by Bette Duke, Kelley House Museum History Researcher
Genealogists and history researchers love the discovery of another facet of their search and knowing that there has to be more information out there somewhere fuels their relentless pursuit of more discoveries.
Kelley House is a treasure trove of sources for discoveries, particularly in the hundreds of files about Mendocino’s people called Family Files. Most contain newspaper clippings, letters, memoirs, genealogy charts, funeral records, and occasionally a few original documents like marriage licenses or immigration papers, just the kind of information that historical researchers and genealogists search for. New information is added continually, particularly from online newspaper sources and genealogy researchers.
A long time ago as a Kelley House Research Volunteer, I was assigned to clean up and organize the Family Files, making them more researcher-friendly and more in keeping with a state-of-the-art archive facility. No one can remember if my project took five years, or six, but it really doesn’t matter, I guess. It was somewhat tedious, but always fascinating, especially when finding tidbits of ordinary everyday life. I saved copies of some of the more amusing tidbits, mostly from newspaper clippings, of local Mendocino history. Here are a few:
- At one time there were the Mustard and Pickle families living in Mendocino. Unfortunately they didn’t get together to marry or open a condiment shop.
- Jack Marks, a resident of Little River when he died in 1961, had previously lived in Tombstone, Arizona where he served as deputy sheriff under Wyatt Earp for 30 years.
- A 1915 Pan-Pacific envelope is in the Orr family file. What is it worth, I wonder?
- Mendocino (and Little River) had skating rinks from time to time, one owned by William Kelley. The Dreamland rink was also the venue for the girls’ basketball championship game in 1913. (Mendocino won, 9-7.)
- Some Beacon reporters’ writing styles were syrupy over-kill, but here’s an example of the reporter who could always be recognized for his/her light touch: “F.H. Bailey, the Lansing street merchant, this week purchased a five-passenger Ford touring car, 1914 model, and will commence at once to take lessons from Jim Bowman in running the machine. Pedestrians are warned to keep out of Mr. Bailey’s way for the next few days.”
- June 1923: “Ever since strawberries commenced to ripen, we have been entertained by Lem Woodworth’s stringed orchestra. There are several thousand pieces in this orchestra strung over his strawberry patch. With the high winds now prevailing, the jingle and jangle of cans and can covers scare the birds for two miles in every direction. No one knows just how far the wind carries the sound, but we hear that Garibaldi’s chickens are nearly dead for want of sleep. To please the younger people of the neighborhood, next year Mr. Woodworth will build his orchestra of Tabasco bottles so that it will have a little pep.”
- I love the Woodworth brothers! “Woodworth Brothers Put One over On City Reporter.” Lem Woodworth and his two brothers made the front page of the second section of the San Francisco News this week when they flimflammed a city reporter into believing they were the three oldest living triplets, age 85 years. We think that smart elder brother, Lem, put over the gag. You can tell from the grin on his face that he is getting away with something, while George has a satisfying smile which could make him an accessory after the fact. Elmer, however, isn’t too well pleased at being one of these triplets with an age allotment of 85 years and his face shows it. These “boys” are three very remarkable men and deserve to get their picture in the paper. They are the youngest oldsters we know about these parts.
- Social events were well recorded, whether large or small. This from 1933: “The old Pratner homestead of William and Diana Pratner in Anderson Valley . . . was the scene of the annual reunion and picnic of the prominent pioneer family Sunday. A small stream, the bank of which is covered by ferns and wild flowers flows alongside the table, adding much to the peace and beauty of the setting. Covers were laid for 52 at the table which was decorated in lovely wild azaleas from the ranch. No attempt was made to have a program, the reunion providing a happy few hours of chatting between the ladies and an animated game of barnyard golf for the men.” Barnyard golf? Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
- Mentioned several times was a game played indoors at parlor parties called “Library”, but I have been unable to learn anything about it. Does anyone know?
- A variety of fun and entertainment was not missing from the lives of the hard-working Mendocino folks. In October 1886, “Prof. Baldwin, the well-known wire rope performer gave 2 exhibitions in Mendocino last Saturday on a wire stretched from Jarvis & Nichols’ store to O.M. Stone’s jewelry shop. One was given in the afternoon and the other in the evening by torch light.”
- Even the smallest event of resourcefulness and enjoyment made the papers: “Ice cream was made this week by Mrs. Severance at Navarro, with ice gathered in the vicinity of the hotel.” February 1833.
- Big storms usually resulted in the loss of ships and wharves. Reported in 1893: “The storm last week carried away George Rector’s saloon at Usal. It was situated above the mill and when the dam broke it washed the building off its foundation and swept it away. When the logs struck it, it is said that whiskey and cigars were flying in every direction. A great many bottles of liquor that had never been opened were picked up on the beach.”
- What was the most unusual and/or humorous name? Early on, when doing the “B” files, my choice was Dreeme Life Ball. But the best one didn’t show up until nearing the end of this project: Thaddeus Tinklepaugh. Check it out: Plot 47, Evergreen Cemetery.
The Kelley House Museum is recruiting volunteers to help in the Research Office. If you have a love of history and some time on your hands, please stop by weekday afternoons or give us a call at 937-5791.
Photo caption: Gravestone for Dreeme Life Ball