Local History and Genealogy Notes

Three Blind Mice

A Petaluma Argus Courier article dated July 28, 1938, announced the showing of Three Blind Mice, a Hollywood movie starring Loretta Young, Joel McCrea and David Niven at Petaluma's California Theatre which was located in the old Hill Opera House at the corner of Washington and Keller Streets (home of the Phoenix Theater today).

Washington Street looking east with the California Theatre on the right (SCL Photo No. 5659)

Washington Street looking east with the California Theatre on the right (SCL Photo No. 5659)

According to the article a scene for the movie was filmed at the William P. Beggs' ranch in Two Rock. By referring to the book The Valley of the Trail Between the Two Rocks In Its Younger Days, and Mine  by Margaret Martin Paull, I was able to determine that the Beggs property near the intersection of Spring Hill and Purvine Roads.

A Hole in the Head

PG&E crews digging a hole at Bodega Head

PG&E crews digging a hole at Bodega Head

A nuclear power plant by Bodega Bay? PG&E proposed a new plant to be built on Bodega Head at the new Bodega Bay Atomic Park and had even started excavation for the reactor before Sonoma County residents -- spurred to action by rancher Rose Gaffney -- said NO! Gaffney ranched on Bodega Head and balked at selling PG&E a portion of her land for an access road. Local historian Simone Wilson notes in her 1995 Albion Monitor article that Gaffney was a formidable opponent and inspired others to pay attention to PG&E's plans.

Diners at Bodega Nuclear Power Plant Victory Party

Diners at Bodega Nuclear Power Plant Victory Party -- Rose Gaffney on left


Even after geologist Pierre Saint-Amand pointed out that PG&E had ignored the San Andreas Fault that ran directly through the reactor site, the utility pushed ahead with construction, but the state Public Utilities Commission stopped the project in 1963. The 8.5 magnitude Anchorage quake in 1964 finally put to rest any further efforts when geologists found the quake had caused significant slippage at Bodega Head. 

After PG&E gave up, they sold the land to the California State Parks for $1 and the Hole in the Head became part of Sonoma Coast State Beach (now Sonoma Coast State Park). You can view the hole from Westside Road as it climbs toward the parking area on Bodega Head

Want to learn more?

Check out the photographs of  the Hole construction, protesters and the victory party included in the Sonoma County Local History & Culture or resources from our print and video collections, including articles from the California Historical Society journal, protest materials, newspaper clippings, legal opinions from the California Supreme Court and a documentary on Rose Gaffney.

Two Homes of Catherine Farley Brown

920 D Street

1897 view of 920 D Street (Proctor & Reynolds atlas)

This lovely 1893 Queen Anne Victorian home at 920 D Street, Petaluma, which recently sold for $1,200,000, was built for Catherine Farley Brown. Prior to moving to D Street, Catherine had lived on a large dairy ranch that was established by her late husband John McAllen Brown in Hicks Valley, Marin County that was part of the Borjorques grant. At the time of his death in 1886, John McAllen Brown was considered one of Marin County’s wealthiest dairymen and stock raisers.

Catherine Farley Brown

Why Mrs. Brown chose to locate to D Street may have been influenced by the fact that her brother-in-law Sam Brown and his wife Harriet had a home across the street at 901 D Street. The ranch at Hicks Valley was eventually sold to the William Hill Company. Catherine came to California by way of covered wagon with her parents and siblings in 1853 at the age of 11. The story of this excursion is documented in Kate Farley, Pioneer an 82 page book written and illustrated by her granddaughter, Esther Waite in 1939. This book is available at the Sonoma County History and Genealogy Library in Santa Rosa and at the Petaluma Library

Vallejo's Adobe

The last few pages of Esther Waite’s book tells the story of how the Farley family, Catherine’s parents, Francis and Elizabeth, and their nine children (the oldest being 17 year old Catherine) moved into General Vallejo’s adobe in 1859.

Adobe circa 1938 SCL Photo No. 3148

Esther writes that the Farleys lived in the west wing of the adobe and used the north side for a kitchen. A fresh-water spring bubbled at the foot of an outdoor stairway that led to a broad balcony and upstairs apartments. The south wing, never completely finished, was used as a stable. Dancing classes taught by Professor Dillion were held in the adobe’s “great rooms” – one of which was sixty feet long. How long the Farley family remained at the Adobe is unclear, but by 1870 Catherine had married John McAllen Brown, was the mother of four children and living in the San Antonio Township, Marin County, California. In 1910 Vallejo’s Adobe was deeded to the Native Sons of the Golden West and Catherine Farley Brown was living in 4,500 square foot home on D Street with daughter Marie, son-in-law Randolph Leavenworth, and two servants.

Louisa Vallejo Emparan, a daughter of General Vallejo, and others install marker April 25, 1933. SCL Photo No. 3148

Vallejo’s Adobe became a California Landmark in 1933 and ownership transferred to California State Parks in 1950. Today the property is known as the Petaluma Adobe Historic State Park,  is a registered National Historic Landmark and one of 70 state parks scheduled to be closed effective July 2012. The Sonoma/Petaluma State Historic Park Association, a non-profit, is working hard to assure that this does not happen. For more information send an email to savethepetalumaadobe@gmail.com.   

Adobe circa 1951 SCL Photo No. 33024