In 1845, Mexico awarded English sea captain William Richardson a large land grant, stretching along the California coast from Mal Paso Creek to Big River (encompassing the land between the present-day towns of Elk and Mendocino). Captain Richardson had partly earned this prize by marrying the daughter of the Mexican Commandant of Yerba Buena (present-day San Francisco). By 1853 Richardson had built, in the middle of this tract, a home and sawmill alongside a narrow river estuary. He named the spot Albion, after the ancient name for his homeland.
Richardson's sawmill was the first to begin operation along the Redwood Coast. It was powered by a tide-driven water wheel, which would operate whether the tide was coming in or going out. Unfortunately, the mill was destroyed by ocean waves during its first winter. Richardson rebuilt the mill the following year, steam-driven this time, but lost all his land that same year when the U.S. Land Commission refused to recognize his Mexican title.
A sawmill would continue to operate at this location over the next 75 years. By 1861 a hotel, livery stable, and mercantile store were also in operation. Miles Standish (a direct descendant of the famous pilgrim) and Henry Hickey purchased the lumber company in 1891. Southern Pacific Railroad bought the operation in 1907 in order to provide redwood ties for railroads they were building in Mexico. They expanded the small logging railroad in the area, extending lines inland to Comptche and the deep end of Anderson Valley. The mill eventually closed down in 1928, and the railroad halted operation in 1930.
The Albion River Bridge was built in 1944. Due to the wartime effort, steel and concrete were unavailable, so the bridge was constructed with salvaged wood. It remains in service as the last wooden bridge along the Coast Highway.
Today, the wild lands of Albion extend from just north of the town all the way south to the Navarro River. Two main ridges reach back to the east, Albion Ridge and Navarro Ridge, and are home to many Mendocino Coast locals. A portion of the North Coast's ecologically unique Pygmy Forest is found inland on the Albion Ridge. In a matter of minutes one can travel from the ocean bluffs, through the Pygmy forest, and on to the deep redwood glades.
Quaint homes, perched high above the river, enjoy breathtaking views of the boat slips and fishing docks below, the historic wooden bridge spanning the river, and the everchanging Pacific beyond. A small commercial fishing fleet still operates out of the harbor. In town, a full-service grocery store, hardware store, video/music store, and post office serve residents.
People who enjoy the quiet beauty of this area, coupled with the nearby convenience of Mendocino and Fort Bragg, like to call Albion home.