When the tellers and keepers of local history share accounts from Napa County’s past, their subjects frequently focus on the more prominent person or event. However, the stories of the lesser known, albeit equally as important, “average” local citizen can provide an even more accurate picture of the life lived by most early Napa County residents.
One such story is about Charles and Annie Glos. According to the 1912 annul authored by Tom Gregory, titled “The History of Solano and Napa Counties,” these two German natives arrived in Napa County as a married couple in the late 1800s. Although they had each immigrated to America separately and from different regions of Germany years earlier, they met and married in San Francisco before moving to Napa County.
Gregory began their biography with an intriguing opening paragraph: “Of all of the residents (in) Napa County perhaps none has entered more fully into the hardships and privations of frontier existence than have Charles Glos and his self-sacrificing, helpful wife, to whose early experiences in the region there befell the trials of pioneering.”
In 1885, the approximately 27-year-old Charles and Annie, whose date of birth was not cited in the biography, arrived in Napa County and purchased a tract of Calistoga area land, and, according to Gregory “... and took up a homestead of 151 acres on the mountain side, reached by a trail so winding and so filled with underbrush that Mrs. Glos held a flag aloft so that her husband could keep her in sight. For one-half year they lived in a tent set in the midst of brush and timber, and meanwhile they built a rude cabin using shakes for a roof. It was impossible to obtain floor boards, so Mrs. Glos carried sand for two miles and used it instead of the needed boards.”
Gregory wrote that rustic mountainside residence was eight miles west of Calistoga. A cabin and a barn cost $800 to build. The couple spent an additional $2,000 to construct a three-mile-long road that connected their homestead to the road below. That well-built road garnered Charles and Annie an offer of $2,500. However, on advice of counsel, they decided to decline that offer and maintain their ownership of their road. With that infrastructure improvement, they could transport their farm produce from their large fruit orchard and 14-acre vineyard more easily, “and other improvements were made as their limited means permitted,” Gregory noted.
Their chosen Napa County lifestyle offered them even more challenges. “Panthers abounded, also wild cats, foxes and coons. On one occasion Mrs. Glos killed three rattlesnakes. Deer and bear often fell beneath the trusty rifle of Mr. Glos and on one evening he killed seven skunks, while he also had to his credit the killing of many wild hogs and wild goats.
“In that lonely place Mrs. Glos and the children frequently remained alone for weeks at a time, yet never were they molested and seldom did they feel the least fear,” Gregory noted. “Their feeling of security was strengthened when nine families, one after another, moved into the neighborhood ... the (Glos) family became greatly attached to their mountain home.”
Of their 10 offspring, three daughters and three sons survived to adulthood. By 1912, two of their children were married and had provided Charles and Annie with three grandchildren.
A daughter, Louisa, provided more than grandchildren for Charles and Annie. Their eldest child, she made the lack of educational opportunities at their homestead apparent to her parents. To meet those needs for Louisa, the Roman Catholic Gloses sent her to a convent school in San Francisco. She graduated two years later and with honors.
Although this solution worked for Louisa, her parents realized they needed to find another option for the rest of their children. Based on Gregory’s writings, it was a heartbreaking decision and choice. He wrote, “Indeed, their affection for their mountain home became so intense that only the educational needs of their growing family induced them to return to the (Napa) valley.
“Mrs. Glos wept as she bade a last farewell to the beloved place that for so many years had been their home.” After 16 years at their mountainside homestead, the Glos family moved to a St. Helena house in 1901. Four years later they moved to their newly purchased 13-acre Rutherford area farm where they lived in 1912. Gregory wrote, “Their property, purchased at a cost of more than $4,000, has been greatly improved under their supervision.” They had remodeled and expanded the cottage into a house large enough for their family. They had also built a barn, planted a fruit orchard, vineyard and three acres of alfalfa.”
While Charles and Annie were happy with their Rutherford home, they missed their Calistoga-area mountainside homestead. “Notwithstanding their hardships they look back upon that time with pleasure, remembering only its joys and pleasures, forgetting its pains and perils,” Gregory concluded.