Culinary Chaos in History

“Drunken Woodsmen Wreck Cookhouse-Raise Hades at Little Valley Camp.” That’s what a headline in the Mendocino Beacon reported in the November 23, 1918 issue. This is the story about cooks and their customers. 

North of Fort Bragg Union Lumber Company had a logging crew in a recently established camp east of Cleone in an extensive stand of fir. Members of the camp got inebriated and destroyed the cookhouse and its contents. Why? The camp cooks were not treating them right. 

Could it have been political action during labor strife? At first, investigators thought it was an International Workers of the World disruption, or an Anarchists contingent with a labor gripe. But no. It was reported as a group of sore-headed Finns who got tanked up extensively in Fort Bragg and decided to take out their spite on the camp cook, who wasn’t treating them right. 

Befuddled and in an intoxicated condition they ran the Chinese cook and his steward out of their cabin, looted it, then turned their attention on the cookhouse. They destroyed all the windows, smashed the wood range and broke all the camp dishes. Then they littered the place with food and provisions, scattering flour, sugar, beans, coffee and more over the floor. They ended up their orgy by shooting up the camp. 

Understand readers that the Marshal came out the next day and corralled the raiders, bringing them to town and lodging them in jail. The miscreants were Charles Waara, John Konu, Otto Saari, Enar Johnson and Issac Jacobsen, the camp boss. 

So what caused the outrage? They’d recently been employed at the Company’s new camp on the Noyo River near Irmulco, where a small bunch of timber was being cut on the railroad right-of-way. 

The Chinese cook at this camp had favored this Finn contingent in every way possible giving them lunches between meals and all the sugar they wanted. When they found they were to be transferred to the coast they endeavored to have the cook transferred also. The Company had already chosen a new cook for the new camp in Little Valley and said NO. This new cook and his steward did not show any special favors to the bunch and they soon waxed sore and decided to run the Chinese out and the rampage resulted. 

One Chinese man claimed the loss of $125 and the other $85 which disappeared from their cabin when the bunch looted it. The Sheriff came out and the District Attorney planned to prosecute the offenders. One would question if they were ever allowed to work for Union Lumber Company again and how much restitution they had to pay. 

It was said logging camps and sawmills ran on the quality of their cooks. Good food meant happy workers. Bad food and you had problems. But seldom did your preference for one chef over another lead to such mayhem. 

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