March 12, 1921 – The Big River Justice Court held a trial between the Mendocino Foresters Lodge and the local chapter of the Portuguese ladies’ organization, U. P. P. E. C. The dispute was over possession of a desk and table, valued at less than $10.

The trial attracted significant attention from the community, with the courtroom filled to capacity as spectators gathered to witness the proceedings. The facts of the case were simple. For several years, the ladies had held their meetings in the lodge room located in the Foresters Hall on the southwest corner of Kasten and Ukiah streets. In December 1920, they moved their meetings to the Odd Fellows building on the northeast corner of Kasten and Ukiah streets and took the furniture from the Foresters’ lodge room with them.

Elevated view of historic buildings

Kasten and Albion Streets, c. 1912. An elevated view of central Mendocino probably taken from the water tower behind the Sempione Hotel (today’s Lisbon House) on Ukiah Street. This is a view to the east, looking across Kasten Street and down Albion Street. On the left, the roof of the John Dougherty House is visible, with its small water tank in the back yard to the right. Behind the John Dougherty House is the Foresters Hall, with its distinctive corner decorations (quoins). (Source: Miles Paoli)

In early March, the trustees of the Foresters Lodge sued the trustees of the U. P. P. E. C., seeking the return of the desk and table. The ladies claimed the furniture was a gift from the Ancient Order of United Workmen, another fraternal organization, who previously owned the items and had held their meetings in the same lodge room until they disbanded in 1916.

Local Justice William True Wallace, who would have heard the case, was disqualified because he had previously been the secretary of the United Workmen organization. Instead, Judge Kingren travelled from Point Arena to preside over the trial.

The Foresters Lodge was represented by Attorneys Peirsol and Stone of Fort Bragg, while the ladies chose Charles Kasch of Ukiah to represent them. The Beacon reported the outcome of the trial on the front page. “Many witnesses were called on both sides. The ladies quite outshone their opponents on the witness stand, while several of the men made hard going of it. From the testimony given, it would seem that the two pieces of furniture in controversy do not represent over a ten-dollars’ valuation, which brands the suit as one of those not worthy to engage a court’s attention and which only create a bill of expense for both sides and result in a waste of good time to all concerned.”

Judge Kingren decided that the table and desk belonged to the ladies.

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