navarro by the sea center

History of Captain Fletcher's Inn and Navarro
Part 2

© by Hillary Adams, 2003

The Inn at Navarro: sailors and lumber.

The Inn, built ca. 1865, originally had at least twelve small rooms on the second story, accessed by an exterior, enclosed stair on the eastern side of the building. The exterior stairway is visible in the engraving of ca. 1865.4 According to Fletcher's granddaughter, Elsie in her handwritten notes: “The rooms were for sailors from the sailing vessels that anchored in the bay to be loaded with lumber. All loading was done by hand.” And in her taped interview: “The sailing vessels were loaded by hand. He [Fletcher] had his place of business, had quite a few rooms upstairs. When the sailors would come in, they'd be so tired of being on the sailing vessels that they would stay at Grandfather's place. They liked to get off of the boat while they were loading.”5

The lumber schooners were originally loaded from shallow bottomed boats called "lighters." Timber was cut in the dry season, piled along the creeks and floated down river by the winter freshets to be sawn at the mill. The shallow lighters can be seen in the engraving of ca. 1865. In the background is the wharf originally built by Tichenor and Byxbee in ca. 1874. Destroyed by storms in 1878, it was rebuilt the same year to be 600 feet long and 24 feet wide, with a loading platform 60 feet wide at the end.

Lighter at Navarro Wharf
Photo of lighter and wharf
Robert J. Lee collection (Goranson): 04632

The years from 1861 to 1880 were full of activity for the mill and for Charles Fletcher. The Fletcher's four children, Jane (Jennie: 1862), Mary Ann (Mollie:1863), Ellen (Nellie:1866) and Charles Augustus Fletcher (1869) were all born at the family home. The town of Navarro grew up quickly around the first Navarro Mill. The Inn served both the sailors from the schooners and as a boarding house for single mill hands. No doubt lumberjacks from the woods stayed there when they came into town. Fletcher and Kennedy added other buildings and services around the Inn in order to meet the growing demands.

Dissolution of the partnership, and the death of Fletcher's wife, Bridget (1870's)

In 1870, one year after his son was born, Fletcher bought out the partnership. At that time the Inn complex consisted “... of the building used as a store and saloon, of the building used as a boarding house [the Inn], of the building used as a stable, of the building used as a blacksmith shop and store room, and of the old store building lately used as a store house...” ( Deeds, Book 4, p. 346) Part of the complex may be seen in a closer view of the engraving of ca. 1870

fletcher inn complex 1870
Blow up of Inn and home from etching Capt. Fletcher's Inn, ca. 1870

Fletcher's first wife. Bridget, the mother of his four children, died on October 7, 1874, age 45. Three years later, on December 2, 1877, Fletcher remarried to Mary (May or Mamie) Murray of Cuffey's Cove. Fletcher's oldest daughter, Jane (Jennie) was 14 that year. The same year her father remarried, Jennie married his former partner, James Kennedy (March 2, 1877).

The census of 1870 lists James P. Kennedy's age as 39 [he was 35] and his occupation as "saloon keeper." He was living in House No. 816 not far from Fletcher (House 811). Fletcher gave his age as 45 [he was probably 51] and his occupation that year as "retail grocer." The store was located in a separate building from the Inn. After the dissolution of the Fletcher/Kennedy partnership in 1870 until his death on August 5, 1884, Kennedy worked for the H. B. Tichenor Company in the "shingle and post" business of the first mill. Kennedy was greatly respected for his integrity and fairness in business (Dispatch Democrat, Aug. 22, 1884).

Navarro Mill ca.1880
Navarro Mill and town, 1880's
Robert J. Lee collection (Ginsberg): 0-5495

In 1880, the Navarro Mill was doing a booming business. The town was thriving and so, apparently, was the Inn. An Historic Structure Report by Carey and Co. of San Francisco dated February 11, 2003 and prepared for the California Department of Parks and Recreation proved by the presence of early wallpaper with vignettes of the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge (1883) still visible beneath the stair, that the inside staircase could not have been built until after 1883.6 Fletcher must have been doing well enough to afford the extravagance of elegant wallpaper, which may have been the idea of his second wife, Mamie Murray Fletcher.

Navarro Mill ca.1890
Second Navarro Mill

The Second Navarro Mill (1890's)

Henry B. Tichenor died on March 26, 1883. A new financial partnership of Robert G. Byxbee (President), Mrs. Lucy H. Tichenor, and her brother, J. Fessenden Clark (Vice President), was formed. The new Navarro Mill Co. was incorporated on March 11, 1886, with its head office located in San Francisco at No. 42 Market Street, Rooms 1 and 2. The first Navarro mill, with a production capacity of 40,000 board feet per day, continued to operate until the mill burned down in July of 1890. The second Navarro mill, larger and more modern than the first, was built about a mile up river the same year.

The lumber business was thriving. Byxbee purchased expensive new locomotives for the lumber railroad. The railroad carried timber from the mill camps, and the milled lumber to the wharf for loading on steam schooners.