Long before Fortuna was known as "The Friendly City," the unincorporated town was called Slide and later named Springville. In 1874, the town was named Slide because of the huge slides in the area which the present-day bowling alley now occupies. A year later, the town's name was changed to Springville due to the construction of the Springville Mill, named so because of the numerous local natural springs. Springville was a company owned town and the few people that resided there all worked for the mill.
As the town of Springville continued to thrive, William McKinney decided to build the Star Hotel in honor of the Starr brothers. McKinney was impressed with the brothers because they kept a herd of elk in a fenced area in town, which was probably the town's source of meat at that time. The old Star Hotel building is now the location of Green's Pharmacy on Main Street.
In 1884, the Springville residents sent a petition to the state legislature that asked that the town's name be changed once more to Fortuna. It is unsure who officially decided upon the name Fortuna, meaning fortune. On July 3, 1888, the town and post office were officially named Fortuna. The town quickly grew into its name "fortune" due to its excellent location between the redwood forests, the mighty Pacific Ocean and the lush Eel River Valley.
After Fortuna was incorporated on Feb. 20, 1906, the town established itself as a growing community with a city council, a night watchman and a fire and water committee. The town became known for its agricultural excellence in its vegetable crops, berries and fruits and fish from the Eel River, although it was the lumbering that put Fortuna on the map.
The lumber mills that had first established Fortuna as a mill town regulated Fortuna's growth, and the area became more populated as the town became more prosperous. People moved to Fortuna with the prospect of good jobs and a genuine town in which to raise their families.
The railroad revolutionized not only the lumber industry, but also the town itself.
In 1891, a railroad depot was started, and by late 1914 Fortuna was a regular stop between Eureka and San Francisco. The railroad gave Fortuna a direct link to the rest of the world as it allowed travelers easy access to the area. Trains also became the fastest way for mail to be transported between towns.
The railroad put Fortuna in a perfect situation by having the rail line to town as well as having local roads to Ferndale and other towns to the north and south. By having connections in every direction, Fortuna began to grow and the other smaller towns in the area began to lose their prestige. People even began to take the train to Fortuna instead of taking the ocean steamers to Eureka. The old railroad depot is now a free museum in Rohner Park that chronicles Fortuna's railroad history and its contributions to the town.
Since Fortuna's first beginnings in the 1800's it has proven its name as "The Friendly City" to be true. There is no doubt that this name will carry on far into the town's future of fortune.
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