Humboldt State University: Why it is, where it is

By Steven Bentley
Flapjack Chronicle

Humboldt State has roots greater than what the student population is aware of.  The hundredth anniversary seems a good time to reflect on why this university was placed in the historical land of the redwoods in Arcata, California.

Qinjin Yang, a student participant for the university documentary on Humboldt State’s history, gave detailed information regarding the trial and tribulations, as well as the process and reasoning to how this successful university was made possible.

“First off, Humboldt County was financially a wonderful place to build a college in 1913,” Yang said. “Arcata especially had made huge contributions of finances and land, in the hopes of getting a college to be placed in their town.  They were the one community to be fully on board and willing to do whatever to make this dream a reality.

“They even tried to provide funding for the school even before the state was on board and ready to make their decision on the matter.”

That right there was enough to have the California Legislature approve a measure to create Humboldt State, signed by the then Governor Hiram Johnson.

During these twilight years, new rationales had been put in place for teacher training, and sixty percent of the teachers in this area were not certified.  The nearest school to Northern California was all the way in Oregon, and back in the early 1900’s this created more than a journey for most civilians around.  The want to grant teachers a place to utilize their talents for our youths benefit was granted by way of this university’s location.

Professor Gayle Raymer, an 18-year veteran in the Humboldt State history department, also gave her two cents on the history of this great university, as well as how the establishment of a California State school was placed in the upper north coast of California. Raymer said the university’s location was a pragmatic decision.

“Arcata had a particular ability to be able to attract certain people to the area, something that has enhanced both the town and community,” Raymer said. “Today’s student population has economically grown this town into a more secure and well known place of residency, something which was started by the townspeople back in early 1913.  In addition, the physical attractions of and around Arcata made this venue the perfect spot to host a university.  Our beautiful coastline and redwoods were used as selling points for the school, and luckily enough, this area has consistently brought in thousands of students throughout the past centennial.”

The obvious seemed to be echoing around Humboldt County: Arcata was undoubtedly the most secure and stable town in which to build a top tier university.

The method of persuading the state to build a campus in the north coast involved acts of kindness and deeds.  The towns of Eureka, Fortuna and Arcata constantly debated over whose city would best support a university.  Each city provided reasoning as to why they were the best to be able to provide and help create a college type atmosphere to handle many, many students.  Though they knew the future would bring more students there way, thinking ahead helped create a sense of urgency for those vying to land a university in their own settlement.  This led to the 1913 Eureka Chamber of Commerce to put a plan into action.

In 1913, Eureka was one of the largest west coast cities between San Francisco and Portland, Oregon.  Around the early 1900’s, Eureka was also a huge region of government and trade.  This, along with a booming lumber mill industry underway, seemed for many to be a great place to get and education.  The attraction to the North Coast was in full swing.

When asked about his thoughts as to why Humboldt State is located where it is, Connor Waggoner, a senior student athlete had much to say.

“I think it’s based solely off the great community we are surrounded by here in Arcata and also the culture and environment around this fantastic university.”


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