Born in 1814, New Jersey resident Alexander McDonald came west in 1847 as a Sergeant Major to fight in the Mexican-American War. He was honorably discharged in San Francisco and relocated to Sonoma where he engaged in the mercantile business. While in Sonoma he met and married Mrs. Anna (Smith) Scott in 1850. This union results in 8 children born from 1851 to 1871.
In 1859 the McDonalds moved to Mendocino County and established the McDonald Ranch (aka Mountain House Ranch), raising sheep and cattle, and the Mountain House. Mountain House Estate is located on a portion of the original McDonald Ranch.
High In The Pass
Mountain House was so named, as it was the highest elevation, 1220’, on the road between Cloverdale and the coast. It was located at the intersection where the Cloverdale-Ukiah Road (aka the Redwood Highway) continued north (now known as Mountain House Road) to Ukiah, and the other branch continuing west through Anderson Valley to the Mendocino coast. The portion of road from Mountain House to the coast became to be known as the “McDonald to the Sea Road” until the 1920’s when the County moved the road higher up the ridge and changed the name to the “McDonald Highway”, now known as Hwy 128.
Mountain House served as a stagecoach stop and rooming house for travelers taking their tan bark, sheep, cattle, and crops to the railhead in Cloverdale. Depending upon where in Anderson Valley they started, the trip would take two or more days to get to Cloverdale.
Upon the passing of Alexander (1880) and Anna (1877) McDonald, Mountain House continued operations for decades under the ownership of son Richard McDonald. Evidence of Mountain House maintaining operations into the 1910’s exists, however it’s said that the original Mountain House burned down, and a new home, which still exists, was built. In the 1930’s, the State built Hwy 101, near it’s present location, removing the need for people to travel by Mountain House to get to Ukiah and points north.
Mountain House Estate endeavors to continue the tradition of hospitality started by the McDonald’s over one hundred and fifty years ago.
Information was gathered from
· Anderson Valley Land Trust, Fall 2007 article by Barbara Goodell
· Anderson Valley Advertiser article by Marshall Newman dated Jan. 28, 2015
· Kelley House Museum article by Chuck Bush
· History of Mendocino and Lake Counties with Biographical Sketches by Aurelius O. Carpenter, 1914
· History of Mendocino County, 1880