbridge in 1911,” Service said.
Copies of the book are available for sale at $21.99 plus tax, from the week of July 11. They will be available at the Fortuna Depot Museum gift shop (Depot Museum open, noon to 4:30, 7 days a week, June through August. The River Lodge also carries copies of the book in their gift shop. Royalties from sales of the book will go directly to support the Depot Museum.
A new book on Fortuna and the Eel River Valley is out.