History of Sebastopol


Native Miwok, Pomo first inhabit Sebastopol area

The area's first known inhabitants were the native Miwok and Pomo Indians. For many years, the Miwok and Pomo Indians lived peacefully in the coastal mountains and valleys of what we now call Sonoma County. The Coast Miwok lived on the shores of Bodega Bay. The Native Americans’ lifestyle revolved around the seasons, hunting and gathering from the land, and harvesting the sea and rivers.

The town of Sebastopol formed in the 1850s with a United States Post Office and as a small trade center for the farmers in the surrounding agricultural region. As California's population swelled after the westward migration and the Gold Rush of the 1850s, more and more settlers drifted into the fertile California valleys north of San Francisco to try their hand at farming.

Town name reflects empathy to Russia

The name of Sebastopol first came into use in the late 1850s as a result of a prolonged and lively fistfight in the newly formed town. It was likened to the long British siege of the Russian seaport of Sevastopol during the then-raging Crimean War.

Main Street

Britain, France, Sardinia, and Turkey fought Russia in this war, one of the first wars to be directly reported by journalists and photographers. The Crimean War was also the origin of improved medical care of the wounded, primarily due to the efforts of Florence Nightingale, who formed a nursing corps to care for wounded British soldiers. Evidently, many Americans in the west sympathized more for the Russian than for the British cause as there were at one time four other Sebastopol's in California; one in Napa County, renamed Yountville, one each in Tulare, Sacramento, and Nevada counties.

Apple industry brings steady growth

The apple industry brought a steady rural prosperity to the town. Sebastopol was incorporated in 1902 with schools, churches, hotels, canneries, mills, wineries, and an opera house. The 1906 earthquake reduced most of these early buildings to rubble, but as elsewhere in the county, the town was rebuilt.

Apple Pickers

In the second half of the Twentieth Century, the apple industry struggled to compete with other apple producing regions and gradually declined in its economic significance. With greater personal mobility and the rise of larger shopping centers in other Sonoma County communities, Sebastopol changed from a full-service town with a complete range of stores to one with a more specialized range of goods and services.

Sebastopol's Link to the Past

Vibrant, creative hub of Sonoma County

In the 21st Century, Sebastopol continues to be a vibrant, creative community. In addition to being the arts and creative hub of West Sonoma County, Sebastopol is a leader in local efforts to address climate change. The City and the community as a whole are leaders in energy and water conservation efforts as well as policy initiatives to address this critical issue.

Main Street Sebastopol

Sebastopol's special qualities and unique geographical setting attract visitors and residents alike, as well as new commercial and industrial businesses, some with global reach. The community continues to work together towards creation of a sustainable local economy.

Historical Society offers group tours of cemetery

The Historical Society now also offers group tours of Sebastopol's Historic Cemetery (Sebastopol Memorial Lawn).

Groups must consist of more then ten people. Tours may be given on week days or weekends, date and time to be arranged with the Historical Society.

Post-tour gatherings with refreshments can be arranged at the Burbank cottage.