Caspar Lumber Company’s little red schoolhouse on Route 20 between Fort Bragg and Willits

I received this e-mail from Monty L. Coursey, Sr.:

About a year ago, my friend and I visited northern California and drove from FortBragg southward to Sen Francisco through Calistoga. As we went out Highway 20 eastward we came upon the Little Red School House on the right side of the road. We stayed there only a few minutes but as we drove on to San Francisco, we talked at length about the little building and its setting close to the creek. Somehow it has always been special to us and we vowed that the next time we were in California we would go back there. But we were not sure exactly where it is located. Is there any way you could show us on a map how we could find it again?”

The above came with a spifflicating photo of the schoolhouse.

The Caspar Lumber Company's little red schoolhouse on CA Route 20

The Caspar Lumber Company’s little red schoolhouse on CA Route 20

My reply:

“Great photo!!!!!!

The schoolhouse is on the Willits side of the Camp 20 recreation area  click to see map.
The good news is that the last time I passed work has been done to save the roof.

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

 

Elk which is also Greenwood – a town on the Mendocino Coast

Although the road signs say “Elk” officially it is the Elk Post Office at Greenwood. The reason for the strange appellation is that when postal codes were introduced there was another Greenwood in California so the name was sort of changed to avoid confusion.

A century ago the population was 10 times as large as today’s. Schooners from the L.E. White Lumber Co. (LEWLCo) sailed regularly from San Francisco and early tourists took the 14 hour ride for $5, dinner and bunk included. The town had ten hotels each with a saloon and there five other saloons. Each of the ethnic groups which worked in the mill: Finns, Swedes, Irish, Russians and Chinese congregated in “their” saloon.

The L.E. White offices are still in Elk. Today the offices are the local museum and the museum contains a cornucopia of logging operations artifacts and exhibits. The area around the museum was the lumber drying yard.

Elk or Greenwpod Main Street

Elk or Greenwood Main Street

The garage in Elk today was there when the mill was in operation – as were the buildings to the south in this picture taken in 1901. The building with the rounded roof in the picture  is the garage.

Opposite the garage there is a path that goes down to the sea. It all looks so peaceful now. A hundred years ago it was a hive of activity.

Chuck Ross, his brother John and his sister Lorene Christiansen have both been officers in the Mendocino County Historical Society.  Chuck grew up in Elk and has had a lifelong interest in the lumber industry there, and especially in the railroads.  Over the decades Chuck has walked nearly every mile of the railroads in Greenwood, Elk and Alder Creeks. He has even walked some stretches where the rail is still in place. These two maps were provided by Chuck.

Map of the first railroad in Greenwood

Map of the first railroad in Greenwood

The blue line shows the approximate rail route from Cuffey’s Cove to the Fred Helmke sawmill and camp – the first sawmill at Greenwood. The route was a nearly level run and Chuck would not be surprised to learn that horse-drawn cars had been used on it in the early days.  The first destination out of town was the shingle mill in Laurel Gulch, then the tracks went on down to Greenwood Creek.

Map of the L E White railroad

Map of the L E White railroad

The second map segment shows the location of the L.E. White sawmill near the mouth of the creek.  The White addition to the trackages is shown in purple with the Helmke track now shown dashed.  Sanborn maps show the connecter was abandoned between 1891 and 1894.  No record exists to tell us where the first loco, “Sausalito”, came ashore.

 

Sanborn Map of Caspar

Let’s hear from Wiki first:

” The Sanborn Map Company was a publisher of detailed maps of U.S. cities and towns in the 19th and 20th centuries. The maps were originally created to allow fire insurance companies to assess their total liability in urbanized areas of the United States. Since they contain detailed information about properties and individual buildings in approximately 12,000 U.S. cities and towns, Sanborn maps are invaluable for documenting changes in the built environment of American cities over many decades. Sanborn held a monopoly over fire insurance maps for the majority of the 20th century, but the business declined as US insurance companies stopped using maps for underwriting in the 1960s. The last Sanborn fire maps were published on microfilm in 1977, but old Sanborn maps remain useful for historical research into urban geography. 

The Sanborn maps themselves are large-scale lithographed street plans at a scale of 50 feet to one inch (1:600) on 21 by 25 inches (53 by 64 cm) sheets of paper. The maps were published in volumes, bound and then updated until the subsequent volume was produced. Larger cities would be covered by multiple volumes of maps. Between editions of published volumes, map updates were sent out as correction slips. Sanborn employees, called “pasters” or “correctors”, would visit subscribers’ offices to paste the slips on top of the old maps.The map volumes contain an enormous amount of information. They are organized as follows: a decorative title page; an index of streets and addresses; a ‘specials’ index with the names of churches, schools, businesses etc.; and a master index indicating the entirety of the mapped area and the sheet numbers for each large-scale map (usually depicting four to six blocks); and general information such as population, economy and prevailing wind direction.

The maps include outlines of each building and outbuilding; the location of windows and doors; street names; street and sidewalk widths; property boundaries; fire walls; natural features (rivers, canals, etc.); railroad corridors; building use (sometimes even particular room uses); house and block number; as well as the composition of building materials including the framing, flooring, and roofing materials; the strength of the local fire department; indications of sprinkler systems; locations of fire hydrants; location of water and gas mains; and even the names of most public buildings, churches and businesses.Unique information includes the location of the homes of prominent individuals, brothels, and more ephemeral buildings including outhouses and stables.”

There were two Sanborn Maps of Caspar. This one was published in January 1891 [cut and paste to see it]:

https://www.loc.gov/resource/g4364cm.g4364cm_g004521891

This one was published in November 1898:

https://www.loc.gov/resource/g4364cm.g4364cm_g004521898

There was another Sanborn Map of Caspar published in November 1909 but, alas, it is not in the Library of Congress yet.

Using the +/- up/down and side to side keys you can zoom in on the totally amazing detail encapsulated in the map.

This Topo map shows Caspar today [click on map to enlarge].

Topo Map of Caspar

Topo Map of Caspar

Anyone who can correct my info PLEASE contact me.

 

Mill at Rider Gulch

Ok. Hands up everyone who knows where Rider Gulch is. Hmmm Didn’t see one hand up.

Rider Gulch is not far from Westport. Go up Wages Creek and hang a right.

Topo Map showing Rider Gulch

Topo Map showing Rider Gulch

In days of old there was a mill there. Here’s the photos that show I am telling the truth.

Rider Mill at Rider Gulch

Rider Mill at Rider Gulch

Log pond at Rider Mill at Rider Gulch

Log pond at Rider Mill at Rider Gulch

Now before you go to the next photo look back at the map. Could the log pond be the body of water in Rider Gulch near Wages Creek?

Rider Mill at Rider Gulch

Rider Mill at Rider Gulch

Until I got hold of the photos I too had never heard of Rider Gulch and I have struggled only a few yards up Wages Creek. So, if there is anyone who knows better than I please contact me.

 

 

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

Branscomb, California

Where is Branscome?

Map showing whereabouts of Branscomb California

Map showing whereabouts of Branscomb California

It’s not a good map but I think you can see that it’s close to Westport and Laytonville. According to Wiki, “Branscom b is an unincorporated community in Mendocino County. It’s located 8 miles west-southwest of Laytonville.”

I knew there was once a mill but that’s about it. Wiki though has a nice piece of history:

Benjamin Franklin Branscomb joined an ox-team wagon train that was headed for California in 1857. He was born in Jackson, Ohio, in 1832, the son of Joseph Edmond Branscomb. The family moved to DeKalb County, Missouri, where Joseph became Sheriff. According to family tradition, Joseph, a staunch abolitionist, was shot and killed 3 days before President Lincoln was assassinated, but a contemporary newspaper account says Joseph was shot to death by a Mr. Jacob J. Stoffel in Maysville in July 1865, several months after Lincoln’s assassination.

Benjamin later settled in Sonoma County and farmed there for about twenty years. He married one of the daughters of the captain of the wagon train, Mary Jane Taylor, and they had 10 children: 6 boys and 4 girls. They moved to Jackson Valley, Mendocino, in 1880, where he homesteaded 160 acres of land and 40 acres more under the Timber Act. He was instrumental in starting the first school in that area. He built a large home which, after his family grew up, he turned into a hotel. A small grocery store, meat market and livery stable were added later. After more people came into the area, he established a post office, which first opened in 1894. Since the place had no official name, it was named after him, the postmaster. After his death in 1921, one of his sons, John, inherited the property and ran it until 1959, when he sold it to the Harwood family, who built the timber mill in Branscomb called Harwood Products. Unfortunately in the year 2007 the mill filed bankruptcy, eventually closing its doors for good in 2008. The Branscomb store along with the post office, officially closed few years after in 2016.”

I have never seen a photo of the mill. I have just one photo which I suspect was taken way before the mill came.

Branscomb, CA

Branscomb, CA

Just a leeetel bit more of our local history.

 

 

 

 

From Wages Creek to Westport by Train for the first time on November 21st, 1917

Westport still exists. Wages Creek exists only as a sign. They were/are north of Fort Bragg along CA Route 1. The map below (courtesy of our webmaster Roger Thornburn) shows the road between the two places today.

Westport and Wages Creek from a USGS Topo Map

Westport and Wages Creek from a USGS Topo Map

Now let me quote you a clip from the Fort Bragg Advocate of November 21, 1917,

The driving of the golden spike was quite an event Saturday afternoon. The railroad was completed and the train came in bringing all Hickey’s men from Wages Creek. George Fee drove the spike and Judge Roach spoke a few words in honour of the railroad and Mr. Hickey then treated all the ladies and children to candy and the men to cigars. Mr Hickey rented the moving picture house from Mr Ramsdell and invited everyone to a free show. There was a large crowd.

I confess …… I didn’t this little seven mile railroad existed. But, it did as this map (exhumed by Roger Thornburn) shows:

Westport to Wages Creek Railroad Map

Westport to Wages Creek Railroad Map

Another little bit o’ history!