Trinidad Tidings: Walk through Trinidad’s vivid history

Trinidad Museum Society celebrates its 10th Anniversary in the Sangster-Watkins-Underwood-Susan home that opened as a museum on Sept. 26, 2009 after a three year rehabilitation effort led by contractor Charles Netzow. 

A retrospective exhibit in the museum’s Photography Room showing the history of the 1899 home, the move, in three sections, from Ewing to Edwards to Trinity to Main Street to Janis Court by contractor George Kurwitz on Sept. 21, 2006, and the reconstruction of the historic redwood structure, will open on Trinidad Art Night, Friday, Oct. 4 from 6 to 9 p.m. Nancyb & the DoRights will perform music through the evening. 

Trinidad Museum-10 Years Later-2009-2019 is the title of Photography Room exhibit showing the transition of the 1899-1900 Sangster-Watkins-Underwood-Susan family home to the 2009 Trinidad Museum and Native and Historic Plant Gardens, now ten years old. The introduction to the exhibit reads as follows:

The Sangster-Watkins-Underwood Family

Rose Ann Sangster (1835-1919) was among the few pioneer women to settle in raw, rugged Trinidad after sailing from San Francisco with her husband Jabez Sangster in 1863. Jabez was appointed Justice of the Peace for Trinidad in 1864 but died in 1865, leaving Rose Ann with two children: Alexander “Sandy” (1857-1906) and James.

Rose Ann built a hotel near what is now Galindo Street. It burned down in 1871 (the same year Trinidad Head Lighthouse was built) but was rebuilt and eventually became known as the Occidental Hotel. Rose Ann married Warren Watkins (1883-1889) in 1871 and the couple ran the hotel. He was postmaster briefly. They had three children: Martha Watkins (1872-1951), Mary (Molly), and Warren Watkins Jr.

Martha Watkins married James Underwood (1866-1935) in the parlor of the Occidental Hotel in 1897. In 1899 Martha’s brother, Warren Jr. built the home (located north of the HSU Marine Laboratory on Ewing Street) for Rose Ann and the Underwoods in 1899. Martha lived in this home until her death in 1951. Underwood Street is named after her.

The home stayed in the family, with Martha’s great niece, and Molly’s granddaughter, Gwyneth Susan (1920-2003) having inherited it in 1954. Other residents of the home include Presbyterian Church Pastor Adrien Martin, who moved there in 1959, and the Lyman Goucher family, who rented the home from 1964-1968. Axel Lindgren Jr. and Bonnie Lindgren, with six children, rented the home from 1968 until Axel’s death in 1999.

The Museum Project

The Sangster-Watkins-Underwood home fell into disrepair between 1999 and 2006. In 2006, the historic home was given to Trinidad Museum Society by Gwenyth and Ernie Susan’s children, Lee Susan and Mollie Anderson. 

In 2004, Glenn and Janis Saunders gave land to the Humboldt North Coast Land Trust (now Trinidad Coastal Land Trust) for the purpose of constructing Trinidad Museum and its Native Plant Garden, Trinidad Library (completed in 2013) and Saunders Park. Later the Trinidad Coastal Land Trust-Simmons Gallery was completed behind the library. The Saunders family provided substantial financial support. $325,000 was raised with mostly local donations and many fundraisers (a living history play, two Indian taco festivals, a “Rembrandt’s Rejects” art auction, a “Chairs” auction, a showing of the vintage “Valley of the Giants” film and tour of the Green Diamond Resource Company land where it was shot, garden tours, history, music and science lectures and more) to complete the museum. On Sept. 21, 2006, the old home was moved in three sections to its new location and on Sept. 26, 2009, Trinidad Museum opened with a traditional salmon barbecue organized by Allie Lindgren after three years of rehabilitation under the supervision of Contractor Charles Netzow.

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 The dream since 1980 when Bruce Pettit formed the idea of having a museum and co-founders and presidents Dr. Charles Fleschner, Axel Lindgren Jr., and subsequent presidents Dr. Raymond Davis, Ned Simmons and Dr. Michael “Mickey” Fleschner came to pass in 2009. Members of Boards of Directors who met every Monday night between 2005 and 2009 to oversee the project were Ned Simmons, Ron Johnson, Tom Sharp, Virginia Waters, Roberta “Allie” Lindgren, Jill Mefford, Patti Fleschner, Dean Heyenga, Joan Berman, Scott Baker and Anne Odom. At the same time Ron Johnson, Virginia Waters, Jill Mefford and Ingrid Bailey began turning the rocky, weed-infested, clay compacted land into today’s lush Native and Historic Plant Gardens.

The Photography Room exhibit was curated by Alexandra Cox, Mary Spinas Kline and Patti Fleschner. Tom Sharp was curator of the first 2009 exhibit. 

Museum docents, garden volunteers and past and present boards of directors were honored at a gathering on Sept. 26, 2019 to mark exactly 10 years of Trinidad Museum success. Among those recognized were Bruce Pettit, Ron and Melanie Johnson, Tom Sharp, Roberta “Allie” Lindgren, Joan Berman, Virginia Waters, Jill and Dwain Mefford, Maria Bartlett, Jim and Joey Wauters, Mary Kline, Scott Baker, Matthew Marshall, Alexandra Cox, John Meyers, Dennis Koutouzos, Karl and Maija Kalb, Michelle McHenry, Pam Topolewski, Sharon Malm Read, Ingrid Bailey, Jill Szcrygiel, Martha Sue Davis, Vicki Farmer, Barbara Snell, Jon Van Alten, Loraine Cook, Victoria Mayes, Claire Perricelli, Jackie Tidwell, Judy Smith, Zuleika Navarro and D’Lorah Hurton. 

Trinidad Museum is open Thursday through Sunday from 12:30 to 4 p.m. at 400 Janis Court. Go to for information about the museum.

Earth and Tsunami Preparedness Talk at Trinidad Civic Club

 Mike McKenn of the Red Cross will be guest speaker at the Thursday, October 3 meeting of Trinidad Civic Club in the Club Room at Town Hall. Members and guests will gather informally at 9:30 a.m. with the business meeting starting at 10 a.m. with Dana Hope and Jan West presiding. The “Earthquake and Tsunami Preparedness” talk will begin at 11:30 a.m. Michelle McHenry, Penne O’Gara and Liz Thatcher will be hostesses. 

Trinidad Head Lighthouse Open October 4

 The monthly Trinidad Head Lighthouse tour courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management, the Cherae Heights Indian Community of the Trinidad Rancheria and Trinidad Museum docents will take place from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Oct. 4. Pedestrian access only. No vehicles permitted. The grounds around the lighthouse will be open all day but tours inside the lighthouse are limited to the two-hour morning period.

Email Patti at [email protected].

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