Kibesillah is pronounced cab-huh-silluh. Depending who you talk to the name is either from the Pomo words Kabe (rock) and sila (flat) or it means “Head of the Valley”. Kibesillah was known as “The Mother of Fort Bragg”.
For a short time Kibesillah was one of the most important of the early north coast towns. It was first settled in the 1860’s and in 1867 the first business, a blacksmith shop was established. In its prime it had twenty to thirty buildings including three hotels, three saloons, a public school and a Baptist Church. Nothing of these is left – not even a sign to say where Kibesillah is located.
Kibesillah had a chute that loaded, posts cordwood and tanbark. These products came from a mill located just to its south in Newport. The mill in Newport was owned by Calvin Stewart and James Hunter which was destroyed by fire in 1877. The mill was rebuilt in 1878 and it had a 25,000 foot per day capacity. The company owned 2,000 acres of timberland, but much of it was inaccessible to the technology of the time.
In 1882 C.R. Johnson bought an interest in their mill. Three years later the mill was moved to Fort Bragg where Stewart, Hunter and Johnson founded the Fort Bragg Redwood Company. With all the jobs gone the citizens of Kibesillah had little choice to follow the jobs to Fort Bragg hence why it was called “the Mother of Fort Bragg”. Only a few ranchers remained.
The public school was there from 1898 when there were twenty-five pupils. By 1921 enrollment was down to seven and there five in 1923 and the school closed in 1928.
One memorable thing about Kibesillah was that it had its own newspaper, the North Coast Review. It only lasted two years. It was one of the many papers on the coast owned by William Heeser, the publisher of the Mendocino Beacon.
Reminiscences – Early Days on The Coast, A True Account of Fort Bragg, Kibbisillah & Vicinity
Published by the Mendocino County Historical Society, Inc. in 1970
This booklet was originally published in the Fort Bragg News and is dated December 12, 1919. However some of the few pictures are of a later time. The typed booklet gives a detailed anecdotal account of why Kibbisillah (note the different spelling to ours) is/was called the mother of Fort Bragg. There are many interesting anecdotes viz. On a Government map made in 1855 Pudding Creek was named "Duff River". The name became Pudding Creek, the booklet says, because "Duff" was the name of a sailor's pudding (plum duff) and the river was more of a creek and over a period of 50 years the name came to be Pudding Creek. C.R Johnson (the owner of the Union Lumber Company) is mentioned many times and he comes across as a very fair man with a strong sense of civic responsibility.