J. P Munro-Fraser.

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

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pose which its name denotes.

The Office Building. — This structure is of most elegant design, and
commands an imposing position on a knoll in the centre of the other con-
structions. It occupies a space of 130x50 feet; is of two stories in height, of
brick, with a cellar, used as a store room, boiler room, water closets, etc.
The first story is devoted to the offices of the Paymaster and clerks ; Exec-
utive officer; Naval Constructor, clerks, and draftsmen; Civil Engineer,
clerks, and draftsmen ; Assistant Naval Constructor and Post office. The
second story is occupied by the Commandant, clerks, printer, school room,
watchman, library, and court room, used temporarily as a chapel.

Marine Barracks: — Is a two-storied brick building of 500x40 feet, wherein
are the men's quarters, armory, store room, etc, as well as the residences of
the officers of that corps, the Commandant having a house in the reserva-
tion, which comprises an area of 24.68 acres, or thereabouts.

Yard Stables: — A two-storied brick building 150x40 feet, the upper
portion being used for the storage of grain, hay, etc., while the lower one is
divided into stables for mules and horses, cart sheds, etc.

Barn: — Is a wooden structure 150x40 feet.


Naval Hospital: — This noble structure is located on the southern part of
the island, near to and on a line with the Marine Barracks, and is a build-
ing worthy of a great government. It is 250 feet long, with an average
width of 30 feet, with wings and projections, three stories and an attic in
height, with Mansard roof. It is an imposing edifice of elegant design,
and, from its elevated position, can be seen afar off. The building is of
brick, of which one million and a half were required. The walls are of
great thickness, and the entire superstructure is of unusual solidity. It is
hard finished throughout, and the inside wood-work is of white pine. The
whole structure is arranged with special reference to the object to which it
is devoted, note having been made of all the recent improvement in this
regard, including an elevator, whereby patients and goods are raised and
lowered, with ease and comfort, from one part of the building to another.
Particular attention has been paid to light and ventilation. Water tanks
of large dimensions are placed upon the roof, and a cistern for rain water has
been built. In a word, it is all a first-class hospital building should be. To
it is attached a stable and gas house. The reservation, in which the hos-
pital buildings stand, occupies an area of about 31.21 acres.

In addition to these already-mentioned buildings, there are the officers
quarters, including the residence of the Commandant, all of which (five and
a half double and one single house) are built on a beautiful avenue some
distance back from the water front and parallel with it. They are a few
yards from the sidewalk and possess well laid out gardens in front of them ;
while on the outside of the walk there is a row of magnificent shade trees.
The rooms are spacious and have all the modern improvements, including
gas, bath-rooms, etc.

Among the other most prominent erections on the yard are the Bishop's
derrick, capable of raising forty tons; the railroad track, laid from the
foundry to the saw-mill, a distance of about 3,000 feet ; and the Kearsarge
column, on the capital of which stands the "fiddle," or figure-head of that
famous vessel, while there is a cemetery and light-house reservation, which
comprise 6.6o, and 4.89 acres respectively.

The following is a list of the naval, marine, and civil officers and attaches
of the Navy Yard and Station, Mare Island, on March 29, 1879: — Commo-
dore Edmund R. Calhoun, Commandant; Captain P. C. Johnson, Executive
Officer. Commandant's Office: — William R. Cox, Jr., Chief Clerk; C. W.
Mornington, Second Clerk; B. F. Calhoun, Writer. Department of Yards
and Docks: — Calvin Brown, Civil Engineer; E. A. Willats, Engineers' ami
Time Clerk; C. C. Hall, Store Clerk; Thomas O'Connor, Writer. Depart-
ment of Navigation: — Commander C. J. McDougal, Navigation Officer;
Lieutenant-commander, Charles H. Craven; Lieutenants, Leonard Chenery,
C. W. Christopher; Master, J. S. Abbott; Clerk, Wm, G. Overend. Depart-


ment of Ordnance: — Commander C. J. McDougal, Ordnance officer; Gun-
ner E. A. McDonald, in charge of magazine; E. J. Overend, Clerk. Depart-
ment of Construction and Repair: — Naval Constructor, George W. Much;
Assistant Naval Constructor, George F. Mallett; Constructors' and Time
Clerk, George W. Simonton; Store Clerk, John A. Day; Writers, John O.
Watkins, Herbert Mallett, N. B. Klink. Department of Steam Engineer-
ing: — Chief Engineer, M. Fletcher, in charge of department; Chief Engin-
eer, Geo. F. Kutz, in charge of stores; Passed Assistant Engineer, James
Entwistle; Engineers' and Time Clerk, A. L. Hathaway; Store Clerk, St.
Clair Fletcher. Department of Equipment and Recruiting: — Commander,
Louis Kempff, Equipment Officer; Boatswain, John Keating; Sailmaker,
Thomas 0. Fassett; Clerk, A. H. McCobb. Department of Provisions and
Clothing: — Paymaster, George Cochran; Paymaster's Clerk, Hobart Ber-
rien; Writer, Daniel Hubbard. Department of Paymaster of Yard: — Pay-
master, George E. Hendee; Paymaster's Clerk, L. T. Binder; Writer, G. S.
Gregson. Department of Medicine and Surgery — Naval Hospital: —
Medical Inspector, John M. Browne; Passed Assistant Surgeons, R. A. Mar-
mion, Hampton Aulick; Assistant Surgeon, C. H. H. Hall; Apothecary,
John G. Taylor: Navy Yard Surgeon, George W. Woods; Apothecary,
John R. Whittaker. Marine Barracks: — Major C. D. Hebb, U. S. M. C,
Commanding; First Lieutenants, 0. C. Berryman, H. G. Ellsworth; Second
Lieutenant, Andrew Stevenson. Receiving-ship Independence: — Captain
John Irwin, Commanding; Lieutenant-commander, Samuel S. Wilson; En-
sign, N. R. Usher; Mate, P. C. Van Buskirk; Passed Assistant Paymaster,
Fred C. Alley; Assistant Surgeon, D. O. Lewis; Paymaster's Clerk, John
A. Kelly; Boatswain, J. Harding; Gunner, Stephen Young.

There are at present the following vessels of the U. S. Navy In Ordinary
at the Yard, Mare Island: Sailing sloop-of-war "Cyane;" steam sloops-of-
war "Iroquois," (old) "Mohican," "Narragansett," "Nyack," "Saco," "Benicia,"
and the iron-clads "Monadnock," and " Comanche." In commission, are the
frigate "Independence," steam-tug "Monterey," and yard-schooner "Freda."
There have been built, and are now building, the U. S. side-wheel steamer
"Saginaw," and the steam sloop-of-war (new) "Mohican." The first of these
was constructed in the year 1859, and was of the following dimensions:
Register length, 158 feet; breadth, 26 feet; depth, 11.3 feet, and tonnage,
282 tons; she was wrecked on Ocean Island, in October, 1870. In refer-
ence to the loss of this vessel, the following interesting record, which is
attached to one of her boats, now suspended in the construction-store,
is produced: "Gig of the U. S. S. "Saginaw," which vessel was
wrecked on Ocean-island reef, Lat. 28 deg. 36 min. N., Long. 178 deg. 25
min. W., October 29, 1870. This boat was fitted out on Ocean Island,
manned by a crew of five, who volunteered to sail to Honolulu, distance
1,600 miles, for the purpose of saving their ship-mates. Sailed November


18, 1870, arrived off Kanai (one of the Haiwaiian group) evening of De-
cember 18, 1870; capsized morning of 19th of December, in surf, while
trying to land at Kalihi, Kdai, island of Kanai. Four of the five volun-
teers were drowned, viz.: Lieut. J. G. Talbot, drowned ; Seaman J. Andrews,
drowned; Quartermaster P. Francis, drowned; Seaman J. Muir, drowned;
Coxswain W. Halford, sole survivor." Halford, for his heroic conduct, was
promoted to the rank of Gunner in the Navy, and presented with a bronze
medal by the Government. He is now serving on board of the U. S.
S. "Lackawanna."

The steam-tug "Monterey," and schooner "Freda" were also built at Mare
Island. Besides these, the following ships have received large repairs there:
The sloop-of-war "St Mary's," paddle-wheel "Saranac," steam sloop-of-war
"Onipee," "Lackawanna," "Resaca," •'Kearsarge," "Pensacola," "Benicia,"
"Tuscarora," and "Iroquois." The vessels now attached to the Pacific station
are: "Pensacola," (fiag-ship), "Alaska," Jamestown," "Tuscarora," "Adams,"
with the store-ship "Onward" at Callao, Peru.

In the fore-going remarks mention has been made of the "Monadnock."
She now lies in honorable retirement in the straits at Mare Island, her sides
and turrets showing the marks of having been in many a hard-contested
fight prior to having made the risky journey around "The Horn." A new
"Monadnock" is now being built, a few remarks on which we append: The
"Monadnock," United States double-turretted monitor now in course of con-
struction at Vallejo, is an item of considerable historic interest to the county,
more especially in regard to its shipping interest. The Navy Department
at Washington having, for some reason best known to themselves, granted
the building of this craft to private individuals, under the plea that it could
be so done at a less cost than if built in any of their own yards, gave the
contract to Mr. Phineas Burgess, of Brooklyn, New York, to construct a ves-
sel to take the place of the old ship of the same name, bringing into use what-
soever portion of her gear as might be found suitable ; the work carried on
to be under the supervision of the Government Naval Inspector; Mr. Burgess
having as his representative Mr. Wm. W. Vanderbilt, for many years con-
nected with the service of the Pacific Mail Company, on this coast as well as
elsewhere. There were three separate contracts entered into : First, the
frames, deck-beams, etc., were to be erected by Mr. Burgess; second, the plat-
ing-contract, as it may be called, was to put on the inner and outer skin, com-
plete all bulkheads and the iron deck-plating; and third, to place the armor
and its backing, to remove the turrets from the old "Monadnock" and erect
them on the present ship ; to lay wooden berth and main decks, and other-
wise to complete the monitor for sea to the approval of the Government

The dimensions are as under: Length between perpendiculars, 250 feet;
length over all, 2G3.G feet; breadth moulded and lower side of armor shelf


55.0| feet; breadth, moulded abreast the armor, 50.8| feet; breadth, ex-
treme, over armor, 55.10 feet; depth, from bottom of flat keelson plate to
top of main deck-beams, 14.8; projection of ram built in hull, 10 feet.

The vessel is to all intents a double one, she having both an inner and an
outer skin, the thickness of the latter being f and f inches thick, while f
inches is the dimensions of the former. Between these two skins there are
84 water-tight compartments, which will add materially to her natural
buoyancy, there being besides three athwart ship water-tight bulkheads,
which are more particularly to keep her afloat should any unforeseen dis-
aster occur. Her turrets, which are to be two in number, will carry two guns
in each, of 15 -inch calibre. She will be driven by two pair of compound
engines of 500 horse-power each; she will be provided with a twin-screw
propeller of 11 feet in diameter; all her machinery will be below the water
line ; her outside armor plates will be 7 inches in thickness of solid iron,
and will extend for three feet below the water line ; her smokestack is to
be armored for a certain distance ; it will also have a telescopic working ;
she will be rigged with one mast; her draft will be 14 feet; she will have
a freeboard, i. e., there will be exposed above the water 30 inches of plat-
ing, and her displacement is calculated to be about 5,000 tons. When
ready for sea the " Monadnock " will be supplied with a steam launch, and
the other necessary small boats, five in number, and her complement of of-
ficers and men will be one hundred and fifty.

Unfortunately work progresses but slowly on this magnificent specimen
of naval architecture for want of the necessary Government appropriations ;
were such to be made she could be completed in a year, but under present
circumstances it is hard to say when she will be launched and ready for
sea. Were the work proceeded with, it could not be otherwise than a great
boon to Vallejo, for a decided impetus would be naturally imparted to labor,
and bring money, that source of all good, into circulation.

In concluding this sketch of Mare Island's admirable N avy Yard, and
with it the Township of Vallejo, no more appropriate leave can be taken
than by introducing the story of that maritime pioneer which now lies so
peacefully alongside the sea-wall of the Arsenal.

The " Independence." — The " Guerriere," 44, the first frigate that had
been put into the water, on the seaboard, by the American Government
since the year 1801, was launched at Philadelphia June 20, 1814. It was
intended that the " Independence," 74, should have gone off the same day
at Boston, but she stuck on the ways. She was got safely into the water
on the 20th July, however, and was the first two-decked ship that ever
properly belonged to the American Navy, the " America," 74, having been
given to the King of France while yet on the stocks.

Cooper's Naval History thus gives us the date when the old ship was


launched, to do her part in showing to the world the American flag, and, if
necessary, to protect it from and to resent its insults. She made her first
cruise as flag-ship of Commodore Bainbridge, in the Mediterranean sea.
She was commanded on this cruise by Captain William McCrane, and then
by Captain C. G. Ridgeley, sailing from Boston on July 3, 1815, and fin-
ishing the cruise by arriving at the same port on December 7, 1815.

Her second cruise was as flag-ship of Commodore J. B. Nicholson, to
Europe and Brazil. Commanded by Lieutenant Alexander Slidell, she
sailed from Boston on May 21, 1837, carrying out Mr. Dallas, as the Amer-
ican Minister to Russia, and arriving at Cronstadt on the 29th July. After
leaving her distinguished passenger with our friends at Cronstadt, she
sailed for the Brazil station, stopping a few days at Madeira. Finishing
her duty in Brazil, she returned home, arriving at New York March 30,
1840, under the command of Lieut. John Pope.

Her third cruise as the flag-ship of Commodore Charles Stewart, was
made in the home or West India squadron. She sailed from New York
May 14, 1842, and went to Boston, where Capt. L. Gallagher was relieved
by Capt. H. Stringham as Commanding Officer. She then sailed from Bos-
ton on September 29th, and made her cruise about the " Indies," returning
to New York. Sailing again from that city on June 2, 1843, she visited
different ports on the coast and returned to her station, Boston, on Decem-
ber 3, 1843.

Her next cruise was to the Pacific Coast, bearing the flag of Commodore
William B. Shubrick, and commanded successively by Capt. E. A. Lavalette
and Lieutenant R. L. Page. Sailing from Boston on the 29th August, 1846,
and stopping at the different ports of the coast, visiting San Francisco
several times, and making a safe and successful cruise, she returned to Nor-
folk, Va., on the 23d May, 1849.

Her fifth cruise then was made by going a second time to the Mediter-
ranean. This cruise she bore the flag of Commodore C. W. Morgan, and
was commanded by Captain T. A. Conover, at her sailing from Norfolk on
July 26, 1849. During most of the cruise she was commanded by Com-
mander George S. Blake, and returned to Norfolk on the 25th June, 1852,
under command of Captain William Jameson.

The last cruise the old vessel made was in 1855 as flag ship of Commo-
dore William Marvine. Captain W. B. Nicholson was Elect Captain, and
Captain Tatnall Commander of the ship. Since then her cruising days are
over and she has been used as a receiving ship both at San Francisco and
Vallejo, and has often changed commanders. Among them were Captains
Carter, Shirley, Phelps, Commander Gherardi and other distinguished officers.
She now lies securely moored and comfortably roofed in as a home for old
men-of-war's men, some of whom knew her when she was first launched,
and raw recruits who take their first lessons in drill.


The old ship although launched too late for the war of 1812 has done
good service, especially while on the Pacific Coast under command of Com-
modore Shubrick, for the " Independence " crew and officers figured in almost
every action with the Mexican towns of the coast, and Cooper gives several
instances where the American flag was hoisted on shore in token of victory
under a salute from the guns of this vessel.

She was superintended in her building by Commodore W. B. Shubrick,
and the solidity of her timbers and knees and their present freedom from
rot show the care used and skill exercised in the performance of his duty.
Built as a 74, it was found that she carried, on her first cruise, the sills of
her midships lower-gun-deck-ports only three feet above water. She was
razeed in 1836, thereby making her a 54 gun frigate ; and besides being the
first double decked ship that ever went to sea under the American flag, she
was the first 74 that was converted in the U. S. Navy.

" She was always called a good sailor and said to behave well at sea.
During her cruise in the Pacific from 1846 to 1849 she averaged 140 knots
per 24 hours for 400 consecutive days." Her record also says, " Is sure in
stays, stiff under canvass, inclined to gripe, and is hard on her cables."
(1849-52) " It has been recommended to dispense with the popo and top-
gallant fore-castle, and ten tons of ballast ; to shorten the lower masts, and
to do away with the tiller on the gun-deck, as it interferes with the work-
ing of stern guns."

The good old vessel is now stationed at Mare Island Navy Yard as a
receiving sjiip, and she is as sound in every respect as she was fifty years
ago. Although the new order of ships of war have come into use, there are
none that are built more substantially than the " Independence."

The seclusion of Vallejo harbor with its beautiful surroundings, is a fit
retirement for this Naval Argonaut of California.




Geography. — The township of Rio Vista is situated at the extreme north-
eastern corner of Solano county. It is bounded on the north by Maine
Prairie township and Yolo county, on the east and south by the Sacramento
river, on the west by Montezuma and Maine Prairie township. Its bound-
ary line runs as follows : Beginning at a point on Sutter slough where the
Yolo county line intersects said slough; thence in a southerly direction
along the bank of said slough to its junction with Steamboat slough, a dis-
tance of about four miles ; thence southwesterly along the bank of Steam-
boat (or Marietta) slough to its junction with Cache slough, a distance of
about six miles ; thence in a southwesterly direction along the west bank
of the Sacramento river to the intersection of the Montezuma township
line, a distance of about twelve miles ; thence north to the intersection of
the line with the south fork of Linda slough, a distance of about thirteen
miles ; thence easterly along the south bank of Linda slough to its intersec-
tion with Cache slough, a distance of about five miles ; thence northeasterly
along the east bank of Prospect slough, a distance of about two and one-half
miles ; thence east a distance of about one mile ; thence north to the Yolo
line, a distance of about three miles ; thence east to the point of beginning,
a distance of about three and one-half miles. The entire distance around
the township is fifty miles. The eastern boundary line extends along
the Sacramento river and its tributaries, a distance of twenty miles.

The greatest width is ten miles. The township is located in north range
four, east two.

Topography. — The topography of Rio Vista Township varies from the
lowest swamp and overflowed lands to the boldest hills. The swamp lands
lie in the northern end of the township, extending down as far as Cache
slough, and comprising several large islands. A narrow belt of the character
extends entirely along the eastern side, bordering on the Sacramento river.
From Cache slough southward for a distance of from one to ten miles the
land is very level, and is termed locally " the plains." The surface of the
country, as we go southward from the plains, begins to undulate gently ;
and the further south we go the more marked and distinct do the hills
become until you reach the very steepest and most abrupt of the famous
Montezuma hills. From Rio Vista southward these hills come out to the


river, presenting bold bluffs, the facade of which is broken here and there
with canyons and ravines. The swamp lands are comprised of what is
termed " tule lands."

Geology. — The township does not present any marked geological character,
yet, as far as its alluvial formation is concerned, is a study well worth the
attention of the scientist. The tule lands are of a character similar to all
others in the Sacramento valley, viz., an alluvial deposit intermingled with
the deposits of decaying vegetation. The formation of these lands has nec-
essarily been slow, and it has doubtless taken almost countless years to fill
the great basins of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers from the Granite
mountains, from whence the supply must come. This loam extends from a
depth of a few feet to nearly 100 feet, and the whole body of it is an hetero-
geneous mass. Underneath this, and what once formed the bottom of the
great inland sea, lies a stratum of argillacious clay called locally the " hard
pan." The formation of the " plains " is a kind of clay, pregnant with
alkali. Occasional spots of adobe also appear in this section. The hills are
formed entirely of adobe, varying through all the grades of that peculiar
soil. The formation of and peculiar phenomena presented by the hills would
afford ample matter for a long dissertation.

Character of Soil. — The soil of the swamp districts is a rich loam, alluvial
in formation, and very rich and productive. Almost all kinds of grains and
vegetables thrive well. The soil of the plains is clayey, and adapted mostly
to grazing, with occasionally a small spot fit for cultivation. The hills are
entirely adobe, and well suited for growing grain, but of little value for
other purposes.

Products. — The products of Rio Vista Township are as varied as the
State of California itself. In the warm, rich loam of the lowlands are per-
fect hot-beds, and produce almost everything. Grain, vegetables, fruits,
berries, &c, do well. On the plains only grain grows to any extent, al-
though there are some fine garden spots, where vegetables and fruits thrive
with proper irrigation. The hills are adapted almost exclusively to the
growing of grain. Wheat and barley are the cereals grown in this town-

Climate.— The climate of the township is quite uniform — being mild, cool
and pleasant. The cool and refreshing trade winds prevail during the sum-
mer season, which modifies the temperature, and causes the climate to be
the most salubrious.

Shipping Facilities. — Probably no township in the State enjoys such
extended shipping facilities as this. The Sacramento river extends along
its entire eastern and southern boundaries, while Cache, Elk, Miner, and


other sloughs extend through portions of it. Ships of any burthen can
come to the very doors of the farmers and receive their products. The
stage of water up the river as far as Rio Vista will accommodate vessels of
any size.

Early Settlement. — So much for the general features of the township.
We now pass to its settlement. The earliest record we can find of any
settlement is that established by General John Bidwell, in 1844. In the
case of John Bidwell vs. the U. S. Ulpinos grant, one Samuel J. Hensley
testified as follows : " In the fall of 1844 I took Mr. Bidwell on board of a
schooner to the land (Ulpinos, or Bidwell grant) with some hands to make
a settlement. They remained there and built an adobe house, in which an
Englishman, who had charge of the building, remained during the winter.
The next season a small part of the land was cultivated, and in the winter
of 1845-46 the house was occupied by P. B. Reading and hands." This

Online LibraryJ. P Munro-FraserHistory of Solano County...and histories of its cities, towns...etc. .. → online text (page 30 of 57)