Understanding Local History Within a Broader Context

Submitted by krinehart on October 31, 2015 - 4:24pm
  • A British Ranchero in Old California

    Portrait of Henry Dalton courtesy of the California Historical Society

Before there was a Sonoma County History & Genealogy Library there was the California Room located on the second floor of the Central Santa Rosa Library. In 1998 the "room" was moved to the Annex, a building located adjacent to the Central Library that was built for and occupied by the North Bay Cooperative Library in 1967. We refer to this building today as the Annex. In 2002, Sonoma County Library Commission, adopted a new mission statement for the California Room which was being called the local history and genealogy division of the Central Santa Rosa Library. Along with a new mission came a new name.

Although, no longer the California Room, the SCH&G Library houses a large collection of California history books including A British Ranchero In Old California: The Life and Times of Henry Dalton and the Rancho Azusa by Sheldon G. Jackson which I just completed.

As it turns out  Henry Dalton (1803-1884)  is my 3rd Great Grand Uncle. His niece, Elizabeth Dalton Perry, who was my paternal 2nd Great Grandmother. Henry settled in Southern California in 1843 which qualifies me for membership to the California Society of Pioneers. The California Society of Pioneers has beautiful museum, library and archive at the San Francisco Presidio that I visited for the first time in July while on a tour that was arranged by the Western Archives Institute of which I was a student.

My own personal genealogy aside, this book would be of interest to anyone wishing to gain a real sense of what life was like in early California - at least for one segment of the population. Names of those we think of as Northern California pioneers such Vallejo, Carrillo, Fitch, Larkin, O'Farrell, Limantour, Atherton, and Leidesdorff are included in Jackson's well written book. 

In keeping with the California history theme I've started a new book: Tangled Vines - Greed, Murder, Obsession in the Vineyards of California by Frances Dinkelspiel. Although the book starts in Napa County, I know that Ms. Dinkelspiel will take her readers back in time to Southern California where her, 2nd Great Grand father, Isaias Hellman (1842-1920), had a vineyard at Rancho Cucamonga where he produced wines in the 1870s.

All this has me thinking that perhaps I should initiate a California History Book Club here at the Sonoma County History & Genealogy  Library. To appreciate local history to its fullest, its important to be able to place that history within a broader context.

Please let me know if this is something of interest.


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