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. Mr. Forbes, along with partner James Parish, founded the first business in Lakeport—a blacksmithing and wagon making shop. Forbes and other early Lakeport merchants are listed in the 1867 Pacific Coast Business Directory. He also became the town's first undertaker and served as the local postmaster for a number of years.
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. The 1870 Federal Census includes interesting information about Lakeport's early residents, including details about occupations, birthplaces and personal net worth.
According to McKenney's District Directory of 1878-1879, Lakeport was "the most desirable residence town that has ever presented itself to our observation." The Directory linked above includes a detailed census of the town, including approximately 280 residents and numerous businesses. The directory includes many familiar names as numerous streets and roads in the Lakeport area bear the names of these early pioneers including Ackley, Boggs, Forbes, Hendricks, Renfro, Russell, Tunis, Starr, and Spurr.
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. Lakeport remained the only incorporated town/city in Lake County until 1980. Up until March 1952, Lakeport continued to operate as an incorporated town when Ordinance No. 327 was passed declaring the community a city.
More Lake County History Resources:
- Lake County Historical Society
- Lake County Library / Genealogy & Local History
- Lake County, CA Genealogy
- Lake County, CA GenWeb Project