John Chalfant

Chalfant Family in Cloverdale. L – R: Alice Porterfield, Mrs. Susan Chalfant, John Chalfant, and Helen Porterfield in front of the Chalfant home at Cloverdale, CA in 1900.

April 1, 1905 – The Beacon reported the death of Mendocino pioneer John E. Chalfant at his home in Cloverdale. His health had been failing for some time, and death was not unexpected.

John was born in Pennsylvania in 1825. “When gold was discovered in California he caught the fever and came west, landing in San Francisco in 1850. After spending the winter in that city, he went to the gold mines above Sacramento and wielded the pick for one day in search of the yellow metal. At the close of that day he concluded he was not cut out for a miner, and immediately returned to San Francisco where he engaged in mechanical work as a carpenter at $12 a day.”

When the brig Ontario sailed in 1852, bringing the first sawmill to Mendocino, John was on board. He helped build the first Mendocino Mill, which was located at the Point. “Being a first-class mechanic and wise in the handling of men, his services became almost invaluable, and he advanced step by step until he became the manager of a large lumber firm.”

John served as Justice of the Peace for Big River Township in 1856. He was one of the original incorporators of the Bank of Mendocino, the Mendocino Discount Bank, the Bank of Ukiah, and the Bank of Cloverdale and held a large interest in the Ukiah and Cloverdale institutions when he died. He was vice-president of the Bank of Cloverdale from its initial organization until his death.

In 1862, John married Susan Hayes, the sister of J. B. Ford’s wife Martha. John and Susan had two daughters, Mattie and Nellie. John retired after almost 25 years in the lumber industry, and the Chalfant family moved to Oakland in 1874. In 1880, the family moved again, this time to Cloverdale, where John spent the rest of his life. John was remembered as a generous man, always ready to lend a helping hand to the needy.

John was survived by his widow, Susan; two daughters, Mrs. Mattie Porterfield and Miss Nellie Chalfant; and two granddaughters, Alice and Helen Porterfield. The funeral was held at the Chalfant residence in Cloverdale “and was largely attended by friends in Sonoma and Mendocino counties. The following relatives residing at other places were present at the funeral: Aaron Chalfant, a brother, from Tuolumne county; Mrs. Betty Chalfant, a sister-in-law, Ukiah; Fred Chalfant, a nephew, Ukiah; Charles Chalfant, a nephew, Willits; Mrs. John Rea, niece, Mill Valley; Miss Alice Porterfield, granddaughter, state university, Berkeley.”

New Exhibit! Neighbors Across the Pond – Vintage Photographs & Objects from the Ford & Kelley Family Collections. Exhibit includes glass bottles, dolls, and clay pipes excavated from the historic Kelley Pond. Thursdays through Sundays, 11 am to 3 pm. Located at 45007 Albion Street, Mendocino.