North Fork

In 1870, William and Catherine Johnson moved here from their earlier ranch and station, reestablishing their station on the road to Cope (Mountain City) along the North Fork of the Humboldt River. Johnson Station became a stop on the daily stage, where travelers could find food and lodging. Others joined the Johnson family by the end of the 1870s, and in 1880 North Fork had a population of 13. As additional ranches and cattle operations developed around the area, a small town formed. By 1889, the town of North Fork had grown to support a post office, hotel, saloon, grocery store, stage station, school, and population on 75. The 1890s brought a new stage station operated by Manuel Larios and a lumber mill.

By 1900, 122 people lived at North Fork. The Johnson family completed a fine new house in 1901, and in 1906 a stone store was completed by Bill Maloney. After Catherine Johnson's death in 1908, her daughter Lillian took over ranching operations as well as the position of postmistress (which she maintained until the post office closed in 1944). Lillian married Chester Laing in 1912, and Laing and Percy Royals ran the store and built a new dance hall.

As stage traffic declined and automotive traffic increased, the store and saloon continued to operate. In the 1930s, the Laings built the North Fork Mercantile. By 1934, the Mercantile was the last business in North Fork when it was robbed and subsequently burned. Nevertheless, ranching continues at North Fork. In July 1947, all ranches in the area except the Saval Ranch were purchased by Bing Crosby and combined to form his PX Ranch. Unfortunately, the Johnson Ranch house was destroyed by fire in December 1953. In November 1958, Crosby sold his holdings which have since passed through several hands. Today, two ruined buildings remain at North Fork next to a highway maintenance station, and a large barn remains at the old Johnson Ranch.

I Visited North Fork
5.16.2020

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