The Finns in Fort Bragg and Finnish Folk Songs and Poetry

Soon after I came to Fort Bragg in 2000 I became fast friends with Hank Simonson.

Hank was born in 1917. Hank’s father had emigrated from Finland and come to Fort Bragg to join Hank’s uncle falling trees.  His father and uncle emigrated to escape from the Russian pogrom. Hake, Hank’s real name in Finnish, was born nine months after his mother arrived. Hank’s family, like many immigrant families, spoke their native language at home and he did not hear and learn English until he went to school. Hank’s father played the violin and his brother was accomplished on several instruments. The Finns were a large community in Fort Bragg and had their own Sulo band – here’s a picture of the band:

Fort Bragg Sulo Band

Fort Bragg Sulo Band

The Band had ceased to exist many years before I knew Hank. My one and only experience of Finnish Poetry and Folk Songs came when Hank and his beloved wife Flo and I attended what may well have been the last evening of Finnish Folk Song and Poetry ever held in Fort Bragg. Per Wiki, “The folk music of Finland is typically influenced by Karelian traditional tunes and lyrics of the Kalevala metre. Karelian heritage has traditionally been perceived as the purest expression of Finnic myths and beliefs, thought to be spared from Germanic and Slavic influences. ”  I was very polite and said I liked it but in all truth I didn’t understand a word of it!

Now you know how I got “into” Finnish Folk Music and Poetry.

Whilst most of our train Club members think I am a right pillock I do have an appreciation of classical music. Recently I have been listening to a VERY talented Finnish violinist named Pekka Kuusisto.  Whilst looking up his music up on YouTube I found  this vid which is both hilarious and enables you to learn Finnish.

Map of the Caspar, South Fork& Eastern Railroad

This map first appeared tucked away in the back of a Western Railroader. It was recently the subject of some correspondence I had with a gentleman who works for Jackson State Forest. Webmaster Roger Thornburn was in on the correspondence and used his magical computer skills to enhance the original.

As historian for the club I should have been knowledgeable of the great detail on the map. Not only does the map show the location of the Caspar Lumber Company’s twenty logging camps it also shows the location of its three inclines. Not only do we get the Caspar Railroad the CWR’s railraod is shown as is the Mendocino Lumber Compamy’s railroad tracks. If that wasn’t enough you can see Route 20, Highway 1 and the Comptche Ukiah Road. Last, but not least, it shows that the choice of path for all three railroads was along the side of rivers and streams. Have a gander for yourself. You’ll need to click on the map to see all the details I have described.

Caspar, South Fork & Eastern R. R. Map

Caspar, South Fork & Eastern R. R. Map

The Weller House in Fort Bragg, CA

Not too long back a couple visiting our layout (The Mendocino Coast Model Railroad & Navigation Co.) asked me if I knew the history of the tall converted water tower you can see from the layout to the north. I told them what little I knew – that it was a historical building. Well I can now do a bit better than that.

The Weller House is a historic Victorian house that is now a bed & breakfast. Built in Fort Bragg for Horace Weller in 1886, the Weller House is the oldest existing house in the city. Expanded a year later, it came to include three stories with 10 rooms, including a 1,600 square feet ballroom. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. The redwood that lines the ballroom is quite spectacular.

It wasn’t always a B&B – this pic was taken when it was a museum:

Weller House when it was a museum

Weller House when it was a museum

Here’s a pic of the plaque showing its historic designation :

Weller House historic plaque

Weller House historic plaque

The Weller House today

The Weller House today

 

 

Donner Party Survivor in Rose Memorial Cemetery, Fort Bragg, CA

I got a lead on this one from Lynn Catlett’s Facebook page, “You know you’re from Mendocino if ……. ” What follows comes from a site entitled, “Mendocino in my Heart.”

“A large “Red Men” fraternal order monument at Rose Memorial Cemetery in Fort Bragg includes the name  Sarah Ann Charlotte Murphy Foster, a survivor of the Donner Party, and the family of her sister, Minnie Foster Markle. Born November 24, 1826,  Sarah Ann Charlotte Murphy and her husband, William McFadden Foster were members of the ill-fated Donner Party in the winter of 1846-47. They were traveling west with their young son, George, and Sarah’s mother. After being stranded in the snow at Truckee (now Donner) Lake for two months, provisions were running low. Desperate to get help, 15 of the strongest people were selected to get help. The group consisted of 10 males and 5 females, including Sarah and William Foster. Later called the “Forlorn Hope,” the group left on December 16, 1846, swearing to get across the mountains and into California,  or die trying.

Somehow, seven (two men and all five women) survived the 33 days of travel, which brought them to Johnson’s Ranch, 35 miles east of Sutter’s Fort, on January 17, 1847. Sarah A.C. Murphy Foster’s three-year-old son, Jeremiah “George” Foster, was left behind with his grandmother, Levinah Murphy, in the Murphy Cabin at Donner Lake, but both perished. After her husband, William M. Foster died in 1874, Sarah moved to Mendocino County. She lived at or near Kibesillah – a town north of Fort Bragg till she died in 1906.”

Her tombstone is in the Rose Memorial Cemetery in Fort Bragg.

Sarah Ann Charlotte Murphy Foster

Sarah Ann Charlotte Murphy Foster

Sarah Ann Charlotte Murphy Foster's Headstone

Sarah Ann Charlotte Murphy Foster’s Headstone

 

Union Lumber Company’s (ULC) First Company Store in Fort Bragg, CA

In an earlier blog I showed a photo of the ULC’s second Company Store as it was when it was built and as it is now. Until very recently I have never chanced on a photo of the first ULC company store. The photo – see below – is interesting as is the text that accompanies it:

First ULC Company Store

First ULC Company Store

Hank  Simonson – one of our club members who has passed – was born in 1917. Like a lot of the folks who grew up in Fort Bragg Hank worked for the ULC.  One of Hank’s earliest jobs was to maintain the only telephone line in town which ran from the Company Store and Depot out to Ten Mile River.