A Physical History of the To-Kalon Region

The ownership of the To-Kalon Vineyard is divided into four major eras: H.W. Crabb (1868-1899), Churchill family (1899-1943), Martin Stelling Jr. (1943-1950), and the modern era with various owners (1950-present). The following timeline indicates key dates during the Crabb era (1868-1899) and Churchill era (1899-1943) when the estate was operated as  To-Kalon.

1865

H.W. Crabb moves from Alameda County to Napa Valley. (1)

1868

Crabb purchases a 240-acre parcel from Eugene L. Sullivan. (2)

1872

Crabb builds a winery named Hermosa within his 240-acre estate and begins making wine. (3)

1876

This map depicts the estate under H.W. Crabb’s management in 1876. Shortly after this map was drawn in 1879, he also acquired the adjacent 119-acre parcel from the Yount family, increasing his estate to 359 acres in total. 


Crabb acquires a 56-acre parcel from S.D. Cary on June 9, 1876 and sells it to Thomas and Elizabeth Penlington on July 18, 1876. (4)

1879

Crabb buys a 119-acre parcel from Eliza G. Yount. He now owns 359 acres. (5)

1881

This map, drawn in 1881, shows H.W. Crabb’s estate covering the recently expanded area to the south marked in yellow. Five years later, H.W. Crabb christened his estate “To-Kalon", thereby abandoning the moniker “Hermosa.” As he confidently explained to journalist Frona Eunice Wait, “the name To Kalon is Greek and means the highest beauty, or the highest good." This was when 
To-Kalon as we now know it was first officially established.

1886

Crabb names his estate To-Kalon. (6)

1889

Crabb buys the 168-acre parcel previously owned by William Baldridge. (7)  To-Kalon estate now encompasses 527 acres.

1891

Crabb buys the adjacent Davis property and sells it back to the family the following week.

According to archival documents:
- On November 14, 1887, John C. Davis dies.(8) His wife Margarethe 
N. Davis becomes administrator of the family estate following his death.

- In October 1889, Horace A. Crabb (son of H.W. Crabb) marries Daisy Davis (daughter of John C. and Margarethe N. Davis). (9)

- On November 16, 1891, H.W. Crabb buys the Davis estate for $15,000 at auction. (10)

- On November 23, 1891, Crabb sells it back to Margarethe N. Davis via a $5,000 mortgage. (11)

- On January 25, 1893, Crabb files a quitclaim deed for the Davis Mortgage. (12)

- On November 31, 1894, Margarethe N. Davis sells the property to A.L. Williams. (13)

1895

This map, drawn while the land was still under H.W. Crabb’s ownership in 1895 will clearly show his most recent acquisition to the south. The To-Kalon estate was expanded just six years previously to 527 acres in 1889 through the acquisition of a 168-acre parcel located to the south. The parcel was previously owned and cultivated by William Baldridge, who participated in the Bear Flag Revolt and Mexican-American War.

1899

Crabb passes away on March 3, 1899. (14)

The appraisal of Crabb’s To-Kalon estate includes 526 acres comprised of the 240-acre parcel purchased in 1868 (listed as 239 acres in the appraisal), the 119-acre parcel purchased in 1879, and
the 168-acre parcel purchased in 1889. (15)

On June 15, 1899, Crabb’s To-Kalon estate is sold at auction and purchased by the Churchill family. (16) The family continues to produce To-Kalon wine over the next four decades.

1901

On May 24, 1901, the Churchills expand the property slightly with the purchase of 8.25 acres from Adolph A. Cheignon and Marie Bellerive. (17)  (The addition to the To-Kalon estate is labeled as 8.5
acres in the 1915 Official Map of the County of Napa, California.)

1915

This map, drawn in 1915, depicts the estate during the Churchill Era. In 1903, the family continued Crabb’s experimental legacy by leasing a 20-acre experiment vineyard to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 1915, the land illustrated still covered the same 527 acres left by H.W. Crabb some 16 years earlier.

1920 - 1941

The Churchill family operates the To-Kalon winery as Bonded Winery No. 44 (d.b.a. To Kalon Vineyard Co.). They “manufacture, sell and export wines for other than beverage purposes” during
Prohibition (1920-1933) and resume bulk wine production following the ratification of the Twenty-First Amendment. The winery is destroyed in a fire in May 1939, and the family’s permit to operate
a bonded winery is cancelled in 1941. (18)

1943

In July 1943, Martin Stelling Jr. buys the To-Kalon estate from the Churchill family. (In March 1944, Stelling acquires the adjacent 1,700-acre McGill ranch, which included the Far Niente winery and
the Davis estate.)19 He dies in a car accident in 1950. (20)

Sources:
(1) Charles L. Sullivan, Napa Wine: A History, 2d ed. (San Francisco: The Wine Appreciation Guild, 2008), 43.
(2) Recorded document, Book DK, Page 312, on file at the Napa County Recorder’s Office.
(3) Sullivan, Napa Wine, 43.
(4)  Recorded documents, Book DV, Page 256 and Book DV, Page 323, on file at the Napa County Recorder’s Office. Other minor land transactions include a 0.33-acre parcel between 1868 and 1875 and land for the Oakville school in 1870.
(5) Recorded document, Book D29, Page 112, on file at the Napa County Recorder’s Office. The document is executed by both parties on October 20, 1879 and was recorded on March 2, 1881.
(6) “Viticultural,” St. Helena Star, August 6, 1886.
(7) Recorded document, Book D81, Page 284, on file at the Napa County Recorder’s Office.
(8) “Bled to Death,” Daily Alta California, November 15, 1887.
(9) “Crabb-Davis,” St. Helena Star, October 11, 1889.
(10) Recorded document, Book D48, Page 351, on file at the Napa County Recorder’s Office.
(11) Recorded document, Book D50, Page 133, on file at the Napa County Recorder’s Office.
(12) Recorded document, Book D51, Page 164, on file at the Napa County Recorder’s Office.
(13) Recorded document, Book D54, Page 182, on file at the Napa County Recorder’s Office.
(14) “Master of To Kalon Ranch Passes Away,” San Francisco Call, March 4, 1899.
(15) “Inventory and Appraisement, Probate, in the Matter of the Estate of Hamilton W. Crabb, Deceased, In the Superior Court of the County of Napa, State of California,” in Hamilton W. Crabb, Probate Records, 1899, in California Wills and Probate Records, 1850-1953, accessed via Ancestry.com.
(16) Recorded document, Book D65, Page 41, on file at the Napa County Recorder’s Office.
(17) Recorded document, Book D71, Page 364, on file at the Napa County Recorder’s Office.
(18) Collection of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms on California Wineries, Collection No. D-140, Box 72, University of California, Davis Library, Special Collections; James T. Lapsley, Bottled Poetry: Napa Winemaking from Prohibition to the Modern Era (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), 32-33; Sullivan, Napa Wine, 211.
(19) Lapsley, Bottled Poetry, 128.
(20) “Funeral Services Today for Martin Stelling Jr.” San Francisco Chronicle, May 8, 1950.
Vintner, Jeremy Nickel's  "History of To-Kalon"
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