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Stevenson at Silverado

Robert Louis Stevenson met Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne at an artists' colony in September 1876 at the Hotel Chevillon, Grez-sur-Loing, a riverside village south-east of Paris, France. He was twenty-five, and she was thirty-six, an independent American 'new woman,' separated from her husband and with two children.

Stevenson's meeting with his future wife, Fanny, was to change the rest of his life. Two years later in 1879, Fanny decided to obtain a divorce from her philandering husband, Sam Osbourne. As a result, Stevenson set out from Edinburgh, Scotland for California determined to marry Fanny. While awaiting her divorce, he lived briefly in Monterey, San Francisco and Oakland, almost penniless and fighting critical illness.

Finally, on May 19, 1880, recently divorced Fanny Osbourne, of East Oakland, California, and Robert Louis Stevenson of Edinburgh, Scotland, were married in the rectory of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church on Post Street, San Francisco, by The Reverend Dr. William Anderson Scott. The name of the church was later changed to St. John's Presbyterian.

Stevenson had suffered from fibronous bronchitis since childhood, and the newly married couple were seeking a location from the summer fogs of San Francisco which were extremely damaging to Stevenson's sensitive lungs. Friends suggested Calistoga in the upper Napa Valley. Upon arrival at Calistoga, Robert Louis Stevenson and his bride registered at the Hot Springs Hotel. However, the cost of ten dollars per week per person for the cottage encouraged Stevenson to seek accommodations of a more modest nature. Through a local storekeeper, Morris Friedberg, the newlyweds were directed to an abandoned mining town named Silverado, on the shoulder of Mount St. Helena, over two thousand feet above the little hotsprings town. There the Stevensons moved into a deteriorating three-story bunkhouse.

For two months at Silverado, Robert Louis Stevenson found rest, fresh air and warm sunshine, contentment and rare health. He kept a diary, his 'Silverado Journal,' a meticulous record of his experiences which were incorporated into his famed Silverado Squatters (1883) written when he lived in Bournemouth, England. Many of his notes of the enchanting, almost primitive scenery around him later provided much of the descriptive detail for Treasure Island (1881-1882).

The Robert Louis Stevenson State Park now encompasses the site of the Stevensons' honeymoon stay. The entrance to Silverado is at the summit of Highway 29, eighteen miles from St. Helena, eight miles from Calistoga. A new and comfortable trail has been constructed in recent years, leading up through shady forest land, opening occasionally to magnificent prospects across the wild mountainous landscape of Lake County and down through the vineyards cupped within the bordering ranges of Napa Valley.

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