A Little Bit of Hessel Grange History
by Lloyd Focha
The Hessel Grange organized in the late 40's - early 50's and the neighborhood families got together in the Eucalipthus School and after a few months the School Board decided it was a secret organization because it has a secret hand shake and password. Not knowing that it was used to keep the railroad agent out of the farmer-rancher meetings especially back in the midwest where the railroads were trying to grab up "right of way" property for practically nothing. So the grange had to look elsewhere for a meeting place.
The owner of the old Washoe House offered the use of their upstairs if we would clean up and resheetrock the room, repair windows and plumbing. Many hours were put into the effort and after about a year of meetings there, the owner decided that we were not putting enough time at his bar. So he asked us to leave, as a result he got his upstairs refurbished.
After much searching one of the members, Keating, offered the west acreage of his property for sale. So the membership went into debt for the property. Meanwhile someone heard that the Wilson's dairy wanted to tear down one of the old barns. This made good sense, as we needed the rough boards for form lumber for the basement that we had planned to build for the start. After the members brought all the lumber to the grounds we were ready to build. Alvin Arndt brought over his bulldozer and Lloyd Focha borrowed his uncle's little dozer and the basement was excavated.
Arnold Salmon and Harvey Persons led the carpenter crew ( Remember, all these guys were in their 30's and 40's. ) All went together with cement floor and walls. ( The neighbors who were not members talked about us being "the underground organization". ) Ralph Reives was the first master at the time. As the grange met in the basement for several years until they had accumulated a little money.
It was finally time to build the top part of the building and that allowed us to start a Junior Grange ( the kids had a great time even if it did upset some of the older members. )
I think all the rest can be gotten out of grange history books.
History of the Hessel Area and West Sonoma County
( This is really just a placeholder. Several members of our newly reinstated grange have mentioned that they are interested in forming a history group. )
We have a colorful local history. The land the grange stands on was once the Northern part of a land grant to Jaun Padilla from Mariano Vallejo. A copy of this land grant is on the Maps page. It is interesting to try to place the different landmarks on this document. The odd right angle turn in Blank Road near the grange is on a border of this Mexican land grant.
Padilla was a young "barkeep and barber" who was also a captain in Vallejo's army. Padilla's band was responsible for keeping an eye on the Russians up at Fort Ross, but as tensions built between the Californios and the arriving settlers from the East, he became more involved in troubles brewing with the newcomers. Padilla's men were involved in an ugly incident that led to the murder of two men ( it is not clear if Padilla himself was involved or approved of the murders. ) Padillas men were chased south and caught at Olimpali, in the "battle of Olimpali".
Padilla's northern land grant was the Rancho Roblar de la Miseria. This land grant was purchased and broken up by D. Wright and 7 others. Padilla returned to California some 15 years later to claim that the land was never legally transferred. He lost this case when the judge decided that various documents had been forged or altered. It appears likely that the documents had been altered, but the transcipt of this hearing shows that the Californios were treated very poorly by the courts at the time.
The grange and neighboring properies do not conform to the usual Jeffersonian conventions of meridian, township, range and section on the map because they were split out of the original Rancho.
This horse and buggy is travelling on Blank Road in front of John Turner's residence circa 1877. Can you find the spot where the artist made the sketch? You can click on the image to see a larger [736KB] version.
There are many stories from this era that are interesting. Canfield had to flee his house when it was attacked by indians. The original Stony Point House was located on what is now Petersen. The house was a hotel and post office on the farm of Parmenas Woodworth ( pictured on the right, photo courtesy Denis Edeline, with permission ) who owned several plots of land in this area, and for whom the tract is now named. There are pictures of the early Woodworth family on the Woodworth ancestry site (see page 3 of photo gallery). Parmenas Woodworth came to Sonoma County around 1851, a few years before a great flood of immigrants arrived. Later the post office, and eventually the Stony Point name, was moved to Washoe House, which has its own interesting history. If you look at the 1877 map on the Maps page, you can see that Washoe House was already labelled "Stony Point" by that time. There is an excellent page about the Parmenas Woodworth family here: Parmenas Woodworth
Did you know that there was a "Battle of Washoe House" toward the end of the civil war? The "Union Army" of Petaluma marched on Santa Rosa to take retribution for Lincoln's assasination. But Washoe House was in their road, and a stop, and a good many mugs of beer put an end to the war. This is well worth looking at: Battle of Washoe House. I'm not sure if the "Major James Armstrong" whose militia marched on Santa Rosa is the same "Colonel James Armstrong" who saved Armstrong Redwoods from the lumberjacks in the 1870's, but it seems at least possible. General Grant supposedly recruited volunteers for the Union Army from the Washoe House balcony, but this story may just be a story.
This website might serve as a point of collaboration for people interested in compiling and sharing the history of our area. I have the beginnings of a collection of old photographs ( but sure could use your help if you have any! ) and a collection of biographical information about most of the people named on this page and the maps page.