October 8, 1920 – Eugene Brown passed away at his home on Main Street in Mendocino following a month-long illness. His death was attributed to a weak heart, and the Beacon noted that “Though old in years, he was mentally alert and vigorous almost to the last.”
Born on May 1, 1835, in Oldtown, Maine, Eugene was the youngest son of Moses and Nancy Nesmith Brown. Tragically, Eugene’s father passed away when he was just two years old, leaving his mother to raise him and his two older brothers, Augustus and Frederick.
At the age of 16, Eugene embarked on his career, beginning as a clerk at the shipping commission house of Nesmith & Sons in New York. He gained valuable experience in this role, learning about cargo, bills, and commissions. Two years later, he returned to his hometown, working as a clerk in a store in Oldtown.
On December 20, 1859, Eugene and his mother set sail from New York on the steamer Atlantic for Panama. From there, they took the steamer Golden Gate to San Francisco arriving on January 10, 1860. Eugene wasted no time in heading overland to the Mendocino Coast, where his brother Frederick had already established himself as a woodsman in the coastal settlement of Pine Grove, located three miles north of Mendocino.
Three months later, Eugene began clerking in the merchandising firm of Kelley & Rundle near the west end of Main Street in Mendocino. He remained there for five years before venturing into his own business. In 1865, Eugene opened his first General Merchandising store on Main Street. Sadly, this building burned in the fire of 1870, when more than 25 structures on the north side of Main Street were destroyed.
Eugene built a new structure and reopened his store in 1874. This store building was substantially rebuilt in 1968 when the Village Barn Gallery opened inside. Today, the building houses the clothing store Circa.
Eugene operated his store until 1909 and acquired other business interests over the years, becoming part owner of the schooner Joshua Grindle, an agent for Wells Fargo, part owner of the Pine Grove Hotel, and owner of a chute at Russian Gulch.
In 1881, Eugene married Emily van Dusen, who had moved from Ukiah to be a teacher in the Mendocino school, and the couple enjoyed almost forty years together. Both Eugene and Emily, who died in 1948, are buried in Ukiah Cemetery.
New Book! A Mendocino Remembrance, c. 1942. When Alvin Mendosa’s long-time friend Buddy Fraser passed away in 2018, Alvin received a copy of Buddy’s memoir of town life during World War II. Curated by former Kelley House director-curator Karen McGrath, this charming memoir brings to life the unique place that was the town of Mendocino, California before it became the artist colony and tourist destination for which it is well known today. During the 1940s, Mendocino was a quiet community of unpaved roads and Victorian-era architecture perched on bluffs above the Pacific Ocean. Fraser’s reminiscences are accompanied by vintage photographs from the Kelley House Museum archives paired with contemporary color images taken by photographer Jamie Armstrong, offering readers an enjoyable “Then and Now” view of Mendocino. $35