Cultural institutions in San Francisco continually search for new acquisitions. Alexis Coe brings you the most important, often wondrous, sometimes bizarre, and occasionally downright vexing finds each week.
George Yount didn't seek out adventure, but he certainly didn't resist it. He had fought in the War of 1812 and the Indian Wars, and by 1826, he had left Missouri on bad terms after a business deal gone sour. He moved his wife and three children to New Mexico and devoted himself to fur trapping in earnest, but by 1831 he was restless.
Rumor had it that the cowboy William Wolfskill was going to risk life and limb to seek his fortune out West, and he soon found himself hunting sea otters off the Santa Barbara Channel Islands. Wolfskill saw promise in southern California, where he successfully hybridized the Valencia orange, but the north was calling to Yount. He traded in trapping for carpentry, and earned the favor of General Mariana Vallejo in Sonoma, who helped him procure a land grant. This made Yount the first permanent Euro-American settler of the Napa Valley, and he took to Rancho Caymus, which would be posthumously renamed in his honor. More »