Young boy holding hat, standing next to chair

Studio photograph of Charles D. “Charlie” Norton, c. 1874. (Gift of Evelyn Larkin)

March 26, 1869 – Charles D. “Charlie” Norton was born in Mendocino, the only son of William H. and Margaret Flanagan Norton. William and Margaret owned the Norton House Hotel, located on the southeast corner of Lansing and Main Streets.

Charlie attended the early-day schoolhouse located near the northeast corner of Lansing and Ukiah Streets, where he consistently made the “Roll of Honor” published in the Beacon. “This roll implies that the pupils whose names appear on it have been punctual in attendance, exemplary in deportment and diligent in study.”

Tragedy struck when Charlie was just ten years old. In September 1879, he accompanied his mother on a shopping trip to San Francisco, where they stayed at the Brooklyn Hotel. On their last day in the city, Charlie and Margaret were on the third floor of the hotel. “It being near time for their return, Mrs. Norton asked Charlie to come with her and help pack up their things, at the same time going down the stairs. Charlie, boy-fashion, sprang upon the baluster of the winding stairs and meant to slide down, when he lost his balance and fell to the first floor, a distance of about thirty-five feet.” Charlie never regained consciousness and died shortly after the accident.

Rev. Father Sheridan conducted Charlie’s funeral services at Saint Vincent’s Catholic Church, the first Catholic Church building in Mendocino County. This church was located on Little Lake Road and was torn down in 1921. The church site is now part of Hillcrest Cemetery, and a tall white cross marks the approximate place where the building once stood. “The schools were closed, and the scholars, with crape on their arm, marched two abreast at the head of the funeral procession. The bereaved family have the heartfelt sympathy of the entire community.”

Mendocino (Book I) by Dorothy Bear and Beth Stebbins. A brief history of Mendocino life over its first 120 years. Tons of black and white photos. $25.