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November 3, 1861: Yountville

November 4, 2011

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Downtown Yountville; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

Camp 64

This was left off at Camp 64, at Sebastopol, the “Yount’s” of your maps. And so it should now be called1, in justice to the settler, Yount, who settled there twenty-eight years ago. His story seems a romance. He was a western man who wandered across the Rocky Mountains, lived with the Indians, hunted, and trapped. While plying the trade of trapper he entered San Francisco Bay, pushed up its northern arm, entered Napa Valley, and found this lovely spot, inhabited by savage Indians and a few semi-savage Mexicans.

In his youth, in a western state, a fortune teller had predicted to him his future home, settled in a lovely valley, etc. Here seemed to be the place—a fertile valley, enclosed by high mountain ridges, a rich bottom with grand trees, a stream rich in fish. He did not stay, however, but the prediction of the sibyl so often came up to him that he returned a year or so later and got a grant of the Mexican Government of two leagues of land in the valley. He built him a cabin—at once fort, fortress, and home.

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Site of Yount's blockhouse, Yountville; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

By his force of character and kindness he overcame the Indians and made them such warm friends that to this day many live on his ranch. With his rifle he compelled the submission of the treacherous Mexicans. His exploits and adventures smack of the marvelous, but he held his place, fully determined that Fate had destined that spot to be his home. He raised cattle, had a village of Indians on his ranch, and lived that patriarchal life for fifteen years before the discovery of gold here and the immigration. His Mexican grant was confirmed by the United States Government after much delay and difficulty, and now he is surrounded by thriving and valuable farms, fine orchards, above and below him. We camped on his land, but missed seeing him. Here are the “heads” for a “romance” or “tale” for some future author.

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Vicinity of Yount's blockhouse, Yountville; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

[This] evening…I attempted to go up to Yount’s and call on the old man as he had sent us an invitation. It was but a mile or so from camp. We had had a hard climb that day and the others declined going, so I started alone. I passed the Indian village on the ranch. It was after dark. The homes were mere sheds covered with bushes or rushes, the front side entirely open to the air. These seemed their “sitting rooms.” A bright fire lit up the hut. Standing, lying, squatting around the fires were the Indians—some with bright red blankets around them—squaws doing various work, dressed in skirt and chemise, the latter quite scanty in the neck…The whole, lit up by their bright fires, made a most picturesque and peculiar picture….I missed the way, for the night was very dark, and I could not find Yount’s house, so I returned to camp. I thus missed seeing him, as I had no other opportunity….

By the way, we came near losing our geese. [Tonight], just after dark, a stranger approached camp. We did not see him, but his presence was unmistakable. Mike, notoriously careless, had tied the geese in a bush, quite too near the ground. We “heard something drop,” rushed out, cautious, for we had a very formidable thief to contend with, but by our infernal yells, shouts, pounding on a board, etc., he left the geese and sneaked away through the bushes. We then tied them so high that no marauding skunk could get them, but he hung around during the night, loading the air with the odor of his presence.

1The name was changed from Sebastopol to Yountville in 1869.

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