In the beginning - Napa County, CA
From: History of Solano County, California
By: Marguerite Hunt
And Napa County, California.
By: Harry Lawrence Gunn
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago 1926


It is recorded in one of the most ancient and authentic histories of the world that "in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth".

In the beginning the earth was without form or void, but in the evolution of ages the land was separated from the water and continents and islands, with their majestic mountains and picturesque and fertile valleys, appeared.

Out of this chaotic condition came forth what is now known as Napa Valley - one of the most beautiful and healthful spots on this sun kissed globe.

We have no detailed history of this county from the beginning adown the ages to the time when modern civilization began. We know not the part it played in the historical events of the bygone ages - whether it was located in that wonderful paradise called the "Garden of Eden", or whether it was that renowned and most beautiful country that was shown to our Saviour from the mountain top by that suave and polished, but cloven-footed gentleman who tried to bribe him with the gift of that wonderful piece of real estate in exchange for his influence. I say we know not whether Napa County was located in either of these places, but certain it is that its characteristic beauty, splendor and productiveness qualifies it to rank with the best in the world; and with all the researches of the sages and historians the claim that Napa Valley was originally the Garden of Eden has never been disproved.

This history must deal with the chronology of modern times - in the beginning when Napa County became a political entity and was a wheel within a wheel of governmental activities. We know little of its history prior to its occupation by Americans. It is said that in the early days before civilization had set its foot upon this soil there were ten thousand or twelve thousand Indians occupying the territory now constituting Napa and Lake counties. Under Mexican occupation and Spanish control it was an undivided section in a large district comprising the territory north of the San Francisco bay. Gradually, as time passed by, lines began to be drawn between the different sections of the country, but it was not until after California became a state in 1850 that Napa County became a definite legal, integral, political subdivision of the state.

As contributory to the beginning of Napa County, we shall here endeavor to record some of the first things in its history. These we have culled from old histories, old newspaper files and interviews with old pioneers whose fathers were among the earliest settlers. From these sources we find and therefore allege that :

The first white man to settle in the county was George C. Yount, who was granted a tract of land in 1836 upon which the site of Yountville is located.

The first frame building was erected by Harrison Pierce in 1848 to minister to the spiritual wants of a certain class and used as a saloon. To minister to the spiritual wants of a certain other class, the church known as the old White church was built in the Tucker district above St. Helena. This was the first church built in Napa County. In the beginning, the first churches were community churches. They were not known as Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Congregational, but were just the churches of God, and any minister, no matter what his denomination, was free to use them for a place of worship. This first church was destroyed by fire some years ago, but the first cemetery still remains at the rear of the lot where the little white church stood.

The first log house was erected by George C. Yount in 1836. It was eighteen feet square on the ground floor and 20 by 22 feet on the second floor, with portholes for defense in case of attack.

The first schoolhouse was built by William H Nash near Tucker Creek in 1849. This was a private school. Other private schools were established previous to 1855, when the first public schoolhouse was erected in Napa City by subscription. It was afterward occupied as a colored school.

The first brick house was erected by John S. Robinson in 1855, but was outside the then city limits. The first brick building for business purposes inside the city limits was erected by Thomas Earl and William H. James later in the same year. They bought the brick in Sacramento. The building was located on the southwest corner of Main and Third streets, where it still stands.

The first store was opened in 1848 by J. P. Thompson, in a building at the foot of Main Street in Napa.

Several brick buildings were erected in 1855, among them the Revere House, the blacksmith shop of A. W. Norton and the courthouse.

The first flouring mill and sawmill in Napa County and, it is said, in California, were erected by George C. Yount.

The first bank was organized by James H. Goodman & Company in 1858.

The first newspaper, the Napa County Reporter, was first issued July 4, 1856 by A. J. Cox and went out of existence in 1888.

The first steamboat, the Dolphin, arrived in 1850, Capt. Turner G. Baxter commanding.

For the first railroad, ground was broken in November, 1864, and the first train passed over the road into Napa City July 11, 1865.

The first townsite of Napa City was laid out by the late Hon. Nathan Coombs in 1849. The original boundaries of the town only included the land between Brown Street and the river, and from Napa Creek to the steamboat landing._ The year previous a good crop of beans was said to have been cultivated on this tract of land, so that it cannot be truthfully said of the early pioneers that they "didn't know beans".

The first election was held in 1849 in the Pierce building, but the first election held after the organization of the county was held on the first Monday in April, 1850.

The first legal hanging occurred August 7, 1863, at which time Charles Brittain was executed.

The first postmaster was Charles Briggs.

The first telegraph line was run from Napa to Vallejo in 1858.

Napa City was first lighted with gas in 1868.

The first deed recorded was dated April 3, 1850, from Nicolaus Higuerra to John C. Brown.

The first electric railroad was operated in 1905 between Vallejo and Napa.

The first automobile to run on the streets of Napa was manufactured in 1906 by Fred S. Jacks.

The first stock automobile was bought by George Powers in 1903. It was a single cylinder Oldsmobile. William Finnell got one about the same time. Dr. C. C. Hackett probably had the first two cylinder machine in 1904.

The first mortgage was recorded on June 18, 1851 from Joseph D. Bristol to Warren P. Durbin, on Lot 2, Block 6, Napa City. It was for $2,000.00.

The first regular Napa County election was held April 1, 1850, and the following are the first officers elected in Napa County: John E. Starke, county judge; H. H. Lawrence, county clerk ; M. McKinney, sheriff; R. L. Kilburn, treasurer ; J. P. Walker, assessor; J. E. Brown, surveyor; B. F. E. Kellogg, coroner.

The first courthouse was ordered built in December, 1849 and was used as a courthouse and jail until 1855.

The first marriage license was recorded June 2, 1850 to William Monroe and Nancy Morgan.

The first ferry was in operation in 1848-9, across the river between Second and Third streets.

In 1851 a toll bridge was built across Napa River above the Vernon Mills.

The first free bridge across Napa River was constructed at First Street in 1852.

The first white child born in Napa County, or as some claim in the state, was born to the family of Bartlett Vines, who crossed the plains in 1844 and was a son-in-law of George C. Yount. However, this claim is disputed by others, some of whom would give the honor to the Julius Martin family of Sonoma County; still others to the James Gregson family of the same county.

The first residence of any pretentions was built by Major John H. Seawell and was afterwards one of the buildings of the Ladies' Seminary.

The first adobe house is claimed by many to be the one built by Cayetano Juarez and now standing on the Napa side of the Napa State Hospital, while many claim the big adobe built by Salvador Vallejo on what is now known as the Goldstein place to be the first. Ignacio Vallejo, a son of Salvador Vallejo, inclines to the latter opinion. They were both built in 1840.

The first telephone service was established in Napa in the fall of 1883.

The first wireless was in operation in about 1907.

The first radios began to come into general use about 1920.

The first chimney built in California was built in Napa County, in 1840, by George C. Yount.

Electric lights first appeared in the early '90s, the franchise for lighting the City of Napa being granted August 4, 1890.

The airplane is now with us as a tested and practical means of transportation and-WHAT NEXT?

Return to [ California History ] [ History at Rays Place ] [ Rays Place ] [ California Biographies ]

California Counties at this web site - Colusa County - Contra Costa County - Imperial County - Marin County - Mendocino County - Napa County - Riverside County - San Mateo County - Santa Clara County - Solano County - Yolo County -

All pages copyright 2003-2013. All items on this site are copyrighted by their author(s). These pages may be linked to but not used on another web site. Anyone may copy and use the information provided here freely for personal use only. Privacy Policy