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Indian Creek Library

As I drive into Anderson Valley on Highway 128 for my occasional visits, I see mental snapshots taken during my childhood in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Sheep at Hulberts. J.T. Farrer’s store in Boonville. Apple trees and cattle at Schoenhal’s. The little red schoolhouse — then painted white and used as the kindergarten, now repurposed as the Anderson Valley Historical Museum — facing southwest with the highway right in front. Small and not so small mills, each with a “teepee” slash burner. The Last Resort bar in Philo.

Time passes and I have become increasingly aware how much has passed in my lifetime. I am hardly old. There is a full generation older. Yet some of my memories seem like ancient history.

Steve Sparks’ column “Life and Times…” in this newspaper does a good job of tracing individual histories of people who live in Anderson Valley, but misses the larger context; the history of Anderson Valley. Living memory is a fleeting thing. According to an African proverb, “When an old person dies, a library burns.” So I am writing this to encourage others with long histories in Anderson Valley to write down their memories and let the paper print them, as a way of keeping those memories alive.

When we lived in Anderson Valley, one of the places I most liked to visit was the Indian Creek Library. It was in Indian Creek State Reserve — now Indian Creek County Park — and was housed in a cabin under the park’s big redwoods. For a pre-teen who loved to read, it was heaven.

I remember the building had three rooms; two on the right side where the books were kept and a larger one on the left that may have been used for meetings. The library kept highly irregular regular hours — it was open perhaps twice a week for a few hours, during which one could check out books, and that was it.

It also was — and there is really no other word for it — spooky. A redwood building dwarfed by tall trees, it stood in dark shadows; wonderfully cool in the heat of summer. In winter, the gloom was palatable. Parking was directly in front of the cabin: when it rained, sizeable puddles formed, resulting in interesting routes to the library door as one danced around them to keep one’s feet more or less dry. Rain would build into big drops in the tree and fall hard; nothing gentle about it! Those in the Valley who live under tall timber know those big, stinging drops well.

Oh, but the books! As libraries go, it was tiny, but the books there were the perfect fuel for a kid’s imagination. I recall two clearly. One was a book on Man o’ War, the great racehorse. We had horses and this champion — this horse among horses — was easy to picture. The other was a book on inventions. That book may have been slyly humorous, as the invention I remember best was a pair of roller skates powered by tiny gas engines! To a 12-year-old, they sounded incredibly cool.

A check of the internet says the Indian Creek Library was run by the Anderson Valley Unity Club. Apparently, the club served as caretakers of the park in return for use of the cabin, which served as both the library and the organization’s clubhouse.

When we moved from Anderson Valley in 1963 (though we continued to spend considerable time in the Valley until the late 1980s), I am pretty sure the library was still in Indian Creek State Reserve. I know the library eventually left the Reserve and — still run by the Anderson Valley Unity Club — now is housed at the Mendocino County Fairgrounds in Boonville. I seem to recall the cabin was left empty and eventually burned to the ground, but have no memory as to when it happened.

I am glad the library continues to serve the community, but feel regret that Valley kids no longer have the adventure of discovering books in a place as memorable as the Indian Creek Library.


  1. Ron Salsig March 17, 2015

    Thank you for your story, Marshall. I stumbled on this in a fleeting moment of recollection from my childhood. My grandfather owned the Philo Lumber Co., located on the hill above Indian Creek. We spent our summers there in my childhood. I would go down to fish in Indian Creek, and the library there always intrigued me — I felt a connection to my life that I could not explain. Today I am a writer, with a few national awards attached to my name. That library always haunts me — it foretold of my future without my really knowing what it was all about. The Indian Creek Library is where my writing started, my love of books and the written word. That building has haunted me throughout my life … and it remains in my memory, forever. I remain grateful that I finally googled it this morning, and found your story.


  2. Charles Becker April 10, 2012

    Marshall, Thanks for your recollections. Although we scarcely knew each other, my folks were pretty close with your folks. It’s good to know that the history of the Valley lives on, in this corner and that of society.

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