The Mendocino Medication and Gazetteer – The Mendocino Beacon

Ever heard of The Mendocino Medicine and Gazetteer? It was created by Dr. Richard White who practiced medicine on the coast 45 years ago. White, a man of many interests, started it as a rural medicine magazine in 1976 and grew into a themed world.

White’s intention was a publication to serve as a communication tool between the Mendocino Coast District Hospital, Sherwood Oaks Health Center, and local specialized health agencies to share philosophies about health practices. His subscribers have contributed articles and he has turned them into a rural medicine chronicle. In 1980, White added the words and Gazetteer to the title of the publication to reflect an expansion of the content to include the natural, physical, and speculative sciences.

I was fortunate enough to borrow six hardback volumes of his publication from Deborah White, his partner in Ukiah. Over the coming months, I’ll be sharing some of his natural history stories from students doing research at Albion Field Station at Pacific Union College. I found this research to be little gems of information that most locals have never heard of.

The field station on the south side of the port of Albion has provided housing and research space for marine research to hundreds of students for more than 50 years. Further information is available at www.pcu.edu.

My discovery started with a fascicle. What is a fascicle you ask? It is a separately published sequence of a printed work. In this case it was Fascicle No. 2 of “The Ecological Survey of the Albion River – The Collected Reports of the Albion Field Station” that I discovered in the archive of the Kelley House Museum. It found that many of these occasional publications found their way into the Mendocino Medicine and Gazetteer.

The 32-page fascicle with hand-drawn maps and illustrations (like here) contained studies by PUC students of the flora and fauna of Pleasant Valley, the Albion Mill Pond, and the Railroad Slough on the Albion River.

If you are unfamiliar with this geography, Albion Field Station is located in a small, steep gorge known as Happy Valley – the former location of the Albion Lumber Company’s married men camp.

The nearest valley to the east, Pleasant Valley, is half a mile from where the Albion River meets the Pacific. Both valleys had been heavily thinned by sheep after the logging stopped. When the research was done in 1949, there was no more development at Albion Flats.

If a curious spirit today wants to know which sedge, rush or tule grew there in the middle of the 20th century, this has been documented. The trees, berries, and shrubs that grow on the marshy soil of Pleasant Valley have been listed. It is documented which vegetation extended uphill to “open stump areas”. Today the forest covers these spots. The distribution of vegetation on north and south slopes is discussed. I bet you wouldn’t suspect that 57 different species of plants exist in a 800 meter long valley.

The Wadden Sea off Pleasant Valley was full of worms, shrimp, stone lice, shipworms and clams. The researchers filled a 5-gallon bucket of water from a bed of brown algae and found 308 living things in the water.

The mill pond that is now Albion Flats was a tidal estuary and had a more diverse wildlife, mostly smaller than two inches. There are hand-drawn illustrations of living things throughout the publication.

Railroad Slough, three miles upriver, had an abandoned railroad line on an elevated dam, with a 7 foot deep canal that bisected a 19 acre slough that was covered with four feet of water. How does that look half a century later? The smell of the mud in the mud was described as “disgusting and repulsive” as rotting sawdust released the aroma of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide. Does it still stink?

This fascicle makes interesting reading. Fascicle number one, “The Albion River: A Summer Estuary,” was not found in the hardcover volumes to which I have access. It was to be released in August 1984 and cover five miles of the river’s plant and animal life. Does anyone have a copy that the Kelley House could scan? Let us know at curator@kelleyhousemuseum.org.