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The Napa Valley was once the home of a significant population of Indigenous People, those in the Calistoga area being called the Wappo. During the Spanish colonial era the Napa Valley was controlled by the Mission San Francisco de Solano. Following Mexican Independence, mission properties were secularized and disposed of by the Mexican government with much of the Napa Valley being partitioned into ranchos. The first American settlers began arriving in the 1840’s, with several taking up lands in the Calistoga area. Samuel Brannan was the leader of a settlement expedition on the ship Brooklyn landing in Yerba Buena (San Francisco) in 1846. He published San Francisco's first English language newspaper, the California Star. Following the discovery of gold in Sacramento, Brannan pursued many business ventures, which made him California’s first millionaire and became a leader in San Francisco's Committee of Vigilance. Fascinated by Calistoga’s natural hot springs, Brannan purchased more than 2,000 acres with the intent to develop a spa reminiscent of Saratoga in New York. His Hot Springs Resort Spa/Hotel located at what is now Indian Springs Resort, opened to California's rich and famous in 1862. In 1868 the Railroad was completed to Calistoga, (A large-scale diorama of this early Calistoga can be seen in the Sharpsteen Museum.) Calistoga's economy was based on mining (silver and mercury) agriculture (grapes, prunes and walnuts) and tourism as described by Robert Louis Stevenson, in Silverado Squatters.
Today, Calistoga remains a hot springs resort destination in the center of wine country and retains its charm of yesteryear with a walk able downtown much as it was when visitors arrived by train. Residents strive to retain their heritage and in 2001, the National Trust for Historic Preservation selected Calistoga as a Distinctive Destination.