The Joshua Grindle House
By Jazmine Atherton Walsh (age 10 years)
This is the story of the Joshua Grindle house and the people who lived in it. The Joshua Grindle house on 44800 Little Lake Street is a very historical building. It’s built in the Maine Country Victorian architectural style. The house is made entirely of redwood, designed with brackets of delicate millwork decorating the porch posts on two sides of the house. It has two stories and features a
round window lighting up one stairway. Cornices over the double windows upstairs protect from rain.
The house has an interesting story behind it, and the more information I read, the clearer the ideas became. I hope you become as interested as I was after discovering the mysteries behind this building. One reason I chose it was because my grandmother works for the current owners. I’ve visited the parlor many times and read a book sitting in an armchair. It’s always so cozy!
The story begins in Surry, Maine with a man named Joshua Grindle. He was born there in 1844. Joshua loved the sea, and when he was only 14 years old, he began life as a sailor. In 1865 when Joshua was 21, he married 19 year old Ella Treworgy from Roxbury, Maine (1859-1937).
In May 1869 when Joshua was 25, he decided to explore the western lands like many other young men of that time. He took a steamer boat along with Henry Jarvis, a childhood friend who would later become a business partner and a prominent Mendocino resident. He traveled to California, crossing the dangerous Isthmus of Panama. He discovered the town of Mendocino, which was still called Big River, shortly after he arrived. He liked the town because the forests reminded him of Maine. Joshua realized that the rest of his life was meant to be spent in the west. He traveled back to Maine to get Ella. According to Charles Reinhart, the current owner of the Joshua Grindle house, Ella refused to go back because she was, “too refined to go overland and too afraid of sea travel.” Joshua moved back to California and they divorced.
Joshua began to work for the Mendocino Lumber Company. His first job was as a chopper, and then a raftsman on Big River, taking logs to the mill. Henry Jarvis and Captain John Clark worked with him. They would tie logs together and form rafts, then float them down with the tide every few days.
In 1878 when Joshua was 34, he married Alice Hills, the daughter of Spencer and Zenith Hills. Spencer was a dairy rancher who owned 250 acres. Alice was a school teacher, but she was only 20! Joshua was 14 years older than her, and everybody thought it was scandalous for Alice to marry him instead of Jerome Ford Jr., a young, very eligible bachelor. As a wedding gift, Spencer gave them a large parcel of land next door to his house. This land was where the Joshua Grindle house was to be built.
Construction of the house began in 1879. Joshua and Alice lived together happily for 3 years. Sadly, on January 30, 1882 Alice died in childbirth. It was both a happy and sad day for Joshua because the baby boy survived. He was named Alliston after Alice.
After Alice’s death, Emma van Schaick came to Mendocino to visit her sister Mrs. Beardsley and met Joshua. The two hit it off and were married in June 1883. Emma was a music teacher, and they had music in common because Joshua was a marvelous singer. When the couple attended the Presbyterian Church, everyone could hear Joshua’s booming bass voice. Here’s an idea about the couple’s life together. The Mendocino Beacon November 10, 1888 says, “This union proved a constant source of happiness to both, and usefulness to the community.” The Mendocino Beacon October 18, 1990 says, “Joshua Grindle was said to become most vexed with Emma at times, for she would spend her days playing the piano and leave the housework undone and the breakfast dishes in the sink.”
In July 1883, Joshua continued to improve his house. In November it was almost complete. “Mr. J.D. Johnson had finished the woodwork and given place to the plumbers, painters, and paper hangers. Fred Brunner was pipe-laying, soldering, and doing whatever else was necessary to conduct cold and hot water to kitchen, laundry, bath, bedrooms, etc.” –Mendocino Beacon November 7, 1883. By the end of November, Joshua and Emma had moved into their new home. The house was finally finished in October 1885, it went from being described as, “a tasteful and convenient little place” by the Caspar Courier to “a comfortable and elegant residence” by The Mendocino Beacon.
Emma van Schaick, only 32 years old, died in November 1888. Her death notice says that she died in her home after a severe illness that lasted two weeks. However, two sources from a later date say she died in childbirth. Maybe she was ill when she had the child so she was weaker, or maybe the writers confused Emma’s death with Alice’s death. I’m not sure, but Joshua had lost another wife.
In May 1889, Joshua went back east and stayed for two months. Sometime after he returned, he met the woman who he would spend the rest of his life with. Her name was Eliza. Eliza Ann Young was born in 1853 near Janesville, Wisconsin. In her early life she moved to California, worked as a nurse, met and married Mr. Tobin, who worked for the mill in Mendocino. When his health started failing, they moved to Sonoma where he died. The couple had two children, Johanna and Elsie. Eliza Ann Tobin moved back to Mendocino with her two grown daughters. In January 1890 when she was 37, she married Joshua. Eliza was very active in social, civic, and church life. She was described as generous, warmhearted, and a friend to everyone, always helping sick people.
The Joshua Grindle house became the location of many parties and festivities. In 1892 Elsie and Perley Maxwell, the well known builder and contractor, were married there. The description of a party there in 1886 is, “The spacious parlors were thrown open and games and music were indulged in.”
In 1898 when Joshua was 55, he retired from the Mendocino Lumber Company. He probably enjoyed working there, because I found a funny story about him. He made regular payroll deliveries to a logging camp with his horses and rig. The Mendocino Beacon for October 18, 1990 says, “He would carry the money in twenty dollar gold pieces, and, upon reaching the camp, would dump the entire contents on the cookhouse table with a flourish. Needless to say, this attracted considerable attention. This was his intention, for he had a penchant for staging some of his activities.”
Joshua started a business with Fred W. Stickney called “Grindle and Stickney Brokers.” In 1905, they entered the banking business, starting the Mendocino Bank of Commerce. He was known as the town banker for the rest of his life. This is a story from this time. “The couple owned a spanking team of sorrel horses, and Eliza could be seen tooling around in the rig. Grindle had financial interests in San Francisco, and many times guests from there would be invited here… the steam schooner Seafoam…made weekly visits up the coast and unloaded at Little River, where they had a wharf. At that time, Grindle took the team to pick up guests…he did it with his customary flair. The team would come down the street at a full gallop, with the reins hanging loose over the dashboard. When he came to the corner by the August Mahlman Saloon, he would miss the corner post by inches.”
Besides being a banker, Joshua was a very busy man. For example, from 1896-1904 he was on the Board of Directors for the Mendocino Electric Light and Power Company. He was the Scribe for the Mendocino Chapter of Royal Arch Masons (1904), on the Board of Trustees for the grammar school, Treasurer for the local Chamber of Commerce (1911), a member of the Grand Jury and Juvenile Committee, the Superintendant of the Presbyterian Church Sunday School, and he was even the teacher of a singing school!
By 1914, Joshua’s son Alliston was the chief electrician on a submarine. Joshua sent him boxes of prize winning Mendocino apples. On March 26, 1915 Alliston died. He was in the first American submarine to sink in World War 1 off Hawai’i. Joshua was devastated; he had lost his only child.
After Alliston’s death, Joshua sold everything except his home and gave the money to charity. He donated a large plot of land known as Grindle Park. Today it is where the new fire station is located. In his will it says that Grindle Park should be a baseball field or a park. I think if Joshua was still alive today, he would be happy because Friendship Park is right across from his house!
In her later years Eliza became an invalid, but Joshua could still be seen making sourdough pancakes on the porch every morning. Eliza Ann Grindle died on December 29, 1927, age 75. Joshua Grindle died from complications of the flu on December 27, 1928, age 84. They died almost a year apart. A final quote from the Mendocino Beacon about him is, “Mr. Grindle will always be remembered… for his very generous nature. Money meant nothing to him except to bring pleasure and do good for others. He…contributed generously to every worthy cause.”
Elsie Packard Sutherland inherited the house. Elsie Packard was born on December 7, 1886 in Mendocino. She was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Justin Packard, community leaders and pioneers. Elsie went to school in Augusta, Maine and Franklin, Massachusetts. When she was 31, she married George Robert Sutherland in Maine. Two years later he died, but she was already pregnant so she had a baby. She named him George “Bob” Robert after her husband. In 1924, she moved back to Mendocino at the request of her aunt Eliza Grindle to take care of them. George Escola worked on the property, and in 1926 Elsie and George were married. George was born in Finland, and he worked as a woodsman, engineer, blacksmith, and school custodian in his life. Elsie outlived him by ten years. At the end of her life, Elsie moved to Ukiah to be with her son.
Bob Sutherland graduated from the California School for Mechanical Arts and worked for the county in Ukiah. In 1968 he sold the Joshua Grindle house to Elizabeth R. Abernethy of Colusa County.
Elizabeth trained as a bacteriologist, was an accomplished cellist and organist, and served as President on the Board of the Mendocino Art Center. She moved to Mendocino in 1966. Elizabeth and her daughter Evelyn spent two years restoring the house. Here are descriptions comparing the house before and after restoration. “…redwood floors covered by worn linoleum, four layers of sagging wallpaper…eight coats of paint on the exterior… the general condition of an aged house,” and “The house received a new foundation, was re-wired and re-plumbed. The porch roof and floor were re-built and broken corbels replaced. The north wall of the kitchen and bathroom were extended… laundry room now opens into the kitchen, and two modern bathrooms replaced the old one… a section of wall between the back sitting room and parlor was moved.”
When Elizabeth died around 1975,
Bill Jacobson bought the house. It would no longer be a home, but the first bed and breakfast inn in Mendocino. Here’s an interview with Gwen, “Bill and I had looked...for an old house we could convert into a bed and breakfast…the Joshua Grindle house was listed for sale. We looked at it, loved it, and knew we had found the right home… I had been a teacher for 17 years and Bill was the Assistant Director of Personnel for the County of Alameda. We were about to start a new chapter in our lives. We refurbished the house – stripping the paint off of all the brass and iron hardware…painting the interior and exterior of the building, and added bathrooms. We redecorated and made a portion of the house into an office and a living space for us…’Mork and Mindy’ was a popular television show in the 80’s, and Pam Dawber played the part of Mindy. She… came to stay with us for several days…she really loved the fact that she was able to be a ‘normal’ person while at our inn.”
In May 1989, Jim and Arlene Moorehead bought the house. They also used the house as an inn, from 1995-2000 they remodeled all ten guest baths. He told me that the house had been featured in commercials (e.g. Chevrolet car and Eddie Bauer clothing catalog.)
In September 2001,
Arlene sold the inn to Cindy and Charles Reinhart. Charles told me, “We simply wanted to own the finest inn in Mendocino! No remodeling was undertaken nor needed, but we did add a very popular feature to the inn when we constructed our massage studio ‘Chez Bambu’” My grandmother Glenna Hunter works as the masseuse. In 2004, one of Joshua Grindle’s relatives visited from Berkeley. She remembered a room she stayed in as a child. People say they like the inn because it has clean, comfortable, well-appointed rooms with great breakfast and gracious hosts. Cindy and Charles own the house to this day.
I learned that this is not just a house, but a story. As Gwen Jacobson said, “You are not just researching a house. It is the families who lived in the house who give it meaning and personality.” From Joshua Grindle building the house to Charles and Cindy Reinhart running an inn, so many people have enjoyed this building’s wonderful charm. In the future, I’m sure many new people will too. Whether you know the story already or just learned the house’s tale, I hope you’re one of these people!