THE HUMBOLDT ROHNERS
Back: The Rohners in Switzerland
Heinrich (Henry) Rohner, the youngest child of Johannes and Elizabeth, was
born 18 September 1829. He also learned the printing trade as well as farming, and
at age 17 moved to join his elder brother as a printer in Evansville,
Indiana. When in 1849 came word of the California gold strike, Henry and
several young Swiss friends joined the Gold Rush and trekked across the
continent to seek their fortunes.
After an arduous journey, in which Henry walked most of the way, they
reached Sacramento in September of 1849 and received advice from fellow
Swiss John Sutter. For many months, Henry and friends sought gold with
moderate success along the Feather, Trinity and Salmon Rivers. From a
fellow prospector at Big Bar, they heard of good farm land to the west in
the Eel River Valley, and in 1851, Henry and an associate acquired land
To help finance this enterprise. Henry returned to mining for a while and
even spent some time as a printer with an Arcata newspaper until injured
when a "desperado" tried to shoot the editor. Henry then settled on his
land in the Eel River Valley, building the first house and store in what
was to become Rohnerville.
The little settlement quickly became a major stop for passengers, freight,
and mail on the main southern route in and out of Humboldt County. It was
also a jumping off point for miners and their supplies heading east to the gold
fields. Henry Rohner served as the town's first postmaster and began the
first water system.
On 26 June 1861, he married Mary Adelia Bulkeley, whose family had moved to Table Bluff
from Wisconsin. Henry bought property west of Rohnerville in what was to
become Fortuna and built the town's first house.
His later grand home was
long a landmark on Fortuna's Main Street. He and several partners also
built the area's first grist and lumber mill. These developments plus the
1883 routing of the Eel Valley and Eureka Railroad through Fortuna began
shifting the role of area transportation hub away from Rohnerville. The
process was completed in 1914 when that rail line became part of the
Northwestern Pacific Railroad linking the Humboldt and San Francisco bay
Henry owned agricultural and business properties around the Eel Valley and
in Eureka, and he was involved in several business enterprises including banking and merchandising. He was
also active in civic affairs including being a member of the Fortuna Brass
Band! The 1895 Humboldt Business Directory identified the occupation of
this successful and multi-talented man simply as "capitalist".
Henry and Mary Rohner had seven children, three of whom died in the
diphtheria epidemic that hit Humboldt County settlements in the 1870s. Of
the surviving children, Henry, the eldest, became a successful cattleman
and horse breeder in California and Oregon. Daughter Anna married a
Humboldt County cattleman, Alberto Robinson, and daughter Elizabeth
married Charles Barcus, a noted architect who participated in building San
Francisco's Grace Cathedral and the
Richard Sweasey Theatre
(now the Arkley center) in Eureka.
Heinrich (Henry) Rohner
Born 18 September
1829 near Heiden, Switzerland.
Married 26 June 1861 to
Mary Adelia Bulkeley.
Died 28 December 1900 in Fortuna.
Buried in Rohnerville Cemetery and later moved to Eureka.
Mary Adelia Rohner (Bulkeley)
Born 28 May
1845 in Luzerne, Pennsylvania
Married 26 June 1861 to
Died 25 April 1919 in Fortuna. Buried in
Rohnerville Cemetery and later moved to Eureka.
Franklin Ellery Rohner, Henry and Mary's youngest child, was born in 1878.
He was the first student from Fortuna High School to graduate from the
University of California where he took a degree in dentistry. He practiced
oral surgery in Napa for two years then in San Francisco for thirty five.
He married Fay Boyden, his surgical nurse, and their son Franklin Boyden
Rohner was born in 1927. Two years later after the death of his wife,
Franklin E. retired and returned to Fortuna where he and his son lived
with his widowed sister, Elizabeth Barcus. Dr. Rohner came out of
retirement to practice dentistry during World War II when most of the
younger dentists left for the military. He retired again after the war but
continued to be active in civic, charitable and professional activities including Ingomar Club, Humboldt County Dental Association and Civil Defense during World War II.
Franklin B. Rohner grew up in Fortuna and after high school joined the US
Navy serving with the occupation forces in Nagasaki, Japan. He then became
the first graduate of Fortuna High School to attend Stanford University,
and after graduating from Stanford Law School in 1954 served in the Judge
Advocate Corps of the US Air Force followed by two years as a research assistant to the California Supreme Court. He went on to pursue successful
business and law careers including extensive involvement in the television
industry where he served as Vice President of the CBS Television Network and founded his own Law Firm which represented a number of award-winning television production companies and series. Land development and horse breeding were among his other
activities. More recently, he funded the Franklin B. Rohner Admission Center at Humboldt State University.
Rohner Park, where this museum now stands, is a concrete example of the
generosity and community feeling expressed by the Rohner family. The
founder of Rohnerville and Fortuna, Henry Rohner, died in 1900. Nine years
later, his widow, Mary Rohner, sold to the City of Fortuna the initial 20
acres of what was to become Rohner Park. She then spearheaded the public
drive to fund many park improvements. Over the years, the Rohner family
donated or sold for nominal sums many more acres of land, the largest
portions coming from Elizabeth Rohner Barcus, a woman dedicated to the
welfare of the community of Fortuna where she spent her entire life. Her
nephew, Franklin B. Rohner, continues the family tradition by making
possible many improvements in the museum including the dedication of this
room to the pioneer Rohner family.