Hood Mountain, in the Mayacmas Range southeast of Santa Rosa, was named after settler William Hood and his wife, Eliza.
Hood, who was originally from Scotland, first visited the area in 1846, when he was 28. Climbing the peak that would later carry his name, he fell in love with the valley below, with its groves of oaks, creeks and expanses of marsh. He vowed to return someday and make that beauty his own.
As a young man, Hood learned the carpentry trade in London. Wanderlust took him from there to New Zealand, South America and finally California. By 1848, Hood owned a carpentry business in San Francisco.
When the Gold Rush hit, he tried his hand at mining but soon returned to San Francisco. In a rapidly growing city that was burning down frequently, carpenters were in high demand.
In just five years, Hood made enough money to fulfill his vow. In 1851, he and a partner purchased the Guilucos Rancho for $51,000. It encompassed about 30 square miles; much of what he had seen from his mountain. His partner soon sold out, but Hood stayed on.
Seven years later, Hood married 14-year-old Eliza Shaw, the daughter of a New Zealand friend. It’s not clear whether the two were even on the same continent when they wed.
Perhaps in deference to her youth, Hood immediately sent her to school in Scotland for two years. While waiting for his bride, Hood built Eliza a two-story home of bricks fired on site. It was one of the grandest residences in the county.
Hood also planted vineyards and built a large winery. After he died in 1885, Eliza took over the operation and made a great success of it, shipping wines all the way to Europe. Her brandy was praised as the equal to the best in France.
At one point, she was the largest wine producer in California. An infestation of phylloxera brought financial difficulties, and by 1905 she lost the ranch to creditors.
Much of Hood Mountain itself was never settled. Too rugged for agriculture, it remained part of the public lands of the United States until it was ceded to Sonoma County as the centerpiece of Hood Mountain Regional Park in the 1980s.
Today, anyone with enough stamina can hike up to Gunsight Rock, near the summit, and experience the view. If you do, it’s easy to imagine how Hood felt, looking out over such an expanse of hills and valleys and falling in love with the land.
Contact Glen Ellen-based historical ecologist Arthur Dawson at email@example.com.