The Founder of Blue Lake
Written by Jehanne Bietry-Salinger
The following is an excerpt from an article in the July-August 1986 Humboldt Historian.It originally appeared in "Centennial Guide to the French of California," published in 1949 by Jehanne Bietry-Salinger, former Women's Page editor of the "Humboldt Times," and the mother of Pierre Salinger, press secretary for President John F. Kennedy.
A Frenchman traveling through Humboldt County is impressed by the ancient California redwoods and the mild climate, and he could ask if the village of Blue Lake is a French village on the banks of the Loire or the Indre, or is it truly in the United States?
Blue Lake is the work of tenderness founded by a son of France. Like many others, Clement Chartin was one of those pioneers who came to America to find his fortune, but found something greater beyond his dreams.
Chartin was a native of Parcecay near Issoudun in northwestern France. He did not come to America to look for gold, but came at the time of the construction of the first continental railroad. He had spent many years in Egypt where he had worked on the construction of the Suez Canal. From there, he traveled through Palestine, Turkey, Greece and Italy. He sailed from London to New York and arrived in San Francisco at the time of the stampede for gold. He went to Colorado where he lived for more than a year during the construction of the railroad. From there he traveled west with his wife and sister-in-law, Miss Clemence Deschatres, and arrived Humboldt County in 1869.
Traveling up Mad River (Riviere Folle), he was immediately attracted by the beauty of the region, and he envisioned a pretty village with paved streets and cottages on the mountainside and in the valley. In 1871, he bought a piece of land in the region and began to clear it. He immediately built a simple but comfortable hotel and several houses.
There was a need for a store, so he constructed a building and became a merchant. He was appointed postmaster and built a post office.
His hotel was located near a lake which reflected the summer blue sky, which was the inspiration for naming this village "Blue Lake" (Le Lac Bleu).
To encourage other settlers to live in the area, he gave away lots to numerous people, and houses and business establishments were soon erected. He also granted land for the purpose of building a church and benevolent societies.
In 1888, Chartin found himself rather isolated from the rest of the world in that lovely valley of Humboldt County and decided to publish a newspaper. He knew it would be in the English language because the majority of the settlers were Americans. He called his newspaper "The Northern Advocate."
In the spring of 1889, Mr. and Mrs. Chartin and her sister, Miss Clemence Deschatres, left for France. At their return to California, in November of the same year, Mr. Chartin was accompanied by his kindred and parents who wished to live near him in Blue Lake. Among these people were Madame Clementine Perigot, a niece of Clement Chartin, her son Gus Perigot, two daughters, Emily and Bertha, all from Issoudun in northwestern France. Chartin sent all the youngsters of the family to school so that they could learn English. Their descendants have preserved the traditions of their native country and still speak French.
In 1895, Gus Perigot took over his uncle's newspaper. The name of the journal was changed to "The Blue Lake Advocate" (L'Avocat du Lac Bleu). After Gus died in 1929, his sister Bertha became the director and editor-in-chief until May 1848 when "The Blue Lake Advocate" celebrated its 60th anniversary. It was Loren Demotte who succeeded her, keeping the French title of the newspaper. . . .
In 1890, Clement Chartin's brother, Alexis, came to join him. He was accompanied by his wife and his daughter, Matilda. Also, about the same time, Henri Rousseau, his wife, and their son Robert arrived from Paris. The three grandsons of the Rousseau family also came to live in the Blue Lake region. They were Henry, Marshall, and Raymond Rousseau.
Another French pioneer of Blue Lake was Francois Douarin and his family from Brittany. Their three married daughters live in Humboldt County: Mrs. Ida Harvey of Blue Lake; Mrs. Helen Laverty and Mrs. Elise Baldwin of Eureka.
Mr. John Jaymot, who came some years ago from Pau, France, still lives in Blue Lake. Today , the small French town of Blue Lake, founded by Clemet Chartin, is an incorporated town with a population of more than 1,000 people.
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