The first town to be settled near Dry Creek Valley was established by Harmon Heald, who came to the Russian River Valley in 1850. Discouraged in his search for gold in the Mother Lode region, he joined his brother Samuel, who had come to the area in 1849 to assist William J. March in the construction of his sawmill on Mill Creek. Shortly thereafter, in 1851, Heald built a cabin on the San Francisco to Northern Mines route, opening a store the following year. A post office was established in 1854, and three years later a larger store.
Heald bought up surrounding land, obtaining title when the Fitch claim was upheld, and in 1857 subdivided a town he named Healdsburg. Land was donated for a central park, a school, cemetery, and churches, and the remaining lots were sold for $15 each. The core of the town developed around the downtown plaza, with industrial complexes scattered on the outskirts. The town was incorporated in 1867, eight years after Heald’s death, and, with the arrival of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad in 1871, Healdsburg began to flourish as an agricultural exporting center (HCRI 1990:6; Hoover et al. 1990:482). As the center of a rapidly developing agricultural area, with rich soil and abundant water, Healdsburg has always been associated with the booms and busts of various agricultural enterprises and is directly related to their history (Figure 1). The history of the town of Healdsburg, however, has been recounted at length elsewhere (HCRI 1983, Healdsburg Museum and Historical Society 2005), and will only be discussed herein as it relates to the history of Dry Creek Valley.
One of the most important personages to reside in Healdsburg was Ellen G. (Harmon) White, one of the founders of the Seventh Day Adventist Church and its prophetess. The Adventist movement was officially organized in 1863, the same year that Ellen White began to advocate the benefits of a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet and abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, and other harmful drugs. She and her husband James, an Adventist minister, were leaders in the health reform movement, teachings that remain central to the belief of the Seventh Day Adventists today. She was the author of over 5,000 articles and 40 books, the most translated woman in literature.
First establishing the Health Reform Movement in Battle Creek Michigan, the Adventists soon decided to create an Adventist school in California. By 1869 a meeting house was constructed in Santa Rosa, and in 1871 a Seventh-Day Adventist Church was built in Healdsburg. In 1877, with James in ill health, the Whites purchased the former William Melton two-story vernacular Georgian style home at 1950 West Dry Creek Road, hoping that rural semi-retirement in the mild climate would restore his health. James, however, died in 1881 and Ellen and her son William became involved in establishing a Seventh Day Adventist college in Healdsburg.
In 1882, the Healdsburg Academy, a name later changed to Healdsburg College, was opened in the former Healdsburg Institute site on Plaza Street. That same year Ellen White purchased a home nearby at 201 Powell Avenue, her west coast home until she went to Australia in 1891. Here she completed some of her most important books. She returned to reside in St. Helena in 1900, where she died in 1915. In 1907 the school moved to a larger site in Angwin, Napa County, and the name changed to Pacific Union College (Hoods 2004:80-81; White 2000).