Fortuna, California

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Fortuna (formerly, Slide, Springville, Fortune)[2] is a city in western-central Humboldt County, California, United States. The population was 10,497 at the 2000 census. The city lies on the northeast shore of the Eel River (approximately 9 miles (14 km) from where it enters the Pacific Ocean), and is on U.S. Route 101.

Contents

History

The settlement was originally called "Slide", for Slide Hill, in 1874. Named for the slide that was a fixture on the northeast side of the Eel River and the southwest portion of Christian Ridge just to the northwestern edge of town. But, in 1875, the name was changed to "Springville" during the construction of the Springville Mill, a lumber and saw mill for the nearby redwood forests, named so because of the numerous springs in the area. The mill was being built by the Springville Mill Company, and its owners Henry Rohner (namesake of neighboring Rohnerville), Alexander Masson, M. N. Weber and G. F. Gushaw. Springville was originally a company town (belonging to the Springville Mill) and the few people that resided there all worked for the mill. By the late 1870s, Springville was large enough to warrant a post office, but there already existed a town called Springville, California (now part of Camarillo, in Ventura County) in the state of California. The post office was named Slide on May 24, 1876. In 1884 the residents petitioned the state legislature for the name of "Fortuna", Spanish for "fortune" and Latin for "chance", and by July 3, 1888 the name was changed to Fortuna.[3][4][5]

The name was chosen when settlers saw the proximity of the forests, the river and its valley, and the Pacific Ocean, as ideal for enjoying the quality of life, and felt "fortunate" to live there.[3] It is believed that a local minister and real estate agent, wanting to sell lots to newcomers, came up with the name as a marketing gimmick.[4]

Electricity came to Fortuna in 1883 when W. J. Swortzel and George W. Williams (Swortzel & Williams), owners of the Springville Mill Company, built a $4,000 power plant.[4] Some of the local saw mills already had electric power, and by providing power to the mills, Swortzel & Williams saw the opportunity to also provide inexpensive electric lighting to the people of the town.[6] The town was incorporated on February 20, 1906, and because of the Eel River became known for its excellent agricultural in vegetable crops, berries and fruits, and for the fresh fish from the river. Although agricultural was expanding, the lumber industry is what started the town and would continue as the main source of local income for some time.[3]

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