navarro by the sea center

History of Captain Fletcher's Inn and Navarro
Part 4

© by Hillary Adams, 2003

The Great Quake of 1906, the Flood of 1907, and Capt. Fletcher's Inn

In 1906, the great earthquake badly damaged what remained of the town of Navarro. It may have been at this time that the chimney fell from the Inn. The outside covered stair on the east end may also have been damaged then, or it may have been replaced at an earlier date. The earthquake was followed by the great Navarro flood of 1907, which washed out the old bridge by the first mill site.

The Mendocino Beacon dated May 5, 1906 carries a report from “Navarrro Flat, May 2: The earthquake of two weeks ago which wrought such terrific damage to the cities and towns of a portion of California passed through this town with great force, leaving only three houses standing intact. These houses are the old Charles Fletcher saloon (Inn) which has been standing for the past forty-five or fifty years, the C. C. Schaeffer home and a large vacant house at the foot of the South grade. Every house in the Eastern part of the town was greatly damaged, mostly all of them having their foundations thrown down, causing the building to either fall or greatly lean to one side. The hall, church and school house were completely lifted from their foundation and are now resting on the ground. The hall is resting on the ground as firm and solid as ever.”

workers cabins after quake and flood
Photo showing 1906-07 earthquake and flood damage.
Railroad “round house” in the background.
Robert J. Lee Collection (Ward) 0-3337

Fire takes the Schaeffer Home and much of the town (1913)

The Schaeffer house burned down in 1913, taking much of what remained of the town of Navarro with it. An article in The Mendocino Beacon of April 19, 1913 states that the fire started on April 11, 1913 in the Schaeffer's stove and caught fire to their roof: “falling sparks igniting a large building east of their house, as well as old buildings of the Navarro company across the road." The fire burned down "the large red house once occupied by J. Fessenden Clark...”

Elsie says of this event: “Mother's house burned down the second year I was married, I guess in 1911 [actually 1913]. The house caught on fire on a terribly windy day. It just blew the shingles off of the house in flame, all across the flat and burnt everything up. Everything except the couple of houses next to the hill. The old caretaker just fought to save them. Mother moved into Grandfather's house. Then in later years, my husband and I bought the place from Mother. She went to Fort Bragg to live with my brother;” and also: “The old caretaker saved the old company house when all the rest burned down. It was all furnished and everything.”9

The “company house” had traditionally been occupied by the mill manager. It appears behind the white fence in the early etching, is still standing, and is now owned by the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

mill superintendants house 1976
Company house, 1976
Robert J. Lee collection Ward: roll13-11A

It was during this period that the name, “Navarro” was usurped by the town of Wendling, about 11 miles upriver. P. T. Buzard purchased Sterns Lumber Co. (formerly Wendling Redwood Shingle Co.), in 1914 and renamed it the Navarro Lumber Co. He may have purchased all or part of the old Navarro Mill lands as well, since the holdings reached to Christine by 1920 when they were sold to the Albion Lumber Co. When Sterns mill became the Navarro Lumber Co. the town of Wendling became “Navarro.” Thereafter, what remained of the village near the river's mouth came to be known as “Navarro-by-the-Sea”. 10

Charles C. Schaeffer, Elsie's father, died on October 2, 1916. His wife and children were his heirs. His son, Charles F. Schaeffer, and daughters, Mrs. Elsie Nystrom of Albion [Navarro post office], Mrs. Hattie Thurston of Ukiah, and Mrs. Clara Duncan of Colusa all assigned their shares of the estate, to Nellie Schaeffer of Albion: (Deeds, Bk. 14, p. 331). Nellie and Charles Schaeffer, along with their son, Charles, had moved into the Fletcher family home after the fire of 1913.

Elsie, like the other Schaeffer girls, had moved to Mendocino to attend high school. It was there that she met her husband, Henry Nystrom, who worked for the Mendocino Mill.

Nellie Schaeffer moved to Fort Bragg ca. 1920 to be near her son, Charles Fletcher "Bud" Schaeffer. Historic photographs of the 1920s show the Inn at Navarro without its chimney and with clapboards falling from the western side. It is obviously no longer in use. The photographs also clearly show that there was no covered front porch on the Inn, only a projecting porch similar to that on the Fletcher home. The Historic Structure Report of 2003 by Carey and Co. suggests that the covered porch probably dates from the 1920's or 1930's11 The corner of Fletcher's ship-building shed can be seen at the left.

inn ca 1920
Captain Fletcher's Inn after 1923
Click on photo to view full image. The bridge in background of the full image was built in 1923.

Fletcher's home burned down at the end of June, 1921. An article in The Mendocino Beacon of July 2, says: “The large house on Navarro flat belonging to Mrs. Nellie Schaeffer of Fort Bragg and occupied by herself and family for many years was destroyed by fire Thursday night.”

Elsie says of this event: “Somebody burnt the big house down. We just left it open so the fishermen could go in there. I guess they left the fire in the fireplace and it rolled out and burned it down. But it didn't burn that one building there, Navarro-by-the-Sea; that was Grandfather's place of business. Mother's house is gone, Grandfather's and the big shed where he built the ships burned up, too.” 12 The ship building shed can be seen between the Inn and the Fletcher home in an historic photograph probably dating prior to 1913 when the Schaeffer's house burned down:

inn and shed before 1921 fire
Fletcher House, Inn, shipbuilding shed. Schaeffer house on left (?).
Hattie Thurston Collection.

Capt. Fletcher's Inn is Sold (1923)

The Fletcher estate was finally settled on December 8, 1922 by a Decree of Settlement (Estate of Charles Fletcher, Superior Court, County of Mendocino: Mrs. Nellie Schaeffer, administrator). According to the settlement, Fletcher's heirs were “one son who died without having been married and without issue [Charles A. Fletcher]; Mrs. Emma [Mary Anne?] Adams, Mrs. Jennie [Jane] McKenzie [Jane Fletcher Kennedy McKenzie] and Mrs. Nellie [Ellen] Schaeffer.” Emma and Jennie assigned their part of the estate to their sister, Nellie, so that she held the entire property at Navarro. In the settlement, Fletcher's Navarro property is described as it was fundamentally described throughout the later deed record: “Beginning at the iron pin driven in the ground...said point of beginning being witnessed by a three foot gum a rocky point on South bank of Navarro River where it intersects the bank of the Pacific Ocean...thence to...and along the County Road...thence more or less to the point of beginning, and same being a part of lot N. 60 1/2 Swamp or Overflow lands of Mendocino County...”(Deeds, Bk. 173, pp. 145-147.)

Apparently the estate was put in legal order so that the Navarro property could be sold. The town of Navarro had all but disappeared, and no members of the Fletcher or Schaeffer families lived there.

Four months later, on March 27, 1923, Nellie Schaeffer of Fort Bragg sold her property at Navarro, including the Inn, to Henry E. Nystrom of Elk (Elsie's husband) for $10.00 (Mendocino Cty. Book of Deeds, Book 171, p. 360). There is no evidence that the Inn was in operation at the time. Henry Nystrom was working for the L.E. White mill in Greenwood (Elk). According to descendant Earl Perkins Thurston, the couple lived at that time near Highway One on what is now the Philo-Greenwood Road.13