J. P Munro-Fraser.

History of Solano County...and histories of its cities, towns...etc. .. online

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more fully brought to bear upon any consideration. Senator Anderson
found an extra sized louse on his pillow. On Monday morning he moved
a reconsideration of the bill. The alarm was sounded on every hand, and
at 2 P. M. on January 12, 1852, the Government and Legislature was find-



ing its way to Sacramento by way of the Carquinez Straits. Retribution
for Vallejo was at hand, however. On the 7th of March, 1852, a devast-
ating flood overwhelmed Sacramento, and where the Senators had before
feared contamination, they now feared drowning. The Legislature ad-
journed at Sacramento May 4, 1852, the next session to be held at Vallejo.
On January 3, 1853, the peripatetic Government met again at Vallejo,
whither the offices of State and a portion of the archives had been removed
in May. Once more the spirit of jealousy was rampant ; Sacramento could
not with any grace ask for its removal back thither ; but she, working with
Benicia, the Capital was once more on wheels and literally carted off to
the latter town for the remaining portion of the session, when a bill was
passed to fix the Capital of the State at Sacramento, and thereafter
clinched by large appropriations for building the present magnificent
Capitol in that town. The last sitting of the Legislature at Vallejo was
held on February 4, when it was resolved to meet at Benicia on the eleventh
of the month, the vote being concurred in as follows : Ayes — Messrs.
Baird, Denver, Estill, Hager, Hubbs, Hudspeth, Keene, Lind, Lott, Lyons,
McKibben, Roach, Smith, Snyder, Sprague, Wade, Wombough — 17.
Nays — Crabb, Cofforth, Foster, Gruwell, Ralston, Walkup — 6.

As has been remarked above, there is no reliable information in regard
to the exact date of the founding of a settlement, but with the advent of
the Legislature, affairs took a forward movement. In 1850 Captain Frank
Marryatt, the author of that most interesting work entitled " Mountains
and Molehills," who was a son of the famous nautical novelist, imported
some corrugated iron houses from Liverpool, in England, which he erected,
and at once found tenants for them. In the Fall of this year Mrs. Burns
built the first boarding-house, erecting it on the spot where it now stands,
on Georgia street, directly opposite the Post-office, while there were run up
about the same time the Virginia Hotel by Veeder, Social Hall by
Capt. Stewart, and Central Hotel by Major Wyatt.

The few buildings then comprised in the town were situated between
Pennsylvania street on the south, Georgia on the north, Sonoma on the
east, and the Bay on the west. The country is described as beautiful in
the extreme ; the rising grounds on every side were green with wild oats,
interspersed with flowers of the richest hue, resembling one vast sea when
stirred by the freshening breeze. To the right and left, on the hills and
in the hollows, the most luxuriant vegetation abounded, growing shoulder
high with a man on horseback, while here and there the path of rushing
cattle could be traced as they were driven away from a too close proximity
to the settlement. This, however, is certain, that in June, 1851, the
Vallejo House, then kept by Capt. Stewart, was in full blast, while it is be-
lieved that this gentleman was the first to build a house on the site of the
present city. During the following year it has been shown that the seat of



government was at Vallejo, and but few of those who followed its varied
fortunes found an abiding place there. The only information, therefore,
which has been procured having any semblance of authenticity is from the
month of December, 1852. Prior to this a family of the name of Swift
were located, but they left with the removal of the Government in 1853,
leaving behind Mr. and Mrs. Beegor, Major Wyatt and his wife, Mr. Os-
borne and wife, Mrs. Miller, Mr. and Mrs. Mann, Robert Brownlee and his
wife, Thomas Brownlee, his wife and son Alexander J., now City Clerk, who
was the first white child in the city, and a few unmarried men. These
were not what might be termed halcyon days. Affairs were in a most
primitive state. There was but one span of mules and a wagon, who
acknowledged one Lemuel Hazelton as the proud possessor ; he also kept
some goats, which in the exigencies of the culinary art became mutton
when served at table. The Legislature had left after its short-lived session
of eight days, the places of business had followed it, leaving Vallejo a
deserted village without a store. In the meantime a two-horse stage had
been established by "William Bryant between Benicia and Vallejo, by which
means the residents were wont to procure their domestic commodities,
while a small sloop made monthly trips to San Francisco, when other
necessaries were purchased. Moving about on horseback was, however, the
principal and most favorite mode of locomotion, for Macadam had not yet
cast his influence on the ways of the district. If there were no stores, how-
ever, the small community was well provided in the matter of stimulants, for
there were no less than three places where whisky was sold. At this time
the government of the city was vested in a Justice of the Peace and one
Constable, who held office by vote, and were elected to serve one term.
The former office was inaugurated in 1851-2, and filled by Major Hook,
while Aleck Forbes held the latter. In September, 1852, the first batch of
artisans arrived to commence the Dry Dock on Mare Island. This subject,
however, will be treated in the history of that place.

In December, 1852, there were in all about a dozen houses, including the
empty State offices. The Central hotel — the building is still standing, on
the corner of Main and Marin streets — was kept by Major Wyatt, while the
Vallejo House had passed into the hands of Major Burney, who had left
Mariposa county, and settled here. A portion of the frame- work and cor-
rugated iron roof of the former was among those imported by Frank Mar-

With the return of the Legislature a slight impetus was given to the pros-
perity of Vallejo, which only lasted as long as the Government remained.
Then was established the first dry-goods store, opened by Wetmore, and the
first grocers, kept by Dan Williams. With the departure of the Senate and
Assembly, people at once took themselves off to Benicia, many of the houses
being bodily removed to that place, leaving behind only two families — the


Brownlees — and some happy bachelors. Times were so dull, socially, that
the workmen would come across from the dock then building, to chat
by the hour with the only two ladies of which Vallejo could boast ; while
on their pa**t the many kindly offices granted were sure of receiving the
highest appreciation. In April, 1853, the first social event was received
with delight. The birth of Miss Delia Curtis was hailed with a heartiness
of wishes for the welfare of babe and parents only to be found among those
inured to hardships. This event was quickly followed by another source of
rejoicing in the first marriage, that of Mrs. Perkins to Henry Vanvalken-

On July 4, 1853, we find the first celebration of Independence Day, in
Vallejo, by a dinner at the Vallejo House, and bonfire. At the former there
sat down two ladies and eight gentlemen, Mrs. Robert and Thomas Brow-
lee, Captain Stewart, Squire Hook, Edward H. Rowe (elder), West Rowe,
Lemuel Hazleton, B. F. Osborne, with Robert and Thomas Brownlee. At
an early hour Captain Stewart had donned his full uniform and called on
all to celebrate the day with becoming ceremony. A few tar barrels had
been procured from the dry-dock and dragged up to the top of what is now
called Capitol hill ; a pile of brushwood was heaped up to an immense
height, and " lashings of whisky " had not been forgotten. At dark the
hill was ablaze, making the surrounding country as light as day. Success
to the Union was drank amidst much enthusiasm ; the glass and merry
song went round ; speeches were the order of the day, or rather night,
while intense loyalty gave place to noisy enthusiasm, to be replaced by
morbid toast making, until one by one the heroes who had braved so many
dangers sank to rest on the bosom of mother earth in a slumber which the
mighty Bourbon had invoked. In the fall of 1853 there arrived in Vallejo
Colonel Leslie, who was the first representative of the majesty of the law
who established himself in the city. It is reported that on one occasion,
shortly after his arrival, a Mr. Reid was out hunting, and, firing his gun,
the charge by mistake shattered the colonel's window and lodged in the
wall of the room wherein he lay in bed. In towering wrath he arose,
dressed, and remembering that he had somewhere been made a Justice of
the Peace, he effected the arrest of the culprit with his own hands, and in
turn formed himself into prosecuting attorney, jury, witness, and judge;
mulcted Reid in the sum of ten dollars ; but to what authority the fine
went was never divulged. This is the first record of judicial proceedings in
Vallejo. In October, 1853, we have intimation of the first birth of a boy in
the person of Robert Brownlee, junior, while death had commenced his havoc
by calling away one Joe Sparrow, a native of Virginia, where he left a
family. The medical pioneer of the city was Doctor Frisbie, who estab-
lished himself in 1851 ; but there was also a Doctor Davis, who practiced
shortly after ; while the first store where medicine was sold was opened by


Daniel Dodd. It will thus be seen that the little city was fast assuming
something like shape ; the different trades had been established. Ben Os-
borne had sometime before commenced working at his business of a carpen-
ter, while Thomas Browlee had opened a forge, where, like Vulcan of old, he
wielded his ponderous hammer. It is true that sugar and tea were hard to
obtain, and then at an exorbitant figure. Cabbages were sold at 30 cents per
head ; pork at 30 cents per pound ; eggs at 5 dollars per dozen ; milk at 50
cents a gallon ; and Major Burney, it is said, paid at Napa, whither he had
gone on a visit, as high as 16 dollars for a rooster and hen ; while for a
brace of cats he gave the same price, getting for their progeny a sum of 4
dollars each ; but if these prices prevailed fuel was cheap, for the shores of
the bay and straits were covered with drift-wood, which had come down
the Sacramento and other streams, and was to be had in any quantity
simply for the collecting. In this year Robert Brownlee purchased Major
Burney's farm, about two miles north of the city, near where the cemetery
of the Odd-Fellows and other associations is now inclosed, which in 1857 he
exchanged with land lying in another part of the county to General John
B. Frisbie. Cows at this time cost from 125 dollars each, and horses were
correspondingly high. The district swarmed with wild geese, which com-
mitted great depredations, as they do to-day, on the sown ground. Still,
notwithstanding their number, the price one fetched on being sold was 25

In 1853 General Vallejo disposed of a league of land, including the town
site, to Sam Purdy, Lieutenant-Governor of the State, James Wadsworth,
Martin E. Cooke, and General Denver, for the sum of thirty thousand dol-
lars. They in turn sold out a portion into lots for fifteen thousand dollars ;
but owing to the great revulsion in business which had set in and the con-
sequent failures of certain banks, the whole amount was never paid to the
original owner. General Frisbie, therefore, to smooth matters, returned
the fifteen thousand dollars, and agreed to accept a conveyance of the pro-
perty, which was done.

In the year 1854 the value of property rose considerably, owing to the
United States Government have taken possession of Mare Island, with the
intention of establishing a Navy Yard upon it. This of course gave a great
impetus to immigration ; land had to be taken in and surveyed (the different
dates of which will be given hereafter), and houses built for the accommo-
dation of the hundreds of workmen and their followers, who would find
employment in the yard. Affairs assumed a rosier hue ; for with this influx
of labor the circulation of money would be increased, while a life of pros-
perity might be looked for. It was a happy choice which sent Captain
David G. Farragut to assume command of the yard, in 1854. This year was
one of plenty for Vallejo.

On the last day of the year a heavy gale visited the city ; throughout


the night it blew with terrific violence ; the vessels in the harbor which had
arrived with dock stores dragged at their anchors, while the iron roof of
the Union hotel, on what is now Georgia street, close to the wharf, was
rolled up and driven to a distance of a block and a half, such Was the force
of the wind.

In 1855 we have mention of the first minister in the Reverend William
Willmott who was in charge of a circuit of the Methodist Body, and organ-
ized a church at Vallejo. Mrs. Farragut, the Misses Turner and others had
however formed a Sunday school which would appear to be the basis on
which Mr. Wilmott founded his congregation. In this year prosperity
would appear to have still attended Vallejo ; the tide of immigration which
had set in the previous year remained unimpeded ; a daily steamer looked
into the harbor on its way from San Francisco to Napa, while a postmaster
was appointed in the person of Eleazer Frisbie and mail matter could be
looked for with greater regularity, although in the prepostal days Whitmore
conducted the distribution of letters with commendable punctuality.
Colonel Leslie held the office of postmaster during the years when the legis-
lature sat in the city. On Thursday, November 22, 1855, the inaugural
number of the " Vallejo Bulletin " made its appearance as the first represen-
tative of the fourth estate in the city. It was published every Thursday
evening by A. J. Cox and E. B. Eaton, the latter being the editor, and con-
tains matter of varied interest, the first item being The Psalm of Life, by
Longfellow, the opening stanza of which would appear to be a grim satire
on the short-lived career of this periodical.

" Tell me not in mournful numbers
Life is but an empty dream ;
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem."

The Bulletin numbered exactly four pages of a size slightly larger than
legal foolscap. It consisted of six columns of original matter and reports
with three of advertisements, while the last page was occupied by clippings
from the most prominent exchanges of the old and new world. One article
is reproduced. Improvements in Town. — A fine substantial wharf is just
completed at the foot of Main street, which, we are informed, is built in a
manner that reflects great credit upon the contractors, Messrs. Morrison &
Bates. The wharf is about 250 feet in length and 25 feet in width with a
" T " 30x60 feet, capable of affording ample accommodations to the largest
class steamer. At low water there are about seven feet. It would not sur-
prise us to see, in a few months, this old and once principal street of the
town lined on either side with handsome buildings, as it is certainly a very
desirable locality for private residences. The United States Hotel, a large


and popular house, is near the wharf, and not far off is Capt. James War-
ner's elegant brick residence, the first of the kind erected in the
town. The public are mainly indebted for this valuable improvement
to Capt. Chas. J. Stewart, W. R. Woods, J. B. Frisbie and the Messrs.
Bromleys (Brownlees ?). From the advertisements we cull, that Daniel
Dodd kept a variety store on Georgia street next door to Doctor
Collins' office, where he offered fruits Protestant and Catholic prayer
books, powder, bibles, nuts and game bags. Frisbie & Rowe and
Wyatt & Co. had livery stables on York street. Here we find
the card of Pendleton Colston, District Attorney, Solano county,
office, adobe, lately occupied by Register of Land office, Benicia, while we
find the U. S. Mail between Vallejo and Benicia left the former place at 7
A. M. and 4 P. M. daily, and that the steamer " Guadaloupe," Captain Good-
rich, plyed from San Francisco to Vallejo and Napa via. Mare Island and
Suscol three times a week. The " Vallejo Bulletin " lived six weeks.

From the year 1855 matters can be said to have proceeded well for Val-
lejo ; the opening of the Mare Island Navy Yard was a source from which
much benefit was derived. In subsequent years the growth of the city was
healthy, and a better class of buildings, public as well as private, were
erected, and Vallejo promised to occupy the place on the coast which was
always predicted for it. In 1859 and '60, however, the incendiaries' hand
was at work, and many houses, which were the land-marks of by-gone days,
were destroyed, among them the State House. Progress, was, happily, the
watchword, however, and the former unpretentious edifices made way for
others of a more noble character, until there are some blocks in the city
which will bear favorable comparison with those in any other part of the
country. In 1857, Colonel Stockton, of San Francisco, made his appear-
ance, and formed a joint-stock company for establishing a telegraph line
between Vallej j and Benicia ; preliminaries being satisfactorily settled, the
line was in working order in the fall of the same year. In the spring of
1859 it was extended to Napa, and has ever since proved an inestimable
boon to the district. W. W. Chapman was the first operator ; but Chaiies
H. Hubbs, of Vallejo, was the first who actually manipulated the wires on
the new line.

For ten years the prospects of the city were steadily improving; many
houses of a more substantial character had given place to the earlier wooden
erections, until, in 1867, the " Vallejo Recorder " informs us : " There is not
a vacant cottage in town ; buildings are engaged two or three months before
the lease expires. There were five applications for one residence this week.
Lots 50x13 feet cost $200. Lumber is worth from $25 to $30 per thousand."
A sure sign of the prosperity of the times was evidenced by the establishment
of many Associations calculated to bring good to the public generally, his-
tories of which will be found further on ; and in that year the California


Pacific Railroad, from Vallejo to Sacramento, traversing the counties of
Solano and Sutter, was commenced. At this interesting epoch, Vallejo had
a population of some 3,000 ; but owing to the impetus given to labor of all
kinds, it doubled its numbers in two years after, the expectation being that
it would become a great entrepot for trade ; therefore, arrangements were
made for a large shipping business.

Prior to the year 1866, as has been remarked above, the peace, order
and good government of Vallejo had been invested in a Justice of the
Peace and a Constable ; on the 23rd of July of that year, however, a meet-
ing was held and duly organized, by the election of William C. Greaves,
President ; Eben Hilton, Treasurer ; William Aspenall, Secretary, with
Amos M. Currier, and S. G. Hilborn, as Town Attorneys, when ordinances
were passed, regulating the health and cleanliness of the town, and other-
wise providing for its government. In the following February an Act was
passed by the Legislature, incorporating the city within the limits ; " begin-
ning at the north-east corner of the present town of Vallejo, as recorded by
plan drawn in 1856, and running east 3,000 feet ; thence running south to
the water of the bay of Vallejo, or Napa river ; thence running up the
channel of said bay, or river, to a point west of the place of beginning ;
thence running east to place of beginning." The first Board meeting after
the incorporation of the city, was held on April 1, 1868, when the following
officers were elected: Trustees — A. Powell, President ; George W. Lee, H.
W. Snow ; Marshall, J. L. Likens ; Treasurer, J. E. Abbott ; Assessor, J. W.
Batchellor ; Receiver, C. W. Riley ; R. D. Hopkins ; Health Officer, Dr. L.
C. Frisbie ; Surveyor, E. H. Rowe. This year, though one wherein Vallejo
reached the proud distinction of having a charter of her own, it was one
not unattended by disaster. On the morning of February 18th, the Alpha
Block, one of the best and most substantial structures in the city, situated
on the south-east corner of Georgia and Santa Clara streets, and owned by
E. H. Sawyer, was destroyed by fire. The buildings stood on what was,
until this catastrophe, the business portion of the town, and consisted of
elegant brick buildings, and their destruction, at a loss of over $40,000, was
a sad blow to the interests of the city for a time. But yet another misfor-
tune visited Vallejo this year, namely, the shock of earthquake, which
nearly laid San Francisco level with the ground, on the 21st of October,
1868. Vallejo, however, escaped any great damage ; though one chimney
was laid low, many yards of plastering displaced, and such articles as
clocks, mirrors, and lamps broken. On Wednesday, the 24th of June, rail-
road communication between Vallejo and Fairfield, and Suisun, was inaugu-
rated by an excursion, wherein the Masonic Lodges took part, and it is also
to this year that the incorporation of a water company must be credited,
In looking back upon the year 1868, it must be put down as one of great
excitement to Vallejo, for General Vallejo's prophecy of this city of his be-


coming a great emporium for trade, was on the brink of realization ; eight-
een months before the town was comparatively small, and its trade and
intercourse with the outside world almost nil ; then the California Pacific
Railroad existed only on paper, and its ultimate construction was among
the probabilities only. True, the bare probability of such a road being
built, drew thousands to the spot, who had never seen the place before, and
for years had not even heard of it, save when mentioned in connection with
the Navy Yard. As the certainty of the construction of the road began to
be realized, Vallejo began to awake from a Rip Van Winkle sleep of fifteen
years, and to show signs of real life. Hotels, stores, shops and dwellings be-
gan to arise in every direction, and the old resumed an appearance of returning
youth. But the railroad had not yet been built, and it was soon found that
the little business awakened had been prematurely aroused, and began to
relapse into its former somnambulistic state. As the last spring opened,
however, the iron horse started from the water front and began to make its
way eastward, returning with well laden cars freighted with grain of the
rich and abundant harvests of Solano and Yolo ; while ships of foreign
flags bore it away to other climes ; and travelers from beyond the snow
mountains and from every part of the State, took part in the whirl of busi-
ness, and the future of Vallejo was thought to be secure beyond a perad-
venture. Alas ! that this success should have been so short-lived ! ! !

On the 13th day of November, 1868, the second Board of Trustees was
organized under Philip Mager, President, Henry Connolly, and Edward
McGettigan, Trustees ; Lyman Leslie, City Recorder ; George Edgar, City
Marshal ; J. E. Abbott, City Treasurer ; Elisha Whiting, City Assessor ;
Paul K. Hubbs, Clerk ; A. H. Gunning, City Surveyor, and L. C. Frisbie,
Health Officer.

For the next few years affairs progressed right merrily. The propriety
of erecting street railroads was early mooted, for which a franchise was
granted in February. A steamer was put on the line to San Francisco,
plying twice a day, in connection with the cars ; while a grain elevator was
being built. This edifice afterwards fell in 1872, from the want of proper
foundations. Vallejo boasted five schools, which were said to be filled with
scholars ; a large flour mill had been started, and the city fathers looked
after the interests invested in them.

On the morning of the 7th of November, 1871, Vallejo was again visited
by a destructive five which desolated one of the principal blocks in the city.
The fire broke out under the saloon of John O'Sullivan, on Virginia street,
and, from information gained at the time, there is but little doubt that it
was caused by the blackened hand of the incendiary. The damage was

Online LibraryJ. P Munro-FraserHistory of Solano County...and histories of its cities, towns...etc. .. → online text (page 22 of 57)