Wappo woman and child

Native Americans (before 1831)

  • 2000 BC-1823 The Wappo Indians were the sole inhabitants of the Napa Valley.
  • They numbered about ten thousand in 1831 before the Gold Rush throngs inundated California in 1849.
  • The village of Anakotanoma was located where Sulphur Creek meets the Napa River. Due to the encroachment of settlers on their land, by 1908 the Napa Valley population was estimated to have fallen to a mere forty people.
  • Their language was never written down, instead passed orally from parent to child during rearing.
  • Wappo were known for their devotion to their children, their motto being “Respect for elders, honor the children.”
  • They had a sophisticated weaving technique so fine that it enabled them to create baskets tight enough to hold water and be used for cooking.
  • The Wappo quarried obsidian from Glass Mountain for making arrowheads and spear points which were traded widely.
Detail of map of New Spain holdings in 1819

Spanish California (1769-1821)

  • The era of the Spanish settlers from the empire of Spain.
  • 1769 First Alta (upper) California mission founded at San Diego
  • 1823 Mission San Francisco Solano founded in Sonoma (closest mission to St. Helena)
  • 1823  Don Francis Castro and Father Jose Altimura, under an armed escort led by Jose Sanchez, the first Europeans to explore the Napa Valley.
Mariano Vallejo
Maria Ygnacia Soberanes Bale (1816-1901), niece of General Vallejo

Mexican California (1821-1848)

  • 1833 The Mexican government passed an “Act for the Secularization of the Missions of California”.
  • 1836 "Sonoma Barracks" was established by Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo (the "Commandante-General of the Northern Frontier of Alta California") as a part of Mexico's strategy to halt Russian incursions into the region
  • 1836 George C. Yount receives Mexican land grant, which he names “Rancho Caymus”. Yount also received “Rancho La Jota” on Howell Mountain (now Angwin).
  • 1841 Dr. Edward Turner  Bale, physician to Mexican army,  receives land grant, which he names “Rancho Carne Humana”.
  • 1843  Dr. Edward Bale and his wife Maria Soberanes, niece of General Vallejo, moved to their home on Whitehall Lane.
  • 1844 Colonel Joseph B. Chiles, who guided one of the earliest immigrant wagon  trains to California, is granted Rancho Catacula in Pope Valley.
  • 1846 Bale’s Grist Mill was completed
  • 1847 The town of Napa was founded by Nathan Coombs.
  • 1848 James Marshall discovered gold at John Sutter’s Mill in Coloma. Many Napa Valley residents go to the mines, but the valley’s farmers stayed on their land.
Cleaners and Dyers, circa 1880

Early Napa Valley Settlement (1846-1880)

  • 1846 Bear Flag Revolt lasted 26 days when California became an independent republic. In 1850 it became the 31st state of the United States.
  • 1848 John York discovered White Sulphur Springs
  • 1849  Dr. Bale died and his wife Maria began selling portions of the 17,962 acres he received as a Mexican land grant from General Vallejo.
  • 1854 Henry Still and Charles Walters bought 126 acres from Maria Soberanes de Bale and founded the town of St. Helena. They gave free lots to anyone who would start a business.
  • 1857 Sharon Baptist Church (later St. Helena Baptist Church) was built on Church & Hunt Streets.
  • 1858 Charles Krug made the first wine in Napa Valley for John Patchett in Napa using a small cider press. Dr. George Crane visited St. Helena and bought land for his vineyard
  • 1860   New arrivals began planting vineyards and making wine.
  • 1867 Methodist Church was built at Adams & Oak Streets
  • 1868 The Napa Valley Railroad construction crews reached St. Helena. Chinese laborers mine tons of gravel from Sulphur Creek for the rail bed.
  • 1874 St. Helena Star newspaper began publishing
  • 1876 St. Helena was incorporated as a town.
  • 1878 The Rural Health Retreat founded by W.A. Pratt, later known as St. Helena Hospital.
La Perla Winery, 1874

Wine Industry beginnings (1858-1880)

  • 1858 Charles Krug made the first commercial wine in Napa Valley for John Patchett in Napa using a small cider press. Dr. George Crane visited St. Helena and bought land for his vineyard.
  • 1860   New arrivals began planting vineyards and making wine.
  • 1860 Charles Krug marries Carolina Bale, who receives 540 acre dowry.
  • 1861 Charles Krug Winery and David Fulton Winery founded.
  • 1861 Dr. Crane begins planting European varietals of grapes purchased from Sonoma’s Agoston Haraszthy.
  • Most vineyard laborers are Chinese and merchants open shops in Chinatown to serve them.
  • 1875 Jacob Beringer buys his first property from William Daegner. St. Helena Viticultural Club organized to improve wine growing practices.
  • 1876 The vine disease Phylloxera was recognized and solutions were being sought.
  • 1877 Beringer Brothers Winery built
A foreman supervises pruning in a vineyard near St. Helena around 1900.

Mid-Valley Boom & Bust (1880-1910)

  • 1883 Coal gasification provides the first street lighting in town when St. Helena Gas Company founded.
  • 1886 the population reaches 1,800. People from many lands and walks of life continue to relocate here, adding to the town’s complex and diverse history.
  • 1889 Superior electric lights illuminate the streets, but new company closed shop in 1890 for unknown reasons.
  • 1893 Half the vineyards in Napa Valley become infested with the plant disease phylloxera. Stock market crashes.
  • 1894 St. Helena Library was founded.
  • 1908 New electric-powered interurban street car line reaches St. Helena and starts service on January 1.
  • 1909 On June 12 the power was switched on and St. Helenans had 24 hour light and power for the first time.
  • 1909 Pacific Union College buys Angwin’s Resort, moves there from Healdsburg.
319th Engineers with donkey, 1918

St. Helena Wineries Recover & World War I (1910-1920)

  • 1912 New St. Helena High School built and opened. First Vintage Festival held.
  • 1917 World War I cuts off wine imports from Europe-Napa Valley sells all production
  • 1918 United States enters WWI. Soldiers train in town and at military bases, are sent to Europe.
  • 1919 Soldiers return home, except for seven who died. Nationwide fight over prohibiting the manufacture, sale or consumption of alcohol.
  • 1919 January 16 Congress passed the “Bone Dry” 18th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States outlawing the production, sale or consumption of alcohol.


Revenuers raid stills,1925

Prohibition (1920-1933)

  • 1920 Prohibition takes effect one year after the Volstead Act was passed. Most wineries that couldn’t transition to producing sacramental or kosher wine closed down. Grapegrowers ship grapes to home winemakers in the eastern states.
  • 1927 Charles Lindbergh flew over St. Helena in September on his way from Seattle to San Francisco. He made is epic Transatlantic flight to Paris in May 1927.
  • 1929 October the stock market crashed.
  • 1929 The last scheduled passenger train made a final run up the Napa Valley.
  • 1933 On December 5 the 21st Amendment was ratified, repealing the 18th Amendment. Louis M. Martini Winery founded.


St. Helena Agriculture Changed (1934-1940)

  • 1934 End of Prohibition celebrated in St. Helena with the revived Vintage Festival—best ever
  • 1934- Napa Valley Cooperative Winery buys most grapes produced and sells wine in bulk lots.
  • 1935 Napa Valley growers begin marketing campaign to bring wine sales back. A big Vintage Festival held in St. Helena.
  • 1937 Cesare Mondavi and Jack Riorda incorporate Sunny St. Helena Winery (today Merryvale Winery)
  • 1937 Frank Mackinder, owner and publisher of the St. Helena Star, died. His stepson Edward Starr Baldwin takes over.
  • 1938 Georges de Latour convinces Andre Tchelistcheff to leave France and come to work at Beaulieu Winery.
  • 1940 St. Helena’s new post office was completed. An air raid shelter was in the basement.
  • 1940 Charles Laughton and Carole Lombard come to St. Helena to film “They Knew What They Wanted”, and pose for a photo at Beringer.


St. Helena Militia drilling at Legion Hall before leaving for Camp San Luis Obispo, 1941.

World War II (1939-1945)

  • 1940 Roosevelt orders a peace time draft. St. Helena men get their lottery numbers. Non-citizens must register with the government. August 9 St. Helena National Guard troops depart for training in Washington state.
  • 1941 December 7 the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor. Blackouts ordered within a 50 mile radious of San Francisco. When the 2 minute warning sounded no light could be visible and cars had to stop to turn off headlights. No telephoning except emergencies.
  • 1941-2 St. Helena Militia trains at American Legion Hall, then sent to Camp San Luis Obispo for boot camp.
  • St. Helenans were pressured to finance the war by buying war bonds.
  • 1942 In May the U.S. Office of Price Administration (OPA) froze prices on practically all everyday goods, starting with sugar and coffee. By the end of 1942, half of U.S automobiles were issued an 'A' sticker which allowed 4 gallons of fuel per week.  By the end of the war, rationing limited consumption of almost every product with the exception of eggs and dairy foods.
  • 1943 March Scrap metal drive for tin cans mobilized residents to save tin cans. A freight car loaded with cans left St. Helena
  • St. Helena was divided in half by the Prohibited Zone A of Military Area #1. Non-citizens could not tread west of the white line on Main Street. They also had a curfew.
  • 1943 First bus carrying Mexican “Bracero” laborers arrives in Napa Valley
  • 1944 First Mexican Independence Day Celebration in St. Helena
  • 1945 April Fire destroyed the inside of the St. Helena Catholic Church. Miraculously, the stained glass windows and  the stone walls were left standing. Cause was a small fire to burn trash, whose embers lit the palm trees near the church.
  • 1945 President Roosevelt died. May 8 end of war in Europe. August 14 end of war in the Pacific. Blackout ordinance suspended.


Richard de Latour, André Tchelistcheff, and Fernande de Latour

St. Helena Wineries Recover (1946-1966)

  • Men come home, but some do not. Fourteen local men died in World War II
  • 1953 5,500,500 gallons of wine produced in Napa Valley
  • 1955 New St. Helena city hall completed using general and water department funds.
  • 1958 Rock Hudson came to Inglenook as part of the cast of “This Earth is Mine”.
  • 1959 Robert Louis Stevenson Middle School was dedicated April 26
  • 1964 Bracero program of Mexican agricultural labor ended.
Robert Mondavi (1913-2008)

St. Helena & Rapid Growth (1966-1980)

  • 1966 Robert Mondavi builds his winery. The 1966 crush starts before the building is finished.
  • 1967 United Farm Workers picket Christian Brothers Winery after winery contracts vineyard work to non-union Napa Farming Company.
  • 1968 Napa County supervisors pass Agricultural Preserve ordinance to preserve Napa County vineyard land.
  • 1969 Rafael Rodriguez becomes the first Hispanic elected to St. Helena School Board.
  • 1971 Lugo Self-Help Housing project on El Bonita Avenue begun.
  • 1975 Francis Ford Coppola buys Inglenook, but not the brand. Names the winery Niebaum-Coppola.
  • Ted Money collecting rents from 14 properties in St. Helena, including the theater building, Parriott Motors (Adams St.-Sportago in 2010), Lolos Building and lot to the north.
The Braceros arrived by bus during WWII when the local men went off to fight in the war

St. Helena Discovered (1981-present)

  • Napa Valley gains fame. Real estate prices start to climb upwards.
  • 1981 Fire
  • 1986 On February 14 Napa Valley receives rain greater than the annual rainfall for the next five years combined. More than 13,000 acres of the valley are flooded. Severe damage in St. Helena and Vineyard Valley Mobile Home Park is evacuated.
  • 1989 On September 16, the Napa Valley Wine Train takes its inaugural passenger trip and has been steadily running through the Valley ever since.
  • 1989 On October 17, the Loma Prieta earthquake hits just as baseball’s World Series game between San Francisco and Oakland was about to begin. Minor damage in town, but the shaking was severe.
  • 1995 Another severe weather event flooded the valley.
  • 1998 St. Helenans battle Safeway and each other over plans to build a new store next to the library. Safeway eventually opted to remodel the existing store.