Probably one of the most common questions we receive at the Sonoma County History and Genealogy Library is how to determine the origin of a street name.
Many names are associated with individuals who owned the land upon which the street is now located. A quick look at Thompson & West’s 1877 Atlas of Sonoma County will provide the source for the names of many of the county’s rural roads. For streets located in urban areas it may be a little more difficult, but still one will often refer to maps.
Unfortunately there is no master listing of street names to use. Some county and town histories will have information, but these books do not always provide accurate answers.
Such is the case with Hayes Avenue in Petaluma. Since President Rutherford B. Hayes visited Petaluma in 1880 it is easy to make the leap that he is the name sake for Hayes Avenue when in fact Hayes Avenue was originally known as Hays Avenue (no e) and was associated with a Presbyterian minister named George W. Hays.
According to his obituary, George W. Hays was born in Macomb, Illinois, on June 8, 1837. He was educated at McDonough College, Princeton University and McCormick Theological seminary and studied law under his uncle, Judge Pinkney N. Walker of the Supreme Court of Illinois. Later, Mr. Hays was admitted to the bar of that state, but eventually gave up the practice of law to enter the ministry.
In 1870 George W. Hays married Harriet Pease in Aurora, Illinois. Using the census and noting the birth places of the Hays children one can the trace the couples’ gradual migration west – not exactly a straight line: Kansas 1872, Iowa 1875, 1878, 1880, and California 1886.
By 1900 the Hays family had moved from Two Rock, where Reverend Hays preached at the Two Rock Valley Presbyterian Church, to Petaluma where they purchased to old “Hinman” place (more on that at some other time) which according to yet another obituary was later subdivided by George W. Hays and Hays Avenue was named for him.
In 1916 George W. Hays died while living in Berkeley. He and his wife, Harriet are buried at Cypress Hill Cemetery. In 1927 the Hays property was incorporated into the “new” Linda Vista subdivision. It is here where note the change in spelling – from Hays to Hayes. A simple typo?
An article in the Petaluma Daily Courier dated October 27, 1927, states that “Mr. Deiss yesterday sold to R. J. Moretti of the A. F. Tomasini Hardware Company, lots 2 and 21, block 1, including the site of the old home of the late Rev. G. Hays and the lot containing the beautiful flowering quince tree. The tree planted many years ago is the largest in the city and is loaded with bright blossoms. Moretti plans to tear down the old Hays home and replace it with a modern bungalow.”
That modern bungalow stands today and is addressed as 103 Hill Boulevard, just one house north of Hayes Avenue – or more correctly Hays Avenue.
So if Hayes Avenue is really Hays Avenue is it possible that nearby Pearce Street started out as Pease Street after Harriet Pease Hays?
As always, when it comes to historic research one thing always leads to another.