John Vance

by Mrs. Saul


One of the early lumber men of Humboldt County was John Vance. In 1853, three years after the founding of Eureka, Vance started his first mill, located at First and G streets, The mill burned down in 1892. Vance collaborated with his nephews to form a new mill at Somoa.

The Vance's had timber holdings at the Mad River. In order to get the lumber to the mill, a railroad was built from the logging site to the Humboldt Bay. The logs were floated in the bay down to the mill. Men with poles would work to get the logs corralled for the mill.

In order to stabilize the sand on the peninsula, nonnative plants were imported. The yellow lupin still seen today, was there so a railway could be run from the north to the mill.


The Cookhouse Restaurant was built to feed the mill men. There was not any bridge over the bay at that time, anyone wanting to go to the peninsula went on one of the ferries that frequently made the trips back and forth.

Timber from Vance's mill were shipped to San Francisco and beyond on lumber ships, which were built by shipbuilders like Bendixon, whose shipyards were also on the peninsula at Fairhaven.

The Vance Hotel was built by Vance and was the premier hotel in town until the Eureka Inn was built in the 1920's. On October 23, 1885, the first electric machine was started up in the Vance Hotel, which made it modern and up-to-date. Other mills followed Vance's lead, as it was much safer to light them with electricity than oil and was less of a fire hazard for the mills.

On occasion, Vance would invite his employees on excursions. They would bring picnic lunches to the railroad platform in Somoa and traveled by train out to the country.

In 1900, the Vance's sold their mill to the Hammond Lumber Company for on million dollars.


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