Local History

Union Lumber Company Store in Fort Bragg, CA; image by Bruce Lewis
Fort Bragg has been home to many generations who have lived off the rich resources of the land and sea. The first known inhabitants of the area were Native Americans from the Pomo Tribe. They named the largest river, “Noyo,” which literally means “mouth of the river.” As the main access point to the Pacific Ocean, Noyo Harbor was a gateway for the timber and fishing industries that would define the area’s development.

Fort Bragg’s origins were integrally connected with the growth of the Redwood industry; the City was officially incorporated in 1889, and CR Johnson served as the first mayor and subsequently founded the mammoth Union Lumber Company. Until 2002, residents of Fort Bragg marked time by the morning, midday and 5 o’clock signal of the steam whistle at the lumber mill. When the mill closed and the whistle blew no more, time itself changed. For over a century the timber industry shaped the commerce, transportation, art, culture and geography of this humble harbor town.

A once booming fishing industry and many other factors also played a significant role in shaping Fort Bragg. It was built from the hard work of woodsmen, railway workers, deckhands and sailors, and the women who entertained them. Today, the town is known for its historic railroad, distinctive architecture, spectacular beaches and surrounding wilderness. The story of Fort Bragg is ever-changing, but the past persists, as it is still a place that is shaped by the land and the people who live and work here.

To explore local history & culture, visit the Museums and Historical Buildings pages.

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