Sonoma is a historically significant city in Sonoma Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA, surrounding its historic town plaza, a remnant of the town’s Mexican colonial past. Sonoma today is a center of wine industry for the Sonoma Valley AVA Appellation, as well as the home of the nationally recognized Sonoma Valley Film Festival. Sonoma’s population was 9,128 as of the 2000 census. Sonoma was the capital of the short-lived California Republic.
The region of Sonoma was originally the home of Native American Coast Miwok tribes as well as the Pomo people and Wintuns. Many of the Native Americans still remain, even after seven changes in government since the Spanish first explored and took over the region (see Sonoma County for governments.)
The town of Sonoma began with the foundation of Mission San Francisco Solano in 1823 by Father José Altimira of the Franciscan Order. This mission was the farthest north of all 21 California missions, and was connected to the others by the Camino Real (Royal Road). Mission San Francisco Solano was the last of the California missions to be established, and the only one founded after Mexico‘s independence from Spain.
Soon after it was built, it was secularized by the Mexican government, under the orders of Lieutenant, later General, Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo. Under Vallejo’s supervision, the Presidio of Sonoma, or Sonoma Barracks (part of Spain’s Fourth Military District), was built beside the mission for the army, and he pursued control and order in the region over the native tribes and kept a military eye on the Russians of Fort Ross. Vallejo, who owned over 7 million acres in landholdings and was one of Sonoma’s most illustrious residents, was instrumental in its growth and made Sonoma into the political center of Northern California. He maintained good relationships with the Native Americans of the region, was helped by his friendship with native Chief Solano of the Suisunes, who had been baptized at the mission and who near the city.
Vallejo was also partial towards the influx of American immigrants, both legal and illegal, who entered by way of Sutter’s Fort, despite his personal dislike of John Sutter. He was, however, careful to ensure the newcomers did not achieve too much power, lest they destabilize the state. His partiallity was tested when an illegal American alien, Edward Bale, formed an American mob attempted to murder Vallejo’s brother Salvador in Sonoma’s central plaza after losing to him in a duel. Bale was foiled, and plans were made to execute him right on the plaza. However, Vallejo, law-abiding citizen he was, ordered a court trial at the Sonoma alcaldia, where Bale was nonetheless found guilty of attempted murder. His life, however, was spared by the Mexican government, which did not want to create any problems. After the overthrow of the unpopular governor Nicolás Gutiérrez by Vallejo’s nephew Juan Bautista Alvarado in 1836, the Monterey diputación named him Comandante General of California, further increasing the prestige of Vallejo and Sonoma. When the American immigrants attempted to overthrow the Mexican government in the Bear Flag Revolt, they imprisoned Vallejo in the town jail and declared Sonoma capital of the “Republic of California”.
Jack London: (1876-1916) claimed that Sonoma meant “The Valley of the Moon“, which phrase is still applied to the town as well as the whole of Sonoma Valley. The writer lived for many years in the nearby town of Glen Ellen.
The birth place of California’s famed wine industry
Wine Country doesn’t get more real than Sonoma Valley, whose rich soils mark the birthplace of California’s wine industry. It’s also the closest wine region to San Francisco, just 45 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Cradled between the Mayacamas and the Sonoma Mountain ranges, Sonoma Valley encompasses a rolling patchwork of vineyards, quaint farms and 13,000 acres of scenic parkland. In the center of town, the eight-acre Sonoma Plaza is a National Historic Landmark, strewn with sprawling shade trees and bordered by carefully preserved adobe buildings. Up the road in Glen Ellen, author and bohemian adventurer Jack London lived and wrote at his pristine Beauty Ranch, now an 800-acre state historic park. READ MORE
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