The Bohemian Club was founded in 1872 in San Francisco. It was founded as a gentlemen’s club by a group of journalists, artists and musicians. It quickly gained business, political and military members. Among the founders were Ambrose Bierce and Brett Harte—two writers with international reputations. Other prominent writers involved with the club include Mark Twain, Charles Stoddard, George Sterling, Jack London, Henry George and Joaquin Miller. Over the years it has boasted an international membership of the world’s movers and shakers. Examples follow: Six U. S. Presidents (Teddy Roosevelt, Taft, Hoover, Nixon, Reagan and George H. W. Bush), several Secretaries of State (George Shultz, James Baker and Colin Powell), Secretaries of Defense (Donald Rumsfeld, Casper Weinberger and Harold Brown), Secretaries of the Interior (William Clark) and Secretaries of the Treasury (Nicholas Brady) and Secretaries of Health Education and Welfare (Joseph Califano, Jr), Congressional leaders (Lamar Alexander and Barry Goldwater), entrepreneurs (Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, David Packard and Bill Hewett), University Presidents, actors (Clint Eastwood, Eddie Albert and James Woods), Businessmen (Robert Mondavi, William Randolph Hearst, William Crocker and Charles Schwab), musicians (Tennessee Ernie Ford and Jimmy Buffett), artists, NASA administrators and the like.
The Club maintains a 2700 acre camp in Monte Rio set amongst old growth Redwoods. Every summer the camp hosts about 3,500 members and guests who come to the very private and heavily secured camping site to meet and enjoy one another’s company.
Around 1910 or so a “prominent” guest of the Bohemian Club, “was missed one Sunday morning at breakfast.” The members panicked turning the camp upside down looking for the missing man. “Very late in the morning, in the midst of their frantic search,” he suddenly appeared walking up the railroad tracks (now Highway 116 (River Road)). When asked where he had been, he simply stated: “I had to go to Mass.” The nearest Catholic Church at the time was in Guerneville.
Within a few weeks a delegation of Bohemians called upon the Archbishop of San Francisco seeking his support to build a church in Monte Rio. Sonoma County was then a part of the San Francisco Archdiocese. The Bohemians, prominent personalities in San Francisco, got the Archbishops immediate attention and within a short while a church was under construction.