In prehistoric days, the area now known as Fort Bragg was home to the Native Americans, most of whom belonged to the Pomo tribe. They were hunter-gatherers who lived along the northern coast of California.
In 1855, an exploration party from the Bureau of Indian Affairs visited the area looking for a site on which to establish a reservation; and, in the spring of 1856, the Mendocino Indian Reservation was established at Noyo. It was 25,000 acres (100 km2), and its boundary extended north from what is now Simpson Lane to Abalobadiah Creek and east from the Pacific Ocean to Bald Hill.
In the summer of 1857, 1st Lt. Horatio G. Gibson, then serving at the Presidio of San Francisco, established a military post on the Reservation, approximately a mile and a half north of the Noyo River, and named it for his former commanding officer Capt. Braxton Bragg, who later became a General in the Army of the Confederacy. The official date of the establishment of the fort was June 11, 1857; and its purpose was to maintain order on the reservation.
Gibson and Company M, 3rd Artillery, left Fort Bragg in January 1859 to be replaced by Company D, 6th Infantry, which stayed for two years and continued to build up the post.
In June 1862 Company D, 2nd California Infantry, were ordered to garrison the post and remained until 1864. In October of that year, the Fort Bragg garrison was loaded aboard the steamer "Panama" and completed the evacuation and abandonment of Mendocino County’s first military post.
The Mendocino Indian Reservation was discontinued in March 1866; and the land was opened for settlement three years later.
The last remaining building of the Fort Bragg military post is located at 430 North Franklin Street. It may have been the Quartermaster’s storehouse and commissary or surgeon’s quarters or hospital.
The approximate boundaries of the fort extend from the south side of Laurel, east from the railroad depot to the alley behind Franklin, down the alley to a point 100 feet (30 m) south of Redwood Avenue, west on Redwood to just beyond the Georgia-Pacific Corporation company offices, then north to connect with the Laurel Street border at the railroad station.
By 1867 the reservation and military outpost at Fort Bragg were abandoned. By 1869 small lumber mills were being built at the mouth of every creek. Ranches were settled. By 1873 Fort Bragg had an established lumber port at Noyo.
In 1869, after the fort was abandoned, the land of the reservation was returned to the public and offered for sale at $1.25 per acre to settlers. In 1885 C.R. Johnson who, with partners Calvin Stewart and James Hunter had been operating a sawmill in Mill Creek on the Ten Mile River, moved their mill machinery to Fort Bragg to take advantage of the harbor for shipping.
The company incorporated in 1885 as the Fort Bragg Redwood Company. In 1891, after merging with the Noyo River Lumber Company, it was renamed the Union Lumber Company.
The Fort Bragg Railroad was founded to haul logs to the mill. The first rails were run up Pudding Creek and in 1887 reached Glen Blair. A San Francisco streetcar was purchased to carry loggers and their families on Sunday excursions to the woods.
Fort Bragg was incorporated in 1889 with C. R. Johnson as its first mayor. Calvin Stewart did the plat maps for the town.
The Union Lumber Company was incorporated in 1891 by absorbing some of the smaller lumber companies in the area. Some of the new company lands were in the Noyo River watershed east of town making removal of logs difficult by rail, unless a tunnel was built. Johnson hired experienced Chinese tunnel builders from San Francisco. After completion of the tunnel, most of the Chinese settled in Fort Bragg and Mendocino. A six-walled Chinese town was built at Redwood and McPherson. Older residents say that eventually most of the Chinese children moved elsewhere.
In 1901 the Union Lumber Company incorporated the National Steamship Company to carry lumber, passengers and supplies. The only link to manufactured creature comforts and staples like sugar and coffee were delivered by steamship. In 1905 the California Western Railroad and Navigation Company was formed and plans were pushed to get the rail line all the way to Willits, where train connections to the Northwestern Pacific would link to San Francisco.
The 1906 earthquake resulted in a fire that threatened the saw mill and the city. Within the town itself, all brick buildings were damaged. Only two were not destroyed completely. Many frame houses were knocked off their piers. The fire downtown burned the entire block bordered by Franklin, Redwood and McPherson Streets, plus the west side of Franklin. The west Franklin block burned down to approximately one half a block beyond the intersection of Redwood and Franklin.
Within 12 months following the earthquake, most downtown reconstruction was completed. Ironically, the earthquake brought real prosperity to Fort Bragg as the mills furnished lumber to rebuild San Francisco, and the lumber ships returning from San Francisco were ballasted with bricks used for rebuilding Fort Bragg. With the new prosperity, the rail line to Willits was completed and in 1912 the first tourists came to Fort Bragg. By 1916 Fort Bragg had become a popular place to visit—and to settle.
Commercial fishing has also played an important role in the economic base of the community. Once a major commercial fishing port, Fort Bragg was well known for producing quality fish products that were distributed to major metropolitan markets.
In 1969 the Union Lumber Company was purchased by Boise Cascade and John Quincy and it, in turn, became Georgia Pacific in 1973.
The emergence of the City of Fort Bragg as a diverse residential, recreational and growing commercial area had begun and the city was on the path to becoming what it is today. The Guest House Museum is the repository of artifacts and records telling the story of Fort Bragg. An endowment fund has been established to support cultural and educational programs associated with the Museum. Donations can also be made for specific building restoration or grounds improvement projects. The Museum is open to the public on a regular schedule.
Recently, Georgia Pacific Lumber Company put on the market a 400-acre (1.6 km2) piece of property within the city limits, formerly the site of a large mill facility. The mill was shut down in 2002 and has been identified as a nonperforming asset by Georgia Pacific. The mill site takes up almost the entire coastline of Fort Bragg including Fort Bragg Landing. The public of Fort Bragg has embraced the mill site as the future of Fort Bragg and has proposed many forward-thinking ideas. Some possibilities for the mill site are: a marine research center, a conference center, a world-class golf course, a smaller mill, or a branch of a college.
Fort Bragg is located at
39°26′45″N 123°48′19″W with an average elevation of 85 ft (26 m) above sea level.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.8 square miles (7.3 km2), of which, 2.7 square miles (7.0 km2) of it is land and 0.04 square miles (0.10 km2) of it (1.44%) is water.
Due to Fort Bragg’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean, the city has very mild weather throughout the year. Most of the rainfall occurs from November to April with some occasional drizzle or light showers during the summer. Fog and low overcast are common, especially during the night and early morning hours. The climate experienced in Fort Bragg is classified as cool-summer mediterranean climate. Although formally known as dry-summer subtropical; Fort Bragg has very cool summer temperatures for a subtropical climate type. Its mediterranean classification is due to the dry summers with very little rainfall.
January, the coldest month, has an average maximum temperature of 55.1 °F (12.8 °C) and an average minimum temperature of 39.9 °F (4.4 °C); September, the warmest month, has an average maximum temperature of 65.8 °F (18.8 °C) and an average minimum temperature of 49.2 °F (9.6 °C). Temperatures rarely reach 90 °F (32 °C), occurring on an average of only 0.1 day annually. Freezing temperatures occur on an average of 11.1 days annually. The record maximum temperature was 94 °F (34 °C) on October 5, 1985 (exceeded by 96 °F (36 °C) on October 23, 1965, at the airport, where records were kept from 1948 to 1972). The record minimum temperature was 18 °F (−8 °C) on December 21, 1990.
Average annual precipitation is 40.24 inches (1,022 mm). The wettest year on record was 1995 with 61.90 inches (1,572 mm) and the driest year on record was 2013 with 12.31 inches (313 mm). The maximum precipitation in one month was 21.60 inches (549 mm) in December 2002. The maximum 24-hour rainfall was 4.36 inches (111 mm) on December 28, 2002.
Snow is virtually unknown; the only recorded snowfall was in January 1907.
The extreme maritime effect of the Pacific Ocean is demonstrated by the fact that Fort Bragg has uniquely cool summers for cities on the 39th parallel north, both domestically and internationally. In places a few miles inland, consistently hotter summer temperatures are found, a phenomenon typical of the Californian coastline.