The city of Sonoma owes its origin to the Coast Miwok communities, including the Sonoma tribelet that was located near the junction of the trails that led north through the Sonoma Valley and west to the Napa Valley. The presence of these Native Americans and the abundant resources of fresh water, fertile soil, and redwood groves made this site very attractive to Fr. Jose Altimira who established the Mission San Francisco Solano de Sonoma here in 1823. This was the most northerly Mission and the only one established under regime of the new Mexican Republic. Although it prospered for 11 years, the Mexican government decreed its secularization in 1834. Lt Mariano Vallejo arrived that year to administer the assets of the Mission and to establish the pueblo of Sonoma around the site of the Mission. The Native Americans work force was used to construct new adobe buildings including a barracks for the Mexican soldiers whose main purpose was to guard against raids from hostile tribes to the north, and from foreign incursion. By 1846, the population of Sonoma had reached approximately 150, including a sizeable number of Americans. But on June 14, 1846, a group of 33 recent immigrants from the Sacramento and Napa Valleys seized Vallejo and also the arms stored in the Barracks. They raised the Bear Flag and established the Bear Flag Republic in order to hold the area until official American forces could secure the takeover of California. Three weeks later, the Stars and Stripes was raised over the Sonoma Plaza by a detachment of the United States Navy. During the following six years, a succession of American military companies occupied Sonoma, and the headquarters of the entire Pacific Army was temporarily located here. Following 1852, there occurred a growing interest in the cultivation of vineyards in and around Sonoma. Among the earliest wineries was Buena Vista founded by Col. Agoston Haraszthy who took advantage of the Mission era grape vines on his property and became known as the Father of California Viticulture. In the 1870s, phylloxera ravaged the vineyards, leading to other agricultural and industrial pursuits in Sonoma. The quarrying of basalt cobblestones from the hills north of the city brought many Italian immigrants. The largest quarry was owned by Solomon Schocken, a Sonoma merchant and entrepreneur. Among Schocken’s many employees was Samuele Sebastiani who would succeed Schocken as the predominant businessman in Sonoma for many years. Sebastiani would reestablish vineyards around Sonoma, operate a large fruit cannery and employ his large workforce during the 1930s depression to build many structures around the Plaza, including apartments, a skating arena, and the Sebastiani Theater.
Peter G. Meyerhof, 5-27-20