Historical Background of Arcata, California


History of Arcata, California

I’m Ed Smith, an Arcata personal injury attorney. The town of Arcata has a long history in “The Golden State” as a land where timber and gold played a large part in its development. Today, it is home to the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary, Clam Beach County Park and Humboldt State University.

Arcata, California

Arcata was settled in early 1850 and was referred to as Union until about 1860, when the name was changed to Arcata, the Hupa Indian word for “big, flat place.” The Hupas lived along the area of the Trinity River, and named themselves after the river. Their major source of food was acorns and salmon, supplemented by berries, nuts, greens and roots, along with elk and deer.

Miners from the Trinity River arrived first, headed by scientist and explorer Dr. Josiah Greggafter a difficult journey. Gregg had gone to join the California Gold Rush in 1849 and left the Trinity River camp to find “Trinity Bay.” The group included Gregg, David Buck from New York, Thomas Seabring from Illinois, J.B. Truesdale from Oregon, Isaac Wilson from Missouri, Charles Southard from Boston, Lewis Wood from Kentucky and James Van Duzen.

The Long and Arduous Journey

Local natives told the adventurers that the Pacific Ocean was eight days away, so they took along 10 days worth of rations. A few days into the journey, Buck located the South Fork Trinity River, where they encountered natives who ran from them. They were warned that night by about 80 native warriors to leave the river and head west. The route they took became a part of Route 299 at a later date. Instead of leaving the river, they followed it until they could no longer do so, then they headed west. By the middle of November, their rations were all gone, and they lived on smoked game and deer meat, traveling an average of seven miles per day until they reached the redwood forest. That slowed them down further to about two miles per day.


Hupa Indian

Discovery of Arcata and Misadventure

After around six weeks traveling, they saw the Pacific Ocean, where they turned to the south and made camp at Trinidad. It was David Buck who first discovered “Trinity Bay,” which was named Humboldt Bay. As the group walked around the bay, they reached the site of present-day Arcata. Disagreeing about how to return to San Francisco, out of food and low on ammunition, they tried to make their way back. Dr. Gregg, weak from subsisting on acorns and herbs, fell from his horse and died shortly afterward from starvation.

Establishment of the Town

The town of Union was used as a re-provisioning center and port for nearby gold mines at Trinity, Klamath and the Salmon Mountains and was the first town of significance along Humboldt Bay. The plaza and first streets were laid out early in 1850. As the gold rush played out, the harvesting of lumber from nearby redwood forests took its place.


Pythian Castle in Arcata is on the historic register.

Growth of the Timber Industry in Arcata

In 1853, the first steam-operated sawmill was constructed in the area on property owned by Thomas Titlow and provided the lumber for building. In 1864, the property changed hands, which included 320 acres, the sawmill and machinery, an area of redwood trees and a railroad that ran from the sawmill to the road of the Union Wharf Company. In 1868, the property changed hands again, being purchased by James Duff and John Dwyer. The mill burned down in 1868 and was rebuilt a few months later. After about five months in business, the company reported that it had shipped out about 3.6 million feet of lumber.

The plaza is still the heart of the city and was used in its early history to load mule trains with goods for the Trinity Mines. Today, it sports a statue of President McKinley, donated by a local businessman and erected in 1906. With a population of over 17,000, about half is made up of students attending Humboldt State University.


Attorney Ed Smith

Arcata Personal Injury Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, an Arcata personal injury attorney. Personal injuries encompass a wide range of physical trauma that includes vehicular, motorcycle, truck, boating or bicycle accidents, dangerous products, dog bites and other mishaps. The common denominator in a personal injury is that it was caused by negligence on the part of another individual or company. If you have suffered an injury caused by negligence, give me a call at (707) 564-1900 for free and friendly advice. If you are out of the area, call the toll-free number at (800) 404-5400 or use the online contact form on my website.

I have served those injured by negligence in California as a personal injury lawyer since 1982.

Reviews by my clients and peers can be found on Yelp, Google Plus and Avvo.

The Million Dollar Advocates Forum is a group reserved for lawyers who have won settlements and verdicts for clients that total $1 million or more.

To find out more about cases I have resolved, visit the Past Verdicts and Settlements page.

Photo attribution:–Hupa.jpg


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