J. P Munro-Fraser.

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

. (page 31 of 57)
Online LibraryJ. P Munro-FraserHistory of Solano County...and histories of its cities, towns...etc. .. → online text (page 31 of 57)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

house was located on the land now owned by Geo. H. Jenkins. The hands
spoken of in the above were mostly Indians. There was quite a rancht'i ie
of them there during that and the following winter, and they were known
as " Bid well's Indians." During the year 1846, a party of emigrants arrived
from the East. As this was before the days of gold, an eligible agricultural
location was always sought for by these hardy pioneers — the advance
ripples of the great flood-tide of immigration which was so soon destined to
flow in upon the great Pacific shore. This party was induced by Bidwell
to go down the Sacramento river and spend the winter on his grant, hoping
to dispose of portions of it to them in the spring. The winter was a severe
one on the poor settlers, and for many days during the rainy season starva-
tion seemed to stare them in the face. The Indians were reduced to a
fearful extremity also ; and, as the days passed wearily and drearily by,
their frequent exclamation was " hale-che-muk," which means nothing to
eat. For years that name was applied to the Bidwell settlement, and in
many of the real estate tranfers on record the grant is mentioned as the
Hale-che-muk grant. In the spring of 1847 the party of immigrants left
never to return to Hale-che-muk, the city (?) of starvation. Most of
them passed over into the valleys on the western side of the county, and
some of their descendants remain there at the present time. Perhaps, before
going further in this history, it would be well to give the recorded history
of the Ulpinos Grant. In 1844 General John Bidwell sent the following-
petition to Micheltorena, Governor and General-Commandant of the Depart-
ment of the Californias, under the Mexican Government :

" Monterey, April 30, 1844.
"To His Excellency, the Governor:

"Juan Bidwell, native of the United States, with the most profound
respect, presents himself and sets forth :


" That, having been naturalized a Mexican, and desiring to devote himself
to agriculture, he beseeches your Excellency to vouchsafe to grant him the
tract known by the name of 'Sillac' or ; Ulpinos,' which tract is unoccupied.
It consists of four ranges (sitios) for meat cattle, as shown by the design
which he duly annexes, and its boundaries are: On the N. W. unoccupied
lands, to the N. E., the " Ulpinos Slough," (Estero), to the S. E., the river
Sacramento, and to the S. W. unoccupied lands. Wherefore he prays your
Excellency to vouchsafe to accede to this his humble petition, and give
orders that said tract be adjudicated to him in colonization, wherein he will
receive a grace. He makes the necessary verifications.

" Juan Bid well.

"Monterey, April 30, 1844."

J. A. Sutter duly certified that the tract was then occupied. Upon the
receipt of the petition, the Secretary suggested to the Governor that it
might be well to allow the matter to remain in suspense till such time as
the Governor might make a visit to the river Sacramento. Whereupon the
Governor so ordered. This evidently did not satisfy Bidwell, for we find
that under date of July 26, 1844, the Governor issued the following order :
" Let him occupy it provisionally till I go up, when I will dispatch the
business." It does not appear whether Governor Micheltorena ever paid
that visit or not, but in November, 1844, he issued the following order and
decree :

" Monterey, November, 1844.

" In view of the petition, wherewith these proceedings originate, the
reports and all other things that were brought forward, and were proper to
to be kept in view, conformably to the laws and regulations affecting the
matter, I declare Don Juan Bidwell, a naturalized Mexican, the absolute
owner of the tract known by the name of Los Ulpinos, (here follows bound;
ary as above) containing four ranges (sitios) for meat cattle. Let the proper
patent be issued, be entered of record in the proper book, and let these
minutes of proceedings be forwarded to the most excellent the Departmental
Assembly for its approval.

" His Excellency, Don Manuel Micheltorena, Brigadier-General of the
Mexican Army and Adjutant- General of the staff of the same, Governor,
General-Commandant and Inspector of the Department of the Californias,
has so ordered, decreed, and subscribed, which I certify."

Very shortly after the above was issued from the Governor- General, he
saw fit to issue to Bidwell a true grant to the rancho in due and legal form.
This paper bears date of November 20, 1844. The following is a copy of
the translation of that grant as filed in the office of the Clerk of the Board
of Land Commissioners in San Francisco :


" First-class stamp, eight dollars. Issued provisionally by the Customs
of the Port of Monterey, in the Department of the Californias, for the years
1844 and 1845.


" Pablo de la Guerra.

" The citizen, Manuel Michelt'a, Brigadier-General of the Mexican Army,
Adjutant-General of the staff of the same, Governor, General-Commandant,
and Inspector of the Department of the Californias."

Whereas, John Bidwell, a naturalized Mexican, has solicited, for his own
benefit and that of his family, the tract known by the name of "Los Ulpinos,"
bounded at the N. W. by waste lands, at the N. E. by the Ulpinos Pond, at
the S. E. by the Sacramento River, at the S. W. by waste lands, the necessary
legal steps and investigations having first been duly taken, as provided by
the laws and regulations, by virtue of the faculties conferred on me, in the
name of the Mexican nation, I have come to grant to him the tract afore-
said, declaring the same to be his property, by these presents, letters subject
to the approval of the Hon. Departmental Assembly, under the following con-
ditions :

1st. He shall have no ' power to sell it, to alien it, to encumber it with
rent-roll, lien, bond, mortgage or other encumbrance of any kind, nor shall
he even have power £o donate it.

2d. He may fence it without, prejudice it without, prejudice to the
cross-roads, highways and rights of way, he shall enjoy it freely and exclu-
sively, applying it to the use or custom which best may suit him, but within
one year he shall construct a house which shall be inhabited.

3d. After confirmation to him of the title, he shall solicit from the Judge
who has jurisdiction that judicial possession be given to him, by virtue of
the grant, and thereby shall be marked out the boundaries, in the lines of
which he shall place, beside the corner marks, some fruit or forest trees of
some utility.

4th. The tract hereby conceded is of four (sitios) ranges of large cattle, as
set forth by the design relating hereto. The Judge who may give posses-
sion will cause the same to be measured according to law, the surplus remain-
ing the property of the nation for its own proper use and benefit.

5th. If he shall break these conditions he shall lose his rights to the tract,
and it may be claimed by others.

Wherefore, I order that these presents, being his title deeds, be considered
firm and valid, that they be recorded in the proper book, and delivered to
the party in interest for his security and other uses.

Given at Monterey, November 20, 1844.

Manuel Micheltorena.
Manuel Jimeno, Secretary.

This grant is recorded in the proper book, pp. 12 se.



In a few years more the Mexican Government lost its claim to California'
and Bidwell thinking, doubtless that the obligations which bound him not
to dispose of any portion of the grant were null and void, began to sell por-
tions of the grant. The first sale was made to Jacob D. Hoppe and Lucy
Hoppe, his wife, deed bearing date of October 15, 1847. The consideration
was $500, and the land transferred was "an undivided one-fourth of the
tract of land known by the name of ' Hela Chammac,' ' being one league
square. The deed was a warranty deed, and was witnessed by L. W. Boggs.
It was acknowledged before George Hyde, 1st Alcalde of San Francisco.
Numerous other tracts were disposed of by Bidwell, all being undivided
fractional portions of the grant. A full list of these transfers will be found
in the list of transfers farther on.

After the United States obtained possession of California the titles of
Mexican grants began to get a little " shaky," and required, in many instances,
a considerable " bracing up." This grant was no exception to the rule,
and we find that on the 3d day of September, 1852, John Bidwell brought
his claims to the Ulpinos grant before the Board of Land Commissioners at
San Francisco for confirmation. The matter was before the commissioners
for a long time, and on the 17th day of January, 1854, " Commissioner
Thompson Campbell delivered the opinion of the Board confirming the claim."
The opinion of the Board is a full and complete review of the case in all its
legal and historical bearings, and is well worthy a perusal. The measure-
ment of the grant was now declared to be 20,000 varas by 5,000 varas, con-
taining four leagues. On September 13, 1854, the United States took the
initiatory steps toward appealing the case to the United States District Court.
The appeal was filed July 16, 1855, and petitioned the Court for a reversal
of the decision of the Commissioners. John Bidwell filed his answer on the
20th of July, 1855, and prayed that the decision of the Board be affirmed.

On the 29th day of October, 1855 the decree of the United States District
Court for the Northern District of California, Ogden Hoffman, Jr., Judge,
was filed, confirming the decision of the Commissioners. On the 10th day
of January, 1857, Hon. Caleb Cushing, Attorney General of the United
States, wrote to Wm. Blanding, U. S. District Attorney, stating that this case
would not be prosecuted any farther by the United States. Upon receipt
of this letter the United States District Attorney instructed Judge Hoffman
to make the final decree of confirmation. This final decree of confirmation
was made by Judge Ogden Hoffman on the 21st day of March, 1857. The
matter ran along very smoothly for nearly ten years, when a patent was
issued by the United States to John Bidwell for the grant. This patent is
dated August 9, 1866, and is signed by A. Johnson, President. The num-
ber of acres contained in this grant, as specified by the Surveyor General, is
seventeen thousand, seven hundred and twenty-six (17,726). So much for
the legal history of the grant insomuch as John Bidwell is concerned and the
validity of his title to it.


Proceedings in Partition. — From time to time Bidwell had sold to vari-
ous parties undivided fractional portions of the grant, until it was in a
badly jumbled state, as regards boundary lines. On the 10th day of August,
1855, in the District Court of the Seventh Judicial District, in and for
Solano county, one of the claimants, Samuel J. Hensley, entered a suit for
partition. At that time the ownership was vested as follows : Samuel J.
Hensley, one-eighth ; Sarah B. Gillespie, one-sixteenth ; Chas. R. Bond and
J. Tuttle Smith, assignees of C. V. Gillespie, one-fourth ; Alex. G. Abell, one
twenty-fourth ; E. H. Board, one twenty-fourth ; Phoebe S. Van Nostrand,
one thirty-second ; Charles L. Ross, one-twelfth and one-eighteenth ; D. L.
Ross, one-twelfth, also an interest in 2,000 acres claimed by Chas. L. Ross ;
I. C. Woods, an interest in 2,400 acres of the interest of Chas. L. Ross ; John
Denn, one-eighteenth ; Hiram Grimes, one thirty-second ; David N. Hawley,
one thirty-second ; John Curry, one thirty-second ; R. B. Norman, one-six-
teenth, including the claim of John Curry ; Samuel Price and Fred. Green,
(Price & Co.), an interest in the interest of R. B. Norman; Mary P. Buckley,
two hundred and fifty-four thousandths ; Chas. L. Ross also claimed seven
hundred and sixty-four thousandths by virtue of a tax title. It was prayed
by the plaintiff that a sale be made and the proceeds equally divided among
the claimants. Col. N. H. Davis was the attorney for plaintiff. Due sum-
mons was to said claimants issued from the Court. Several of them filed
answers, all favoring the idea of an equitable and legal adjudication of the
entire matter. B. C. Whitman, of Benicia, was appointed as referee. The
referee proceeded at once to make arrangements for the sale. The entire
rancho was divided into twenty equal tracts, the measurement being made
along the river front, and extending back one league. The sale occurred on
the 3d day of December, 1855, in front of the Court House door in the town
of Benicia. The purchasers and the amount given for each tract is as
follows : Lot No. 1, N. H. Davis, $125 ; No. 2, Josiah Knowles ; $141 ; No.
3, N. H. Davis, $40 ; No. 4, J. Denn, $225 ; No. 5, C. V. Gillespie, $250 ; No.
6, A. G. Abell, $275 ; No. 7, same, $220 ; No. 8, S. C. Hastings, $200 ; No.
9, C. V. Gillespie, $145 ; No. 10, same, $150 ; No. 11, S. C. Hastings, $185 ;
No. 12, J. Wilcoxson, $55 ; No. 13, C. V. Gillespie, $80 ; No. 14, N. H. Davis,
$80; No. 15, same, $50; No. 16, same, $50; No. 17, same, $95; No. 18.
Robt. Beasley, $75 ; No. 19, same, $75 ; No. 20, same, $75. Total, $2,591,
In less than a quarter of a century the value of this land has advanced so
much that at a forced sale, similar to this one, it would doubtless be sold
for more than $50,000. It is noticeable that the referee was allowed $500
for his services and costs of reference, an amount equal to about one-fifth
of the proceeds of the sale, and that amount was taken from the proceeds
of the sale. The desired result of the sale was secured, and there has since
been no litigation, nor is there liable to be, as the title is almost absolutely


In the year 1851 Robt. E. Beasley located on the southern end of the
Ulpinos grant and built what was always known as the " twin houses."
This was one of the houses which came around the horn in an early day
already framed. The purchaser had no idea of the style of architecture
of his house when he bought it, and was surprised when he began to con-
struct it to find that it was framed as a double house. The site of the house
was about 200 yards above the present location of Toland's Landing. Beasley
established a ferry at this point, between Sherman Island and the main
land, using a flat boat and a chain. Robt. E. Beasley was a peculiar genius ;
a veritable Utopian. All old settlers will remember his (locally) famous
pronunciamento of peace, issued by him during the war of the Rebellion, in
which he supposed he had solved all the questions of dispute, and set forth
a plan for the amicable adjustment of all differences between the North and
South. Poor Beasley died without seeing a realization of any of his many
vast projects, and his body was shipped by express to the nearest cemetery,
and no friend followed him to his last resting place.

Development. — For years the land of this township was considered fit for
nothing but grazing purposes. It was never dreamed that grain would
flourish in any portion of it. Small portions of land were planted in grain
about 1862, and it was found that they flourished well. The year 1864 was
exceedingly dry and crops an entire failure ; but after that the merits of
the rich adobe soil became rapidly to be appreciated, and that township
now ranks among the first in the county.

Rio Vista. — Rio Vista is the only town in the township. In the fall
of 1857, Col. N. H. Davis surveyed and recorded a town plat on lot No. 3
of Ulpinos grant. The site of this proposed town was situated about one
mile below the mouth of Cache slough. It was called Brozos del Rio,
(Arms of the River) from the circumstance that it was situated so near
three branches of the Sacramento river. The name, however, was changed
three years later to Rio Vista, (River View) at the suggestion of Mrs. Dr.
Kirkpatrick ; a very appropriate name also. At that time Col. DaVis' resi-
dence was the only house on the site.

The next building placed upon the town site was a store-house moved
from Sidwell's Landing, on Grand Island, and occupied by A. G. Westgate
for mercantile purposes. This building stood on the corner of Front and
Main streets. This was followed in rapid succession by a butcher-shop by
A. J. Bryant, a hotel by W. K. Squires, a blacksmith-shop by Simon Fall-
man, a salmon cannery by Carter & Son, a store by S. R. Perry, a drug
store by James <fe Thomas Freeman, (they also had an hotel), a livery-
stable by James Hammel, and several private residences, making in all
quite a little village.







In the spring of 1858 Colonel Davis constructed a wharf 24x75 feet.
John M. Sidwell was the builder. In 1859 the California Steam Navigation
Company came into possession of the wharf and enlarged it to 150x48 feet.
The magnificent steamers " New World," " Antelope," " Eclipse " and " Sen-
ator " were then plying the Sacramento, touching daily at Rio Vista.

Colonel Davis established a post-office in the town, probably in 1858, and
that made it a sort of headquarters for all the surrounding country, as there
was not an office within twenty miles at that time.

At this time there was an untold abundance of salmon in the river, and
hundreds of men were engaged in fishing. As there was no other landing
between Sacramento and Benicia, there were thousands of fish shipped from
this point daily, and, as a consequence, the town was full of men, and money
was spent with a lavish hand.

Everything flourished in the new town for five years, when a circum-
stance occurred which was destined to sweep the town out of existence at
one swoop. Sometime in the Fall of 1861 it commenced raining, and con-
tinued almost incessantly for the fabled forty days and nights. The con-
sequence was the water increased to unheard of heights. During the last days
of December, 1861, the water rose high enough to sweep away all the smaller
buildings in the town, but it was reserved for January 9, 1862, to be the
culmination of the fearful tragedy whereby a whole village should be swept
out of existence and its people escaping barely with their lives. On that
day the water stood twelve feet deep at the foot of Main street. For miles,
in all directions, the face of the earth was covered with a wild waste of
waters. All day a fearful rain-storm prevailed and a southeast gale swept
over miles and leagues of seething sea. The angry waves in their wild
confusion dashed against the buildings with giant force, and. all were total
wrecks long before night. The houseless and homeless people gathered
together on the top of a mound a short distance below the town. They
brought a few things with them and managed to eke out a most miserable
existence for a few days until steamers came and took them off. Those
days and nights of misery and privation are, perhaps, among the hardest
the early pioneers of California were called upon to undergo ; and no in-
cident recorded in song or story, either truth or romance, is more replete
with pathos than the recital of the scenes and incidents of those eventful
days. All that is now left to mark the site of the once thriving village are
a few decaying piles which formed a part of the wharf. A few strangers
sleep in unknown graves near there. Cattle now graze in peace and
quietude where was once the busy mart of trade.

Shortly after this, perhaps in the month of March, 1862, several of the

former residents of the old town began casting about for a more secure

place whereupon to pitch their tents — a location above the reach of the

raging floods and angry waves. A party of four men, consisting of William



K. Squires, S. R. Perry, J. M. Sidwell and Isaac Dunham, went to see Mr.
Joseph Bruning, who owned a ranch on the upper edge of the Montezuma
hills. Negotiations were at once entered into, and the northeast corner of
Mr. Bruning's ranch was the site chosen for the new town. Accordingly
Mr. Bruning surveyed and recorded the town plat of " New Rio Vista," in
1862. T. J. Mc Worthy, who then owned the Gardiner ranch, surveyed and
recorded an addition to the town. Main street is located on the line of
division of the two ranches, and the town has grown up on either side of it.

The first store was erected by S. R. Perry. This was followed by an hotel
by J M. Sidwell, an hotel by Wm. K. Squires, and many other business and
private buildings. Many of the people who had lived in the old town
settled in the new town, and went on with their former occupations just as
if nothing had ever occurred. The new town grew rapidly, and in a short
time far exceeded the old town.

The post-office was established at S. R. Perry's store with S. R. Perry as
postmaster. The wharf was built by Joseph Bruning in the Spring of
1862. In 1866 the steamer " Yosemite " blew up at this wharf, killing
about eighty persons. Of this number about thirty were Chinamen.

The first church building erected in Rio Vista was the Catholic. It was
built in June, 1868. The only other church building in town is the Con-
gregational, which was erected in August, 1868. The first public school
was established in the Fall of 1862. James U. Chase was the first teacher.

The present site of Rio Vista is 64 miles from San Francisco, 50 miles
from Sacramento and 25 miles from Fairfield. It lies on the western bank
of the Sacramento river, in the eastern part of Solano county. It is in the
heart of one of the most prosperous agricultural districts in the State. The
Montezuma hills, at its back, is unrivalled for grain, and vast bodies of
swamp and overflowed lands lie in front of it extending far away to Stock-
ton, all in process of reclamation. These lands will prove, when reclaimed,
to be an inexhaustible source of fruit, vegetables, grain, etc.

There are two lines of steamers which land here, going each way, daily,
with the addition of an occasional opposition steamer. The C. P. R. R.
Company's steamers carry Wells, Fargo & Co's express and the U. S. Mails.
The California Transportation Company's steamers run up Old river, and
ply chiefly in the fruit trade.

Rio Vista is the present terminus of the Montezuma telegraph, which
affords great facility of communication with the markets, and the outside
world generally.

The town is supplied with water from the Sacramento river. It is lifted
by steam and placed into large tanks situated on an eminence near the
center of the town ; thence it is distributed through the town by mains and
service pipe. The manager of this enterprise, R. C. Carter, is an old pioneer


of the town. Abundance of water can also be had by boring, and at no
great depth.

The great amount of hay and grain grown in this vicinity demand ware-
houses with large storage capacity. In the town there are three, with room for
the storage of 6,000 tons of grain and 6,500 tons of hay, while at New Town
Landing, about a mile above Rio Vista, there are warehouses with a storage
capacity of 4,000 tons of grain and 3,500 tons of hay. There are also houses
at Toland's Landing, on the river a few miles below Rio Vista, which have a
very large storage capacity. A large portion of the grain is also taken to
Bird's Landing.

For a statement of the various kinds of business conducted in the town
we refer our readers to the business directory. Other matters of importance
will be found under their appropriate headings.

F. and A. M. — Rio Vista Lodge No. 208, Free and Accepted Masons, was
organized June 5, 1870. The following named gentlemen were charter
members : Robert Martin, G. H. Bell, C. A. Pine, Jas. Johnson, G. W.
Kynock, J. Pool, Chas. Martell, S. P. Sorenson and J. S. Cook. The first
officers were: Robert Martin, W. M.; C. A. Pine, S. W.; Geo. H. Bell, J. W.
Following is a complete list of the W. M's from the date of organization to
the present time: Robert Martin, 1870; J. S. Cook, 1871; C. A.Pine,
1872; Josiah Pool, 1873; Rev. A. F. Hitchcock, 1874; T. P. Emigh, 1875,
re-elected 1876 ; Dr. M. Pietrzycki, 1877 ; Jas. Johnson, 1878. The follow-
ing named gentlemen are the officers elect for the ensuing year : E. C.
Doziei, W. M.; J. E. T. Smith, S. W.; W. B. Pressley, J. W.; A. H. Peterson,
Treasurer ; J. C. Kraus, Secretary. The present membership is 43. The
order is in a very prosperous condition.

/. 0. 0. F.—Rio Vista Lodge No. 180, Independent Order of Odd Fellows,
was organized September 21, 1870. The following named gentlemen were

Online LibraryJ. P Munro-FraserHistory of Solano County...and histories of its cities, towns...etc. .. → online text (page 31 of 57)