Humboldt County is a county in the U.S. state of California, located on the far North Coast 200 miles north of San Francisco. According to 2010 Census Data, the county’s population was 134,623. Its primary population centers of Eureka, the county seat and site of College of the Redwoods main campus, and the smaller college town of Arcata, site of Humboldt State University, are located adjacent to Humboldt Bay, California's second largest natural bay. Area cities and towns are known for hundreds of ornate examples of Victorian architecture.
Humboldt County is a densely forested, mountainous, and rural county situated along the Pacific coast in Northern California's rugged Coast (Mountain) Ranges. With nearly of combined public and private forest in production, Humboldt County accounts for twenty percent of the total forest production for all of California. The county contains over forty percent of all remaining old growth Coast Redwood forests, the vast majority of which is protected or strictly conserved within dozens of national, state, and local forests and parks, totaling approximately 680,000 acres (over 1,000 square miles).
The original inhabitants of the area now known as Humboldt County include the Wiyot, Yurok, Hupa, Karuk, Chilula, Whilkut, and the Eel River Athapaskan peoples, including the Wailaki, Mattole and Nongatl. Andrés de Urdaneta hit the coast near Cape Mendocino, California, then followed the coast south to Acapulco in 1565. Spanish traders made unintended visits to California with the Manila Galleons on their return trips from the Philippines beginning in 1565. Humboldt County was formed in 1853 from parts of Trinity County. The first recorded entry by people of European origin was a landing by the Spanish in 1775.
The county derived its name from Humboldt Bay, which in turn is named after Alexander von Humboldt, a famous German naturalist. The first recorded entry of Humboldt Bay by non-natives was an 1806 visit from a sea otter hunting party from Sitka employed by the Russian American Company. The hunting party included Captain Jonathan Winship, an American, and some Aleut hunters. The bay was not visited again by people of European origin until 1849 when Josiah Gregg's party visited. In 1850, Douglas Ottinger and Hans Buhne entered the bay, naming it Humboldt in honor of the great naturalist and world explorer, Baron Alexander von Humboldt.
The area around Humboldt Bay was once solely inhabited by the Wiyot Indian tribe. One of the largest Wiyot villages, Tolowot, was located on Gunther Island (AKA Indian Island and AKA Bloody Island) in Humboldt Bay. Founded c. 900, it contains a shell midden 6 acres (24,000 m²) in size and 14 feet (4 m) deep. It was the site of the February 26, 1860 massacre of the Wiyot people that was recorded by Bret Harte, then living in Union, now called Arcata. Between 60 and 200 Wiyot men, women, and children were murdered that night. In 1998, musician Frank Black wrote and recorded a song about this event, called "Humboldt County Massacre." Tolowot is now an archaeological site, designated Gunther Island Site 67, and is a National Historic Landmark.
State historic landmarks in Humboldt County include Trinidad Head, Fort Humboldt, The Old Arrow Tree, Centerville Beach Cross, Camp Curtis, the town of Trinidad, the city of Eureka, the Sequoia Park Zoo, California's first drilled oil wells in Petrolia, the Jacoby Building, the Old Indian Village of Tsurai in Trinidad, the Arcata and Mad River Railroad Company, the Humboldt Harbor Historical District, and the town of Ferndale.
On February 5 and February 6, 1885, Eureka's entire Chinese population of 300 men and 20 women were expelled after a gunfight between rival Chinese gangs (tongs) resulted in the wounding of a 12 year old boy and the death of 56 year old David Kendall, a Eureka City Councilman. After the shooting, an angry mob of 600 Eurekans met and then informed the Chinese that they were no longer wanted in Eureka and would be hanged if they were to stay in town longer than 3 p.m. the next day. They were put on two steamships and shipped to San Francisco. No-one was killed in the expulsion. Another Chinese expulsion occurred during 1906 in a cannery on the Eel River, in which 23 Chinese cannery workers were expelled after local loggers objected to their presence. However, some Chinese remained in the Orleans area, where some white landowners sheltered and purchased food for the Chinese mineworkers until after racial tension passed. Chinese did not return to the coastal cities until the 1950s.