California Genealogy and History Archives
Del Norte County History
A Memorial and
Biographical History of Northern California
Chicago, Lewis Publ. Co., 1891
This is a small section in the extreme northwestern corner of the State, which was set off from Klamath County (now extinct) March 2, 1858. The name literally signifies "to the north." Efforts were made in the Legislature to give it the names of Buchanan, Alta, Altissima and Rincon. James Buchanan was then President of the United States, but it was claimed that the plan was to give all the counties names of local significance. "Alta" means upper, and "altissima" uppermost.
The first settlement in this county was made in 1851, when a party of prospectors, consisting of Captain S. R. Tompkins, Robert S. Williams, Captain McDermott, Charles Moore, Thomas J. Roach, Charles Wilson, Charles Southard, two brothers named Swain, Mr. Taggart, George Wood, W. T. Stevens, B. Ray, William Rumley, W. A. J. Moore, Jerry Lane, John Cox, J. W. Burke, James Buck and a Mr. Penny, and several others, located in this part of the State. The Indians treacherously undertook to persuade them to move further up the river than where they first located. Three of the young men went up, and two of them were murdered outright and one mortally wounded. The rest of the party then went up the river, found the village of the Indians and put a majority of them to death. Two or three weeks after this the pioneers moved from Wingate's Bar to a camp higher up the stream, to which place they gave the name of Happy Camp.
The next settlements were made at Trinidad and at the mouth of the Klamath, and the town of Crescent City on the south side of Point St. George was located. The year 1852 was the date of the earliest permanent settlement, although several vessels, including the Paragon, Cameo, and the Laura Virginia had anchored in the roadstead in 1850.
Crescent City had a peculiar and romantic origin. An old story had been set afloat in 1849–'50 that a solitary prospector crossed the Coast Range and "struck it rich;" that he accumulated a fabulous sum, hid it, and that the Indians assaulted him and left him for dead; that he recovered his consciousness, but not his reason, and he wandered out of the forest into the confines of civilization, and finally found his friends in the East. This story of course excited the cupidity of some miners, who in the spring of 1851, under Captain McDermott, began a search and first found a magnificent harbor. Another party then started in search of that harbor and they found and named Paragon Bay. They dispatched a messenger to San Francisco, who organized another expedition to this bay, with the schooner Pomona, some time in the fall of 1852. The next spring the town site was selected. During the winter of 1852'53 A. M. Rosborough purchased a land warrant in J. F. Wendell's name for 320 acres, on which Crescent City now stands. The place was so named on account of the crescent shape of the roadstead. Smith's River Valley, the only other settlement of importance in that district, was settled in 1853.
In 1858-'59 there was a war with the Mintoon Indians on the Upper Mad River, resulting in a surrender of the savages, under General Kibbe. In February, 1860, there occurred a great massacre of the redskins on Indian Island.
The Assemblymen from Del Norte County have been: R. H. Campbell, 1887; L. F. Cooper, 1880; W. B. Hamilton, 1883; R. P. Hirst, 1858, 1863–'64; W. B. Mason, 1881; James E. Murphy, 1869–'70, 1873–'78, and others from adjoining counties, which see.
Transcribed by Kathy Sedler.