The history of Cloverdale is as rich and beautiful as the Russian River that winds through the city. The earliest inhabitants were the Pomo Indians, one of the largest American tribes in the entire state of California. In fact, the entire Pomo population inhabited the territory that today includes Mendocino, Lake and Sonoma Counties. The seven different tribes of the Pomo Nation each had a distinct and uniquely separate language. Considered to be the world’s best basket weavers, they also utilized an elaborate numbering and arithmetic system for their currency, which was comprised of flat button-like disks made from shells, which were traded on strings, as well as beads made of fired and colored magnesite, which were traded individually.
During the 18th century, the Pomo were invaded by Russians involved with the fur trade, which was regularized in 1799 when one company received a monopoly charter from the Czar. Establishing a permanent base at nearby Fort Ross, the Russians could capture their most sought after source of animal fur, the now nearly extinct sea otter. The Russians eventually abandoned their post and the settlers began to arrive with the discovery of gold in 1848.
The present day City of Cloverdale sits on what was once part of a Spanish grant, the deed to which was acquired by Johnson Horrel for $1,000 on July 29, 1851. In 1856, Richard B. Markle acquired 850 acres of this land. In 1857, J.H. Harman and F.G. Harman, pioneer merchants of Santa Rosa opened a trading post at “Markle’s Place,” just as Markle opened a tavern for the accommodation of travelers and pack-trains. The outpost was located along the trail that ran to Ukiah and Humboldt situated in a beautiful semi-circular valley, covered with clover, along the Russian River. In 1859, J.A. Kleiser purchased the interest of Mr. Markle in the land and the town of Cloverdale was laid out. The town grew slowly until the 1870s when the railroad reached the small community and it became a bustling transit center. Cloverdale was incorporated in 1872.
Another unique historical note in Cloverdale’s past includes the settlement of Icaria-Speranza Icarians just south of town, and Madame Preston’s religious utopian sect to the north. While these settlements of utopian society are no longer in existence, you just may agree that these groups definitely chose the ideal location for “Utopia.”
The Gould-Shaw House, home of the Cloverdale Historical Society and it’s collection of artifacts, is perhaps the oldest documented dwelling in Cloverlale, and one of the rare surviving examples of Gothic Revival and architectural style of the Victorian era. The museum, garden and research center are open to the public. For more information visit www.cloverdalehistoricalsociety.org.