Abingdon, Virginia

Abingdon, Virginia

Napa Lodge #18, Instituted:

Napa Lodge #18, Instituted: November 26, 1853
Found at www.caioof.org

White Building

Found at Wikipedia

boats in harbor

Courtesy of Napa County Historical Society website

George William Hampton was born July 12, 1832, in Abingdon, Washington County in Virginia to William and Sarah Buchanan Hampton, who had married on August 31, 1828 according to the “Visit Abingdon” website. This town is located on what was known as the “Great Road” in the Blue Ridge Mountains, 133 miles southwest of Roanoke. Many pioneers traveled the “Great Road” to explore and settle the American frontier. The town of Abingdon had been established by an Act of the Assembly of Virginia in 1778 and it appears that the Hampton family history is embedded in this area of the United States. It also seems that George took out down that “Great Road” to do some exploring of his own sometime in the mid-nineteenth century.

Discovering Napa Valley and Finding His Life Partner

George Hampton ended up in Napa Valley, California. Whether that was his original intention or not is unknown. Possibly he took off to join all the rest of the “forty-niners” to stake his claim by being a part of the Gold Rush (1848-1855). After all, approximately 300,000 people landed in the vicinity of Coloma/Placerville by way of one of the overland trails eventually known as the California Trail or the Gila River Trail, or by sea. Did George’s efforts lead to great wealth, or did he earn little more than he had started with? That is unknown. It is known that he eventually made his way to Napa Valley where George Hampton joined the Napa Lodge No. 18 of the Odd Fellows in 1855, which places him in Napa at the end of the Gold Rush. 

Towns and cities in northern California were attracting those immigrants and Americans. There was the beauty of Lake Tahoe which became a popular vacation destination after the completion of the transcontinental railroad. Folsom was a place which was populated during the later days of the Gold Rush. San Francisco became the largest and most important population during and after the Gold Rush as it was a commercial, naval, and financial center in the American West. It became known as “Paris of the West”. Sacramento was breaking ground for the California State Capitol building. Movement by Americans to the west was encouraged by the U.S. Government which quickly arranged for California to become a state because of their knowledge of the gold discovery and the business opportunities for merchants and sea captains.

The notoriety of Napa was not well known in the mid 1850s. Nathan Coombs had laid out the original town site of Napa City in 1847. There was a river which flowed through the middle of this early town site which was a natural trade and transportation center for travelers and agricultural, commercial, and industrial goods. There was even a steamboat landing at the uppermost point of the navigable Napa River. 

The gold miners were said to spend their winters in Napa. The new town was a safe place for an assortment of people from Asia, Europe, and native Indians. The growth of this area was greatly influenced by the progress of stage, boat, and rail service. Remember that Napa River? Steamboats, most notably the Amelia, a 147-foot vessel, connected Napa with San Francisco between 1850 and 1870. The first commercial winery was established in Napa Valley and credited to Charles Krug in 1861.

According to the History of San Luis Obispo County and Environs, George W. Hampton was a tax collector in Napa County. He married Julia Hudson (born in 1839) in October 1866 in Napa County. However, this date may be inaccurate as an article from the “San Luis Obispo Telegram” in 1909 stated that the couple was celebrating their golden anniversary that year.

Life in San Luis Obispo County

The couple moved to San Luis Obispo in 1869 and made it their permanent home. Beginning in 1861 and continuing into the 1870s, stage lines transported passengers between San Francisco and San Luis Obispo. By 1880, the population of San Luis Obispo was the largest “city” among Monterey, Santa Barbara, and Bakersfield. It served as the regional market center for an isolated, agricultural area.

In 1869, there was only one dwelling south of the San Luis Creek and that was the Dallidet adobe amid its vineyards, owned by Pierre Hypolite Dallidet, a Frenchman who is celebrated as the first commercial winemaker in San Luis Obispo County. During the 1850s and 1860s Dallidet acquired land, built his adobe home, planted vineyards, and built a commercial winery.

Hampton, like Dallidet in those days, identified his profession as a carpenter by trade and contributed to many of the buildings in downtown San Luis Obispo. Once more, according to the History of San Luis Obispo County and Environs, Hampton, like Dallidet, was an influential member of various organizations in the city. 

old written paper
layout sketch

Louis Pasqual Dallidet, son of Pierre Dallidet, had drawn a map (above left) of the Dallidet vineyard 

and orchard plantings from a diary dated 1882. Patrick and Eleanor Brown with editorial assistance of Dan Krieger detailed this information in their paper of “The Diaries of Louis Pasqual Dallidet 1882-1884”.
Images of these items from WHP Archives.

By 1874, Hampton served on the Board of Supervisors for the city and in May of 1876 he was elected Chairman of the Board. He also served on the Board of Directors of the Odd Fellows Hall Association located on Higuera Street and was vice president of the Agricultural Society in 1875. He was a member of the Democratic County Central Committee and the Road Overseer in the county.

In the late 1870s, or early 1880s, many successful businessmen, merchants, politicians, and farmers lived and worked in California. George Hampton identified as an apt farmer. He purchased “80 acres of land adjoining Charles Johnson in the Stenner Creek Valley” and according to a “San Luis Obispo Tribune” article titled “A Poor Man’s Farm: The work of One Pair of Hands”, Hampton is described as “one of the county’s best horti- and viniculturist”. He farmed alfalfa, almonds, and various stone fruits. 

The most compelling part of the article is the section on the vineyard which was described as “two thousand vines, covering a little more than two acres.” In all likelihood, Hampton might have learned something about techniques for grape growing because he had lived in Napa for some time between the mid 1850s and early 1860s. In 1857, Hungarian Agoston Harazthy had bought cuttings he collected in Europe and brought them to his Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma. he established experimental gardens with other farmers of the area. 

Many grape varieties had been brought into California in the 1850s and 1860s by the nurserymen and sea captains who brought them from New England nurseries and growers on Long Island. The phylloxera epidemic in France also resulted in many European grape varieties being sent to French growers in California through the French consulate to plant these cuttings and protect the varieties from extinction. 

George Hampton came to San Luis Obispo County once the area had already proved itself. He possibly had met Andrew York’s brother in Napa who was a successful grower there and might have shared information with him regarding San Luis Obispo County. George planted nine varieties with profit in mind and included an impressive collection of European varieties which were known as good wine grapes:

Muscat of Alexandria
Chasselas Fontainebleau
Fiher Zagos
Black Malvoisia
Black Morocco
Rose of Peru
Flame Tokay
Early Victoria
Black Hamburg

white grapes

Muscat of Alexandria

purple grapes

Black Malvoisia

red grapes

 Flame Tokay

A map of other county vineyards in 1883 show that four of the varieties – Muscat of Alexandria, Black Malvoisie, Rose of Peru, and Black Hamburg – can be found in A.B. Hasbrouck’s vineyard in Arroyo Grande, Walter Murray of San Luis Obispo, and D.F. Newsom of White Springs. Were they getting these from the same outside sources or trading cuttings?

From a report published in 1891, “Directory of Grape Growers, Wine Makers and Distillers of California”, Hampton is recognized as having four acres dedicated to grape growing, all of them planted to wine grapes, He is listed as a winemaker for the first time. Because he was listed as a winemaker, we feel he was both selling his wine commercially and he was also licensed. All of the growers and winemakers were very friendly, sharing information and sourcing grapes and cuttings from one another and from commercial nurserymen including Mr. Newsome in Arroyo Grande. George Hampton was in the second wave of grape growers in San Luis Obispo County.  

By the time the Hampton’s were interviewed for the publication of a book written by Mrs. Annie Morrison and John Haydon in 1917, they were living in a home on Broad Street. George Hampton was 84 years old, and Julia Hampton was 77 years old. They had lived in San Luis Obispo for almost 50 years and had planted some of the earliest winegrapes in the county.