A California Place Called Samoa

In 1889 real estate developers formed the Samoa Land And Improvement Company, buying 270 acres on the peninsula opposite Eureka. After John Vance Mill & Lumber Company’s Eureka mill burned in 1892, the owners decided not to rebuild the mill in Eureka but to purchase cheaper land in West Eureka or Samoa.

The north spit at the entrance to Humboldt Bay was used by a series of Federal government projects including the 1851 to 1892 Humboldt Harbor Light; in 1862, a prisoner of war camp for Native Americans captured in the Bald Hills War; the Humboldt Bay Life-Saving Station in 1878; and the stonemason finishing yard and trans-shipment point for foundation stones for the St. George Reef Light from 1883 to 1891 at Paysonville. The settlement was known as Brownville, after James D. H. Brown, dairy rancher, until 1889.

In 1893 the Eureka & Klamath River Railroad Co. was incorporated to run from Eureka to Samoa, then to Essex where the Vance timber was located. In 1900 A.B. Hammond purchased the Vance mill and property.

Twelve years later Hammond Lumber Company had also bought any privately owned residences by to make Samoa a company town. The Samoa Block town center was built in the 1920s.

The USS Milwaukee grounded in Samoa January 13th, 1917, breaking up in the surf. The cruiser was trying to salvage the submarine USS H-3.

The submarine had gone aground December 15th, 1916; and its crew were living in tents on the beach. It was eventually salvaged by the Mercer-Fraser Company and later relaunched.

Georgia Pacific purchased the Hammond Lumber Co. in 1956, followed by Louisiana Pacific in 1972 because of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. Simpson Timber eventually acquired the property in the 80s.

In the 1986 movie My Chauffeur a woman named Casey Meadows played by Deborah Foreman has to chauffeur Battle Witherspoon played by Sam J. Jones to Samoa, while on their way the car breaks down. The town is also home to the Samoa Cookhouse, which opened in 1890 and continues to serve lumber camp-style food.

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Published by

Tom Darby

Former radio personality and newspaper reporter

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