Buildings along a dirt street

M. M. Hazeltine’s photograph of the west end of Mendocino’s Main Street, looking northwest, taken before the fire of 1870. Identified buildings from back to front: the Mendocino Lumber Company Cookhouse (chimney on roof) and millworker’s cabins, William Heeser’s general store, and Carlson’s City Hotel with balcony. William Kelly’s store is next to Chamberlain’s “Mendocino Drug Store,” which was located on the northwest corner of Kasten and Main Streets.  (Martin Mason Hazeltine (photographer), Kelley House Collection, Kelley House Photographs)

February 16, 1903 – Martin Mason Hazeltine, a pioneer photographer of the American West, died at his home in Baker City, Oregon. His photos of the Mendocino coast are a great source of information for anyone interested in local history.

In 1963, Auggie Heeser told the Beacon, “[Martin Hazeltine] was quite a celebrated photographer, and one of Mendocino’s very early settlers. He toured most of the Mountain and Coastal States, taking pictures, and many of those pictures were sent to my father [William Heeser] as they were taken and are somewhere in our picture collections.”

Martin was born in Vermont in 1827. He and his brother, George, studied photography in Illinois and New York City, before moving to San Francisco in 1853, where they owned a daguerreotype studio.

Around 1866, Martin and his family moved to Mendocino, and he made his first trip to Yosemite in 1867. By February 1870, he had opened a gallery inside the Mendocino Drug Store on Main Street. That summer, he again travelled to Yosemite, photographing P. T. Barnum at Yosemite Falls and Mirror Lake.

Martin spent his summers from 1870 to 1872 in Yosemite and returned to Mendocino to spend the winters with his family. In January 1874, he opened a new gallery on the northeast corner of Lansing and Albion Streets. (This building was demolished in 1924.) He spent most of the summer of 1875 in Mendocino but returned to the Yosemite Valley the following summer. On this trip, Martin’s family went with him, living in a tidy, comfortable camp along the Merced River.

In May 1881, Martin rented out his Calpella Street home, and the Hazeltine family traveled. They returned to Mendocino in mid-December 1882, and Martin constructed a new photography gallery on Little Lake Street. This studio opened in March, offering “a choice assortment of Stereoscopic Views, taken by himself on the spot, of the sublime and beautiful scenes of Yosemite, the Sierras, Mt. Lyell, Mt. Hood, Donner Lake, Lake Mono, C. P. Rail Road, Big Trees, Miners and Mining Towns, and many other of the wonders of California and Oregon.” But, by early May, the itinerant photographer was ready to move on. He sold his house and gallery, and the family moved to Idaho.

By November 1884, Martin was living in Baker City, Oregon, close to his brother George. He continued to travel to take photographs, but Baker City was his home for the rest of his life.

More historical photos of Mendocino available in “Perley Maxwell’s Mendocino,” by Bruce Levene. Includes the Mendocino High School Photography Students 2002 Then & Now Project. $25.