He lost his wife, his morals, his money and died forgotten and alone. But Sam Brannan will always be immortalized for naming the town of Calistoga … which turned out to be another one of his many drunken mistakes.
Sam Brannan was a larger-than-life figure in San Francisco affairs: prospector, organizer, leader and one of the wealthiest men of the 1850s. So wealthy in fact that he bought land in Napa Valley with the notion of creating a resort spa. The mineral, hot springs of this area rivaled those Saratoga Springs, New York. Brannan decided to build a spa here … a “Saratoga in California”.
But as the tales goes, Brannan was drunk at a dinner party and exclaimed that he was going to create “the Calistoga of Sarafornia!” However, some say he was drunk at the dedication day ceremonies and announced that the spa and surrounding area would be known as “Calistoga, Sarafornia!”