Cazadero, on Austin Creek northwest of Guerneville, takes its name from a Spanish word meaning “hunting ground.” Silas Ingram established a hunting resort there in 1869, called it “Ingram’s” and convinced the U.S. Postal Service to establish a post office. The only problem was they named it “Austin.”
Annoyed, Ingram spent years lobbying to change the name back. At the same time, he was busy persuading the North Pacific Coast Railroad to extend its passenger line up Austin Canyon, using the tracks of a logging railway. After the railroad agreed and named the last stop “Ingrams,” the postal department finally gave in. In 1886, the first passengers embarked by ferry from San Francisco, switched to a train in Sausalito and chugged north via Point Reyes Station and Occidental before reaching Ingrams at the end of the line.
Two years later, Silas sold the town to George Montgomery, a San Francisco businessman who promoted it as a sportsmen’s destination. He renamed the place “Cazadero” in 1889. Several railroads were also plugging the North Coast as a sportsmen’s paradise.
An 1898 advertisement gushed that “Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake counties furnish not only the best, but the most accessible hunting on the coast… In a few hours’ ride, the hunter can be where there are plenty of ducks, snipe, quail, doves, robins, rabbits, squirrels, grouse, deer and bear. It will be very many years before the game will disappear…”
Despite the hype, some animals had already vanished. The herds of tule elk and pronghorn that roamed Sonoma County in the 1820s were gone, hunted to feed Gold Rush San Francisco. The county’s last known grizzly was shot in 1868.
Many locals subsistence hunted. “Just about everybody had a gun” recalled a long-time Sonoma Valley resident who grew up here in the 1950s. “Any kind of critter that was on their property they’d shoot at it” and “eat it.
So few deer survived that most vineyards didn’t need fences. Mountain lions were declared “bountied predators” in 1907, with a price on their heads.
Since then, attitudes toward hunting have shifted dramatically. The same resident noted that having fewer hunters means that we have much more wildlife today. Deer are numerous enough to become garden pests and road hazards. Lions, protected since 1990, have also come back.
People still seek wildlife, but more for recreation and curiosity than necessity, and the shots are much more likely to be taken with a camera than a gun.