January 13, 1908 – Tragedy struck the Kent family on their 270-acre ranch in Little River. About 6am, 16-year-old Ralph Kent, second oldest son of rancher Nathaniel W. Kent, went into the family barn to complete his morning chores. A few minutes later, his father found Ralph unconscious on the barn floor, due to an electrical shock.

A transformer on a nearby pole had malfunctioned, causing a large power surge through the barn’s electrical line. When Ralph entered the barn, he found the electric light globe lying on the floor. The cord that ran to the light had been suspended from a rafter by a loop of baling rope. The heat generated by the surge burned through the rope, and the fixture fell to the ground. As Ralph picked up the globe, he touched a live wire. Dr. Peirsol was summoned immediately but could not revive him.

Grammar School students posed for class photo

Little River Grammar School Students, 1899. (Gift of Juanita Craig)
Front Row (l-r): Arthur Nicholson, Frank Guptill, Ralph Kent, Jim Pritchard, Fred (Bun) Pritchard, Harry White.
Middle Row: Ella Gordon, Carrie Guptill, Zella Ledford, Eveline Wallace, Dolly Smith.
Back Row: Albert Anderson, Dwight Kent, Charles Perkins, Palle Anderson, Emma Barton Coombs, teacher, Fred Hansen, Tom Wallace, Chester White, Herb Guptill.

Ralph was a sophomore at Mendocino High School, where he played on the baseball team and was known as a smart and friendly student. He was an editor of the high school year book, assistant editor of the high school literary society’s journal, and won several prizes for essay-writing. His most recent essay had won second prize on the topic of “What will most rapidly advance the material interests of Mendocino?”

Funeral services were held at the Mendocino Presbyterian Church two days after his death. “Rev. Hough, the pastor, officiated, assisted by Rev. Fisk. One of the largest concourses in the town’s history assembled to pay respect to the boy’s memory. The high school and faculty marched to the church in a body. The students and friends furnished some beautiful floral pieces. Six young men of the high school acted as pallbearers.” Ralph was buried in the Kent family plot in Evergreen Cemetery.

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