1852-1859, Building toward investment
Originating from Vermont, David Fulton sailed out of New York aboard the INO and around the horn to arrive in San Francisco, July 12, 1852. A few weeks later he arrived in Napa Valley looking for work and a chance to make a good livelihood. At that time there were a mere seven homes in the northern part of the valley. Not succumbing to gold fever, he found work in the vineyards owned by the Edward Turner Bale family. He, together with Florentine Kellogg, drove wagons of grapes to Nevada City where they sold fruit to miners for 50 cents a pound.
Besides viticulture Fulton had other endeavors: businessman, benefactor, trustee, inventor and town visionary.
In 1857 he became an original trustee of the town’s first church. Thirteen years later (1870) the church property was placed on the auction block for failure of the congregation to pay their tax debt. Fulton and trustee John Cyrus were called upon to help the congregation settle their tax debt. Five years later (1875), the church became the regular meeting place of St. Helena Viticultural Club.
Six years after first arriving in Napa Valley (1858), Fulton purchased a lot from Hiram Lauderbach, erected a store-front building and started the area’s first saddlery. That year, he planted behind his store a small experimental vineyard. It was the first one planted within town limits. In 1859, Mission cuttings were taken from this vineyard by the next owner of the store, Dr. Isaac Parry. It was to provide Dr. George Belden Crane the means to start his vineyard which, incidentally, was located on the site occupied today by the St. Helena High School. Fulton’s saddlery was located on the county road (now 1230 Main Street) near the corner of Hunt Avenue in a constellation of business and homes that would later become, in 1876, the incorporated town of St. Helena. The store and lot vineyard was sold a year later to Dr. Parry in order to finance the next venture, a 40-acre parcel Fulton would turn into a vineyard and wine cellar. The main street lot continued to be sold several times over until in 1882, the once saddle shop would serve as the Wells Fargo & Co.’s express office. It remains today (2009) as the oldest standing building in downtown St. Helena.