[Press Democrat, Centennial Edition, Santa Rosa, California, October, 1956, p.9]

by Emile C. Frazier, Staff Correspondent

Sebastopol–In 1856, Joseph H. P. Morris, a descendent of the Massachusetts colonists of 1632, homesteaded a 120 acre tract of government land offered to anyone who wanted to start a business, built a grocery store and named his settlement Pine Grove.

Mr. Morris laid out the town plat for what is now known as Sebastopol, in the Analy Township. The name Analy is not of Indian origin, as many believe, but was given to the district by Patrick McChristian, a leader of 32 comrades who hoisted the Bear Flag in Sonoma after supervising the making of the much-disputed flat.

The Analy district originally was the 220 acres bought by McChristian and his wife, Sara McMenamin McChristian, which is now the Green Valley District, and Pat named the acreage after the Analy County in Ireland, land of his forebears.

As Pine Grove the town was a trading center for farmers for miles around, but the nearest post office was at Bodega and served all the coastal and Russian River area.

Named Sebastopol

A few months after Morris laid out his town, two characters named Stevens and Hibbs got into a violent argument in front of John Dougherty’s General Store. Hibbs, after a thorough beating, fled into Dougherty’s store. Dougherty, in defense of his inventory and Hibbs, grabbed a shillelagh and defied Stevens to pass.

This was during the time of the Crimean War, and the siege of the Russian seaport town, Sebastopol [sic], was a much discussed topic. Townspeople, a rough a ready bunch by nature, enjoyed the big fight and someone remarked “it looks like the siege of Sebastopol.” And so the settlement of Pine Grove was renamed to popular acclaim.

Agriculture Rich

Man picking apples near Sebastopol (photo courtesy of the Sonoma County Library)

The Sebastopol area is primarily an agricultural area. One of the first big crops was not its famed apples, but the more lowly potato, which was grown in the abundance in the Green Valley area, hauled by wagon-loads to Bodega Bay and shipped around the coast to San Francisco in the early days of pioneering.

Before the apple became king, blackberries provided the greater portion of farm income, and berries and cherries still constitute a bigger part than most people realize.

Farm income from Gravenstein apples, fresh and processed, for 1955 was $2,593,392; cherries, processed and fresh, $330,000 (’56 figures will be considerably higher); late apples, $1,437804; berries, blacks and raspberries, $232,000 (mostly raised in Sebastopol); and the surprise crop, for Sonoma County, but most acreage in Sebastopol, is $25,000 in other berries and vegetables.

Acreage for apples in the Sebastopol apple belt is $5,551 bearing acres of Gravs and 3,122 of late varieties, and the tonnage last year was near the 100,000 mark.

Sebastopol area soil is some of the richest in California, and the great Luther Burbank chose a ranch in the Sebastopol area for one of his experimental gardens, because of its ideal soil, and mild climate.

Recreation Opportunities

Sebastopol, although classed as a small Class 6 city, has access to the finest in entertainment without traveling farther than a distance of 60 miles to the Bay Area; 14 miles to Bodega Bay fishing resorts; 10 miles to the nearest Russian River resort and seven miles to Santa Rosa.

In addition it has nearly 70 clubs and organizations, religious, fraternal, youth, sports, and men[‘s] and women’s service clubs as well as dance club groups both modern and folk style.

Official in 1902

Sebastopol was officialy a town on June 23, 1902, and H. B. Morris was named president of the board of trustees. William Dowd took over the leadership from 1904 to 1905 and then Mr. Morris took the office back. Records seemed to have ceased until 1924 when Ernest F. Jewell, president at that time, instituted proceedings to change the title from town to city of Sebastopol. Following him were G.R. Tabor, and Hubert B. Scudder, who served from 1926 to 1928.

The title of president of the board became mayor in 1927. Others serving as mayor since are J.W. Rule, Dr. A.B. Sweetnam, who served for 18 years, and was followed by John F. Spooner, who served as mayor from 1948 to 1952.

When Mr. Spooner retired from the council after serving 22 years, Arthur C. Janssen was elected to the post. This year he retired and the present mayor is George N. Groves. Councilment working with him are Dr. John O’Brien, George Streckfus, Joseph Tomei, and John Wetch.

Sebastopol’s first town clerk was Charles O. Solomon, who took office in 1902. Today’s clerk for the city is Mrs. Amelia L. Kidwell, who has held the elective office for 12 years.

Early Transportation

Five years after Sebastopol was founded, the first railroad tracks were laid west of the Rocky Mountains and in 1889 was run through Sebastopol’s main street and still is in use daily.

Petaluma & Santa Rosa Railway car 52 on Main Street, 1929 (photo courtesy of the Sonoma County Library)

Passenger service on the Petaluma and Santa Rosa Railway Company electric cars began in 1905 after a bitter court fight between the P&SR and the California Northwestern Railroad, which ended with a court order forcing the CNW to allow the P&SR to cross its tracks.

Considerable damage was done to the lines during the 1906 earthquake but more by the increasing use of automobile travel and on Feb. 26, 1932, the P&SR was acquired by the Northwestern Pacific, and passenger service ended in July.

Sebastopol has the honor of having pioneered the first municipal airport in the Redwood Empire and on May 26, 1928, stgaged the first air show in the county, on land owned by C.P. Cnopius, just past Laguna Bridge on the Santa Rosa Highway. The main hangar is now in use as a wrecking yard building.

Clarence Rose of Sebastopol flew the first Lockheed Vega plane to land at the airport. Early aviation enthusiasts who helped the airport project included Ted Woolsey, Analy High School graduate who later headed the Thunderbird Aircraft Plant which turned out 400 Thunderbirds on the one acre plant; Sam Huck, Tony DeKleva and Dr. Chester Marsh. Ivan T. Barnes, then Commander of Sebastopol Post American Legion, was instigator of the air show.

[Sebastopol Today and Tomorrow]

Main Street in 1954 (photo courtesy of the Sonoma County Library)

Sebastopol, probably because of its ideal soil and climate, is becoming more and more a center of nurserymen, and offers specialists in fuschsias, begonias, dwarf evergreens, fruit trees, African violets and general landscaping.

There are 14 churches, a 900-pupil high school, two large elementary school, seven physicians and surgeons, four dentists, two optometrists, two chiropractors, a physical therapist and two veterinarians. A third elementary school is under construction. Sebastopol is one of the few cities of its size to have its own Chamber of Commerce building. The president of the chamber is Dr. Robert Rector.

Another feature often missing in small cities is the home-owned hospital and Sebastopol’s is reputedly one of the finest. Albert Helwig is the owner and Carl Lindgren, manager.

Sebastopol’s city population is about 3,000 and fringe area about 3,500, and indications are that it will increase rapidly. Present plans to increase sewage, water, and other city facilities will enable the city to annex adjacent tracts of heavily populated areas, which the council says is mandatory if the city is to grow and prosper.

The estimated population for 1960 for the city of Sebastopol area and fringe trading area, V.M. Moir, North Coast District Manager, California State Chamber of Commerce, predicted last year will be 40,000.