History of Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa’s history is rich in culture and many different groups have called the area their home. Pomo, Miwok, and Wappo Indians originally populated the area followed by the Spanish in the early 1800’s. The first deeded land was held as the Rancho Cabeza de Santa Rosa and was given to Senora Maria Ignacia Lopez de Carrillo by Spanish authorities.

Senora Carillo was the mother-in-law of General Vallejo, commander of the Mexican forces north of the Presidio of San Francisco. In 1837 the Senora built an adobe structure at the junction of ancient Native American trading routes near present-day Farmer’s Lane and Highway 12. The ruins still stand today adjacent to St. Eugene’s Church.

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.

The discovery of gold and California’s statehood gradually produced more traffic along the roads past Santa Rosa. Some who came for gold, realized that farming in the rich Santa Rosa valley would bring more wealth than digging for gold and an agricultural community soon flourished.

In the early 1850’s other travelers came to Santa Rosa to establish commercial ventures. Three enterprising business men, Berthold “Barney” Hoen, Feodor Gustav Hahman and William Hartman rented the Carrillo Adobe and opened Hoen & Co. Hoen and his partners soon purchased another tract of land a mile downstream which had originally belonged to Julio Carrillo, son of the Senora. This land was next to a tract still in Julio’s ownership. Convincing Julio to join their partnership, they plotted out a town and called it Santa Rosa offering all the lots for $25 a piece.

Barney Hoen, sensing the political and economic currents, started a campaign in 1854 to bring the county seat to Santa Rosa. He promised that he and others would donate land for the Courthouse and he and Julio Carrillo offered to donate land for a town square. Their promise worked and county residents voted to transfer the county seat from Sonoma to Santa Rosa. Once the vote was in, a mule team was dispatched to physically remove the County archives, and the deed was done.

In 1867 the town of just a few hundred residents was granted incorporation by the County Board of Supervisors. The State of California affirmed the incorporation in 1868, and that is considered the year of Santa Rosa’s official birth. The coming of the first railroad in 1870 assured the little town’s success, and the next seven years saw the population increase tenfold.


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