Bourn’s Landing – a note from the owner, Dr. John Bonham

We have a page in the website on Bourn’s Landing – click here to see. At the foot of the page I wrote: “If anyone has any information to throw some light on my/our confusion please contact me.” My plea has been answered – see the e-mail below:

I have owned Bourn’s Landing for over 60 years and may be of some help to your ? lack of knowledge there;

Yes, there WAS a railroad! It was a narrow gauge steam driven typical lumbering railroad. The redwood ties have mostly rotted away and the railroad spikes that we once found are no longer there.

The Engineer was a Chinese fellow but his name is lost to history. He loved to make cookies for local children so his name simply became “Cook”.

He often would have a “cookie party” for children on a nearby beach. Now days, that beach is simply known as “Cook’s Beach

After I received the e-mail I went looking for a map showing Bourn’s Landing. This is the topo map I found:

Map showing Bourn's Landing

Map showing Bourn’s Landing

I was hoping to find the route of the railroad that Dr. Bonham mentions. Alas, no cigar.

Gualala Hotel

The first hotel in Gualala was built in in the late 1800’s. Here’s what it looked like:

First Gualala Hotel

First Gualala Hotel

The first one burned down in 1900. In 1903 a new hotel was built. Here’s what it looks like:

Second Gualala Hotel

Second Gualala Hotel

Wife Sarah and I took a day trip down south recently and stopped in Gualala for a great lunch. The 1903 hotel was still standing and looked VERY much like it did when it was built:

The Gualala Hotel in 2019

The Gualala Hotel in 2019



Branscomb – once the site of a lumber mill located between Westport and Laytonville in Northern California

This is another crumb of local history gleaned as a result of my finding a photo.

First where is/was Branscomb? Here’s a map to orient you:

Map showing location of Branscombe in Northern California

Map showing location of Branscombe in Northern California

Wiki is my only source of info. Fortunately they have quite a bit of info:

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 (0.65 km2) 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.

And my one and only photo? Here it is:



Last Kibesillah Building Saved by Steve Brigham

This story and the pic appeared in the December 2013 Westport Wave. We live in Cleone and Kibesillah is one “town” to the north of us making the story of particular interest to me.

As you likely know, the former town of Kibesillah predated Westport as the largest Caucasian settlement in our area, having been started in the late 1860’s in an area just south of our present-day Vista Point. By 1870, the town had around 20 buildings and 113 residents, many of whom would move to Westport as that town was established ten years later.

Today, nothing remains of the old town of Kibesillah, except for a small shed and a big house or barn. For well over a century, this old barn (which is clearly visible as you drive by on the Coast Highway) has stood as a proud relic of days gone by, and it is perhaps the oldest building in our area. But two years ago, a big storm finally collapsed one side of it, and since then it has been on the verge of collapsing altogether.

Owner Mike Cutino desperately wanted to preserve this historic structure, but he didn’t have the means to do so. There was no way the proud old barn would survive another winter. Would the last relic of Kibesillah collapse and the old town finally be gone forever?

Enter (ta-daa!) the expert Neighbor 2 Neighbor crew, led by Gary Quinton and Picasso Sosa. You’ve heard of a “barn-raising” – well this was a barn-saving! As if by magic, several telephone poles were donated and holes were dug, and on November 1st (All Saints Day), equipment was brought in to lift and place the poles, which now securely hold the old barn up. It took several volunteers to install the heavy poles on the outside of the structure and one right in the center.

All together there were 8 sets of helping hands. Next, volunteers installed beams to support the roof and walls so the winter winds do not tear it down. This is not a fix, but rather a saving of this very old structure, which allows Mike Cutino the time to fully restore the old structure. As you might expect, Mike is “ecstatic”, amazed, and so thankful to Gary and Picasso and all the volunteers
that made his (and Westport’s) dream of preserving the Old Kibesillah Barn come true. This is another tremendous story of how Neighbor 2 Neighbor can work, be the project big or small! “

Last building in Kibissilah

Last building in Kibesillah

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


Wilson McFaul’s Schact automobile – picture taken at Hardy Creek in 1906 or 1907

I know, I know it’s a lousy photo. I got it from a blog entitled the Westport Wave. The story below the pic was written by a gentleman named Thad Van Beuren and it appeared in the March 2013 post.

Wilson McFaul's Schact auto - a 1906 or 1907 picture

Wilson McFaul’s Schact auto – a 1906 or 1907 picture

Here’s Thad’s (edited) commentary on the pic ……..

This month I’d like to share a photograph taken sometime in 1906 or 1907 in front of the Hardy Creek Hotel. [The pic]  depicts Wilson McFaul’s Schacht automobile. The image was almost certainly taken during the wet season because mud is caked inside the fenders, the tires are wrapped with rope to provide traction, and the people in the scene are dressed warmly.

McFaul was heavily involved in the tanbark and split stuff industry, and helped establish the first landing at Hardy Creek in the 1890s. When Juan Alviso died in 1900, McFaul purchased his lands around Juan Creek and built Union Landing south of the creek’s mouth. By the time this photograph was taken, McFaul had far-reaching interests that continued to focus on tanbark and split stuff acquired from an extensive area between Hardy and Howard creeks. A large-scale lumber milling operation began production at Hardy Creek in 1903, and the railroad tracks connecting the wharf to the mill and woods is visible just in front of the car.

Wilson McFaul must have been fairly prosperous at the time, because few people in the local area had cars at this early date. The newfangled contraptions were hand made and relatively expensive. William and Gustav Schact produced 8000 automobiles in Cincinnati, Ohio between 1904 to 1914. Thereafter, the G. A. Schacht Motor Truck Company focused exclusively on building trucks until 1940. McFaul’s 2 cylinder, 10 horsepower “high wheeler” runabout clearly reveals how early autos adapted their form from horse-drawn carriages. This model was water-cooled and featured vulcanized hard rubber treads covering spoked wooden wheels. The top speed of such early automobiles did not typically exceed 25-30 mph. Given the rough condition of the early wagon roads available at that time, doing more than 20 mph was actually dangerous. Nowadays we think nothing of doing 55 mph and a finished asphalt-concrete highway.

But imagine how differently people experienced the landscape traveling rutted dirt tracks at slower speeds. It was a time when traveling to the Westport area remained arduous and trips were not undertaken for frivolous reasons. Each trip involved a lot of effort and even discomfort. Perhaps also some mud in the eye!

Casting our minds back to those times, the slower pace and difficulty of travel implied people were more rooted to places and local social networks. Sure, there was mail and products were shipped in, but the lifestyle was slower paced and in many ways more localized than in our modern day. It makes one wonder now what will happen a century in the future, as our unsustainable dependence on global transportation comes into sharper focus.”

Very good Thad.


A Shay of the Greenwood (aka Elk) Railroad and Caspar Railroad #3 2-6-2t

This is part of a recently received e-mail:

My name is Tammy Durston – I grew up in Annapolis, went to Pt Arena High and am author of three books on the area. I am writing a fourth book featuring what the Mendo coast looked like in the past versus what it looks like now. My husband’s family has been in the coast since around 1850. I’m the family historian and have been going through old photos. My husband’s great grandfather was a train engineer in Elk and Caspar. I’ve attached a couple of photos. I wondered if you could give me any background on these engines.”

Here is the first of the two photos:

One of Greenwood Railroad Co #2, #3 or #5 Shay

One of Greenwood Railroad Co #2, #3 or #5 Shay

My reply: if you go to this page in our website  I think you will find this loco in one the top three photos. So, I think this photo is of  a Shay although I can’t tell if it is #2, #3 or #5. Toward the bottom of this web page you’ll see what we know about the Elk/Greenwood Shays. GRCO I am reasonably sure is short for Greenwood Railroad Company.

And photo number 2:

Caspar, South Fork & Eastern Railroad #3 - a 2-6-2t

Caspar, South Fork & Eastern Railroad #3 – a 2-6-2t

This one took a bit of finding.  I finally located it on our website in Issues 315-316 of the Western Railroader magazine – Caspar Lumber Company. If you click here you can bring up the entire book . Page though to page 12 and you’ll see this loco in the top photo.

Whew that took a bit Shelock Holmesing!!!!


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.