The Towns and Post Offices of Lake County

The Beginnings
The Ends

This is a list of all of the places in Lake County that have had a post office at some time. They weren't all considered "towns", but still had enough population around them, or going through them, to have a need for a post office.

Stop and think that many of these communities were built in areas that even with today's cars and roads (which in some cases are still just a dusty one-lane path), it still takes hours to get to them (from Lakeport, for instance). The early Lake County pioneers were a hardy bunch.

I will start with a listing of the names, and then gradually will fill in small bits of information about each one.

Some of the information was taken from "California's Lake County, Places and Postal History" by Erving R. Feltman. (It is full of further descriptions of the areas, the postmasters for each post office, plus copies of postal marks for most of them.)


Adams Springs was located near the present Highway 175, northeast of what is now Middletown. The springs were discovered in 1869 and construction on a hotel and cottages began in 1871, and eventually grew to accomodate 400 people. The main hotel burned in 1943 with the loss of one life. The resort continued to operate with the remaining cabins. The ADAMS post office was established in 1908. When the Adams Springs Resort sold in 1960, the post office was moved to Loch Lomand and the post office name changed to ADAMS-LOCH LOMAND. Adams-Loch Lomand post office closed in 1991, although Loch Lomand is still a resort area.


ALLEN SPRINGS is located 3 miles east of Bartlett Springs in the mountains north of Clear Lake. The springs were discovered in 1871 and a resort was started in 1874, which grew to include a hotel, cottages, dance hall, store, stable and more, which lasted until the resort was abandoned by 1940. The post office was started in 1874 and operated off and on until it was discontinued in 1901.


ARABELLA was about 5 miles north of what is now Clearlake Oaks in the high mountain Long Valley. In 1856 this area was a part of Colusa County, but became a part of Lake County in 1868 with a boundry change. Arabella was a stage stop along a route into Bartlett Springs. The post office began in 1888, probably named for Belle, the wife of the first postmaster, Almus Kennedy. It moved down the valley 6 miles in 1903, and continued until 1920. The area is now ranches, with no sign of a community.


BACHELOR was the name used for the post office at Saratoga Springs, which is just west of the present day Bachelor Valley. (These springs were first known as Pearson Springs after the original owner). This is between Upper Lake and Blue Lakes. A hotel and cabins were built until they could accomodate 350 people. The post office began in 1882 and was discontinued in 1940. A resort continues to operate there on a much smaller scale.


BARTLETT SPRINGS was one of the most well-known and popular resorts of the area. The springs were discovered in the late 1860s and construction on crude cabins began in about 1870. By 1873 a two story hotel and 40 cabins had been constructed. By 1874 there were 75 cabins and tent units and the Bartlett Springs bottled water was for sale all over the state. A fair sized community eventually made up the area, including 5 hotels, 350 cabins, a water bottling plant, and all types of businesses and could accomodate 1,000 guests. In 1934 a fire swept through the area and burned most of the resort buildings, and the community faded away, although there are a few that still live there. In 1960, during another fire, the overgrown cemetery was destroyed by the U.S. Forest Service. The most recent fire went through there is August 1996. The people that were living there were gathered into a large clearing that had been graded to wait as the fire swept around them. In the early 1990s, a French company built a bottling plant near Nice on Highway 20 and trucked the water down the 15 miles of winding (sometimes one-lane, blind-curved) road from the springs to the plant. This plant has since closed. The area is private and fenced. The post office which started in 1873 was discontinued in 1935, the year after the disasterous fire.


In 1879 a post office was established in the Blue Lakes Hotel (formerly called the Blue Lakes Lodge) to replace the one that had been discontinued 8 years before. (See BLUE LAKE for history). This post office was named BERTHA after the wife of the first postmaster. The Blue Lakes Hotel burned in 1899, and in 1900, while it was being rebuilt, the post office was moved a mile away to Laurel Dell.


This is the largest valley in the county. It originally included what is now Lakeport, but today is thought of as the area between Lakeport and Kelseyville. A post office was established under the BIG VALLEY name on July 17, 1858. At the time, around the post office, it included a store, a saloon, a cheese factory and several others buildings. On November 12, 1861, the post office was relocated and renamed LAKEPORT. The old property was sold and turned into a ranch, with all businesses leaving.


The BLUE LAKE post office was established in the Blue Lake Lodge in February 1871 but was discontinued in July 1871.


A post office was established on September 29, 1876, but discontinued on November 13, 1877. It was located 9 miles northeast of Lower Lake.


Castle Springs was located on the edge of the Lake County border, almost due south of the present COBB, and west (and slightly north) of Middletown. These springs were located about 1885 and known as Mills Seltzer Springs. The Castle Hot Springs resort was started and the name was changed to Castle Springs in 1900. By 1911 there were facilities for 75 guests, and that year the CASTLE SPRINGS post office was started. This post office closed in 1917.


The city of CLEARLAKE was incorporated in July 1981, making it the largest city in the county. Clearlake and Lakeport are the only incorporated cities in Lake County. See the history of CLEARLAKE HIGHLANDS.


In 1923 a subdivision was built near Lower Lake named Clearlake Highlands. The mail sack was brought from Lower Lake and thrown out at the gateway to the subdivision. It was taken to the Highlands Lodge and people rummaged through to get their mail. When the Post Office Department was petitioned for a post office, nine names were submitted. Clealake Highlands was the first choice of the residents, but the Post Office Department wanted a name without "lake" in it because of so many others with "lake" in the county. So, the ninth name on the list was selected by the Post Office Department, which was Knocti. The office was opened July 1925. It operated under the name of KNOCTI until November 1925, when the residents were able to have the name changed to CLEARLAKE HIGHLANDS. In July 1981 the area including Clearlake Highlands, Cache Creek, Burns Valley and part of Clearlake Park was incorporated and the name of the post office was changed to CLEARLAKE.


CLEARLAKE OAKS continues to be a small community on the edge of Clear Lake. See STUBBS for history.


This area was originally known as "Jack's Landing", as it was used as a landing for barges hauling wood to Sulphur Bank mines. In 1922 a subdivision was opened and called CLEARLAKE PARK. The population increased and a postoffice named CLEARLAKE was opened in May, 1923, located in Robberts grocery store. In July 1937 the post office was renamed CLEARLAKE PARK.


COBB, located northwest of Middletown, is named after the Cobb family who settled the valley in 1853, which at that time was a part of Napa County. The valley was mainly farmed, with some businesses gradually being added. In 1880 Gordan Springs Resort was started, located in Cobb Valley, with a campground and a bathhouse at the warm springs on the bank of Kelsey Creek. A dam was built across kelsey Creek in 1935 which created Forest Lake. Cabins and a swimming pool were added and it became Forest Lake Resort. COBB has seen a slow, but steady growth, and is a still growing community at this time. The COBB post office was opened in 1911, and the GLENBROOK post office was closed.


DEERLODGE was opened as a post office in June, 1898, at a spot known as Weldon. This was 4 1/2 miles northwest of what is now Scott Dam at Lake Pillsbury. This was a lumber camp so it was felt a post office was needed. However, the order was rescinded in September 1898.


EASTLAKE was the name chosen for the village and post office that was started at the site of mining operations by the California Borax Company in 1864. It was located on an eastern edge of one of the fingers of the lake. This area became Sulphur Bank Mine. After about five years, when the sulphur had been removed, it was discovered that there were rich veins of cinnabar, or quicksilver. The community consisted of the buildings of the mining company, a store, hotel, physician and several residences. The post office was started in 1877, and when the mine shut down in 1884, the village was abandoned fairly rapidly, and the post office closed.


Elys was located 7 miles east of Kelseyville. The settlement included a two-story hotel and a store, with a nearby school. A post office was opened in 1887 and was discontinued in 1890.


The town of Finley started in 1898 when John Larkin Sylar and Daniel Sylar built a general store in the middle of BIG VALLEY. When he applied for a post office to be located there, he submitted a list of names to the Postal Department for selection. They chose FINLEY (named after his father Samuel Finley Sylar). The town has never been very large, but has two or three businesses, including a Restaurant and General Store and a large pear-packing facility.


Glenbrook is located in Cobb Valley, halfway between Middletown and Lakeport. In 1867 it was set up as a stage stop, and it quickly turned into a health resort. A post office was established in 1871 and was closed in 1911 after the post office at Cobb was established.


GLENHAVEN was the latest post office in Lake County. It was established in December 1950. The area had been known before the post office, as Gum Tree Point, because of the old gum trees (Eucalyptus) planted there by pioneers. It is a small town along the north shore of Clear Lake, located between Clearlake Oaks and Lucerne.


See Lower Lake


In the northern part of Lake County, 30 miles north of Upper Lake and 18 miles east of Potter Valley (Mendocino County), was a valley at the headwaters of a branch of the Eel River. It wasn't very good soil, but settlers tried to farm it, and a fair sized community grew there. At one time it had a hotel, General merchandise store, blacksmiths, sawmill, Carpenter shop, post office and a good school. The post office was started in January 1874 and was located in the store. In 1889, the name of the post office was changed to HULLVILLE. In 1906 the Snow Mountain Water and Power Company bought out the site. The post office was moved a mile southwest, all of the buildings were torn down, and the graves in the cemetery were moved to the Upper Lake Cemetery. In 1921 the Scott Dam was finished and Lake Pillsbury now covers what used to be the town. The post office was discontinued in 1935, and the area is now mostly summer homes. The full time residents get their mail out of Potter Valley.


The claim to the Guenoc Grant was filed in 1852, and a village of GUENOC started growing on the south side of Putah Creek in Coyote Valley. This is about nine miles south of Lower Lake and three miles north of Middletown. The present Highway 29 runs through the center of the area. It developed into a village with a hotel, store, blacksmith shop, IOOF hall and the post office which was established in 1867. But, nearby Middletown grew faster, and the businesses moved on to other areas. The post office was closed in 1880. There is no sign of the old settlement at the area now.


HARBIN SPRINGS was "discovered" in 1852 (although the Lake Miwok Indians had used them for thousands of years). The springs and surrounding property went through several owners over the next several years. Originally, there was no road from Middletown, so they could only be reached by horseback. But, in 1871, they became the first springs to be open to the public. They were in the Cobb area, about four miles northwest of Middletown. A resort hotel was built, which burned in 1894. It was rebuilt in 1896, but that one burned in 1960. The property is now owned by a church group. There was never an official post office, but they had a device with a HARBIN SPRINGS cancelling stamp, which showed that it originated there, but was sent out of the Calistoga post office.


High Valley is is a mountain valley about 5 miles long by 1 1/2 miles wide which is reached at the present time by a road heading north out of Clearlake Oaks. In the 1870s there were 11 landowners of the 2500 acres of valley floor. The HIGH VALLEY post office was started in July, 1872, located in the James M. Foutch home, which was also a stage station for the stage coach to Bartlett Springs. The post office was discontinued in 1875.


Highland Springs was located between Lakeport and Kelseyville and a little south. There were about 20 springs in the area. Construction of a hotel was started in 1871 and enlarged to quite a large building by 1875. The post office was established March 12, 1875; discontinued in 1880; and re-established in a few months with the name shortened to HIGHLAND. In 1884 the name was returned to HIGHLAND SPRINGS and remained that until the post office was discontinued in 1921. By 1893 the hotel had been enlarged again and included a spa, bowling alley, Wells Fargo agency, concrete swimming pool, mineral water baths, tennis courts and stables. By 1921, the resort era was coming to an end, and in 1960 Lake County took over the property, razed the remaining buildings, and constructed the Highland Creek Dam. The 72 acre Highland Springs Resevoir now covers the site.


Hobergs Resort was started in 1885, and became the largest privately owned resort in California. It grew to have facilities for more than 1000 guests, including bowling alley, swimming pool, airport, and dance hall where such greats as Tommy Dorsey came to play. It was run by three generations of the Hoberg until 1971. It was sold in 1971 and is a religious retreat at this time. The post office was started in 1929; changed to an Independent Rural Station under Cobb in 1962; went back to a post office in 1963; became a Rural Branch of Cobb in 1967, and closed in 1970.


Hough Springs resort was located in the mountains north of Clear Lake, and to the east of Bartlett Springs and Allen Springs. By 1882 there was a large hotel, cottages and campgrounds, plus a store and a post office was started in 1882. The original post office was discontinued in 1895, with the mail going to Bartlett Springs. In 1901, there was an attempt to re-establish the post office, but the plan was dropped in 1902. The resort was abandoned in the 1930s, and only ruins remain today.




The post office of INA never quite made an opening. A postmaster was appointed in January 1907, but in 1908 the establishment of a post office was canceled. The INA post office would have been at a sawmill on Elk Mountain, near the summit, north of Upper Lake. The sawmill was sold in 1908, so possibly the new owner wasn't interested in a post office.


KAYOTE post office was located in Kayote Valley, along the Butts Canyon Road, about 7 miles east of Middletown. When it was established in 1859, it was in Napa County. But, when Lake County was created in 1861, taking that part of the county from Napa, the Kayote post office became a part of Lake County. The post office was discontinued in 1880, and there is no evidence remaining of an early settlement in the area.


Was originally known as UNCLE SAM. The name was changed on October 4, 1882. Andrew Kelsey had settled on the banks of the creek in 1847. In 1849 he and his partner, Stone, were killed, but he left his name on the creek and the town that followed. (See UNCLE SAM for hisory)


See the history of CLEARLAKE HIGHLANDS.


KNOXVILLE was an actual village that was started around the Knoxville Quicksilver Mine about 1862, and belonged to the mine owners. There was a large general merchandise store, a hotel, a church, school, a notion and tobacco store, and a post office and Wells Fargo office. This was located on the southeastern edge of Lake County, but when a boundary change was made in 1872, Knoxville became a part of Napa County. There is still a site located there, but the post office was discontinued in 1912.


Lakeport was first known as Forbestown, named after William Forbes who owned land at the townsite and gave land on which our first county seat was established. The first store was built in 1856 a little north of the present center of the city. In 1861, commissioners were appointed to choose two eligible sites for the location of the county seat. William Forbes made a propostition to them that if they would locate it upon his property, he would deed the county 40 acres, and the offer was accepted. When the location of the county seat was confirmed, the town sprang into existence and grew rapidly. In September 1867, by vote of the people, the county seat was moved to Lower Lake and a tug-of-war began over it. With the uncertainty of the location of the county seat, Lakeport grew much more slowly. In 1870, however, Lakeport again became the county seat, and again, the town began to grow. The original courthouse burned in February 1867, and the loss of all of the records is a big void found by genealogists today. Lakeport was the first incorporated city in the county. The post office at LAKEPORT was authorized November 12, 1861, and the post office at Big Valley was discontinued.


LAUREL DELL post office was established in the Laurel Dell hotel when the Blue Lakes Hotel burned in 1899, taking the BERTHA post office with it. The Laurel Dell post office and the MIDLAKE post office (established in the rebuilt Blue Lakes Hotel) operated side-by-side, just a mile apart. Laurel Dell post office was discontinued in 1926 with the mail service being provided by BACHELOR.


LOWER LAKE is located at the southeastern end of Clear Lake, and was situated at that spot because it was a major crossroads leading to Napa, Lakeport, Sacramento and Long Valley. The town, for a short time called Grantsville, started about 1857 and the post office, always called Lower Lake, started in 1858. Lower Lake was a growing community and was actually the county seat from 1867 to 1870. By 1869, it had its own newspaper, and eventually was the major supplier of goods and services for the south end of the county. The town of Lower Lake continues today, although the city of Clearlake, a few miles north, has grown more rapidly and has become the commercial center of the south end of the lake.


LUCERNE, along the north shore of Clear Lake, was a part of a large ranch until 1923-24, when the property was sold to a development company, and a subdivision was started. The area was billed as "The Switzerland of America", and thus named Lucerne. Water and sewer sytem, sidewalks and a power plant were built, along with a large hotel, a reminder of the pictures of buildings in Switzerland. The post office was established in 1926, and Lucerne became a another resort town on the lake. The town has grown slowly, but steadily, with more subdivisions being added. The large hotel is still there, although it is now a Christian Center.


MIDDLETOWN is the southernmost town in Lake Co. It was so named because at the time of stage routes, it was midway between Calistoga and Lower Lake. The town began in 1870 and besides being a midway point for the Calistoga-Lower Lake stage, it was a junction for other routes leading to Cobb Mountain and Clear Lake. The quicksilver mines were also in the area which made it a good choice for a town. In 1870 the first house was built, which was turned into a hotel. Many of the buildings and residents after that came from what had been Guenoc village. The post office began in April 1871 under the name of MIDDLETON, and the name was changed to MIDDLETOWN in July 1875. In March of 1918 most of the businesses were destroyed by fire, but they were soon rebuilt and the town continued growing.


When the construction to rebuild the Blue Lakes Hotel was completed, they wanted their post office back from Laurel Dell, but Laurel Dell wanted to keep it. So, a new post office was granted in May 1900, this time named MIDLAKE. The facility changed names to be know as Pine Acres Resort Hotel. And the post office was discontinued in 1945.


Cinnabar was discovered in the most southern part of the Lake County in the 1870s. In 1887 a mine was opened which was later sold to Mills, Randall and Bell. They renamed the mine, using the first two letters of each of their names Mi ra bel. When a post office was opened in 1892, MIRABEL became its name. It was located 4 miles south of Middletown. This post office only lasted until August 1893.


Morgan Valley is located in the southeastern part of Lake County and was named after Charley Morgan. There was never a very large community there. In 1868 the Morgan post office was established as a Special Office and discontinued in 1872.


In 1922 a part of a 4500 acre property was sold to 4 men who formed the Clear Lake Villas company and subdivided the property. As the subdivision was being developed, it was determined that a post office was needed. In 1930, a small post office was established in the corner of the little grocery store. The name of Nice was chosen to go along with the European name of the neighboring town of Lucerne. Nice is still a small thriving community with a variety of small businesses.


The post office of NITA was established in a hotel located in Long Valley in 1893. This was located north and slightly east of the present day Clearlake Oaks. Dan Hanson, the owner of the hotel, named the post office after one of his daughters. It was discontinued in 1898, when the Hansons moved to Lower Lake.


The Pences Indian Valley Springs and resort was located 12 1/2 miles east of Bartlett Springs. It was an area that had been originally a part of Colusa County until a boundary change in 1868. A post office was started, and ended in 1895. It was named after the operator of the resort, Irene Pence.


The Putah post office was located at Howard Springs, eight miles south of Lower Lake. There were 40 different springs, a hotel, cottages, campground and stables. The post office was established in 1892 and closed in 1900.


The Great Western Quicksilver Mining Company was incorporated on August 8, 1872. The Cinnabar ore mine was on the north slope of Mount St. Helena, about 4 miles southwest of Middletown. The work was done mainly by Chinese laborers, which numbered between 200 to 250 at the height of production. A postoffice named QUICKSILVER was established in December 1900. At that time, there was a school, general store, butcher shop, boarding house and 23 homes in the community. In 1911, the output of quicksilver had dwindled and the mines were abandoned. The postoffice was discontinued in October 1911, and any remaining families received their mail through Middletown.


The Reiff Ranch, purchased in 1877, was located 11 miles southeast of Lower Lake. It was a diversified ranch that was almost a community by itself, plus there was Quicksilvering mining nearby. In 1881 a post office was started in the farmhouse. It moved two miles southeast in 1891, and in 1899 it moved again to a farmhouse across from the Morgan Valley school. It continued in operation until 1941.


SANHEDRIN post office was established in May 1896 on the main ridge of Mt. Sanhedrin, which is the dividing line between Lake and Mendocino counties. This was 16 miles northeast of Potter Valley, and was just barely inside the Lake County line. In the early 1890s a small resort at Sanhedrin Springs was built, called the Sanhedrin Heights Resort. There was a steam sawmill nearby, and in 1896 the Sanhedrin School District was formed. The school district ended in 1902, and the saw mill shut down and post office closed in August 1907, when the last family moved to Hullville.


The post office at Saratoga Springs was always called BACHELOR. (See BACHELOR for history)


Discovered earlier, but in 1855, a claim was taken in the area. In 1868 a hotel was constructed, and was eventually enlarged to include a hotel and dining room, 25 cottages, barber shops and a dance hall. It remained a popular resort until about 1967. The post office was established in 1904 as SEIGLER; operated on and off; changed its name and operated as SEIGLER SPRINGS until 1966. In 1966 it was changed to a Rural Branch of the Lower Lake post office, and then discontinued completely in 1969.


At the north end of Indian Valley was a sheep ranch and a stage station. This area was also a part of Colusa County until the boundry changes of 1868. Joseph Byron Stanton was the first homesteader in this area, and served as the first postmaster when a post office was established in 1879. The second postmaster was Alfred N. Green, who was badly burned when the house, and post office in the house caught fire. With his death, the post office was discontinued in 1880.


When the townsite of the present Clearlake Oaks was developed in 1923, it was known as STUBBS, named after the Stubbs brothers who owned the land. In 1926 the STUBBS post office was established in the Grocery/Cafe, but people were already calling the town CLEARLAKE OAKS. The post office moved 2 or 3 times until a building was built for it about 1938, where it stayed until a new post office was built in 1975. In 1935, the postoffice name was changed to CLEARLAKE OAKS.


Is named for the nearby mountain, which used to be called UNCLE SAM, but is now known as Mt. Konocti. The first businesses were established in 1857. The UNCLE SAM post office was started in November 1858 and went by that name until 1882, although after the county was formed in 1861, the town was referred to in news articles as KELSEY CREEK or KELSEY until it was officially changed to KELSEYVILLE.


UPPER CLEAR LAKE was the first post office established in what was to become Lake County. The settlers started arriving in the area in May 1854. The post office was established in June 1858 with about 100 residents in the area. A school was started in the mid 1860s.


In 1875, UPPER CLEAR LAKE's name was changed to just UPPER LAKE. By 1880 there were 3 stores, 3 hotels, 3 livery stables, a meat market, 2 blacksmith shops, a planing mill and a grist mill. And only 1 saloon. In a 1887 brochure it states that Upper Lake had a population of about 300, with another 300 around the area. It had 4 general stores, 2 blacksmith shops, 1 carriage maker shop, 1 saw mill, 1 gristmill, 1 sash factor and planing mill, 2 hotels, 2 livery stables, 1 saloon, 1 milliner & dress maker shop, and 1 boot and shoemaker shop; 4 Churches - Methodist, Baptist, United Brethren and Presbyterian; 3 secret societies - Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Order of Chosen Friends, and G.A.R. A disasterous fire in 1924 wiped out the largest portion of the business section of Main Street, with only a few buildings being spared.

The town, being bordered by Middle Creek on the west, and Clover Creek on the east, was often flooded during periods of heavy winter rains. A diversion ditch built in the 1950s, funnels extra water from Clover Creek over to Middle Creek, and with the levees on Middle Creek raised, the town no longer suffers from the flooding.


A subdivision was started in 1923-24 about 8 miles northwest of Middletown, and named WHISPERING PINES. A small store was started there in 1927, with a larger store building built in 1936-37. A post office was authorized in July 1935 and continued until 1962. In 1962 it was changed to a Rural Station, and it was run as a summer post office as a Contract Station out of Middletown. This was mainly a resort community and only consisted of a store, bar and cafe. The people of the community now go to Cobb for their mail.


Benjamin Burke discovered the springs in 1870, located on the western slope of what is now known as Bachelor Valley. In 1871 Burke sold them to Dexter Witter and W. P. Radcliff. By 1873 a 12 room hotel and 13 cabins had been built, and more rooms were added and more cabins built later. The mineral springs were touted as being therapeutic. The resort offered croquet, bowling, billiards, swimming and bathing, cards and dancing, with horses available for riding. In March 1873 the Witter's Springs post office opened inside the hotel, but was discontinued in May 1880. In 1901 the post office was started again, but the name was shortened to WITTER. In 1906 a grand new hotel was completed with the old one being torn down. The new hotel had 100 rooms and the veranda was a quarter mile long. There were huge fireplaces and the bedrooms opened onto the veranda on the outside. There were plans to erect a dance hall and 50 more cottages. It was a fabulous new resort. But, the earthquake in San Francisco stopped the flow of people and money to the Lake County resorts, and the Witter Springs resort failed. Eventually the furnishing and fixtures were removed and sold and the building razed. (It was one of the very few Lake County Mineral Springs resorts that was not lost to fire).
The post office was moved out of the resort in May 1913 to the Witter Springs store in Bachelor Valley and the name was returned to the original WITTER SPRINGS. The post office remained there as full post office until May 1979, when it was changed to a contracted Community Post Office. This ran until January 1984 and the post office was closed. The residents now get their mail by mail carrier through Upper Lake


14 miles north of Monticello at the upper end of Berryessa Valley there were sulphur springs that were named ZEM ZEM, which is supposed to mean "healing waters". In 1867 it became a resort area with a small hotel. In December 1869 a post office was opened and at the time, was in Lake County. But in a boundry adjustment in 1872, ZEM ZEM became a part of Napa County. The post office continued until October 1890.


by Dean Enderlin, 2001, Our Place in Local History, Part IV: The Waters of Zem Zem, in "The Gold Piece" Homestake McLaughlin mine newsletter (Debbie Aber, editor), First Quarter 2001, p. 1.

About eight miles southeast of the McLaughlin mine is Zem Zem Spring and a creek called Zim Zim (a misspelling). The site lies near the extreme south end of the Knoxville Ranch that Homestake sold last year to the Department of Fish & Game. The spring is located on private property just south of the Knoxville Ranch. One can't help but wonder how such a spot in this remote part of Napa County should come by so peculiar a name! Not to worry. Your friendly neighborhood historian has once again dug into his dusty notes to solve the mystery! The hotel had been built by Smith and Holman sometime prior to 1865, to accommodate the traffic in the developing mining region. It was a convenient stopping point for travelers, freight teamsters and mail carriers, especially during high water when the numerous creek crossings between Monticello and Knoxville became treacherous. It was also a convenient watering hole for the stage route that once ran up the canyon from Monticello to Knoxville.
Imagine the wild ride the passengers must have had as T. S. Scribner and Tom Montgomery (the first stage drivers) cracked their whips at their six-horse teams as they galloped over the bumps and bends of the old Knoxville-Berryessa Road! As one old timer put it, the stage was "a-rarin' up afore and a-kickin' up behind" and "swinging dizzily from side to side," as it crossed the rocky creek crossings! It's a bumpy ride even in modern times, much less in an old-fashioned stagecoach!
The squatter's rights to the Sulphur Springs Hotel were purchased around 1865 by Lee Owen, a California pioneer who crossed the plains in 1849-50. Owen had originally settled in California along the Tuolumne River, in what is now French Camp. There, Lee and his brother and father established a trading post. In 1852, the family moved to Solano County, where they engaged in farming on 100 acres in the old Armijo Grant. After a crop failure in 1864, the family moved to the Sulphur Springs Hotel.
Sulphur Springs was located at the confluence of two creeks. The western branch, now called Zim Zim Creek, extended up into a sloping grassy meadow called the "Nevada Openings."
For some unknown reason, the name of the openings was not pronounced like the state, but was instead pronounced nah-vey'-dah, with the middle syllable rhyming with "day." Old accounts also refer to the area as the "Vada" (Vey'-dah) District. The eastern creek branch was known as Eticuera Creek (called Knoxville Creek above the confluence with Long Canyon).
Lee Owen sold the hotel in 1867, due to the illness of his wife, and moved into a nearby cottage. The new owner was Lee's brother, Cal Owen, who developed the hotel to its full potential, complete with post office. The Sulphur Springs Hotel was a pretentious building for its day, built with studs and shiplap.
So, where did the Zim Zim name come from? As stated previously, the correct name is Zem Zem. The name was given to the sulphur spring that emerged on a small flat above the creek channel. It was reached at high water by a bridge, and by summer across a gravel bar. The spring box was shaded by willows and fashioned out of red brick about six feet deep and four feet square, with a lead pipe carrying the overflow to the creek.
Legend has it that a visitor to the site tasted the water and exclaimed, "This water tastes like waters of the sacred well of Zem Zem!" The name stuck, and the hotel and spring soon adopted the name of Zem Zem.
The true Zem Zem is one of the most holy of Islamic sites. It lies near the Kaaba (the "cube"), the ancient and sacred Black Stone (thought to be a meteorite) housed within the Great Mosque at Mecca. Like the Kaaba, Zem Zem is an essential stop for Mohammedan pilgrims making their "Haj" to Mecca. To visit Mecca, kiss the Kaaba and partake of the waters of Zem Zem is the goal of each pilgrim. It is said that the water of Zem Zem possesses magical powers of memory, and that to drink the water is to drink to the memory of Ishmael, son of the ancient patriarch, Abraham.
The comparison of our Zem Zem sulphur spring with the sacred well was not entirely complementary! The brackish waters of the sacred well are said to have a very unpleasant taste. In 1680, Jos. Pitts wrote that pilgrims to the well "drink of it unreasonably; by which means they are not only much purged, but their flesh breaks out oil in pimples; and this they call the purging of their spiritual corruptions." Burton, another writer on the subject, was a bit more detailed in his description, stating, "To my taste, it was a salt-bitter which was exceedingly disagreeable." He also noted that it is "apt to cause diarrhea and boils, and I never saw a stranger drink it without a wry face… the flavour of salt-bitter, much resembling an infusion of a tea-spoonful of Epsom salts in a large tumbler of tepid water. Moreover, it is exceedingly 'heavy' to the taste."
The canyon extending southward from Knoxville to Berryessa Valley was known as Sulphur Springs Canyon as early as the 1850's. Zem Zem Spring is only one of a number of mineral springs that emerge along the trend, and sulfurous odors are not at all uncommon.
Reflecting on the comments of a newspaper reporter in December 1872, one might believe that the comparison to the well at Mecca was not entirely undeserved:
Fortunate did we consider ourself on reaching Zem Zem, a locality alike famous for its Sulphur Springs and its 'correspondent.' Here before a wood fire kindly stirred up to its most heating mood by the kind P. M. we gradually thawed and became warm. We drank tepid water here from the Spring that put us lively in mind of a very dirty gun barrel, and in one dipperful, consumed sulphur enough to make us think of stale eggs all day.
There is more to the history of Zem Zem Spring than just the water. In the late 1800's, the Glade Gold & Silver Mining Company organized to mine for gold in the nearby canyons. But, that's another story for a future edition of The Gold Piece!

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Last Updated 01/03/2017

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