Tobacco: Sonoma County’s Other Weed Crop

Written By: Katherine J. Rinehart
Published: January 7, 2022

In the 1850s David Hetzel emigrated from Baden, Germany to the United States. He served with the Union Army during the Civil War, fighting at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. After the war, he opened a cigar shop in Atchison, Kansas. By 1877 Hetzel had arrived in Guerneville where planted a small tobacco acreage along the western slopes of Mount Jackson.


In 1880, Hetzel and his partner, Charles O. Schuler, moved the operation to rented land along the Russian River where they cultivated about two and a half acres and established a cigar factory on Guerneville’s Main Street (today’s First Street).


After the partnership was dissolved in 1882, Schuler moved to Petaluma and founded a cigar store and manufacturing plant.


Over the years, Hetzel’s plantation, as it was known, grew along with his success. His leaf tobacco and cigars won awards at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, 1905 Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition, and the 1907 Sacramento State Fair.


When not tending his crops or making cigars, Hetzel was active as a member of Ellsworth Post, G.A.R., and Mount Jackson Masonic Lodge. He died in 1935 at the age of 96.


For more on Hetzel, be sure to check out John Schubert’s Guerneville Early Days: A History of the Lower Russian River. The following images are from the John Schubert Russian River Collection, which was recently donated to the Sonoma State University Library.

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