Briceland Cemetery


Kim Sallaway (my favorite local photographer) took this photo at the Briceland Cemetery.  So Local Historians, who is this fellow?  Any stories about him?



  • I’m believe that grave holds the body of John C. Briceland who purchased the area now known as Bricleland back in 1889.
    Wikipedia link:,_California

  • Growing up and living in Briceland 50’s – 70’s, I had always heard of Carl and Walter Briceland, but not John. Maybe that’s John “Carl” Briceland. Not sure, but would like to know the history on that….be easy enough to find out.

  • This is an entry from Anthony Jennings Bledsoe’sIndian Wars of the Northwest: A California Sketch; pages 352-3 (San Francisco, 1885):

    “December filled out the complement of horrors. A house on the North fork of the Mattole River was then occupied by John Briceland, Thomas Griffiths, E. M. Sproul, two Indian boys and a squaw. Briceland was the proprietor of the house, and was trying the experiment of civilizing the Indian boys, whom he called ” Billy ” and ” Frank.” The boys had lived with him over two years, and he trusted them with implicit confidence. “Billy ” was fourteen years old, ” Frank” seven. Briceland had given ” Billy ” a rifle, and allowed him to go out hunting with it. In November ” Billy” went out hunting and was gone four days.

    When he returned he said that he had been lost, and Briceland condoled with him for having had such a hard time. On the night of December 2d the three white men slept on the floor, rolled in their blankets. Several hours after retiring Briceland was awakened by two shots, fired close to him., He jumped up in the dark, and began to feel about with his hands. They were covered with blood. He struck a match, and it had no sooner blazed than Sproul roused from his slumber and sat up. As he did so a shot was fired through a crack in the door, and he was instantly killed. Briceland ran out of the house, and to his nearest neighbor’s, John Cathey, half a mile away, and remained till morning, when a number of settlers collected and returned with him to his house. Sproul’s lifeless body lay on the floor. Griffiths was just dying. The two Indian boys were gone, with ” Billy’s ” rifle, a pistol, and some of Briceland’s ammunition.
    Three days afterwards, at daybreak, as Cathey was going to his haystack, he saw “Billy” and “Frank” emerging from beneath it, where they had been concealed. He ordered them to stop. “Billy ” attempted to run and Cathey shot and killed him. “Frank ” then confessed that when “Billy” had pretended to be lost he was with a tribe of Indians on Bear River, who persuaded him to return and kill Briceland. They had tried to kill Briceland on the night when the other men were killed, but had missed him when the shooting was done.”

  • From Humboldt County, California: Biographies :

    “JOHN C. BRICELAND was born in Virginia about 1838 and died at Briceland, Cal., in 1901, aged sixty-three years. As a boy he came with his parents to Amsterdam, Ohio, where he remained until the age of seventeen, when he joined the rush to the gold fields of California, crossing the plains with ox teams. For a time he followed mining and then was employed on ranches in the Sacramento valley. At times his wages were very small, for conditions even in those days were not always good.

    On account of suffering from chills and fever he came to Humboldt county, where he was an early settler on Elk ridge and where he engaged in stock raising, making a specialty of raising horses, his herd at one time numbering five hundred head. These he drove into different parts of California and Oregon and sold. From Elk ridge he removed to Upper Mattole and later located at Ross’ defeat, near what is now Ettersburg, where he owned a farm and raised cattle.

    This place he sold and about 1889 he purchased the old Collier place, the present site of Briceland. Before this a Hebrew by the name of Jim Filer had a little store here. Mr. Briceland bought him out and continued the mercantile business, enlarging the store and running it for three years, when he sold the store building and goods. All these years he engaged in farming and stock raising as well as butchering.

    He built the Briceland Hotel and the town was named for him. He became the owner of fourteen hundred acres of land, portions of which he sold from time to time, and he now has about seven hundred acres. His last years were devoted to stock raising. He died on his ranch. He was a prominent and active Democrat and for many years was member of • the board of school trustees.

    By his first wife, a native daughter of California, he had three children, as follows : Lucy, Mrs. Jack Wood, of Briceland ; and Lizzie and George, both deceased. His second marriage was to Fannie White, also born in California, who died March 3, 1912. She was the mother of nine children, seven of whom grew up, as follows : William, who died when seventeen years old ; Maude, who died at fourteen ; Laura, Mrs. Fearrien, who died here ; Mary, who died at thirteen years ; and Walter, John and Carl, all of Briceland. ”

    …Local historians Ernie and olmanriver will know much more.

    (this new box system is much harder to navigate, sorry)

  • Yes, John Crail Briceland was the man that Briceland was named after. I knew his son Carl Briceland when I was a teenager. Carl was was born in 1893, he died in 1979. I wish I had more time to talk… but I don’t Maybe later.

  • His full name is John Crail Briceland.

  • Eek… sorry for duplicating the Crail, Ernie.

    Thanks for doing such a good job of setting the table Skippy.
    I have indeed studied everything I could get my hands on about John C. Briceland, and hope to talk to Bob Stansberry about him this summer, as well as plunder the Mattole Historical Society’s archives. I am trying to find out where on Elk Ridge he had that first ranch, though I have found his name on an early map in section 19 to the southwest of Gilham Butte. Any help on this would be appreciated.

    Bledsoe’s description of the murder of Sproul and Griffith was less graphic than the Humboldt Times version at the time. EM Sproul was related to the Sproul brothers who had been attacked the previous January on the Southfork, near…Sproul Creek. Thomas Griffith was a paid Indian scout.
    The above narrative does not mention that the younger Indian boy was hung after fessing up.
    Briceland’s Native companion was unscathed when the men returned the next morning after the killings. At this time she disclosed that the older boy Billy had been planning to kill Briceland for awhile
    ” showing that although the squaws may cohabit and live with white men still their sympathies are with their own race”…………….. ” ~ We have pointed out to the citizens of our county the danger to be apprehended from these domesticated Indians. If experience is worth anything it has taught them to beware. It is through them that wild and warlike Indians are enabled to watch all the movements of the whites for their suppression, and to plan and execute their murderous incursions successfully.” (Humboldt Times, 12/14/1861).

    Now what is not widely known is that John Briceland had lost his Bear River home to fire in 1860. The 1861 house that belonged to Antony Bowles, with whom Sally Bell stayed through the Indian war period.
    “June 16th, 1860: “House Burned—The house of John Briceland, on Bear River, was burned down, on Saturday last, under such circumstance as to lead to the supposition that it was the work of the Indians. Mr. Briceland had an Indian boy living with him, and a short time since he ran away. At the time the house was burned it was unoccupied, as Mr. B. was at Mattole, and it is supposed that the boy watched his movements, and informed the Indians of his absence. They no doubt stole everything that could be carried away before firing the house and burned the balance in it–at any rate Mr. Briceland, we learn, has lost all his effects in and about the house at the time. He was the first to discover his loss, on his return.”

    His experiences give us an interesting window into the times when the newspapers referred to Indians living with whites as “pets”.

  • All of this was very interesting. Thanks Kym and all the commenters. I love local history.

  • uh oh! I think we have John Briceland Jr.s grave
    uh, I just enlarged the gravemarker and, help me here, isn’t the date of death 1920? If so, this is the son, who was also named John Crail Briceland. I believe he went off with the American Expeditionary Force in Mongolia, got tubercolosis, and returned to the states for treatment but died. That’s why you hadn’t heard of him Ross.

  • It reads John C. Briceland
    31 inf
    September 3 1920

  • I couldn’t resist and went searching. I found his death notice Fortuna Humboldt Beacon Sept 24 1920.

    The body of John Briceland has been brought to Briceland for burial. The deceased contracted tuberculosis while [illegible]th the A.E.F. in Siberia. He was brought to America and sent to Colorado for treatment, but it was too late. Death came last week in San Francisco.Both his father and mother who founded the town of Briceland have passed away but he is survived by several brothers and sisters in Briceland.”

    • According to his WWI draft card he was born January 19th 1891. So he wasn’t quite 30. He was tall with brown eyes and black hair and had military training at an Indian school (?) It also says he was half american indian and half Caucasian [I think. The handwriting is hard to decipher.]

    • During the Russian Revolution, on 13 August 1918, the 31st moved from Manila’s tropics to the bitter cold of Siberia. Its mission was to prevent allied war material left on Vladivostok’s docks from being looted. The 31st moved from Fort William McKinley to Manila, and there set sail for Vladivostok, Siberia, arriving on 21 August. The regiment was then broken into various detachments and used to guard the Trans-Siberian railway, as well as 130 km of a branch line leading to the Suchan mines.

      For the next 2 years, the 31st and its sister, the 27th Infantry Regiment, fought off bands of Red revolutionaries and White counter-revolutionaries that were plundering the Siberian countryside and trying to gain control of the Trans-Siberian Railroad. They also dissuaded their 40,000 Japanese “allies” from taking control of Russian territory.

      The regiment suffered its first battle casualties on 29 August 1918, in action near Ugolnaya. During the Siberian deployment, 30 soldiers of the 31st INF were killed and some 60 troops were wounded in action. In addition, a large number of troops lost limbs due to frostbite. During this deployment, the regiment recommended one Medal of Honor and 15 Distinguished Service Crosses. For its Service in Siberia, the 31st Infantry became known as “the Polar Bear regiment”, adopting a silver polar bear as its insignia.

      In April 1920, the regiment returned to Fort McKinley and, in December, was moved to the Post of Manila.

      This info came from the wikipedia page

      • Thanks Kym for setting record straight about his passing in Siberia, and not Mongolia as I mentioned!

  • OMR
    Sue Pancoast’s maiden name was Stansberry. She is a direct Descendant. Her mother was married to a Stansberry. Al Carl from Briceland knew Carl Briceland, as did Doyle Womack, and to a way lesser degree did I.

    I didn’t notice the dates on the headstone, But I did notice that the headstone is a typical headstone provided for military men. So, I agree this was the son of John.

  • What an interesting read! Thank you, everyone, for putting together many threads weaving the web of history, especially his likely service record. This is census information from 1900, but some of the birthdates and ages don’t match up perfectly so I’m not sure if it’s the right fit here or not… I think so?

    John (if the same one) is listed at 11 years old and his brother, Walter, at 12; pioneer John Sr. at 71.

    Name: Walter Briceland
    Home in 1900: South Fork, Humboldt, California
    Age: 12
    Birth Date: Dec 1887
    Birthplace: California
    Race: Indian (Native American)
    Ethnicity: American
    Gender: Male
    Relationship to Head of House: Son
    Father’s Name: John
    Father’s Birthplace: Virginia
    Mother’s Name: Fannie
    Mother’s Birthplace: California
    Marital Status: Single
    Residence : South Fork Township, Humboldt, California

    John Briceland 71
    Fannie Briceland (no age shown)
    Laura Briceland 17
    Walter Briceland 12
    John Briceland 11
    Carl Briceland 7

  • Hey all,
    thought I would add my two cents in,
    Carl was my great great grandfather, and I grew up with all the family stories. I manage the family ranch, now in Ferndale where Carl and Mary retired to in 1963. From the old family stories John and Walter both went to WW1 as they were excelent mule skinners. I still have one of the old McClellan type mule saddles. Any who… Walter came back, but John was sent to Siberia. Walter went to go get the body in San Francisco, to bring him back for burial.
    Every memorial day I would go with my grandmother Dolores Briceland before she passed away to all the cemetaries that had family to put out flowers. We always went to Briceland first to put a special bunch out for John then continued on to the bigger family plot in Honeydew. John Crail is buried in Briceland Cemetary as well, but my grandmother really didnt know where when I asked her, she knew about where, but she told me the hippies stole the marker in the ’60’s and it was never replaced. If anyone knows where exactly his plot is, or would like more info on the family you can shoot me an email at I would like to find out cause there needs to be one put back…
    Also about the Indian school, all the boys went to the Indian school, I believe the one in Whatcom County Washington… again that was from family stories from my grandmother…

    • Thank you. I appreciate you telling us more. My great great grandmother is supposedly buried out there too but we have never been able to find her headstone either. Her name was Sarah Ellen Cole Gillaspie. So if you ever find her headstone, I’d love to know. I’ll keep my eye out for information on your ancestor, too.

    • So glad you found your way to the post Jonathan and shared the WWI and Indian school information… that was new to me.
      Do you still use the old family brand?

  • I was born at Scotia (the nearest hospital) in 1946; my folks owned the Briceland store (though not the building) then, and we left in 1952. My folks told me there were still some Brices living there at the time. I have some recollections of my own, in addition to what my folks told me.

  • Do you have pictures of Briceland from that era Mr Barbour? If you want to have a history chat with a local historian, please contact kym through her email address and she will forward your email or phone to me… if you are willing.

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