There is tradition associated with all three. Ferndale is the original name applied to the farm , which became the community, founded by Seth Louis Shaw in the spring of 1852. By autumn he had built himself a cabin at the foot of the Wildcat, and mid-winter found his crude home filled with adventurers who came across the Eel River Valley from Table Bluff to see what Shaw, and his artist brother, Stephen William, had found for themselves.
While the artist left, the farmer remained. His crops were successful and Ferndale came into being. Other homes within a short time began to appear. The original Shaw home is now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Frank Ford. It is a spectacular piece of architecture, completed around 186S. It sits serenely in the company of many other older homes- Victorian vintage types- thus, “Victorian Village.”
Ferndale and its vicinity was found to be ideal for dairying. Buttermaking was a major pursuit of the settler. Then came the creameries and an industrialized approach, fine dairy herds, good management. Thus,”The Cream City.” While Ferndale enjoys tradition, it approves and participates in progress. It is the gateway to a great Southwestern Humboldt County filled with landmarks, recreation, and good living.
Shortly after 1900 many of the small creameries consolidated into larger creameries. The Central Creamery, located on north Main Street, became the mother plant of the Golden State Creamery, one of the largest in the state. (‘Challenge’ brand dairy products are from the remaining cooperative creamery, the Humboldt Creamery in Fernbridge.)
Ferndale’s pioneer creameries were responsible for a number of innovations in dairy processing and dairy management which helped revolutionize the dairy industry.
The first farm produce shipped from Ferndale was hauled by wagon to Centerville Beach, four miles west, and from there transferred to vessels anchored offshore. Through the efforts of a pioneer settler, J.G. Kenyon, docks and warehouses were built at Port Kenyon, two miles northwest on the Salt River. The Eel River had proved navigable as early as 1850 when a schooner had mistakenly crossed the Eel River bar while searching for the entrance to Humboldt Bay. The vessel Whitelaw was commissioned to make regular runs between San Francisco and Ferndale. It was followed by other ships which made Ferndale a regular port of call, carrying mail, passengers and cargo.
Like many rural towns of the late 19th century, Ferndale had its own racetrack on the northern edge of town. It was used for spirited local horse racing contests, fairs, and, on several occasions, was host to county agricultural exhibits. In 1897 it became the permanent home of the Humboldt County Fair, the longest uninterrupted county fair in California.