A former and long-time Calistoga resident, Ira Clayton Adams, recorded the history of his adopted hometown with both his camera and pen. These images and recollections were eventually compiled into the book, “Memoirs & Anecdotes of Early Days in Calistoga.” Its various topics included the churches of Calistoga.
According to Adams, Calistoga was home to the Catholic, Seventh-Day Adventists, Christian Scientists and Federated Churches. The latter Church served a congregation composed of both the Methodist and Presbyterian faithful. While noting these places of worship, Adams also acknowledged a specific benevolent and devoted Calistoga citizen.
His account of the Upvalley churches began with his own congregation. Adams wrote, “In 1937, plans were matured for the forming of a Federated Church and this having been accomplished, the results were highly satisfactory. Our pastor, Adolph Lucas, being an architect, has drawn plans for greatly increasing the size of the Presbyterian Church building and otherwise improving it. It will be used for all further meetings.
“The old Methodist Church on Cedar and Spring Streets has been sold to Martha Muller and the money received from the sale of it will be applied to help cover the costs of the improvements that are being made on the other building.”
But nearly a decade passed before the project began. Adams continued, “In May, 1946, the cornerstone was laid,...” He added, “Originally, the church was built at a cost of $2,300 and has been moved twice since it was built. (Adams did not mention those various locations.)”
The Calistoga Presbyterian Church was organized on Jan. 2, 1871 by Thomas Frasier. At that time, its congregation numbered 25 to 30 members. Some of its former pastors were: Reverends C.H. Campbell and James Mitchell. The latter also ministered to the St. Helena Presbyterian Church congregation.
As for the Methodist Church in Calistoga, it pre-dates the Presbyterian church. In 1868, the Calistoga Springs Resort founder, Sam Brannan, gave the Methodist Episcopal Church a lot on which to build their sanctuary. Adams wrote, “Under the efforts of Reverend H.D. Bryant, a foundation was laid..., but a survey by the railroad company showed that the depot would have to be built there. Mr. Brannan gave the Church another lot which was at the corner of Cedar and Spring Streets. Mr. Brannan generously paid for the work done up to that time.
“The church was built on that second lot and finished in 1869.” Also according to Adams, in 1902 the Methodist Episcopal Church was extensively remodeled with additions built by C.J.B. Moore, a local contractor.
Adams continued with details about the other congregations of Calistoga. He wrote, “The Baptist Church people started a stone building to be used as their church. It was on the lower end of Washington Street, but they could not finish it on the account of the lack of funds. So, they sold it to the Catholics who then finished it.” Prior to buying that incomplete stone sanctuary, the Catholic faithful of Calistoga worshiped within the Fourth Street residence belonging to a Mrs. Francis.
Returning to the Baptists, they built a second church edifice. It was a wood-frame building at Railroad Avenue and Third Street. Adams continued, “But it was left idle for several years, and was finally sold to a Frenchman named Tresarrieu, who converted it into a laundry.”
Adams also briefly detailed two other denominations. He stated, in the late 1880s the Seventh-Day Adventists built their sanctuary along Berry Street. He also mentioned the Christian Scientists first gathered for services within a private Calistoga residence before their church was completed at the corner of Berry and Cedar Streets.
Following his historical overview of Calistoga’s churches, Adams dedicated considerable space to detailing the benevolent act of a Calistoga woman. He wrote, “Mary Monroe, a devout Christian woman, owned two lots on Washington Street. On each lot was a house and this property was willed to the Ladies Aid Societies of Calistoga and St. Helena, jointly. While this property was owned by the two societies jointly, each one received half the rental taken in. Later on, the Aid Society of Calistoga bought the half interest belonging to the St. Helena Aid Society...
“Sometime after buying this property, it was decided to build a Memorial Hall to the memory of Miss Monroe. The hall was built in 1902-03, the work being done by C.J.B. Moore. In this hall, Rev. C.L. Peterson built a beautiful fireplace and dedicated it to the memory of his deceased wife, Lulu Lindsay Peterson.”