John Edward Carlson

Musicians in Mendocino holding pets, 1876. From left to right: L. A. Morgan, John Edward Carlson, Galey Gray, and Charles Gray. Each man is holding either a cat or a dog. (Gift of Emery Escola, Emery Escola Collection, Kelley House Photographs)
Musicians in Mendocino holding pets, 1876. From left to right: L. A. Morgan, John Edward Carlson, Galey Gray, and Charles Gray. Each man is holding either a cat or a dog. (Gift of Emery Escola, Emery Escola Collection, Kelley House Photographs)

April 16, 1899 – One of Mendocino’s earliest pioneers, John Edward Carlson passed away in San Francisco at the home of his son Edward. “He had been ill for some months with cancer of the throat, but was able to be up and around until a short time before his death. Although he had been a great sufferer, his end came peacefully and was due to heart failure.”

Born in Sweden in 1827, Carlson left home at 16 to follow the sea. He came to California in 1849 and went to the mines. He did not remain long there, however, but returned to the sea and during the next few years made several long voyages to China, Panama, and Brazil, before landing in San Francisco.

Carlson was one of the original members of the California Lumber Manufacturing Company along with William H. Kelley, Jerome B. Ford, Edwards C. Williams, and David Lansing. He arrived in Mendocino in 1852 on the brig Ontario. She was loaded with mill machinery, and when the cargo was landed, Carlson helped build the sawmill and worked there until 1857 when he built and operated the community’s first hotel. The City Hotel, also known as The Carlson Hotel, was located at the far west end of Main Street.

In 1859, Carlson married Elizabeth Broderick Kupp in St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco. Elizabeth, a widow, was born in County Cork, Ireland and had a 6-year-old son. They had four more children together: twin daughters Bessie and Kate, a son Edward, and Julia, who died in infancy.

The original City Hotel burned during the fire of 1870, and the Carlsons immediately rebuilt on the same site, adding a new wing on the east side. Elizabeth passed away in 1880, and John retired from the hotel business in 1882.

Carlson’s remains were brought home from San Francisco on the steamer Sequoia and interred in Evergreen Cemetery, Rev. J. S. Ross, officiating.

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.