A Chronological Survey Of Some Of The Historical Happenings In South Lake County

And Its Surroundings

By: Bill Wink © 2024


Please note* Do to the ‘volume’ of this information, it is spread over 3 pages. This is page #1


A member of a historical family of this area wrote the following about Middletown in earlier times.


For Greg Hardester,  May 1977 by: Skee Hamann


Middletown was a rich community when the mines were booming. There were two banks, two hotels - - One where the Corner Store stands now.  The houses of the well-to-do were apt to have parlors papered in purple or dark red wallpaper heavily decorated with golden grapes or ferns, plush throw with silk fringe on the piano top under a gilt and flowered vase, and a thick green carpet with big red roses for pattern.


There was a custom-tailor shop where Kwik Stop is now, where many a miner was fitted by the two tailors to a tailed evening suit.


Where Newman's is now - - the same house - - the photographer had his studio where brides in flowing, ruffled gowns, grooms in stiff high collars and dark suits, babes in christening robes with yards of lace and tucks, grandparents flanked by rows of descendants left their images for the family album.


Mrs. Barker's candy store was around the corner from the tailor shop, shelf after shelf of bubble-topped great glass jars of brightly colored candies from which a child might choose for a penny.


For many years the supplies not grown, or made, in the valley came over Mt. St. Helena in Justin Reed's or Ben Hunt's huge horse-drawn freight wagons, always at least six or eight animals with red tassels and bells on their shoulder harness to warn approaching wagons of their passage on turns.


At Christmas you knew the important presents from the mail order catalog would bring the freight wagon down your street for delivery at your gate. As dusk closed in on the brief days of late December and wood smoke was sweet from fires stoked for evening meals, the tinkling of those bells nearly burst your veins with excitement while you hung on the top rail of your gate to see the long line of big horses and hear the clop, clopping of their hooves on the cold wet earth.


The circus came yearly, its big canvas tents set up where Wells Fargo is now. Chautauqua, the national lecture, concert, theater circuit, came to the same spot with the same sort of tent. You could see and hear the same richly dressed musicians, singers, actors, famed lecturers as people in larger towns all across the country.


Spelling bees for all ages were big, and basket socials, too, brought all together.  The girls competed for the beaus' bids on the unnamed boxes of sandwiches, salads, and cakes, by covering them in vivid crepe paper decorated with paper flowers.


When life moved in a foot-pace or horse-trot tempo there were lavish flower gardens where home owners found pleasure.


The husband of Minnie Cannon, for whom your school was named, could be seen on summer evenings at their home next to the Catholic parish house bending over his scores of roses, sprinkling, trimming, cultivating, the large yard behind its filigree black iron fence giving off warm fragrance from petunias, asters, pansies with the roses and honeysuckle so that one wanted to walk past slowly to inhale the delight as long as possible.                           


The remodeled parish house then belonged to former Civil War drummer boy John Preble and his maiden sister Minnie.  Their fence-to-fence bloom-bursting garden rivaled Cannon's and the annual flowering of their Night Blooming Cereus crowded their living and dining room with townspeople waiting for the tubular waxy petals to move toward opening.


When people could not turn a knob or dial to hear others play, they made their own music.  In summer dusk everyone was out of doors cooling off after the day's heat - - There were few mosquitoes before the big irrigated pastures were developed. While you watered the dooryard flowers and the smell of wet, warm earth mingled with that of carnations and sweet peas, above the sound of crickets and cooing of doves you could hear Simon Nyberg up St. Helena-Creek playing his ocarina.  His brother Ezra might follow with his cornet.  Where the motel is now, old Silas Macbee, while his smiling, plump wife rocked in the hammock under the honeysuckle, would be sawing out on his fiddle, "The Old Grey Mare A-Wracking Through The Wilderness."


Across St, Helena Creek, below Hardester's house, where all the flat and side hill were vineyard, Mr. Spurling, the wine maker, sitting near the door of his dungeon-like brick wine cellar, would be squeezing old German melodies from his accordion.


Jeff Haas's Great-grandfather Noble, warned by his Oakland doctor that he was near death, bought the hills about Verdant Vales, before they became Castle Hot Springs.  He moved with everything he wanted to surround him in his last months - - Family, his piano, musical instruments for the children, hundreds of books-and lived for many years to enjoy the Saturday night musical parties when guests from mine or ranch came tromping over ridges in the dusk with violin, clarinet, or harmonica, to make the walls echo to music and laughter all night.


Revivals were lively gatherings staged by itinerant preachers in the stormy months of winter when there were not so many attractions out of doors to compete with soul-saving.


One thundering expounder of the details of the fires of hell awaiting the sinner displayed a huge oil-painted canvas chart on the church wall.  The path for the wayfarer forked, for his choice, to, the leaping flames and black pits of hell or to the gold and jewel-encrusted pavements of New Jerusalem with snowy angels and golden harps to reward virtue.


One rancher entered church doors only once a year when he made his annual appearance as the revivalist called for sinners to come forward and repent.  The full-voiced confessions of his sins and teary penitence on his knees, arms waving, one eye on his audience, was as dramatic as vaudeville any day.


People then, even as now, distrusted the one who did not run with the crowd. A gentle beauty-loving wanderer about the county, who spoke only in rhyme, was known as Crazy Reed because he meandered about in early spring offering housewives copies of his doggerel poems and slips for their gardens of his favorite rose.  Long after he and those who scorned him were laid in the cemetery, the delicate pale pink, tissuey’ rose, shedding its petals in cinnamony’ fragrant heaps in spring warmth in old gardens, was still known as the Crazy Reed Rose.




The Clear Lake Volcanics

The Mayacamas Mountains

Naming Mt Saint Helena 1841


Alta California

Rancho de Collayomi 1844

Robert T. Ridley

Rancho de Guenoc 1845

Jacob Primer Leese

Loconoma Valley

Long Valley

Guenoc Valley

Coyote Valley

Putah Creek

Gold! 1848

The First Road Into Lake County 1850

“The Bloody Island Massacre”

Ritchie And Forbes 1852

First Settlers in Coyote Valley 1852

James Harbin 1856

McKinley Mill

Springston 1857

Alexander Houston Butts 1857

Kayote 1859

The Village of Guenoc 1860

Herrick & Getz 1860

Cinnabar Discovered 1860

Hamlin Nelson Herrick 1860

John Brandt 1860

Joseph Getz 1860

Lake County Formed in 1861

The Journal of William H. Brewer

James M. Finley 1862

Lorenzo Bonaparte Church

The Homestead Act of 1862

Lawley Toll Road 1866

William H. Thompson 1866

B. F. English 1867

Page #2

1870 Gives Birth To Middletown

Adams Springs 1871

First Mountain Mill House before McNulty 1871

McNulty’s Mountain Mill House 1873

Anderson Springs 1873

Great Western Mine 1873

The Great Western Sawmill

The Bradford 1873

Middletown Builds School House 1874

Telegraph Line 1874

Joseph L. Read 1874

Ida Clayton and Great Western Turnpike Toll Road 1874

C M Young To Build Hotel 1875

The Odd Fellows of Middletown 1875

Shooting of ‘Uncle Mike Ready’ 1875

Lake County House 1875

Shoot Out In Middletown 1875

Andrew Rocca 1876

Thomas Kearney Dye 1878

Robert Louis Stevenson 1880

Theron Ink Builds Round Corrals 1880

Diphtheria In The Middletown Area 1883

Hoberg’s Resort 1885

Middletown Independent Established 1886

Jim Davis 1886

Lillie Langtry 1888

Middletown Cemetery 1889

The California White Cap Murders 1890

The White House 21048 Calistoga Street C.1891

Quicksilver Mine Sold 1891

The Middletown Methodist Episcopal Church 1893

Buck English – Outlaw 1895

Page #3

Fire Middletown December 20, 1895

Andrew B. McCreery 1896

Mrs. Langtry Divorced 1897

George Coburn 1897

Whispering Pines 1900

“Dry” Votes Win In Lake County 1908

Strange Deaths At Middletown 1908

The Murder Of Ham Herrick 1914

Middletown Is Burning! 1918

The Lake County House Is No More 1918

New Herrick Hotel April 1920

William Ferdinand Detert 1920

Middletown Times Star 1928

Twelve Years After The Spier’s Fire 1930

M. V. F. D. 1930

Middletown Luncheon Club 1930

The Corner Store started 1943

Guenoc Rancho Detert to Woodland Farms 1952

Rotary Dial Phone Service Came to Middletown Saturday November 2, 1957

Middletown Dedicates Minnie Cannon School 1958

The Geysers 1960

Middletown Days 1961

Guenoc Ranch Foley to Magoon 1963

Lions Club Builds Swimming Pool Park For Community 1964

The Murder Of Joan (Hamann) Dole 1966

Hidden Valley Lake Subdivision Approved 1968

Jonestown – Simon 1978

Guenoc Winery First Crush 1981

South Lake County Fire Protection District 1987

“Lake County Liberal Arts College to Become a Reality” 1998

Y2K 2000

Supervisors Vote To Give Back Guenoc Valley College Land Donation 2010

Valley Fire 2015

Hardester’s Market Fire 2018




You wonder where those Lake county diamonds, obsidian, cinnabar, hot springs and steam wells come from?


Read On:


The Clear Lake Volcanics erupted during four periods of time beginning at about 2 Ma (million years ago). There is a general decrease in age northward from 2 Ma in the south to about 10,000 years in the north. Geophysical data suggests there is currently a spherical to cylindrical magma chamber about 8.7 mi in diameter and about 4.3 mi from the surface. Seismic studies indicate that the vertical extent is approximately 18.6 mi deep.


The complex eruptive history over the past 2 million years and the 10,000-year age of the youngest eruption indicate that the Clear Lake magmatic system is not extinct and that future eruptions are likely. Such a long period of multiple volcanic events and the large volume (approximately 335 cubic mi) magma chamber suggest that the Clear Lake system could be in pre caldera early evolutionary stage. Like other, similar, silicic magma systems, such as Long Valley, California; Valles, New Mexico, and Yellowstone, Wyoming, large-scale caldera forming eruptions could erupt huge volumes of ash and tephra leading to volcanic hazards such as pyroclastic flows.


Now you know where those Lake county diamonds, obsidian, cinnabar, hot springs and steam wells come from.



The Mayacamas Mountains make up part of the inner Northern California Coastal Mountain Range and the name is of Native American origin. The range runs west of Clear lake, Lake county and east of Ukiah, Mendocino county running for 52 miles from a northwesterly direction to a southeasterly direction. The highest peak, Cobb Mountain, reaches 4,724 feet in elevation. Another famous peak in the range is Mount Saint Helena reaching an elevation of 4,342 feet with its shoulders in Napa, Sonoma and Lake counties. The range was uplifted as a result of the 2.4-million-year-old Clear Lake Volcanic Field.



Naming Mt Saint Helena 1841

According to the Weekly Calistogian we need to back up several hundred years to the year 250, when Flavia Iulia Helena was born. She was the mother of Constantine the Great. She was a devout Christian and is credited with establishing Christianity at the heart of Western civilization.


Helena, famed for her piety, was ultimately granted sainthood.


In 1841 Baron Alexander Rotchef visited Fortress Ross. The Baron brought with him his beautiful and adventurous wife, the Princess Helena, whose godfather was none other than Czar Nicholas himself. Princess Helena had been named after Saint Helena and was held in high regard by her people.


The Princess had seen the mountain from afar and was anxious to get a closer look. Fortunately for her, a team of Russian scientists had been dispatched to climb the mountain to collect specimens. She would accompany them, finally reaching the summit on a clear afternoon. To the west she could see the huge, blue expanse of the Pacific Ocean, to the east the still snow-capped Sierra. She stood in awe and reverence for what she knew was a gift from God.


As they raised their flag on the mountaintop, they placed a copper plate inscribed with their names and the date, June 1841. It was then they named the mountain “Mount Saint  Helena.”




Located in a valley, East of present day Middletown, were three different Native American Indian villages that were situated around a lake the natives called Wennok. The names of the villages were; "Ka-bool po-goot", "Haw'-hawl-po-goot" and "Sahl-sahl-po-goot". The Native Americans who lived around this particular lake were appropriately referred to as Wennoks and were members of a larger band, the Lake Miwoks. They called their home "Oleyome". The natives had lived there for centuries but since the year 1542 several others had left their footprints on the land and claimed the land for themselves. One of those claimants was the country of Spain.


Alta California

Then in 1821 Mexico won its independence from Spain and they claimed all Spanish held lands, which included lake Wennok. The lake was located in the area that in 1861 would become part of Lake county, California.


After Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1822, the land they now claimed north of their homeland was an area called Alta California. That claim was later defined in 1824. The claim included all of the territory of the modern U. S. states of California, Nevada and Utah, and parts of Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico.


From 1821 until 1848, the Mexican government would grant ownership to large parcels of land to favored individuals. These land grants were called Ranchos.


Rancho de Collayomi 1844 (also called Rancho Callayomi), was one of those land grants. It encompassed three square leagues, or 8242 acres in the Loconoma Valley. It was given in 1844 by Governor Manuel Micheltorena to Robert T. Ridley.


Robert T. Ridley was an English sailor, who reportedly jumped ship, and who became captain of the Port of San Francisco. He married a woman from a local family which gave him favored status. It was reported that he was a colorful man, a heavy drinker and involved in the local politics of Yerba Buena. Ridley was never really interested in his Rancho, so a short time later he traded his three league Rancho to Jacob P. Leese for the two league Rancho Canada de Guadalupe la Visitacion y Rodeo Viejo near San Francisco.



Rancho de Guenoc 1845 was granted May 8, 1845, by Mexican Governor Pio Pico to George Rock. It comprised six square leagues, or 21,220.03 acres and included Wennok lake.


1847: “First book of deeds and alcalde records, Sonoma County, California 13 January 1847 – From: Jacob P Lease to George Rock, witness Richard Fowler.” In this deed, George Rock, for $300, grants Rancho Guenoc to Jacob P Lease. (Bancroft)




Jacob Primer Leese was born August 19th, 1809 in Saint Clairsville, Belmont County, Ohio.


At about the age of 20 he started with a party for Texas and then to New Mexico, and after remaining there for some time he came on horseback to California. He arrived in California on the 24th of December, 1833, ending his four year journey in Los Angeles.


But some 17 months later he was on the move again and in May of 1835 he left Los Angeles on the Mexican, square rigged, two-masted sailing ship called the Arachucha, and after a voyage of six days the vessel anchored in the sheltered cove of Yerba Buena, now San Francisco.


Leese entered into a mercantile partnership with Monterey businessmen Nathan Spear and William Sturgis Hinckley, and in Yerba Buena, there, opened a store. The partners ran a profitable business, trading merchandise for rancho products.


Being well-received by the officers of the Mexican Government, Leese was given a choice of land anywhere 550 feet (200 varas) from the beach line. He selected a site which now forms the southwest corner of Dupont and Clay Streets, and on this site he built the first frame building erected on this peninsula. Until this time everyone had lived in and done business out of tents. It was a clinker-built storehouse, 60x20, and it was finished on the morning of the 4th of July, 1836.


Naturalized, Jacob Leese, on the 1st of April, 1837, asked a sister of General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo to become his wife. On the 7th of the same month they were married, and on the 15th of April of the following year he became the father of a daughter, Rosalie, who was the first child born in Yerba Buena.


In 1838 Leese’s business partnership with Spear and Hinckley ended.


In 1841, Leese sold his business interests to Hudson's Bay Company, and moved to his Sonoma ranch, still retaining extensive land holdings in Yerba Buena. Leese served as alcalde (a mayor having judicial powers) in Sonoma (1844-1845).


Leese and his wife were also major land holders in Monterey County; among their claims was Rancho Sausal, deeded to Rosalia by her brother Mariano G. Vallejo.


Documents show that in 1836, a man from lower Canada appeared in Sonoma testifying against a horse thief. This man’s name was George Rock.


It has been implied that George Rock, while in Sonoma during this time, was an employee of Jacob P. Leese and it was during this time Rock was granted Rancho de Guenoc which bordered Leese’s Rancho Collayomi grant.   


By 1848 George Rock was running Leese’s cattle operation as “agent for Leese” on Leese’s two land grants with headquarters located in Coyote Valley. The acreage of the two grants combined was about 29,500. This acreage included the Loconoma Valley, Long Valley, Coyote Valley and Guenoc Valley.



The Loconoma Valley extends from the foot of Mt. St. Helena to the foot of Cobb Mountain. It is about ten miles long, and from one and one half to five miles wide.


The Loconoma connected to Long Valley that extended East about six miles all the way to the Guenoc Valley where Wennok lake was located.


Running through the heart of the Coyote Valley, north of Loconoma, was a large stream that today is called Putah Creek. The name “Putah” is of Native American origin meaning “grassy creek”. However, the name has always stirred controversy because the derogatory Spanish word for a female sex worker is “puta”. But according to Erwin Gudde (1889–1969), the resemblance is "purely accidental".


Putah Creek is, however, depicted on a French map from 1844 as “Young’s River”. This map was created by a French naturalist, Eugčne Duflot de Mofras and was published in Paris. It was called Young’s River because Ewing Young, a famous trapper, trapped up the river from the Sacramento Valley on his way to the Pacific coast. That was in March of 1833. (Kenneth L. Holmes (1967). Ewing Young: Master Trapper. Portland, Oregon: Binsford and Mort, Publishers. p. 87).


At the end of the Mexican–American War in 1848, most of the areas formerly comprising Alta California were ceded to the United States in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. This treaty also provided that the Mexican land grants would be honored.



Gold! 1848

On January 24, 1848, just days after the signing of the treaty with Mexico, James Wilson Marshall, a carpenter originally from New Jersey, was working to build a water-powered sawmill for John Sutter, when he found flakes of gold in the American River near Coloma, California.


At the time of his discovery, the population of the territory consisted of 6,500 Californios (people of Spanish or Mexican decent); 700 foreigners (primarily Americans); and 150,000 Native Americans (barely half the number that had been there when Spanish settlers arrived in 1769).


Throughout 1849, people around the United States (mostly men) borrowed money, mortgaged their property or spent their life savings to make the arduous journey to California.


Thousands of would-be gold miners, known as ’49ers’, traveled overland across the mountains or by sea, sailing to Panama or even around Cape Horn, the southernmost point of South America to reach the gold fields.


Not all gold was found in nugget or flake form. Some was in ore deposits mixed with silver and other elements. The ore needed to be processed to extract the precious metals. Mercury was needed to do that and the mineral cinnabar, when processed, gives up its mercury.




California becomes a State

The First Road Into Lake County 1850

The first road into Lake county, called the Old Soldier road or the Emigrant road, was built by the United States Army in 1850. “Road” meaning it would accommodate a wheeled utility vehicle such as a wagon. The Army built the road as they  needed to bring wagons and cannon into Lake county to respond to the murder of Andy Kelsey and Charlie Stone by the local natives. The murders happened in the Big Valley (Kelseyville) area near Clear Lake.


The Army first traveled from Benicia to the Napa Valley. Then they went over Howell Mountain and down into Pope Valley. They travelled through the valley to where the modern day Aetna Springs area is, then west over the mountains. Next dropping down into the valley that accommodated Wennok lake, the namesake of the Guenoc land grant. This area is the modern day Guenoc Ranch. Moving on, the Army passed to the east of Wennok lake, over some small hills and into Coyote Valley. From there, on to Clear Lake.


The need for the wagons was to haul whaling boats that were needed as the natives had taken refuge on an island at the northwest end of the lake.


Ultimately this exercise would be remembered for its horrific massacre  not for building the first road into Lake county. The Army’s action is remembered as: “The Bloody Island Massacre.”


The military vehicles were the first wheeled vehicles ever in this new country.


“The Bloody Island Massacre”

In the “History of Napa and Lake Counties, California”, by Slocum, Bowen & Co. Publishers, 1881, they relay the story of Kelsey and Stone, their deaths and the following result. They give two accounts. One is the white man’s version and one from the Indian Chief, Augustine.


I think the main point everyone agrees on is; Kelsey and Stone brought their deaths to their own door-step.


I quote from the recorded story: “the death of these two men was the result of their own folly and indifference to the simplest laws of justice and mercy."


Unfortunately, their righteous deaths brought an act of retribution that lives in infamy and makes today’s society struggle trying to comprehend such a brutal act of vengeance.


It was due to the following historical episode that the first “road” into Lake county was built.


Here is a synopsis.


In the fall of 1847 some frontiersmen named Shirland, Charles Stone and the brothers Andy and Ben Kelsey purchased from Salvador Vallejo all of his stock he was running at Clear Lake. They also secured the right to use the land which he claimed as a pasture.


The Indians had worked for the Spaniards and Mexicans and were inclined to work for the white men, Kelsey and Stone, expecting the same treatment they had received from the previous patrons.


Instead, Kelsey and Stone treated the native Indians as slaves, paying them with trinkets and very little food. At one point they even secured Chief Augustine’s wife, took her for their own and refused to allow her any type of relationship with her legal husband.


There is a lot to this story and many others have already told it, but suffice it to say, Kelsey and Stone got their just deserts. 


Andy Kelsey died as the result of an arrow piercing his body. Stone had his head caved in by a rock. Both men were buried in the sand of a caved in creek bank.


At first the Indians expected retaliation but when it didn’t come immediately they grew less wary. But before long, death was on the march headed for Clear Lake.


The Army was sent to wipe out those they thought responsible for the murder of two white men. Never mind that these two white men supposedly whipped and shot Indians for sport to entertain their guests.


In early 1850 the army headed for Clear Lake but upon arriving, found the Indians had taken refuge on an island in the lake.


The regiment sent a detachment back to secure two whaling boats so they could access the island.


Upon the detachments return with the boats, the forces now including civilians, split up. One group with the cannon stayed on the south side of the lake while the others took the boats and traveled to the north side.


In the morning, the soldiers on the southside raised a raucous. The Indians, curious, came to the water’s edge to see what was going on. The soldiers fired their weapons, the projectiles falling way short of their targets. The Indians began to laugh and jeer the soldiers only to have the response be the boom of the field cannons. Those projectiles mowed down several Indians as they cut swaths through their ranks.


Frightened and in disarray the Indians fled to the other side of the island only to meet soldiers rising out of the tules who killed men, women, children and the elderly.


As those trying to escape were dispatched, “the Bloody Island Massacre” was completed.


No one knows exactly how many Indians were murdered during the attack on the island but a fair estimate is 75. However, this action was just their first attack. The soldiers traveled on into Mendocino county slaughtering several more Natives.



Ritchie And Forbes 1852

As required by the Land Act of 1851, a claim for Rancho Collayomi was filed with the Public Land Commission in 1852, and the grant was patented to Archibald A. Ritchie and Paul S. Forbes in 1863.



Tuesday, Jan. 27 1852 Messrs. Halleck, Peachy & Billings presented the claim of Archibald A. Ritchie and Paul S. Forbes, to the rancho de Guenoc, in the old Sonoma jurisdiction, containing six leagues under a grant made by Gov. Pio Pico in 1845.



On Friday Commissioner Wilson delivered the  opinion of the Board in case No. 4, A. A. Ritchie and Paul S. Forbes, claimants of three leagues of land in Napa county, called "Callayomi. The ' grant was made in June, 1844, by Gov. Micheltorrena to Robert Ridley, and was approved by the Departmental Assembly on the 26th of September 1845


In 1838, Capt. Ritchie left the sea to become the resident agent at Canton, China, for the Philadelphia import house of Platt and Son. His wife and children joined him in Macao, near Canton. The Ritchies lived in China until 1847, when they returned to Philadelphia.


Paul Sieman Forbes arrived in Canton, China in 1843 as U.S. consul and was admitted as a partner into Russell & Company in 1844.


There is no information that definitely identifies the Paul S. Forbes that was A. A. Ritchie’s partner, however, due to then existing circumstances, it has been speculated that Paul S Forbes was really Paul Sieman Forbes of New York as both Ritchie and Forbes were living in Canton, China at the same time and both were involved in the same trade.


Ritchie was killed in an accident in 1856. Paul Forbes sold his share of both Rancho Guenoc and Rancho Collayomi to one of Ritchie's sons-in-laws, Gen. M.D.L. Simpson, in 1867. The following year, Simpson deeded half the lands to Ritchie's wife, Martha and children. The heirs began selling portions of the properties in the early 1870s.



First Settlers in Coyote Valley 1852

In 1852 on the north side of Coyote Valley, which is within the bounds of the Rancho de Guenoc land grant, J. Broome Smith built a log house.


In 1854 R. H. Sterling and Captain Steele built a stone house near the same spot.


Sterling had a family with him, and his wife was the first woman in the valley.  W. H. Manlove, T. Hall, Henry Bond, — Barnes, W. G. Cannon, L. B. Tremper, B. F. Miles and James S. Miles were old settlers in Coyote Valley. (History of Napa and Lake Counties, California 1881)


Soon others would settle on the lands encompassed by the land grants.



James Harbin 1856

Around 1856, a settler named James Harbin assumed control of the land where Harbin Hot Springs is located, and bestowed his name upon both the springs and the adjacent Harbin Mountain. That same year he erected a sawmill that would eventually be known as the McKinley mill.


Harbin’s tenure at the springs didn’t last long, and by 1870, the next owner, Richard Williams, had built the Harbin Springs Health and Pleasure Resort on this location.


"Uncle Jimmy Harbin named the Truckee river. He was the locator of the famous Harbin Springs, in Lake County, and was the father of Mat. Harbin, now in Mexico. James Harbin died last year at his residence in Lake County."

- Independent Calistogian (October 16, 1878)


Mill Site Dedicated

The site of the historic McKinley Mill, originally built in 1856, was dedicated three miles north of here yesterday.


James Harbin, who erected the saw mill later sold to James Amsberry and Jim Davis who operated the mill until the timber was cut out.


Later operated as a flour or Grist mill by Jessup and Stevens then Heyser and Crothers, the mill was then managed by Joe Stoddard until it burned in 1885.

Andrew Rocca erected another mill at the site in 1887. George McKinley assumed ownership in 1889 and then turned it over to a family corporation known as

the McKinley Brothers in 1908.


The old mill building stood until a year or so ago when it was razed as a fire hazard and a danger to visitors, and because vandals had virtually ruined all salvageable material.


An electric generator run by water power at the mill's creek side location, added in 1906, originally was planned to serve light and power to Middletown. Believed the first public electric system in Lake County, it was called the Callayomi and Middletown Light and Power Company.


Gene Farmer, Middletown resident attending the rites, was one of those who used to ride horseback to the McKinley Mill to have grain and flour ground. Sheldon Bell, manager: of the Diamond D Ranch, lands which now includes the McKinley Mill site, said the old stone wheels used in the mill  were shipped “around the Horn” in early days.


Mrs. Sue Hillman president of Clear Lake Parlor 135, NDGW at Middletown and supervisor Earle Wrieden assisted with the dedication program.


The Middletown High School Band played selections. A brief history of the mill was given by Moss A. Hunt, and the invocation and benediction by the Rev. George Warman. 



In 1857 Springston and Dickson moved to the Loconoma Valley from Cobb Valley where they first settled. Springston or Butts had the first family in the Valley.


Name: Donald Springston

Birth Date: 25 Dec 1901

Birth Place: California, United States of America

Death Date: 17 Nov 1950

Death Place: Lake County, California, United States of America

Cemetery: Middletown Cemetery

Burial or Cremation Place: Middletown, Lake County, California,

Spouse: Mary Margaret Springston



Alexander Houston Butts (Butts Canyon Road)

Was born in Henry County, Tennessee on November 25th, 1827. He moved to Missouri where he met and married Elizabeth Ann Hawkins on December 20th, 1849.


In the 1850 Census Alexander and Elizabeth were counted as living in Cass county, Missouri. She was 20 he was 23. In 1851, still in Missouri, they had a baby girl they named Anna Elizabeth. By 1854 they had moved to Bear Valley, Mariposa County, California where their second child, a son, was born on February 22nd. In 1855 they had another son.


In 1857 they were living in the Clear Lake township of Napa county. They were one of the first families to reside in the Loconoma valley. They soon squatted on land that was part of the Guenoc land grant near the eastern border. They were forced to move so they moved south and east down the canyon that now bears their name.


In her book, “Join me in Paradise” subtitled “The History Of Guenoc Valley” © 1982, published by Guenoc Winery, on page 3, the author, Suzanne Case, stated that “They built a home at the mouth of what came to be called Butts creek in Snell Valley.”


In the agricultural census taken June 1st, 1860, A. H. Butts claims to have owned  200 acres of land valued at $1,000 with furnishings and equipment valued at $100. To also own 40 head or horses, 8 milk cows, 6 oxen, 100 head of cattle, 200 pigs with a total value of $3,560. They also had 2 more children.


In the “History of Napa and Lake Counties by Slocum, Bowen & Co. Publishers, 1881” on page 161 it says; on November 15th, 1861, A. H. Butts along with others organized the first quicksilver mining company in Napa county, the Phoenix Mining Company.


By 1864 the family had moved to central California.


Mrs. A. H. Butts, Elizabeth Ann, passed June 4th, 1889 in  Cathey Valley, Mariposa, California.


In 1900, at the age of 73, A. H. Butts was living with his daughter and son-in-law in Fresno, California.



A. H. Butts, a man in charge of a pumping station, at Fomosa, was found dead at that place in Kern county yesterday. The coroner was called to investigate the case.


Alexander Houston Butts died June 24th, 1903. His remains are buried in the Union Cemetery, Bakersfield, Kern County, California.



Kayote 1859

The settlement of Kayote was located in the Kayote Valley, not to be confused with Coyote Valley and of which no one is quite sure where it was, except it was along the first road built into Lake county coming from the south and east. This old road intersects with present day Butts Canyon Road, built 1860-62, about 7 miles east of present day Middletown and eventually becomes Grange road in Coyote Valley


The Kayote Post Office was established in 1859 and at that time would have been in Napa County. The post office was discontinued on September 20th, 1862.  There were only two postmasters. John Kean was appointed July 15, 1859 and he was replaced by O. A. Munn on July 5th, 1861.


Kean was from Ohio and appears in the 1860 census. He was born about 1830 and his residence was shown as being in the Clear Lake township of Napa county.


Kayote Post Office was the earliest in the area as the Guenoc Post Office wasn’t established until 1867, five years after the closing of the Kayote Post Office. The Guenoc Post Office was discontinued in 1880 when the village of Guenoc moved to Middletown.




The Village of Guenoc

In the late 1850s into the early 1860s a small village sprung up on the south side of Putah Creek in Coyote Valley they called Guenoc. The village was officially recognized as such when it 1867 it had a designated Post Office.



Herrick & Getz 1860

Joseph Getz was the second born son of Abraham and Sarah (Cohn) Getz. He was born in Zempelburg, West Prussia in the year 1835. By 1856 Joseph had six brothers and a sister. However, by that time, he was in the United States. He arrived in the U.S. on the ship; P. J. Behnck, on July 13th, 1852 along with two brothers, Marcus and Max. Their entry point was New York City.


On the way west the brothers stopped in Grass Valley and were in the business of barbering. Joseph and Max moved on and before 1860 the brothers were in Lower Lake, California. Over the next ten years the entire family would come to California from Prussia. The mother and father along with several of the children would settle in San Francisco.


Around 1860 Joseph and Max went into business with Hamlin N. Herrick and they opened a general merchandise store in Coyote Valley. All three men were counted in the 1860 census. It didn’t go so well and the Getzs moved back to Lower Lake.



Supposedly the first cinnabar was locally  discovered in a road cut while building the Berryessa to Lower Lake road in 1860, which we now call Morgan Valley Road. This site later became the Knoxville mining district about 12 miles south-east of the Sulphur Bank mine.



Hamlin Nelson Herrick, was a 49er. Born in Kentucky in 1827, Hamlin N. Herrick  was 22 when he struck out for California. He actually wound up farming in the Napa area for several years. He  eventually re-located to Lake county where he became a merchant and acquired several hundred acres of land.


He then went back to farming.


He settled in the Lower Lake area around 1860. He was appointed Postmaster of Lower Lake October 22nd, 1860. He, along with Joseph and Max Getz, opened a general merchandise store in Lower Lake and another near the northwest end of Coyote Valley.


In 1862, Hamlin N. married Mary Elizabeth Akins. Mary was the sister of Augustus Akins who was then employed by Herrick and Getz. Together they had six children. The first born was daughter Clara, then her brothers; Hamlin Webster, Ossian Revere, Augustus Middleton, Silas Byrd and Edward L. Clara, the oldest, was born in 1863. Edward, the youngest was born in 1875.



John Brandt is counted in the 1860 census as being a resident of Clear Lake, Napa county his Post Office address was Kayote and his occupation was rancher.


In the 1870 census his residence was Lower Lake and he listed his occupation as shepherd.


On January 5th, 1872 John P. Brandt received his land patent for 170.98 acres in the area we presently call Bohn Valley within the present day Guenoc Ranch boundaries. This patent was the first patent recorded for the area. His mother, Margaret D. Brandt received her patent February 20th, 1872 for 160 acres on the east side of Bohn Valley. Both received one other land patent in the same vicinity.


In 1880 he is counted in Coyote valley and list his occupation as sheep raiser. He is now raising sheep on 660 acres in the Bohn Valley area.


John died on January 12th, 1881. This left his mother, Margaret, who lived in Napa, to deal with the sheep and the land now in Lake county. Margaret was then 82 years old. Margaret leased the ranch to Lucien L. Bowen and in 1883 sold the Ranch to J. B. Richardson and W. N. Bowen of Suisun, Solano county.



More about Joseph Getz

Augustus M. Akins was a boy of fourteen when his family settled in Lake county. On April 1st, 1862 he found a job working for Herrick and Getz in Lower Lake. Part of the time he was engaged in clerking, but he was mostly doing outside work.


Joseph Getz and Hamlin Nelson Herrick had a short lived partnership and soon it was Getz Brothers with their store in Lower Lake.


Joseph married Johanna Jacobs Oct. 13th, 1864. They had five children of whom two proceed them in death.


In March of 1866 Solomon Getz was in San Francisco and soon traveled to Lower Lake to work in his brother’s store. He was 16. By 1872 he was running the store and Joseph had moved to San Francisco to carry on the exporting business. At this time, Getz’s major exporting and trading partners were in Shanghai and Hong Kong.



The other Getz brothers living in Lake county during this time were Marcus, Maurice and Max.  But Max moved on to Sonoma county where he soon went into the staging business.


Pacific Rural Press ran the following advertisement on September 4th, 1875:


“FOR SALE. A FIRST-CLASS DAIRY FARM AND STOCK RANCH,  Situated in Lake county, twelve miles from the flourishing town of Lower Lake; containing 880 acres of land, 400 acres of which is choice grain land, 80 acres of the best natural clover land, and the balance good pasture land, all of it tinder good fence and divided in seven divisions; abundance of water and well timbered. Title perfect—U. S. patent. This ranch is situated in the healthiest part of California, and has been used as a dairy ranch, where the celebrated Durst's Clear Lake cheese has been manufactured for a number of years, and is well adapted for that purpose, as also for grain, sheep and cattle raising. There is on the place a splendid dwelling-house, two large barns, cheese and milk houses, blacksmith shop, other out-houses and corrals, and water very handy. Price, $12,000; terms easy. There is also for sale first-class dairy cows, all the dairy and farming Implements, etc., at a reasonable price. For further particulars inquire of JACOB BPORNDLY, on the premises; JOS. GETZ & BROS, Lower Lake; or GETZ BROS. & CO., Commission Merchants, 513 Front St., San Francisco.”


By the early 1880s Getz Bros. was exporting food products to customers in Shanghai and Hong Kong, which later led to the opening of the first Getz overseas office, in Shanghai. The company did well shipping foodstuffs to China, its reach soon extending beyond Shanghai into northeast China, a populous region with an appetite for the cheese, oils, and meat products Getz exported.


The Grass Valley Morning Union ran this headline and story on April 1st, 1882:

“One of the Opium Smugglers.

Joseph Getz, who was at one time a resident of this place, engaged in the barbering business, but subsequently and for a number of years engaged in merchandizing in Lake county, is one of the parties under arrest in San Francisco implicated in the extensive smuggling of opium which has been systematically carried on by means of the steamers plying between Hong Kong and San Francisco.”


In August of 1888 Getz Brothers in Lower Lake was dissolved and a new partnership was formed. The firm’s new name was Joseph Getz and Brothers. I. S. Alexander, of Lower Lake, was included in the new firm and Joseph Getz became a special partner.


Daily Alta California January 1st, 1891:


“Within the past two years a new line of steamers has been put on between San Francisco and the principal Puget Sound ports by Joseph and Louis Getz, of 209 Market street, this city. At the present tine the firm is running two steamers, the Haytian Republic, of 1300 tons and the St. Paul, of 1100 tons, each accommodating about 130 passengers, and making the passage to the Sound in three days.”


Joseph Getz died on June 24th, 1896 in San Francisco, California. He was two months short of being 61.


San Francisco Call July 30th, 1905:


“Getz Bros.' Shanghai Agent Cables Firm to Cancel All Orders.

Louis Getz of Getz Brothers has received a cablegram from Shanghai which he has made public. The text is as follows: 'Cancel all orders. Boycott of American trade effective among Chinese merchants. All business entirely suspended." Mr. Getz says this cablegram was sent by R. H. Van Sant, the manager of the Getz Brothers' business in Shanghai.”


Max died in Napa on January 9th, 1907.


Sometime between 1900 and 1910 the building that housed the Joseph Getz & Bros. store in Lower Lake burned down. Augustus Akins, the boy who worked for Herrick and Getz, bought the lot and built his own successful store in its place.


Today the Getz Company Website tells this story:


The company started as Getz Bros, a California wholesale store in the mid 1850's to a formal company in 1871, to off shore trading in the 1880's, to its present leadership role in marketing and distribution activities.


Getz is an international marketing & services company with over 80 offices in 36 countries around the world. The origins of the company go back to 1852 when Joseph & Max Getz emigrated from Eastern Europe to the United States. They started with a small general store in Northern California by selling local products in and around the San Francisco area. Later they started exporting goods to China and other Asian countries. Business expanded and around the turn of the century, Getz opened offices in Shanghai and then Hong Kong and South-East-Asia. More followed and now it's major offices cover the whole of the Asia-Pacific region.


Over the years, Getz grew in size and reputation with mergers and acquisitions. New ventures and businesses developed because of growing collaboration with business partners. Today, Getz focuses on several core businesses in international trading, marketing and manufacturing.


Abraham Getz was born on May 24th, 1808 Zempelburg, West Prussia. He had seven sons and one daughter with Sarah Cohn between 1834 and 1856. He died on May 12, 1890, in San Francisco, California and was buried in Colma, California.



Lake County Formed in 1861

Most of what is now Lake County was separated from Napa County in 1861. Small pieces of Lake County were once in Mendocino County



The Journal of William H. Brewer

1860 - 1864





San Francisco.

Sunday, January 19, 1862.


THE rains continue, and since I last wrote the floods have been far worse than before. Sacramento and many other towns and cities have again been overflowed, and after the waters had abated somewhat they are again up. That doomed city is in all probability again under water today.


The amount of rain that has fallen is unprecedented in the history of the state. In this city accurate observations have been kept since July, 1853. For the years since, ending with July 1 each year, the amount of rain is known. In New York state—central New York—the average amount is under thirty-eight inches, often not over thirty-three inches, sometimes as low as twenty-eight inches. This includes the melted snow. In this city it has been for the eight years closing last July, 21 inches, the lowest amount 19 inches, the highest 23. Yet this year, since November 6, when the first shower came, to January 18, it is thirty-two and three-quarters inches and it is still raining! But this is not all. Generally twice, sometimes three times, as much falls in the mining districts on the slopes of the Sierra. This year at Sonora, in Tuolumne County, between November 11, 1861, and January 14, 1862, seventy-two inches (six feet) of water has fallen, and in numbers of places over five feet! And that in a period of two months. As much rain as falls in Ithaca in two years has fallen in some places in this state in two months.


The great central valley of the state is under water—the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys—a region 250 to 300 miles long and an average of at least twenty miles wide, a district of five thousand or six thousand square miles, or probably three to three and a half millions of acres! Although much of it is not cultivated, yet a part of it is the garden of the state. Thousands of farms are entirely under water—cattle starving and drowning.


Benevolent societies are active, boats have been sent up, and thousands are fleeing to this city. There have been some of the most stupendous charities I have ever seen. An example will suffice. A week ago today news came down by steamer of a worse condition at Sacramento than was anticipated. The news came at nine o'clock at night. Men went to work, and before daylight tons of provisions were ready—eleven thousand pounds of ham alone were cooked. Before night two steamers, with over thirty tons of cooked and prepared provisions, twenty-two tons of clothing, several thousand dollars in money, and boats with crews, etc., were under way for the devastated city.


You can imagine the effect it must have on the finances and prosperity of the state. The end is not yet. Many men must fail, times must be hard, state finances disordered. I shall not be surprised to see our Survey cut off entirely, although I hardly expect it. It will be cut down, doubtless, and some of the party dismissed. I see no help, and on whom the blow will fall remains to be seen. I think my chance is good, if the thing goes on at all, but I feel blue at times.


I finished my geological report on Tuesday, it is 250 pages on large foolscap, besides maps, sketches, etc. I have my botanical and agricultural work yet to do.


San Francisco.

Friday, January 31.


WE have had very bad weather since the above was written, but it has cleared up. In this city 37 inches of water has fallen, and at Sonora, in Tuolumne, 102 inches, or 8 ˝ feet, at the last dates. These last floods have extended over this whole coast. At Los Angeles it rained incessantly for twenty-eight days—immense damage was done—one whole village destroyed. It is supposed that over one-fourth of all the taxable property of the state has been destroyed. The legislature has left the capital and has come here, that city being under water. This will give us a better chance for our appropriation, but still the prospect looks blue. There is no probability that we will get enough to carry on work with our full corps.


Wednesday, January 29, was the Chinese New Year, and such a time as they have had! I will bet that over ten tons of firecrackers have been burned. Their festivities last three days, closing tonight. This is their great day of the year. They claim that their great dynasty began 17,500 and some odd years ago a pedigree that beats even that of the "first families of Virginia."


All the roads in the middle of the state are impassable, so all mails are cut off. We have had no "Overland" for some weeks, so I can report no new arrivals. The telegraph also does not work clear through, but news has been coming for the last two days. In the Sacramento Valley for some distance the tops of the poles are under water!


San Francisco.

February 9.


I WROTE you by the last steamer and also sent a paper. I have sent a paper by each steamer for some time and will send another by this. A mail now occasionally gets in, but many letters and papers must have been lost. For papers and printed matter the "Overland” is a total failure.


Since I last wrote the weather has been good and the waters in the great valleys have been receding, but there is much water still. I have heard many additional items of the flood. Judge Field, of Sacramento City, said a few days ago that his house was on the highest land in the city and that the mud was two feet deep in his parlors after the water went down. Imagine the discomforts arising from such a condition of things,     


An old acquaintance, a buckaroo, came down from a ranch that was overflowed. The floor of their one-story house was six weeks under water before the house went to pieces. The "lake"  was at that point sixty miles wide, from the mountains on one side to the hills on the other. This was in the Sacramento Valley. Steamers ran back over the ranches fourteen miles from the river, carrying stock, etc., to the hills.                    


Nearly every house and farm over this immense region is gone. There was such a body of water—250 to 300 miles long and 20 to 60 miles wide, the water ice cold and muddy—that the winds made high waves which beat the farm homes in pieces. America has never before seen such desolation by flood as this has been, and seldom has the Old World seen the like.


But the spirits of the people are rising, and it will make them more careful in the future. The experience was needed. Had this flood been delayed for ten years the disaster would have been more than doubled.


The telegraph is now in working order, and we had news this morning-up to 5 P.M. last night from St. Louis—surely quick work. But the roads will long be impassable over large portions of the state.



Sonoma Democrat, 29 May 1862

Mr. James M. Finley, of Lake county,  without capital and almost unassisted, opened the Dead Broke mine with his own labor. For two years be has worked with that energy and perseverance that rightly directed always insures success.



In 1852 Moses James Church loaded up his family, hitched a team of oxen to his wagon and crossed the great plains, the Sierra Mountains and settled near Stockton in California. But after a year he removed to Napa County, near present day Middletown, not far from the head-waters of Putah Creek. This area would become part of Lake county in 1861. There he embarked in the stock business. He continued there as a stockman for eight years, and then he took up his residence in Napa City, built a large blacksmith shop and conducted that for a couple of years. He sold out and located in Fresno County at Centerville, and there he engaged in sheep-raising for another two or three years; and in 1870 he started the canals that made Fresno County famous.


A son of his, Lorenzo Bonaparte Church, who was born as a twin September 13, 1846, in Lake county, Indiana crossed the plains with his family as an eight year old. He was reared at the family place near present day Middletown and from a boy learned the blacksmith trade.


In Lower Lake, California on October 3, 1868, Lorenzo married Mary Josephine Springston. Josephine Springston was the daughter of William and Nancy Springston and their family was one of the earliest families to settle in the Loconoma Valley.


Lorenzo and Mary moved to Fresno county and remained there for about nine months. During that time baby girl Carrie was born December 11th, 1869. The family then returned to Lake county where they were counted as residents in the 1870 census. They homesteaded and preempted east of Middletown, on Putah Creek. They engaged in raising sheep and Lorenzo bought more land, until he had over 800 acres. During this time four more children were born. 1871,  Carina; 1873, Lola; 1874, Leona and 1876, Lorenzo Jr. who died at 6 months. The family continued on there until the spring of 1878, when they sold out to Theron H Ink and re-located in Fresno County.



The Homestead Act of 1862, allowed settlement of public lands and required only residence and improvement and cultivation of the land. Any person, who had never taken up arms against the U.S. government (including freed slaves after the fourteenth amendment) who was a citizen or person intending to become a citizen, 21 years of age or older, and the head of a household could make application. This included women.  With five years residence and improvements/cultivation, only a $15.00 fee was required to get 160 acres. The process had to be complete within seven years.


Only the land that was outside the Land Grant boundaries and that was owned by the Federal Government was available to homesteaders.



Lawley Toll Road

In early days the only route to travel to the famous Lake County resorts was via Calistoga and over the Lawley Toll Road on Mount St. Helena.


It was in 1866 that a franchise to construct and operate a toll road was granted by the Legislature to John Lawley, a Mr. Patterson and Henry Boggs and they began to construct a toll road over the Mount St. Helena gap into Lake County from Calistoga. He completed this in 1868.



The area today called the Ink Ranch, located within the bounds of present day Guenoc Ranch, is made up of several homesteads. The family who homesteaded the site that was called the Ink House was first settled by a family named Thompson. William H. Thompson homesteaded and received the patent to 160 acres on August 1st, 1872 that included the area where their home was, a barn and the round corrals. Their property was described as being seven miles east of the village of Guenoc. It is reasonable to assume that the house that was known as the Ink house was really built by W. H. Thompson as he lived there several years. With a patent date of 1872 and a five year residency requirement the family must have moved onto the land around 1867.


In 1866 there was a William H. Thompson registered to vote in the Coyote Valley precinct. This person stated  he was a farmer originally from Kentucky and in 1866 he was 38 years old.


W. H. Thompson received a patent for another 160 acres he had been working at the east end of Amel Lake on July 30th, 1878, apparently just in time to sell it to Theron Ink.



Mr. W. H. Thompson has sold his place near Middletown, Lake county, to Supervisor Ink of this county, for $10,000. Mr. Thompson will soon leave with his family for Oregon, intending to settle there.



B. F. English headed for the new county of Lake in California and in June of 1867 Benjamin Sr. was registered to vote in Coyote Valley, Lake county, California. The rest of the family, according to the 1870 census, was still in Green Valley. But then in 1871 Charles Henry was registered to vote in Coyote Valley as well. By the 1880 Census, Benjamin F. and Pauline L. English are residents of Middletown, Lake county, California. They are homesteading 120 acres above Anderson Springs in the Putah Creek drainage near present day Socrates Mine road.



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