Fellow Book Benders
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    This is the 34th edition of Fellow Book Benders, a free monthly online newsletter about the ridiculous truth and historical tidbits of San Francisco, the Russian River and beyond.  This month we return to Duncans Mills along the Russian River.  And don't forget, my five novels are still available at  All major credit cards accepted.  Free shipping and handling.
         February, 2018                                     Vol. 3, No. 14
Duncans Mills, Part II
      O ne of the oldest families along the Russian River is the Lamberts.  The following is part of an interview between Minister Bob Jones and Inza Lambert: Inza was born in Duncans Mills in 1906 and went to school there (photos on left). When she was a teenager, she would walk the ten miles to Guerneville for the Saturday night dances. Inza also recalled the old time tent meetings in which traveling evangelists would set up huge canvass awnings near the River and preach away every night for a week.  “Some of us got saved at every revival,” she once said. Inza was proud to state that she was a member of every organization except for the Catholic Church, which she would join but that her knees couldn’t take it.
        They were still cutting first growth redwoods then (photos on right). They milled the huge logs in Duncans Mills and set the lumber on barges to be towed out the mouth of the River at Jenner and down to San Francisco. They also loaded lumber on railroad cars behind steam engines billowing smoke and blowing shrill whistles at every crossing. Inza’s husband was part of that operation. He died fairly young, and she never quite forgave him for not lasting until their fiftieth wedding anniversary. Inza lived well into her eighties, holding an integral part in the family’s “fuel” business until her passing in 1999. 
          Sidebar: Lambert’s gas station on Main Street in Guerneville is a reminder of this family's lasting legacy.
         More of Inza Lambert's story will be published in Minister Bob Jones's upcoming book, Proud To Be A River Rat.

   As you round the curve from the east heading into Duncans Mills, you can spy the former Superintendent’s House resting snug against the hill (photos on left). Circa 1880, it was the old company house of the Duncans Mills Corporation during the sawmill days, providing shelter for the family that founded the village that still bears its name. Recently it existed as a Bed & Breakfast and is on the market for $945k.   You can Google “24951 Hwy 116” for an insider’s look into a home that has retained the Victorian charm of yesteryear.
On the flats you can still see DeCarly’s old General Store (near right photo), built in 1888. For over one hundred and thirty years, the store has met the varied needs of the town’s 170 residents. A few steps away is Country Stores (upper right photo), which features Pig Alley, Jim & Willy’s, and Quercia Gallery. The structure dates back to 1876 when it served as a hotel and livery stable, constructed by Christopher de Quien.  He was a former Pony Express rider in Louisiana before settling in Duncans Mills.  Of French royalty, Mr. de Quien had style but left town when the locals bastardized his name to “Queen”.
        The hotel accommodated the musicians, tourists, investors, artists and vacationers who arrived daily on the rails. The livery stable rented horses as well as providing stagecoach service up the coast as far as Fort Bragg.  
         Worldly Goods (lower right photo) is located nearby and occupies the space of the former John Orr’s Saloon, which provided distilled spirits to the town’s first inhabitants in the late 19th century.   Orr purchased a section of the Muniz Rancho land grant and soon established what was then the premier saloon north of San Francisco.
When Jean Singer's dad was a teen, he jumped off the bridge on one of his daily treks to the General Store.  He almost drowned but fortunately someone in a boat fished him out and told his parents.  From that day forward he never set foot in the river again. 

       The Blue Heron (upper left photo) was built soon after the town of Duncans Mills was established in 1877.  Several history buffs whisper that it is the oldest tavern along the entire length of the Russian River.  “What-the-Shuck”, the saloon’s intrepid cook, serves barbecued oysters during the summer alongside Sunday afternoon music on the patio.
        There is a strong connection between the Blue Heron and Monte Rio's Pink Elephant. Tom O’Bryan, who purchased the Blue Heron in 2008, acquired the Pink two years later from Tim Parker. Unfortunately, a complaint from a “close associate” triggered a county inspection, which deemed that Parker had exceeded the scope of his permit by attempting to relocate the bathrooms. Parker estimated the septic system work alone would cost between $60,000 to $80,000. Some people in town talked of passing the hat but no dice.
      O’Bryan supposedly has reached an agreement with county officials regarding the septic issue. In addition, it is rumored that he will soon procure a liquor license from the owner of Lucy’s, another Monte Rio restaurant/bar that is possibly changing hands after the first of the year.  Will the Pink finally reopen?  Stay tuned.
         Sidebars: The Pink Elephant dates back to the 1930's.
Nancy Kerr Lambert recalls that when she was a kid the Blue Heron was The Mayors Inn. Long before that, in March of 1906 her husband's Great Aunt Alice was born in that building. Her Father ran the ferry before the Bridgehaven bridge was built near Jenner.


       The Russian River Sportsmen’s Club of Duncans Mills (photos on right) was founded in 1938 to “…promote cooperation between land owners, ranchers and sportsmen”. Another goal has continued to be the rescue of fish that become stranded in the creeks and pools adjoining the nearby Russian River. In 1948 Angelo Boles pushed the organization to purchase six acres, and a clubhouse was soon underway.
        Today the Sportsmen’s Club is supported by eighty hardy souls. It's a great place for banquet hall rentals, steelhead fishing tournaments, trap shooting contests, kayaking, camping and more. Brush behind the range is thick with targets for archery members, resembling an active hunt. There was a dust-up a few years ago regarding the use of lead in ammunition by gun users, fearing leakage into the nearby waterway. Fish and Game became involved and “got the lead out”.
        Sidebar: Dean Hart remembers working the trap shoots in the 1970's.


       In 1881 Bartolomeo and Anastasia Casini settled in the area around Duncans Mills. Their son, Paul Anthony Casini, worked as the dairy manager for the La Franchi family. In 1932 he bought out the La Franchi shares and became the sole owner of what is now Casini Ranch. 
       Over the next 33 years, Paul Anthony Casini and his son George would grant people access in order to explore one of the more renowned fishing spots along the Russian River, Brown’s Hole. Back in the forties and early fifties, it is said that you could get knocked over by the 50,000 salmon returning each winter in search of their birthplace.   When the Coyote Dam north of Ukiah was built in 1957, it wiped out miles of prime spawning waters.  Many anglers, however, are returning to Brown’s Hole, reporting catches of steelhead in the 10-to-18 pound class.
        In 1965 George Casini began the process of turning the 110-acre parcel bounded by the Russian River and Moscow Road into what is now Casini Ranch Family Campground. Besides full RV hookups, a number of activities are offered including boating, swimming, movie nights, hayrides, bonfires and ice cream socials. Paul Casini, George’s son, has kept the park within the family business and oversees its day-to-day operations.

           Sidebars: Bob Perussina remembers in the 1960s and early 1970s when George Casini was still raising sheep and pigs on the land. His son Paul would stop by Bob's restaurant at Angelo's in Monte Rio and pick up the food scraps, or "pig slop" as it was known.

         The Civil War reenactment in Duncans Mills (photos on right) occurs each July and is the biggest such show in the western United States, incorporating over one thousand people. During the weekend performance, two historic battles are recreated each day with Confederate and Union armies splitting victories.
         The surrounding hills near Freezeout Road soon become filled with the sound of fife and drum, musket and cannon as soldiers engage in a war that took more than 700,000 lives from 1861-1865.
          Most units keep a “loaner box” of authentic uniforms for the last-minute visitor who wants to partake and feel the itch of wool under a smoke-riddled sky. Patrons can visit the makeshift camps and interact with doctors, nurses, musicians, merchants and townspeople of yesteryear.
         While the display of the Confederate flag around the country today often incites strong reactions, the participants of the Civil War Reenactment feel that their presentation is a reflection of history and not racial sentiments. However, it is said that on one occasion security had to escort members of the audience for publicly demonstrating their objection. 
         Sidebars: Don’t forget to don the period garb and attend the hoedown at Casini Ranch later in the evening.
Teri Moretti of Petaluma would help with the field clearing for the Civil War reenactment, except for the cow patties.  "We would just pay attention to where they were, and try to avoid them all weekend long.” 


NEXT TIME we will visit the Barbary Coast District of San Francisco. Cheers!
This award-winning novel is available at  Free shipping/handling.
Reviews for Don't Stop the Music:
        “For those who remember the era (Summer of Love), Don't Stop the Music is a delicious summary of memory.”
         San Francisco Museum and Historical Society
        "John McCarty has put together a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love (1967) that is cheerful and entertaining and even pays tribute to the beauty of west Sonoma County..."
          Sonoma County Historical Society

          “A trip back in time to the 1960’s San Francisco Fillmore District, up through the Marin & Sonoma coastline to the Russian River hippie heyday and the peace, love, and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.  A nostalgic read.”
            Russian River Historical Society

            "Somehow McCarty manages to build sympathy for his motley crew as they embark on a classic road trip from San Francisco to rural northern California."
            Northern California Fulbright Association

         "Familiar folks, home-grown scenery, and candid attitudes will put you happily in the middle of all the action."
            Stephen Gross, The Press Democrat

           "All along there is danger, excitement, budding love and a number of unrighteous brawls.  The author knows what he writes about.”

            Bob Jones, Sonoma West Times & News

Attributions & Asides:
       A special thank you is due to anonymous subscribers for sharing their memories of  Duncans Mills.   Also, a note of appreciation goes to the following individuals and organizations: Bob Jones, Nancy Lambert, Dean Hart, Bob Perussina, Teri Moretti, Jean Singer, Robin Monroe (website designer), The Press Democrat, Card Cow Vintage Postcards, Sonoma County Historical Society, Russian River Historical Society, San Francisco Museum and Historical Society, and Wikipedia.
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                 Your privacy is important to me.  Be assured that I am not sharing your email or any other personal information. As Red Skelton used to say, "Good night and may God bless."   JMc
Copyright © 2019 John McCarty, All rights reserved.

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