History of Captain Fletcher's Inn and Navarro
© by Hillary Adams, 2003
Photo probably June 20, 1890
Locomotiove 0-4-0T with Joe Reilly, woods superintendent
Robert J. Lee collection (Ginsberg)
According to a brief article in The Commerce and Industries of the Pacific Coast of North America (1882), there were 200 men working for the Navarro Mill company at that time, with 175 men in the logging camps. The number of workmen probably increased considerably for the second Navarro mill, which had nearly three times the daily production capacity of the first mill. A Sales Brochure for the second mill gives an “average daily production” of 107,000 feet of sawn lumber for the year 1892 (Bancroft Library, Berkeley).
J. Fessenden Clark, who served as clerk of the company, built a fine home at the base of the Navarro Bluff Road, between the mill manager's house (still standing) and Fletcher's Inn. The manager's house is visible in the engraving of ca. 1879 behind a fence next to the Navarro road.
The “Crash” of 1893. Navarro Mill closes.
In 1893, two years after the second Navarro Mill was built, a financial crisis hit the country. Among its many victims was Robert Byxbee and the second Navarro Mill. Work stopped at the mill. Byxbee could not pay his workers.
The mill hands and lumberjacks took over the company store in lieu of wages The Point Arena Record of September 1, 1893 under the headline “The Navarro Mill Employes Desparate” says: “The Mill men of the Navarro Lumber company, up in Mendocino county are not the sort who willl sit idly by their silenced saws and starve so long as something to eat is in sight...the company owed its 250 employes in Mendocino county wages for ninety days... Sheriff McDade, who is the receiver of the company discovered... that the men had marched into the company's store and had helped themselves to what groceries, dress goods and clothing they considered themselves entitled to.. They did not steal them, but just took them and had them charged up regularly.”
Mill hands at company store
The mill was shut down on September 25, 1893. Byxbee was unable to sell the mill, and the company went into receivership.
The locomotives were sold. The schooner “Newsboy” owned by the company, was sold to Robert Dollar and became the first of his successful line. According to Fletcher's descendants, he and Dollar spent many hours talking about the sea and ships at Fletcher's Inn. (for more on the Navarro Mill see The Charles Fletcher Society pages)
Elsie says of this time: “They [the mill owners] went broke. They just shut everything up and just left. It sat there for years that way, nobody living there but one old caretaker, used to raise some cattle around there.”
Changes at the Inn (1890's)
Elsie Schaeffer was born in 1883, the same year that Henry Tichenor died. Her description of her grandfather's Inn reflects the period between ca.1887 and 1902. After the closure of the second Navarro Mill in 1893 there was much less business for the Inn. Fletcher appears to have consolidated the services once placed in outside buildings inside the Inn itself.
Elsie says: “Downstairs he had kind of a little store and a bar and a big billiard table and a corner with big round tables for the men to play cards and a huge, monstrous fireplace.” She mentions the porch on the Inn when talking about the Pomos who came to the ocean each summer for kelp and abalone: “Well, after the mill was there, the men used to bother the Indian women. To get away from them, for protection, they'd come over to Grandfather's place. He had a big long porch in front of his place of business and steps down. They'd come up and sit right there. They knew they were safe. He wouldn't let the men come near them and they knew it too. He was awfully good to the Indians. He was good to everybody.”
Both historic photographs and structural details prove that the Inn did not have a covered front porch during the period the Fletcher family owned it. There was apparently only a board porch similar to that on the Fletcher family home.
Fletcher home at turn of century
Hattie Thurston Collection
When the mill closed, the town of Navarro lost its financial base and slowly dwindled away, but the Inn still served travelers as a stage stop. The second Navarro Mill was finally purchased. It burned down in 1902. Elsie says: “The owners used to come up once in a while and stay for a while. But this time they came up they had Mother come over and cook for 'em. And while they were there, this mill upon the river mysteriously burned. Everybody raised their eyebrows.”
The Navarro timber lands, which reached inland as far as the town of Christine (now Christine Woods Winery) were eventually sold to the Albion Lumber Company.
Charles Fletcher Dies (1902)
Second Wife and Son Die (1903)
Charles Fletcher died on August 14, 1902, a month after the second mill burned. It was the end of an era, and the end of the little village by the sea. His second wife, Mary (Mamie) Murray of Cuffey's Cove, died a year later on February 2, 1903. His only son, Charles A. Fletcher, of Navarro, died the same year on November 12, 1903. All were buried in the Little River Cemetery, at the top of the hill.
Fletcher tombstone. Photo by Hillary Adams 2000
Fletcher's granddaughter, Ellen (Nellie) Fletcher Schaeffer and her husband, Charles Schaeffer, once the millwright of the Navarro Mill, were still living in their little house on Navarro flats when Charles Fletcher died in 1902. He may have died intestate since there is no will in the Mendocino County files. The final settlement of his estate in 1922 gives his four children as heirs (see below).
According to Geneva Linn Ray, Nellie Schaeffer ran the Inn after the death of her father: “Mrs. Schaeffer, that was Captain Fletcher's daughter, owned the Navarro Inn by the Sea then. You should have seen her gardens. She even had currents. She would take crab nets to the bridge and drop them over the side and just pull them up.” (Interview, May 29, 1995).