St. John the Baptist Catholic church Established 1858
Celebrating ministry and service to the Napa Community since 1858
The blending of cultures has been an important part of our history. St. John’s today is a reflection of the many faces of God in the people of our community. We celebrate all of those who have contributed to our history and the many blessings of our community. Generation after generation of families have come to St. John’s sharing their gifts from God. We rejoice in thanksgiving for our heritage for we are proud to be Catholic and proud to be a part of a presence in Napa since 1858.
On September 28, 1856 local Napa merchant George N. Cornwell donated a lot on the corner of Main and Caymus Streets to the Catholics of Napa to build their first church here. Like their early Christian predecessors, the Catholic community in Napa had been holding their services in makeshift locations such as their homes, the front parlor of Mrs. Margaret McInerney’s boarding house on South Main Street, a warehouse next door belonging to John Truebody and a hall on the second floor of a building on the southwest corner of Main and First Streets.
A small but energetic church committee including Thomas Lynch, Patrick O’Connor and Nicholas Bastien, hired an architect by the name of Mr. Fairfield and contractor William Richmond to begin building a small brick church in 1858 at a cost of $4,862. Father James Largan, Pastor of Sonoma opened the baptismal and marriage books with the first entry dated October 1, 1858 recording the baptism of Marie Diffley O’Hagan. The church was dedicated by Bishop Joseph Sadoc Alemany on Sunday November 24, 1859. The first “priest-in-charge” was Fr. Rousche, assisted by Fr. Larkin
The church was finally completed in June 1860. Archbishop Alemany of San Francisco appointed the first resident Pastor, Fr. Peter Deyaert, who was assigned to cover Lake, Napa, Sonoma, and Solano Counties.
When Fr. Deyaert arrived the town of Napa was just over 10 years old and enjoying a booming economy based on the tanning, mining and lumber milling industries.
Fr. Deyaert visited all his districts on foot. Until 1865 the Napa Catholics had Mass only on alternate Sundays as the Pastor traveled to his other stations in turn. Then Sonoma and Suisun became separate and from then until 1887 the boundaries were Kelseyville to the Knoxville mine, to the boundary line of Yolo County, to the boundary line of Solano County, to Three Mile House on the Vallejo Road, to San Pablo Bay, and back to Kelseyville.
In 1866, Fr. Deyaert inherited some money from relatives and built a two-story six-room rectory, moving out of the three-room cottage at the rear of the church that had served him since his arrival. He also bought some acreage adjacent to the church on the corner of Main and Napa Streets intended as the future site of a school. Recorded in the name of Archbishop Alemany, this was Deyaert’s gift. He also bought an adjoining lot for himself on the corner of Main and Caymus Streets where he planted a vegetable garden.
In July 1881 a larger wood-frame church was built. Described in a Napa Valley Register article as a beautiful structure, purely gothic in architectural design with seven gothic arches spanning the interior, 28 stained glass windows and a stairway climbing up a tower to a gallery for the choir.
The old brick church was left standing until an 1898 earthquake damaged it beyond repair and it was torn down.
In 1962 St John’s became part of the new diocese of Santa Rosa under the direction of Bishop Leo Maher. In 1965 the church building was suffering from dry rot. By then it had served the Catholic community for 84 years!
A new church, an impressive contemporary church reflecting the vision of Vatican II and capable of seating 1,500 people was built on Napa St. This church in which we still worship today was dedicated on January 29, 1967.