This small town is in the heart of the Russian River Wine country and on the edge of several important state parks. It has a large and active gay/lesbian community and is the home of a number of artists and writers.
The earliest settlements in the Guerneville area were, of course, small Native American communities. These peoples referred to the dense redwood forest that dominated much of the land as "The Dark Place". They avoided it for a variety of reasons including a belief that it was populated by haunting spirits.
The first known European settlement was established early in 1860 by R.B. Lunsford. Lunsford and his crew established a lumber camp on the northern edge of the Russian River and produced fence rails, shakes, shingles and rough timbers which were sold to the rapidly growing cities of Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Sonoma, and San Francisco. The camp grew and prospered and for obvious reasons took on the name "Stumptown", a nickname that continues to be used by some residents of the area.
In 1867 a young Swiss by the name of Guerne moved into the area, purchased land, and bought into one of the sawmills in the area. By 1870 that mill, the Heald & Guerne Lumber Mill, was the largest in the area and George Guerne was Stumptown's leading citizen. As more and more people moved into the area the community sought a more dignified name for their town and soon named it Guerneville in honor of their most prominent citizen.
In 1874 Conel Peter Donahue was asked to extend a branch railroad spur from his main line further inland at Fulton to Guerneville to more efficiently haul lumber out of the area. Donahue agreed and started construction but did not complete the line all the way to Guerneville because of a dispute that arose over payment. He stopped at the Korbel bothers' sawmill, three miles short of Guerneville. Eventually the Guerneville mills financed the remaining three miles of track and the first train reached Guerneville in March, 1877.
As the redwood forest gave way to wider and wider human settlement over the years, Gravenstein apple trees replaced the mighty giants and produced their wonderful fruit for many years. Today the apples orchards are being replaced by vineyards.