The site of Cloverdale was part of Rancho Rincon de Muscalon, a Spanish grant. Originally known as Markle Place, Cloverdale was incorporated as a city in 1872.
There have been many stories and opinions of how, when and by whom Cloverdale was named, but no records exist as to how Cloverdale was named. The city’s records were destroyed by fire at Van Davis’ Livery Stable on December 28, 1876 and records kept by the county in regards to the town were destroyed in Santa Rosa during the Great 1906 earthquake. It is generally understood that due to the valley being covered with clover, citizens came up with the name of Cloverdale.
In the early days, Cloverdale was your typical “Old West” town; rustic wooden buildings lined the dusty (and often muddy) streets, wooden sidewalks were above street level and stagecoaches carried mail, passengers and freight to the Geysers. The town streetlights were coal oil burning lights and it was the duty of the town marshal to check and maintain the lights daily. Black Bart, the famous stage robber, was known to frequent the area.
The first train came to Cloverdale on March 19, 1872 and with the railroad in place, many tourists were attracted to resorts such as “Pop” McCray’s Clubhouse (where Barnes Lumber is now located) and the Geysers Resort. The Geysers Resort was occasionally visited by many notables, which included royalty and presidents.
Cloverdale, once famous for its citrus groves, now celebrates its annual “Citrus Fair” in remembrance of a past that has been taken over by vineyards and the fruit of the vine…wine.
Cloverdale is also known for its friendly and generous citizens. Cloverdale citizens have traditionally come out in force to help their fellow man, whether it is to raise funds for a worthy cause or to contribute their time to community organizations, such as the Cloverdale Fire Department.
Fire Department History
In the mid 1850’s when Cloverdale was being established, fire protection was not a major concern for its founders. It was not until 1882 that the editor of the Cloverdale Reveille wrote of a need for an organized fire company, but the town of Cloverdale had no water supply to fight fires. Public interest was aroused and on August 4, 1884, a water company began to take form. Bonds paying 6 percent interest were sold for $100.00 each, and in 1885, officers were named and the Riverside Water Company was formed. The Riverside Water Company went into operation on October 24, 1885, and quickly installed water mains and fireplugs.
The following week on March 27, 1886, there was a meeting held at the Cloverdale Reveille office to organize the fire company and to elect officers. The first elected officers were: J.H. Barker, president; J.F. Hoadly, secretary; J.H. Barker, foreman; Sam Bee, assistant foreman; and Peter Ludwig, second assistant foreman. They also appointed committees to draft the By-Laws and a Constitution. The fire company was organized under the name of Alert No. 1 of Cloverdale.
On May 16, 1886, the hose cart arrived from San Francisco. It was well built, with high wheels, and was nicely painted bearing the name Alert No. 1, in prominent letters. The town of Cloverdale spent $175.00 for the new hose cart. The total cost for the hose cart, nozzles, and 500 feet of hose was $488.00.
Now all they needed was a fire bell to sound the alarm in the event of a fire. The firemen held dances and bazaars to raise funds for the fire bell. The volunteer firemen raised the $150.00 needed to purchase the fire bell. On November 20, 1886, the bell was finally delivered to Cameron’s Blacksmith Shop. Today, that same bell can be seen mounted in front of the present firehouse.
The bell was rung at 8 o’clock every evening to sound curfew, as well as an alarm for fires. Everyone under sixteen years of age without legitimate excuse or without an adult was to be off the streets. This law was enforced more by the parents than the marshal. Many people said that the fire bell could be heard from the neighboring town of Asti. When someone would see a fire, they would run to the firehouse and pull the rope to ring the bell. Once the alarm sounded, everyone would run outside to see where the fire was. The firemen would run out of the firehouse, pulling the hose cart to the fire.
On Friday, June 13, 1890, (Friday the 13th) the Alert No. 1 Fire Company was faced with Cloverdale’s first major fire. The fire started at 11:30 p.m. in the Seavy Bros. Harness Shop; within minutes the entire block was consumed. The fire destroyed a saddle shop, R.C. DeNise’s Hotel, two homes and the harness shop. The entire block burned down in about forty minutes. Damage was estimated to be around $15,000.00.
In 1905 the town of Cloverdale purchased the Riverside Water Company for the sum of $12,000.00. The city was able to make many improvements with the money derived through water revenue. One major improvement was the construction of the city sewer system. The city sewer system was installed by hand and completed on September 15, 1906.
In 1924, Fire Chief Tony Reger realized the need to re-organize and upgrade the fire department. Reger brought the department to full strength and held regular training drills. He set up a repair and maintenance schedule for the fire equipment and saw to it that the volunteers received a payment of $2.00 per fire. This reorganization eventually brought on the purchase of a new fire engine. On April 29, 1929, the American La France fire engine arrived in Cloverdale at the cost of $6,176.00. This fire engine fought many fires until it was taken out of service on March 4, 1968. The City of Cloverdale agreed to sell the American LaFrance to the Cloverdale Volunteer Fire Department for the sum of one dollar on February 26, 1968. The agreement was that the fire department would maintain the old fire engine at no cost to the city. The LaFrance is in good condition and occasionally is used for parades and Firemen’s Muster competitions. The Cloverdale Muster team has won several State Championship titles in Class II, Hosewagon and Motorized Hosewagon events. The old fire engine is also used at Christmas time to give children rides with Santa Claus.
“Engine No. 3” (1965 Van Pelt) & Volunteers
(left–right, Tom Gurries,, Al Gambetta, Bob McCullough, Ray Cavagnaro, Tom Mantoya, Milt Holt, Ralph Warner, and Nels Jensen (City Councilman)
In 1938, another major project that was funded by water revenue was a new firehouse and city hall on West Street. The Fire Department moved out of the original firehouse on Commercial Street to the newly constructed firehouse on West Street where City Hall now stands. City Hall is currently operating out of the same building and the firehouse was relocated in 1972 to its new building on Broad Street. The dedication of the new firehouse was on February 22, 1972, many local citizens and public dignitaries attended the ceremony.
The growth of the community brought about the new firehouse and the appointment of Milt Holt as the first “paid” Fire Chief. Holt was paid $400.00 per month for half-duty pay. Fire Chief Holt was also the owner of a dry cleaning business. Chief Holt retired in February 1990 after 31 years of service.
Since 1973, the County of Sonoma had been contracting with the City of Cloverdale to provide fire and emergency services to the unincorporated areas surrounding Cloverdale. During the early 1990’s the County of Sonoma had indicated they could no longer fund the contracted amount of $155,000 due to budget constraints. Even with the funding from the County the fire department was under-funded. There were no funds put aside to improve equipment and apparatus. Aging fire equipment and apparatus jeopardized the current level of service and there was a threat of loosing the 24-hour station coverage by paid staff.
In 1993, City Manager Bob Perrault presented a request to form a fire district to the city council. The formation of a fire district would provide a long term and secure funding mechanism for delivering the fire service to city and surrounding unincorporated area. On April 12, 1994, voters approved a measure to form the “Cloverdale Fire Protection
District”. Measure “C” was approved by a 66% majority vote. The District Board of Directors immediately voted to retain the City of Cloverdale to provide fire protection services, including facilities, equipment and personnel. The new District was initially funded by an Ad Valorem tax but was still in need of long term funding. It was not until March 4, 1997 that voters passed Measure “D” with a 66% majority vote. The Cloverdale Fire Protection District was now independent from the City, had a separate funding source but would continue to receive a portion of property tax to fund operations.
In July 1997, the Cloverdale Fire Protection District contracted with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) to provide dispatch services. The Fire District also signed an “Amador” contract with CDF in November 1997. This agreement insures an additional CDF response to all incidents within the Fire District.
Since the formation of the Cloverdale Fire Protection District, the District has had the funding to purchase several modern fire engines, equipment and safety clothing. The fire district is currently planning the construction of a new fire station on South Cloverdale Blvd.
CLOVERDALE FIRE DEPARTMENT FIRE CHIEFS
1886 – 1890 J.H. Barker
1890 – 1894 W. H. Porterfield
1894 – 1897 G. Cameron
1898 – 1902 Herb Fletcher
1902 – 1903 B. Hemseth
1903 – 1904 R. L. Cameron
1904 – 1907 Miller Scott
1907 – 1909 Jacob Anker
1909 – 1914 J. E. Helm
1914 – 1917 Antone Reger
1917 – 1919 C. G. Kuhn
1919 – 1924 Lawrence Hulbert
1924 – 1927 A. C. (Tony) Reger
1927 – 1929 W. C. Lacey
1929 – 1935 Joe Kothgassner
1935 – 1938 A. C. (Tony) Reger
1938 – 1940 Damon Raef
1940 – 1950 Russell Thompson
1950 – 1951 Glenn Allen
1951 – 1952 Al Montedonico
1952 – 1968 Ralph Warner
1968 – 1990 Milt Holt
1990 – 1993 Jim Miner
1990 – 1996 Rob Dailey
1996 – 1998 Jack Rosevear
1998 – 2010 Brian Elliott
2010 – present Jason Jenkins