History of St. Helena, CA
From: History of Solano County, California
By: Marguerite Hunt
Napa County, California.
By: Harry Lawrence Gunn
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago 1926

Eighteen miles north of the city of Napa lies the town of St. Helena, the second largest town in the county, situated on a part of the former Cane Humana Rancho which had been granted to Dr. E. T. Bale and by him deeded in portions to the early settlers.

It is believed that the first men to settle within the present town limits of St. Helena were David Hudson and John York. They came here from the state of Missouri in 1848, bought land from Doctor Bale, built their homes near each other, and engaged in farming and stock raising.

In the year 1853 J. H. Still, of English nativity, endeavored to buy a tract of land one and a half miles south of St. Helena site. Instead he purchased within the town limits and erected a building in which he put a small stock of merchandise. A road was laid out to his store shortly after and here the start of the town was made. Still desired to promote the growth of his neighborhood to the best of his ability and accordingly he offered to donate lots to those who wished to engage in business. John Kister was perhaps the first to take advantage of Still's proposition and he erected two buildings, starting a shoe making and repairing business in one of them. These buildings stood on the corner of Spring and Main streets. In the same year, 1855, A. Tainter put up a story and a half building, of redwood, and opened a hotel. The next year he sold out to Hiram Louderback. In 1856 H. Dixon and John Howell started a blacksmith shop, also Robert Calderwood opened a wagon and carriage manufactory. Christian Turkeidson built a store in 1856. A. W. Elgin also built a store, and in 1858 David Fulton erected a building for a saddlery business. H. Dixon constructed a residence in 1857.

The origin of the name of St. Helena is in dispute. The source of the name is evident, but the identity of the one who thought of it has been variously defined. One authority assigns the honor to Henry Sill and William Taylor, but J. W. Booker, another pioneer, claimed the distinction himself.

In 1860 the Tainter hotel was burned and in its place, on the same site, John Wolf built a hotel; this was also burned in 1866. In 1865 a Mr. Rampendahl built the National hotel, later called the Van Tassel; in 1867 J. Vich put up a brick hotel first called the St. Charles, then the Palace; and in 1881 the Windsor hotel was erected by Mr. Alstrom.

The first schoolhouse in St.. Helena was built on the bank of York Creek and in 1858 was moved to the site of the later grammar school building. In the late '90s a high school was organized and in 1911 an appropriation of $30,000 was made for a new high school building.

St. Helena was incorporated by a special act of the legislature March 24, 1876. The first election was held April 17th following. The officers chosen then were: trustees, H. A. Pellet, D. O. Hunt, W. T. Simmons, David Cole and G. C. Fountain; clerk, Charles A. Gardner; treasurer and collector, D. B. Carver; marshal and assessor, J. H. Allison. Pellet was chosen president of the board. St. Helena was reincorporated May 14, 1889 and the first board of trustees comprised Owen Wade, president, M. F. Inman, H. M. Pond, H. A. Pellet and Frank Kraft; J. G. Johnson was treasurer, A. B. Swartout, marshal, and James V. Haire, clerk. One of the first civic acts of importance after the reincorporation was the construction of a sanitary sewer through the main portion of the town and the purchase of a sewer farm.

The first church in the county was the White Church socalled because it was painted white - situated midway between St. Helena and Calistoga. This church was erected in 1853, and a half century or so later was destroyed by fire.

Methodist Church. A society was organized in the early days and the members worshipped in the Presbyterian Church until 1867 when they erected a building of their own. Since that time their pulpit has been regularly filled by a resident minister.

The First Baptist church was built in 1857, Hiram Louderback having donated the site. John Cyrus, Henry Owsley and David Fulton were the first trustees. Other first members were: William Hudson, Enoch Cyrus and wife, T. J. Porter, Henry Owsley, Mrs. Francis Owsley, Miss R. E. Owsley, W. H. Pendleton, Lucinda York, William Rector and wife, Stephen Broaddus and wife.

The Presbyterian Church was organized May 30, 1874 with the following members: J. I. Logan, Mrs. U. J. Logan, J. Cleghorn, Dr. C. F. A. Mitchell, Mrs. L. G. Mitchell, Mrs. Mary Green, L. Spear, Mrs. Eliza Spear, Mary A. Penwell, Mrs. Sophia Hunt, Miss Jennie Carson, R. F. Lane, Mrs. Elizabeth C. Lane, Philip Elting, Mrs. Clarinda Mills, Mrs. Phoebe A. Woodburry and Miss Mamie Gluyas. Rev. James Mitchell first presided and continued as pastor for about fifty years. In 1875 the erection of a building was begun and dedicated June 30, 1876, at a cost of $4,000.

There was a Cumberland Presbyterian organization in St. Helena at one time, but their building was burned on February 15, 1874.

The Seventh Day Adventist society was organized at St. Helena May 16, 1874 by Elder J. N. Loughborough and with the following members: John Mavity, Amelia W. Mavity, James Creamer, Hannah Creamer, Emory J. Church, Millard Church, Hugh Hackney, Elizabeth Carter, Sarah J. Anthony, Sarah Spencer, Ruth C. Cruey, Mary Ann Stephenson, Anna Boyd, Margaret Cooper, Martha Hudson, Emily H. Wood, L. Thomson, James Barry, Samuel Jacks and Julia Jacks. Their church edifice is valued at $2,000.

The first building of the Roman Catholic Church in St. Helena was erected by Rev. Fr. Peter Deyaert in 1866 and this served until 1877, when another structure was begun by Rev. Fr. M. Mulville. Rev. Fr. M. D. Slattery completed the building and dedicated it March 28, 1878. Value, $3,500.

St. Helena Lodge, No. 93, F. & A. M. was organized at Yountville November 24, 1855, and S. Rosenbaum, J. W. Deering, George C. Yount, J. M. Wright, J. J. May and S. S. Christman were charter members; S. Rosenbaum was the first worshipful master. The lodge was moved from Yountville to St. Helena, June 3, 1865, and a dispensation to change the name to St. Helena was granted. Just after receiving the charter, the lodge erected a building and the hall was dedicated with appropriate ceremonies. St. Helena Lodge, No. 167, I. O. O. F. was organized January 31, 1870. The charter members were: Alexander Korns, S. C. Penwell, H. A. Pellet, John S. Adams, C. E. Davis, H. G. Wyman and J. I. Logan. The first noble grand was S. C. Penwell. The lodge has a neatly furnished hall with a fine club room, all splendidly furnished. St. Helena Lodge, No. 271, I. O. G. T. was organized July 17, 1879; Eureka Lodge, No. 15, A. O. U. W. was established December 31, 1877, and St. Helena Council, No. 431, A. L. of H. was organized February 17, 1881.

The first issue of the St. Helena Star, under the editorship of Dewitt C. Lawrence, was issued September 25, 1874. It is said that the first copy off the press sold for $20. Lawrence conducted the paper for more than a year, then sold out to Charles A. Gardner, who continued in the editorial chair until March, 1883, when W. A. Mackinder bought a half interest. Gardner retired the beginning of the next year and a year later Mackinder bought his interest. He published the sheet alone until October 1, 1887 and it was taken over by Jesse H. Dungan and Frank B. Mackinder. On October 12, 1891 Dungan sold his interest to Frank B. Mackinder, who is still sole proprietor.

The St. Helena Sentinel was established in November, 1894, by the firm of Lewis & Vallandingham. In a year's time the plant was bought by Lee Fairchilds, and in May, 1896, by O. H. Blank. G. O. Mercer was a later editor.


The First National Bank of St. Helena was organized in 1887. F. L. Alexander is president; W. H. Smith, vice president, and P. R. Alexander, cashier. The capital stock is $50,000 and deposits a half million. The First Savings Bank, an adjunct, was organized in 1892.

The Liberty Bank of St. Helena was formerly the Bank of St. Helena, organized in 1882.

In 1908 Andrew Carnegie gave $8,500 to the town for a library building. The town purchased a lot centrally located and now has a property worth upwards of $11,000, with over 2,000 books on the shelves.

St. Helena gets her water supply of pure mountain water through the St. Helena Water Co., a private corporation. Gas and electric juice for light and power are furnished by the Napa Valley Electric Company. The office of the stage line for Aetna Springs, Samuel Springs and the St. Helena Sanitarium is located here. This is also the outlet for the productive grain and fruit farms of Conn, Chiles and Pope valleys and Howell Mountain.

The first stone bridge of any size was built by St. Helena at a cost of $15,000. Now nearly all the bridges of the county are stone bridges.

With easy transit to and from the great metropolis, the merchants are enabled to keep their stores stocked up to date, thus making the vine clad hills and the fertile valleys, where you can inhale the pure ozone, revel in the warm sunshine and gather the fragrant wild flowers, a fit setting for an ideal home. And when you add the health giving climate and the near by mineral springs and health resorts, it makes an attraction that the visitor cannot resist.

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