Incorporated in 1888, Lakeport is Lake County’s oldest town. However, Lakeport’s history dates back at least another 40 years to the Gold Rush Era of the 1840s. Miners coming and going through Northern California gold fields began passing through Lake County as early as 1847. At the conclusion of the Gold Rush, many miners returned to the County to settle permanently.
With attractive farmland, temperate climate, and an abundant water supply, pioneers began staking their claims at the northeast end of Clear Lake in the 1850s. Among them was William Forbes, credited by County historians as being the “father” of Lakeport. Forbes was the first person in the County to settle in what would eventually become Lakeport and became the first undertaker, served as the settlement’s postmaster for a number of years, and with partner James Parish founded the first business in Lakeport—a blacksmithing and wagon making shop.
Originally named “Forbestown” after Forbes, Lakeport was initially a part of Napa County. In 1861, after the settlement broke away from Napa, Forbes deeded 40 acres of his land to the local government in exchange for Forbestown becoming the County seat. Soon after the acceptance of the offer, a two-story wooden courthouse and separate jailhouse were constructed on Main Street between Second and Third. Following the approval of Forbestown to become the County seat came another change. At the suggestion of Woods Crawford, an attorney, the town’s name was officially changed from Forbestown to Lakeport to recognize the natural port on Clear Lake.
In 1867, the original County courthouse burned to the ground in a fire that was later attributed by many to be arson. Shortly after, the County seat was moved to the south of the County in Lower Lake. In a series of hotly contested events that followed this move, the County seat was eventually returned back to Lakeport by a vote of the people in 1871.
By 1888, Lakeport had grown from the first settler, William Forbes, to a town of about 700 residents with an estimated 500 people living in the outlying areas. The downtown area of Lakeport had also grown to include a drug store, general store, bakery, restaurant, and a saloon. In all, 35 businesses operated in the town, with three doctors and several dentists and attorneys holding practices in Lakeport as well.
On April 30, 1888, Lakeport officially became an incorporated town by a vote of 154-8. Up until March 17, 1952, Lakeport continued to operate as an incorporated town when an ordinance was passed declaring the area a city.