The Elusive Emerson



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!

Many years ago, I came upon the subdivision map entitled, “Town of Emerson,” filed June 10, 1869, in the Napa County Assessor-Recorder’s Office. The town-to-be was located in or near Pope Valley. The developer of this proposed town was David O. Emerson, a well-known upvalley resident and one-time owner of Eschol Farm near Oak Knoll, now called Trefethen Family Vineyards. He acquired what became the Emerson parcel possibly from S. B. Houston. Houston had purchased much of Rancho Locoallomi from Chancellor Hartson in 1861. Within days of the map’s filing, Emerson began deeding out the lots, and six of them eventually were acquired by Shubael Wardner, to be lost to the Bank of Napa in 1898.

David Emerson arrived in Napa Valley as early as 1848 and then departed for southern California where he died in 1893. But what happened to the settlement between 1869 and 1898? Because some of the lots had been acquired by Shubael Wardner, I hoped they might have been somewhere near his other parcels in the area. I also hoped to find a map of the area that just might show “Emerson” somewhere within the rancho’s boundaries. Map after map, history book after history book…nothing. And then I found a Napa County bicycle path map included in The Cyclers’ Guide and Road Book of California, written in 1896 by George W. Blum. There, east of Calistoga and south of Aetna Springs, was the word “Emerson.”

So, Emerson existed at least on a biking map from 1896, twenty-five years after David Emerson filed his map. Back I went to the June 5, 1883, St. Helena Star, to the very same “Notes of Travel” column that had described Wardner’s store. Coincidentally, here was the column, “Pope Valley Items,” which began, “Many years ago, the town of Emerson was located, and streets laid out, near the present site of Wardner’s store, but the little settlement [Emerson] here has never yet reached the dignity of even a village.” This sounds much like Slocum and Bowen’s description of Wardners two years earlier – “room for much improvement.” Dignified or not, for me, Emerson was found. How long it existed past 1883 as any sort of settlement I could not determine. It may have remained an appendage to Wardners until about 1900.