Irmulco when it was the end of line from Fort Bragg

The name Irmulco comes from Ireland Murray Lumber Company. The company started out in 1902 with a small steam powered sawmill in Two Rock Valley, six miles west of Willits. Lonzo Irvine and Henry Muir ran this mill until 1909 when the supply of readily available timber was exhausted. The operation was moved along the Noyo River where it ran until 1923.

Prior to the line from Fort Bragg going  all the way “over the hill” to Willits it ended at Irmulco. To travel the last sixteen miles to Willits passengers had to alight and catch a stage.

The stage waiting for passengers to alight at Irmulco

The stage waiting for passengers to alight at Irmulco

Better them than me!

Loading lumber at Westport, CA in the 1890’s

Whether this pic is what it says, “Loading lumber at Westport, CA in the 1890’s” may not be correct. The sailing schooner seems to be too close to the shore to be Westport and the view of the town through the rigging doesn’t seem quite right either. Be that as it may this pic is another tiny sliver of  local Mendocino Coast History:

Loading lumber at Westport CA. in the 1890's

Loading lumber at Westport CA. in the 1890’s

Kibesillah, Mother of Fort Bragg

Kibesillah is pronounced cab-huh-silluh. Depending who you talk to the name is either from the Pomo words Kabe (rock) and sila (flat) or it means “Head of the Valley”. Kibesillah was also known as  “The Mother of Fort Bragg”

This edited article comes from a website called, “Mendocino in my heart.””

“To walk the rolling hills in this lush area 12 miles north of Fort Bragg, it’s difficult to imagine the   bustling towns of Kibesillah and Newport that once overlooked the Pacific Ocean. Although many people may not know it, Fort Bragg is the direct descendant of Kibesillah.”

So wrote Budd Salsig in his article, “Kibesillah, Mother of Fort Bragg,” in the 1935 Fort Bragg High School yearbook, Breath of Ocean. Budd Salsig’s family were pioneers in Pt. Arena, south of Mendocino. Many have written or excerpted articles about Kibesillah and Newport, but Budd Salsig’s description is one of the more colorful:

“In its prime, Kibesillah consisted of numerous hotels, a couple of stores, several harness shops, a church and a   generous complement of saloons. Its chief support was its business in lumber, ties, bark and posts. The sawmill that had been erected at Kibesillah was very soon moved to Ten Mile. The mill didn’t run during the rainy season, and during that time the saloons were overflowing with gamblers, drunken tie makers and other mill employees. Stacks of $20 gold pieces decorated tables everywhere. The population went around dressed most viciously, usually carrying large knives or pistols.”

Kibesillah and the neighboring town of Newport were definitely wild Western towns, but they were not uncivilized. Kibesillah was home to a weekly newspaper, the North Coast Review, and the district office for the North Pacific Telegraph Company. More than one church thrived in Kibesillah, and by 1878, the Blue Ribbon Temperance League had a firm grip on the town. Newport, its neighbor one mile to the south, was the site of the lumber chute and sawmill and, at various times, the company store, the power plant and the foreman’s house.”

And today? Nowt, not even a sign. This pic may well show all that’s left:

tween Kibisillah and Westport

Barn between Kibisillah and Westport

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!

Clare Mill – a used to be stop on the Skunk Route from Fort Bragg to Willits

What do we know about Clare Mill. Not a heck of a lot. The website tells us that Clare Mill was 30.4 miles from the Fort Bragg depot. In the early 1900’s railroad ties were made by hand here. There was also a trestle bridge here that at 600 feet long and 73 feet high was comparable to the Pudding Creek Trestle. It was replaced with an earth-filled berm in 1936. Until the Skunk line finally made it “over the hill” to Willits this was the end of the line. To get to Willits back then a passenger would board an open buckboard stage for a five hour trip (in good weather!). And, heretofore – NO pic. Well the pic I recently came across doesn’t tell us a whole lot absent acknowledging Clare mill did exist.

Clare Mill sign

Clare Mill sign


Orr Hot Springs

Orr Hot Springs (also known as Orrs Springs, Orr’s Hot Sulphur Springs or Orrs) is located 15 miles almost directly north of  Boonville. it is also accessible from Ukiah or Mendocino by following Orr Springs Rd. The Orrs post office operated from 1889 to 1911 and from 1915 to 1933. The name honored Samuel Orr, an early settler. Orr’s son established a stage coach station and a resort there. The springs flourish on 27 acres at the headwaters of Big River.

Pomo Native Americans regularly passed through on trading expeditions and on annual treks to the Mendocino coast. Unfriendly tribes agreed to co-exist peacefully while stopping at the hot springs. In the late 1800s, “Orr Hot Sulphur Springs” became a resting spot on the Ukiah-Mendocino stagecoach line. It developed into a popular resort for city-dwellers who came seeking health and relaxation. The mineral waters were heralded as bringing great relief to arthritis and rheumatism, and to blood, kidney and liver disorders.

The original bathhouse at the springs, now a dormitory for guests, was built in the 1850’s. In the logging heyday of Mendocino County — the 1870’s to 1890’s — local lumberjacks came to Orr Hot Springs to bathe and socialize. In addition to a post office, saloon and a dance hall, a hotel catered to families that came to visit their husbands and fathers. When a daughter of the Orr family married a Weger (WAY-gur) in 1880, the ownership of the property changed names. The hotel burned down in the late 1930’s and was replaced by a lodge and eight bungalows, which are the main buildings today. In 1975, the Weger family sold the 26-acre hot springs to some hippies who turned it into a commune and grew food on the land. Leslie Williams, who lived at the Orr commune on and off for 18 years, became the sole owner in 1994.

I have known for several years that the hot springs were a stopping place for the Pomo. Alas that was all I knew. The above I have gleaned from several Internet sites and the following picture is the one and only I have so far collected of its early days.

Orr Hot Springs

Orr Hot Springs


Crowley – a stop along the Skunk train route

Crowley was 32.6 miles from Fort Bragg. It was the site of a logging camp owned by a French man. He had a love of tennis and imported clay to build a tennis court. Until relatively recently the camp at Crowley was intact. It consisted of five bunkhouses, a mess hall and the foreman’s quarters. That’s all we know and heretofore NO pics. Well, this isn’t quite a pic of Crowley but it is a pic taken at Crowley.

Camp Crowley Surveyors Camp

Camp Crowley Surveyors Camp

Ranch – a place along the Skunk Train Route

Ranch was 9 miles along the Skunk rote from Fort Bragg to Willits. Ranch – the Union Lumber Company (ULC) Company Ranch was where cattle and sheep were raised during the early days of the railroad to provide meat for the logging camps. Ranch also raised vegetables and had orchards. The original school is still there but has been made into a private dwelling. Our website has but two pics of Ranch so this one is a welcome addition.

at the ULC's Company Ranch

CWR’s #45 stopping at the ULC’s Company Ranch