Sonoma Home of the bear flag

the seven flags of Sonoma

This is page one of a handout that is publicly available from City Hall
Page Two

Replica Bear Flag

the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 destroyed some important early California artifacts. Including the original bear flag. However, this replica is quite old as well. this flag is a replica of the original and by some accounts dates back to being made in 1896 for the 50th anniversary of the Bear Flag revolt.

the bear flag of California was unofficial until the year 1911 when the California legislature passed a law making the Bear Flag the official flag of the golden state. In the 1950's the bear underwent a few minor artistic improvements and has not changed yet.

As far as state emblems go, it is my understanding (I could be wrong) that the only state branch of government to have the bear flag on their emblem is the Office of the Governor of California. The State Assembly and the state Senate have different artistic expressions of their branch of government.

to me this makes sense, the bear flag represents a unifying thing for every Californian to be proud of. Just as there is always just one person who is governor at one time representing every Californian. It highlights the importance of the individual.

to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Bear Flag revolt in 2046 I think it would be fitting to have this replica flag which has been hanging in the barracks of Sonoma for over a century to be placed in an important spot in the capitol building in Sacramento for every Californian to see. Considering they are building an entirely new structure I think time has come to give it a house warming gift. And what better house warming gift from California's home town could they get then gifting them their replica Bear flag, and making a new replica to mark the next 200 years.

Lost Memories

This statue was erected on the east sidewalk of the Sonoma Plaza in 2017 it is of the city's founder.

Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo was born July 4 1807 in Monterey California. From an early age he got the attention of the governor of California. His parents were Castilian and he is a descendent of Admrial Alfonso Vallejo who was once sent by the Spanish crown to arrest Christopher Columbus.

in his early teen years he became the secretary to governor Pablo Vicente Sola. The Governor organized tutors to teach Mariano Vallejo English, Latin, French, history, business, and accounting consistent with European schooling. As a teenager he entered military service and by 20 years old became a lieutenant.

Unlike his brother Salvador Mariano Vallejo did not relish his skirmishes with the native community. among his family even at a young age of 22 expressed uneasiness of how california was being governed and stated a desire for california to one day be independent.

while stationed at the presidio in what was then Yerba buena Mariano Vallejo and his wife Francisca Benicia Carillo gave birth to their first son andronico in 1833. Tragically their son passed away six months later.

a chief named Solano

the town story of Sonoma will not be complete without mentioning General Vallejo's close friend and fellow founding father of California. Chief Solano.

Born in the north bay to the Suisun Tribe of the Patwin native Americans his name was sam yeto which means "Mighty Arm". from the early 1800's until about 1820 the Spanish were heavily trying to convert native Americans in the north Bay Area. The reason why was because the Russians were growing stronger along the Sonoma County Coast establishing a base at Fort Ross in 1812.

Sam yeto was baptized at mission Dolores in 1824 when he was about 12 years old. He was given the christian name Solano after St. Solano a Spanish missionary to Peru. Known as "Chief Solano" because he was one of the only remaining members of the Suisun tribe of Indians. he grew to an intimating 6 feet 6 inches and was a fierce warrior and skilled diplomat.

In the backdrop of the Spanish fighting the Suisun tribe in present day Fairfield, and the Russians growing stronger along the coast there was a need for a stronger Spanish presence in the north Bay Area. at least that was the thought of one young Franciscan friar.

Father Jose Alta Mira

began searching for locations for a new mission. He searched present day Fairfield, Vacaville, Suisun, Napa, and other areas for a possible location that would help deter Russian aggression into the area.

He settled on a small plot of land of present day city of Sonoma California. the area provided a decent natural defense in the possibility of an attack as well as acting as a deterrent from further expansion by the Russians.

On august 23, 1823 he founded the twenty first and final mission in California. Mission Francisco de Solano. He did so without the full support or consent of the government, which makes this 21st and final mission unique along the el camino real.

This street sign I found is actually in the town of Vacaville california. I found it and had to take a photo of it because the Mission along the square was literally my school bus stop for my sixth grade year which I spent at Altamira middle school in Sonoma.

my family would then move to Suisun California where I attended Grange Middle School which is on the borderline of the Rancho Suisun and Rancho tolenas land grants.

HIstory History History

I have spent many hours studying the history of this area up until the bear flag and after. It is A very long, very complicated, and very annoying area of history to study. The records are all not well kept, dates in one book hardly every match up to dates you find in a different book, and the historical events interchange with each other. So here is a long story done in a short way.

Mariano Vallejo and Chief Solano become close friends, they help each other out along the way. Chief Solano would sometimes act as a diplomat and translator to Vallejo as he was negotiating with native Americans. Vallejo gets sent to the mission in Sonoma after the Russians begin hunting seals within the San Francisco Bay. this Russian aggression was not to be tolerated by the Spanish and it became Vallejo's job to found a town as a military garrison.

Vallejo founded Sonoma California and his friend Chief Solano with other Native Americans built the mission in Sonoma. There is a plaque of all the names of the native Americans who built the mission a little bit around the corner from the front of the mission. It's hard to see if you are there you gotta look for it, but trust me, it's there.

As legend has it Chief Solano was waving his hand in a friendly greeting to Mariano Vallejo while building the mission as Vallejo first came to the mission to formulate plans for the town. Mariano Vallejo built a small ranch and adobe near present day Petaluma about 10 to 15 miles from Sonoma making it about a one day ride from the barracks to his ranch. The Petaluma adobe had cattle, livestock, and ranch hands to monitor the Russians along the bodega bay.

Petaluma Adobe

by the 1840's the global market for seals and other furs was shrinking and the Russians were losing money and eventually left. More Americans began settling the area as well and increasingly became disillusioned with the government in Monterey. Mariano Vallejo was also unhappy with how his small military force in Sonoma was being paid and supplied, and expressed a desire to join the United States of America.

In may of 1846 John C. Fremont's expedition was in California exploring the Mt. Shasta area along with his guide Kit Carson. He was under strict orders by the US Army in Washington D.C. not to intervene in the affairs of Mexico unless he was attacked. However, somehow the citizens of Sonoma California got word to Fremont's expedition of their desire to overthrow the government in Monterey. Against standing orders not to intervene John C. Fremont supported the Americans in and around Sonoma in their revolt. Eventually Fremont would be court marshaled for this action and would not return to military service until Abraham Lincoln would appoint him as military commander of the Missouri territory. Fremont would then issue America's first emancipation proclamation freeing all the slaves in Missouri, this irritated Lincoln who transferred him to a different military post and took over control of his California home in San Francisco and turned it into a military fort. This fort is known as Fort Mason, which is near the old presidio.

Back in June of 1846 one of the American men in Sonoma California was a man named William Lincoln Todd who was the nephew of Mary Todd the future First Lady of the USA and wife to Abraham Lincoln. it is generally accepted that it was William Lincoln Todd who came up with the design of the bear flag. earlier in the evening several men known as "the bear flag men" stormed the home of General Vallejo who was mourning the loss of yet another son. rather it be myth, legend, historical fact, or all of the above, the bear flag men arrested Mariano Vallejo after being welcomed in by Vallejo who offered the men brandy. Apparently they spit the brandy out onto the floor and took Vallejo hostage, marching him out of town toward Sutter's fort in Sacramento.

Because it is not quite a one day's ride from Sonoma to Sacramento but more of a two day's ride they had to spend the night somewhere. They chose the adobe of the Pena family near present day Vacaville California. this adobe still stands today. Also according to historical fact, myth, legend, or all of the above it was on this night that Chief Solano caught wind of his friend being arrested by angry Americans. Wanting to save his friend Chief Solano gathered allies that included other Native Americans and Spanish soldiers to help free Mariano Vallejo.

Even as a prisoner Mariano Vallejo did not want to upset the Americans and wanted California to one day be a part of the United States of America. He got wind of the plot to rescue him at the Pena adobe and sent word to chief Solano to abort his plan to rescue him. if there was going to be a bright future for California it was going to be with the Americans and starting a skirmish or battle in the middle of the night in the lagoon valley would put a serious wrench in the overall plan. So he willingly went with the Americans to Sutter's Fort.

He was a prisoner at Sutter's fort for only a few months. In that few months the American military had overtaken the government of Alta California and replaced the bear flag with the Stars and Stripes. By the fall of 1846 California was a sparsely populated territory of the United States and Mariano Vallejo was back in the town of Sonoma with his wife Benicia.

It was in the following spring that the donner party was trapped near Truckee california. Word got through Sacramento and to Sonoma where Mariano Vallejo put up some of his own money and organized a rescue party. Along with some other brave people in the Sacramento region they embarked on a daring rescue mission to save whatever lives they can from the large Donner party. There were two girls who were abandoned by their mother who were saved and brought back to Sonoma California. two young girls from the Donner Party were briefly adopted by Sonoma residents who lived next door to the Mission, they eventually went on to get an education and have successful lives and one of them wrote a historical account of the tragic treck through the Sierra Nevadas.

I understand that history views the donner party for the acts of cannibalism. however, I think there is not enough credit given to the brave men who gathered together whatever provisions they had, who had to hike through the snow from Sacramento through the mountains risking their lives every step of the way to save the lives of complete strangers they never met. That is a hidden act bravery and courage displayed by the pioneers of california who were already here that gets lost in the story everybody knows.

meanwhile in the Winter of 1846 and early part of 1847 Washington D.C was hatching a plan to colonize California and bring civilization to the Wild West. The first of the New York Volunteers arrived in April of 1847.

Company C under the leadership of Col. Jonathan D. Stevenson consisted of mostly single young men around the age of 21. the officers were all graduates of West Point. Every man was a skilled craftsman or artisan of some kind and had little reason to ever return to the east coast. almost all of the company were from New York City.

In April of 1847 they arrived and began bringing civilization to Sonoma. they opened the first theater in California, and most likely renamed the streets in Sonoma to match New York City. It is of no coincidence that there is an east and west side of town in Sonoma just as there is in New York City, or that city hall is in a park on a street called broadway not too far from a church just as it is in New York City. These men brought business and were meant to get married and start families in California.

this grand plan of slow development over many decades all ended within 24 short months. In early 1848 James Marshall while working at a mill owned by John Sutter in Colma California would discover gold. By the end of 1848 the President would announce the the discovery of gold in a state of the union address and by April of 1849 the gold rush was on. The slow planned development and growth of California got tossed out the window and massive expansion of population and quick rich schemes became the economy, and in many ways it still is going on.

By 1850 most of the remaining southern patwins like chief Solano had contracted small pox from fort ross. it is estimated that fewer then 200 were still alive in 1852. chief Solano because of his importance to the government and Mariano Vallejo was one of the few Native Americans to have received an inoculation against small pox. He was gifted his native land the Rancho Suisun by his friend Vallejo. Solano sold the land back to Vallejo, who then sold it to someone else, and eventually there was a legal dispute between Rancho Suisun and the Armijo family of Rancho tolenas that ended up as a Supreme Court case in the mid 1850's.

After the bear flag revolt Chief Solano fled the Americans and traveled north visiting other Native American communities. By myth, legend, historical fact, or all of the above it is said that upon returning to California in 1850 Chief Solano went to visit his old friend Mariano Vallejo at his home in Sonoma. He knocked on a window at night, the two reminisced about their friendship, skirmishes, trials and tribulations all night. Solano then began walking back to his native land near Suisun. He was walking near the Martin Family Ranch near present day Solano Community College were he decided to rest under a tree. He passed away under an oak tree and was buried. The exact location of his burial site remains unknown to this day, but it is rumored and by best historical guess to be somewhere on the campus of Solano Community College. But even as construction and expansion of the campus has continued over the years no remains have been found.

Mariano Vallejo is quoted as saying.

Rendered most important services to the cause of civilization and Christianity and in the pacification of all the territory north of the bay of San Francisco. Solano, to whom we gave the title 'Prince,' must occupy a prominent place in the history of California.

A culinary visit to historic Sonoma

I found this book several years ago being sold in the Sonoma Barracks gift shop. I might have scored the very last copy since it was printed in 1981 and I purchased it around 2015. I love these spiral bound town cookbooks about some festival or something. It's always fun to read and full of secret family recipes from the moms in town at the time. This one is no different.

New York has Gentrified wine country over the years

when I was a kid growing up in Sonoma where I spent my elementary school years in the early 1990's I understood it was a tourist trap and tourist town. New Yorkers, San Franciscans, los angelenos and others would come in for a weekend of wine tasting and food and leave Monday morning or Sunday afternoon. The stragglers were gone by Tuesday and the town would be back to normal for a couple days before getting busy again. That was pretty much every spring summer and fall.

One thing that has changed in the last 15 years has been the rise of tourism and big money coming into wine country. Back in the early 2000's you could still go to a wine tasting and they would maybe charge $5 to $10 for a wine tasting. Nowadays they charge $50 for a "viewing fee" that doesn't include any wine at some wineries. The cost and benefit ratios are entirely out of wack. Wineries have also gotten busier and fancier and more snobbish because the tourists are also snobbish and the internet has made everybody snobby over the last 20 years.

I do enjoy the family atmosphere and simplicity of a good picnic with some decent wine. You don't need to go spend $200 for a fancy meat plate called "charcuterie" to enjoy a little dolce vita. (and yes, I don't care I mixed French with Italian its my website, its not changing. in case a snobby person happens to be reading this.)

Wine tastings my family enjoyed and many wine tastings the families of the people who owned the wineries enjoyed were simplistic country affairs. A good baguette, a hunk of salami, maybe a knife to cut it with but even that was negotiable, just tearing a baguette and using a pocket knife does the job. a couple bottles of wine, a few glasses, a picnic table in a public park and you got yourself a top notch wine tasting experience. and if you wanted to be extra fancy you would toss in some Vella pesto jack.

I remember my senior year in high school, I was the only one of my friends with a car, and I would cram them all in my Nissan Sentra and take them to Sonoma for some bread and cheese early in the morning before school began on Wednesdays. My high school was an odd duck and we started school later on Wednesdays instead of leaving early. It was fun to share a little bit of Sonoma with my Solano county friends.

Here is how a Sonoma town wine tasting was in the early 1980's before everything got famous and expensive.

Mariano Vallejo's retirement Home, it has a sister home of the same design just off First Street in Benicia California
A Sonoma Wine Tasting
Informal wine tastings don't have to be fancy affairs. Simply enjoy the Sonoma Happy Life with good company.

Take a Ride over to Solano County

2019 Solano County Air Show

Sonoma has some fascinating history connected to Solano County. However, it is not the same history. Solano County is a military county, an industrial county, an agriculture county, a capital city county, a historical county of great significance to the golden state.

Home of Travis AFb, the Benicia Camel Barn, a Coast Guard academy(ish), and a naval yard Solano County has been the home of the US military for almost 200 years. There is a lot of America to be found off the backroad to the "backside of Napa"

I admit that isn't the greatest motto for the small Solano county wine businesses, but it is a little funny and one of the great things about Solano county is that even though it may be home to some of the greatest people on earth, it also has a giant chip on their shoulder, an inferiority complex that just doesn't make sense.

Read all about why I consider Solano county to be one of the coolest, best places on earth. click the button!!!