Captain Stephen Smith      Tsupu      Tomas Smith      William Smith
Ranches of Bodega Bay      History of Sonoma County
Early Archives 2006-2017

From the Archives

SS Marin American towns and villages are rich with stories, these tales can come from old well-preserved houses, from broken down bridges and lakes and indigenous wildlife. And the stories come also from boats – vessels used for transporting, storing, fishing, and leisure. Bodega Bay is home to a mysterious story-laden boat called the SS Marin, who may be close to 100 years old, surviving a sketchy and mysterious past.

Casini Ranch From as early as 4000 BCE, Western Sonoma County was the home of the nomadic Pomo. The Pomo were hunter gatherers that lived in small groups of bands. Some of the Pomo people remain in the area today, including the Kashia Band at Stewarts Point Ranch and the Dry Creek Rancheria in Alexander Valley. Just to the South of Casini Ranch is Pomo Canyon Campground, named after the native people who once populated the area. Casini Ranch was once the Moscow Mill owned by the Russian River Land and Lumber Company. In 1889 the Russian River Land and Lumber Company was the largest owner of timber land in the area with 10,000 acres. Moscow Mill was located south of the mill relocated by the Duncan Brothers from the Russian River mouth to the location of the North Pacific Coast Narrow Gauge Railroad Bridge in 1877.

Bodega Dream (Part 5) In the 1950's Bodega Bay was a popular harbor with anchored boats. The fish were jumping and locals were busy processing fish for the post-war high-protein food demands. An old ferry boat from the Sacramento Delta was a perfect place to store ice and shark nets. But then, a major storm in 1959 washed the old SS Marin onto shore. A few years later, PG & E built Westshore Road & Whaleship Road leaving the big old boat high and dry at the corner of Westshore Road where it meets Bay Flat Road, where it has stood ever since. The boat is an outstanding, popular subject for artists, revealing the history and character of Bodega Harbor. But now, it’s vanishing to the elements.

Bodega Dream (Part 4) 1958 - Eight years had already passed since 1951, when CA State granted Å“certain tide and submerged lands to the County of Sonoma. That left only two short years for Sonoma County to act and show real improvements to the State. Meanwhile investors large and small were ready, waiting and losing faith in the County's ability to come up with a fair, simple formula to rent the tidelands presumably to the owners holding property adjacent to the tidelands, in time for the State deadline but controversies & conflicts abounded.

Farewell to Meredith Wharf As heavy equipment removed chucks of piers and the dock, piece by piece an important part of Bodega Bay's history disappeared. The old wharf was once home to a thriving sea food business that employed men and women in Bodega Bay and was once an important part of the war effort.

James Smith's Lawsuit In February 1875, James Smith, son of Captain Stephen Smith sued some 40 ranchers in Rancho Bodega to reclaim property sold by Tyler Curtis. In October 1875, the lawsuit was dismissed in the Sonoma County court. In June 1877, the case was appealed and went to the California Supreme Court, where the court upheld the earlier judgment made by the lower court.

Bodega Dream (Part 3) In 1958 the Press Democrat reported "only through tideland development will Bodega Harbor become the great commercial and recreational center that almost everyone interested believes it could be. The more boats, wharves, ship's chandleries, marine ways and so on, the more you have the salty flavor and useful facilities that attract both the visiting pleasure boatman and the landlubber tourist."

Bodega Dream (Part 2) After construction of the jetties and channel was completed in 1943, Bodega Harbor became known as a safe, welcoming harbor in bad weather "much safer than nearby San Francisco Bay. While Bodega Harbor was sheltered, boats could only be pulled ashore onto tidal flats for storage, maintenance and engine repair -- not a sustainable solution for the thriving fishing and shipping to San Francisco Bay.

Bodega Dream (Part 1) For more than two centuries, controversy has eddied around Bodega Head and its safe harbor. In 1959, a Santa Rosa consulting engineer proposed reconstruction of Bodega Harbor. There were two channels and three boat basins. Roads were to be added between short canals and between the two basins.

Fisherman's Festival Since 1973, the Fish Fest has celebrated our local fishermen. The Festival is all-volunteer and proceeds benefit Bodega Bay Area community services.

The Ranches on Bodega Head The windswept Bodega Head: a park, a campground, two marinas, a world class marine research facility, all made accessible by the road PG&E built in the early 1960s. Life on the Head for the early Russian otter hunters and the subsequent European and American ranchers and farmers revolved around hunting, fishing, tending livestock, and growing food. Modern conveniences were few. The full force of the weather was always at hand. And for thousands of years before that, Native Americans lived in small villages on the Head, where shell fish, birds, rabbit, deer and fresh water springs were plentiful.

Seaman's Cemetery The Rancho Bodega Historical Society is working with the Smith Family and Graton Rancheria to recognize and honor Native Americans and early settlers by respectfully marking a historic plot of land (about 1 acre) on Heron Drive in Bodega Harbour. Formerly owned by the Smith Family, Graton Rancheria holds the title to the burial ground overlooking the sea and Bodega Bay on one side. The other side overlooks the valley where Highway One winds among the steep hills and canyons of our Coastal Prairie below.

History of the Bodega Bay Fire & Rescue Services It all began with boats exploding. That's what a gathering at Bodega Bay learned about the history and evolution of the local fire department at the joint meeting in September of Rancho Bodega Historical Society and the Bodega Bay Fire Protection District. It was an eye-opener for many Bodega Bay residents who did not know of the department's colorful history. In 1953 the post-war fishing fleet had grown, the boats were powered by gasoline, not diesel. Fumes gathered in the vessels holds and were set off by a spark when they started their engines. "The explosions would wake us in the early hours. They rocked the town. You'd feel them even more than hear them," said Shirley Ames. "Men would be badly burned, and boats badly damaged."

Another Historical Society in Bodega Bay? If you are interested in the history of shipwrecks and remains of the old "dog hole ports" I know you will be excited and interested to hear that a new historical society is forming in Bodega Bay. The Redwood Coast landscape is dotted with evidence of how the lumber trade adapted to the rugged marine environment allowing the business to flourish from the mid-19th century into the 20th century. SCHUNRS is the creation of John Harreld, a volunteer scientific scuba diver for the Bodega Marine Lab, Jason Herum, Dive Safety Officer for BML, and Denise Jaffke, a State Parks archaeologist from Lake Tahoe. Their goals are to: discover "lost" maritime cultural resources, document, protect, and interpret existing and newly discovered maritime cultural resources, contribute to the training of scientifically certified SCUBA divers in underwater archaeology methods, public education and outreach. SCHUNRS (pronounced "schooners") will be documenting the remains of infrastructure and shipwrecks at several sites on the coast, including Bodega Bay.

Faces Exhibit The Faces of Bodega Bay exhibit held on April 28 and 29, 2019 at the Grange was a fabulous success. After more than a year and half of preparation, John Hershey and Robin Rudderow were pleased to present eighty-nine artful portraits of Bodega Bay locals. To convey a bit of each personal story, each person or family was pictured in their own surroundings, telling us what they find special about Bodega Bay.

Robin on French TV Earlier this year Robin Rudderow, our RBHS archivist, was interviewed by a video team putting together a program about Alfred Hitchcock for French TV . It's a travel show that focuses on locations where films were made. This program featured San Francisco for "Vertigo" and Bodega Bay for "The Birds".

Louie's Wharf Louie's Wharf was a commercial wharf. It is the site of the beginning of the Bodega Bay tourist industry, as early as 1926 with a refreshment stand, called "Coast Camp". Louis Asman owned the wharf and started the party boat industry. Mitch and Wanda Zankich built the restaurant on the water after a 1960's fire. The Tides Wharf Restaurant and Gift Shop have been extensively remodeled since the Zankich building. Robert Bugatto expanded across the highway in the 1980s. Located there now is the Inn at the Tides.

Smith Family In 1843, Captain Stephen Smith and Tsupu had a son William (Bill) Smith. In 1876, he married Rosalie Charles and they had 12 children. In the early 1900's with the help of his large Bodega Miwok family, Bill Smith founded the commercial fishing industry in Bodega Bay.

Rose Gaffney In 1916 as a young woman, Rose found her home at the Gaffney Bodega Head ranch as hired help to do housework. Eventually she married one of the Gaffney brothers. When he retired from ranching they moved nearby to Salmon Creek.

Admiral Belcher's Maps of Bodega Bay European explorers were reaching the far ends of the Earth by the early 1800's, including Edward Belcher. Born in 1799 in Nova Scotia, then a province of England, and now Canada, Edward joined the British Royal Navy at age 13, when England was at war with France. After the war, he was assigned to ships that explored the Mediterranean and Pacific coastlines and several South Pacific Islands.