Redwood National Park Superintendent Steve Mietz is proud to announce the listing of Lyons Ranches Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.
The district is within the park and a great example of large-scale sheep ranching from the late 19th and mid-20th centuries, and the establishment of social and economic community between Native American people and the immigrant European-American society in the Bald Hills of Humboldt County, California. It is nearly devoid of modern intrusions after sheep ranching was largely abandoned in the 1950’s with a number of barns, cabins, sheep sheds, and other structures remaining from the Lyons’ ownership.
“Being listed on the national register is a vital step forward in increasing our ability to protect and preserve these historic lands, buildings, and their stories. They are physical links to our collective past and to the lives and meanings of the people who came before us and in some way shaped our communities today,” stated Mietz.
“Preserving the Lyons Ranch also helps preserve the beauty of the Bald Hills and the spirit of the place, providing an increasingly rare opportunity to travel back in time to the old West.”
Jonathan Lyons was one of the first European American settlers in the Bald Hills and together with his wife, Amelia Lyons, of Hupa descent, started sheep ranching that carried on for three generations. The Lyons introduced sheep to the Bald Hills in 1873, and were awarded a gold medal from the 1901 Paris Exposition for the high quality of wool.
The Lyons family had one of the largest ranching operations in northern Humboldt County and was known for their innovation. They were the first in the Bald Hills to install telephones between the family ranches. Some of the original fence posts and telephone posts still survive. The first school in the Bald Hills was built on Lyons land in the 1870s, and when the community got a post office in 1896, it was placed in the Lyons home.
The 5,660 acre district is set within the Bald Hills. The open prairies and oak woodlands used for pasture were mainly a result of thousands of years of Native American burning stimulating the growth of plants for food and basketry, and attracting wildlife. The Native American traditions of woodworking are also reflected in several of the surviving barns. John and Amelia’s grandson Gene was the first identified Native American to graduate from the California College of Agriculture at Davis and his support continues through the Austin Eugene Lyons Fellowship at the University of California, Davis to aid graduate students and practitioners of veterinary medicine, with preference given to students from Humboldt and Del Norte Counties.
The effort to document and list the ranches has taken nearly three decades. That effort began with local historian Susie Van Kirk, who passed away last year. Redwood National and State Parks is grateful for her many contributions to understanding the Lyons Family history, and is pleased to see that her legacy continues with her archive that now resides at Humboldt State University’s Special Collections Library.
The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the nation’s historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America’s historic and archeological resources.
The more than 90,000 properties listed in the National Register represent 1.4 million individual resources—buildings, sites, districts, structures, and objects. Last year over 1,000 properties were listed. For more information including heritage travel suggestions go to https://www.nps.gov/nr. For more information on the Lyons Ranches, come to the park!
Northern California’s Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine