|City of Willits|
|• Total||2.803 sq mi (7.260 km2)|
|• Land||2.798 sq mi (7.248 km2)|
|• Water||0.005 sq mi (0.013 km2) 0.17%|
|Elevation||1,391 ft (424 m)|
|• Density||1,700/sq mi (670/km2)|
|Time zone||PST (UTC-8)|
|• Summer (DST)||PDT (UTC-7)|
|GNIS feature ID||1652654|
Willits (formerly, Little Lake and Willitsville) is a city in Mendocino County, California, United States. Willits is located 20 miles (32 km) north-northwest of Ukiah, at an elevation of 1391 feet (424 m). The population was 4,888 at the 2010 census, down from 5,073 at the 2000 census. Willits is at the center of Mendocino County and at the beginning of the county's extensive redwood forests as approached by Highway 101 from the south. An arch donated to the city by Reno, Nevada in 1995 stands in the center of town and displays Willits' slogans "Heart of Mendocino County" and "Gateway to the Redwoods." The Sherwood Valley Rancheria of Pomo Indians of California is headquartered in Willits.
Geography and environment
Located at the center of Mendocino County in the Little Lake Valley, 20 miles (32 km) north of Ukiah on U.S. Route 101 (otherwise known as the Redwood Highway). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.8 square miles (7.3 km2), 99.83% of it land.
The mountains to the west cause Willits to have a cool winter and hot summer climate. Average January temperatures range from 18.7 °F (−7.4 °C) to 54.9 °F (12.7 °C). Average July temperatures range from 47.3 °F (8.5 °C) to 85.3 °F (29.6 °C). There are an average of 34.5 days with highs of 90 °F (32 °C) or higher, and an average of 80.3 days with lows of 32 °F (0 °C) or lower. The record maximum temperature was 118 °F (48 °C) on June 30, 2005, and the record minimum temperature was 3 °F (−16 °C) on December 9, 1972.
Annual precipitation averages 51.00 inches (1,295 mm). The wettest year on record was 1983 with 91.58 inches (2,326 mm) and the driest year on record was 1985 with 30.31 inches (770 mm). The maximum precipitation in one month was 31.41 inches (798 mm) in December 1964. The maximum precipitation in 24 hours was 8.80 inches (224 mm) on December 22, 1964. There are an average of 94 days with measurable precipitation.
There are occasional snow falls in Willits each year, with an average of 3.7 inches (94 mm) of snow annually. The most snow in one month was 20.0 inches (510 mm) in December 1964.
History and culture
Hiram Willits arrived from Indiana in 1857 to settle in the Little Lake Valley. Kirk Brier founded the settlement on Willits' land. Willits was originally called Willitsville. Later, when the post office opened in 1861 it was called Little Lake. The name changed to Willits in 1874. Willits incorporated in 1888.
The city is the eastern terminus of the California Western Railroad (otherwise known as the "Skunk Train"), running through the Coast Redwood forests to coastal Fort Bragg. The old redwood Willits Depot was built in 1915 by the Northwestern Pacific Railroad, a subsidiary of the Southern Pacific. It is registered as a National Historic Place.
Every July, Willits hosts the Frontier Days & Rodeo, the oldest continuous rodeo and Independence Day celebration in California. It is also home to the Roots of Motive Power Locomotive Museum and the Mendocino County Museum.
The Willits area is the final home of the racehorse Seabiscuit. Ridgewood Ranch, where Seabiscuit trained, recuperated, lived out his retirement and was buried, is located a few miles south of the city.
Willits High School is located on the north end of Willits. It is the home of the Wolverines.
Some notable names from Willits include Judi Bari, labour leader and environmental activist who fought to save the Redwoods. Over 1,000 people attended her Willits funeral in 1997. Tré Cool, drummer for Green Day, lived in Willits during his teen years (1980's). Mona Gnader, the bass player for Sammy Hagar also resided in Willits. Although the band Tommy Tutone is usually referred to as "a San Francisco band", they were located in Willits at the time that their enduring hit single "Jenny (867-5309)" was released. Hal Wagenet, guitarist for the band It's A Beautiful Day in their early years, is a graduate of Willits High School. The folk singer Jeff Buckley spent a year at Willits High School. Liquid Ginger guitarist and film industry personality C.J. Perrine, also known as Charles (Chuck) Curtis, is from Willits. Stagecoach bandit Charles Bolles (aka Black Bart) stole multiple Wells Fargo boxes and mail from stagecoaches traveling through Willits. Technical death metal bands Embryonic Devourment & Hellusinit also come from Willits.
During the 1950s, seascape painter Marshall Merritt maintained a studio in Willits.
Beginning in 1996, the city and many residents became embroiled in lawsuits against the Whitman Corporation (later acquired by PepsiCo, Inc.), alleging that hexavalent chromium pollution left by the Remco Hydraulics chrome plating plant, which was owned by Whitman and operated in Willits from 1964–1995, is responsible for a host of local health problems. Litigator Erin Brockovich, known for the eponymous movie about her work in a similar case, participated in a lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs. As of 2012 it appeared that the last remaining lawsuits were nearing final resolution.
Five miles east of Willits, the San Francisco Bay Area Council of the Boy Scouts Of America operates a 2,200-acre (8.9 km2) camp named Wente Scout Reservation. Previously known as Willits Scout Ranch, the camp in 1984 "saved" the town of Willits during an emergency water crisis by releasing 20,000 acre feet (25,000,000 m3) of water from their private lake into the town's water system.
Willits is also home to classical guitar luthier Gregory Byers.
The Little Lake Election Day Shootout of 1867
Little Lake was the scene of a legendary family feud between the Frost and Coates families. The Frost family supported the South during the war, and the Coates family supported the Union. Both families were passionate in their beliefs. On October 16, 1867, Election Day, the long-running feud came to a head. A brawl turned into a shootout in front of Baechtel’s store, leaving Abraham Coates, Henry Coates, Albert Coates, Thomas Coates and Elisha Frost dead on the street. Three others were wounded.
Triple Lynching of 1879
Elijah Frost, who had witnessed the death of his father in the Little Lake Election Day Shootout of 1867, grew up to be a criminal. Sentenced to four years in San Quentin Prison for horse theft, Elijah was released after serving thirty-two months. Teaming up with prison buddies Abijah Gibson and Thomas McCracken, the trio terrorized the residents of Willits, California. The men committed petty thievery, break-ins, random assaults, and senseless vandalism. They enjoyed shooting their pistols in the air while drunk and generally made a nuisance of themselves to the people of Willits. In September 1879, the trio were caught stealing a set of harnesses and were taken to Brown’s Hotel where they were put in shackles while waiting for the circuit judge to come to Willits on September 4, 1879. The townspeople were terrified that the men would be released and decided to take matters into their own hands. During the early morning hours of September 4, 1879, a group of masked men seized the prisoners and marched them to a nearby bridge. Silently, the vigilantes put nooses around the their necks and pushed them off the bridge. Their bodies dangled there until the next afternoon.
2010 Census data
The 2010 United States Census reported that Willits had a population of 4,888. The population density was 1,743.7 people per square mile (673.3/km²). The racial makeup of Willits was 3,862 (79.0%) White, 34 (0.7%) African American, 216 (4.4%) Native American, 68 (1.4%) Asian, 5 (0.1%) Pacific Islander, 479 (9.8%) from other races, and 224 (4.6%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1,008 persons (20.6%).
The Census reported that 4,794 people (98.1% of the population) lived in households, 52 (1.1%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 42 (0.9%) were institutionalized.
There were 1,914 households, out of which 667 (34.8%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 693 (36.2%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 320 (16.7%) had a female householder with no husband present, 143 (7.5%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 163 (8.5%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 11 (0.6%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 609 households (31.8%) were made up of individuals and 281 (14.7%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.50. There were 1,156 families (60.4% of all households); the average family size was 3.13.
The population dispersal was 1,270 people (26.0%) under the age of 18, 412 people (8.4%) aged 18 to 24, 1,191 people (24.4%) aged 25 to 44, 1,273 people (26.0%) aged 45 to 64, and 742 people (15.2%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37.8 years. For every 100 females there were 90.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.1 males. There were 2,073 housing units at an average density of 739.5 per square mile (285.5/km²), of which 843 (44.0%) were owner-occupied, and 1,071 (56.0%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 2.5%; the rental vacancy rate was 4.3%. 2,215 people (45.3% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 2,579 people (52.8%) lived in rental housing units.
2000 Census data
As of the census of 2000, there were 5,073 people, 1,935 households, and 1,230 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,813.7 people per square mile (699.5/km²). There were 2,013 housing units at an average density of 719.7 per square mile (277.6/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 4,247 (83.72%) White, 32 (0.63%) African American, 179 (3.53%) Native American, 59 (1.2%) Asian, 2 (0.04%) Pacific Islander, 359 (7.08%) from other races, and 195 (3.84%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race numbered 745, or 14.69% of the population.
There were 1,935 households out of which 35.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.2% were married couples living together, 17.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.4% were non-families. 30.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.56 and the average family size was 3.15.
In the city the population dispersal was 29.2% under the age of 18, 8.5% from 18 to 24, 25.9% from 25 to 44, 22.6% from 45 to 64, and 14.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 90.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.6 males. The median income for a household in the city was $26,283, and the median income for a family was $36,193. Males had a median income of $30,983 versus $22,089 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,642. About 11.6% of families and 14.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.0% of those under age 18 and 4.3% of those age 65 or over.
- U.S. Census
- U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Willits, California
- Durham, David L. (1998). California's Geographic Names: A Gazetteer of Historic and Modern Names of the State. Quill Driver Books. p. 168. ISBN 9781884995149.
- Western Regional Climate Center
- Hogle, Gene NAC Green Book of Pacific Coast Touring (1931) National Automobile Club p.45
- Willits Depot
- http://nrhp.focus.nps.gov/natregsearchresult.do?fullresult=true&recordid=0[dead link]
- http://www.blackbart.com/robberies.html[dead link]
- Lazarus, David (March 31, 2000). "A Town Diseased and Torn / Willits split on whether illnesses are due to chemicals left by shuttered plant". The San Francisco Chronicle.
- Williams, Linda (October 12, 2012). "Remco lawsuit nearing an end". The Willits News.
- Secrest, William B. (2005). California Feuds: Vengeance, Vendettas and Violence on the Old West Coast. Word Dancer Press. P.121 ISBN 1-884995-42-X
- Kulczyk, David. (2008). California Justice – Shootouts, Lynchings and Assassinations in the Golden State. Word Dancer Press. P 37 ISBN 1-884995-54-3
- All data are derived from the United States Census Bureau reports from the 2010 United States Census, and are accessible on-line here. The data on unmarried partnerships and same-sex married couples are from the Census report DEC_10_SF1_PCT15. All other housing and population data are from Census report DEC_10_DP_DPDP1. Both reports are viewable online or downloadable in a zip file containing a comma-delimited data file. The area data, from which densities are calculated, are available on-line here. Percentage totals may not add to 100% due to rounding. The Census Bureau defines families as a household containing one or more people related to the householder by birth, opposite-sex marriage, or adoption. People living in group quarters are tabulated by the Census Bureau as neither owners nor renters. For further details, see the text files accompanying the data files containing the Census reports mentioned above.
- "Historical Census Populations of Places, Towns, and Cities in California, 1850-2000". California Dept. of Finance. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- Private-sector employers - Mendocino County
- "Senators". State of California. Retrieved March 10, 2013.
- "Members Assembly". State of California. Retrieved March 2, 2013.
- "California's 2nd Congressional District - Representatives & District Map". Civic Impulse, LLC. Retrieved March 1, 2013.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Willits, California.|
- Willits Chamber of Commerce
- Willits High School
- California Western Railroad - "The Skunk Train"
- Mendocino County Museum
- Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation - tours of Ridgewood Ranch
- Roots of Motive Power Locomotive Museum
- Willits Library
- Article discussing high rate of cancer in residents of Willits due to hexavalent chromium poisoning by Remco/Abex
- Wente Scout Reservation
- Welcome to Willits