Local History

Westport Community History

I took time in 2012 to write a community history of the local area around Westport, California. After years working with members of the local community gathering historical information such as photographs and oral histories, I volunteered to write a new local history that was published in October through a joint venture between the Kelley House Museum and the Westport Village Society. The resulting book published as Volume 26 of the Mendocino Historical Review (119 pp; 111 figures; 9 tables) can now be purchased from the Westport Village Society (P.O. Box 446, Westport CA 95488) for a $15.00 donation, plus $3.00 for shipping by media mail.

Several prior books covered aspects of local history, but those accounts have given little attention to the perspectives of groups such as Native Americans, other minorities, and common people. My goal was to explore the full historical record from the time people first arrived in the local area about 15 millennia ago. I also wanted to create a multi-vocal history, based on the conviction that there is no one "true" version of history but instead many points of view. My history differs from earlier efforts in another way. I compare diverse sources of information such as census records, land grants, maps, photographs, and oral history to evaluate and reconcile biases. Some of that source material is made available below.

I focused on a theme that provides the story line for this new history. I did so in part because I believe history can and should be more compelling than a large collection of unanalyzed details. I wanted to reveal the forest, not just the trees. The theme I used to tell this history of the Westport region is the evolution of coastal communities and landscapes. It is a story about relationships: between people and the local landscape; and among the many waves of immigrants who came to call this place home. Human relationships with the environment have compelling interest today because they are so relevant to our survival in the coming years. There is something valuable to be learned from the different approaches and attitudes that have characterized past interactions with this local environment. Similarly, the contention, conflict, and tolerance that have at various times characterized interactions among immigrant groups hold other lessons.

I also mapped the Westport Cemetery with the help of Nic Grosjean using GPS, recording every monument. The mapping and words on each monument are available below. Each monument was also photographed and copies of those images can be requested by contacting me. Collectively, I developed the following resources to assist you in learning more about Westport history.

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Spreadsheet of Federal Population Census Data, 1850-1930
Spreadsheet of local people/businesses listed in various19th century directories
Spreadsheet of known local shipwrecks compiled from various sources
Spreadsheet of land patents, claimants, and grant dates
Spreadsheet listing people buried in all local cemeteries (from historical data)
Westport Cemetery Inventory (2015 list; see also maps of monuments and plots)
Westport Cemetery map of plots
Westport Cemetery map of monuments