Rebecca Yerger is a local historian and historic preservation consultant. Her Napa Valley Register column, Memory Lane, offers an insight into Napa Valley's past through lesser known historical account and recollections. Memory lane runs every Sunday.

Born nearly 200 years ago on Oct. 11, 1820 and living into his 90s, Elias Bender lived a life full of variety and changes. Although not to be defined as a Napa County pioneer settler or mover-and-shaker, Bender lived far more than an ordinary life as he was a productive and influential man o…

Over the past month or so, Memory Lane’s subjects have been individuals featured in Tom Gregory’s “History of Solano and Napa Counties, California” book published in 1912. Today’s column will highlight the life of Patrick H. Maloney as well as his law enforcement and political appointee career.

One man, his agricultural estate and business illustrate the diversity of Napa County agriculture and its allied businesses that existed only a few generations ago. He was William Watt, the owner of Napa’s Longwood ranch and Ambrosia creamery, circa 1912.

By 1912 adult women residents of California had gained the right to vote. However, long before then, women held political posts. Frequently, those political offices were associated with education. The political career of one local woman, Margaret May Melvin, spanned both the pre- and post- w…

The Napa Register Sept. 1957 editions featured numerous interesting and even unique stories. These accounts covered a wide array of topics, including a winery event with international connections, a consumer friendly competition and other noteworthy tidbits from 60 years ago.

Chauncey B. Seeley was one of Napa’s early civic-minded residents. In 1912, he was one of the many area residents featured in the book, “History of Solano and Napa Counties, California.” However, his entry is unique as it is a verbatim quote of Seeley’s own handwritten essay—an action rarely…

The Sawyer Tannery, still located on South Coombs Street in Napa, is both a structural icon and remnant from Napa’s early industrial history. Over the course of its long history, Sawyer would become a giant in its industry. Also during its years of operation, Sawyer and its surrounding resid…

In the past, the desire to surround oneself within the beauty of nature was satisfied at any of the numerous Napa County retreats. One well-known and popular local retreat was Hudeman’s. It was once located in an area known as “The Redwoods”—the Mt. Veeder and Hess Winery area.

The sight of big top tents going up in Napa during the early 1900s brought delight to Napa County residents. Although these massive canvas structures were a trademark of traveling circus troupes, these tents also housed touring theatrical companies, such as “Sweeney’s Big Top Show” in June 1904.

In February 1904 a contingent of Napans participated in a unique event at Mare Island. In addition to the rare opportunity of being granted full access to the Navy shipyard, they witnessed Napa City’s receipt of a Spanish-American War relic, a cannon or “big gun,” during an elaborate militar…

Twenty-two years ago today, Memory Lane debuted in the Napa Valley Register. It has been a pleasure sharing Napa County’s past with you, and I look forward to continuing this joint exploration of our heritage. Also, I thank you for all of your comments, contributions and support.

Tuesday will mark America’s 241st birthday. Independence Day has been celebrated throughout the U.S. even in the smallest of communities during the earliest days of their existence. Napa was no exception to this tradition as documented within the journal of Frank Marryat, an English traveler…

Entertainment — in the form of live stage performances and, later on, movies — has been a mainstay of Napa Valley living for generations.

The productions and consumption of alcoholic beverages has always been a part of Napa County living, regardless of their legality. During this long history, especially during Prohibition, the local newspaper coverage of these libations and lifestyle ranged from tragic to sensational in senti…

The local newspapers of the 1940s frequently offered unique and interesting stories about Napa County residents, their talents, abilities and even their dreams and aspirations.

Following the repeal of the Volstead Act, or Prohibition, the Napa Valley and County wine industry was slow to re-awaken and revive itself. However, there were early indicators it was destined to have a bright future.

This second, and final, installment of the Roderick Mount musical notes series begins with his memories of the circa 1920s Napa High School music classes. As he wrote in his letters sent to his Napa resident cousin, Virginia Tallman, his excitement was dampened by some of the course enrollme…

A long-ago maternal grandmother, Mary Catherine Norton Ayer, was fondly remembered by one of her grandsons, Fred Hutchinson, within his unpublished family history manuscript. Beginning today, these recollections will be the subject of a two-part series.

One of the first downtown Napa candy stores to open in the late 1800s was J.J Sweet’s Gay Nineties Candy Store. One of his main competitors, Jasper Partrick, opened his first store in 1896 using the techniques and recipes he learned from a traveling salesman-candy-maker.

Generally the topics featured in the Memory Lane columns harken back many decades to more than a century ago. The more recent past also deserves to be the highlighted column features from time to time. This is the case for today’s column and its glimpse back to 1977, in the month of April.

With all of the evidence gathered, the Napa County Grand Jury and District Attorney, Theodore Bell, ordered Jesse Walters and George McKenzie to face charges related to the Jan. 5, 1899 murder of Alfred, “Al,” Cook. This final installment of this four-part Memory Lane series will disclose th…

Last week, Memory Lane began to recount Fred Hutchinson’s childhood memories of his paternal grandmother, Amanda Brannan Hutchinson Chapman and the details of her life. These recollections, among others, were eventually compiled into a family biography written by Fred. They are the informati…

During the mid to late 1800s, Napa County’s populace comprised a broad cross-section of different races and creeds. Contributing to that diversity were African-Americans who began to homestead in Napa County during the mid 19th century. One such early local African-American settler family wa…

Louise Tessin Roats took great pleasure in sharing and encouraging the joy of art with children. This local artist, illustrator and writer achieved considerable commercial success. Yet, her definition of success and fulfillment was teaching every child, regardless of ability, the skills need…

The Carneros area was once a close-knit rural community. Primarily composed of farming families, its population also included a number of free-spirited souls. These truly unique individuals added extra color to the already rich heritage of the Carneros district. Some of this community’s free…

“Happy New Year!” has been a common refrain heard throughout Napa County for about 180 years. As with the present, past celebrations have ranged from the subdued to the ridiculous.

This Christmas Day 2016 edition of Memory Lane will continue and conclude this look back into Napa’s holiday history from almost 140 years ago. This retrospective and two-part holiday series was gleaned from the pages of the 1877 Napa County Reporter special Christmas section and article.

The newspapers of Napa County during the Victorian era, 1837-1901, featured special sections devoted entirely to reporting every detail of the local Christmas observances and celebrations. These sections were filled with verbose articles and elaborate hand-drawn original art. The 1877 editio…

By the early 20th century, automobiles were becoming quite prevalent in Napa County, however, they were still treated as a novelty by the media. In fact, the local newspapers printed weekly reports listing the names of locals who had purchased a vehicle. These lists also included the make an…

Today’s Memory Lane column will continue the look back into Napa City’s vintage past. This second installment of this two part series will focus on the only remaining vestige of this era—Joseph Mathews’ Lisbon Winery.

Most people, tourists and locals alike, generally associate Upvalley locales with Napa County’s wine industry. At the height of Napa Valley’s first wine era, the late 1800s, about a half dozen wineries were operating within Napa City. This first installment of a two-part series about Napa’s …

Monday being Halloween, it seems only appropriate to explore the activities of past All Hallows’ Eve in Napa County. The year of 1950 featured many celebrations of this spirited holiday.

Within the annuls of Napa County’s medical history is a collection of some unexpected and sensational stories. Found in between the more typical stories, such as local health ordinances and facilities, two of these surprising stories highlight the details of a risky procedure performed to sa…

With another 2016 Presidential nominees’ debate scheduled for this evening, it seems only appropriate to focus on some unexpected political stories from Napa County’s past. The three featured historical accounts were gleaned from the local newspapers. These unusual pieces from back in the da…

Napa County real estate has always been a desirable commodity and prized possession, consistently drawing the attention and interest of prospective buyers from both near and far. This point is illustrated by articles printed within local newspapers of the first half of the 20th century.

One genuine Napa County historian who has withstood the test of time is James Clyman. This early pioneer and Napa resident kept daily journals. These documents are still considered by scholars to be one of the best historical records of the frontier era of the western U.S. His literary leani…

The Labor Day weekend issues, and especially the Friday Sept. 2, 1966 issue, of the Napa Register were filled with a diverse cross-section of local stories. Many of these local accounts from 50 years ago detailed life-altering and unforgettable events experienced by Napa County residents.

For 145 years or so, the local harvest has enticed wine enthusiasts to visit Napa Valley and county. According to an 1871 Napa County Reporter article, those visitors enjoy tasting the local wines, especially “the bubbly.”

For most Napa County teachers and students, the summer ended a few days ago with the start of the new school year. This ritual has been a local tradition since the 1840s.

As the Napa County summers wear on, the corresponding fire seasons intensify. Those fires and others, as well as firefighting-related stories, were top articles found in past Napa County newspapers.

Aug. 7 is International Friendship Day. In honor of this auspicious occasion, this column will feature two stories about friendly local gatherings, circa 1883.

The hospitality industry and tourism have been a part of the Napa County economy for more than 160 years. It began with the opening of Napa County’s first resort, White Sulfur Springs near St. Helena. Also just like today, local communities actively marketed Napa Valley and County as a desir…

Postwar Napa, from the mid-to-late 1940s, was overflowing with activities and events. In 1946, Napans enjoyed the return of favorite outdoor programs. Then in 1949, Napa County focused on the welfare of and opportunities for the local youth.

Happy Father’s Day! Keeping in mind the honorees of this day -- dads -- this column will feature traditional “guy faves” -- stories about cars and sports - from Napa County’s past.

The combat experiences of Napa resident Robert Curran as a soldier from 1899-1901 in the Spanish-American War provided an action-packed newspaper account for locals. The article also detailed how that war affected him personally.

While order generally rules the Napa County jail, there have been times of excitement such as the foiled jail-break of 1895. In addition to upsetting the norm, this incident also inspired ingenuity within the sheriff’s department staff.