This story is about where the Navarro River enters into the Pacific Ocean only 8 miles south of Stevenswood Spa Resort. Most guests visiting the area come by this direction where Highway 128 meets Highway 1 on the Mendocino Coast.
The Mendocino Coast is rich with history. From the lumber mills that sprang along the coast line after the earlier settlers discovered the great giant redwood groves, to shipbuilding for moving the lumber down to the Bay Area and beyond. This is one such story one of Mendocino’s earliest pioneers.
The Navarro-by-the-Sea-Hotel in about 1948
Captain Fletcher’s Inn is located in Navarro River Redwoods State Park at Navarro Beach, 8 miles south of Little River. The Inn was built in the 1860′s by Charles Fletcher and his partners for sailors off the lumber schooners that served the Navarro mill. Charles Fletcher was the first settler at Navarro. (ca.1851). He and his partner James Kennedy built the first lumber schooner on the Mendocino coast, the Sea Nymph, in 1862.
Captain Fletcher’s father was a Scottish sea captain. Charles was born in the China seas on the Schooner “Wildcat”. He came to San Francisco in 1849 during the gold rush. In 1851, he had arrived on the north coast, apparently as captain of a whaling ship.
Captain Fletcher, in partnership with James Kennedy and Captain Thomas Kennedy of San Francisco, built the inn during the 1860′s for sailors who had to wait three days while their schooners were loaded with lumber from the Navarro Mill. The Navarro Mill was built in 1861 by the firm of Tichenor and Company of San Francisco, on land purchased from Charles Fletcher for $1,200. The first mill was built on the Navarro Flats near Captain Fletcher’s home.
An artists rendition of Navarro Mill about 1878.
The Navarro wharf in about 1886 with the steamer “Newsboy” taking on lumber from the mill. In 1860, after he sold most of his land to Tichenor and Byxbee, Charles Fletcher married Bridget Cooney of Mendocino, a widow from Roscommon, Ireland. They built a large house, which replaced Fletcher’s original redwood cabin, and raised four children there. The Fletcher family was one of the last to live in the old village of Navarro. Charles Fletcher died in 1902. His daughter, Ellen (Nellie) Fletcher Schaeffer inherited both the Inn and the family home. When she moved to Fort Bragg in early 1920′s, her daughter, Elsie Nystrom purchased the house and Inn for $10.
Captain Fletcher’s Inn has survived three major fires, the earthquake of 1906 and the devasting flood of 1907 that swept away a bridge near the mouth of the Navarro.
After the mill was sold, it burned down under mysterious circumstances. The fire occured in 1902, the same year that Captain Fletcher died. This was followed by the fire of 1911, the quake of 1906 and the flood of 1907, all of which damaged Navarro. By 1914, the name “Navarro” was usurped by the town of Wendling, located eleven miles up the river. Wendling also had a lumber mill for sale, and wanted to capitalize on the Navarro name for quality lumber. The town still bears the name “Navarro”.
What remained of the original village of Navarro eventually became know as “Navarro-by-the-Sea.” Captain Fletcher’s Inn and the mill manager’s house are now the only buildings remaining from the once thriving town of Navarro. At its height, it had 500-600 inhabitants, with another 300 men located in camps in the woods up river.
The Inn Served as a popular fishing resort from the 1920′s through the 1970′s under various owners. It was purchased in 1996 by the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
Captain Charles Fletcher.
August 16, 1902 (obituary): From the Mendocino Beacon
“[Charles Fletcher was] highly respected as a business man and as a citizen. He was generous with his employees…large hearted, fearless and honest, he was a representative type of the hardy pioneers of this state…”
Captain Fletcher’s final resting place at the Little River Cemetary, California.
Picture taken in 1980′s
Here is how Captain Fletcher’s Inn looks today.