History of Little Lake township, California
From: History of Mendocino County, California
Alley, Bowen & Co., Publishers
San Francisco, Cal., 1880


GEOGRAPHY. - Little Lake township is bounded on the north by Humboldt county, on the east by Round Valley township, on the south by Calpella township and on the west by Big River and Ten mile River townships. Its boundary line follows the sinuosities of mountain chains and streams. There are no streams of any importance in the township, the South Eel river which lies on its eastern boundary being the nearest approach to anything of the kind. The township is entirely inland, and surrounded and covered with mountains.

TOPOGRAPHY. - Hill and dale, mountain and vale; that is about all that can be said of the topograph of this township in a general way. Special mention should be made of Little Lake, Sherwood, Long and Cahto valleys. The first named lies in the southern end of the township, and is a perfect gem. It is almost circular in form, and is perhaps four miles in diameter. To the northward lies the next two named, one to the right and the other to the left, as you pass up to the last named which lies at the head of Long valley.

SOIL. - The soil of the valleys is very fertile and productive, but they are most too elevated to grow fruits to any advantage. Vegetables, and the cereals thrive well in the soil here, which in the valleys is a sandy loam, and on the hill sides is argillaceous clay, and oftentimes adobe.

CLIMATE. - The climate of this section of Mendocino county is unexcelled in the State. It is sheltered from the heavy fogs and strong winds of the coast section, and yet lies close enough to the sea board to reap the full benefit of the cool fresh breezes which are wafted far into the interior, bearing coolness and refreshing on their wings. Itis true that there are some days in midsummer when the mercury will indicate a high degree of heat, but the entire section is so elevated that the heat is not felt to be at all oppressive. But on the other hand the elevation which it has causes it to be quite cold during the winter season, but those terms do not last long, for the sea breezes, which were so cool and refreshing during the summer season now laden with warmth, absorbed from that great reservoir of heat, the ocean, come up over the mountains and through the valleys making everything glad from very warmth. The extremes of heat and cold are not so very great, and they are not felt to be grievous, owing to circumstances, all of which are favorable for the advantageousness of the section.

PRODUCTS. - The products of this section are quite varied, ranging through all the grades usually found in the temperate zone. The cereals and grasses thrive very well indeed, and vegetables and fruits are to be found in abundance. Little Lake and other valleys are especially productive. As the native grasses grow so thriftily here, the industry of stock growing and sheep raising is carried on quite extensively. No great amount of labor is produced in the township, and no ties, fence posts, cord wood or tanbark is exported, at least only in very limited amounts, if at all. But with its wonderfully fine climate, beautiful scenery, healthful air, bright skies, high mountains, lovely and fertile valleys; with all this and much more beside combined, it is hard to find any place where more natural qualities and circumstances combine to make up a spot perfectly adapted to man's existence. Surely the Garden of Eden could not have been a much lovelier spot than Little Lake valley, and happy indeed should be the residents of that thrice favored spot.

TIMBER. - There is quite a variety of timber in this township, but still no great bodies of real economical timber such as redwood, pine or fir. Bordering on the western side of the township there is more or less redwood, it being where the great forests of the coast have lapped over the mountain tops and extended down the sides and into the valleys below on the eastern side, just as mighty waves of ocean dash high against the beetling cliffs, sending volumes of spray far over their tops, which courses down into the depressions on the other side, forming into pools and ponds. And as these pools are not the mighty ocean, nor do they resemble it in any respect except that it is sea water, so it may be said of these interior redwood forests, they are not in any manner like the monster masses of woods fronting the ocean on the western slope of the Coast Range, except that they are redwoods. There are here and there straggling trees of yellow pine which make excellent lumber, but there is no considerable body of it. All the other varieties of timber which are indigenous to this section abound here, but not in large bodies.

EARLY SETTLEMENT. - As the valleys of this township divide it into such distinct and entirely separate sections, it is thought best to give the settlement of the township by valleys rather than as a whole. Beginning, then, at the southern end of the township Little Lake valley first claims the reader's attention. The three Baechtel brothers, Samuel, Harry S. and Martin, known all over Mendocino county as the "Baechtel boys," although the snows of many winters are beginning to leave their traces on their heads, were the first permanent settlers in this valley. In September, 1855, they brought a band of cattle up from Marin county and located in this lovely little mountain glade. Of course, there had been white men in the valley previous to that, though how many it is hard to tell now, but in all probability not any great number of them. The Baechtel brothers did not remain the sole occupants of the valley for any great length of time, for the following named settlers came in and located during that and the following year: Thomas Carson, well known to all old settlers as "Tom Punch," Thomas Duncan, John Greenberry, Alvin Potter, Frank Shondreau, Benjamin Dougherty, James G. and Robert S. Rawlison, Thomas Parton, B. Arnett, Levi Felton, J. Darby and William Fulwider, all of whom were single men, and as yet the eyes of a white woman had not rested on the lovely landscape of Little Lake valley. Alvin Potter located a claim where Mr. De Camp now resides. Shondreau located on lands now owned by H. Willits, and his old house is still standing on the original site where it was erected nearly a quarter of a century ago. Greenberry had a claim that joined Potter's tract on the south. Potter left about 1875, but is still alive. Greenberry left the valley about ten or twelve years ago and went to Sherwood valley, where he remained a year or two, and then went to the Cache creek country and died. Shondreau went to Santa Barbara county, where he died some twelve years ago. After this the settlers came in rapidly, and the valley soon filled up Among those who came in during the early days not already named may be mentioned Rev. J. L. Broaddus, W. C. James, H. Willits and others. The last three had families, and their wives were the pioneer women of the valley. In December, 1856, the pioneer baby of Little Lake was born to Mr. and Mrs. W. C. James, and was a boy. The first girl to try her babyhood fortunes in the township was born to Mr. and Mrs. Philip Upp.

In Sherwood valley, which lies next to the north of Little Lake, the first settler was Alfred E. Sherwood, from whom that beautiful little glade took its name. This pioneer came up the coast from San Francisco in 1853, by the way of Bodega and the mouth of the Russian river. At Noyo he heard the Indians telling what beautiful valleys there were back in the interior, and was at last induced to go and visit them upon the representation of the Indians. After making quite an extended tour through several of the valleys Mr. Sher wood determined to locate in the one now bearing his name, which he did in September, 1853, and has since resided there. Samuel Watts was the next settler in this valley, coming in 1856. He was killed by the Indians in September, 1858. His claim joined Sherwood on the west, and embraced the land now occupied by J. M. Standley. John Greenberry, an old Rocky Mountain hunter, and James Crenshaw settled in the valley in 1857. E. P. Jewett, Moses Stopper, a member of the famous Stevenson's regiment, came in and located in 1858. Among other early settlers there may be mentioned William Fenwick, John Ingraham, J. A. Treadway, Paul Rill, an ex-soldier in the United States service, David Son, Sylvester Hatch, William Host, D. Merrifield, the Gruell brothers, Brock and Benjamin Henderson. The last named was a man of family, and his wife was the first white woman to live in the valley. Paul Rill also had a family. Of all of these pioneers only A. E. Sherwood and D. Son remain in the valley at the present time. Those old fellows had a wonderful taste for roaming about.

Long valley may be considered to include Cahto also, at least we will so consider it for our present purposes. The first actual settlers in the valley were Robert White and John P. Simpson, who came early in 1857. Those who followed without families were Jackson Farley, George Woodman, Harry Schroeder, George and Edward Dutton, and William Poe. The first family was that of Dr. G. W. Sargeant, who came to the valley in 1857, and settled near Cahto, but soon after located on the place where his relict Mrs. Henry, still resides in Long valley proper. The next family that came was that of Jerry Lambert, consisting of his wife and three children, who arrived in the spring of 1858. On the 19th of September of that year J. G. Wilson arrived, having with him his wife and two children. They settled on the place where they now reside. Shortly after the Wilson family came A. E. Requa with a wife and one child, and settled in the south end of the valley. During this same fall Clement Beattie and Thomas Smith Caine in and settled in the valley. Beattie is dead, but the others all reside just where they located years and years ago. Early in 1859 came Benjamin S. Barnes and Rufus Ward, and later during the same year Seth Toney and

McChristian came in and settled All of these people were engaged in stock raising at that time. A number of settlers came into the township between the years of 1856 and 1860 whose locale we have been unable to determine. As far as we have been able to collect them their names are as follows: Leonard Dodge settled in 1855, J. W. Morris in 1856, James L. Burger in 1857, W. J. Hildredth in 1858, A. Redemeyer in 1858, James O. Toney in 1858, William E. Willis in 1859, and William H. White in 1859. Of course there were others who settled in the township in an early day, but the above list is as complete as we are able to make it at the present time.

The first murder committed in the county after its organization was in this township, as will be seen by referring to the chapter on Homicides in this work. The first natural death which occurred in Long valley was James Moore, who died in 1861. The first death in Little Lake valley occurred at the residence of Alvin Potter in 1857, and the deceased was named - Abner.

The first marriage in the Long valley section was in 1860, and Miss Abigail Lambert, daughter of Jerry Lambert, and Richard Kenney were the contracting parties. The first school was taught by a Mr. Dennison in 1860, who boarded at B. Burns'. The first minister to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the valley was the Rev. Cox, and the services were held at the residence of Jerry Lambert. This was in 1859.

In those early days the women became inured to danger and often developed wonderful traits of bravery and grand heroism We find the following in one of the local papers which will show the truth of the above statement: "A woman by the name of Bowman residing in Long valley was attacked in her home by Indians. In fighting for her life and the defense of her children she shot two of them dead, and then made her children walk in front of her four miles to a place of safety, keeping the Indians at bay with her rifle, She has also killed a grizzly bear."

We will now retrace our steps to the Little Lake section. The early settlers came into the valley over a trail which passed through Walker valley and thence down the Russian river to Sonoma county. Their wagons were brought over the mountains at a sort of a divide, but it was a very difficult task to accomplish. Wild oats grew in abundance, reaching to a man's knees on horseback. Game both large and small sought and found shelter in the fastnesses of the adjacent mountain canons. The land belonged to the Government hence no troubles grew out of its settlement, and the titles have always been good except where shadows have crept in through the negligence of the settlers themselves.

The first celebration of our National holiday occurred in 1859, and the site chosen for the affair was near the residence of the Baechtel brothers. The entire celebration was in the hands of a committee on arrangements, consisting of Mesdames Margaret J. Upp, Susan Upp, and Margaret Willits, assisted by William Munroe. A collection of provisions was made by this committee, and articles ranging from half a veal to a chicken were donated, and the table made up fully in the essentials of life all that it lacked in the way of delicacies; and the appetites of those pioneer patriots were sufficiently whetted up by the bracing mountain air of their homes to cause them all to relish the viands spread before them that day with a zest which the epicurean never dreams of realizing while mincing over the rare culinary products of the present day. Harry Baechtel read the Declaration of Independence; other literary exercises were had, but the most pleasure to all present was afforded by the chance for social intercourse and visiting. In those days neighbors were miles and leagues apart instead of rods and furlongs as now, and a general gathering together of all the settlers in the country round about gave them an opportunity for a grand old visit. We of today can have but little conception of the true pleasure which such a gathering afforded those pioneers. The following year the celebration was on a far more extended plan; there being a regular old fashioned barbecue, and a dance at night in the then new hall at the old town of Little Lake.

The first school at Little Lake was taught by William Munroe, and the school house was on the place now owned by James Case. The first religious services were held by Rev. Mr. Blair. A number of queer stories have come down as sort of legends of the early settlers of this township. He is related that Thomas Carson, alias "Tom Punch," sowed several bushels of corn meal, hoping therefrom to be able to reap a rich harvest of golden corn; but we are sorry to have to record the fact that his fond hopes were never realized. It is said that old Capt. R. Rundle had better success with his agricultural venture. He sowed two acres of split peas, and they grew and flourished, much to the surprise of all who saw him planting them, and the yield was simply enormous.

A very amusing reminiscence of the pioneer days comes down to the present about as follows: Benjamin Dougherty, one of the very earliest settlers in that section was the proud possessor of a mule, which he fairly doted upon. Wherever Ben went that mule was sure to go, and they seemed almost inseparable. In those old days bears were quite numerous, and very familiar on short acquaintance withal. On one occasion a hunting party was made up, composed of William Fulwider, James G. Rawlison, Jefferson Estes, and Ben Dougherty, who was as usual accompanied by his famous mule. When the shades of nightfall had settled over the valleys a camp was struck, and the evening repast enjoyed as only hunters can appreciate a meal of victuals. After supper, of course, came the inevitable pipes and the long yarns, narrating daring exploits, hair breadth escapes, and bugaboo stories generally. Wrapped up as they were in their more than Arabian Night's stories, all thoughts of their present surroundings had passed from their mind, and they reveled in the mystic land of romance. Suddenly a crackling, crashing noise was heard amid the adjacent bushes, and "to arms!" was the immediate exclamation of all. It is stated that Dougherty started to climb a tree, and in his excitement slid down to the ground instead of ascending it, and when he felt the sure foundation under him he imagined himself securely seated in the forks of the tree, and far above the reach of the claws of old Bruin. He then shouted out to the others to shoot quick and not let the bear get into camp. Taking him at his word they fired a full volley of rifle bullets in the direction of the approaching enemy. A short groan, a heavy thud as the carcass of the animal struck the ground, a few death struggles and all was as still as night. Dougherty then arose from his lofty perch on the ground and was the bravest of the brave. Taking a lighted faggot from the camp fire he dashed along in the direction of where he expected to find the huge carcass of a monster bear, but his consternation and dismay can be better imagined than described when he came upon the dead body of his famous mule.

LITTLE LAKE - The towns in Little Lake township are not numerous nor very extensive in size. We will begin at the southern end and take them as they come. The first we meet is Little Lake. This is the name that was applied to the first village in the township, and was situated near the residence of the Baechtel brothers, and on their land. The first store in this place was opened by W. C. James in 1865, but there had been a saloon opened there as early as 1859, by a German by the name of John Streeve. There was a public hall built there about 1860, and several small dwellings were erected from time to time, making in all quite a little village. It was beautifully located in a cluster of wide spreading oaks. The principal historical event in the existence of this place will be found in the chapter on Homicides, under the caption of "The Little Lake Vendetta." At present nothing remains of the town except the old buildings, all of which are going to decay and ruin as fast as the tooth of time can gnaw them down.

WILLITSVILLE - During the same year that Mr. James opened his store at Little Lake, Kirk Brier of Petaluma, came into the valley, and located, and erected a building, about two miles north of the above named place, on the land owned by H. Willits. Soon after, James M. Jones opened a blacksmith shop, and then a saloon followed, and the requisites for a town were at hand. The new place was called Willitsville, in honor of the pioneer owner of the land, on which it was to be located. Mr. Willits purchased Mr. Brier's interest in the store in the fall of 1865, and has since continued the business at the old stand. From that time on, the success of the town was insured, and it is now wthriving, beautiful hamlet, with about one hundred inhabitants. Its business interests are represented as follows: three stores, one hotel, one restaurant, two livery stables, one blacksmith shop, two saloons, one meat market, one shoe shop, one drug store, and one harness shop. This is certainly a good showing, and the neat and thrifty appearance of the homes and places of business of the people of the place, betokens prosperity beyond mediocrity. The village is situated in the very heart of one of the lowliest and most fertile valleys that the sun ever shone upon, and it is no wonder that all around it has a thrifty look. Its future will always certainly be commensurate with its past.

Independent Order of Good Templars. - Willitsville Lodge, No. 259, I. O. G. T., was organized September 4, 1878, with the following charter members: J. Gordon, W. H. Young, Adele Thompson, William Jones, Cora. Buell, H. Jones; W. Rhea, Dolly Jones, A. James, Samuel C. Thompson, Emma K. Jones, Robert Tuttle, Sarah Upp, J. Tatham, Alice D. Mast, Jessie Thompson, and L. J. Gardner. The first officers were as follows: J. Tatham, W. C. T.; Alice D. Mast, W. V. T.; Jessie Thompson, W. Secretary; L. J. Gardner, W. T. The present officers (June 30, 1880) are: S. C. Thompson, W. C. T.; Mrs. Vincent, W. V. T.; Martha Cropley, W. Secretary; Mrs. Clara C. Ross, W. F. S.; Adele Thompson, W. T. The membership at the above named date was sixty.

Independent Order of Odd Fellows. - Little Lake Lodge, No. 277, I. O. O. F., was organized August 8, 1878, with the following named charter members: W. L. Brown, L. Barnett, I. A. Delano, J S Dobkins, J. M. Gilbert, H. B. Hargrave, J. S. Holman, H. C. Lyon, W. N. Norton, H. L. Norton, J. M. Painter, Rev. A. O. Ross and Al Rucker. The first officers were: W. L. Brown, N. G.; J. S. Holman, V. G.; A. O. Ross, Secretary; L. Barnett, Treasurer. The following named gentlemen have had the honor of filling the executive chair: W. L. Brown, J. S. Holman, H. C. Lyon and W. N. Norton. The present officers (June 30, 1880) are: W. N. Norton, N. G.; H. L. Norton, V. G.; D. F. Vincent, Secretary; and L. Barnett, Treasurer. The present membership is thirty five, and the lodge is in a very flourishing condition. A fine hall was erected in 1878 by a joint stock company, at a cost of $2,500, all of which stock was sold at the time, or rather taken and paid up. The building is seventy by thirty feet and two stories high. The upper room is fifty by thirty feet, and is used for lodge purposes, while the lower floor is used as a public hall. They are just starting their library.

Ancient Order United Workmen. - Hope Lodge, No. 101, A. O. U. W., at Willitsville, was organized May 19, 1879, with the following charter members: B. B. Capel, W. L. Brown, J. Kraker, W. H. Young, G, T. Mason, R. E. Madden, P. L. Hall, W. A. Ingersol, Rev. A. O. Ross, J. C. Thompson, R. J. Barnett, K Barnett, J. Tatham, W. Maxwell, S. C. Tuttle, W. N. Norton, A. Soules, and J. H. Truitt. The first officers were: W. H. Young, M. W.; G. T. Mason, Foreman; W. L. Brown, O.; Rev. A. O. Ross, Secretary; J. Kraker, F.; and E. Barnett, Receiver. The lodge attained to a membership of twenty one, but owing to the fact that its members mostly resided at a long distance from town, it was found impossible to convene a quorum, hence it was disbanded, and its charter surrendered June 24, 1880. The last officers of the lodge were: G. T. Mason, M. W.; B. G. Mast, Foreman; Rev. A. O. Ross, Secretary; R. E. Madden, F.; and E. Barnett, Receiver.

Willitsville Congregational Church. - This church society, which is the the only one of that denomination in Mendocino county, was organized in May, 1878, by Rev. A. O. Ross, with the following members: Jesse C. Thompson, Mrs. Margaret Thompson, Miss Adele Thompson, Mrs. Adah A. Norton, Mrs. Fannie Norton, C. E. Burge, Mrs. Fannie E. Burge, C. L. Whitney, Mrs. Elizabeth Whitney, Mrs. Clara C. Ross, Mrs. Clara Felton, Mrs. Robinson, and Rev. A. O. Ross. The present membership is fifteen, and services are held in the school house. Rev. Ross supplies Sherwood valley and Cahto once a month.

LAYTONVILLE. - This is a small hamlet situated in Long valley on the road from Willitsville to Cahto. It is just springing into existence, the post office having been established February 22d of the present year, 1880. The business interests of the place are represented by one store, one hotel, one blacksmith shop, and one saloon. It bids fair, however, to become a village of some considerable importance in time to come.

CAHTO. - This is a bright little town of some score or more buildings situated at the head of Long valley in what is known locally as Cahto valley. The pioneers of the place are Messrs. John Simpson and Robert White, who came there as early as 1856. They opened a hotel there in 1861 which was the first place of business in town. In 1865 they erected a building of split redwood lumber in which they put a stock of goods, being thus the first to open a store in the place. They still do business in the same old building. Soon after this a blacksmith shop was opened by H. Chadbourne, and a saloon by I. P. Smith. The business interests of the town are at present represented by two stores, one hotel, one blacksmith shop, three saloons, and one harness shop. Robert White is postmaster, and Simpson & White agents for Wells, Fargo & Co.

Independent Order of Odd Fellows. - Cahto Lodge, No. 206, I. O. O. F., was organized July 20, 1872, with the following charter members:J. L. Killian, Robert White, J. C. Grime, J. C. Talkington, M. Vassar, and William McKinney. The first officers were: J. L. Killian, N. G.; Robert White, V. G.; J. C. Grime, Secretary; and J. C. Talkington, Treasurer. The following named gentlemen have been honored with the position of Noble Grand: J. L. Killian, Robert White, J C Talkington, William McKinney, J. M. Dill, J. S. Holman, J. Lambt, C. A. Irvine, J. P. Simpson, H. W.Ward, and C. M. Ward. The present officers are: C. M. Ward, N. G.; Robert White, V. G.; J. P. Simpson, Secretary; and J. Davidson, Treasurer. The present membership is twenty seven. They have a fine hall which was erected in 1872, at a cost of $1,500. The building is two story, and twenty by forty feet in size. The lodge room is twenty by thirty feet, and is neatly furnished. The lower floor is used for a public hall.

LITTLE LAKE TANNERY. - Operations on this enterprise were begun in July 1864, but it was not got into good running order until October of that year. It had a capacity of fifteen thousand sides yearly, and the tan used was the bark from the chestnut oak in the adjacent forests. It was located about three miles south of the old town of Little Lake on the road leading to Walker valley. It has since been abandoned, and all that remains of it now is a tumble down bark shed, and a few decaying vats.

MILLS - This township is not to be ranked among the milling sections of the first order, but a great amount of lumber has been cut in it nevertheless. Hiram T. Hatch built the pioneer saw mill of the township in 1861, in Sherwood valley, and he is still its proprietor. When first constructed it was a water power, with an over shot wheel, having a capacity of three thousand feet daily. Its saw was a "muley." Since then the wheel has been changed to a turbine, and a circular saw, also a planer, edger, etc., added to its machinery. It now has a capacity of ten thousand feet daily. It is estimated that the mill has cut two million feet of lumber, and there are still five hundred acres of timber accessible to it. There is in connection with the mill a run of stones.

Messrs. Simpson & White built the next saw mill in the valley, which is located about six miles West of Cahto, in Jackson valley, This is driven by water power, and the saw is a "muley." Its capacity is two thousand feet daily, and it is estimated that it has cut one and three fourths million feet all told.

The mill now known as the "Reeves' Mill," situated west of Walker valley, was built by - Walker in 1868-9. It was a water power, first, and had a capacity of four thousand feet daily. Since then it has been enlarged and steam power added, which gives it a capacity at the present time of twenty thousand feet.

Norton's mill, situated a few miles north of Little Lake, was built during the winter of 1877-8. It has a capacity of twenty six thousand feet daily: Its machinery consists of one double circular, one gang edger, one planer, one picket machine, and one lath saw. It is estimated that there have been two millions eight hundred thousand feet of lumber cut by this mill A large percentage of this lumber finds a market in Lake county.

The first grist mill in the township was put in operation by Willian C. James in 1860. It was driven by a large over shot water wheel, and had two run of stones. It was rebuilt in 1867, and is at present idle. It is located on the road south of Willitsville, and very near the site of the old tannery mentioned above. Its present owner is T. L. Kelley.

In 1875 F. L. Duncan built a grist mill in the town of Willitsville, which was driven by steam, and had two run of buhrs, having a capacity of twenty barrels daily. Capt. J. A. Morgan and T. L. Kelley are the present owners of it.

MUD SPRINGS. - One of the most singular phenomenon to be found in Mendocino county is to be seen in this township. Reference is had to the Mud springs which are situated a few miles south of Cahto. It is stated that the flow of these springs is contemporaneous with the tides of the ocean, and it is thought that either they are connected with the ocean by some subterraneous channel, or that they are acted upon directly by the influence of the moon or whatever causes the ebb and flow of the tides of the sea. Be it what it may, it is certainly a wonderful condition of things and well worthy the research of the scientist.

THE MENDOCINO COUNTY AGRICULTURAL ASSOCIATION. - This has been established only two years, but its beneficial effects are already perceptible in Little Lake. No better location could have been found for the track and buildings of this Association than where it is, near Willitsville. A full and extended mention of it will be found in the body of this volume.

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