A brief history of the MacKericher Family (note the spelling) – McKerricher State Park and how Cleone got its name (???)

First a map of McKerricher State Park:

MacKerricher State Park Map

MacKerricher State Park Map

Among this week’s dirty washing I found this old word doc:

When I was attending college I worked as a Park Aide for two summers with the California Department of Parks and Recreation. As the official driver of the park garbage truck, I traveled to all three of our local parks every day. Frankly, I had no idea how the parks got their names. Now that I know, I’m going to pass some of what I learned about one of our parks on to you.

Long before there was a MacKerricher State Park, there was a family named MacKericher. I did not misspell the name, but more about that later. Duncan MacKericher was born in 1836 in Quebec, Canada. Jessie Stuart was born in 1837, also in Quebec, Canada. Both were of Scottish decent. Duncan met Jessie, fell in love and married her in 1864. They had already made the decision that they would leave Canada for the Mendocino Coast, where they had mutual friends. Shortly after they married they left Canada, traveling to New York City by train, where they booked passage on a ship bound for Panama. An interesting footnote is that their ship was escorted part way by the U.S.S. Constitution since America was fighting the Civil War at the time. Once they arrived at Panama, they traveled across land by rail. They then boarded a ship bound for San Francisco. In San Francisco they boarded a small coast schooner headed for Eureka with a stop at Mendocino. The weather was so stormy that they could not land and were forced to sail up to Eureka. On the ship’s return voyage to San Francisco, they were able to disembark at Mendocino.

At Mendocino, the couple settled down. Duncan became employed by the sawmill and worked there for about two years. He was then offered a job working for Indian Agent, E.J. Whipple on the reservation established at Ten Mile for the local Pomo band of Indians. Within two years the government decided to move the Indians to a new location at Round Valley. Duncan and Jessie decided they wanted to stay in the immediate area so they bought the Rancho de la Luguna. Interesting enough, about half the tribe decided to live on the Rancho and work for the MacKerichers.

Within two years the ranch was fast becoming a successful operation. They had 69 cows to milk every day. They made butter which they shipped by water to San Francisco via Mendocino. A good portion of the funds received from the butter sales went directly to support their Indian labor force. The MacKerichers also grew and sold potatoes as their major crop and were well known for raising quality draft horses.

The MacKerichers raised several children on their ranch. The MacKericher’s ranch was near a little town which had, in the past, gone by the name of Kanuck. Jessie is reported to have changed the town name to Cleone. Here is where the story becomes muddled. There are several versions of the derivation of the name Cleone . One version reports the name Cleone to be Greek meaning “gracious” or “beautiful”. Another version argues that Cleone is a reference to Cleon, an Ancient Greek statesman. Finally, there is an argument that Cleone is a reference to Kelio, the name the northern Pomos had given to one of their villages.

In any event, a post office was opened in 1883 under the name of Kanuck. Later that same year it was changed to Cleone. The post office was closed in 1908. Duncan was cooperative with lumber interests and allowed one of the four lumber mills operating in the Cleone area to build a gravity-fed tramway from the mill, through town and ranch property to the wharf and chute at Laguna Point just west of the ranch, to haul lumber.

Jessie died in 1923 and Duncan died in 1926. The property remained within the MacKericher family until 1950 when the land was sold to the State of California to create MacKerricher State Park. Somewhere along the line the name MacKericher picked up an extra “r”. The MacKerichers gravestone spells the name with two “r’s”. MacKerricher State Park is one of the top 100 parks in the United States in terms of attendance with over 2 million visitors a year. Hope you enjoyed the story.

Regretfully I have no idea who the “I” is in the above piece.

There is a boardwalk out to Laguna from which seals may be seen:

Laguna-Point-MacKerricher Park

Laguna-Point-MacKerricher Park

And the seals …….

Seals at Laguna Point

Seals at Laguna Point


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *