The upper end of Dry Creek Valley was always closer to Geyserville and those who lived there obtained their groceries and staples from that community; many of its pioneers are buried in the Olive Hill Cemetery on Canyon Road. The town developed due to its location near “The Geysers,” hot water jets and healing springs that welled up in the vicinity. Long known by the local Native Americans, they were “discovered” in April of 1847 by the pioneer hunter and trapper William B. Elliott while tracking a wounded bear. Upon his return to Sonoma, he declared he had been to the Gate of Hades.
The Geysers soon became a tourist attraction, and in 1854 Major Ewing built a canvas inn to serve the visitors (20 in the first year). A larger hotel, built from lumber sawn on the spot, was erected by James Mead in 1857-58. Many important visitors, including Mark Twain, Theodore Roosevelt, Ulysses S. Grant, and others visited its wonders and signed the guest book. The hotel burned in 1937 (Hoover et al. 1990:486).
First known as Clarville Station, the community that developed near the Geysers soon adopted the sobriquet “Geyserville” in their honor. Although the area had slumbered in the 1850s, in 1863 Clark Foss, a famous stage driver, opened a second stage coach line from Healdsburg to the Geysers. With the construction of the railroad to Calistoga in 1868, he opened another line to the resort and the hotel prospered.
From the latter 1860s to the early 1880s, the Geysers were a favorite destination of visitors to California. The hotel, although lacking in many amenities and in its cuisine, was nonetheless heavily visited. After 1877, William Forsyth took over the resort, built cottages for guests, and improved the menu. The town of Geyserville prospered, new luxurious homes were constructed, restaurants were established, and a newspaper, the Geyserville Gazette, was produced. At the turn of the 19th century, the community boasted a post office, store, saloon, hotel, and a blacksmith shop.
Agriculture soon became the dominant local industry, and grain crops, orchards, and vineyards were planted, while cattle roamed the hills. Although several wineries were established in the early years, prunes and pears were the dominant crop until the wine boom of the 1970s.