Local History and Genealogy Notes

  • Not Mariano Vallejo's Casa Grande

    Sonoma County Library Photo No. 182

Salvador's Adobe Not Mariano's

The Press Democrat featured an online photo gallery - Things You Will Never See Again in Sonoma Valley - a few weeks back that included images from the Sonoma County Library. One photo, described as depicting Mariano Vallejo's Casa Grande, caught the attention of Emily Walski, an interpretative specialist with Sonoma State Historic Park. Emily was under the impression that no photo of Vallejo's "Casa Grande" existed and that the Library's photo actually showed a building that is now home to the El Dorado Hotel. After a bit of research and input from Dr. Peter G. Meyerhof we've discovered that the photo in question was one of two adobes owned by Mariano's younger brother, Salvador Vallejo. According to one source, a portion of the building was occupied by the El Dorado Hotel in 1849. Between 1858 and 1864 it was the home of Cumberland Presbyterian College, and then again, the El Dorado Hotel. The north end was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, but rebuilt and is still occupied by the El Dorado Hotel. Salvador Vallejo's other adobe would later be become the Swiss Hotel. 

  • Pacific Methodist College, Santa Rosa, Calif.

    Pacific Methodist College, Santa Rosa, Calif.

Beautiful Historic Photograph Donated to Library

The Sonoma County History and Genealogy Library received a wonderful donation last week from John Schubert, local historian and Guerneville Regional Library Advisory Board member. John was the winning E bay bidder on this beautiful photograph. The only identification given was that of the photographers: Downing, Rea & Rauscher. In 1875, John Henry Downing, Thomas L. Rea, and Henry Rauscher formed their Santa Rosa partnership by taking over a business established by E. Kraft. The studio and gallery was located on Third Street in downtown Santa Rosa.

It was a sketch in Gorman's Santa Rosa Directory for 1887 that tipped me off that John's photograph was of the Pacific Methodist College that once stood on College Avenue at King Street.

According to the directory, the Pacific Methodist College had its beginnings at Vacaville, Solano County, California in the year 1861. During that year Rev. W.T. Lucky was President, a position he held until 1865. From 1865 to 1871, Rev. J.R. Thomas, D.D. was president of the College. In 1871, the College moved to Santa Rosa where "the citizens of that town had presented the institution with grounds and a building." 

In March of 1887, the faculty consisted of J.S. Austin, A.M., President, and Professor of Mental and Moral Philosophy; Rev. S.M. Godbey, A.M., Professor of Natural Sciences; Ferdinand Kenyon, Professor of Mathematics; Rev. George B. Winton, A.M., Professor of Latin and Greek; E. Lerch, Instructor in Instrumental Music; and Miss Callie Brook, Instructor of Vocal Music.

Dan and Geraldine Peterson, in their book Santa Rosa's Architectural Heritage, speculate that A.P. Petit was the architect of the Pacific Methodist College. 

The Sonoma County History Index, which is accessed via the Sonoma County Library's online catalog, has several references to the College making it quite easy to learn more about this substantial structure as well as A.P. Petit. In the meantime, we are happy to be able to include this treasure in the Library's collection of photographs and make it available to the public. As it turns out we do have other images of the College, but none quite as impressive. Knowing the names of the photographers is significant too. Their works show up in a number of special collections around the San Francisco Bay Area.


  • A British Ranchero in Old California

    Portrait of Henry Dalton courtesy of the California Historical Society

Understanding Local History Within a Broader Context

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.


  • Friday Fun Photo

    Four Redwood Rangers Set off for Stockton from Santa Rosa in 1947. SCL Photo No. 39744

Friday Fun Photo

Four Redwood Rangers leave Santa Rosa for the California State Horsemen's Association Convention in Stockton, October 1947. According to a Santa Rosa Press Democrat article dated October 10, 1947, the "Four Mesquiteers" left from Santa Rosa's courthouse plaza for the1,235 mile trek. Those shown on horseback in this Sonoma County Library photo are from left to right: Leo O'Connor, Jack F. Luttrell, David Grant, Jack Williams; standing left to right: Joseph Obert Pedersen, Mayor of Santa Rosa; Clfiton Elzo McCluskey, president of the Sonoma County Riding and Driving Club and regional vice-president of the California State Horsemen's Association; Warren Richardson, president of the Sonoma County Trailblazers and founder of the California Centaurs; Herbert J. Waters, editor of the Press Democrat. 

This is just one of thousands of images that were recently uploaded to the Library'sSonoma County Local History & Culture. 

  • Horses Pulling a Wagon Filled with Boxes of Prunes, Geyserville, CA circa 1920 photo

    Horses Pulling a Wagon Filled with Boxes of Prunes, Geyserville, CA circa 1920

Fun Fact

In 1915, the greatest acreage of agricultural land in Sonoma County was devoted to prunes with 768,750 bearing acres and 300,425 nonbearing. Apples rank next with 350,500 bearing, and 264,036 nonbearing. Source: “Horticultural Commissioner Completes his Annual Report” – Santa Rosa Republican, October 1, 1915, page 8.