Along with Father’s Day, the town of Sonoma celebrates it being founded over 185 years ago in 1835 on June 24. The credit of it actually goes to General Mariano Vallejo despite it being a “Mission town” established by the Franciscan padres, almost 10 years earlier.
Vallejo was a forward thinking man, at least in the practical sense. He could see that at some point California would become part of U.S. Territory. And, despite the tensions between Mexico and the expanding United States, Vallejo was able to be a diplomat of sorts in the midst of complicated transitions.
For all its touristy aspects and upscale tasting rooms, at its very heart, Sonoma still echoes something of Vallejo and its Mexican pioneer past.
In just three years since it’s unveiling the statue of Vallejo on the bench at the Plaza has become something of a landmark. Both tourists and locals are pulled to it like a magnet to snap a photo.
Local historian Robert Demler who also serves as the Executive Director of the Sonoma League for Historical Preservation, is pleased that the little monument is well-received.
“It took us over two years to get it all together,” he said. “We had to go through hoops of fire just to get the project approved,” Demler added.
For all its quaintness as one of California’s quintessential small towns, Sonoma can be very cliquish and shortsighted, even about one of it’s most obvious assets; its history.
Demler among others can provide a bit of a litany of how many projects and restoration efforts can fall apart. “It took a private citizen’s committee and a group of dedicated donors,” he said. Demler served as chair of the seven-person committee.
“It is wonderful when people can rally around something tangible, said Demler and make efforts to save it, renovate it or bring it to life.“
He is hoping at some point, a moment to the hundreds of Chinese workers who helped establish Sonoma as the wine and agricultural gem it is will be realized.
“Right now with this Coronavirus thing, preservation isn’t much on people’s minds,” said Demler. Still, at almost 80, he is resolved to keep preservation efforts alive in Sonoma Valley.
Whenever Martian Laney passes the Plaza at the heart of town, where the old Mission San Francisco De Solano is, he feels a sense of accomplishment. Laney was among the seven on that citizen’s committee. “I feel both the community and tourists have embraced this citizen’s gift to posterity because people are always sitting with the General, especially kids,” Laney added.
It is hard to fathom that such a commemoration to the amiable and controversial General Vallejo wasn’t erected earlier. And, in ad odd sort of way it seems as if the life-like statue has always been here. Or is that really a testament to Vallejo’s spirit? Even with out the approachable and affable statue, it is easy to get a sense of who Vallejo was with his faults and the pueblo he sought to protect and maintain.
To learn more about the annual Pueblo Day in honor of the establishment of the town of Sonoma visit the City of Sonoma web site.