Studio portrait of a bearded man in a suit

Studio portrait of Lafayette Woodward, c. 1850. Woodward Street in Mendocino may have been named after him. (Kelley House Collection, Kelley House Photographs)

December 1, 1858 – The Mendocino Post Office was established when President James Buchanan appointed Lafayette Woodward its first postmaster. The post office was located inside Woodward’s mercantile store, which was on the property just west of the building that houses Circa today.

Born in Bath, New York on August 1, 1821, Woodward came to California in 1849, crossing the plains with an ox team on his way to the gold fields. In 1857, he arrived in Mendocino and began clerking in William Kelley’s store. By the following year, he had established his own mercantile business.

Woodward was a shrewd businessman who also made profitable investments in property. According to newspaper clippings in the Woodward Family File maintained by the Kelley House, he amassed “considerable wealth” thru his business dealings in California, “making it all in less than ten years.”

On December 10, 1867, President Andrew Johnson appointed Aaron Chalfant to be the new postmaster. Chalfant bought Woodward’s merchandise and moved the post office into a store he constructed on the south side of Main Street, across from the northeast corner of Main and Kasten Streets, where Gallery Bookshop is now.

In 1868, Woodward retired to Minneapolis where he lived with his cousin, Ann Marvin. For many years, he spent winters in California to escape the cold weather and often visited his old friends in Mendocino.

Lafayette Woodward died in Minneapolis at the home of his cousin on February 3, 1899.

Visit Santa at the Kelley House on Saturday, December 4th from 3:30-4:30 pm! Bring your family and your holiday good cheer to snap a perfect picture standing next to Santa on our porch! Cookies and cider provided. Suggested donation: $5. The Kelley House Museum is located at 45007 Albion Street, Mendocino.