Click Here to Print This Story!   Click Here to get a PDF Copy of this Story!   

Sunday, February 28, 1982

Some Foundations

Ernest D. Wichels

We’ve previously written in detail of how this area has spawned several institutions of statewide importance.

For instance, in 1884 Mrs. Leland Stanford (her husband founded the University of that. name) and Mrs. Chancellor Hartson of the pioneer Napa family, directors of the Vallejo Land Co., established a home for mentally retarded children. The land company at that time owned the Vallejo White Sulphur Springs and some dozen buildings located there. The White Suphur Springs is now called “Blue Rock.”

Because of difficulty in obtaining and retaining competent employees “so far from civilization” the springs were an hour’s drive by horse stage from Vallejo, the railroad and the ferries, and during rainy seasons the road was impassable Mrs. Stanford moved the children’s home to Santa Clara two years later.

In, 1891 the home was moved again, this time to Glen Ellen in the Valley of the Moon. And today it is an immense establishment, called the California State Hospital of Glen Ellen.  Likewise, back in 1852 the Young Ladies’ Seminary was established in neighboring Benicia. It flourished as one of the state’s leading girls schools. In the 1860s it was purchased by Dr. and Mrs. C.T. Mills, and reporters who covered the graduation events for Vallejo papers also referred to it as the “Female Seminary” and the “Mills School.”

About 1875 it was moved to a rural area east of Oakland called “Seminary Hill” and there it is today, world-famous Mills College.  But it will be most interesting to many Napa readers to learn another institution that began here and likewise is now world famous.

In north Napa just south of Pueblo Avenue, the Napa Collegiate Institute was opened on a 5-acre campus in 1860 by A.H. Hamm. It was financed initially by $100 subscriptions pledged by Napa citizens.  It was a palatial school building three stories in height, with a balcony completely around the four sides on the second and’ third floors, and a cupola on top.  It had financial problems (as they do today) and in 1870 it was rescued by George Fellows.

After amassing a fortune in the gold mines around the Middle ‘Yuba River, Fellows came to Napa about 1862 and supervised the building of the Methodist Church, paying for most of the cost himself.  In 1870 he joined with other citizens to rescue the Collegiate Institute. By 1881 it had 1,600 students, and specialized in a “complete scientific, literary and classical education.”  Now we go briefly to Santa Clara where in 1852 the California Wesleyan College was chartered by the state, with 54 students en-rolled.

In the meantime the Napa Collegiate Institute, also operated by the Methodists as was the Wesleyan school, found there were financial difficulties in operating parallel schools within 100 miles of each other.  The two schools then combined, with Dr. Beard of Napa as president. In 1896 the Napa Institute closed, the buildings were dismantled, and all equipment moved to Santa Clara. Napa’s Methodist minister, Dr. Eli McGlish, became president.

In 1908 a Dr. Wesley Guth took over, and it was then that the name was changed to College of the Pacific.  Dr. Tully.C. Knoles, known to most of our senior citizens, became president in 1919, and this was the beginning of a new era for the school.  In 1922-23 the college was moved from Santa Clara to Stockton. Most of us are aware of the tremendous progress since that time.  In 1946 Dr. Eobert Burns, who had been an assistant to Dr. Knoles, became president and served until his untimely death early in 1971. He was widely known in Solano County, and for many consecutive years he was the principal speaker at the annual dinner meetings of the Solano County Historical Society.

It was during his regime that this one of the oldest schools in California became the University. of the Pacific. Let us not forget that one of its roots began right here in Napa city.  Today the University of the Pacific is ably administered by another well-known friend of Solanoans Stanley E. McCaffrey. This year Stan McCaffrey is serving as president of Rotary International, a worldwide organization dedicated to peace and nearly 1 million strong.  Perhaps one of the great names associated with both the Napa Collegiate lnstitute and the University of the Pacific was that of the late Dr. Rockwell D. Hunt, named “Mr. California” by an act of the state legislature.

Hunt graduated from the Napa Institute in 1890, taught there, went to John Hopkins for his doctorate, returned to Napa to teach until it closed, then taught at USC for 37 years, and returned to his alma mater at the University of the Pacific in Stockton. He held the title of president emeritus of Pacific. He also served as president of the California Conference of Historical Societies.