Recently, the Kelley House received an email from a woman named Heather requesting any history we might have on a house located at 11275 Lansing Street. We love questions like this, as we’ve been collecting information on structures and the people who occupied them for almost 50 years, and we’re eager to share what we have.
But we were stumped. The inquirer called it “the McCloud House.” Database and file searching revealed no such house or persons of that name in that vicinity. Unfortunately, the property was also outside the historic district, which meant it would not have received the detailed scrutiny past researchers have applied to those within district boundaries. So, a hunt began to see who had owned the nearby properties – maybe the McClouds would turn up.
We started with what we did know, which was that Martin Brinzing built the Mendocino Brewery in 1867, on the nearby bluffs above the ocean on the Coast Road (Lansing Street). Martin located his plant next to a steady supply of water just north of Slaughterhouse Creek, its name coming from Joel and Spencer Hills’ butchering operation upstream. No doubt the beer had a distinctive flavor.
Ten years later, a saloon was operating on the lot to the north. One of the earliest Mendocino Beacons (1877) advised us that “Charles Findeisen, better known as Charley, the cook, a pioneer on the coast, has established himself at Ocean View, where he keeps refreshments, oysters, etc. When passing through Ocean View, give him a call.”
Passing through Ocean View? Is this another lost town, like Pine Grove? Not exactly. It was more of a neighborhood, a distinct place with its own name that was used well into the 20th century, and later called Agate Beach. It was just 5 or 6 houses along the bluffs, between Slaughterhouse and Jack Peters Gulches.
Old Charley died a few years later and, lucky for us, the documents associated with probating his estate provided a description of his real estate and, importantly, the names of adjoining property owners.
Using the digital issues of the Beacon newspaper, our own archival files, and historic maps, we traced the people in this neighborhood through time until – voila! – there were the McLeods. Not McCloud.
With the name now clarified, further research revealed that this was the home of Andrew McLeod and his wife, Sarah Johnson, who were Nova Scotians of Scottish descent. Both came to Mendocino and were married at her parent’s home near Russian Gulch in 1877. By 1882, Andy was hauling lumber to build his 7-room house on 3½ acres of productive land. They had two children named Oliver and Irene.
Then in 1885, just three years after the family had moved into their new house at Ocean View, tragedy struck. A horrifying boiler explosion at the Mendocino mill killed Andy and fellow worker Hans Hanson. Reading the detailed newspaper account of the accident is both hair-raising and profoundly sad.
“We could not keep back the tears when we witnessed from a distance the arrival of poor Mrs. McLeod who was brought from her home by her brother James Johnson who drove furiously down the hill and turned up to his residence to which Mr. McLeod had been carried. The instant they arrived, she cleared the cart at a single jump, and almost flew up the walk to the house. Three short hours before she had parted from her husband smiling in health and happiness, but what an awful cloud had now settled over their bright hopes and prospects. Death in a few moments relieved the torture caused by the scalding steam, and the heart of the loved and loving Andrew McLeod ceased to beat.” For two days, Mendocino’s many flags flew at half-mast in memory and respect.
After her husband’s death, Sarah had to support herself and her two small children. She took in boarders, and then for seven years, starting in 1895, she operated a popular restaurant and bakery in the building now occupied by Rainsong Shoes. She lived above the shop and rented out the Ocean View house built by her dear Andy. Sarah eventually sold the place to the Jens Hansen family, who owned it many years, followed by the Porterfields, the Hendersons, and the Chalmers.
Kelley House wasn’t the only place Heather sought help. She posted the same request on Facebook pages devoted to the history of the coast and got some great responses from people who had actually lived there in the mid-1900s. We have added Killion, Albert, and Lamb to the people associated with this house. And with all this new documentation, we have brought a place called Ocean View to life. In some future article we’ll share more!