The Weekly Calistogan has a nicely researched story about an inn in St. Helena, Calif., called the Ambrose Bierce House. The author of “Incident at Owl Creek Bridge” and The Devil’s Dictionary moved there in the 1880s in the hopes that the Northern California air would help cure his asthma. By all accounts Bierce wasn’t a fan of the place, and it was certainly a rough patch for him and his family:
Relations between Bierce and his wife became strained — he was famous for his relationships with women, and for his strongly unforgiving nature where others’ trespasses against him, real and imaginary, were concerned. When Mollie became the object of a Danish businessman’s overtures and Bierce discovered the Dane’s letters to Mollie, he severed their relationship. They separated informally in 1888.
In the meantime, Bierce’s eldest son, Day, ran off to Red Bluff, and later to Chico, while still in his teens, to become a newspaper reporter. At 17, he died after a duel with a friend. In 1901, Bierce’s son, Leigh, also a newspaper reporter, died in New York City of pneumonia, apparently brought on by alcoholism. His body was also returned to St. Helena. Bierce’s long-suffering wife, Mollie finally filed for divorce in 1905 and died a few months later.
Not that Bierce was apparently spending much time in the house per se.
“I’ve heard that he was pretty much up in Angwin, visiting his girlfriends,” says Lisa Runnels, co-owner of the inn.