Photos from the "Spirits of St. Helena Discovery Cemetery Walk" ... Notes from Society Manager ... Historic Sites of St. Helena

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Illuminating St. Helena's History  ~  Spring 2020; Volume 18; Issue 1

Message to our Members


It is with both sadness and excitement that I write my last ”Greetings Letter” for the St. Helena Historical Society Electrolier Newsletter. My husband, Stu, and I have been volunteers and members since we moved here in 2011. I have enjoyed learning about the history of St. Helena, my home town, and helping out where ever I could. Being President this last year allowed me to be involved with our agreement with the Catholic Church and to finally see our dream of a St. Helena Heritage Center come to life. It was a very exciting time.

Stu and I are now headed off for a new adventure in Anacortes, Washington, where we have purchased a beautiful home. That is another dream come true.

Thank you so much to all of you for your kindnesses and support. Stu and I will be following the Heritage Center project with interest and hope to come visit when everything is up and running.

We hope and pray that all of you will stay safe and healthy as we move through these trying times.

Best Wishes,
Sue Clark

Spirits of St. Helena Discovery Cemetery Walk

Vive le Vin: French Winemakers at St. Helena Cemetery 

Another successful year, featuring actors from St. Helena High School drama 1 class.


Our thanks to Patti Coyle, SHUSD Drama Director, and her students Stevie Alvarez, Zoe Schelhorn, Micah Diaz, Aidan Schelhorn, Jesse Robinson, Elizabeth Sandoli, Joshua Johnson, Ewan Oliver, Haven Demchuck, Krystel Ramirez, April Shaw, Alice Wrede, and Gabe DuBois

shhs st helena cemetery tour is back on october 9.
SHHS the cemetery tour is back on oct 9.

Notes from your Manager, Bonnie Thoreen

New Leadership: Skip Lane has been elected to take over as President of your Board of Directors. Skip has been active with the St. Helena Historical Society for many years and also served as President for several of those years. Other officers are: Stephen Taplin, Vice-President; Nancy Caffo, Secretary; John Sales, Treasurer.

This change in presidency came just a few months early of our annual May election due to our current president, Sue Wood Clark, leaving us! She is moving with her husband, Stu, and their four dogs to Anacortes, Wash., where they will be enjoying life on the Northwest coast boating and traveling in their sleek Airstream. Thank you, Sue, for your leadership over the past several months. And also, thank you, Stu, for all that you have done to bring about many changes as we move over to our new location.

We are happy to welcome Kathleen Carrick, a longtime resident of St Helena, to the Board of Directors. Kathy has been a leader in our community on many fronts. She was the head of St. Helena Parks and Rec Department and headed up the Hometown Harvest Festival. She currently serves as a member of the Rianda House Program Committee and leads an exercise class focused on seniors for Rianda House.

New Home: We have been very busy moving into the former Catholic school. There is much to be done—new HVAC, paint, floors, not to say that the very act of moving from our space at the library has been a challenge. It is exciting to finally have our own home, a place to showcase our collection, welcome visitors and present programs. When it is safe (in terms of the shelter at home order) we will welcome members to come by and see what is happening. AND, we welcome anyone who would like to volunteer. It will be especially important to have a cadre of docents when we actually open to the public. A special thank you to the library and the City of St. Helena for giving us space to store our collection and provide office space for the past 18 years!

Annual Dues: Last year the board decided to go on an annual calendar for dues payments, setting April 1, 2020 as the date all memberships are due for the current year. However, given the craziness of the move to Oak Avenue complicated by the COVID-19 interruption of our normal lives, we have extended the date to May 15. I guess if the IRS can extend the tax deadline, we can extend our dues deadline! We will be sending out a letter with return envelope as soon as possible, but given restrictions on business operations and social distancing, it may be awhile before this happens. Annual dues are important for our day-to-day operations, so if you can, please help us by sending your dues to P.O. Box 87, St. Helena. We are encouraging our members to renew at the $100 Sustaining Level, and also to add a contribution to our moving effort, if you possibly can.

Grants Update: We have completed this year’s grant from the City of St. Helena which resulted in almost 40 new and climate resistant storyboards. Sue Clark has done a tremendous job of compiling and designing the boards for future events and displays. We are awaiting news on our grant application for 2020-2021. If approved, this grant from the city will help fund the Pioneer Classroom and Education Program in the new Heritage Center on Oak Avenue.

So with that (too much) I close. We wish you safety and good health as we proceed through this unprecedented time of uncertainty.

Animal Water Fountain 

Animal Drinking Fountain at Adams Street and Oak Avenue, St. Helena
Animal Drinking Fountain at Adams Street and Oak Avenue, St. Helena Courtesy, St. Helena Historical Society


In 1910 St. Helena was the proud recipient of a handsome granite and bronze animal drinking fountain, donated by the National Humane Alliance after persistent entreaties by the St. Helena Women’s Improvement Club. The fountain was installed in the street at the corner of Adams Street and Oak Avenue near Robert Walker’s Blacksmith shop (see photo above). The large drinking bowl on top was for horses, and overflow pipes fed two smaller bowls imbedded in the base that served dogs and cats. Ironically, a car (“horseless carriage”) overturned the fountain one dark and stormy night in 1920. The fountain was undamaged and, after much community debate, was re-located near the Southern Pacific depot on Railroad Street.

The fountain was eventually renovated and moved to its permanent home in Lyman Park, and was re-dedicated at the 1976 St. Helena Centennial celebration. This beautiful fountain still stands in Lyman Park as a reminder of the important role that horses played in the early days of our town. 

St. Helena Public Library

St. Helena Public Library
Courtesy, St. Helena Historical Society
St. Helena Public Library Courtesy, St. Helena Historical Society

Landscaping by Moonlight


The Carnegie Foundation granted St. Helena $7,500 in 1908 to construct a new public library at Oak Avenue and Adams Street. Built in the California Mission style, the Carnegie Library remains a source of great civic pride. 

To beautify the grounds, the Native Sons of the Golden West planted two date palms by the light of a full moon in April 1909. As reported in the St. Helena Star, at 9 pm the Native Sons marched from their hall to the new library carrying the American Flag and the Bear Flag. A crowd had assembled to witness the ceremonial moonlight planting. With great fanfare, singing, marching, and orations they planted the palms and christened them Colonel Sutter and Colonel Vallejo. Afterward the Woman’s Improvement Club served a late dinner in the library.