Saratoga, California

The rain poured in but it was not bad since it was during early Spring. We headed east near the Santa Cruz Mountains where the small town of Saratoga lies. There are a couple of historical landmarks in this area. The only thing I know about Saratoga is that it was where the actress, Olivia De Havilland used to live.

Olivia de Havilland as Melanie (Hamilton) Wilkes

She is best known as Melanie Hamilton from the movie, ”Gone with the Wind.” Anyways, it was nice to see the parking was plentiful but there was few people to be seen probably because of the rain. We first walked to the Saratoga Gate.

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Toll Gate

(Formerly Toll Gate, McCartysville, Bank Mills)

Anza exploring party passed through the Saratoga area March 25, 1776. Lumbering in the mountains, which began 1847 and continued many years, brought the first settlers 1850. Among other industries established were lime quarry 1850s, grist mill 1854, tannery 1863, paper mill 1868, and pasteboard mill 1870. Pacific Congress Springs, popular resort, 1866Ð1942. Pioneered in fruit industry. Blossom Festivals began in 1900.

Afterwards, we walked around the town looking at the small, old houses which was very nice and preserved very well. We walked around, wondering about the history of this town. Here is the history as stated on their website. The town actually started out as a sawmill.

Plantation style house

In 1848, William Campbell set up shop on the banks of what is now Saratoga Creek. His sawmill was destined to be the seed of a new community, but before he could complete it, gold was discovered at the western base of the Sierras, touching off the California Gold Rush and delaying Campbell’s plans.

Martin McCarty leased Campbell’s mill in 1850, and began improving access to the site by building a toll road. The new road made it easier to transport lumber, and encouraged the growth of industry in the area. Before long, the sawmill was joined by a tannery, furniture factory, and paper and flour mills. The community that grew up around them was known for short periods of time as Tollgate, McCartysville, and Bank Mills.”

We approached the museum by the highway. Unfortunately, it was closed. So we headed back to the car and drove around the town. Here is some more history:

“The settlement received a permanent name after residents discovered a mineral spring in the early 1860’s. The spring’s chemical content was quite similar to that of Congress Spring at Saratoga Springs in New York, and in 1865 the town was officially named Saratoga. Soon afterward, the Pacific Congress Springs resort hotel opened for business. The frontier town had suddenly become a resort destination.

At the same time, industry in Saratoga gradually gave way to fruit orchards and vineyards. From cherries and apricots to French prunes, Saratoga’s bountiful fruit harvests made it a popular trading post. In 1890, renowned winemaker Paul Masson opened his Mountain Winery in Saratoga, planting French champagne grapes in the rich California soil.

Local House

Saratoga’s identity continued to transform throughout the 1900’s, as orchards were replaced by homes and the palatial estates of the valley’s wealthy businessmen and politicians. One of the most impressive of these is Villa Montalvo, established in 1912 by United States Senator James Phelan, and now a hub for Saratoga’s art and music scene.

The valley’s shift towards suburban and urban living in the years after World War II cemented Saratoga’s status as a residential community and its reputation as an excellent place to live. In 1956, wary of potential annexation plans from San Jose, the residents of Saratoga voted to incorporate and establish their own City government.

Another traditional house

Saratoga is vastly different from the town that Campbell and McCarty started over 150 years ago, but it remains a thriving community. The industry and most of the orchards may be gone, but the city retains the character of a small town tucked away in the trees of the Santa Cruz Mountains.”

Madronia Cemetery

After driving around the town, we headed to our next destination, the Madronia Cemetery. We took a quick peek in the cemetery. Here is a bit of history about the place:

“Soon after the establishment the village had to face a problem that confronted every pioneer settlement across the land – the problem of their first death. In 1854 a young boy, C.B. Buckman, drowned while crossing Saratoga Creek. Because there was no established cemetery, the villagers buried him in an open area beyond the land owned by McCarty. With time, others were buried in the area also. The land was bought and the Madronia Cemetery Association was formed in 1863 to administer the cemetery.

One of its early mission is establish a system for recording new burials and plot ownership. In the years before the association was formed, burials were made with little effort to follow a prescribed order or establish any record, or has decaying wooden markers.

Over the years the Cemetery Association had two concerns, finance and upkeep.  A decision was made to fence the property. Because the association had no funds, several families paid in fence posts and lumber while others gave cash. The fence was built but the financial problems persisted. From time to time, subscription drives were held to raise funds for maintenance but reliable funding proved to be difficult.

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Selfie in Saratoga

Upkeep was an even more vexing problem. Individual families were responsible for maintaining grave sites. As years passed some families moved from the area and others died and left no survivors. Community workdays were held from time to time to clean the cemetery but maintenance remained a problem. In the 1890s an annual fee was instituted. Plot owners could choose between self-maintenance and paying a fee. In 1912 it was evident that the annual care fee could not be collected indefinitely. An optional perpetual care fee was instituted.


Jennie Farwell, a Cemetery Trustee and a member of a family with a long association with the Cemetery Association – her father and her brother served as Trustees before her – died in 1922. She willed the Cemetery $2000 “to be used as the Trustees see fit in fixing up and beautifying this cemetery.” Three hundred dollars was used immediately to improve recently purchased land. The remaining money was placed in the Permanent Care Fund.

In 1926 it was learned that the legislature had established authority to form a special district for cemetery operation. The Saratoga Cemetery District was formed in 1927 to administer the cemetery. While other pioneer cemeteries have faded into obscurity, Madronia Cemetery survived the problems of its early years and is now financially sound and will serve the needs of the Saratoga community well into the future.

Mountain Winery (Paul Masson Winery)


We went up the winding road which took us almost 15 to 20 minutes before we reached our destination. It was on top of a hill and the wind was cold and strong. The parking lot was empty and to our dismay, it was closed. Thus, we did the best we can by walking around and looking at the casks. Here is a brief history of the winery, which is as brief as our stay:


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On top of the hill

Premium wines and champagne have flowed continuously since 1852 from the winery that bears the name of Paul Masson, even during Prohibition under a special government license. Twice partially destroyed by earthquake and fire, the original sandstone walls still stand. The 12th-century Spanish Romanesque portal came around the Horn.

The rain started to drizzle again so we went back to our car and descended down the hills to our final destination, the nearby town of Los Gatos.

Links of the site for more information:

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Say Cheez!


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