Saturday, December 13, 2008

Them Grothe boys, cohorts of my Great Grandfather, Ed Branscomb.

Just recently I was asked if I knew anything about a name that was carved on a rock at Bell Springs, along with the names of a few of the pony soldiers that rode up the ridge on their way to Fort Humboldt.

I suspect it had something to do with the Grothe family that pioneered the Bell Spring ranch back in the early 1870’s.

The bell Springs Ranch:
Just as “Art imitates life” Coyotes follow sheep. The Grothes are rumored to have brought Coyotes to Northern Mendocino. The old timers used to say that “We never had them infernal Coyotes ’til them Grothes brought them damn snot nosed sheep. Now we’ve got Coyotes killin’ ever'thing”. They called them “ky-yote”. “Yote like in “note”.

There was a bad set of winters back in the 1930’s( Wild guess, I couldn't find the actual date) that snowed in the cattle and sheep. The snow was so bad that most all of them, that couldn’t get down to the lower elevations, starved to death. My job is the “Bullshistory” part, it’s up to real historians to provide the facts, but those that are familiar with Bell Springs know that it is a place of very snowy winters.

The following is taken from:
History of Humboldt County California History by Leigh H. Irvine: Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California, 1915

LEOPOLD FREDERICK GROTHE.—The justice of the peace of Briceland township in Humboldt county, Cal., a popular and enterprising man in that vicinity, and the owner of extensive property in that county, Leopold Frederick Grothe is a native son of California, having been born at Bell Springs, Mendocino county, on August 15, 1880, the son of Frederick August Grothe, who, with his brother Ferdinand, came from Germany to New York and two years later to the northern part of California in the early days, they being among the first permanent settlers of northern Mendocino county.

Berlin, Germany, was the native home of Mr. Grothe's father, and there he grew up and learned the blacksmith's trade, in 1867 coming to the United States, where for two years he remained in Long Island City, N. Y., in the year 1869 making his way to Sacramento, Cal., where he commenced farming operations in company with Messrs. Chittenden and Weinkauf. With his partners he removed to Mendocino county, locating claims at or near Bell Springs, and with them engaged in stock raising, continuing the partnership for a period of about seven years, when it was dissolved and by the division of the property Frederick August Grothe became the owner of the ranch at Bell Springs. Building up a well improved ranch there, he added to it from time to time until he had in his possession about ten thousand acres of land at the time of his death. With the aid of his sons he engaged in cattle and sheep raising on an extensive scale, meeting with remarkable success and erecting a comfortable residence on his ranch at Bell Springs, which has for many years been the stopping place for travelers between points in Humboldt county and the Bay region. Both Mr. Grothe and his wife were devoted to the Lutheran faith, in which they had been reared, his wife having been Anna Weinkauf, a native of Germany, who died in June, 1891, the death of Mr. Grothe occurring in January, 1910. They were the parents of nine children, as follows : Louise, now Mrs. Linser, residing near Bell Springs ; Selma, who was formerly a teacher, but now presides over the Bell Springs home ; Otto, engaged on the home ranch ; Leopold Frederick, the owner of an extensive ranch in Humboldt county ; Franz, who remains on the home ranch ; Henry, engaged in the dairy business at Woodland, Cal. ; Paul and Weinkauf, who are also on the home ranch ; and Rose, a teacher, who makes her home on the Bell Springs ranch. The father is remembered as having brought the first drove of sheep into northern Mendocino county, and as being the last to go out of the business on account of the coyotes which brought destruction to so many of the flocks of that region. The ranch is still owned by the family and is operated under the firm name of Grothe Brothers.

The son, Leopold Frederick Grothe, who was brought up on the Bell Springs ranch, receiving his education in the public schools, from a lad was well acquainted with the business of stock raising and continued at the home ranch until accepting the position of foreman of the Ramsey Home ranch near Bell Springs for Harry Ramsey, after the great fire in San Francisco, however, removing to that city, where for a year he followed the carpenter's trade, returning to the Ramsey ranch for a short period of time. In 1911 he came to Briceland, Cal., to assume the management of the Ferdinand Grothe ranch which his family had inherited from the uncle, Ferdinand Grothe, who in the early days had settled at Bell Springs, where he homesteaded with his brother and carried on stock raising for several years, selling out his business and removing to Briceland, where he purchased the William Marshall place. Here he engaged in sheep raising, meeting with success until the inroads of the coyotes caused him to give up the raising of sheep and devote himself to his cattle, wherein also he was successful. A well known and popular man, active in local politics and an ardent admirer of the Republican platform, Ferdinand Grothe was a prominent member of the Independent Order of Odd. Fellows, having joined the Cahto lodge No. 206 soon after coming to California. He was never married, and his death occurred in 1911, at which time his nephew, Leopold Frederick, assumed charge of his property, where he has since resided, in 1914 selling his interest in the estate at Bell Springs and purchasing the Briceland ranch of the estate, by which transaction Leopold Frederick is now sole owner of his uncle's Briceland ranch, which comprises over fifteen hundred acres located on Redwood creek, and is known as the Heart G ranch, Mr. Grothe's brand being a G within a heart. On this estate range over one hundred twenty-five head of cattle, Mr. Grothe making a specialty of high grade short horn Durham cattle and also raising hogs. The property is splendid grazing land, well adapted to stock raising, and besides the advantages of Redwood creek, there are numerous small streams and springs upon the land, including a sulphur spring, and Mr. Grothe is placing redwood troughs in convenient locations for the stock, the water being brought thereto by iron pipes, so that his cattle have ample drinking facilities.

A member of the Cahto Lodge No. 206, I. 0. 0. F., and in politics an enthusiastic and stanch Republican, Mr. Grothe is actively interested in the welfare of the community where he resides, having been elected justice of the peace of Briceland township by a handsome majority, assuming the duties of his office in January, 1915.

My Great Grandfather, Ed Branscomb was a member of that same Lodge in Laytonville. The Cahto Lodge is named after the Cahto Mountian, that my family homesteaded back in the pioneer days of the Laytonville area.

The Grothe Family is still scattered around the hills of Southern Humboldt and Northen Mendoncino, and some live up in Oregon, but they are a most important Pioneer family. I found this in the Uhiah Daily Jounal:

Paul Henry “Hank”
Grothe passed away
Sunday, February 5, 2006
after a lengthy illness. He
was 58. Born June 12, 1947
at Howard Memorial
Hospital in Willits, to parents
Fred A. and Mildred
C. Grothe. He was raised
on the family ranch in Bell
Springs. “Hank”, as he
was known to family and
friends, took several
career paths during his
life. He was a fisherman,
working off the coast of
Alaska and all over the
eastern coast. He was also
a truck driver, driving for
a local soda company and
cement company. Hank
was also an extremely talented
woodworker, creating
beautiful clocks and
jewelry boxes that he often
gave to family and friends.
Hank had a wonderful
sense of humor and an
infectious laugh that we
will all miss greatly. One of
the many things that we
will miss the most about
him is his ability to talk to
anyone about anything. He
made friends easily and
would give you the shirt off
his back if you needed it.
He was truly a wonderful
person and we will feel his
loss always. Hank was preceded
in death by his
father Fred A. Grothe in
1975 and his mother
Mildred C. Grothe in 2004.
Hank is survived by his
wife Linda of Ukiah,
Brother John Grothe and
his wife Rene of Petrolia,
Ca, daughter Liz Grothe
and her partner Nancy
Curran of Ruth, Ca., son
Freddie Riley, his wife
Beth and their children
Haley, John, Samantha,
and Austin of Lucerne.
Hank is also survived by
his favorite “Da-Nephew”
John and “Da-Niece”
Kristina Grothe and their
children Bailey and Kenna
of Ukiah; niece Elaine and
her husband Willard
Leggett and their son
Michael of Ukiah, and
nephew Matthew and his
wife Misha Grothe of
Private services will be
held at a later date. In lieu
of flowers, donations can
be made to: Hospice 1712-
D S. Main St., Willits, CA

Here is where some of the Grothe family is today.


Anonymous said...

There's an Art Grothe who is a Deputy DA in Lake County, although right now he's in Iraq, serving his second tour. He's a major in the reserves; when he's home he prosecutes the dope cases.

Anonymous said...

did an al grothe have a plumbing/hardware store in downtown garberville in the 50s?would of been just south of the tackle shop,two story building,maybe a restuarant there now?

Anonymous said...


Ernie Branscomb said...

Yes Al Grothe had a hardware store in the place that the Calico Restaurant is today. His wife had an Italian stained glass shop in the front. Al was also the town plumber back then. His daughter Kathy married Walt Prince and he worked for Al as a plumber. Walt eventually went out on his own.

However, I don't know that they were related to the Bell Springs Grothes.

Anonymous said...

walt prince!ernie, you brought up a name,i was trying to remember!my sister hung out with that crowd.there was also a young man of that age group,that flew an airplane,but i can't remember his name for the life of me???must have been rich kids!logging,electrical,saw mills,or refrigeration people.

Anonymous said...

Yes there were some extreme winters in the 1930s in 1933 the south fork froze over and the Tosten brothers recalled walking across the ice to Miranda. I think that was "the year without summer" across America.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Robin and Jerry brooks had an old Aronica Chief two-seater.

Robin and I would fly all over on week ends. During the summer we would take the doors off. Robin is an exellent pilot. He still flys, he has a Cessna now. I believe it's a 172, we flew around all over Southern Humboldt and Northern Mendocino a couple of year ago. The pilots today fly with GPS, just like cars do.

But, you can't land a plane with a gps in the fog, I've got fire department photos to prove it.

ben said...

According to my maps the Briceland Grothe place was where the firehouse is now. It is the site of the attack by the intrepid hide hunters on an Indian camp according to Frank Asbill's "Last of the West". Asbil reports that the "Buckskin Gentry" then pursued the Indians all the way to Island Mountain. Somehow, I find this unlikely but Carranco includes the story in "Genocide and Vendetta" as though it were fact. He also reports the Kelsey/Asbill/Neafus "discovery" of Round Valley in which forty Indians were reported slain. Carranco fails to mention that Asbill's story says they were attacked by 3,000 Indians. Sometimes we take bullshistory for the real thing.

Robin Shelley said...

Jerry Brooks? As in Retired- Engineer-of-The-Skunk-Train-Jerry-Brooks?
My first (& only!) plane ride was with a Grothe back in 1956...

R said...


I am descendant of those Grothes, their great granddaughter. Bells Springs was the first place they settled.

ElaineG said...

This is Elaine Grothe, and it was an absolute pleasure to read some of the information on here....I am happily adding this to my family archives

Anonymous said...


Laurel Gonzalez said...

This is Laurie, I went to school with Hank and John. Knew their parents well, loved them both. I last saw John when he was married to Lucille (Tomlin), I am sorry I lost touch with Lucille. Wow, brother and sister Joe and Barbara Burke, oh so many. Those were good years. Beautiful country around Bell Springs and Spy Rock. I heard the Pot Growers took over a lot of that country.