It’s not every house in Mendocino that can have a complicated evolution and been occupied by a genuine town “character,” but 44771 Main St. deserves note.
Today it’s an old yellow house east of Alegria Inn, next to a realty office and across the street from Evergreen Cemetery on the east end of town. In the Kelley House Museum records, it’s called the Ferrill House. It’s a vacation house being worked on. It’s got the name Rueckert, Wallace, Ferrill and more associated with previous owners.
In 1883 a Lansing family member sold it to August Rueckert and in 1891 Mrs. Cinderella Rueckert, who we’ll hear more about later, offered the house and barn for sale. After her death her estate sold it in 1922 to the Ferrill family who moved the entire original house up to the north edge of the property and incorporated it, the Beacon reported, “…into a commodious dwelling with a fine view of the bay and river,” and in 1926 dormer windows were added.
Cinderella Gilbert Wallace Rueckert is the “character” mentioned earlier. A woman of many names and eccentric habits she has been written about frequently by local historians. She supposedly worked for one of the “first families” as a maid. In 1875 she married August Rueckert who had settled in Mendocino in 1856. He worked for local sawmills as a watchman until he retired to enjoy “a comfortable competence which he well-earned before his death in 1888.” He supposedly left a small fortune to Cinderella. She continued to occupy the house selling apples from her trees and eggs from her flock while sitting in her front window watching the world go by.
Her given name was indeed Cinderella. Supposedly her mother loved fairy tales. She claimed Comanche native blood in her family line and had a voice that shrieked when provoked. She also had peculiar habits, like disapproving of drunks.
A Swedish lumberman who lived in Fury Town up Little Lake Road liked to use Evergreen Cemetery as a shortcut home from town. He would become inebriated and sing at the top of his lungs in the middle of the night passing Cinderella’s home. She got so irritated she found a newly-dug grave awaiting a burial service the next day, bedecked herself in a sheet, then crouched in the grave awaiting the wandering drunk. She popped out of the grave whooping and screaming, and you can be sure the man never shortcut through the graveyard again.
She was anti-social, but that didn’t stop her from wandering the town at night checking out what was going on. She sold eggs and apples but would not answer the door. She figured if you saw her there, saw her offerings, and had money you could serve yourself and go away. Heaven forbid if a preacher ever made a mistake quoting scripture on Sunday. She would stand up at services and correct the speaker telling him if he’d made a mistake.
Called “Aunty Wallace” (her husband used the name Wallace at times) she died suddenly at age 90 in 1921, after being a resident of the state for 56 years. She left her entire estate of over $5,000 to a San Anselmo orphanage. Why? We’ll never know…Today anyone can walk by 44771 Main St. and imagine a little old lady sitting by the window watching the world go by. How many other houses in Mendocino hold interesting stories? The Kelley House Museum archives have the answer.