Walters Springs

What would eventually become Walters Springs was discovered in the fall of 1871 by J. J. Walters. The land was purchased by a joint stock company but, a few years later, Walters was able to purchase the land he discovered in a joint venture with Supervisor J.W. Smittle of Berryessa. Overseen by Walters himself, the Springs consists of two springs situated in a canyon, 500 feet over the head of Pope Valley. Mrs. M Stafford, an early visitor to Walters Springs declared that, “judging from its natural advantages the Walter Springs are destined at no distant day to take a front rank among the celebrated mineral springs of Northern California.”

By 1879 the area was accessible by rail up to St. Helena, after which a wagon was necessary to navigate the remaining 15 miles over Howell Mountain. In 1881 the Springs was comprised of a bathhouse, dining room and six cottages. Walters also had plans to build a hotel and bottling house construction. Once the construction as finished guests at Walters Springs averaged 30 at a time and paid $8 per week to stay in the hotel, or $3 a week to rent one of the rustic cottages. Not limiting himself to tourists, Walters held 4th of July dances that also included youth from Pope Valley.

Management changed hands a few times before Walters Springs was leased to Gustav Walter & Co. for three years beginning in 1885 with the option to buy the property for $8,000. Gustav is credited with the discovery of additional springs on the 40-acre property which, according to the S.F. Figaro, were “bountiful, and three in number, each differing in ingredients from the others.” Visitors to Walters Springs claimed the waters cured dyspepsia, asthma, heart disease, rheumatism, indigestion, and kidney and liver complaints.  At this time, Gustav also began a major overhaul of bottling production, ordering state of the art equipment from the East coast. The following year bottled water from Walters Springs entered the market with the operation producing approximately 200 bottles per day.

In the early 1900’s Walters Springs was acquired by Henry and Vina Conner. The Conners, and eventually their three children Alice, George, and James, ran the resort with great success for nearly 40 years. Henry Conner imported and planted hundreds of trees to provide shade for the resort from the summer sun. Under the proprietorship of the Conners, the Springs flourished and was a favorite sport of Bay Area fireman and policemen.

Mabel Wise bought the Walters Springs area from the Conner family in the 1950’s. In 1981 developers wanted to buy the property in hopes of restoring it, although these plans never came to fruition. The resort at Walters Springs almost met its demise in 1993 when a fire, which may or may not have been deliberately set, began about a quarter-mile from the site. Over a hundred firemen from the California Fire Department, Angwin and Pope Valley volunteer fire departments, and the Konocti inmate hand crews battled the blaze that burned 90 acres of land. Fortunately, the firemen were able to deflect the flames and save the historic buildings that have been on the property for over a hundred years.