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William Heeser

If C.R. Johnson was the "father" of Fort Bragg then William Heeser was the step-father of Mendocino. William Heeser (born August 28, 1822 in Koblenz, Germany; died April 9, 1906) was a German-American newspaper publisher and banker in Mendocino County, California.

In 1843, when he was 21, William Heeser came to the United States, landing in Baltimore in November, 1843. After a stay of about a month, he went to Kentucky, merchandising for several years in Providence, Hopkins County. In the spring of 1847 he went to Germany on a visit, returning in July of the same year, and then moved to Wisconsin, merchandising for some time at Benton, and then at Elk Grote, Lafayette county, from where he moved to Cordova, Rock Island County, Illinois, in the fall of 1848, engaging in merchandising there.

Mendocino in William Heeser’s day

Mendocino in William Heeser's day

In the spring of 1850 he crossed the plains with a horse team, arriving in California about the first of August, 1850. Selling the team at Coloma, he came to San Francisco, where he was again engaged in merchandising till 1854, when he went to Sierra county. He returned to San Francisco the following year, and after a short stay moved on to a ranch in Napa county, residing there about two years, when he sold his lands and returned to San Francisco.

From San Francisco he went in the steamer Goliath to Mendocino, in Mendocino County, arriving there on September 11, 1857. Upon arrival he purchased a lot, built a store, and engaged in merchandising for several years. In the spring of 1858 he, together with his brother, purchased a farm adjacent to the town. He purchased his brother's interest in 1865, and continued farming on the land. He developed a plan for Mendocino on his land and gradually opened streets and sold town lots as the demand required. He chose the names for many of Mendocino's streets.

Deed for purchase of land by William Heeser

Purchase deed for land by William Heeser
(courtesey Kelley House Museum)

In the fall of 1858 he was elected Justice of the Township, and subsequently appointed a Notary Public, the first office he held for six consecutive years, after which he served three years as Supervisor of the county, succeeding which he served four years more as Justice, serving another term of three years as Supervisor in 1877, '78, and '79.

The office of Notary he held, with the exception of an interval of one or two terms, up to the time of his death. By force of circumstances he was thrown into the conveyancing and office business. In 1870 he organized the Bank of Mendocino as a Mutual Savings Bank, and in 1871 the Mendocino Discount Bank, to supply the business not within the legitimate sphere of the former. He first acted as President and subsequently as Secretary of both banks.

As a United States deputy surveyor, Heeser constructed Little Lake road (a wagon road from Mendocino to Willits), and another road from Mendocino to Ukiah.

Back of Deed

Back of Deed (courtesey Kelley House Museum)

Heeser founded the Mendocino Beacon with W. H. Meacham in 1877 and the Fort Bragg Advocate-News in 1887; he also founded newspapers in the Mendocino County communities of Kibesillah, Rockport, and Westport. In 1892, he purchased the Point Arena Record.

On the 18th day of December, 1865, he married Laura A. Nelson, a native of Bangor, Maine. They had one child, August Alfred, born February 5, 1877 who continued his father's business.