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Primary Sources on Napa Valley History

This guide provides a starting place for researchers interested in people, places, and events related to Napa Valley History. The collections linked here contain primary sources that are appropriate for scholarly research.

Tips for searching PUC sources

The Archives & Special Collections at the Nelson Memorial Library exist to acquire, preserve, and provide equal access to information resources relating to the history and development of Healdsburg College (1882-1908), Pacific Union College (1909-present), the town of Angwin and its immediate Napa County environs, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church and healthcare system in Northern California and the Pacific Rim. Researchers interested in one of these topics will find relevant collections at the Nelson Memorial Library. 

Most primary sources at the Nelson Memorial Library can be used in person by making an appointment with the Special Collections Librarian. The collections are usually described at a folder-level, often through an inventory list or Finding Aid which includes a broad collection summary and descriptions of the kinds of items housed in boxes or folders. Many of these lists or Finding Aids are available to look at online before an appointment is made. Some individual items or collections have been digitized, and links to search those digital collections are shared here. 

Manuscript collections

Manuscript archives include paper items created by businesses (such as Pacific Union College or St. Helena Hospital) or individuals (like faculty or students). Some collections contain documents of a personal nature such as letters, diaries, scrapbooks, research for books and articles, and drafts of books and articles. Collections created by businesses often include meeting minutes, correspondence, records, and ledgers. Ephemera such as advertisements, brochures for events or organizations, and travel memorabilia are also found in the PUC archives. Oversize collections include architectural renderings and plans of campus, maps of local areas, posters, and certificates.

Image collections

The over 20,000 images available in the PUC archives range from glass plate negatives and lantern slides to photographic prints and digital photographs. Researchers may view the earliest photographs that date from the 1880s to digital images taken this year; however, most images in the collection date from the 1910s to the 1980s. These images are arranged by format (such as in the case of glass plates, slides, and oversized prints) and then by subject. A visit to the photo archives is in store for researchers who would like to see:

  • Old California resort hotels located on or near Howell Mountain
  • Local events such as parades, fundraisers, church services, and graduations
  • Howell Mountain businesses, agriculture, and buildings
  • Life in Angwin, particularly at Pacific Union College, such as fashion, food, and technology
  • Local reactions to historic events (for example: floods, World War I & II, Bruce Jenner's visit to PUC in the 1970s)
  • and more...


College and local area publications

The town of Angwin has no established newspaper, but many publications have reported Howell Mountain news over the years. Some of the best resources for local news history are listed here. They can provide a very local view on larger state or world events. The Campus Chronicle, PUC's student newspaper, covers 1925 to the present with particularly good detail, while the Angwin Reporter website provides a broader view of village news from the last decade. Try pairing articles in the Campus Chronicle with news stories from larger outlets like the Napa Valley Register, the Pacific Union Recorder, or other California newspapers available to search at the library. 

Books that are primary sources

These books from the Pacific Union College special collections either contain reproduced primary sources (such as photographs or letters) or are considered primary sources as they accurately capture Napa Valley history from the perspective of an era. This is a sample list. Many more relevant books are available in the library collection.