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Maria Ygnacia Soberanes Bale

Oil on canvas, 14″ x 11″, unframed

Maria Ygnacia Soberanes Bale


Maria was a niece of Salvador Vallejo, commander of the Sonoma garrison during the height of the Mexican Pastoral Period. She enjoyed a busy social life in Sonoma. She married Edward Turner Bale around 1840. Her dowry consisted of 18,000 acres of the Upper Napa Valley, which was officially granted in 1841. They called it “Rancho Carne Humana.”

In 1846 American pioneers stormed the garrison. This “Bear Flag Revolt” and subsequent Mexican-American War changed everything. The Bales moved to a home south of today’s St. Helena. Edward died in 1849.

Maria’s relatives came to help with the ranch and her 6 children, but they could not fend off the scores of squatters who settled on her land. When lawyers came to challenge the validity of her property titles, she lost almost all her remaining real estate. She married a surveryer surnamed Peabody but did not live with him very long, if at all.

Mary Cyrus Nash with
William Fluston Nash

Oil on canvas, 11″ x 14″, unframed

Mary Cyrus Nash
with William Fluston Nash
Mary Cyrus’s family had lived in what was originally western North Carolina since just after the Revolutionary War. In 1796 the deeply forested terrain became part of the new state of Tennessee. With statehood came laws about land ownership.

This prompted an exodus of wilderness farmers like the Cyruses. They tried farming in Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri. Mary married William Nash in 1844. In 1846 they left with the Cyruses for California, which was still part of Mexico. Also in their wagon train was the Donner Party. William lost an eye during the ordeal.

The Nashes drove the first oxen over the Sierra. These draft animals brought them an immediate income. They bought land from the Bales and built a cabin near the Bale Mill. Mary died from complications of the birth of their 7th child.

Sarah Esther Chase Bourn

Oil on canvas, 11″ x 14″, unframed

Sarah Esther Chase Bourn, 1832-1919
Cornelius Vanderbilt owned the steamship and transit companies that conveyed Sarah across sea and land to the Pacific Coast in 1855. She traveled first class and loved the adventure. Her business man husband, William, became owner of the Empire Gold Mine, and Sarah continued to live a privileged life.

Seeking relief from San Francisco’s cold summers, Sarah was an early patron of White Sulphur Springs, the first resort in the West. Here she enjoyed warm waters, good food and a Napa Valley specialty: fine wine. William built her a home nearby.

Sarah had 4 children: Maud, Mage, Ida, and Will Jr. She ws widowed in 1874 when William Sr. accidentally shot himself. Afterward she divided her time between her San Francisco mansion and her St. Helena home, where she gardened and enjoyed nature. Will Jr. prospered. Sarah remained comfortable throughout her long life.

Lucinda Hudson York

Oil on canvas, 11″ x 14″, unframed

Lucinda Hudson York, 1823-1905
Lucinda’s family moved from Virginia to Tennessee to Missouri, where she was born. Both parents died in 1840 and she married John York in 1841.

She was one of the first white women to cross the Sierra which she did in 1845. She and John settled in what became St. Helena, working for the Bales in exchange for land.

She raised 10 children, ran the farm, cooked the meals, sewed the clothes, milked the cows, watched out for bears and enjoyed great prestige among her peers.

Lin Weber

For most of my life, painting was the road not taken. I’ve been a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist for more than 30 years and a historian and author for about 20. I’ve published eight books on various aspects of Napa Valley history, and one novel, and I do private historical research, including title searches.

What led me to art was a photograph I took one day of reeds in a pond back around 2005. The way the lines went reminded me of a modern abstract painting. So I bought some small inexpensive brushes, a 14” square canvas and a few acrylic paints. Not wanting to go overboard on the project, I only purchased a few colors, unwittingly creating what artists call a “limited palette:” a selection of hues that challenge the painter to emphasize tone and composition.

I drew a grid on the photograph and the same grid on the canvas and copied what I saw square by square, with a few small changes. I discovered that I could give the reeds dimensionality by varying the colors from dark to light, against the darkness of the pond water.  I saw that there was a tiny snake on one of the reeds, so I put him (or her) in too.

It didn’t occur to me to think of the meaning of the snake – evil to some, but in many ancient traditions a symbol of creativity, passion, rebirth and transformation, immortality and healing. The results amazed me. I immediately went out and bought more paints, brushes and canvasses and began taking photographs all around Napa Valley. I started with landscapes, but also painted fruit and vegetables, structures, animals and even people. Since I work full-time and couldn’t attend local art classes, I hired a consultant (Sheila Ticen, whose work I enjoy very much) to critique my work. This was exceedingly helpful, and representational art just poured out from my brushes. A year after I began, I sent some of my work to be juried by Open Studios and was accepted. I switched to oils and then to classic oil-based paints, which seem richer to me.

After about five years of this I decided that I’d progressed about as far as I could and would benefit from some outside instruction. I learned that UC Berkeley offered art classes through its extension in San Francisco on Saturdays. I took two classes there- one on color and one on mixed media. For the mixed media class I invented a technique for creating art with a combination of photographic equipment, my computer and painting.

In the meantime, I have continued with my MFT practice and my work as a professional historian. I paint whenever I can.