Strawberry Creek Forever: Celebrating (?) 48 years of Marijuana Guerrilla Grows in Humboldt County.

Who was the first marijuana grower in Humboldt?  There are nearly as many different stories about how Humboldt became known for illegal ganja gardens  as there are chrome laden pickups in Garberville.  However, here is my candidate for the first grower:

The trickling waters of Strawberry Creek, just outside of Dows Prairie (not too far from the Arcata Airport), washed past the first marijuana plants ever found growing in Humboldt county by law enforcement.  Apparently, Eugene Francis Crawford pioneered the illegal guerrilla marijuana business here.  In fact, he may have been the first marijuana grower ever in Humboldt County.

Crawford (aged 28 at the time) was arrested Friday, Sept. 29th, 1960 by Deputy Gene Cox who later became Sheriff (and was slain in a high profile shooting that rocked the county.)  Crawford, who was carrying a box and a shovel at the time of the arrest, claimed to be digging for fishing worms.  The deputies however claimed he slipped down to the property from his home only 260 yards away to transplant what the Eureka Humboldt Standard called “the first growing marijuana to figure in a narcotics case in Humboldt County.”

The “more than two dozen” three inch high plants about 2 ½ weeks old, barely discernible as cannabis,  were staked out by Cox and another deputy for some time.  The deputies believed that Crawford had purchased seeds and sold seven plants previously.  Investigating him for “several weeks,” they discovered where the small marijuana plants were growing on another person’s property and “staged a long stake out” of the crime scene.  Cox said he had been there “on previous occasions with negative results.”

On the day of the arrest, Deputy Cox hid nearby from “early morning’ until noon when he arrested Crawford who had yet to touch the plants.  This late in the season the danger of the plants growing to flower was fairly negligible as Cox explained to the media, “If left, they probably would have died with the first frost.”

Crawford, while never having been arrested on narcotics charges before was no novice to the prison system.  In fact, he had just been released from the county jail the day before this arrest.  Over the preceding decade, he had been charged with a variety of low level offenses including theft of beer.

The trial (which was reported as being for a Charles Crawford though that is not consistent with arrest or conviction information) began March 7, 1961 and ended, a scant 3 days later, March 10, 1961 unhappily for the defendant.  Reluctant to convict, the jury was summoned by the Judge at midnight to demand results which were still strongly divided. A 9-3 in favor of a guilty verdict was required for conviction.  The jury finally returned “in the early morning hours” after again being summoned by an apparently unhappy judge.  This time the verdict was guilty as charged.

Members of the jury, including alternates, were Gerald Chapelle, Ernest W. Colt, Robert Dilleshaw, Audrey M. Robinson, Lynford Scott, Carol J. Sellers, Irena Gates, Alex Brizzard, Gladys Buttram, Charlotte Dabler, Francis Mott, and Sandra McKenzie. The Judge was Donald H. Wilkenson.  The attorneys were John Quinn for the prosecution and Blaine McGowen for the defense. If anyone remembers any stories or knows any of these people, I would appreciate hearing from you.

Strawberry Fields

by The Beatles

Let me take you down, ’cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields.
Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about.
Strawberry Fields forever.

Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see.
It’s getting hard to be someone but it all works out.
It doesn’t matter much to me.

Let me take you down, ’cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields.
Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about.
Strawberry Fields forever.

No one I think is in my tree, I mean it must be high or low.
That is you can’t you know tune in but it’s all right.
That is I think it’s not too bad.

Let me take you down, ’cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields.
Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about.
Strawberry Fields forever.

Always no sometimes think it’s me, but you know I know when it’s a dream.
I think, er No, I mean, er Yes but it’s all wrong.
That is I think I disagree.

Let me take you down, ’cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields.
Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about.
Strawberry Fields forever.
Strawberry Fields forever.
Strawberry Fields forever.

Story gleaned from old articles in the Eureka Humboldt Standard

Clip art from here



  • Thanks for the pre-back-to-the-land history lesson! The image of sheriff Cox staking out 3 inch plants seems absurd. But just twelve years later the stakeouts involved Huey helicopters and cops shooting people in the back over the mere suspicion of marijuana.

  • I’ve been reading up on that case. There was another Case earlier in Ferndale. Very sad where a Ferndale officer ended up shooting someone he knew over two 2 1/2 ft. tall plants in coffee cans. Once I gather as much as I can, I’m going to tell that story. My throat gets tight for everyone involved when I just think about it.

    • Let me know about that Ferndale, CA., shooting. The cop would have done time these days. That was bogus as it gets.I lived up there for 21 years starting in 1968. It was the dark ages for sure. Police had big beer bellies and so forth. They called me a gypsy because they were not yet into the term Hippie.

    • The person who was killed last name was Berti who was a friend of mines brother, later I met the deputy who killed him an I think I remember his first name was Jerry, he had a Model AA Ford truck and I met him at a model A club meeting in Fortuna. I had been told the story from my friend and it gave me the willies just meeting someone who could kill an unarmedas I understood it was an acquaintance or friend of I think his name might have been Pat Berti.

    • Patrick Berti

  • You should get your hands on that Rolling Stones article I wrote about (link above). There is a similar story about a Ferndale cop shooting someone he knew since childhood over a plant growing near the banks of the Eel. Maybe that’s the story you reference but I don’t recall the part about the coffee can.

  • The Rolling Stone story was written by Joe Esterhaas who became a famous screenwriter. The fellow who was killed supposedly was running a speed lab though none was found. The Rolling Stone story was written from bar conversations, as I recall, and was rather lacking in facts.

  • Bar conversations? It’s been a while since I read it but I recall that Eszterhas (note spelling) was more involved than that. He may have even been there. I’ll have to dig up the paper copy.

  • Heraldo, the two Ferndale stories are the same. I would like to get my hands on the Rolling Stone piece. I’ve read the newspaper accounts and your piece (that is what set me looking for the Rolling Stone Piece and searching the newspapers). I wonder if the Humboldt County library has a copy of that issue? It should.

  • Ben, Joe Esterhaus seems to have had an up and down career with worst screenplay Raspberry award given to him twice but lots of good writing also attributed to him. I really want to read this piece. You think someone would have put these old magazines online.

  • Maybe Joe Esterhaus should get together with Daniel Pierce to compare notes.

    Alright. Bad joke.

    But seriously for a minute: Kym, would you consider making links that people post on your blog some other color? Since your blog has no distinctive color for links, viewers have no clue (unless they happen to mouse over the text) when a commenter adds an html link. Perhaps Heraldo could assist if you need help?

  • o6em,

    I would love to change the link color. The color, however, is part of the stylesheet of this theme and requires knowledge of CSS to change (beyond me) if it can be changed. Anyone willing to give me a hand with this would build up great karma!

  • Um, wouldn’t that be “guerilla” grows?

  • i thought id try this code even though it most likely wont work.–

  • Nope –didnt work and Suzy doesnt have cascading clue about CSS.

  • I believe you can change the link color through a CSS upgrade on WordPress, but a search through the forums didn’t reveal the secret. If I stumble across it I’ll let you know.

  • Guerrilla in the Midst

    Can we keep it quiet about Dow’s Prairie? I will keep pretending that this is something that disappeared in the 1960s if you will. Dow’s Prairie is home to blueberries, horses, and roost… that is… chickens. Thanks.

    “Guerrilla” grows. Gorilla gives the impression of a Bigfoot crop.

    Link color is being set by

    #comment-block a {
    color: #EEE;
    text-decoration: none !important;

    Add a line to another style sheet for
    #comment-block .comment-content a {
    color: #E00;

    Or some other color.

  • Avid Walker and Guerrilla, :blush: Thanks for being my editor!

    Suzy, Heraldo, and Guerrilla, I tried adding Guerrilla’s code to the CSS editor but I did it roughly like this– I grabbed a big armload of flour, water and yeast and threw it into a bowl and hoped I’d soon have bread. It didn’t work. I just copied from #comment to } and pasted it in and hit preview. No luck.

  • Old and In The Way

    Dirk Dickenson was the young man shot in the back as he tried to escape the stakeout by the deputy or Rio Dell officer, can’t remember, on the Eel River sandbar who knew him since high school and where he lived.

  • Kym, do you have the CSS upgrade? That’s essential to fixing the problem.

  • Kym.. Sombody around here must have the article/ I’ll ask Bunny.
    Heraldo… I was here back then and the article was a community joke. The whole thing was terribly tragic and Eszterhas (spelling noted) turned it into Sometimes a Great Nothing. For him it was all about what we now call color. He probably has a screenplay in a drawer someplace. He pissed me off back then and I find I’m still pissed.

  • I wasn’t sure if you had intended that original spelling, Kym. I envisioned you as a kind of Jane Goodall figure, chronicling the movements of your subjects in remote mountains (“The large silverback seems threatened by my presence, and postures threateningly…”).

  • Heraldo, No but I’m willing to get it if it isn’t too expensive. I don’t have to feel guilty if I spend some money as the hobby is starting to pay for itself.

    Ben, after I read it, I’d like to get your take on it. I would also love to find the (no longer) young woman who was there and one of the reporters as well as one of the officers to interview.

    Kato, If the spelling is off, you can probably assume I’ve been karate chopped by my Disgraphia once again. Posturing gorillas seem intriguing if only I’d thought of that.

  • Old and In the Way, (Sorry I missed approving you which is why I’m only now responding to you.) Dirk Dickenson was the man shot in the Humboldt hills when the sheriff and a large group of law enforcement and media went on a bust. He was shot by an officer Clifton in 1972 who was eventually charged and acquitted of his death. Dickenson was supposedly involved in a pill making operation.

    Patrick Berti was the man shot on the Eel river by a fellow Ferndale resident, Officer Larry Lema I believe. They had known each other a long time. The marijuana in question were two small plants in coffee cans. An incredible tragedy for all involved including a third man charged with growing the plants. I would love to talk to anyone involved in this story,too.

    • I know a relative of Larry Lema, the cop that killed Patrick Berti. The details about Lema are much more disturbing than the public knows. I doubt I can get him to talk on record but maybe, who knows? It ruined the poor kids childhood in many ways. Officer Lema was not a nice man.

  • The CSS upgrade is $15. Go to Dashboards > Upgrades > Custom CSS.

  • Kym, if we could figure out exactly where the bust occurred (or better yet where the grow was) and get the permission of the current landowner, we could get a state historical marker put up. Click on this link to the California Historical Landmarks info page.

    We’d have to find someone to sponsor the sign, and bored of soups support would be good, but getting landowner permission might not be so tough since they can get a property tax break.

    My tongue is only partly in cheek.

    BTW I wonder if there is any connection between current Humboldt resident Chris Crawford and Eugene Francis Crawford?

  • When the bust occurred, I can do. I can probably come pretty close to where but you have to do all the work of getting it approved. Though I think that it has the makings of a fine tourist attraction for our post illegal marijuana Humboldt world.

    I’m pretty sure there’s no connection to Chris (there are a lot of Crawfords in the world) but I’d love to hear from anybody who is family.

  • Heraldo, I’m going to try upgrade tonight. When I have time to sit for more than a few minutes.

  • Alright, I finally got the Css upgrade. Any suggestions on how to make the link color change. I tried copying Guerrilla’s code and previewing but it didn’t change link color in the comments.

  • I remember the news on the radio the day that Dirk Dickenson was murdered. I didn’t know him but I identified with him. We were very close in age, 25 at the time, and as I listened to the news story break on the radio I gazed out my bedroom window through the branches of half a dozen marijuana plants. The Dickenson story was even more tragic for the fact that law enforcement would not allow him to be evacuated, instead they let him lay there and die. And…after a thoroug investigation of his home and premises, they found no drugs at all. This still pisses me off.

    • David, some rather wonderful person gave me the Rolling Stone piece and I did some research on my own. I can’t remember the details but I think he did have some pills but nothing like what was originally thought (also there was at least one intimation that the drugs were planted.) Nonetheless, what a sad waste of life.

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