Here we go again: another year, another confab about creating an alliance to promote Sonoma County interests. The group formed in 1905 completely fizzled and now in 1906, Santa Rosa's newly minted Chamber of Commerce became a charter member of the "North Bay Counties Association." But it's a wonder they signed on at all, considering the guy behind the effort had also called for splitting the county into three parts in order to screw over Santa Rosa.

With much fanfare, formation of the Sonoma County Progressive Association was announced in early 1905 with the primary goal of organizing a big local presence at the upcoming Lewis & Clark Centennial Exposition in Portland that summer. The fair was a success beyond anyone's dreams, but Sonoma County had no official presence whatsoever. No explanation was given, but it seems most likely that the farming communities were reluctant to spend time and money at the Oregon exposition to mainly hype Santa Rosa, which had loudly stated ambitions to become the great metropolis north of the Golden Gate.

Come the 1906 earthquake and Santa Rosa is helpless and literally begging for funds. A huge new bond would be needed to rebuild the downtown county courthouse and other official buildings destroyed in the disaster. Not so fast, said John L. Camm from the Petaluma Chamber of Commerce and others; if the county were to be divided into three sections, Petaluma could build a courthouse for the new southern county, and Healdsburg could be the seat for the new northern part. Although not stated directly, their plan would have left Santa Rosa as the county seat for just itself, Sebastopol, Forestville, and Graton (Wikiup, maybe). No need to build an expensive marble-walled hall of justice for that itty-bitty jurisdiction, no sir.

There was no followup to that meeting in Petaluma, and the only mention of it in a Santa Rosa paper claimed "the sentiment in favor of keeping this great county together as a unit is well nigh unanimous," and anyway, it couldn't legally be done. It's interesting to also note that the article also didn't mention the justification for the split was the expected extravagant cost of the new courthouse (which ended up costing over $7 million in today's dollars).

Yet less than two months later, here again was John L. Camm from the Petaluma Chamber of Commerce, this time spearheading the regional association. What gives? Was the split-the-county meeting really a feint to scare Santa Rosa from another attempt to dominate the new organization? Was opposition to the bond settled behind closed doors? Or did some in Petaluma really want to redraw county lines in order to destroy their sibling rival sister city?

Enthusiastic Meeting in Santa Rosa Yesterday
The Constitution and By-Laws Adopted and Officers Named for the Ensuing Year--Delegates Entertained

"The North Bay Counties Association" is the name of the new body organized in Santa Rosa yesterday for the purpose of exploiting in a practical way the resources and opportunities offered by the counties of Sonoma, Marin, Napa, Mendocino, and Lake counties by means of legitimate advertising, the distribution of literature and in other ways.

The Association was formed by representatives from the Chambers of Commerce and other commercial bodies in the counties named at a meeting held at the court house in this city yesterday morning and afternoon. Some enthusiastic speeches were made setting forth the advantages of united effort in the great work to be undertaken in the future.

John L. Camm, of Petaluma, was chosen temporary chairman of the meeting, and after explaining its object business of organization was taken up. The Rev. Robert Newton Lynch of Petaluma was at the secretary's desk...


- Press Democrat, August 29, 1906


Pursuant to a call issued by J. L. Camm of the Petaluma Chamber of Commerce, and upon request of a number of prominent Petalumans, a meeting of local citizens was held at the city hall Friday evening for the purpose of discussing the advisability of inaugurating a "New County" movement. The council chambers were well filled when the meeting was called to order by Mr. Camm, who stated the object of the meeting and outline the proposed new county plan. The project, as stated, was to form a new county, with Petaluma as the county seat, by taking that portion of Sonoma county south from a point north of Sonoma, including Penngrove, Bloomfield, Valley Ford, and Bodega, and by taking that portion of Marin county lying north of a straight line running westerly from San Antonio creek to the ocean including the town of Tomales.

The question was discussed dispassionately and earnestly by a number of citizens, including Assemblyman Cromwell, H. P. Brainerd, A. Kahn, J. E. Olmsted, Supervisor Armstrong, Arthur Robinson, J. W. Horn, L. C. Byce, Mayor Drees, Superintendent Van Frank of the electric road, Thos. Maclay. Mssrs. Cromwell, Brainerd, and Kahn, were of the opinion that the movement is neither feasible nor desirable. Mr. Brainerd thought such a movement would be wrong in view of the disaster recently suffered by Santa Rosa, and Mr. Kahn was like minded. Assemblyman Cromwell was of the opinion that the proposed new county could not be created because of the opposition that would have to be overcome; he also expressed the opinion that our tax burdens would be greatly increased and that the prestige now enjoyed by the big County of Sonoma, politically and otherwise, would be destroyed by the creation of another county largely therefrom.

The other speakers all expressed a desire to further the interests of Petaluma in every possible way, but were not prepared to declare themselves as in favor of launching a movement of such magnitude without further consideration.

As a result of the discussion the chairman was authorized to appoint a committee to look thoroughly into the object, consider all its phases and possibilities and report at a meeting to be held at such time as the committee may designate.


- Petaluma Argus, June 30, 1906


The talk of the county division is not a dream. The idea of the county voting itself into debt again after just getting out of it is not generally favored. To vote a large bond issue to build a new court house, new hall of records when in a few years the natural growth of the county will compell division is not wise. If the county is divided either Healdsburg or Petaluma would furnish buildings free of cost to the county and leave us to start on even footing instead of loading the county with a debt that would mean the paying of increased taxes and be a continuation of carrying a debt that would in the end make us pay two prices for our whistle. There [are] a number of men in Petaluma who would put up $10,000 each for a new courthouse in Petaluma who feel that it is a hefty burden to have to pay on bonds and interest for useless expenditures.

- Petaluma Daily Courier, June 26, 1906


A few days ago the Republican received information to the effect that parties in Petaluma were discussing the project of trying to divide Sonoma county into three parts, as was said of Gaul many centuries ago. It was proposed to make Petaluma the capital of the southern and Healdsburg the capital of the northern section. We did not give the matter great consideration at the time, for the reason that we believed the story to be idle rumor and that if such attempt should be seriously made we had no doubt of its being generally condemned. It is now of record that a county division meeting was held at Petaluma last Friday evening and that it was not a very enthusiastic affair. Three speeches were made against the scheme and the other speakers were rather noncommittal. A committee was appointed to take the matter inder consideration and to report on the same when ready to do so. The three Petaluma men who spoke against the effort to divide the county are members of the committee.

There is no law now under which a California county can be created, and it has not been possible to enact such a statue since the adoption of the constitutional amendment providing that a county can be created only under a general statute. The intelligent people of Petaluma must know this. They must also know that the sentiment in favor of keeping this great county together as a unit is well nigh unanimous. Hence, we do not think them in earnest in the division scheme. They may think it a good advertising project for the time being but this is all they can hope to get out of it.

It is of far greater consequence to all concerned to keep this great and growing county together as one county, than that any particular town may be a county seat. Not many will consent to the divorcement of any portion of our territory. Division would be hurtful to all concerned. This is the imperial county of upper California and the people here will insist on its remaining such.

- Santa Rosa Republican, July 2, 1906


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