This township is located in the Coast Range, almost all in and embracing the whole of the watershed of the Navarro River and a small portion of the headwaters of Dry Creek. It is 30 miles in length with a breadth varying from 8-20 miles. The arable land at present under cultivation nowhere exceeds more than a mile and for the most part only half a mile in width. Much more could be cultivated but so far has been deemed more valuable for pasture than for the plow. The southern part of the township is detached from the northern part because the main branch of the river, Rancheria Creek, has no bottomland speak of for some miles of its course opposite Boonville but further south on its extreme headwaters it again affords some tillable land. The Valley soil is a rich wash loam immediately along the creek bottoms. The bench lands are either black clover land or gravelly loam, while the pasture lands proper on the hills partake of the nature of both the last mentioned soils while the chemissal and brush lands are generally rocky and sterile. Exceptions in these latter may be found where the soil is a rich red volcanic debris that makes the best orchard and vineyard land.
The climate of Anderson Valley is a compromise between the hot torrid inner valleys and the cold, foggy coastal section. It usually has a nice seabreeze in the afternoon and often foggy mornings which revive the vegetation in dry summer months and restrain the frost in the winter.
The various grains luxuriate here except corn which is not especially successful, probably from the coolness induced by the fog. Hops succeed well and give a good yield on the best bottom land. Fruit grows remarkably well on much of the bench land and lower hills.
So far as the dim past can be explored, Walter Anderson seems to be the first white man who really settled in Anderson Valley intending to make it his home and that as early as 1851. He came from Sonoma County as most of the interior early settlers seem to have done and located what was afterwards known as the Rowles place on the west side of the valley about 1 mile northwest of Boonville. He sold the place to Joseph Rowles in 1858 and moved away. J.D. Ball and family arrived in 1852 and settled on the opposite side of the valley, on platauland; his family was the first to put out an extensive orchard which is still bearing profusely. In 1855-6-7 closely following each other came William Prather, John Gwschwend, J.S. Smalley, Oscar Carey, Joseph Gwschwend, James Burgess, Henry Wade, Frank Buster, A. Guntley, John Gossman, John Conrad, A. Braden, J. Shields, W.W. Boone, A. Elliott and H. Stephens. In the following few years R.H. Rawles, J.A. Jamison, J.O. McSpadden, J. McGimsey, Alex McDonald, J.W. McAbee, C. Prather and R.H. York were to arrive. The first attempt at town building was about a mile from present town of Boonville where John Burgot built a hotel. Sam Stevens built a blacksmith shop and Levi E. Harrison built a store. Quite a large stock of goods was also placed in a two-story building where Robert Rowles lived for some years by Wintzer & Welle, but all of these died out in a short time. In 1864 Alonzo Kendall built a hotel at what is now Boonville and called the place Kendall City. Levi and Strauss moved their store here soon selling out to W.W. Boone who succeeded in giving his name to the town, Mr. Kendall having removed himself to Manchester.
Access to the Valley was yet very difficult on the road from Cloverdale and by private subscription John Gwschwend attempted to build the road from Boonville to Ukiah, the county seat, in 1867. When about half done the subscriptions failed and Gwschwend obtained a franchise for its completion as a toll road in 1868. Within the last four or five years nearly the whole of the old road has been abandoned for better grade although the general route has been followed. In 1869-70 a road was surveyed and soon after worked after a fashion from Anderson to Point Arena. But the grades were too steep so it has never been used for anything but light teams except at each end where the downgrade favors the hauling of timber either way. To John Gwschwend also belongs the principal credit for the road built over Navarro Ridge connecting Anderson Valley with the coast. This was "swamped" in 1861-2 and graded immediately after and for many years was the only road from the coastal part of the county to the outside world. The Gwschwends, the Guntleys and Gossmans we're Swiss and formed the settlement at the lower end of the valley, long known as Guntley and later Christine named after a daughter of Gwschwend. Andrew Guntley erected a distillery and brewery which flourished until about 1866 when the government tax caused the abolition of the establishment. These Swiss people all planted orchards which still flourish and the orchard area might be extended tenfold with profit. There are several fruit dryers in the main Valley and much fruit is shipped to the coast section for home consumption, little or none has been shipped to the more extensive markets of the Bay district except dried fruit. In 1902 250 tons of dried pears were shipped.
The western and northern part of the township is heavily timbered with redwood, fir, tan oak, madrone, laurel forested areas with manzanita, blue blossom and chemissal brush covering quite a large section. The redwood and fir have been destroyed largely in the northern part of the township while only limited attempts have been made in other areas of the Valley. To John Gwschwend belongs the honor of building the first sawmill in 1856. At that time there were no roads leading into or out of the Valley and access to the township was only by skirmishing over the hills from one opening to another with ox team, rough locking down the steep hills and double teams up the mountain. The sawmill was built on his own homestead on a branch of the main fork of the Navarro and run by water power. Previous to that date the settlers' houses were mostly built of logs, shakes split from the pliant, straight green redwood or lumber made by the toilsome whipsaw mill. Some years later it was supplied with steam power and more machinery for making dress finished lumber. In 1864 a gristmill addition supplied the neighborhood with flour. In 1875 fire destroyed the Gschwend mill and as the timber was nearly all cut in the area near the site it was not rebuilt.
In 1877 Thomas Hiatt built a sawmill some four miles up the Valley floor from Gwschwend with a capacity of 8000 board feet per day and soon cut out the timber convenient to it and they moved the mill away. In 1876 the Clow brothers built a mill on the west side of the Valley about four miles from Boonville which consumed the timber on 250 acres and ran for about 20 years. Its capacity was 12,000 board feet per day. It was then sold and moved away.
In 1878 H.O Irish erected the fourth mill a mile or two further down the Valley. But it was destroyed by fire very soon after it began running. In 1896 August Wehrspoon opened a mill at Ornbaun Valley, a detached upland valley near Yorkville with a capacity of 20,000 board feet per day. This mill was in a fine body of timber. By the terms of the contract with the timberland owner the mill was required to cut a specified amount of lumber each year. Timber increased in value and the mill owner failed one year to cut the required amount and was ousted from the site by a lawsuit filed at the county seat. The mill was moved to the old Bonnet place west of Boonville where a little lumber was cut and it still stands there although the main body of timber has passed into the hands of speculators. The mill cut about 16 million board feet in all. In 1904 Bledsoe built a shingle mill at Peachland, a settlement on the ridge east of Anderson Valley with about 20,000 board foot capacity. It was run for about three years and has since remained idle. It is now owned by Bledsoe and Doherty.
Access to the township is gained by a road from Cloverdale, 30 miles away, or from Ukiah, 24 miles away, or from Albion by road or railroad to Wendling, a recently constructed Milltown. This mill was built on the promise of a railroad but before even the residences were finished for its superintendent and foreman, work was suspended, and the railroad did not materialize. A lawsuit was filed or threaten to be filed against the Santa Fe Railroad Co. and a settlement was reached and the logging road from the Albion mill was pushed through to the mill and two miles further up the valley. The product is railroaded down to the Albion River and there transshipped to ocean going vessels. This road has been surveyed through to a junction with the northwestern Pacific at Healdsburg and will soon be pushed through as there is a fine body of timber tributary to it. The Wendling property has passed into the hands of Hickey and Co. and the town name change to Navarro.
Yorkville in the southern part of the township and valley is a small hamlet of a few houses located on Rancheria Creek, the principal tributary, or rather the main head of the Navarro River. It was named after its founder, R.H. York who live there many years. It has a post office and a hotel which has been maintained by the Hiatt family owning the ranch.
Boonville, about the center of the Valley, is the oldest village in it. It consists of two hotels, two-stores, two blacksmith shops, a post office, a drugstore, and eight or ten residences, a church and a schoolhouse, and a barbershop. There used to be two saloons but the school district voted dry some years ago and they are things of the past.
Philo, nine miles down the Valley is a small hamlet of two stores, a blacksmith shop, a Methodist church, a schoolhouse, post office, and two or three residences near enough to be included in the town. Here the four horse stages from Cloverdale are split in two, one proceeding to Greenwood on the coast, the other five miles down the Valley to Navarro. The latter is essentially a mill town and the area was unbroken forest until the lumber company chose it as a base of operation. But now it has recently changed hands and its product will eventually find its outlet by rail to Healdsburg and on to San Francisco and the east. The mill was erected in 1905 with a capacity of 60,000 board feet of lumber and 100,000 shingles. It was run by the Stearns Lumber Company with a profit, notwithstanding the long haul and rehandling of its output. The town did contain two stores, one livery stable, three hotels with bars, two hotels without bars, a saloon, a blacksmith shop, a restaurant, a barber shop, a photo gallery, 45 residences and a post office because it was the end of a mail route in that direction. The saloons were discontinued when the school district voted to go dry.
Many fine residences have been erected in Anderson Valley in the last 10 years and much progress has been made in fruit culture. The climate is undoubtedly the finest in the county and only three failures on account of frost have been known since its first settlement. The earthquake of 1906 did not seem to affect the section as much as the one experienced in 1898 which opened considerable gaps in the earth at the northern end of the valley but without much damage. In the past few years roads have been built connecting the valley with Hopland and Fish Rock both starting from Yorkville. Several mineral excitements have had their rise and fall but none of the discoveries have so far proved of significant value.
There have been several lodges in the Valley. At present all have disappeared. Anderson Valley has had its quota of fires. The hotel was burned and rebuilt. Ruddick's store burned in April of 1913. Johnson's Philo store burned in 1913 and there have been several residences burned. In July of 1901 a threshing boiler exploded killing two men.
There are several fruit dryers in the Valley. J.D. Ball erected the first in 1890. Studebaker built one about the same time and others have followed. There were two or three small sawmills on Rancheria and Dry Creek but they have also disappeared. The road to Point Arena was improved from time to time until in 1890 it was made available for freight to a limited extent. A male route once extended through the Valley from Cloverdale to Navarro, 60 miles, but has since been cut off at Wendling while a cross mail route has been established from Philo to Greenwood, 21 miles. On the mail route through the Valley in 1904 there were 67 individual mail pouches. Timber has nearly all passed into the hands of mill owners or speculators. In 1909 Hickey and Standish bought 3500 acres west of Boonville and sold 12,000 acres of their holdings to the Santa Fe Railroad Company. During 1913 much bark was hauled to Cloverdale by truck, 8700 pounds per load, two trips per day, making 120 miles travel. Much has been shipped by way of Albion also. For years before it had been hauled by teams to Cloverdale and Ukiah.
Some notable deaths have occurred of the old settlers. Among them may be mentioned John Gossman, 88 years, on November 20, 1898 who came to the Valley in 1856. S.W. Knowles, September 25, 1911, at age 89, who settled on Dry Creek in 1858. R.H. Knowles, ex-Supervisor, died November 9, 1911 at age 66 and settled in 1858. W.L. Wallace died August 27, 1883, who settled in 1857. And Mrs. John Conrad who came to the Valley in 1858 and died July 12, 1914 at the age of 101.
The several school districts voted for a Unified high school and a rough building was erected last year and is now in use.