Sunday, December 14, 2008

For those still interested in Tan Oak

Harry Cowan was the Ken Forden of the early 1900’s. He was the ramrod of the Tan Oak industry. Like the history of Mr. Grothe, From Bell Springs, I am very familiar with the history of this man. Harry was the one that made the Tan Oak extract business work for the Wagners. Harry Cowan lost his seat as the Justice of the peace to Leopold Frederick Grothe.
I noticed that Harry was married to a “Miner”. The Miners are an old Humboldt County family. I wonder if Harry Cowan was related to George “buck” Miner from Petrolia. Buck was a blind man. He was blinded by a disease that took his sight by age six. He went on to be a TV repairman, a ham radio operator, a bar tender, a guitar player and singer. He also wrote a book about the Petrolia area. The book is called “The Origin of the Mattole, through the eyes of a Salmon” By Goerge “buck” Miner.


In doing research for the post on The Tan bark Industry, I came accross this piece of history from a man that peeled Tan bark for a living. It Includes soom rather fuzzy photos, but they are good enough. Peeling Tan Bark. By warren Ormsby. This story is a very exciting find for me because he is talking about the time before the steam ships and the Briceland Tannin Extraction plant. He worked in the same camps that my ancestors did. It was back in the days when the bark was taken to the Sacramento Valley on the small small ship that it was loaded on. They were called "dog hole schooners".

History of Humboldt County California History by Leigh H. Irvine: Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California, 1915
Transcribed by Martha A Crosley Graham 14 October 2006

HARRY COWEN.—The prosperity of the little town of Briceland has been materially aided by the operations of the Pacific Oak Extract Company, which affords employment to some fifty men, supplying the Wagner Leather Company, of Stockton, Cal., with a high-grade extract of oak bark used in the tanning of its superior products. Harry Cowen, one of the most respected citizens of this place, is the efficient woods foreman for this company, whose employ he entered in 1906, and his varied duties have been so capably performed that he is recognized as one of the men whose conscientious efforts and intelligent understanding of the requirements of the business have been the foundation upon which its success is laid. He has been a resident of southern Humboldt county since 1901.
Mr. Cowen is a native of Pennsylvania, born November 15, 1871, near the center of the state, on the Susquehanna river, at Clearfield, Clearfield county, and was the sixth in the family of fifteen children born to Robert and Hannah (Henchbarger) Cowen, who were married in Pennsylvania ; the mother was born in that state. Robert Cowen made an honorable record as a soldier in the Civil war, enlisting in 1863 in the One Hundred Tenth regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, and serving until 1865. At one time he owned five hundred acres of timber land in Pennsylvania, but his patriotism cost him his property, for he lost his land and home on account of accumulated interest debts. Subsequently he rented farms in that state. In 1898 he and his wife moved to California.
Harry Cowen was brought up in Pennsylvania and began to make his own living when only a boy, becoming used to hard work early. His first experience in his present business was acquired there, cutting and peeling hemlock bark, and being large for his age and very strong he did heavy labor when a mere youth. When eighteen years old he began to follow the log drives on the Susquehanna river, from the lumber regions, being thus engaged for ten seasons. Having concluded to settle in the west he spent some time deciding on a location, looking over twenty-two of the northwestern states and eventually making his home in Mendocino county, Cal. For the several years following he was employed there by the Usall Lumber Company, at Usall. In 1900, at the time of the rush to Nome, he went up to Alaska for a season, and upon his return to California in the fall of that year he located at Garberville, Humboldt county, renting the Swithenbank place, four miles north of that town. He remained on that property five years, during which time he was very successful. The year after the big earthquake, 1906, he took the contract from the supervisors to fix the road to Shelter Cove, a large undertaking and difficult to carry out for many reasons, and his highly satisfactory completion of the contract was a proof of executive ability, it being done in the thorough manner typical of everything he handles. He was then induced to help out a friend who had entered into an unusually responsible contract with the Pacific Oak Extract Company to furnish a large quantity of tanbark, and then began to work for the company on his own account, in the fall of that year. His valuable qualities were soon recognized, and in the spring of 1907 he took the position of woods foreman, which he has since filled. Most of his time and attention is given to his work in this connection, which includes a variety of arduous and important duties. The cutting and peeling of the oak tanbark, and its delivery to the works, which are located on Redwood creek half a mile from Briceland, are entrusted to him, with all the incidental business of buying tanbark timber as needed, or when there is a favorable opportunity ; of looking after the curing systematically and economically ; and of laying out and building the roads necessary to facilitate its transportation from the woods, which must usually be accomplished over long and difficult mountainous trails. The average quantity required at the works is eighty cords weekly, and the difficulty of procuring enough to keep the works going is increasing steadily, the company being obliged to go farther and farther for the bark each year. Moreover, the location to be cut over must be chosen in good time and all preparations made, as the cutting has to be done at the proper season, after which the bark is cured and hauled to the sheds at Briceland to be stored ready for use. Fifty mules and horses are used in the woods, and a five-ton automobile truck supplements the teams in taking the finished product from the works to Shelter Cove, where it is loaded onto steamboats for shipment to San Francisco, being sent thence by river boat to Stockton. The extract company is subsidiary to the Wagner Leather Company, of Stockton, which uses all the extract made at the Briceland works. Mr. Cowen has proved to be the right man for his work, and his efficiency has increased as he has acquired familiarity with its details, his resource and ingenuity in making the best of every situation being no less remarkable than his strength and energetic disposition.
While his activities for several years have been devoted principally to the business of the extract company, Mr. Cowen has also looked after some private affairs and has taken part in the public affairs of his locality. He has made a number of good investments in stock range and timber lands in Humboldt county, having a half interest in two hundred forty acres of redwood timber lands ; and also three hundred twenty acres of tanbark oak land, his wife owning a similar quantity.
For the last four years Mr. Cowen has been filling the office of justice of the peace in Briceland township, with office at Briceland, and his recent nomination for another term shows how well satisfied his fellow citizens have been with his services. He has every reason to be well pleased with his choice of a place to live and work. He found the opportunities he was seeking, and has proved himself worthy of them; the change has brought him contentment and prosperity, and he is repaying the community which held out these attractions, and made good, with citizenship of the highest order.
On May 12, 1896, Mr. Cowen was married at Ferndale, Humboldt county, to Miss Annie Miner, daughter of Allen Miner, a stock-raiser in Union and Mattole, where she was born. Mr. and Mrs. Cowen have two children, Edward Allen and Harry Miner. Mr. Cowen owns the comfortable little home at Briceland which they occupy.
Mr. Cowen was the first of his family to come to California, and he was sufficiently impressed with its advantages to encourage other members to follow him, his parents, two brothers and five sisters joining him here in 1898; the next year another sister came out. Politically he has always been a stanch Republican
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I noticed that "staunch" was spelled wrong, so I decided to look it up. Here's what I found! Hmmm...
(There are two words spelled both staunch and stanch. The adjective staunch is the most commonly used form in the meaning "loyal" (a staunch defender of freedom), though stanch can also mean the same thing. Conversely, stanch is much more common as a verb meaning "to stop the flow of liquid," though staunch can also mean the same thing: trying to stanch the flow of blood. Encarta ® World English Dictionary © & (P) 1998-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.)

(There is nothing more pathetic than a rained in Blogger)

1 comment:

ben said...

Ernie... This is really interesting. These histories were written by companies doing books for pay. All of the stories are highly complimentary, of course, but if the subject had a brother who was a lifelong business partner, he would not get a mention unless he paid for it. Even so, these books are really fun and useful as not much local history was being written. My 1921 map shows Swithenbank property where we now have the Woods Ranch up on Bear Butte.