Pomo Indians Lived Here in Peaceful Abundance
Fort Bragg has quite an interesting history, stretching back to the Pomo Indians who lived on the land for 3,000 years before the arrival of white men. They were a peaceful, nomadic people, not a formal “tribe” but rather small groups of families who shared a common language and religion, and were connected by geography, way of life, and marital lineage. In fact, two middens at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens give us a hint of their presence on the coastal headlands. They lived in a variety of dwellings made of local gathered materials like redwood branches, mud, twigs, and brush. They were known for their skill in basketry, dance, and song. The women gathered berries, acorns, mushrooms, wild seeds, greens, and other comestibles, while the men hunted and fished for elk, deer, bear, and salmon. Of the estimated 8,000 Pomo at their densest population in the 1700s, approximately 4,500 descendants remain.
Fort Bragg is Named after a Confederate General
The 25,000 acre Mendocino Indian Reservation was established by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and shortly afterwards, First Lieutenant Horatio G. Gibson created a military post named after a former commanding officer, Captain Braxton Bragg (hence the name Fort Bragg). Only one building remains from the twelve year tenure of the Fort Bragg military post, the Quartermasters storehouse and commissary at 430 North Franklin.
Fort Bragg – A Great Place to Work and Live
Fort Bragg was a place where people worked hard in the local industries, which included lumber, fishing and small farming. You can find out a lot about Fort Bragg history at the Guest House Museum, and at the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, you can tour the home of the Assistant Lightkeeper, and see how the family lived with a lovingly re-created 1930s kitchen, parlor, office and laundry room. Some of the existing structures have been remodeled so that you can stay in comfort on the site!
A Rainbow of Colors at Glass Beach and the Sea Glass Museum
One of the most popular destinations in Fort Bragg is Glass Beach. We’re lucky because Captain Cass Forrington has created a cool museum absolutely filled with examples of of sea glass and other artifacts. A Fort Bragg city ordinance prohibits taking sea glass from Glass Beach, but you can enjoy the beach, take photos, and leave the glass for posterity. Learn all about the glass and see stunning and sometimes rare examples at the International Sea Glass Museum. Captain Forrington tells us that lavender and pink glass was originally clear glass clarified with magnesium or selenium, that common products like Vicks Vaporub and Bromo Selzer created the sapphire blue glass, and that the “rubies” of the beach, red sea glass comes from car taillights, traffic lights, art glass, and even perfume bottles.
MacKerricher State Park: a Family Legacy
Some of the most famous early residents in the late 1800s were Duncan MacKerricher and his wife, both born in eastern Canada of Scottish descent. Their arrival in the Fort Bragg area was fraught with danger as they made their way from New York on the Ocean Queen, through civil war zones to Panama on the U.S.S. Constitution, and then by railroad, ship, and small schooner to the northern California Coast. The MacKerrichers were small farmers who grew potatoes and shipped butter to San Francisco. Their property was eventually sold to the State of California, and now visitors to the area can camp, hike, enjoy viewpoints for whale watching and revel in the black sand beaches of MacKerricher State Park.
Hermits of Fort Bragg
A town’s characters always add “character” to a place, and Fort Bragg is no exception. Several “hermits” have lived here as colorful residents of our town – one with a hut above Pudding Creek (who was supposed to be descended from British aristocracy), one who wrote a column for our local paper, and another who could sing and play classical music on the piano. We’ve got our share of colorful local characters even today. Fort Bragg may be a relatively small town, but our points of interest include people as well as sights!