El Verano history can be traced back to the first inhabitants of the area – the Miwok, Wappo and Pomo Indian tribes who lived along Sonoma Creek. The local landscape and waterways afforded an abundance of natural resources that provided food, shelter and a sense of security and serenity.
Sonoma Creek was teeming with crawdads, turtles and steelhead trout and the surrounding areas with rabbits, birds and deer. The acorns that fell freely (and still do – we had thousands this year!) from the many oak trees were a main source of food as were the bright red berries from Manzanita and Madrone trees. Many decades later, local children who are now well into adulthood still remember regularly finding arrowheads near their neighborhood creeks.
The Native Americans took from the land only what they really needed – and no more – out of a deep respect for their environment. They lived in harmony with their surroundings and in peace with each other. They soaked in the area’s hot springs and carried out elaborate religious ceremonies to show their gratitude and their reverence for nature.
It’s not that difficult to imagine what El Verano may have looked like over a hundred years ago because parts of El Verano, and especially Sonoma Creek, look quite similar to old photographs of the area.
Here is my photo of Sonoma Creek at El Verano taken December 29, 2017:
When George Maxwell launched his joint venture in 1887 to develop El Verano, he hired renowned photographer Carleton E. Watkins to photograph the area for promotional purposes. Many of these simple, yet beautiful photos can be seen on the “Watkins Collection” page on the El Verano historical society website.
One of my favorites is this photo, entitled “Natural Arch of Laurels, Looking West on Road to El Verano”:
A short walk in my own neighborhood revealed quite a few natural arches that I had never noticed before. Studying history naturally draws our attention to what has changed, but I find that it often also highlights how much things have stayed the same. I suppose I am at an age where the things that remain unchanged – and the nostalgic feelings that they invoke – make my life seem that much sweeter.
(Thumbnail photo of El Verano Depot, Courtesy of UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library)0