April 10, 1909 – The buzz-wagon craze had come to Mendocino, according to the Beacon. “Buzz-wagon” was a slang term for the automobile, perhaps because the early-day gasoline engines were so noisy.

The first Beacon report of an automobile purchase appeared in May 1903: “Abbott Colburn, who recently purchased an automobile, has thoroughly demonstrated their adaptability for traveling purposes even on the coast, where the heavy grades and sharp curves make a severe test. He travels up and down the coast with celerity [speed] and convenience. It is a gasoline machine of the Oldsmobile variety.” The next automobile purchase was reported in June: “Howard Morrow [grandson of Mendocino pioneer, Captain David Lansing], of Fort Bragg, has purchased an automobile.”

Early-day automobile with two men in front seat and three women in back. Steering wheel is on the right.

Mendocino Woods Superintendent Ed Boyle and friends posing in Ed’s new car, a 1908 2-cylinder Buick. Ed is seated at the wheel. (Gift of Cora Hervilla)

By 1909, coast residents were buying automobiles in record numbers, but the phenomenon was still so new, that the Beacon dutifully reported each purchase. From the April 17, 1909 Beacon:

  • The announcement was made last week that [Mendocino Lumber Company Superintendent] John S. Ross had placed his order for a Studebaker touring car.
  • [Mendocino Bank of Commerce Co-Founder] Fred W. Stickney has purchased a big Rambler car from Chester Scott.
  • Fred C. White has a new 40-horsepower Buick, which arrived by steamer last week.
  • Dr. Sherwood, of Westport, has gone to San Francisco and will likely bring back a car.
  • Thomas Kuhn is running an Oldsmobile recently purchased from Chester Scott.
  • Ed Conway has a Rapid auto on the way from the city.
  • Arthur Lyman, the Albion saw filer, has a new Rambler.
  • [Former Mendocino Mill Superintendent] Fred Halling left for the city last Saturday and will return with a brand new Maxwell, the first on the coast. He expects to bring it up overland himself.
  • [Mendocino merchant] P. W. Gray is one of the latest converts to the benzine buggy and contemplates being at the wheel of one before the summer is over.

Walking Tours of Historic Mendocino – Join our expert docents for a stroll and lively commentary. You’ll pass by early pioneer homes, historic meeting places, and buildings that make up the the Mendocino Historic District.