[ February 17, 2000 Mendocino Beacon ]

Kelley House
The Blacksmith
claim at Booldam
Part 1

The Blacksmith claim is
important for Mendocino's earliest
history. In Jerome Ford's Diary of
1852 (Monday, June 14), he says:
"Arrived at Gassier (Garcia) Rancho
at 9 o'clock. Bought the Blacksmith
claim on 'Bul Don' for
100$." Ford apparently met the
owner of this claim at Garcia's Rancho,
a popular stopping place for
people moving up and down the
coast road. In writing the word
"Blacksmith," Ford does not use the
possessive form (a small "s" above
the line) as he would if he were
referring to the trade of blacksmithing.
He simply writes: "the
Blacksmith claim." Where was this
claim located?

The coastal land south of the Rio
Grande (Big River) all the way to
the Garcia Land Grant had been
held since 1844 by William
Richardson and was known as the
Albion Rancho. In 1852, Richardson
was fighting for the verification
of this grant in the California
courts. Lands north of the Rio
Grande, however, had long been
open for settlement. A shipwrecked
sailor, William Kasten, was already
settled there when Ford came looking
for the wreck of the Frolic in
1851. Kasten dated his claim from
June 1, 1851, but did not record it
until March 8, 1852 (Sonoma
County). Kasten's claim included
most of the present Mendocino
headland. He called the area "Port
of Good Hope," from Ford's diary,
it is clear that "the Blacksmith
claim" was located to the east of
Kasten's claim.

There was already a cabin on the
Blacksmith claim when Ford purchased
it. His entry for Thursday,
June 17, says: "...So we are at our
journey's End. This is rather a
pleasant Place - am stopping in the
House I Bought of 'The Blacksmith.'"
Ford capitalizes both
words, and he places quotes around
them, as though "The Blacksmith"
represents a person, but not his
actual name.

In his entry for June 18, Ford
says: "Today have been looking
about defining Boundries [sic], 'Mr.
Caston' has a cabin on the point
--which with the claim I purchased
takes up the whole of the Point," He
adds: "All living here now are 6 -
'Warner' [Ford's companion on the
trip up the coast] 'Caston' myself
and 3 Germans." Ford had not yet
purchased any of Kasten's claim for
the mill company. Kasten must
therefore have been occupying his
own cabin, while Ford, and probably
Warner, stayed in the cabin on
"the Blacksmith claim."

An old photograph shows a
roughly built cabin with Jerome B.
Ford and David Lansing standing
outside of it. This cabin is said to
have stood behind the present
location of the Ford House (now owned
by California Department of Parks
and Recreation). The cabin is sometimes
identified as Kasten's cabin.
It is possible, however, that this is
in fact the "house" on "the Blacksmith
claim" as purchased and lived
in by Ford in 1852. A larger house
was not built for Ford until he
married in 1854.

Jerome B. Ford made numerous
references to the Blacksmith claim
in his Diary of 1852. The variations
of capitalizations and the quotations
used by Ford when mentioning the
word "Blacksmith" are important,
although transcriptions of Ford's
diary often omit them. As was
customary for the time, Ford frequently
capitalized both nouns and proper
names. He usually places quotations
around a name the first time
he uses it, especially if he is unsure
of the spelling. Once he is comfortable
with the spelling, he tends to
drop the quotations. But the combination
of words referring to "Blacksmith"
gives Ford trouble throughout
his entries. He seems to be struggling
with the word and its use.

Martha Sullenberger in her otherwise
excellent book, "Dogholes and
Donkey Engines" (1992; p. 545),
ignores both capitalization and quotation
marks and identifies the word
"Blacksmith" with a trade. Following
Ryder, she identifies this trade
with the German, Gebhard Hegenmeyer,
"a blacksmith and brother to
George Hegenmeyer." However,
Gebhard Hegenmeyer's whereabouts
in the spring and summer of
1852 are well documented, and he
is nowhere near Mendocino. Lyman
Palmer, in his "History of Mendocino
County, California: (1880; p
541), states that in the spring of
1852, Gebhard Hegenmeyer was on
board ship, sailing from Rotterdam
to England; "...at Liverpool he
shipped on board the sailing vessel
Henry Clay for New York. From
there he sailed on the steamer
Illinois to Panama, and thence to San
Francisco on the steamer Northerner,
arriving in August. He then
went to Sonoma, Sonoma County,
and from there proceeded on foot to
Mendocino City, arriving early in
September of that year." (emphasis
mine). Clearly, "The Blacksmith" is
not Gebhard Hegenmeyer. Then
who is he?

The issue of the Blacksmith
claim and Nathaniel Smith's
possible relation to it was originally
brought to my attention by Arlene
Zornes. This is the sixth in a series
of articles on Captain Fletcher and
Navarro-by-the-Sea. A copy of this
article with footnotes is on file at
Mendocino Historical Research,
Inc., Kelley House Museum.

To be continued next week.