[Mendocino Beacon - Thursday, June 17, 1999]

Kelley House Calendar
Three men in a boat
Charles Fletcher, Nathaniel Smith and
Francisco Faria: these men were among
the earliest settlers on the Mendocino
coast, probably arriving here between
1850 and 1853, and all three are associated
with the Greenwood/Elk area.
Who were these men? What brought
them together? When did they
arrive? Where did they go once they
got there?

The numerous stories and dates
concerning their arrivals vary widely.
Sometimes Charles Fletcher is mentioned
alone as captain of a whaling ship
that came up the Mendocino coast from
San Francisco; sometimes Smith is part of
the crew; other times it is Faria; sometimes it
is both; according to a radio drama of
1949, Fletcher is not captain at all, but
part of the crew. The dates of arrival in
the written material vary from 1844 to
1852. By tracking the sources of the stories, finding
descendants of the men and listening to the versions of
the tale that came down through their families, a plausible
story forms that appears to be close to the truth.

It seems likely that all three men sailed together from
San Francisco to the Mendocino coast in a whaling ship
captained by Charles Fletcher, with a crew that was
largely kanaka (Hawaiian). The ship apparently
was becalmed off what came to be known as
Cuffey's Cove, just north of Greenwood-Elk
and bear were sighted. The name of
the cove, however, does not derive from
the Hawaiian word for bear, which is
"pea" (pronounced paya). Some of the
men went in to hunt for meat. Faria
apparently "jumped ship." Captain
Fletcher, however, sailed on north to
the river he named the Navarro and
established his first home there.
Smith may have stayed with him for
a short time. On June 2, 1853, Faria
purchased a 510-acre ranch at Cuffey's
Cove from William A. Richardson for
$1,500. By that time Smith apparently
had a cabin near Faria. Faria remained
there until about 1855, then went to Orr's
Springs on the Comptche Road. Later, he ran a
tavern. Smith stayed at Cuffey's
Cove until at least 1860, hunting
with one of the Greenwood brothers.
By the 1870 census he was at
Big River, where he also hunted and supplied the
lumber camps. He had a cabin at Indian Gardens; across
the river from Big Hill, near what is now the Woodlands
and a summer camp "across the long bridge" near
the sandbar on Big River.

Charles Fletcher, on the other
hand remained at Navarro all of his
life. At first, he ferried people
across the Navarro River by
dugout canoe. In 1862, he and a man
named Kennedy built the first
lumber schooner (Sea Nymph) on the
Mendocino coast to service the
early Navarro River Mill. Thus they
started the lucrative ship-building
industry here. In about 1870,
Fletcher built what has become one
of the last remaining buildings of
the old town of Navarro, known
locally as the "Navarro-by-the-Sea"
hotel. According to his granddaughter
Elsie Farnsworth, the building
originally served as a tavern and inn
for sailors off the lumber schooners.

The most likely date for the
arrival of the three men on the
Mendocino coast is 1851. This is
the date given in a version of the
story told to Jim Skiffington after
1893, probably by Faria (Mendocino
Beacon, "Wolfe Howls," May
1948). Fletcher arrived in San Francisco
in 1849 and then went to the
gold fields for a short time. Faria
was also in the gold fields near
Stockton. None of them is listed in
Mendocino County in the U.S. census
of 1850. That census places
Nathaniel Smith in Marin, where he
was apparently operating a ferry
service between Sausalito and San
Francisco. Jerome B. Ford, traveling
up the coast, for the second
time, in June of 1852, wrote in his
diary that he and two companions,
together with mules and oxen,
stopped for two days at the
"Portuguese ranch" for food and rest.
The date of 1851, then, is the best
option for the arrival of Faria,
Smith and Fletcher, assuming they
all came here together.

Only Faria seems to have known
when he was born (Feb. 14 or 15,
1798 or 1799; Azores). Census and
voting records give a wide variety
of birth dates for Fletcher and
Smith. Fletcher was the son of a sea
captain. He was born on board ship
in the China seas. Smith was born a
servant in Maryland. All three men
died, however, within a few years
of one another: Charles Fletcher in
1902 (age 75-86), Nathaniel Smith
in 1906 (age 69-91), and Francisco
Faria in 1904 (age about 105). Each
of them left a local legacy of events
and stories (to be continued).

This is the second in a series of
articles about Charles Fletcher
and Navarro-by-the-Sea. For the
first article see "Teakwood and
Tea-a Coastal Story. " Mendocino
Beacon, July 16, 1998. Sources for
this article are available in MHR,
Inc.'s Charles Fletcher file.