The area's first known inhabitants were the native Miwok and Pomo peoples. The town of Sebastopol formed in the 1850s with a U.S. Post Office and as a small trade center for the farmers in the surrounding agricultural region. As California's population swelled after the westward migration and the Gold Rush of the 1850s, more and more settlers drifted into the fertile California valleys north of San Francisco to try their hand at farming.
The name of Sebastopol first came into use in the late 1850s as a result of a prolonged and lively fistfight in the newly formed town, which was likened to the long British siege of the Russian seaport of Sevastopol during the then-raging Crimean War. Britain, France, Sardinia and Turkey fought Russia in this war, one of the first wars to be directly reported by journalists and photographers. The Crimean War was also the origin of improved medical care of the wounded, primarily due to the efforts of Florence Nightingale, who formed a nursing corps to care for wounded British soldiers. Evidently, many Americans in the west sympathized more for the Russian than for the British cause as there were at one time four other Sebastopol's in California; one in Napa County, renamed Yountville, one each in Tulare, Sacramento, and Nevada counties.
The apple industry brought a steady rural prosperity to the town and Sebastopol was incorporated in 1902 with schools, churches, hotels, canneries, mills, wineries, and an opera house to its credit. The 1906 earthquake reduced most of these early buildings to rubble, but as elsewhere in the county, the town was rebuilt.
In the second half of the Twentieth Century, the apple industry struggled to compete with other apple producing regions and gradually declined in its economic significance. With greater personal mobility and the rise of larger shopping centers in other Sonoma County communities, Sebastopol changed from a full-service town with a complete range of stores to one with a more limited range of goods and services.
In the 21st Century, Sebastopol continues to be a vibrant, creative community. In addition to being the arts and creative hub of West Sonoma County, Sebastopol is a leader in local efforts to address climate change. The City itself, and the community as a whole are leaders in energy and water conservation efforts as well as policy initiatives to address this critical issue.
Sebastopol's special qualities and unique geographical setting attract visitors and residents alike, as well as new commercial and industrial businesses, some with global reach. The community continues to work together towards creation of a sustainable local economy.