The first inhabitants in the area were the Kashaya Indians and at the turn of the 19th Century, Russian people from Sitka, Alaska settled in the coastal area founding Fort Ross in 1811 and erected buildings at Bodega Bay. They had come to collect sea otter pelts and to grow food for their Alaskan colony. In 1841, being unable to adequately support themselves and Sitka, the Russians sold their stock at Fort Ross to John A. Sutter. After 1842 Americans began settling in the area as a result of Bear Flag Revolt, Mexican-American War, the Gold Rush, and California’s admission to the Union.
Logging of the Redwood forest and mining for quicksilver (mercury) were the primary interests in the area. The largest Redwood tree from this area was known as “the Monarch of the Forest” at a height of 367 feet 8 inches with a circumference of 45 feet. The oldest Redwood in the area was proved to be over 3,300 years old and would have attained a diameter of 17 feet when Christ was born. The boom of the logging industry was during the period of 1870 to 1910 and as a result of this, Guerneville acquired a nickname of Stumptown. Upon realization that lumber resources were finite and thanks to actions taken by James Armstrong much of these giants have been preserved. Railroads of narrow and broad gauge came into the area in the late 1800’s to serve as tools to the lumber and mining industries of the area.
And later these railroads served to provide a means for vacationers to come into the area from San Francisco and other areas. With the end of the logging and mining industries, vacationing and tourism became a major business for the Russian River area centered around Guerneville. Vacationing was the major attraction during the 1920’s until about 1935. But by 1935 as a result of various disasters and the economy, the railroads had gradually been dismantled. From the pioneer days of the area to the present, Guerneville and other Russian River towns, have managed to survive floods, fires, the 1906 earthquake, and other disasters. Today the Russian River Area continues to grow at its own pace. Even with a few floods of our own time the Russian River continues to thrive. The Russian River remains a great vacation area for many people from around the world; a place where people come to enjoy its beaches along the river, to wander amongst the amazing Redwoods, and to enjoy its many other splendors from the vineyards to the Pacific Ocean. The River is home to people from all walks of life and we are all proud to be a part of the community.
TOWN SPECIFIC INFORMATION
The Monte Rio Chamber of Commerce has a great page about the history of the area.
The Occidental Chamber of Commerce also has a great page about the history of their town.
A man by the name of Gary Rodgers has written down a brief history of Cazadero.
Guerneville – Armstrong Woods Park
During the 1870’s, this area was set aside as a natural park and botanical garden by Colonel James Armstrong, a lumberman who recognized the beauty and natural value of the forests he harvested. After his death, Armstrong’s daughter and the Le Baron family mounted an energetic campaign involving public meetings, rallies and car-caravans to direct public attention to the need to preserve this last remnant of the once mighty redwood forest. Their efforts were successful, and in 1917 the County of Sonoma passed an initiative to purchase the property for $80,000. The grove was operated by Sonoma County until 1934 when the State took over. In 1936 the grove was opened to the public as Armstrong Redwoods State Park. The grove’s status was changed to a reserve in 1964 when a greater understanding of its ecological significance prompted a more protective management of the resource. (California State Parks) Additional history about Armstrong Woods.