The Meredith Fish Company pier and cannery at Bodega Bay is gone. The demolition took three weeks to complete. According to County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, what happens next with the property is yet to be determined; however, it will likely include “a nod to the tremendous history of the wharf.”
That history dates back to 1942 when the Meredith Fish Company bought a lot from local ranchers Charles and Mary Columbo for approximately $1,500, where they built a $50,000 fish processing plant and pier.
The Meredith Fish Company was not the first such company to be established at Bodega Bay. The Smith Brothers were the original Bodega Bay fishing concern.
The Smith Brothers were descendants of Captain Stephen Smith, Bodega Rancho grantee, and his wife, a Coast Miwok woman, named Tsupu. Their son William was born in 1843. He married Rosalie Charles in 1876, and together they had 12 children. According to Willam and Rosalie’s great-grandchild, Mark Linares, William Smith was fishing from small boats off the sand spit now known as Doran Beach during the early 1900s. He sold his catch from a truck and his Santa Rosa fish market. In 1919, William and Rosalie Smith’s six sons, the “Smith Brothers,” bought the first drag boats in the Bay and sold fish to San Francisco markets, thus establishing themselves as Bodega Bay’s first commercial fishermen.
Shortly before Meredith established their operations at Bodega Bay, the Smith Brothers completed a two-story structure with boom and wharfage facilities to handle three boats at a time.
Construction of the Meredith Fish Company and expansion of the Smith Brothers business coincided with a major federally funded dredging project that had been in the works since 1927. The dredging created a deep water channel that made it possible for large fishing boats, pleasure craft, small naval and coast guard patrol vessels to access a new harbor at Bodega Bay.
The Meredith Fish Company may have been new to Bodega Bay, but they weren’t new to the fishing industry. The company was founded in Sacramento by Craddock Meredith in 1889. The original Meredith market depended mostly on salmon, shad, and catfish taken from the Sacramento River. In 1935 ownership of Meredith expanded to include Lloyd and Dudley Turnacliff and Mark Jensen, who bought the business outright from Craddock and his brothers, Azariah and William, in 1942.
“If It Swims, We Have It” was Meredith’s advertising slogan, and at their Bodega Bay plant, this meant mostly salmon, halibut, shrimp, and crab. In 1950, Meredith was considered the largest of the five Bodega Bay fish packers. The other four were Smith Brothers, Consolidated Fisheries, A. Paladini Co., and the Dusty Rhodes plant. Collectively these companies represented a half-million-dollar industry that operated a fleet of nearly 100 commercial boats.
During the 1950s, Meredith employed 15 to 30 workers each season who shelled crab and filleted fish for the hotel, restaurant, and grocery trade. Bernice Houston was the first woman hired by Meredith. As office manager, she shared with a Press Democrat reporter that Meredith workers packed 900,000 pounds of crab and filleted about a million pounds of bottom fish – sole, flounder, etc. and around 400,000 pounds of albacore in 1950. At this time, Frank Lucido was the manager, and Amadeo Fomasi was the foreman. Fomasi, a Bodega native, retired from Meredith in 1994 at the age of 85.
In later years, the plant served as a receiving station for fish headed inland. For a short period during the 1980s, C and R Enterprises of Washington leased a portion of the warehouse where they processed sea urchins.
Meredith Fish Company made a bulk transfer of their Bodega Bay, Fort Bragg, Albion, Point Arena, and Sacramento holdings to Eureka Fisheries, Inc. in 1990. Eureka Fisheries went bankrupt in 1998. In 2000, the pier was purchased by a local resident and mortgage broker, Sean Eaddy. Eaddy’s plans to rehabilitate the warehouse in a manner that would celebrate Bodega Bay’s maritime heritage did not materialize, and by 2004 the property was condemned. Sixteen years later, all that remains of the Meredith Fish Company is a concrete slab.
Although the building no longer stands, the stories and photographs of those who worked at Meredith can be found at the Rancho Bodega Bay Historical Society archives and likely within a few closets and attics. Meanwhile, John Hershey Photography has documented much of the site’s recent history. So there is plenty to work with when it comes to interpreting the area and giving a proper “nod to history.”
A version of this article appeared in the December 2020 Sonoma-Marin Farm News, a publication of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau.
Glenice Carpenter interviewed by Gaye LeBaron, 2005 (North Bay Digital Collections, SSU Library).
Rancho Bodega Historical Society Newsletter: “A Brief History of the Fishing Industry in Bodega Bay,” Fall 2017.
Santa Rosa Republican: “New Fish Processing Plant for Bodega Assured, Site Bought,” May 30, 1942.
The Press Democrat: “Final Days of a Wharf: Demolition of Derelict Seafood Plant Underway on Sonoma Coast,” October 19, 2020.
The Press Democrat: “Bodega Bay Crab Fisherman Keep Processing Plants Busy with Catch,” March 4, 1951.
The Press Democrat: “It’s Howdy Neighbor” to The Bodega Bay Fisherman,” August 14, 1949.
The Press Democrat: “Dredging Work Under Way to Open Bodega Bay Harbor For Commercial Use, Navy Use,” September 1, 1942.
The Press Democrat: “Western Sonoma to Celebrate Bodega Harbor Completion,” December 24, 1942.
The Sacramento Bee: “Meredith Fish Co. Abides by Slogan,” May 26, 1972.
The Sebastopol Times: “Fish Plants Go Up at Bodega Bay,” June 5, 1942.