Sonoma Mountains

A Look Inside the History of Sonoma County California

We are working hard to get our newest American County Histories collection – The West – online. New this month is the History of Sonoma County California with Biographical Sketches.

This volume was written by Tom Gregory and published by the California Historic Record Company  in 1911. Gregory’s efforts focused on “The leading men and women of the County, who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the present time.”


Tom GregoryWhen I sought to collect material for a story of Sonoma I soon found myself reaching out into the history proper of California. Every trail leading to this county runs back into the earlier times of the state. The Spanish-American settlement of Sonoma was planned in the City of Mexico. The coming to Sonoma of the Mission San Francisco de Solano can be traced backward through San Rafael, Dolores, San Jose, Santa Clara, Carmelo and kindred institutions to the southern end of Alta California.

Sonoma began at San Diego, the first adobe laid in 1769, the last in 1823 completing the rosary of the missions. Territorial records having their opening chapters in Our City of the Angels, had their ending in Sonoma. The various governments sitting at various capitals marked Sonoma a key position on the line of the northern frontier. The legislative events occurring in Monterey were soon manifest in Sonoma.

The first statesman of the California political period was the Comandante of Sonoma. When plotting officials snarled and wrangled from San Jose to San Diego they in turn sought the adherence of Sonoma; and when these same plotters were preparing to hand this logical-territory of the Great Republic over to the tenderness and the tenaciousness of an European protectorate, the little game largely was blocked by that same Mexican military commander of Sonoma. When Fremont, advised by Benton at Washington, collected the American settlers for the first strike, they struck at Sonoma; and Commodore Sloat, U. S. N., raised the Stars and Stripes over the country only after he had heard of the Bear Flag at Sonoma.

Sonoma — Wonderland of this Wondrous State — Masterpiece of creative power, a garden-place of fruitage and bloom — true domain of Luther Burbank, birthplace of the Flag of the Golden West. There is no corner within her mountain walls that is not stamped with the golden pages of California’s living history. If this indifferent story of Sonoma were worthy, it would be dedicated to her greatest historical character him who sleeps at Lachryma Montis.

Tom Gregory
Santa Rosa, 1911.

The Old Adobe

Table of Contents

  • Map of SonomaCHAPTER I: SONOMA • VALLEY OF THE MOON — Fitting Indian Title • The Fair Amazonian “Califa” • Empire Between River and Bay Between Mountain and Sea • The Beginning by Cabrillo at San Diego • Telling the Rosary of the Missions • San Francisco de Solano.
  • CHAPTER II: SONOMA ENTERS CALIFORNIA HISTORY — Five Flags Have Waved Here • Sir Francis Drake and New Albion • Russians Come Hunting Sea Otters • Bodega and His Bay • Greek and Roman Crosses On Sonoma Soil.
  • CHAPTER III: HIDDEN IN THE COAST RANGE — Vegas and Mesas of Never-Failing Fertility • Two Means of Temperature Walk Hand in Hand • Where the Poppy Yellows the Plain • Kingdom of Luther Burbank • St. Helena, the Mother Mountain of the Sonoma Hills.
  • CHAPTER IV: CONCEPCION AND HER RUSSIAN LOVER — An Imaginary Spanish Snub Brings the Moscovians Down the Coast • “Pioneer Squatters” of California • Early “Boom” Price of Sonoma Real Estate • Harvesting the Sea and Shore.
  • CHAPTER V: EL FUERTE DE LOS RUSOS — Fierce Letter-War Between Madrid and St. Petersburg via Intermediate Points • “Hold the Fort” • Shipbuilding in Sonoma • How the Gringos Came • The Russians Go.
  • CHAPTER VI: CAPTAIN SUTTER ABSORBS THE RUSSIAN REALTY — A Secret Land Deal • The Gun of Austerlitz • Valhalla Becomes “Wolholler” • Fort Ross Dismantled.
  • CHAPTER VII: THE SPANIARD REACHES SONOMA — At “The Point of the Creeks” • Planting the Mission Faith and the Mission Grapes • Stripping the Padres • The “Pious Fund” • Pueblo Sonoma.
  • CHAPTER VIII: MARIANO GUADALUPE VALLEJO — Premier Californian and First American Citizen of the New State • A Patriot and Advocate of Annexation to the United States.
  • CHAPTER IX: MEXICAN STATE OF ALTA CALIFORNIA — The Secularized Indian Back to the Wilds • Humane Laws for the Ex-Neophyte • Vallejo a Busy Official • The Carrillos • A Governor-Ridden Land.
  • CHAPTER X: A FREE AND EASY PEOPLE — Uncomely but Comfortable Adobe Dwellings • Wise Old Mother Spain Understood Her Simple Children • Solomonic Alcaldes • Abduction of Josephine • Life on the Ranchos • Spurs of a California Knight.
  • CHAPTER XI: THE DIGGER IN HIS EMINENT DOMAIN — Natural Unattractiveness • Indian Table Luxuries and Manners • A Grasshopper Meal When Other Fare Failed • Chief Solano the Faithful Friend of Vallejo.
  • CHAPTER XII: “LACHRYMA MONTIS,” HOME OF VALLEJO — In the Valley of the Rose • California Girls and Their Broad Acres • Old Adobes That Are Crumbling Back to Mother Earth • Sonoma in “The Roaring Forties” • Just “Before the Gringo Came.”
  • CHAPTER XIII: APPEARANCE OF THE PATHFINDER — Gillespie Brings Fremont Secret Orders • The Surveyor Turns Back to Sutter’s Fort • Corralling Castro’s Horses • Americans Ride to Sonoma.
  • CHAPTER XIV: “REPUBLIC OF CALIFORNIA” — Won with a Breakfast Instead of a Battle • The Capture of Sonoma Spiked the British Guns • All Planned at Washington • Settling the Slavery Question in California.
  • CHAPTER XV: COMMODORE SLOAT AT MONTEREY — Follows Fremont and Hoists the Flag Ashore • Where Jones Was Too Fast Sloat Was Too Slow • Setting the Commodore a Pace • President W. B. Ide.
  • CHAPTER XVI: FREMONT THE MAN OF THE HOUR — All Other American Officers On the Pacific Coast Disavow Him • The Pathfinder as Usual Sets His Lines and Makes No Mistakes • Country Without a Flag.
  • CHAPTER XVII: PAINTING THE BANNER OF THE BEAR — The Lone Star of Texas • Grizzly Passant • Native Daughter’s Red Petticoat • The General Said “Bueno” • Relative of Old Abe • Gallant Yankee Middy • Bear Flag Yet On Duty.
  • CHAPTER XVIII: BRINGING ORDER OUT OF THE WILDS — Fierce Mexican War-Words • Murder of Cowie and Fowler • Bancroft’s Bro-Mexican Views • Clearing Out the Country.
  • CHAPTER XIX: CASTRO ON THE WAR PATH — De La Torre Eludes The Pathfinder • Unjustifiable Killing of Three Californians • Sutter’s Fort • California Republic Celebrates “The Fourth.”
  • CHAPTER XX: COUNTRY DRIFTING TO UNCLE SAM — Old Glory Comes Ashore • The “First Flag Day” • Sutter Becomes An American Citizen • The Grizzly Passant Passes • Stars and Stripes Are Over California.
  • CHAPTER XXI: THE HISTORIAN CONTINUES THE CONFLICT — On the Trail of the Bear • Only a Deep Sea Yarn • The Paths Fremont Found • The War of the Gold Braid • Petty Persecution of the Pathfinder • Fremont Tried and Exonerated.
  • CHAPTER XXII: GENERAL VALLEJO IN CALIFORNIA HISTORY — Imprisonment of the Sonoma Comandante the Only Error of the Bear Flaggers • He Was More American Than Mexican • Generosity His Only Fault.
  • CHAPTER XXIII: CALIFORNIA THE MECCA OF A MIGHTY PILGRIMAGE — The Great Trek Into the West • Sierras Bar the Way • In Donner’s Dreary Glen of Death • Under Their White Pall • Among Those Heroes the Women and Children Fared Best • Wild Gales of Nevada Boom Their Requiem.
  • CHAPTER XXIV: JOHN A. SUTTER AND HIS FORT — Wanted to Sell Out Before the War • Forgot to Have Smith Arrested • He Forgot to Return • Some Americans Were Horse Thieves • Official Locusts That Devour the Earth.
  • CHAPTER XXV: WHEN THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA WAS NOT A STATE — “Legislature of a Thousand Drinks” • Started the War of the Rebellion • Sonoma’s Bear on the Great Seal • California Forcing Her Way Into the Union • Drawing the Negro and the Boundary Lines • Uncle Sam’s Grand Land Deal.
  • CHAPTER XXVI: SACRAMENTO CORRALS THE STATE CAPITAL — Vallejo Makes a Golden Offer • The Legislature Accepts • Sacramento Flealess if Not Flawless • San Francesco at Last Gets a Name • Benicia Sees the Legislators Go Up the River.
  • CHAPTER XXVII: SONOMA COUNTY SETTLES DOWN TO HOUSEKEEPING — When “Oro” Was Heard Around the World • Harvesting the Gold of Farm and Mine • Changes on the Great Ranchos • When the Mustang Galloped Out of the Twilight • The Early Californians Gave Away Their Lands • Live Today and Work Mañana.
  • CHAPTER XXVIII: CAPTAIN STEPHEN SMITH OF BODEGA — Ready for a Fight or a Fandango • A Famous Pioneer Picnic • Vallejo’s Prediction Comes True • Old Sonoma Land Grants • Chain of the Missions • Strenuous Day of the Squatter • Petaluma and the Miranda Ghost.
  • CHAPTER XXIX: PEOPLING THE RICH SONOMA VALLEYS — Shades of the Old Adobe Halls • Sonoma the Vineyard of the World • The In-Dwelling Spirit of the Mission Grape • Pressed and Blessed by Church • Warm Volcanic Soil • From the Padre’s Early Vines.
  • CHAPTER XXX: VULCAN – BUILDER OF A CONTINENT — The Redwoods Grew Deep • Devil-Waters for the Healing of the Nations • Hot Springs and Sweat-Houses • The County Seat Question • How Jim Williamson “Stole the Courthouse” • A Hundred Minute Mule Run • In Memoriam • Roll of Honor.
  • CHAPTER XXXI: WITHIN THE VALE OF SANTA ROSA DE LIMA — Parson Amoroso Makes One Convert • Rosa Slips Wraith-Like Away But Leaves Her Name • Marring the Tonal Harmonies of Spanish Titles • The Old Carrillo Adobe • Tragedy of Franklin Town.
  • CHAPTER XXXII: MAPPING OUT THE CITY OF THE ROSE — Perplexing Thoroughfare Names • Alphabetic and Presidential Streets • Pioneer Mannerisms • Hahmann Wanted Plenty of Churches • Building the Temple of Themis • A Squad of the Old Guard.
  • CHAPTER XXXIII: THE CHANGES OF THE YEARS — And the Railroad Dirt Flew • And the Printers Came Also • Hop Culture • Utopias of Sonoma County • Fountain Grove and Its Faith That Failed • A Word-Storm Genesis.
  • CHAPTER XXXIV: THOROUGHBRED HORSES OF SONOMA COUNTY — When Lou Dillon Flung Her Silver Heels • Her Marvelous 1:58 1/2 • A Nursery for Prize Trotters • Crossing the Blue-Bloods • Anteeo and His Speed Band • Racing With Father Time.
  • CHAPTER XXXV: PETALUMA AND HER NAME ORIGIN — Guadalupe Vallejo Boggs • In the Fall of Forty-Nine • Or Spring of Fifty • The Settlers “Dropped In” • Always Fritsch and Zartman • How “Harry” Mecham Got Here.
  • CHAPTER XXXVI: TRAGEDY OF THE VIGILANCE COMMITTEE BELL — Its Golden Voice Filled the Valleys • Even Called the Santa Rosans to Repentance • Petaluma Thought of Arresting the County Seat • Destroyed in the Night • The Pioneer Class of Fifty-Six.
  • CHAPTER XXXVII: CITY OF THE LITTLE CHICKS — When the Hen Cackles a Market Falls • Science Does the Hatching • Byce the Incubator Man • Eggs for Far Cathay • Does An Incubator “Set” or “Sit?”
  • CHAPTER XXXVIII: WHERE THE ANALY APPLE GROWS — How Sebastopol Got Her War-Sounding Name • Incident of the Crimea • The Tempting Gravensteins • Apples and Women in Mythology • Fruitful Orchards and Vineyards of Gold Ridge • Ocean and Salt Point Townships.
  • CHAPTER XXXIX: NATURE’S ANCIENT GROVE • REDWOOD TOWNSHIP — Among the Tall Sequoias • Whirr of the Mill is the Dirge of the Tree • Armstrong Woods • Along the Rio Russian • Valley of the Sotoyomes.
  • CHAPTER XL: DALE OF THE CLOVER BLOOM — Where Asti’s Wine Sleeps Under the Mountain • Steamy Geysers of Knights Valley • Garden of Chemicals and Floods of Satanic Brew • Dead Trees Their Own Gravestones • In this Wonder of Wonderlands.
  • CHAPTER XLI: IN THE EARTHQUAKE’S DEADLY ZONE — Santa Rosa Shattered in a Half-Minute • Then the Builders Began Building • Labor the Only Capital • A City Riveted to the Planet • The Newer Santa Rosa.
  • CHAPTER XLII: LUTHER BURBANK – TRAVELER IN PLANTLAND — A Child Amid the Flowers • Giving Golden Poppy a Red Gown • The Great Shasta Daisy • Making the Cactus Cast Its Thorns • Unknown to His Countrymen • Wizardry • Down in the Life-Crypt of the Flower • Plant and Child Training.
  • CHAPTER XLIII: FARMERS’ ORGANIZATIONS OF SONOMA COUNTY — Agricultural Societies • The First Grange • Feast of Pomona • Among the Farms • Assessed Valuation of 1910 • Sonoma Exhibits at the Fairs • Death of G. N. Whitaker • Rest.
  • CHAPTER XLIV: SONOMA COUNTY STATISTICS — Assessed Property Valuation of 1911 • Present Population • Sonoma County Schools • Table of County Officials from 1849 to 1911.

Portion of a Flock of 8000 Hens

These large county volumes have long formed the cornerstone of local historical and genealogical research. They are encyclopedic in scope and virtually limitless in their research possibilities. Learn more about the California volumes in our American County History Collection.

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