Mystery of the fortunate little unfortunate

Manon House that still stands on Rohnerville Rc.

The following (including the photo) comes to us thanks to Hans Koster, builder/maintainer of and historical researcher extraordinaire. 

It is a wonderful story and  a nice break from settlement period stuff.  Thanks, Hans !!!

Note the bay window in the first image, it plays a part in this story.

This house is located next to Strongs (Manon) Creek on the northwest corner of Rohnerville Road and North Loop in Fortuna. The stagecoach horses (along with the teamster and anyone who couldn’t afford to stay at the Star Hotel) would bed down in the barn after being fed a superb meal by Mrs. Manon. The next morning, after a hearty breakfast from the gracious hostess, the stage would pick up the rest of the passengers in Fortuna and continue on its way. J. T. Manon and his wife ran a thriving business. But that has little to do with this story…

Originally from the website, poor spelling and all

“The Daily Humboldt Times” Eureka, California
Saturday, February 6, 1897

 A WAIF of the STORM
A Fortuna Family Find a Foundling Friday
Fortuna & Rohnerville are all agog over the unexpected arrival of a little stranger at the home of Mr. & Mrs. J. T. Manon who reside on the county road between those two towns about a mile from Fortuna. The stranger is one of the cutest little baby girls ever seen, & the men & women folks who have seen it go into ecstasies over it.
Just where the little waif came from or who are its parents are, mysteries, which so far no one has been able to fathom. It was found yesterday morning on the front step of the house, & the manner of its arrival is suggested by fresh tracks made by a buggy being turned around in front of the house, but the time is a question. The wet condition of the wrappings would seem to show that it had been left at the house very early in the morning. Its presence, however, was not known until nearly 10 o’clock in the morning when it announced itself.

At time Mrs. Manon happened to be seated in the bay window of the house sewing, when her attention was attracted by a feeble wail, & on looking out of the window she noticed a bundle on the doorstep. Naturally she proceeded to investigate with the result that the bundle proved to be a healthy lusty-lunged little piece of humanity snugly wrapped in a new, heavy white woolen blanket. In addition to this wrapping, the child was fully attired in warm underclothing & blue tennis flannel dress, while wrapped up with it were two complete changes of clothes. This clothing was of good material but poorly made, & suggested haste rather than poverty. Nevertheless, whatever the haste may have been, all necessary precautions had been made for preserving its life, in the way of proper bandaging & other attentions.

The child was evidently not more than 24 hours old & fully developed, weighing 5 1/2 pounds. It has blue eyes & light hair & exceedingly regular & pretty features. The only blemish noticeable is a slight dent in the back of its skull, caused by having been left lying on its back on the doorstep with its head resting on the doorsill which is about two or three inches higher than the step. This mark, however, it is said will disappear in the growth of the child. Arrarantly it is none the worse for its long exposure to the storm. Certain it is that its experience did not affect its appetite for at last account it was contentedly taking nourishment from a bottle & this with occasional naps, when not entertaining visitors, had been the program all day.

Crowds of visitors with surmise, suspicion & curiousity, flocked to the Manon residence yesterday to see the little waif of the storm, but all either gave way to admiration & love, for the little stranger who will apparently never lack friends. It is understood, however, that Mr. & Mrs. Manon, who are comfortably well off & have none but grown children of their own, will accept the trust that has been so mysteriously thrust upon them & will rear this fortunate little unfortunate.


Hans continues…
And the mystery? Where did the “fortunate little unfortunate” come from? Where did she go?

From Lynette: The Manons named the little girl Elsey/Elsie and raised her.  If the mystery of her arrival was ever solved, I haven’t found the story yet.

1900 Census, Eureka

More from Hans

I identified with this story because it was so easy to see Mrs. Manon sitting in the bay on that cool February morning. The sun would be warming up what was probably her favorite spot in the house, so I planned the pictures for about that time.

The house is derelict and boarded up (ha, a boarded-up boarding house). There was a small fire a few years ago, apparently set by its last transient boarder (small must be a subjective term because the FD had to cut a hole in the roof to extinguish the thing). There are several nice but neglected apple trees in the front yard and, next to the creek, a majestic Copper Beech, Fagus sylvatica. This is probably one of the largest/oldest in Humboldt County according to CR’s horticulturist Bert Walker. He deferred on an estimate of its age but it wouldn’t surprise him if it was already growing when Elsie arrived. Last I heard the property was owned by the Pacific Lumber Company.



14 Responses to Mystery of the fortunate little unfortunate

  1. Kym says:

    In the 1920 census she (Elsie Manon) is listed as the adopted daughter of John and Mary living in Eureka. (She also lives with them in 1910.) By 1924, the Manons are living on L street and both registered to vote but Elsie doesn’t show as a registered voter. Probably that means she is married and gone but, maybe she wasn’t a voter.

    • lynette77 says:

      I looked a little on-line for marriage records, but couldn’t find anything–I’d love to know what happened to Elsie (heck, her grandchildren could be our neighbors 🙂

      It is a great story. Obviously the child’s birth mother/family cared about her (the clothes wrapped in her blanket and choice of the Manons to leave her with). Sometimes giving a child up, no matter how difficult, is really the most loving thing a parent can do…

  2. Snaggletooth says:

    Arrarantly, one of my faves to drop into modern convesations. Great tale.

    • lynette77 says:

      Wasn’t it a great find?

      Hans also has info about the cable car used in a Fortuna Cemetery… I think the only one in the country. I’m hoping to post something about that very soon.

  3. anjellael says:

    I have always wondered about that house.

    Thanks for the heartwarming story…a nice change from all the murder and mayhem. 😉

    • lynette77 says:

      I remember passing it often on my way to visit friends.

      I’ve heard many stories lately about lumber companies buying property with historic homes on them and BURNING the houses to the ground. I sure hope that isn’t in the plans for this one !!!

  4. […] Mystery of the fortunate little unfortunate « Lynette's NorCal … […]

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  6. […] Some may remember Hans as the source of the story of the  Fortunate Little Unfortunate. […]

  7. Derchoadus says:

    They seem to be doing work at the property. looks like they are taking all the lead paint off the wood.

    • Lynette M says:

      If it is ever possible to get photos of the finished product, please get ’em.
      I’d love to post them…

    • Lynette M says:

      I’m so glad they’re fixing up the ole gal instead off tearing it down.

      I’ve loved that place since I was a kid, as neglected as it was. If you find out who has it, please let them know we have this story of the fortunate little unfortunate or connect them with me and I’ll share it with them.


  8. Motortrader says:

    What’s up, just wanted to say, I enjoyed this blog post.
    It was practical. Keep onn posting!

  9. Richelle Goins says:

    Elsie Lorraine Manons, married in 5/29/1929 and became Elsie Betts. She lived and died in California

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