The town of Bodega got its start in 1853 when George Robinson, who had been a resident of Bodega Bay, established a saloon at the crossing of three roads, which gave the town its name of Bodega Corners. According to Margaret McCaughey Burke, the granddaughter of merchant James McCaughey, the second business was a blacksmith shop built by a Mr. Hughes. Mr. Hughes and a Mr. Bowman built the first hotel. Donald McDonald moved his store from Bodega Port to Bodega Corners as well about this time, where he joined the merchant Rositer. Stephen Smith was the first postmaster when the post office was established in 1854. The first school was built in 1866 and the St. Teresa of Avila Church was constructed by a shipwright in 1859, with lumber donated by Jasper O’Farrell (Luca, 1995:1859).
Jasper O’Farrell settled in Freestone, where he was evidently successful, as he was elected state senator from Sonoma County in 1858. In 1863, however, O’Farrell sold the Estero Americano Rancho to Benjamin Belloc, a San Francisco banker. H. B. Martin, the County Surveyor, surveyed and mapped the town of Bodega Corners in October of 1863. He laid out 74 lots, one of which was reserved for the pre-existing Catholic Church. The ‘regular’ lots were 66 feet wide and 132 feet deep. There were a number of irregular lots as well. Mr. Belloc sold first lots in 1864 (Burke, 1993:201).
The town of Bodega Corners was called “the most important town in that section” by the author of the 1873 history of Sonoma County. He continued:
It supplies the farmers and dairymen in the surrounding country; also the lumbermen in the redwoods. It is a great resort for these lumbermen on Sundays. It is connected with Santa Rosa, Petaluma, and Duncan’s Mills, at the mouth of the Russian River, by lines of stages. Its main shipping point is Bodega Port, situated on the Bay of the same name. This latter place has a good wharf, at which vessels of considerable size can load and unload (Menefee, 1873:263).
In his 1877 atlas of Sonoma County author Thompson recounted, “The town is now quite a prosperous place. It is situated in the center of a rich dairy country. It has three churches and a school-house built at a cost of five thousand dollars. There are one hundred and twenty-five children in the district, and two teachers are employed. There is also in the town a Masonic, Odd Fellows and Good Templars’ Lodge. There are three stores, one shoemaker, one blacksmith and wagon shop, one hotel and two private boarding-houses, one livery stable, two physicians, and one butcher-shop. J.L. Springer is justice of the peace and postmaster. The population of the town is about two hundred and fifty (Thompson, 1877:24).
The town continued to be populated primarily by farmers, dairymen and merchants and other business people for the remainder of the century. The post office that had been established in Bodega Corners in 1882 was moved to Smith’s Ranch in 1887, and even when it moved back into town in 1901 was called “Smith’s Ranch” until early in the twentieth century (Pappe, 1996:28). At this time the area was still characterized by large dairy and farm families. In the early twentieth century the families in the area were dominated by those of Swiss and Swiss Italian heritage, whereas earlier in the history of the area it appears that settlers reflected a variety of European heritages (U. S. Census, 1900, 1910, 1920).