Captain Stephen Smith, a New England sea captain, and master of the bark George Henry, sailed along the Pacific Coast North of San Francisco in 1840. He viewed the vast stands of timber growing along the shoreline as a business opportunity: local settlers had been shipping their lumber in from the Sandwich Islands when there was an unlimited supply here, just North of San Francisco. In 1843, Captain Smith returned to California with sawmill machinery from Baltimore and, with help from a dozen white settlers from San Francisco, Smith built a sawmill in the redwoods East of the town of Bodega, on Salmon Creek.

In August 1844, Captain Smith, married to fifteen -year-old Manuela Torres, successfully petitioned the Mexican Governor of California, Manuel Micheltorena, to grant him 35,487 acres. Smith purchased the buildings on the land from Captain Johann Augustus Sutter, who had claimed them under his purchase of Fort Ross from the Russians. Smith’s Bodega Rancho stretched along the North coast from the Russian River, South to the Estero Americano. Bodega Bay was Smith’s shipping port, and he helped develop the area into a commercial and fishing port.

In 1846, Smith arrived with a steam engine, the first ever seen in California. When he was ready to start the engine, he sent invitations to the rancheros. General Vallejo, then military commandant of California, was present, and says he predicted that before many years there would be more steam engines then soldiers in California.

Captain Smith raised the American flag at Bodega in 1846.

Captain Smith owned a small vessel called the Fayaway, which he sailed between the Port of Bodega and San Francisco; in 1849, fare was $14 from Bodega to San Francisco, on the Fayaway.

The Chanslor Wetlands, located at the historic Chanslor Ranch, are originally part of Rancho Bodega.

Following the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 the United States acquired California and Bodega Bay became part of the newly expanded country.


Fort Ross Chronology:
Sonoma County Archives:

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