Sense of Place: How Analy got its name

Jasper O'Farrell. Courtesy of Western Sonoma County Historical Society.


Analy was a 19th-century township that included Sebastopol and Forestville.

The name’s origin goes back a thousand years to the time when the Vikings were raiding and pillaging Ireland. In 1014, Irish king Brian Boru turned the tide, defeating the invaders at the battle of Clontarf. At a key moment, another king (Ireland had several) led a charge and earned himself the nickname Fearghail, Gaelic for “noble warrior.”

The descendants of Fearghail took the surname Uí Fhearghail (anglicized as O’Farrell) and ruled the kingdom of Anghaile (Annaly) in central Ireland. While -haile denotes a district, the meaning of ang- is uncertain. As a girl’s name, “Anna” is connected to the ideas of fruitfulness and prosperity.

Known as the “Lords of Annaly,” they reigned for more than 500 years. Then, in the 1500s, England’s Henry VIII began sending troops and colonists to subdue and occupy Ireland. Religious differences fueled the conflict.

Henry’s break with the Catholic Church over the issue of divorce had turned England into a Protestant nation.

The Irish people, still loyal Catholics, found themselves divested of huge tracts of their homeland.

The O’Farrells managed to keep control of Annaly until the 1640s, but when the English finally took over, the family left. So it was that Jasper O’Farrell was born in 1817, far from his ancestral home.

Educated in Dublin in civil engineering, he made his way to the Americas as a young man.

Working his way up the coast of South America, Jasper learned surveying and became fluent in Spanish.

At the age of 26, he arrived in California.

O’Farrell was soon employed by the Mexican government to survey land grant boundaries in what is now Sonoma County and beyond.

After the U.S. took over, he surveyed the town of Sonoma and the city of San Francisco. O’Farrell’s surveys were extremely reliable and considered the “gold standard” of the time.

Skilled, personable and with a reputation for integrity, O’Farrell was elected state senator and almost became lieutenant governor in 1860. Descended from the Lords of Annaly, Jasper named his west county spread “Annaly Ranch.”

Loyal to his roots in other ways, he financed the construction of Bodega’s St. Therese Catholic Church, which still stands, and eventually brought his mother and sister over from Ireland.

When Jasper died in 1875, the ranch was sold but the surrounding township took the name minus a letter. Today it lives on as a street and a high school in Sebastopol, recalling how, for a short time, an O’Farrell once more held sway in a fruitful and prosperous place called Annaly.

Contact Glen Ellen-based historical ecologist Arthur Dawson at