Originally inhabited by the indigenous Coast Miwok people, the land we now know as Rohnert Park was once known as Kota’ti, named for the chief of the village. In its original state, Kota’ti was rich in fish, game, and produce, largely due to the streams encompassing the land. Kota’ti had about 3,000 residents at the time. When Spanish and Mexican influence took over the region in the 1800s, the Coastal Miwok villages were tragically overtaken by enslavement and disease. In 1844, the government of Mexico awarded Captain Juan Castaneda the “Cotate Rancho” grant, providing him with the land now known as Penngrove, Cotati, and Rohnert Park.
Castaneda ended up selling Cotate Rancho and in 1846, a man named Thomas Page purchased it. Page divided the land over time, selling portions of it to incoming settlers of the land. The land continued to be handed to various people during the Gold Rush, eventually leaving only 4,000 acres of the land, which was then owned by Page’s sons. In 1929, the land was sold to Waldo Emerson Rohnert, a man hailing from Detroit, Michigan.
Rohnert began a relationship with C.C. Morse, the largest seed growing company in the area. Rohnert began to plant large prune orchards with his own seed growing business, establishing himself in the community. Rohnert purchased land in the San Joaquin Valley and Cotati with his financial success. Rohnert left the land and his estate to his son Fred upon his death. Rohnert managed his father’s company, planting some hay and mostly seeds, increasing the horticultural success of the land. When World War II hit, the Santa Rosa area became a safe haven for soldiers and their families. Paul Golis and Maurice Fredericks, already a native of the area, joined together to develop a plan for providing more land necessary to accommodate the soldiers and their families. In 1954, the men began the concept for the planned city of Rohnert Park.
The city was named after Waldo Emerson Rohnert, honoring his commitment to the land and its agricultural and horticultural benefits. Rohnert Park was officially incorporated in 1962.