Before the arrival of European settlers, the Port Orford area was inhabited by Tututni people.The Tututni languages were a part of the Pacific Coast Athabaskan language family.
The First European settlers, led by Captain William Tichenor, arrived in 1851. Tichenor, needing to return to the north for supplies, left a group of nine men behind. However, members of the local Qua-to mah tribe reacted with hostility to the newcomers, who were encroaching on their territory. Taking up a position on a nearby seastack, now known as Battle Rock, the settlers were attacked by a band of more than 100 Qua-to-mahs. Twenty-three natives were killed, and two of Tichenor’s men were wounded in the ensuing conflict. Soon afterward, a truce was called between the two groups, when the settlers told the natives that they would be leaving in 14 days. For the next two weeks, the settlers did not see any members of the local tribe. However, after the 14th day, an even larger band of natives than the first attacked. During the battle, the chief of the tribe was killed. Retreating with their dead chief, the tribe set up camp nearby. The settlers soon fled north under cover of darkness.
Port Orford was formally founded in 1856. It would serve as a receiving port for mercantile and fishing. The port district was formally set up more than 50 years later, in 1911, and the town became a shipping port for local Port Orford Cedar (Chamaecyparis_lawsoniana). The port was sold in 1935, but brought back in 1957. Eventually, Port Orford saw a decline in fishing and the shipping of timber ceased.