Making History Blog

Many of these articles have been published in the Mendocino Beacon’s Kelley House Calendar.

Boys on the Bridge

Boys on the Bridge
It is a privilege to work with the collections at the Kelley House Museum. Once in a while we run across a photograph which resonates on multiple levels. Such was the case with this image. Five young boys are gathered on a bridge, with a mill (probably that of the Albion Lumber Company) in the background. Three out of the five boys have reading material in their hands, and all but one, the tallest, are looking at the camera. The[... see full page]

An Owner, a Schooner and a Governor

An Owner, a Schooner and a Governor
One of the men who arrived in Mendocino and helped establish it was John Edward Chalfant. Like so many others, he came to California during the heady days of the Gold Rush. He wasn’t successful as a miner, but he happened to run into Jerome B. Ford in San Francisco. Mr. Chalfant married Martha Hayes Ford’s sister, Susan. They settled in to a life on the Mendocino headlands, in a house very like that of the Fords. The Chalfant house[... see full page]

The Ugly Face of Racism

The Ugly Face of Racism
We don’t know who took the picture, but we know when and where it was taken. On Halloween 1954, a trio of teenage boys got together at the Westport Store wearing hats, scarves and blackface. The photograph is important because it shows an era when the use of blackface was nothing out of the ordinary. The young men in the photograph were identified, but it seems more important to note the nature of the choice they made that Halloween, rather than[... see full page]

A Life Cut Short by Tragedy

A Life Cut Short by Tragedy
Health care, education, transportation infrastructure, and youthful employment are all issues found in today’s headlines. These are mutual concerns, which affect us all and are part of the human experience. They also figure in the sadly brief life story of Ethel Silvera, who lived and died on the Mendocino Coast early in the 20th century. As with much of history, Ethel’s story brings to mind how over the decades circumstances have changed, and yet remain the same. Ethel Margaret Silvera was[... see full page]

A Medicine Show Comes to Mendocino

A Medicine Show Comes to Mendocino
In October of 1891, a particular form of entertainment came to town. The Pawnee Medicine Company provided “free entertainments in Murray’s Hall” in Mendocino. The editions of the Mendocino Beacon for both Saturdays, October 10 and 17, included brief mentions of the show.  In the first story, readers of the Beacon learned that the Pawnee Medicine Company’s performers had begun their circuit the previous Tuesday and had “held forth to good houses every evening since.” What was a Medicine Show and[... see full page]

Bear and Stebbins

Bear and Stebbins
Any organization that has been around for a while acquires a history. The Kelley House Museum has a relationship with the Mendocino Coast, as a non-profit devoted to history itself. While there’s the story of the house -- the Kelley family, the town of Mendocino, its life and times, which now span three different centuries -- there’s also the history of this organization. It began with two women, Dorothy Bear and Beth Stebbins. They wanted to enjoy a place and at[... see full page]