Boyes Hot Springs, History, mid-century, Uncategorized

The Olive Grove Tract

The Olive Grove Tract: Where was it? What is the history of the trees? And where did the church go?

According to a Santa Rosa Press Democrat article from 1942, “Edwin P. Thomson, who many years ago owned the site of Fetters Springs…in 1887, planted the olive grove that now borders the highway between Fetters and Boyes Springs.” In 1946, the PD tells us that “Twenty-five acres of olive grove property fronting the state highway in Boyes Hot Springs and extending down to the ballpark, will soon be made available as an exclusive business and residential subdivision…” the owners were Bill Johnson and Rudy Lichtenberg, who also owned and managed the Boyes Bath House. Both men have streets named after them in that area.

Bill Johnson

Bill Johnson at the Boyes Bath House

(Courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society)

This map, from the website 321, shows an area which they call “Olive Grove.”



This is part of an aerial photograph from 1961, with a few street names superimposed. At that time, Bokman Avenue did not exist. Bokman approximately follows the outfield fence of the Boyes Springs Ball Park, which can be seen left center of the photo.

According to an IT article from 1988, the trees covered an area of 12.5 acres at that time. The trees were bulldozed in 1988, much to the dismay of local residents. See below.

Zan BS 6

Zan Stark photo showing olive grove behind the ball park (to the east.) Courtesy, Stanford University Library, Special Collections.

At various times, various people have made the claim that the trees in the Olive Grove tract were planted by M. G. Vallejo. This was asserted and denied in 1988 when the trees were removed. Real estate agents and B + B proprietors still use this “information.”OliveGroveTrees988

(Copy from online advertisment, below)

Property Details for 17600 Johnson Ave

This property is no longer available to rent or buy. This description is from May 03, 2010

Experience this darling 1949 Turn-Key home in the heart of the Wine Country! This meticulous 2 bedroom, 1 bath home features a spacious vintage kitchen, and a light and bright living room. The private back yard is a gardener’s delight that includes a patio, a deck and plenty of shade provided by two mighty olive trees that were once part of General Vallejo’s olive grove. Minutes from the Sonoma Plaza, restaurants and wineries.

Screen Shot 2018-03-03 at 12.10.32 PM copy

”The area where this home is located was once part of General Vallejo’s personal olive grove.”

As mentioned above, the remaining trees were removed in 1988.


Olive trees on DeChene Ave. in 2017. (Author’s photos) Many of the existing trees in the area seem very old. They could be survivors from Thomson’s orchard.

The Valley of the Moon Community Church.

The Valley of the Moon Community Church was located in the Olive Grove tract.



In September of 1951, the foundations were poured. Fourteen months later, “The handsome church building is slowly but surely nearing completion.” In August of 1953, the church building was in use.


This Chamber of Commerce map, courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society, from the 1955 shows the VOM Community church approximately where Lichtenberg St. comes into DeChene Ave.


This is the last mention of the Church in the IT. What happened to the congregation? What happened to the church building?


Many thanks to Joanna Kolosov of the Sonoma County History and Genealogy Library for information from the Press Democrat and other sources.


Regrettably, we have lost track of the name of the gentleman who loaned the 1961 aerial photograph. The photograph was provided to him by Sonoma County.

Boyes Hot Springs, History, mid-century, Uncategorized

Valley Watch Repair

Antonio Juan, who took over Johnny Mazza’s barber shop in 2017, found this clock in the back of the shop.


Valley Watch Repair was started in 1954 by George R. Trueman, who previously ran a jewelry store in Sacramento. The shop was located in the Kinucan building, at first. This building, once called the Central building, was located on the highway, on the land that now features the Sonoma Mission Inn employee parking lot. At the time Trueman moved in, part of the building was used for the Boyes Springs Variety Store, run by the Polidori family.ValleyWatch1954


In this post card photo by Zan Stark, the Variety Store is at left. The cars date the scene to 1954.ValleyWatchad1954ValleyWatchBusinessAssoc1955

George Trueman became active in the business community. In 1955 he was elected vice president of the newly formed Boyes Springs Merchants Association. President was Tom Polidori. Zan Stark and Babe Gallo were directors.

(The photo caption on the same page tells of the former A.B. Peluffo house being moved from the site of the new shopping center at the corner of the highway and Verano Avenue. Pellufo was the developer of the Plaza Center building which houses the post office in Boyes Hot Springs.)


In 1956 Trueman moved his business to the former Saul Becker real estate office adjacent to Gallo’s Service station on the east side of the highway, near Arroyo Road. (Gaye Notely left for Berkeley a few days later, as we ;earn on the same page of the Index Tribune. Much later she would become Gaye Le Baron.)iValleydrugValleyWatchMrsTruemanShop1958

Mrs. Trueman opened her yardage and clothing store next to the Valley Watch Repair, “opposite the Mission Inn entrance on Highway 12…” in 1958. ZanE47SMIEntrance

The indispensable Zan Stark provides a view of the Mission Inn entrance.

In 1961, the Truemans sold their businesses and embarked on a cross-country road trip, saying they would return to Sonoma Valley. And return they did, in 1962, and set up business in Frank’s Hardware.ValleyWatchTruyemanSell1961


Photographs courtesy of Michael Acker

Photographs, Uncategorized

Zan Stark photographs at Stanford Library

Thanks to the diligent work of Roy Tennant and Mike Acker, 78 images of Sonoma Valley by Alexander Stark have been digitized and are availalble online at

Some are well known, and some not.

gatesofbuenavista We thank archivist Franz Kunst and the rest of the staff at Special Collections for their kind assitance.

For more about Zan, read Frank Sternad’s wonderful article Stark for the San Francisco Post Card Club newsletter: ZanMonograph

History, Uncategorized


In Sonoma Valley, as in many parts of California, fire is an important part of the environment. Before European settlement, the inhabitants of the area used fire as a tool of landscape management. In fact, what the early Spanish and American colonizers saw as an unaltered wilderness had been shaped and husbanded by humans for millennia, using fire and many other methods.

“At the time of Euro-American contact, California was more densely populated than any area of equal size in North America, north of central Mexico. Long before Europeans mapped the region, California’s tallest mountain peaks, its largest lakes, longest rivers, and its oldest trees all had names. The state’s promontories, declivities, and unusual rock formations were infused with human meaning. What is labeled as “wilderness” in today’s popular imagination and on current topographical maps actually harbored human gathering and hunting sites, burial grounds, work sites, sacred area, trails and village sites. Today’s wilderness was then human homeland.” (A World of Balance and Plenty, Land, Plants, Animals and Humans in a Pre-European California. M. Kat Anderson, Michael G. Barbour, and Valerie Whitworth; in Contested Eden, California Before the Gold Rush, UC Press, 1998.)

The first catastrophic fire in Sonoma Valley (that we know of) happened in September of 1923.



The “Boyes Springs Valley Vol. Fire Dept.” was about all they had in the way of first responders in 1923.

In 1964 and 1996, air tankers were vital to suppressing the fires. None existed in 1923, of course, but the Northwest Pacific Railroad sent a fire fighting crew, and mutual aid came from as far away as San Francisco.

It’s often stated of the 1923 fire that Boyes Springs and Fetters were completely destroyed. This is not the case. Many buildings survived. Since rebuilding was so urgently done, starting in October of 1923, it is often difficult to determine if a house or business survived the fire, but there is documentary evidence for some, such as the Sam’s Grill building. Please see

In 1936 the community built, partially with Federal funds, a new fire station.



The text on the back of a WPA photo of the fire house inaccurately says it was named after the Valley of The Moon (it is so named because it is in the Valley of the Moon). However, it accurately states that the area has an “unusually large fire hazard…” See “The Living New Deal” . It is a great project.

The building still stands in 2017, though greatly altered.

The next fire disaster occurred in 1964.


The 1964 fire was the worst since 1923. Hundreds of firefighters with dozens of engines and a lot of air support kept the damage lower than it would have been earlier in the century.

The 1996 Cavedale Fire, though small in comparison, stirred memories of 1964 in many Sonoma Valley residents.


The 1996 fire was kept far smaller than ’23 or ’64 by the large number of firefighters and equipment quickly brought to bear.

In the Index Tribune of August 13, 1996, Harry Martin, a CDF officer, listed the following fire prone areas: Cavedale Rd., Nuns Canyon, Grove St., Seventh St. E., and Lovall Valley Rd. All but Grove St. are within the 2017 fire boundaries.

On Sunday, August 4, 1996, as the Cavedale Fire was being mopped up, a dangerous brushfire broke out in Boyes Hot Springs, adjacent to Central Avenue. Crews already fighting the big fire were able to subdue the Boyes blaze.


Jeff Baker’s Moon Mountain Road house survived the 1996 fire and the 2017 fire, as it was designed to do.

IT1996CavedaleFire9JeffBaker copy


Fires in Sonoma Valley

Date started
Buildings destroyed
Number of firefighters
1923 9/16 10,000 2 days Napa County, Nuns Canyon/bee keepers at least 119 unknown
1964 9/19 10,000 4 days Nellligan Road/possibly power lines 27 600
1996 8/2 2100 3 days Cavedale Road/PGE accepted responsibility 4 1500
2017 Nuns Fire only 10/8 30,000 Sonoma Valley 98% contained on 10/29 Glen Ellen/under investigation over 600 At least 6,000 for all Sonoma County fires

The Sonoma Fire Project Wants Your Stories!

The Sonoma Valley Historical Society invites residents of the Sonoma Valley, the Springs, Glen Ellen and north to Kenwood to submit stories and photographs about how they and their families were affected by the October fires. These will be archived at the Historical Society in a special collection called “The Sonoma Fire Project” and will be used for research, local journalism, and possibly future publications.

If you’d like to submit your story and photos, send them to You can write in the body of the email, or attach a Word document. Photos can be attached in any format. It will also be helpful to have the following information:

Where you live (you don’t have to give an exact address, the general location is fine)
How long you have lived in the Sonoma Valley
Why you came here
What kind of work you do
Mailing address and phone number

The museum will send you a form to sign indicating that you give permission for your story and your photos to be used by researchers and journalists. Your name will always be associated with what you write and what you photographed.

We are doing this project to document the individual, personal side of this great regional tragedy, and are grateful to everyone who wants to participate.

If you have any questions, just send them along to project manager Lynn Downey at