This is an excerpt of “In a Corner of Pope Valley, 1870-1900” by Marie Bowen, an article first published in the Vol. 22, No. 3 edition of Tidings, our quarterly newsletter. To get your copy of Tidings, become a member today!
Recently, while transcribing an oral history tape labeled History of Napa County, I heard the speaker mention a settlement in Rancho Locoallomi called “Werner.” The area – which held a store, blacksmith shop, and several homes – was located near or in Pope Valley and situated about five miles from Pope Valley Cross Road. Having family ties to Pope Valley but never having heard of Werner, I wanted to learn more…Somewhere along the way I found an 1880 Knox Township census (which included Pope Valley) that identified S. Wardner, born 1831 in New Hampshire, as the owner of a general store. Could “Werner” have been “Wardner”? Yes, it could!
The earliest reference was in Slocum and Bowen’s 1881 History Of Napa and Lake Counties: “Wardners…is a very small place indeed, there being only a store, one blacksmith shop and some half dozen dwellings in the place. It is situated in the lower end of Pope Valley, in the heart of a good country, and there is room for much improvement in the future…Mr. W. Boardman at one time had a [lumber] mill near where the town of Wardners now is. It was a portable mill, and was taken from there to Howell Mountain.” They describe Pope Valley’s topography as “an extensive section of country, quite level and fertile, and reaching from Aetna Springs on the north to Wardner’s store on the south, a distance of six miles, and having a width of perhaps three miles. Then on west of this lies the Howell Mountain range, which divides this township from Hot Springs.” That last piece of information remains a mystery, as I found no one named W. Boardman in Napa County from 1850 through 1880. The next reference was in H. H. Bancroft’s History of California (Vol. 24, 1860-1890): “an agricultural settlement…Wardner, in Pope Valley,” as of 1890.
It was not until I studied the 1895 Napa County Parcel Map (with Shubael’s signature accompanying those of the other Board of Supervisors) that I found the property. It lay partially within Locoallomi (just south of James Barnett’s lands and near Barnett Road, which led to nearby mines) and partially within adjacent section land below the rancho line….South of Wardner’s lay the massive tract owned by Robert Hardin, not necessarily considered part of Pope Valley.
n June 1883, a St. Helena Star reporter toured Pope Valley and wrote a column entitled, “Notes of Travel.” Shubael’s store is described as “a well-built, hard finished store building, 30 x 60 feet in size…we are informed carries a stock of about $6,000. He keeps one clerk, and both are kept continually busy. He has, by the way, 6 to 8 acres of very fine young vineyard here, which is looking well.”
Also in that Star column was the sentence, “Mr. Easson [sic]…the only blacksmith in this immediate section.” He was involved in quite a few land transactions and by the mid-1890s had sold (or lost to the tax collector) all of his Napa County property. At one time he owned a portion of the Town of Emerson. Also found in some of those records is Alexander Esson, born in New Brunswick. He is the blacksmith living near Shubael recorded in the 1880 census and in the Star newspaper article, albeit with a differently spelled surname. He was Wardner’s blacksmith until 1892 when he moved to Yolo County.