September 16, 1914 – Brickmason Isaiah Betz died in Sacramento at the age of 85, following a stroke. Born in Ohio in 1829, Isaiah and his family arrived in Mendocino County in the 1870s, first settling in Ukiah, where he manufactured bricks and constructed brick buildings.

In 1891, Isaiah and his only son Fred moved to Fort Bragg and established a brickyard near Pudding Creek. The Fort Bragg Advocate described the location, “a couple miles out of town on the Sherwood road at what is generally known as “Belgium Frank’s Opening.” It would indeed be hard to find a more suitable place for such purpose. The clay is thought to be of first class quality, water plentiful, although it has to be carried about a quarter of a mile in a flume, and wood abundant.” The Betz brickyard operated with modern steam machinery, and six men produced about ten thousand bricks per day.

Collapsed brick building

Shafsky Brothers’ Demolished Store, 1906. (Photographer: W. T. Fitch)

The father-son team also built numerous brick structures, including residences, stores, a bank, and the Odd Fellows Lodge (the first brick building in Fort Bragg). In 1899, they constructed a new store building on Main Street for Shafsky Brothers. “The main building is two stories high 25×90 feet, with a warehouse in the rear 25×40 feet. Mr. Betz and son, notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather, made fast progress in erecting the building, and the brick work and inside finish are first-class.”

On April 18, 1906, a 7.9-magnitude earthquake struck the north coast of California, and Fort Bragg was particularly hard-hit. A fire destroyed more than 30 buildings, and nearly every brick structure in town was badly damaged, many falling down. The Shafsky Brothers store collapsed, and the falling bricks killed restaurant owner Lee Poi, who was in the building next door.

The following year, Isaiah and Fred left Fort Bragg and returned to Ukiah. The Ukiah Daily Journal noted that, “Mr. Betz was doing a big business in Fort Bragg before the earthquake, but the people there are afraid to erect brick structures and are building frame houses instead.” The Betz family moved to Sacramento in 1909. Isaiah was buried in the Ukiah Cemetery next to his father Samuel Betz.