By Mabel Plaskett
The earliest people to inhabit Pacific Valley were Indians. The shell beds left in their camps are proof that tribes of Indians in great numbers made their living along this part of the coast by catching fish of which their main diet consisted. The tiny particles of shell are finely incorporated in the soil for a depth of several feet in areas where the Indians camped.
These Indians used crudely made stone clubs, broken bits of which can be found even now. They were a low order of intelligence according to the crude artifacts found and the study made by students of archaeology.
Much time, probably centuries, has elapsed since the Indians lived here. One wonders what caused them to leave – illness, perhaps or maybe they were driven out by later tribes who, tiring of the fish and mussel diet, moved to other lands. At any rate when the first white families settled here the level land of the valley was covered with a heavy growth of brush and small trees.
The first white man to live in the valley was a man named Cox and for a while the place was known as “Cox’s Hole.”
MOVE FROM BRYSON
Frank Muma settled in the north end of the valley some time in the early 1850’s and lived there until 1864 when he sold out his squatters right to Jim Prewitt and Curnell Mansfield. These men brought cattle to the coast from the Bryson country during the dry year of 1859 and returned in 1864 to buy Muma out and settle down.
Mansfield filed a homestead on the south side of Prewitt Creek (named for Jim Prewitt) and later on brought Prewitt out and finally acquired all the land between the Pacific ocean and the summit of the mountain, comprising nearly 4,000 acres of fine grass land.
Curnell H. Mansfield was born in Ohio in 1834. He came out West by wagon train at the age of nine with his parents Mr. and Mrs. Amos Mansfield who settled in Watsonville.
Curnell, being an extremely ambitious and enterprising young man, started out for himself at an early age and with his friend Jim Prewitt started raising cattle near Bryson in southern Monterey County. The partners decided to settle in Pacific Valley in 1864 which was another dry year.
After buying his partner out in 1884 Mansfield proceeded to build up a great cattle business, running as high as 700 head on his range. He was an astute business man and managed his affairs with such competence that he succeeded in making a sizeable fortune.
Meanwhile he had married the daughter of a neighboring settle, Mendocina Plaskett, whose parents, the William Lucas Plasketts, came to Pacific Valley in 1869. She was named Mendocina as she was the first white child born in that county. (We shall give you the story of that family in a later issue.)
At first the Mansfields lived in a small cabin on Prewitt Creek, but in 1887 a large and comfortable home was completed, built on a higher level with a magnificent view of the sea. This house was built by Reason and Robert Plaskett, both skilled in carpentry work. Sturdily built of lumber from the redwoods in Prewitt Creek, the house is still in use. It is now the headquarters for the U. S. Forestry.
The Gorda post office was housed here and Jasper Mansfield assumed the duties of postmaster for 20 years. There was in the early mining days a post office in the Los Burros district called Mansfield of which Pete Gillis was postmaster. This was later called Manchester.
There was also a school district named Mansfield situated at “Lonny Field” on the old mail trail (now known, no one knows why, as “Rosenburg Flats”) which the children of Lonny Plaskett, as well as those of other Los Burros families attended. This district was later moved to Mill Creek where the children of the Ed Sans and Bob Digges families went to school.
Twelve children were born to the Mansfields. All were born in Pacific Valley without the aid of a doctor. All grew to healthful maturity with the exception of Harry who was accidentally drowned in Prewitt Creek in the high waters after a winter storm at the age of four and the last born, Frankie, who died in infancy.
In 1892 Mr. Mansfield bought the ranch in Canada Canyon known as Lowe’s Station, and turning the coast ranch over to Jasper, Walter and Blaine, they moved to the new home on the Jolon Road eight miles from King City. Here they enjoyed their last years, surrounded by family and friends until Mr. Mansfield became ill and died in a Salinas hospital at the age of 72. Mrs. Mansfield, known as Aunt Minnie, lived to the age of 82, loved by all for her kind hospitality. A friend to every one and always a help in time of trouble, she was sorely missed. So passed the older generation and the younger ones took the helm.
KING CITY RESIDENTS
The family consisted of Edwin Edgar (better known as Jake) who married Eve Zoellin. She and their sons Kenneth and Rollo still live in King City. A daughter, Lt. Joy Mansfield, died in France while serving her country.
Next came Sarah who became a school teacher. She married J. C. Prewitt (no relation to Jim Prewitt) and lives in Bakersfield.
Asa, nicknamed Jim, married Carmen Madera. He was killed by a runaway team in Pine Canyon. Carmen still lives on their old homestead on Jolon Road.
Laura Mansfield too became a school teacher. She married Raymond Madero, brother of Carmen. Laura lives in Redwood City. They have one son, George Madera, who lives in San Bernadino.
Jasper Mansfield married Fanny Plaskett, daughter of Byron and Martha Plaskett, and stayed on the coast ranch and reared a family of six children. Selling to Hearst in 1922 they lived in southern San Benito County and near King City until a few years ago they moved to a veritable Utopia near Santa Cruz where they live among the tall redwoods so like the early home on the coast.
Walter Plaskett Mansfield, known as Pete, moved to the old Lowe place with his parents in 1892, but spent much time on the coast ranch. He later married Margaret Garcia, daughter of an old, well-known family. They reared three boys, Marion, Howard and Richard and now live in King City.
Minnie May, third daughter and another school teacher, married Bert Reid and lives in San Diego.
The next member of the family was little Harry who drowned. Then came Mary Belte, the pet of the family, affectionately called Dolly. She is now Mrs. Kenneth Carlock and lives in Redwood City.
Sherman, next in line, grew up helping on the ranches both on the coast and near King City. He became affiliated with the forest service and moved to Santa Barbara. He married Lottie Sims and after rearing a family now lives in Santa Ynez.
Blaine, who also helped with the ranch work, lived in Stockton for a while, returned to King City area where he lived until his death in 1956. His widow, Evelyn Bonfontaine Mansfield and son Robert live in King City. She is a teacher in the local school.
The twelfth child Frankie died in infancy and was buried in the Lowe cemetery on the hill near the home in Canada Canyon. Here also are buried Mr. and Mrs. Mansfield, their son Asa and many relatives and neighbors.
The old Mansfield home and surrounding land in Pacific Valley are now under U. S. Forestry jurisdiction and parks and recreational areas will be available for public use, so members of the families who worked to develop Pacific Valley may have the opportunity to return to the land of their childhood, to walk beneath the towering redwoods in the deep shady canyons, or on the paths along the bluff, or just sit on the wide sandy beaches and let the music of the waves bring ineffable peace to ones soul.
The lines of the poet Yeats comes to one’s mind.
“And I may find some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow
Dropping from the wings of the morning to where the swallows cling.
There midnights all a glimmer and noon’s a purple glow
And evening full of linnet’s wings.
I must arise and go now for always night and day
I hear sea water lapping with low sounds on the shore.
I hear it by the road side and on the pavement grey
I hear it in the hearts deep care.”
Mabel Sans Plaskett was born in Coralitas near Ben Lomond in the Santa Cruz Mountain area of California. Her father Edward Robert Sans ran a saw mill near Pacific Valley, along the Nacimiento – Ferguson road to the coast at Highway One. It was there she met Edward Abbott Plaskett, her husband. Mabel wrote about the coast and the pioneers of the 19th and 20th Centuries.