By Cornelia de Bruin
Triplicate staff writer
Think of hotels when you consider the Burtschell family's roots in Del Norte County.
Their ancestor, Francis J. Burchoell not a typo here, but the original spelling of the family's name as it made its way to Northern California made his fame as a hotelier during the county's earliest years. Burchoell fled France with two brothers as the French Revolution nipped at the aristocrats' heels.
Francis went first to Bingen, Germany, where he married Elizabeth Brougham, and changed his name to Burtschell.
The couple had a son, Francis R. Burtschell, March 13, .
The younger Francis traveled to New York City in 1846 and worked for two years in the hotel industry. He traveled among New Orleans, Philadelphia, New York City and Germany during a short period of time.
Eventually he found himself on his way to the Northwest, first settling near Weaverville.
He'd lived more than 40 years by the time he built his first hotel there in the early 1850s.
Burchoell which the younger Francis now spelled Burtschell sold the hotel and moved to Shasta County where he repeated the process. He then moved to San Francisco to manage a hotel and found his way north to Crescent City in 1856.
A year later, on April 19, 1857, he purchased the City Hotel for $900 from Gottlieb Meyer after having lived there about four months.
The City Hotel was originally Cushing House, located at H and Front streets. Because it was close to the ocean, the building was damaged when "a tidal wave" carried a tree into its lobby during the years Burtschell owned it.
It also sheltered many of the survivors who had been on the Brother Jonathan when she smashed on "Dragon's Teeth" St. George Reef.
After owning the hotel for six years, Burtschell leased the property to Jacob Reichert but managed it a second time after his wife died and he married Caroline Morscher New Year's Eve 1874.
Eleven years later, he purchased a 664-acre farm in Smith River. By 1893 the dairy farm located at the site of Ship Ashore and stretching north to the Oregon border had grown to 992 acres. Burtschell continued to live in Crescent City.
He remodeled the hotel in 1885 by removing the front section to across the street then adding a new section. In its new form, he renamed the business Bay Hotel.
To give an idea of prices during Burtschell's ownership, entrance to a masquerade ball held in early November 1873 was $3.
The back of the Bay Hotel was later torn down to make room for the Lauff Hotel. The Lauff later became the Surf Hotel.
Three years later, he sold the business to a W. Woodbury.
During his 53 years in Crescent City, Burtschell served two terms as a county supervisor and two terms as a city councilman. He also was a school trustee for many years.
His son, Frank Burtschell Sr., worked as county assessor and owned the county's first Ford dealership.
Frank Burtschell Sr., who established Burtschell's Paints, was the last person in his family to get a driver's license his mother being the first woman in Del Norte County to do so.
Frank Burtschell Jr. helped to preserve some of the area's history, one piece being the name of Addie Meedom's summer cabin. Burtschell Jr. placed the sign he made for the cabin 75 years ago on Addie Meedom House, the county's assisted living center for seniors.
Frank Jr. died in a single car accident on U.S. Hwy. 199 on Oct. 3, 2003, when his 1985 El Camino hit a redwood tree.
His son, Bob Burtschell, owner of Burtschell's paint and floor coverings, is the great-grandson of Del Norte County pioneer, French aristocrat Francis (Burschoell) Burtschell.