People and horses in front of a house with a fenced-in yard and water tower behind

The house built by Michael Byrnes in 1884 on Little Lake Road in Mendocino. Mary Byrnes is on the left flanked by her daughters, Grace and Dorothy. Michael J. Byrnes is holding the colt. Ralph Byrnes, son of Michael and Mary, is standing by the dog, and Philip Hite is behind the fence. The house still stands at 44600 Little Lake Road. Note the “Mendocino Picket” style fence along the front. (W. N. Collom (photographer), Kelley House Collection, Kelley House Photographs)

Michael J. Byrnes was born in Boston in 1840. While a young man he traveled extensively, spending time in Europe and South America. He came to Mendocino County in the early 1860s, and after working in the woods for a while he volunteered for the U.S. Army. After leaving the military, he settled in Humboldt County where he was a farmer.

In 1876, he married Mary Hite, who had moved to Humboldt County from Virginia as a young girl. Three years later, the Byrnes family moved to Little River. They purchased a 10-acre parcel on LIttle Lake Road in Mendocino in 1883 and completed their home the following year.

The Byrnes House featured an orchard with several varieties of fruit trees, a berry patch, and a big vegetable garden. In July 1891, the Beacon reported, ”We took a walk through the berry patch of M. J. Byrnes this week and tested the quality of the raspberries, improved with cream and sugar. Mr. Byrnes has an excellent home, and raises some of the best fruit it has been our pleasure to test in a long time. Mike entertains his company in splendid style this season of the year.” Michael and Mary raised 5 children here.

Michael served as constable and as a deputy sheriff of the county for twenty years. He died at the family home in 1902. He was described as a voracious reader and a man with many friends, who had a wonderful memory for what he read as well as for names and faces.

Mary continued to live in this house, surrounded by the flowers, shrubs, and trees she had so attractively arranged. It was a very real home to which her sons and daughters returned at every opportunity to enjoy her companionship. In 1941, she, too, passed away at the house she loved so dearly and was laid to rest beside her husband in the family plot at Little River Cemetery.

New Exhibit! Jewelry For Doors – Vintage Doorknobs From The Larry Sawyer & Harriet Bye Collection featuring the fascinating door hardware that Larry Sawyer and Harriet Bye have collected over many years as vintage door and window vendors with their company Albion Doors & Windows. Colorful, intricate, charming, yet functional, this assemblage provides a peek into some of the everyday objects people handled in former days. This exhibit will run from Thursday, September 2nd until Sunday, October 31, 2021. Museum hours: Thursdays through Sundays, 11 am to 3 pm. The Museum is located at 45007 Albion Street in Mendocino. Go to or contact us at (707) 937-5791, or email for more information.