Arthur Dawson, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Stumptown was Guerneville’s original name. Located on the flood plain of the Russian River, the area was called “Big Bottom.”
In the mid-19th century, Big Bottom was covered by “a dense growth of mammoth redwood trees” described as “the finest body of timber in the state.” There were trees 18 feet in diameter and nearly 370 feet tall (the tallest known redwood today measures 379 feet).
The Russians became the county’s first loggers in 1812 when they began cutting trees to construct Fort Ross. Two decades later, northern California’s first water-powered sawmill was built by Mark West on the creek that now bears his name. A flood washed away that mill in the 1840s.
In 1860 the first lumber camp was established at Big Bottom. To avoid the redwoods’ bulging bases, loggers cut them high above the ground. At up to 20 feet tall, even the stumps were impressive, and the village that sprang up among them was nicknamed Stumptown.