Westport, Mendocino Coast

Westport, Mendocino Coast

by | Apr 4, 2019

Westport is a community on the Mendocino coast, about 15 miles (24 km) north on Highway 1 from Fort Bragg, California. The brothers Samuel and Lloyd Beall are credited with being the first white settlers here in about 1860. They were soon followed by others and the small community was called Beall’s Landing for the loading chute built for shipping potatoes. In 1877, James T. Rodgers built a timber loading facility named Westport to contrast with his home town of Eastport, Maine. The first post office at Westport opened in 1879.

The California Gold Rush of 1849 introduced thousands of hopeful immigrants to northern California. Prospecting in the coastal hills led to the discovery of the immense redwood forests and the beginning of the timber trade. Henry Meiggs built a sawmill at the mouth of Big River, and soon the Mendocino Coast was home to hundreds of sawmills that would drive the local economy for decades. Lumber schooners were the only connectors between these small coastal mills and the major cities. They brought all the supplies needed to sustain the industry and returned with lumber, farm produce, and even livestock. The Mendocino coast is dominated by cliffs and bluffs and this topography made it difficult to handle cargo. Many sites utilized chutes and wire trapeze rigging to load the small coastal schooners with cargo. Most of these ports were so small they were called dog-hole ports since they were barely big enough to allow a dog to turn around. Dozens of these were built, and almost any small cove or river outlet was a prime candidate for a loading chute.

Trees felled from the forests of Mendocino County largely built San Francisco from the 1870s to the 1900s, and Westport was a key part of that process. Westport became the largest town between San Francisco and Eureka with over 1,000 residents, 12 saloons, and several hotels. Westport had two loading chutes that shipped lumber for the small mills in the vicinity including Wages Creek, De Haven, and Howard Creek. These loading chutes were engineered steel and cable contraptions that spanned the shoreline and several rock islets to access deep water and enabled the loading of lumber, supplies, and people on and off ships anchored or tethered among the reefs. The early loggers probably had no idea that each tree was hundreds of years old, and since the forests seemed endless, everyone thought that logging would last forever. Read more here and here. Explore more of Westport and the Mendocino coast here:

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