Early Fortuna Businesses

The Fortuna Electric Light Works

Fortuna was the first point outside Eureka to introduce the electric light, although Scotia had provided a plant to be serviceable in mill work before Fortuna took the step.

The Fortuna Electric Light Works.

Fortuna Merchandising Company was an important business place. Before the store are (left to right) W. J. Swortzel, Ed Holman, James Walsh, son Emory, Pete Anderson, E. W. Haight, A. C. Edson and Bob Wise.

We quote the 1896 edition of the Eel Valley Advance newspaper:

"Two and a half years ago We are quoting an article in the 1896 edition of the Eel Valley Advance newspaper. [1883] Swortzel & Williams decided to light the town by electricity and a plant costing $4,000 was put in. The natural spirit of progressiveness which has characterized the career of these gentlemen dictated that in furnishing a cheap and safe light for their manufactories they could also light the town without great additional expense. The wise decision was carried into effect and the people of Fortuna are now enjoying as good, if not better electric light as that furnished in Eureka, and at one third the price charged at any other point in the state. At this date [1896] the Fortuna company is supplying 600 incandescent lights, and scattered as they are from Rohner Creek on the east almost to the river on the west and from the base of Christian Ridge on the north to the town limits on the south, the showing on a dark night is a novel one, to say the least."

"The power for the electric plant is furnished separate and distinct from that used in the mill, with the exception of the boilers. While many prefer a kerosene lamp light to the electric, all are ready to acknowledge that danger from explosion and fire is averted in the use of the latter. Eureka, Scotia, Fortuna, Arcata and Ferndale have adopted the electric in the order given. There is reason to hope and believe that within a year after the change in business conditions comes the Fortuna electric light company will be supplying double the number of burners now in use."

"An incident in connection with one wayfarer's appreciation of Fortuna's electric plant will bear repeating: A lone and worn out pilgrim from San Francisco, who had made the overland trip over bad roads in a buggy, and was intent on reaching Fortuna that night, passed through Rohnerville at a late hour in the evening. The darkness intensified after he passed the later town, was so intense, in fact, that he could not see his horse. Of course he proceeded slowly, every now and then lighting a match to be certain he was in the road. He remembered crossing a bridge—at Manon's [Strong's Creek]—and that the darkness grew blacker. While straining his eyes and hoping to avert a land wreck, the pendant electric lights which do service along Fortuna's principal street throughout the night came into view and he knew what they meant. In relating the incident the pilgrim acknowledged that his heart never before rose in his throat as suddenly as it did in the gloom of that winter night when he discovered Fortuna's electric lights close ahead. They are a beacon for all the country round when the fog fights aby."

Next: Fortuna's Lady Postmaster


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