History of Calpella Township, California
From: History of Mendocino County, California
Alley, Bowen & Co., Publishers
San Francisco, Cal., 1880


GEOGRAPHY. - Calpella township is bounded on the north by Little Lake and Round Valley townships; on the east by Lake county; on the south by Ukiah and Anderson townships; and on the west by Big River township. The boundary lines are very crooked, following the sinuosities of mountain chains and valleys. There are no streams of any importance in the township, although the Russian river has its source in the mountains of this township.

TOPOGRAPHY. - This township presents very much the same topographical features of the other townships in Mendocino county, except, that possibly, the valleys are a little more extensive than in some of the others. The Russian River valley, which passes up northward through the west center of it, is quite broad and fertile. In the eastern portion of the township, are the Redwood, Potter, Walker, and Coyote valleys, the two first named, are quite extensive, and Potter valley is especially productive. The trend of the Russian River valley and its bordering mountains is north and south, while all the others have a trend in a north easterly and south westerly direction, as the drainage is all towards the Russian river.

SOIL. - The soil of this section varies from the rich sandy loam of the valley to the heavy adobe and clays of the hill and mountain sides, passing through several grades. In the Russian River valley, there is more or less of morainal deposit, consisting of cobble stones, extending from coarse sand to boulders of gigantic size. A fine display of this morainal deposit may be seen on the road from Little Lake to Calpella, where there is a large body of cobble stones, the interstices of which are filled with argillaceous clay, highly impregnated with aluminum, which gives to it a wonderfully adhesive property, and causes the entire mass to appear now as one solid body. In the other valleys, the soil is a sandy loam, and as stated above, very productive, and well adapted to the production of grains, vegetables and fruits.

CLIMATE. - The climate of all of that section of Mendocino county, that lies eastward of the Coast Range, is simply perfectly delightful, and too much cannot be said in commendation of its wonderful salubrity and healthfulness. Here the sun never shines but to gladden the face of nature, and to make the valleys paradisiacal, and a happy and lovely spot for man to locate his habitation, and to build up homes that he and his children after him may enjoy in unalloyed measure. The summer's sun sends his rays down in direct lines, raising the temperature, oftentimes, to above 100° Fahrenheit, but the air is pure, and to quite a degree, rare, hence the heat is not so oppressive and debilitating as in the lower levels, or in a denser atmosphere. In the winter, the snow sometimes falls in these valleys to a depth of from a few inches to a foot or two, but it does not remain on long at a time, and does not serve to lower the temperature to any deleterious degree. The snows of winter rests upon the adjacent mountain tops, until late in the season, serving as great refrigerators, absorbing the heat of the sun, and sending forth cooled currents of air to settle down upon the arid valleys below, which reduce the temperature, especially at night, changing the scorching midday siroccos to delightful evening zephyrs. And thus it is with all our blessings they are wafted out upon the fevered, famished world from above.

PRODUCTS. - The products of these valleys are multifarious, ranging through all the various productions of the temperate and semi tropic zones. The cereals all thrive well, and produce handsomely; vegetables grow very large, yielding immense quantities; while orchards, vines, and small fruits find their native home in the rich, warm soil. Hops do well along the Russian River valley. There is only one drawback to the development of these grand and fertile valleys, and that is the means of transportation. Markets are too remote for it to be profitable to the producer at present, but the time will come, and it is not now far distant, when access to the city markets will be had by rail, bringing at least Ukiah within six hours of the city. Then will all these valleys bloom like flower gardens, and the producer can realize well and amply upon his products. The products of these valleys, being so varied, an unexcelled opportunity for making beautiful and thrifty homes is offered and he who locates in them has never a cause for regret.

TIMBER. - The timber of this township embraces nearly all the varieties indigenous to the county, such as pines; firs, oaks and redwood. Redwood valley received its name from the fact that there was quite a body of redwood timber lying in it. This is the farthest inland that redwoods grow in any body in Mendocino county, although there are stragglers here and there for several miles inland. When the first mills were located on the coast, it was thought that the redwood belt extended entirely across to the Sacramento valley. It is really a curious phenomenon that this body of redwoods should grow so far from their congeners and, apparently, under different circumstances. As the redwood is considered to be a creation of the fogs so prevalent where it grows the strongest, it would seem that at sometime away back in the history of the world the conformation of the valleys and mountains was such that large bodies of fog drifted into and banked up in that section so that the young redwoods got at least a good start, if not a full growth, before the change came. When it is remembered that it has taken several centuries for these trees to grow, it will be seen that there has been ample time for all the necessary changes to effect this end.

EARLY SETTLEMENT. - In September or October, 1852. Thomas and William Potter, L. Anderson, Al. Strong, Moses C. Briggs, and two Spaniards started from near Healdsburg, Sonoma county, on horseback, for a trip to the source of the Russian river; and in the course of time found their way into what is now known as Potter valley, doubtless being the first white men who had ever gazed upon its lovely bosom. The party remained about three weeks, being engaged in spying out the land, and choosing a location to settle upon. At last three claims were decided upon as being the most eligible, and the two Potter brothers and Mr. Briggs located on them. In the spring of 1853, William Potter and M. C. Briggs took the first wagon into the valley and the former located permanently on his claim, while the latter put stock on his, and passed back and forth from Sonoma county till April, 1857, when he took his family there and located permanently. In 1856 Thomas Potter located permanently on his claim, which made Mr. Briggs the third settler in the valley. Briggs built a log house, and whip sawed the lumber for the first floor ever laid in the valley. This floor is still serving its purpose and is in a high state of preservation. In the fall of 1857 Richard Swift moved in and settled permanently. Samuel Chase went into the valley with Mose Briggs and in the spring of 1858 Samuel Mewhinney moved in and settled. There were three single men, namely: Berry Wright, John H Gardiner and - Williams. During 1858 quite a number of families moved in, and the valley settled up very fast.

Walker valley is situated in the northern part of Calpella township and contains an area of about two hundred acres. The first settler in the valley was Joseph Walker, who came in with a band of cattle as early as 1856, and for whom the valley was named. The land was located upon by J. G. Pooler, who soon after disposed of it to others, among whom was J. W. Morris, of Ukiah. At times it gets very cold in this valley, and the last named gentleman had the misfortune to lose a large portion of a band of cattle he had in the valley in 1858. Some winters are extremely severe, and others very mild indeed. The entire valley is now the property of Mr. Ranch Angle, an extensive sheep rancher, who owns, in connection with it, about seven thousand acres.

To C. H. Veeder doubtless belongs the honor of being the first settler in the vicinity of Calpella. He came in and settled, on the site of the present town in 1857, and having foresight and hoping for grand things in the future for the location, he laid out a town plat. The name Calpella, he took from the chief of the tribe of Indians which was located there, the name signifying, in the native dialect, a shell bearer. Mr. Veeder was accompanied by his son in law James E. Pettus. Both of these men have been enterprising and active, in all matters that tended to the upbuilding and prosperity of their adopted home. Soon after their arrival they opened a store, which was probably the first place of business established in the Russian River valley within the limits of Mendocino county, or at least the second. Mr. A. T. Perkins sold goods at the present site of Ukiah, in 1857 but it is questionable now which began operations first, and moreover, Mr. Perkin's real business was blacksmithing, hence selling goods was only a secondary consideration with him, hence it seems that the laurels should, of a right, rest upon the brows of the first named gentlemen. During 1858 Messrs. S. Wurtenberg and H. Wickelhausen located at Calpella, and started a general merchandising business, and also during this year John Corbet began blacksmithing, Benjamin Knight carrying on the wood working department of the business. William H. White was then engaged in dressing deer skins and making gloves and clothing out of the leather. Other early settlers in the vicinity of Calpella were, Berry Wright, William Wiley, C. H. English, James L. Hughes, E. M. Mallory, James and Calvin Nuckolls, C. Ashley, T. Elliot, William Pitts, L. Hays and E. M. Howard. The last named was hunting in the valley before there were any settlers there. The following named gentlemen came in and settled in the years set opposite their names, but their locale is not known. In 1857, William P. English, B. F. Forsyth, H. P. McGee and Pierce Asbill. In 1858, A. C. Perry and Thomas O'Conner. In 1859, Ranch Angle, Dennis Qunliven, Isaac Y. Griffiths and T W. Dashiel. This list does not comprise all who settled in the township in those pioneer days, but it is as complete as we are able to make it at this remote period.

CALPELLA. - Calpella is one of the oldest towns in Mendocino county, having been begun in 1858 by C. H. Veeder, as stated above. When the commissioners were appointed to select two sites to be voted for for the county seat of Mendocino county, upon the organization of the county in 1859, Calpella was one of the places chosen; and, although we are unable to give the exact vote, yet we are informed that its competitor, Ukiah, did not carry off the honors with any very great majority. But that was its death knell. It is in too great proximity to Ukiah for the surrounding vicinity to support a town, and Ukiah serves only to draw away its very life blood, as all arteries of trade have long since been diverted from Calpella to the latter place. There is at present one store, one hotel, one blacksmith shop, and one saloon, and about a dozen dwelling houses in the place. It is beautifully located, and has everything about it that would make it desirable for a town of some prominence except that it is overshadowed by its larger sister, Ukiah.

POMO. - This is a word of the old Indian dialect of the region, and means race, tribe or people. It is a small place located in Potter valley, comprising one store, two hotels, and about twenty dwelling houses. There is a church building here which was built in 1872, and is owned by the Methodist South and Christian denominations conjointly; the former owning three fourths and the latter the remaining one fourth. The building was paid for by subscriptions among the people of the valley, and certainly does credit to the town, and speaks very highly for the liberality of the people of that section. The building is thirty five by fifty in size. The following is an outline history of the Potter Valley and Upper Lake Circuit, Pacific Annual Conference Methodist Episcopal Church South, from its organization down to the present time

"What is now Potter Valley and Upper Lake Circuit had its beginning in a mission established in the year ____. It was first called Little Lake mission; since that time, however, it has been changed from a mission to a circuit; has also changed in name and boundary. The following are the names of the different ministers who have had charge of the work. Their names are given in the order of their labors, dating back to the year 1869: W. L. Wilhite, 1869; Louis Hedgepeth; G. W. Fleming, two years; John F. Campbell, two years; J. C. Pendergrast. J. F Campbell was returned to the work again, and died October 5, 1878. He was followed by J. G. Shelton, and J. S. Clurtse is now laboring in that field. The circuit has had quarterly visits from the different Presiding Elders of the circuit during the time, viz.: T. C. Barton, S. H. B. Anderson, J. C. Simmons, and W. F, Compton. Until the fall of 1874 the work embraced Round, Little Lake, Long, and Potter valleys, and was called Little Lake Circuit. At that time Round and Long valleys were cut off. In the fall of 1875 Little Lake valley was cut off, and the name of the circuit changed to Potter Valley Circuit. In the fall of 1876 the circuit was again changed so as to embrace the town and vicinity of Upper Lake, and it was then changed to its present name - Potter Valley and Upper Lake Circuit. No church property was acquired until the year 1872, when a neat and commodious church was built at Pomo, in Potter valley, at a cost of about $1,600. In the year 1875 parsonage property was obtained, valued at $430. When the Upper Lake portion of the circuit was added in 1877, it included a church valued at about $800. This property is still held by the circuit, and is now valued at about $2,500. The growth in membership has been steady all the while; so that from a beginning of ten or fifteen, it now numbers about one hundred and five, many of whom are leading citizens in the country included in. this circuit."

CENTERVILLE. - This is a little town also in Potter valley, in which there is one store, two hotels, two blacksmith shops, one saloon, and one hall which was erected by the "Grangers" some years ago, when the "Patron of Husbandry" tidal wave piled in upon the State, flooding all the valleys and climbing to the very mountain heights, having its organizations in all the country school houses and small villages in the land.

MILLS. - At the head of Russian river there is a stream known as Redwood creek, lying about nine miles above Calpella. A saw mill was built on it in 1858 by Thomas Elliott, which was driven by water and had a sash saw. Steam power was put in in 1860, but it was always a small affair, never having a capacity above three thousand feet daily. The mill was discontinued in 1864, as the body of timber was not very large.

In 1865, during the month of October, Mr. I. C. Reed put up a mill in Redwood valley. It was a water power sash saw, and had a capacity of about four thousand feet.

There was a small saw mill in Potter valley in the early days, but little or nothing seems to be known of either of the last named mills, except that they existed.

The Coyote Valley Flour mill was built in 1860 by a company, and for a while it did tolerably well; but the great flood of the winter of 1861-2 played such havoc with it that it was abandoned for awhile, remaining an unoccupied wreck for two years. On the 9th day of June, 1864, William J. Cleveland purchased it, and after giving to it much needed repairs, and increasing its capacity, he put it again in operation, and it has continued ever since at work under his management. It had a capacity of five tons of wheat a day; but its average work was about four tons, and there has never yet been a lack of wheat to keep it busily engaged. This mill was run by a twenty foot water wheel, which could be increased six feet more. The motive power - water - was conveyed in a flume a distance of one and three fourths miles, from the east side of Potter valley out of a branch of the Russian river. Its machinery was substantial, and staunch, and its internal arrangement perfect. But the mill was destroyed by fire in June, 1866, being evidently the work of an incendiary, as the water in the flume was found diverted so that there would none get to the mill and be of any assistance in quenching the flames. The mill was rebuilt in October in the same year, and it is now driven by steam. It is a complete grist mill, and does excellent work, and has a capacity of eighteen barrels of flour per day.

In 1864 Mr. S. Wurtenberg erected a flour mill at Calpella, using waterpower at first, but adding steam afterwards. He disposed of his interest to H. Wickelhausen, some time previous to 1867. In that year the last named gentleman moved the mill to Ukiah, where it has since continued in operation.

MINES AND MINING. - For years it has been known that there was gold in the mountains and valleys adjacent to Calpella, and many bright hopes and flattering prospects have been blasted by the non realization of the indications of precious metal to be found in that section. The influx of new life was felt in the old veins of that place as long ago as 1863, as the following extract from a Ukiah paper of that date will signify: "Of late Calpella has become one of the liveliest places in the county. Its immediate proximity to the newly discovered mines gives it an importance it has not before aspired to. Improvements are rapidly going on there. All seems to be excitement and bustle, much resembling that attending the settlement of new mining towns in 1851-2." The indications are certainly good for some fine placer diggings to be found in that immediate vicinity at some future time, but it is not possible to predict whether or not the prospects will ever be realized. It is said that there is more or less platinum in the black sand found there, and great hopes are built upon the possible future developments of mines of that metal.

ROADS. - There is a road leading from Ukiah northward which passes through the western portion of the township, Calpella and Walker valley lying upon its immediate routes. There is a road extending from Calpella to Potter valley, and the people of that section have also two more outlets, viz., one to Willitsville and one to Round, valley. Stages pass each way daily over the first named road. These roads are all of easy grade, and kept in good order.

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