History Library


  • Glassware from Sebastopol Area diggers search, collect glassware for Sebastopol Bottles The current exhibit at the Museum displays a variety of bottles from this area. Milk, soda, seltzer, beer and water bottles throughout ...
    Posted Aug 28, 2016, 8:46 AM by Wayne Wieseler
  • Luther Rides Again ! Yes! It is true! Luther Burbank, beloved horticulturist, will again ride his bicycle in Sebastopol.The Western Sonoma County Historical Society is pleased to announce that, thanks to the artistry ...
    Posted Aug 28, 2016, 8:36 AM by Wayne Wieseler
  • Promo Project Exhibition Museum joins Pomo Project to show Batikletcawi Was Here Opening Thursday, September 4th and showing through the 28th of December, The West County Museum joins with The Pomo Project of ...
    Posted Jan 1, 2015, 10:44 AM by Wayne Wieseler
  • Graton Community Club starts as home and school club The Graton Community Club was originally established in 1914 as the Oak Grove Home and School Club, to provide support and community for the students at Oak Grove School. In ...
    Posted Mar 8, 2014, 8:40 AM by Wayne Wieseler
  • County Library launches Historical Collection Sonoma County Library launchesWestern Sonoma County Historical CollectionsThe rich history of Sebastopol and West County are captured in a collection of nearly 7,000 images held by the ...
    Posted Sep 25, 2013, 11:52 AM by Wayne Wieseler
  • How a Museum Happens 1980 ­City of Sebastopol formed a downtown parking assessment district to purchase railroad property at South Main Street for parking lot. The train depot is part of the purchase. City ...
    Posted Mar 17, 2013, 9:24 AM by Wayne Wieseler
  • A Tale of Two Potatoes A tale of two potatoes, each with its own Sonoma County connectionDigging Up History By: Lynda HopkinsPhotography by Sarah Bradbury Discoveries, A Sonoma West MagazineWinter 2012/13 ...
    Posted Jan 27, 2013, 10:41 AM by Wayne Wieseler
  • The Battle of Sebastopol Road Petaluma & Santa Rosa RailroadCompanies compete for service between Sebastopol & Santa Rosa The Petaluma and Santa Rosa line followed Sebastopol Road approaching Santa Rosa from Sebastopol. The construction crew needed ...
    Posted Mar 12, 2012, 10:25 AM by Wayne Wieseler
  • History of Laguna de Santa Whaling Captain Settles Along the Laguna de Santa Rosa Charles M. Scammon bought a farm along the Laguna in the 1870s. Scammon is best known for his years of whaling ...
    Posted Mar 3, 2012, 10:46 AM by Wayne Wieseler
  • BIOGRAPHY: Luther Burbank, 1849 - 1926 Luther Burbank was born on March 7, 1849, on a farm near Lancaster, Massachusetts. He received little more than a high school education but showed interest in nature and mechanics ...
    Posted Feb 25, 2012, 8:21 AM by Wayne Wieseler
  • MARQUEES ON MAIN: Sebastopol Movie Memorabilia The West County Museum is proudly presented its Fall 1999 exhibition Marquees on Main curated by Rick Hardina. This current exhibit featured memorabilia from Sebastopol's early theaters, the movies ...
    Posted Jan 19, 2012, 9:52 AM by Wayne Wieseler
  • Pomo and Miwok Cultures: Woven Through Time April 14th, the day the museum inaugurated the new exhibit running through October 31st, 2000. Refreshments were served along with the museum opening and dedication with raising the flag on ...
    Posted Jan 19, 2012, 8:22 AM by Wayne Wieseler
  • Sewing a Log Cabin Quilt Jack and Jill Went Up Green Hill, Quilted 2000 (left) Pineapple Variation 1880, designer unknown (right) This one quilted by Judy Mathieson, 1994 Log Cabin in Purple/Gold Designed by ...
    Posted Jan 19, 2012, 8:25 AM by Wayne Wieseler
  • Big Banks and Little Banks A selection of someof the model bankson exhibitRear view of theModel Teller's Windowmade by John Mollere,local craftsman
    Posted Jan 19, 2012, 8:26 AM by Wayne Wieseler
  • Crafts Then and Now, Selections Pelican and Wind Wave by Tony Sheets (center) plus items of the past: hats, bottles, etc. (left); more modern ceramics to the right. Book and Ceramics: A Potter's Life ...
    Posted Jan 19, 2012, 8:33 AM by Wayne Wieseler
  • Ten Years at the West County Museum Sebastopol: Synonymous with Apples Sebastopol: Home of Luther Burbank's Experiment FarmWest County and the Pomo and Miwok Native PeoplesPolitical Quilts, Quilts and More Quilts with Old Toys ...
    Posted Jan 19, 2012, 8:19 AM by Wayne Wieseler
  • Earthquake Sebastopol 1906
    Posted Jan 14, 2012, 7:01 AM by Wayne Wieseler
  • Cemetery Walk 2011: Cemetry Tours draws more than 200 Over 200 people attended the Ninth Annual Barbara Bull Memorial Cemetery Walk presented by the Western Sonoma County Historical Society on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.A new program including ...
    Posted Jan 19, 2012, 8:28 AM by Wayne Wieseler
  • Cemetery Walk October 2006 Our program for Cemetery Walk this year included vignettes on Leland Chase, aerial photographer and Sebastopol studio photographer, Laura Call Carr, whose history you can read in a booklet we ...
    Posted Jan 19, 2012, 8:37 AM by Wayne Wieseler
  • Cemetery Walk October 2005 Gina: A Killer Stalks Little Italy Jean Fisher as Gina, the waitress, tells the mysterious story of unsolved serial killings in Little Italy, New Orleans. London and Orfans: Spiro Orfans ...
    Posted Jan 18, 2012, 9:19 PM by Wayne Wieseler
  • Laguna de Santa Rosa Scenes Santa Rosa Creek: A place I hardly knewAcross from Giffen Aveune From Ludwig Avenue #4 From Ludwig Avenue #3 Looking at Amy's Near Fresno Avenue Looking South Near ...
    Posted Jan 19, 2012, 8:38 AM by Wayne Wieseler
  • Laguna de Santa Rosa Science and History Morning and Evening in the Laguna de Santa Rosa Laguna Use -- 20th Century: Hunting, Fishing, Swimming, Airport! Contemporary Status of the Laguna including endangered plants and species. The Laguna: Water ...
    Posted Jan 19, 2012, 8:39 AM by Wayne Wieseler
  • Sebastopol's Centennial of Incorporation 1902-2002 Title and Visitors' Log Come on in and see many other facets of life through a century in Sebsatopol. Open Thursdays through Sundays from 1 pm to 4 pm. A ...
    Posted Jan 19, 2012, 8:42 AM by Wayne Wieseler
  • Walking Tour Highlights of Luther Burbank's Gold Ridge Experiment Farm Visitors to the Luther Burbank Gold Ridge Experiment Farm may take a self-guided walking tour at any time. There are pamphlets there that give descriptions of the various plants ...
    Posted Jan 14, 2012, 1:30 PM by Wayne Wieseler
  • Views of Burbank's Gold Ridge Farm in His Day Property and cottage neglect in 1980From LUTHER BURBANK’S GOLD RIDGE EXPERIMENT FARM, SEBASTOPOL CALIFORNIA, A HISTORY OF THE PROPERTY 1884-1986, HISTORIC AMERICAN BUILDINGS SURVEY, NUMBER CA-2254 ...
    Posted Jan 19, 2012, 8:43 AM by Wayne Wieseler
Showing posts 1 - 25 of 34. View more »

Glassware from Sebastopol

posted Aug 28, 2016, 8:45 AM by Wayne Wieseler   [ updated Aug 28, 2016, 8:46 AM ]

Area diggers search, collect glassware for Sebastopol Bottles

The current exhibit at the Museum displays a variety of bottles from this area.

Milk, soda, seltzer, beer and water bottles throughout history are exhibited along with pharmacy and medicine bottles. Learn about diggers, people who search for and collect all kinds of bottles. See some of the first distinctive Coca Cola bottles ever made.

Old "cream top" milk bottles had top sections to make it easy to scoop out the cream. See the brandy bottles made for Speas Apple Brandy in what is now the Rialto Movie Theater. Turn of the century quart beer bottles embossed with the names of Sebastopol bottling companies were filled with locally produced porter and steam beers.

The museum is free and open to the public Thursday through Sunday from 1 pm to 4 pm. 261 So. Main Street, Sebastopol

Luther Rides Again !

posted Apr 11, 2016, 3:46 PM by Wayne Wieseler   [ updated Aug 28, 2016, 8:36 AM ]


Yes! It is true! Luther Burbank, beloved horticulturist, will again ride his bicycle in Sebastopol.

The Western Sonoma County Historical Society is pleased to announce that, thanks to the artistry and inspiration  of local sculptor Patrick Amiot, a metal likeness of the famous botanist Luther Burbank will reside forevermore here in Sebastopol. This new sculpture will be another delightful addition to Sebastopol.

The new statue is to be placed on the front lawn of Burbank Heights & Orchards at 7777 Bodega Ave., Sebastopol, the very spot where Luther did important work in the field of plant development.

Admirers of Mr. Burbank and his work and fans of Patrick Amiot, will gather to unveil the new creation, and to celebrate the life of Luther Burbank at 1 p.m. on the afternoon of Saturday, April 23, 2016.

All are welcome to attend. For more information Erin Sheffield, erinsheff@gmail. 707-481-3488

Sculpture outside entrance to Luther Burbank Experiment Farm.

Promo Project Exhibition

posted Jan 1, 2015, 10:44 AM by Wayne Wieseler   [ updated Jan 1, 2015, 10:44 AM ]

Museum joins Pomo Project to show Batikletcawi Was Here

Pomo Exhibit


Opening Thursday, September 4th and showing through the 28th of December, The West County Museum joins with The Pomo Project of Sebastopol to present Batikletcawi Was Here Honoring the First Ancestors.

The past and present meet in this exhibit which combines modern images and regalia items by Pomo Project artists, the Sonoma County Pomo Youth Dancers and other California Indian contributors with historical pieces from the museum’s holdings as well as loans from the community of historical finds and contemporary examples of traditional items.

Excerpts from lectures and talks given by Greg Sarris, Chairman of the Graton Rancheria, and Vana Lawson, daughter of Essie Parrish recorded during previous Pomo Honoring Month events of the past 5 years, help tell the story of the relationship to the land the first people had and how the events of history changed everything. The exhibit also reflects how attitudes about cultural exchanges change over time.

The exhibit reception will be Saturday, September 27th, from 1-4 pm kicking off Sebastopol’s 5th annual Pomo Honoring Month in October.

Graton Community Club starts as home and school club

posted Mar 8, 2014, 8:35 AM by Wayne Wieseler   [ updated Mar 8, 2014, 8:40 AM ]


The Graton Community Club was originally established in 1914 as the Oak Grove Home and School Club, to provide support and community for the students at Oak Grove School.

In 1916 the club purchased the Chicken Incubator Building, which was originally located on the west side of the railroad tracks in Graton, and had it moved to its present location on the corner of Edison and Main Street (Graton Road). The first flower show was held in 1922 and by 1959 the club was holding two-day Spring and Fall flower shows which continue today.

The Club established its scholarship program in 1954, awarding scholarships to Santa Rosa Junior College students in the West County going on to four-year colleges. The program continues
today awarding several $1000 scholarships per year. The funds are raised primarily from the flower shows.

Throughout the years the club has continued to support Graton’s children, such as providing playground equipment, soup and hot chocolate to students on rainy days, helping pay for students to go to camp, art programs at Oak Grove, etc.

The club also provides a place for community activities, such as craft shows, concerts, meetings for the Graton Fire District, political forums, talent shows, Santa visits at Christmas, and much more. It has truly become a gathering place for many different events, and provides a strong community base.

County Library launches Historical Collection

posted Sep 25, 2013, 9:08 AM by Wayne Wieseler   [ updated Sep 25, 2013, 11:52 AM ]

Sonoma County Library launches

Western Sonoma County Historical Collections

The rich history of Sebastopol and West County are captured in a collection of nearly 7,000 images held by the West County Museum and now made available through Sonoma County Library's Sonoma Heritage Collections (http://bit.ly/19uKFKx) .

With the launch of the Western Sonoma County Historical Society Collection, WSCHS members, the community, students and historians can explore the Museum's collection beyond its walls.

This project is the culmination of five years of dedicated efforts by volunteers Sally Morrison, Mary Dodgion, Rae Swanson, Evelyn McClure, John Fore and Tim Webster. Geoffrey Skinner, cataloger for the Sonoma County Library, translated information from the Museum's cataloging platform, PastPerfect, to create the new Heritage Collection on the Library's website.


Among the many historical images from Sebastopol and western Sonoma County, Luther Burbank and his Gold Ridge Experiment Farm, the Petaluma & Santa Rosa Railroad, and the local apple industry get a lot of space, but visitors can also find hundreds of portraits, extensive architectural images including those from Evelyn McClure's Sebastopol, California: History, Homes and People, 1855-1920, and snapshots of daily life in the area, dating back to the 1870s. Many images (except for portraits) are paired with a Google Street View image for a then & now experience; multiple photographs of some houses and other building can provide a different view of changes over time.

Visitors to the collection can discover images in a variety of ways through using descriptive terms provided for each image or by browsing the entire collection by dates, names, street address, photographers and more.

Because the Sonoma Heritage Collections includes many related images in other collections, users may search across the entire site to discover additional useful and interesting images. The site also allows users to download copies of images for personal use.

Finally, visitors may leave comments -- especially encouraged for unidentified subjects or errors.

Keep your eyes on this collection as we digitize additional images donated to the Museum.

Image Library

Sonoma Heritage Collections

How a Museum Happens

posted Mar 17, 2013, 9:23 AM by Wayne Wieseler   [ updated Mar 17, 2013, 9:24 AM ]



1980 ­City of Sebastopol formed a downtown parking assessment district to purchase railroad property at South Main Street for parking lot. The train depot is part of the purchase. City of Sebastopol received a County grant to help purchase the depot for specific purpose of it becoming a museum.

1989 ­ Sebastopol Chamber of Commerce champions restoration project to turn P&SR Depot into a museum, wants WSCHS to be included in project.

1990 ­ July 4th, WSCHS previews the Depot and plans for Museum

1991 ­ Lighting and Convenience Outlets Plan Made

1992 ­ WSCHS members start oral history project

1993 ­ July 3rd, Museum Opens to Public

1995 ­ E Clampus Vitis awards plaque to West County Museum

1995 ­ Computer Installation

1998 ­ Reproductions of Depot¹s benches constructed by Stan Buchner, finished by Bill Mathews, installed by Stan Buchner and John Mallere

1999 ­ Northwestern Pacific Railroad Historical Society presents an award of Merit to Western Sonoma County Historical Society for maintaining a railroad archives and P&SR exhibit in 1998.

2000 ­ P&SR roof sign reproduced and installed. Construction and installation by Ralph Henningsen and Bill Bourns


A Tale of Two Potatoes

posted Jan 27, 2013, 10:39 AM by Wayne Wieseler   [ updated Jan 27, 2013, 10:41 AM ]

A tale of two potatoes, each with its own Sonoma County connection

Digging Up History

Digging Up History

By: Lynda Hopkins

Photography by Sarah Bradbury

Discoveries, A Sonoma West Magazine
Winter 2012/13

Photos

RIGHT: An illustration of Luther Burbank's russet potato, photographed from "The Potato" by E. H. Grubb and W. S. Guilford (Doubleday and Page Company, 1912)

LOWER LEFT: A historical photograph of Luther Burbank, courtesy of Luther Burbank Home & Gardens, Santa Rosa.

LOWER RIGHT: Elissa Rubin-Mahon, a Slow Food member and a champion of Bodega Red's revitalization, hold her crop of Bodega Red potatoes.


When it comes to potatoes, Sonoma County has two standouts: the Bodega Red and the Russet Burbank. But the two tubers couldn’t be more different, both in how they began their journey and how—years later—they’ve ended up.

The Russet Burbank is decidedly the rock star of the spud scene. It’s the quintessential American potato, the one that turned Idaho into the spud state. It’s the potato that can be found across the continent in fast food restaurants, grocery stores, and home ovens. (McDonald’s alone purchases more than 3.4 billion pounds of Russet Burbanks annually. The state of Idaho grows approximately 12 billion pounds.)

And while it wasn’t specifically developed in Sonoma County, in a roundabout way, our county is the reason why the potato is so ubiquitous.

It was 1872 when Luther Burbank found a single seed ball on an Early Rose potato plant growing in his New England garden. When mature, the fruit disappeared from the potato stem, sending Burbank on a frantic search.

As he wrote, “So day after day I returned and took up the search again and at last, this patient search was rewarded. The missing seed ball was found.”

But the drama did not end there.

“From that he had 23 seeds. He planted all 23 and all of them grew the following year. But most of them weren't good for anything. Some of them were really pretty, but when he dug them up they got all mushy and had no commercial value, and some had really deep eyes,” said Rachel Spaeth, garden coordinator for Luther Burbank Home and Gardens in Santa Rosa.?

“He had one perfect potato that was yellow with a little bit of a rough skin. From that he was able to replant the eyes the next year and get a decent crop out of it.”

This potato was to be Burbank’s ticket to sunny Sonoma County. He offered the potato to a gentleman from Massachusetts for $500, and the gentleman bargained him down to $150.

“He used that money to come to California,” Spaeth explained.

“But that really inspired him and piqued his curiosity, and really gave him that drive to learn more about things in breeding and the plant realm. And he used that money to come out and join his brothers out here.”

After his potato sold and spread across the country, it took a genetic twist in Denver, Colorado—when a man selected a chance sport off a Burbank potato plant that happened to be resistant to blight. The current form of the Russet Burbank is in many ways the perfect commercial potato.

“It’s got pretty stable genetics and you can't really add too much to it and improve on it. It's definitely different than most of the Andean potatoes that you would see. The Burbank russet potato is actually resistant to phytopthera infestans … the infection that caused the Irish potato famine. That's the significance of the Burbank potato. It's also the most widely spread, commercially used [potato], as far as McDonald's French fries,” Spaeth said.

It also has another excellent commercial quality: it stores and ships well.

“They had a much higher starch content which made them ship better because they weren't as susceptible to rot,” explained Erin Sheffield, a docent at Burbank’s Home and Gardens as well as at Burbank’s Gold Ridge Experiment Farm.?

But the significance of the potato for Sonoma County has less to do with commercial value and more to do with Burbank himself. Without discovering and selling his russet potato, Luther Burbank may not have lived here. Residents may not be growing Santa Rosa plums, Shasta daisies or spineless cacti today. And folks would not be able to wander his home and gardens in downtown Santa Rosa, marveling at his creations and wondering at the mind behind it all.

“He only had a high school education, so he wasn't restricted by the confines of what science told him he could and could not do. And he was definitely a keen observer. He could pick one seedling out of 500 seedlings and say, that is the one that I want,” Spaeth said.

The Bodega Red is another matter entirely: a potato considerably more mysterious and elusive than the Burbank. In fact, one might call the Bodega Red a cult potato—a tuber that’s very difficult to find, but one that inspires passion for preservation within the Sonoma County community.

“Local legends alternately say that a South American sailor jumped ship with the potato and began to grow it. Another states that it came sewn into the hem of a soon-to-be Latin American bride of a Bodega Bay landowner. However it arrived, the potato flourished,” wrote Elissa Rubin-Mahon, a Slow Food member and one of the potato’s early champions.

Rubin-Mahon’s research suggests that Sonoma County’s first cash crop was potatoes and that—even more surprisingly—the county grew the most potatoes in all of California in the 1850s. She estimates that 60,000 sacks were shipped from Bodega Bay to San Francisco annually, feeding San Franciscans and forty-niners as far afield as the Sierra Nevada mountains.

But when Rubin-Mahon put feelers out into the local community to try to find someone still growing these heritage potatoes, she hit roadblocks.

“I went into the phone book and found who the old families were, and I talked to them about the potato. Nobody would come forward with anything... I think it was basically because I was considered a foreigner as far as the old families were concerned,” Rubin-Mahon said.

But another potato crusader, Abigail Meyers, had better luck.

“A friend of mine through Slow Food knew Abigail Meyers, who was then the director of Bodega Land Trust... She put the word out and a family member came forward anonymously because the family really did not want to release the potato,” Rubin-Mahon recalled.

That anonymous donor provided five small potatoes, about the size of one’s pinky finger. Meyers grew them out to create more.

From there, the potato took off. Collaboration with a potato expert at UC Davis confirmed that the women had indeed found a distinct strain of potato—one that likely originated in Chile. The potato’s proud history and endangered status led it to become part of Slow Food’s Ark of Taste, giving the humble spud national recognition.

And perhaps most importantly, collaboration with U.C. Davis led to another connection: contact with Pure Potato, a small company that specializes in developing seed potatoes from endangered heirlooms.

Unfortunately, the Bodega Red is very susceptible to disease. But Pure Potato was able to isolate a virus-free strain of potato, which local farmers were able to grow in substantial amounts for the first time this year.

The next challenge is convincing the Bay Area community that the Bodega Red is the best thing since... well, not sliced bread, but perhaps the Russet Burbank.

“If you don’t have a market, if people don’t want to buy it, there’s no reason for the farmers to grow it. We have to create a demand for the potatoes so that the farmers see a reason to grow it,” Rubin-Mahon said, noting that a committee was in the process of forming to help preserve the potato, including promoting awareness among local restaurants and grocers.

And of course the biggest question is: how does the Bodega Red taste? Rubin-Mahon has been growing the potato for years (the virus-susceptible strain), but the supply of seed potatoes was so limited she kept everything she grew to re-plant. For the first time this year, she was able to eat the Bodega Red.

“This year, we started eating what we grew. The texture is kind of between a red potato and a Yukon gold. They’re kind of creamy, they have a nice thin skin so we’ve been basically steaming them and having them with a little bit of butter and cream just very simply. But when the weather gets a little cooler I’m going to try them in a gratin, because it will hold together but still be creamy,” Rubin-Mahon said.

“They have a really nice nutty flavor and the skin is not bitter.”

For information about how to obtain seed potatoes of the Bodega Red, where to buy mature Bodega Red potatoes, or to support the preservation effort, contact Rubin-Mahon at elissa@artisanpreserves.com.

The Battle of Sebastopol Road

posted Mar 12, 2012, 10:02 AM by Wayne Wieseler   [ updated Mar 12, 2012, 10:25 AM ]

Petaluma & Santa Rosa Railroad

Companies compete for service between Sebastopol & Santa Rosa

Petaluma & Santa Rosa Railroad

The Petaluma and Santa Rosa line followed Sebastopol Road approaching Santa Rosa from Sebastopol. The construction crew needed to cross the north-south steam railroad to reach downtown Santa Rosa. The steam railroad had operated a parallel branch line from Santa Rosa to Sebastopol since 1890, and would not consent to the crossing allowing a new competitor to offer direct service downtown. Trolley service began to the west side of the crossing on 29 November 1904. Rails were laid on the east side of the steam railroad tracks, and an electric wire was strung overhead in preparation for installing the crossing. A crossing was prefabricated in Sebastopol and loaded on a flat car pushed to the crossing location. But when the interurban crew arrived to install the crossing on 3 January 1905, they found a pair of steam locomotives on either side of the crossing fitted with steam nozzles to spray hot water on anyone approaching the crossing site. The interurban construction crew retreated

Petaluma & Santa Rosa route with Northwestern Pacific Railroad and U.S. Route 101

The following day the regularly scheduled interurban car #57 arrived secretly carrying the construction crew. Before the steam railway could respond, the crew laid a temporary track across and over the steam rails and had a team of horses pull trolley #57 across to serve downtown Santa Rosa. The steam railroad then obtained a temporary injunction from a San Francisco judge prohibiting installation of the crossing. For a few weeks, passengers from Sebastopol were required to depart their arriving trolley and walk over the steam railroad to reboard trolley #57 for the remainder of the trip.

The injunction was dissolved in late February and the interurban construction crew assembled again to install the crossing on 1 March 1905. The steam railroad appeared to be unaware of the status of their injunction, so their locomotives again discouraged the construction crew with hot water. The steam railroad also had a flat car loaded with gravel on hand for their men to fill in the excavation as soon as the interurban crew tried to dig out the crossing site. Tempers flared and several hundred Santa Rosa citizens assembled to watch the entertainment. Santa Rosa police ultimately restored order, and the crossing was installed that evening.

1800 - Petaluma and Santa Rosa  Railway car #63 on electric tracks. All of the interurban passenger cars had express compartments and carried small parcels at the rear. This car is  located in Rio Vista Railroad Museum.

1800 - Petaluma and Santa Rosa Railway car #63 on electric tracks. All of the interurban passenger cars had express compartments and carried small parcels at the rear. This car is  located in Rio Vista Railroad Museum.

6858 - Freight motor 1004 of the P&SR Railroad.  These motors were used heavily during the fruit harvest season in Sonoma County.  The Overnight Freight Express ran refrigerator cars that  carried apples and berries to Petaluma and on to San Francisco via steamer ships.

6858 - Freight motor 1004 of the P&SR Railroad. These motors were used heavily during the fruit harvest season in Sonoma County. The Overnight Freight Express ran refrigerator cars that  carried apples and berries to Petaluma and on to San Francisco via steamer ships.

1824 - P&SR train  at the Bassett Station (close to Fredericks Road) south of  Sebastopol.  Engine 506 is pulling four passenger cars with many people hanging out the windows of the cars and a line of 1930's autos on the road next to the train.   Since the P&SR ended passenger service in the early 1930's, this may have been one of the final runs carrying passengers.

1824 - P&SR train  at the Bassett Station (close to Fredericks Road) south of  Sebastopol.  Engine 506 is pulling four passenger cars with many people hanging out the windows of the cars and a line of 1930's autos on the road next to the train. Since the P&SR ended passenger service in the early 1930's, this may have been one of the final runs carrying passengers.

1815 - The L-shaped  Petaluma & Santa Rosa Railway Powerhouse in background, built 1903 from Stony Point Quarry rock.  The Powerhouse served as the freight depot and housed the step-down transformers for the Sebastopol substation for the P&SR electric railway.   In the left foregound is the original wooden Sebastopol depot station.  The Powerhouse was later named the Hogan Building.    Photo facing south easterly, with north and westerly facades visible.  The train tracks seen in the easterly direction comprise the  present day Joe Rodota Trail.

1815 - The L-shaped  Petaluma & Santa Rosa Railway Powerhouse in background, built 1903 from Stony Point Quarry rock. The Powerhouse served as the freight depot and housed the step-down transformers for the Sebastopol substation for the P&SR electric railway. In the left foregound is the original wooden Sebastopol depot station. The Powerhouse was later named the Hogan Building. Photo facing south easterly, with north and westerly facades visible. The train tracks seen in the easterly direction comprise the  present day Joe Rodota Trail.

1831 - Railroad workers laying rails of interurban Petaluma & Santa Rosa Electric Railway  down Main Street Sebastopol circa 1904.

1831 - Railroad workers laying rails of interurban Petaluma & Santa Rosa Electric Railway  down Main Street Sebastopol. Circa 1904.

1812 - Forestville station of P&SR electric railway with electric car No. 55.  This car and three other identical cars (Numbers 51, 53 and 57)were built in St. Louis by American Car Company.   Circa 1904.

1812 - Forestville station of P&SR electric railway with electric car No. 55. This car and three other identical cars (Numbers 51, 53 and 57) were built in St. Louis by American Car Company. Circa 1904.

History of Laguna de Santa

posted Mar 3, 2012, 10:26 AM by Wayne Wieseler   [ updated Mar 3, 2012, 10:46 AM ]




Whaling Captain Settles Along the Laguna de Santa Rosa

Charles M. Scammon bought a farm along the Laguna in the 1870s. Scammon is best known for his years of whaling and the book he wrote from his observations of whales. Marine Mammals of the Northwestern Coast of North America in 1874.

Scammon was born into a sailing family in Maine in 1825, Scammon went to sea at 17. He arrived in San Francisco in 1849. He led many whaling expeditions to Mexico and discovered a Baja lagoon where the migrating whales gave birth.

The Scammon's, Charles and his son, Alexander, tried farming in the Sebastopol area until 1902 when they sold their property.

Hunting and Fishing on the Laguna

In the mid-1800's as white settlers began homesteading in the area, the Laguna held an extraordinary abundance of wild game, fish and waterfowl.

With the California Gold Rush in 1849 came thousands to Northern California.

Wild game hunters came also to make their fortune feeding the gold prospectors and the Laguna proved to be a vast hunting ground. These market hunters killed wagon loads of elk, antelope, deer, quail, duck and bear that were hauled to the Petaluma Creek and shipped to San Francisco and on to the gold fields. Antelope and deer fetched $20 each, a large elk was worth $40, ducks brought $1 each and quail went for $9 a dozen.

The Llano de Santa Rosa Rancho

In 1843, Joaquin Carrillo applied for a grant of the Rancho Llano de Santa Rosa containing 13,336.55 acres, which included much of the Laguna. Joaquin was Maria Carrillo's eldest son. Senor Carrillo built a home near what is now downtown Sebastopol and began to farm cultivating 100 to 300 acres of corn, barley and wheat.

When settlers arrived after the Gold Rush, Carrillo sold off parcels of his land. The Miller (actually spelled Millar) and Walker. Trading post was situated on former Carrillo land.

Charcoal From the Laguna

Up until the 1830's the Laguna was a dense forest with thousands of oak trees. Acorn mush was a major food staple for the Laguna Indians and each fall they gathered tons of acorns for their winter food supply.

With the arrival of Europeans, the face of the Laguna began to change. Farmers to make way for farmland girdled thousands of oaks. A huge charcoal business developed as the wood from the oak was burned to make charcoal that was a much-desired commodity in San Francisco restaurants. In 1878, 150 railroad carloads of the charcoal were shipped from the town of Fulton.

Farming Along the Laguna

Joaquin Carrillo was not alone in his farming efforts. John Cooper's El Molino ranch in 1833 produced barley, cattle and hogs.

Otis Allen planted hops along the Laguna in 1874 with great success. By the turn of the 20th century many dairymen had developed herds in the area also.

Farmers tried to control Laguna water flow with ditches, drains and dredging. A sediment dam formed what was called Ballard Lake. In the early 20th century, farmers dynamited the dam then used a backhoe to open a drainage ditch. Ballard Lake disappeared in a day.

Recreation On the Laguna

Other lakes and swimming holes were developed along the Laguna as the previously mentioned Ballard Lake.

Lake Jonive covered 40 acres near today's Occidental Road at High School Road. The Moran family built a 120 foot landing and boat rental operation. The public could fish and swim there also. In 1912, it was reported that the P&SR Railroad even thought about building a branch line to the lake.

Egrets at the Laguna

The striking while breeding plumage of the Great Egret nearly led to its extinction.

During the Victorian era, the delicate white feathers were in great demand as adornment for m'lady's fine hats. An ounce of prime egret feathers was worth $32 to hunters in 1903. Double the price of gold at the time. Later, the price soared to as much as $80 an ounce.

Not only were the birds destroyed, eggs in the next and young birds were lost. Egrets were at one time on the verge of extinction. Betty Burridge, local bird watcher reported there was a sighting of an egret in 1908 and in 1913 they started seeing a few. But in the 1920s the sighting of either a Great Egret or a Snowy Egret was still a notable event. By the 1940s they were beginning to noticeably recover.

The outcry of preservationists led to international laws forbidding sale of egret feathers (and led to the creation of the Audubon Society). Populations have reestablished in the last 75 years. Today, the Great Egret, The Snowy Egret and the Cattle Egret can be found in Sonoma County wetlands.

-- Excerpted from Nesting of the California Cuckoo by Alfred C. Shelton, 1911

The Laguna as Sewer

Sebastopol citizens recognized they had a serious sewage problem by the late 1800s. Downtown sewage flowed through open gutters leading to a diphtheria epidemic as well as a continuously bad smelling town.

With incorporation in 1902, the new city hoped to deal with the sewage problems in a more healthful and efficient way. The City pumped out private cesspools. Then in 1906, a bond issue was passed to invest in a major sewer and water system.

The estate of John Brown donated land along the Laguna for a sewer farm. The City's new septic tank collected the effluent but within a few years the discharge of untreated sewage began to taint Lake Jonive on the Laguna.

Native Americans and the Laguna

Professor John Crevelli in an essay entitled Cultural Perspectives of the Laguna de Santa Rosa relates the history of Native American existence along the Laguna.

Here are some excerpts from that work:

European settlers moved into the Laguna around 1830. Indian settlers moved into the Laguna about 10,000 years earlier. In fact, a Santa Rosa Junior College archaeology class found an obsidian artifact thought to be 11,100 years old in the Laguna.

In 1908 Anthropologist S.A. Barrett, in his study The Ethno-Geography of the Pomo and Neighboring Indians, identified 11 Pomo village sites on the Laguna. We know that at least seven of the Barrett sites were north of present Highway 12 and well beyond Sebastopol city limits. In subsequent years, particularly in the last 20 years (this essay is not dated) or so, fieldwork has unearthed many more archaeological sites, at least 10 along the Laguna inside the city limits of Sebastopol and all located south of Highway 12.

The major village site for the Konhomtara on the west bank of the Laguna, as documented by S.A. Barrett, was Batiklachawi, just southwest of where the railroad depot was located in Sebastopol and where Pomo people still resided in 1908.

The Laguna people looked upon their mastery of coiling, twining and weaving as a synthesis of the intimate knowledge of the plants from which the baskets were made. As one accomplished weaver explained, The basket is in the roots, that¹s where it begins. The cultivation of the sedge field, and encouragement of the plant to grow straight with supple roots, the knowledge gained from generations of experience, plus the annual labor and attention to detail was required to help the plant fulfill its destiny. A failure to talk, sing or pray to plants was like being a neglectful parent.

The great basket-maker, Mabel McKay, once said, When people don't use plants they get scare. You must use them so they will come up again. All plants are like that. If they're not gathered from, or talked to, or cared about, they'll die.  She advocated restraint in harvesting, respect for the ways of the plant, and ³doing what the plant would want.

The Pomo, Coast Miwok and Wappo saw themselves as an integral part of nature. In their worldview, plant and animal forms had intelligence and feelings that were equal to man. There were rituals of supplication and appreciation. Hunters had to be physically clean before a hunt, not just to remove human scent, but because the deer wished it to be so before he would permit himself to be killed. Killing an animal, using a spring, entering a cave was always preceded by a ritual and a prayer.


BIOGRAPHY: Luther Burbank, 1849 - 1926

posted Feb 7, 2012, 7:08 AM by Wayne Wieseler   [ updated Feb 25, 2012, 8:21 AM ]

Luther Burbank was born on March 7, 1849, on a farm near Lancaster, Massachusetts. He received little more than a high school education but showed interest in nature and mechanics at an early age. Among his early inventions were a steam whistle made from a willow stick and an old teakettle and a steam engine for his rowboat. His enthusiasm for nature was encouraged by his uncle, the head of a department of a Boston museum, and his uncle's friend, Swiss-American naturalist Louis Agassiz.

After his father's death, Burbank moved with his family to a small farm in Groton. At the age of 21 he purchased 17 acres of land near Lunenberg and began a 55-year plant-breeding career. Inspired by Charles Darwin's Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication, Burbank determined that better plants could be developed through natural selection and new varieties created through crossbreeding, or hybridization.


His first successful plant was developed through selection. In 1871 he found a potato seed ball and planted its 23 seeds in a special plot. One produced many large, firm potatoes. Burbank replanted these and reaped a small harvest of fine potatoes. He sold the rights to the potato for $150 for travel fare to California, having determined to move there. In Santa Rosa, where three of his brothers had already settled, he established a nursery garden, greenhouse, and experiment farms that became famous throughout the world.

I firmly believe, from what I have seen, that this is the chosen spot of all this earth as far as Nature is concerned.
-- Luther Burbank 1849-1926

He worked by effecting multiple crosses of foreign and native strains to obtain seedlings, which he grafted onto fully developed plants for rapid assessment of hybrid characteristics. He carried on his plant hybridization and selection on a huge scale. At any one time he maintained as many as 3,000 experiments involving millions of plants. In his work on plums, he tested about 30,000 new varieties. Much of his valuable data was lost, but he wrote several books. Luther Burbank, His Methods and Discoveries and Their Practical Applications was published in 12 volumes in 1914-15.


Burbank died in Santa Rosa on April 11, 1926. The Plant Patent Act of 1930 amended U.S. patent law to permit protection of new and distinct varieties of asexually reproduced plants, other than tuber-propagated plants. This legislation resulted from the growing awareness that plant breeders had no financial incentive to enter plant breeding because they could not exercise control over their discoveries. In supporting this legislation, Thomas A. Edison testified: "This (bill) will, I feel sure, give us many Burbanks."

Major Plant Contributions

Introduced by Luther Burbank POTATO: 'Burbank' FRUITS: 113 Plums and Prunes, 10 Different Apples, 16 Blackberries, 13 Raspberries, 10 Strawberries, 35 Fruiting Cacti, 10 Cherries, 2 Figs, 4 Grapes, 5 Nectarines, 8 Peaches, 4 Pears, 11 Plumcots, 11 Quinces, 1 Almond, 6 Chestnuts, 3 Walnuts GRAINS, GRASSES AND OTHER FORAGE: 9 Different kinds VEGETABLES: 26 Different kinds ORNAMENTALS: 91 Different kinds.
-- From Luther Burbank's Plant Contributions
By Walter L. Howard, University of California
Bulletin 691, March 1945.
Luther Burbank was inducted into the Inventor's Hall of Fame in 1986. Plant Patent Nos. 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18, 41, 65, 66, 235, 266, 267, 269, 290, 291, and 1041 were issued to Burbank posthumously.

Unique Laboratory

See some experiments that were in progress more than 90 years ago as well as other unique Burbank creations. Note this outdoor laboratory is unique in the world as experiments here are perhaps only half finished and therefore the plant hybrids can be found nowhere else on the planet!

Assessment of Luther Burbank's Life Work

"The science of breeding grew and advanced rapidly during the first two decades of the new century, and though it may not be generally recognized, the movement is traceable to Burbank as a potent activator." According to Professor H. J. Webber, a pioneer plant-breeder and geneticist and a contemporary of Burbank. "Because of the influence of Burbank, the science of plant breeding was advanced by at least twenty years and for this accomplishment alone, he deserved a sizable monument to his memory." (From Luther Burbank A Victim of Hero Worship, by Walter L. Howard, Emeritus Professor of Pomology, University of California, in Chronica Botanica, 1945.)

Burbank, Luther, 1849-1926 Luther Burbank: his methods and discoveries and their practical application (1914), 12 complete volumes are digitized for public use here

A recent article assesses Luther Burbank’s work: Journal of Heredity.

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