A Little Old Moss Beach-Montara Story For You

I wrote this in 1977. The story was researched at the San Mateo County History Museum.

While Jurgen F. Wienke lay awake, staring at the ceiling, wife Meta dozed peacefully beside him. Instead of sleeping, Wienke, who built the fashionable Moss Beach Hotel overlooking the gray-blue Pacific, reflected on recent happenings at his resort.

It was the 1890s, and famous scientists often arrived to study the remarkable marine plant life there.

Why only last weekend, Jurgen was thinking, David Starr Jordan, the first president of Senator Leland Stanford’s university in Palo Alto, signed the hotel register.

Jurgen, who enjoyed the title of “Mayor of Moss Beach,” glowed with pride. He knew he had reached the pinnacle of local success when his most prominent guests braved a twisting mountain road to reach his resort near the cliffs of beautiful Moss Beach.

As the Mayor contemplated the long hours of dedicated work, he thought he heard gunfire above the sound of the crashing waves. In a split second his mind returned from reverie to the present. What was that?

A ship’s horn blared in the distance. Curiosity fully aroused, Wienke bounced out of bed, and without disturbing his still-sleeping wife, changed into outdoor apparel. He tip-toed past daughter Lizzie’s bedroom and slipped out the front door.

It was dawn.

Once outside, Mayor Wienke listened for more clues. As he walked briskly among the rows of cypress trees he had planted, he remembered nourishing them through several periods of drought. Again, the sound of a ship’s horn jarred Wienke’s thoughts back into the present.

He glanced out to sea but the fog concealed anything that might have been there. Then, that sound again, the sound of a ship’s horn. This time he went back to the hotel, mounted his horse, and rode right toward the sound.

He rode as far north as the Point Montara Fog Station where several people were running toward the sandy beach. The mayor recognized David Splain and his daughter among them. He called out to David, the fog station’s caretaker, and rode fast to catch up with them.

David Splain told Mayor Wienke that a ship struck the jagged reefs (it was the third to do so at the same place.) Wienke wasn’t surprised. He said that most sailors called Point Montara a dangerous part of this stretch of coast.

And then the thick fog lifted, like a stage curtain, revealing the hazy outline of a schooner stranded on the rocks.

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