(1 of ) Many of the places in Sonoma County have Native American or Spanish origins, some tell the strange tales of old land disputes and stand-offs at local watering holes. Explore the interesting and sometimes strange history of how some of our favorite places got their names. In this photo, downtown Santa Rosa in the 1870s. (Photo by Joseph Henry Downing)
(2 of ) Petaluma: The Petalumas were a group of native Americans whose main village was at the base of Sonoma Mountain, east of what is now called the Petaluma River. In the 1830s, General Mariano Vallejo took the name for his Rancho Petaluma. In this photo Native Americans dancing at the Old Adobe Fiesta. (Courtesy of the Sonoma County Library, 1960s)
(3 of ) Sonoma: General Mariano Vallejo said sono meant "moon" in the language of his friend Chief Solano. Vallejo explained that as one travels through Sonoma Valley, the moon seems to rise and set several times over the hills. Thus Sonoma means "Valley of the Moon." Laura Somersal, one of the last native speakers of Wappo, said Sonoma meant "abandoned camping place." English equivalents to -sonoma might be -burg and -ville.
In this photo Mission San Francisco de Solano de Sonoma, circa 1903. (Courtesy of the Sonoma County Library)
(4 of ) Sebastopol: Halfway around the globe, at the tip of the Crimean Peninsula, the Russians built a fortified port there in 1783 and called it "Sevastopol." During the Crimean War, British and French forces laid siege to Sevastopol.
One day in Pine Grove, men named Stevens and Hibbs got into a fistfight. Hibbs sought refuge inside Dougherty's store. Stevens tried to follow, but Dougherty wouldn't let him. Stevens paced the road outside for hours while Dougherty kept an eye on him. Eventually Stevens left in defeat.
To the crowd that gathered, eager to see a fight, this was disappointing. They nicknamed Dougherty's store, "Hibb's Sebastopol." When it came time to name the post office (Pine Grove was too common), someone suggested "Sebastopol."
In this photo the Barnes Ranch in Sebastopol, 1892 (Courtesy of the Sonoma County Library)
(5 of ) Santa Rosa: According to popular legend, this area was named Santa Rosa by Father Juan Amorosa. After baptizing a young Native American woman in a stream, he followed the usual custom of naming rivers and creeks for saints. Because the baptism took place on the day of the Feast of Santa Rosa de Lima, Santa Rosa was the name given to the stream (and later to the whole valley) as well as to the young woman who was baptized. In this photo, the corner of Main and 3rd street, in Santa Rosa, circa 1875. (Photo by John Henry Downing, courtesy of the Sonoma County Library)
(6 of ) Cotati, in Sonoma County, is named for Kotati, a Coast Miwok village just north of the present town. In this photo a general store in Cotati, circa 1911. (Courtesy of the Sonoma County Library)
(7 of ) Healdsburg is named for Col. Harmon Heald, an early settler. In this photo a fireman's tournament in the Healdsburg plaza, circa 1890. (Courtesy of the Sonoma County Library)
(8 of ) Windsor: It was early in 1855 that Windsor got its name. Hiram Lewis, a pony express rider for the county, named the community "Windsor," presumably because the area's pastoral beauty reminded him of the grounds surrounding Windsor Castle in his native England. So pleased with the beautiful oak trees and the area's park-like appearance, he stayed on to become its first acting postmaster. On August 31, 1855, a Windsor Post Office was established. In this photo Louis Arata and an unidentified woman in a buggy in front of dentist's office in Windsor, circa 1890. (Courtesy of the Sonoma County Library).
(9 of ) The town of Rohnert Park was named after the Rohnert family, which owned the Rohnert Seed Farm. In 1929, a successful businessman, Waldo Emerson Rohnert (1869–1933), a native of Detroit, Michigan, purchased a large ranch in the area and minimized flooding in the fields with a crude drainage system. He died shortly after. His son, Fred Rohnert, a graduate of Stanford Law School, took over the ranch and developed a seed growing business, the Rohnert Seed Farm, which became a major horticultural success for the county. In this photo a 1966 aerial view of Rohnert Park, looking north. (Courtesy of the Sonoma County Library)
(10 of ) Bodega Bay is named for Don Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra, who thought he was in San Francisco Bay, when he anchored off what is now Tomales Point. He named the spot Punta Bodega. Bodega quickly realized his mistake, it wasn’t until much later that his name was attached to the bay. In this photo Fishing boats on Bodega Bay, circa 1910. (Courtesy of Sonoma Heritage Collections)
(11 of ) Glen Ellen's name came from the ranch of Col. Charles Stuart. A successful businessman in Gold Rush San Francisco, Stuart bought 1,000 acres in Sonoma Valley and named it "Glen Ellen Vineyards" after his wife, Ellen. The word glen, Gaelic for "mountain valley, reflected Stuart’s Scottish heritage. In this photo, Glen Ellen Store; Chauvet Hotel circa 1933. (Courtesy Sonoma Heritage Collections)
(12 of ) Jenner was named for the Jenner family who settled in the area in the 1850s. In this photo, Jenner by the Sea boat landing, date unknown. (Courtesy of Sonoma Heritage Collections)
(13 of ) Annadel State Park is named for Susana "Annie" Hutchinson, whose family owned the area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The name, a contraction of "Annie's Dell," was in use by the 1880s, when it was given to a railway station on their property (a 'dell' is a small, wooded valley). In this photo, eucalyptus trees at Annadel in Santa Rosa California, circa 1971. (Courtesy of Sonoma Heritage Collections)
(14 of ) Taylor Mountain, which rises above the Sonoma County Fairgrounds just southeast of Santa Rosa, takes its name from John Shackleford Taylor. A Virginian by birth, Taylor came west by wagon train. After mining gold in the Sierras, he settled at the foot of his mountain in 1853, when Santa Rosa was still a tiny village. In this photo, looking north from Taylor Mountain, Santa Rosa, California, 1965 (Courtesy of Sonoma Heritage Collections)