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Calistoga was once home to a significant population of indigenous people, the Wappo. In the Spanish colonial era of the late 1700s, Napa Valley was controlled by the Mission San Francisco de Solano, located in what is now Sonoma. After Mexican Independence, mission properties were parceled into ranchos in the 1830s, with the first American settlers arriving in this area a decade later. Town founder Samuel Brannan was the leader of a settlement expedition that landed in San Francisco in 1846. Publisher of the city’s first English newspaper, The California Star, he became California’s first millionaire following the 1849 Gold Rush. Fascinated by Calistoga’s natural hot springs, Brannan purchased 2,000 acres to develop a spa reminiscent of Saratoga in New York. (Great true story: the town’s name comes from his tipsy malapropism that he would make this “the Calistoga of Sarafornia,” and the name stuck.)

Brannan’s resort, located where Indian Springs Resort is now, opened to the rich and famous in 1862. Completion of the railroad in 1868 made Calistoga a major destination and the transportation hub for the upper valley. The town soon expanded its economy with a silver and mercury mine, agriculture (grapes, prunes and walnuts) and tourism, given a boost when famous author Robert Louis Stevenson wrote “The Silverado Squatters” about his rustic honeymoon spent in the area with bride Fanny.

Calistoga was selected by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of 12 Distinctive Destinations in 2001. In 2011, the city will celebrate the 125th anniversary of its founding with events throughout the year. Go to for our complete events calendar.

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