Visiting Mendocino in the 1880s

As the communities of the Mendocino coast emerge from the recent public health closures, we will be able to fully welcome visitors back to the area. 

The Earl family at Alder Camp on Big River, a rustic camping spot created by the adult children of Jerome and Martha Ford. While they lived elsewhere, members of the Ford clan often brought their children and friends to camp near their hometown of Mendocino. Their favorite was Alder Camp, located below Big Hill near the confluence of Little North Fork and Big River, several miles inland from the coast. (Photo from the Alice Earl Wilder Collection, Kelley House Museum)

This short piece in a 136-year-old Mendocino Beacon reminds us just how long we have been promoting this special coast to visitors: 

“Camping Out in California,” a book authored by Mrs. J. B. Rideout, and published in 1889 by R. R. Patterson, San Francisco. A travelogue of an 1888 wagon trip through the redwood forests, along the coast near Mendocino, Caspar and Noyo, and other places in the state. (Kelley House Museum Archives)

JUNE 14, 1884. THE MENDOCINO COAST AS A RESORT. The coast of Mendocino County is rapidly growing into favor with the city people who wish to get away for a few weeks rest and recreation in the summer. We learn of several parties who are tenting out in the redwoods beside the mountain streams, where they can hunt and fish, or lie upon the ground and dream away the quiet hours. . .These visitors we are happy to say seem to enjoy themselves. A part of the time they camp in the redwoods and a part of the time they spend with their friends in town. 

This town and vicinity furnish interesting places to visit, and opportunity for employing a long vacation: the Point, the beetling crags, the blow holes, the natural bridges, Denslow’s tower, the bay, boating on the river, listening to the singing fish, searching for the “haunted flat,” making the tour of the mill and inspecting the magical processes of converting the giant redwoods from their sublime positions in the forests, into every conceivable form of building and finishing lumber, sighing over the perpetual fires which consume fuel enough to supply the city poor. But time fails us to speak of trout fishing, deer stalking, visiting mineral springs, passing through two or three climates in a single day’s excursion, horseback and carriage riding upon the hard ocean beach at low tide, and many other attractions which this favored region offers to those who seek rest and amusement under the open sky.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? We are extremely fortunate to still have these “interesting places” to visit, thanks to the efforts of so many individuals and groups who have preserved what they could of the environment for the enjoyment of future generations.

By the way – does anyone know about DENSLOW’S TOWER, mentioned as a point of interest in this 1884 article? We are trying to figure out where and what it was. An earlier Beacon piece describes it as a place to climb and view the snow on the peaks of distant mountains. We would love to hear from any of you who might help us solve this history mystery! Contact curator@kelleyhousemusem.org.