Santa Rosa, Spanish for “Saint Rose,” was founded in 1833 and named after Saint Rosa of Lima. Before the arrival of Europeans, the Santa Rosa Plain was home to a strong and populous tribe of Pomo natives known as the Bitakomtara. The population remained small until railroad services started in 1870. By 1900 the population had reached 6,673 and by 2000 the population was 147,532, the largest in Sonoma County and the fifth most populous city in the Bay Area.
The first non-native permanent settlers were the family of the widow Dona Maria Carrillo, mother-in-law of General Vallejo and aunt of the Mexican Governor Pio Pico. By the 1850s, a Wells Fargo post and general store were established in what is now downtown Santa Rosa. In 1867, the county recognized Santa Rosa as an incorporated city and in 1868 the state officially confirmed the incorporation, making it officially the third incorporated city in Sonoma County.
The 1906 Sant Francisco earthquake essentially destroyed the entire downtown, but the city’s population did not greatly suffer.
Sonoma translates to “Valley of the Moon." The Pomo, Coast Miwok, and Wappo peoples were the earliest human settlers of Sonoma County, between 8000 and 5000 BC, effectively living within the natural carrying capacity of the land. Spaniards, Russians, and other Europeans and settled in the county from the late 16th to mid-19th century, seeking timber, fur, and farmland.
The first established permanent foothold in Sonoma County was Fort Ross on the coast in 1812. Sonoma was one of the original counties when California became a state in 1850.
The population in 2000 was 458,878. The cities in Sonoma County include Cloverdale, Cotati, Healdsburg, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Sonoma, the Town of Windsor, and unincorporated Sonoma County.
Santa Rosa Fun Facts
Founded in 1928, the Santa Rosa Symphony ranks among the oldest symphony orchestras in the western states.
The Santa Rosa Plaza opened in 1983, required the demolition of various downtown buildings, including the courthouse.
Charles M. Schulz, the creator of the world-famous Peanuts comics, lived the last half of his life in Santa Rosa.
In 1911, America’s first official Air Mail flight was completed from Petaluma to Santa Rosa on February 18th.
Robert Ferguson Observatory in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park is the largest observatory in the western United States wholly committed to public viewing and astronomical education.
Sonoma County has about 60,000 acres of grape vineyards.
Sonoma County Fun Facts
Six nations have claimed Sonoma County from 1542 to the present: The Spanish Empire, the Kingdom of England, the Russian Empire, the First Mexican Empire, the Mexican Republic, the California Republic and the United States of America.
Sonoma County is enormous and has an area of 1,768 square miles.
In 1958, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) had rights to land at the head of Bodega Bay and began construction on the first commercial nuclear power plant in the United States in Sonoma County. A landowner and many environmentalists objected, fought, and sank the project which was halted in 1964. The beginnings of this excavation for the nuclear plant is still visible today and aptly named “Hole In The Head.”
As early as 1920, Sonoma County was ranked as the eighth most agriculturally productive US county and a leading producer of hops, grapes, prunes, apples, and dairy and poultry products, largely due to the extent of available, fertile agricultural land in addition to the abundance of high-quality irrigation water.