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Author: Sean Bressie



The price for the day of walking and history includes: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Tee Shirt AND ONE YEAR’S MEMBERSHIP to the Sonoma County Historical Society. $75 ADULTS, $10 UNDER 18 INFORMATION AND ENROLLMENT FORM: SONOMACOUNTYHISTORY.ORG/Historywalk INFORMATION: RAY JOHNSON 707-535-6476
Sean Bressie | Sonoma County Historical Society

2018 SCHS Annual Banquet - March 11th

It’s getting closer to deadline time for the Sonoma County Historical Society’s annual banquet at the Flamingo Hotel in Santa Rosa Sunday, Mar. 11.
Coordinator Sharie Sbrazza says you can still sign up for the even online until Thursday, Mar. 8.


Author and columnist Gaye LeBaron will be the featured speaker.
Marking the City of Santa Rosa’s sesquicentennial (150th year), LeBaron will discuss: Santa Rosa Then and Now, the Pluckiest City in California—the “Before and After” of Natural Disasters. In addition to writing more than 8,000 entertaining columns for The Press Democrat over the years, she has also pioneered a number of major books on Sonoma County. Early on, she wrote the foreword for the pioneering work Wild Oats in Eden: Sonoma County in the 19th century. The collaborating group in the 1960s included Harvey Hansen, Jeanne Thurlow Miller, and photographers Ansel Adams, John LeBaron and Beth Winter. In 1985, LeBaron, Hansen, Dee Blackman and Joann Mitchell collaborated on Santa Rosa: a Nineteenth Century Town. In 1993, LeBaron joined with with Joann Mitchell on Santa Rosa: A Twentieth Century Town. After 42 fruitful years, she went into semi-retirement in 2001. She still writes at least twice a month in The Press Democrat and has been busy working on fire stories since the tragic events of October, 2017. LeBaron attended Sonoma Valley High School and then moved on to Santa Rosa Junior College, before earning a B.A. in English and History at UC, Berkeley. She interned three summers at the Press Democrat and took a full-time job in 1957.

She has done numerous interviews of local historians and has taught classes at Santa Rosa Jr. College and at the Lifelong Learning Center at Sonoma State University.

In 2001, LeBaron made gifts of her interview notes and research material to the Sonoma State University Library special collections department. The material later was added to the school’s online catalog and is available on a website for use by students, researchers and community organizations. She has been honored as grand marshal of the Luther Burbank Rose Parade and Festival (1984) and Sonoma County woman of the year in 2015 by Congressman Mike Thompson. She also received the California Community College Distinguished Alumni Award in 2016. Gaye and photographer/instructor John LeBaron were married in l958 and they had two children. He died in 2014.

The Banquet

Three items are on the Mar. 11 menu, Roasted Chicken Breast, Pacific Salmon and Pad Thai Noodles Vegetarian dish. Cost is $50 for members and $60 for non-members. Checks should be sent no later than Mar. 1 to Sharie Sbrazza at P.O. Box 406, Santa Rosa, 95402. Phone 707-546-6764 or email The Flamingo is located at 4th St. and Farmers Lane in Santa Rosa. Doors open at 11 a.m. and lunch starts at noon. There will be a presentation of history awards, part of our annual tradition, a report to members and board election and presentations by History Day students. There will also be a raffle.

For those desiring, board president Jeremy Nichols said the SCHS could use help in funding lunches for History Day Students as well as donations to help victims of the fire in October


Signup Flyer
Sean Bressie | Sonoma County Historical Society

The last time fire came through was 1964


History of the California Dream, 1850-present

Liz du Plessis

9/14 to 10/5, Weekly on Thursdays, 6:00-8:00 PM (4 Sessions)
Santa Rosa Junior College, Emeritus Hall Room: 1597
Instructor: Liz du Plessis, PhD in U.S. History
The California of Americans’ historical imagination – of adventure, opportunity, and happiness –and the California of historical fact – with its struggles and hardships -- have had strikingly discordant effects on the larger American historical narrative from the mid-19th century to today. This course explores California’s mythology and historiography through artifacts of popular culture including films, songs, and journalistic sources as well as sources that reveal the gritty realities of fires, floods, earthquakes, migrant laborers, and gangs. The instructor holds a PhD in History and will present primary sources from digital archives, slideshow lectures, and film clips. The extensive writings of historian Kevin Starr will receive attention along with works by Carolyn Merchant and other environmental historians of the California region since 1850. 
Lectures will be followed by hands-on activities and group discussions to explore selected primary and secondary sources. Participants will have opportunities to play an active role in the course by sharing artifacts and ideas during in-person discussions and in online discussion forums. Multimedia and print materials will be made available online in advance of course meetings to support and extend discussion. Participants will learn not only about course topics but also how to find and interpret historical sources.

2017 History Society picnic spot is Sturgeon’s Mill - Sept 17th

For this year’s Sonoma County History Society picnic, our historic chosen spot is Sturgeon’s Mill, at 2150 Green Hill Road west of Sebastopol. It’s a great place to get a sense of what rural life was like back in the late 19th and early 20th century. SCHS day at the mill is Sunday, Sept. 17, from 10 a.m. on. The visit is open to members and friends. We ask that you let us know if you are coming and how many are in your party by phoning Sharie Sbrazza at 707-570-7076 or Marjorie Torliatt at 707-545-7507. Hot lunches will be available for sale at reasonable prices although people can also bring goodies from home if they so desire. There are some restrictions. No dogs are allowed, and the same goes for alcoholic beverages and recreational drugs. It’s recommended that people wear flat shoes, since there are some slippery areas, and since we are not going to a Broadway musical, high heels don’t seem quite right.

Since we’ll only a few miles from the ocean, mill veterans tell us to dress in layers and take photos in the morning. The mill, with 60 or so volunteers, welcomes visitors four weekends a year. The last weekend opening is Oct. 14-15.

In the 2nd half of the 19th century, logging was a dangerous business. Mules, oxen and horses pulled logs out of the woods. Things got better in the 1880s, when steam-powered Donkey engines came along, improving production of lumber. Arrival of the North Coast Railroad in 1877 opened the Russian River area to more intense logging. Partners Wade Sturgeon, John Donati and J.W. Gonella opened the first Sturgeon’s Mill in Coleman Valley in 1914. In the 1920s, the mill was moved to its present location. In 1942, Wade’s son Ralph and Jim Henningsen became partners and continued in business until 1964.

The current activities include a chance to view close-up an 1890s Atlas Steam Engine which drives a saw blade that cuts through giant redwood and fir logs. Also in prime condition, especially in a year when we’ve had lots of rain, are the Woodland Gardens first planted by Wayne and Esther Sturgeon many years ago. Driving directions: From Hwy. 101 in Santa Rosa, take Hwy. 12 exit toward Sebastopol; go on Hwy. 12 for 3.4 miles, then take a right onto Fulton Road (just one block) and turn west (left) onto Occidental Road; After 7 miles, turn right onto Green Hill Rd., go one-half mile down hill to the bottom where you will find the parking lot.

Amazing Free Community Event - May 21st, 2017

Don’t miss the first annual Finding History in Sonoma County – A Day of Discovery on Sunday, May 21st, 2017! It is free and open to the public, and is being held at the historic DeTurk Round Barn on 919 Donahue St in Santa Rosa from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.

The purpose of the Finding History in Sonoma County event is to discover, celebrate and promote the historical records collections held by 34 Sonoma County based organizations. The event will include presentations by local authors and historians, book signings by nine local authors, a tour of the historic West End neighborhood and mini workshops focused on the preservation of archival materials. There will be special appearances by the Model A Ford Club and individuals in period costume.

Finding History in Sonoma County will serve as an opportunity to learn from other organizations and share valuable resources with the public, in what we hope will be the first of many such events that celebrates our county’s history.

Call 545-0831 ext 1562 for more information.

2017 Annual Meeting & Awards Luncheon


Sunday, March 19th, 2017
A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead
and Susana Millman
Alive with the Dead: A Fly on the Wall with a Camera
Sean Bressie | Sonoma County Historical Society

2017 Banquet Flier


2017 walk update #2

Attention Walkers of Jeff Tobes Memorial 20 mile History Walk

Date – April 1st, 2017 Start location --- Park and Ride at highway 101 and the first Healdsburg exit, south side of town Registration time --- 5:30 am Please go on line to register at You may pay and register on line. Or you may register online and mail in a check We are expecting a good turnout for this year’s April 1st walk in Healdsburg and now you can enroll and pay online if you wish, however you can also pay with a check as well.

The walk route is posted online at The route starts in Healdsburg with breakfast at Big John’s Market; up Chiquita Rd and through the Salvation Army facility at Lytton Springs. Through Geyserville where we have a special lunch spot next to the river. Next, we continue up to Asti where we will have a special tour of the old Italian Swiss Colony tasting room. This is not to be missed. Onward through old Cloverdale for dinner and then a bus ride back to Healdsburg. Some of this walk will be alongside vineyards to avoid the main road if it is not too muddy. There is plenty of pretty countryside to see on this walk and I think it will be one for the history books.

Training for this event is recommended, if you have not begun walking you should be starting to train for the walk; to get in shape. Start with daily 1-3 mile walks with some 5+ walks occasionally, next month boost your daily walks to 3-6 miles with occasional 10+ and do at least a couple of 15+ walks before April 1st. Don’t push it all to the last week, your feet won’t take it. In fact, it would be good to not walk much a couple of days before the walk.

I thank Cecilia for doing much of the legwork for this walk. We still need to arrange for a bus, if anyone has a contact or lead please let me know. Oh, and we still need a tee shirt sponsor, this costs $750 and their logo will be prominently displayed on the back.

The history will be like last year’s walk with pictures and some speaking. Ray Johnson

2017 Walk is coming April 1st.. No Fooling! - Sign up Now

Walk Update #1
Date – April 1st 2017
Start location --- Park and ride at 101 and Healdsburg Ave.
Registration time --- TBA

Please go on line to register at

You will be able to pay on line or mail in check with application.

For April 1st , 2017, we shall be having the Annual Jeff Tobes Memorial Walk presented by the Sonoma County Historical Society. This year’s walk will be in and around Healdsburg and then north through Lytton Springs, Geyserville, Asti and Cloverdale. The route and stops are in their preliminary stage now and more information will be coming as we pull it together. Just like previous years there will be surprises.

If any of you would like to help, please give me a call. Items that we need help on is: arrange busses, lunch, dinner, contacting sponsors, thank you letters, fruit, ice, snacks, water, and we need a tee shirt sponsor.

If you have any questions, please reply to this eMail or contact me at: or 707-535-6476


Ray Johnson
SCHS History Walk

The 2017 Annual History walk will be in April instead of June

Stay tuned for details on the Jeff Tobes Memorial History walk April 1st, 2017 from Healdsburg to Cloverdale.