J. P Munro-Fraser.

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

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permanent, that the county may derive some lasting advantage from the
expenditure of its money ?

Third — If the location of a county seat for our county was a new ques-
tion, there would be no doubt of the propriety of adopting Vallejo. A line
of railroad traverses the whole length of i^he county, terminating at Vallejo.
Regular water communication can always be had from Rio Vista, Collins-
ville, and Benicia, to Vallejo, enabling the inhabitants of these places to
reach the county seat at all seasons of the year without interruption from
floods or impassable roads ; and that other and large -class of tax-payers and
property-owners of our county, who reside in San Francisco and other
counties, would be best accommodated at Vallejo.

Vallejo is now, and promises in all future to be, the leading town in the
county. It has good streets and sidewalks, convenient means to travel and
good hotels, and is, indeed, the only place in the county capable of furnish-
ing accommodations for the large number of people who are at any time
liable to be called together by an important term of our District Court.

The only two arguments that can be urged in favor of retaining the
county seat at Fairfield, are these : 1st. That it is near the geographical
center of the county. 2nd. The expense of its removal. The first of these
reasons, to-wit, its central position — if it was good at the time the county
seat was located at Fairfield, when people came from all parts of the county
in carriages or on horseback, no longer holds good. The days of stage-


coaches are passed. New means of travel have sprung up, and geographical
centers have given way to centers of travel. The whole population of the
county could rally at Vallejo at less expense, and greater ease and comfort,
than at any other point in the county, and could live more comfortably
while here. As a rule, county seats are not located in the center of coun-
ties. Sacramento City, Stockton, Oakland, Marysville, Yuba City, Napa
City and San Rafael, are not situated at the geographical centers of the
respective counties of which they are the county seats.

As to the second objection, in respect to the cost of removal. The pre-
sent county buildings are said to have cost forty thousand dollars, and
cannot be estimated at present at a higher valuation than twenty-five
thousand dollars. The City of Vallejo and its citizens have bound them-
selves by proper guarantees : 1st. To furnish, free of cost, suitable office
room for county officers, court-rooms and jail, until the permanent county
buildings are built. 2nd. That they will donate to the county the neces-
sary grounds for the location of county buildings, to be selected by the
Board of Supervisors of Solano County. 3rd. They pledge themselves
to use all their influence with the Board of Supervisors to restrict the
expenditure for the erection of county buildings (which will be the sole
expenditure of the county) to fifty thousand dollars ; and they offer the
guarantee of their most responsible citizens, and the City of Vallejo, that
buildings shall be built (according to a plan now on exhibition at the City
Hall, in Vallejo, copies of which will be sent to each precinct in the county),
suitable for the county for many years to come, and vastly superior to the
present buildings, for the sum of fifty thousand dollars. And the payment
of this small amount need not be made at once. Bonds may be issued
bearing seven per cent, interest, payable in twenty years, and an annual
tax of five thousand dollars will pay the interest and leave a large surplus
towards the extinguishment of the debt. Estimate the taxable property
in the county at ten millions of dollars, which is about the present figure,
the man who owns a thousand dollars worth of property will be taxed the
sum of fifty cents per annum for the removal of the county seat. How
insignificant is this sum compared with the great advantages to be derived.

All that we ask of the voters of Solano county is, that they will consider
this question dispassionately and without prejudice, looking only to the
best good of the whole county in the future, and we are satisfied they will
agree with us that the county seat should be immediately removed to

On the 9th of October, 1873, the question of removal was brought before
the Board of Supervisors, but there being a question existing of how many
of the names which were annexed to the petition were those of bona fide
voters, forty or fifty names were selected, making the total number of sig-
natures 1,097, leaving 300 to be still examined.



Naturally, Suisun, from its proximity to Fairfield, was on the side of
non-removal; therefore, every stone was turned to gain their point. Coun-
sel was engaged on her side who urged, under the provisions of the law, in
the event of the county seat being once removed, a petition for a second
removal must contain a number of signatures equal to one-third the names
on the great register ; that the county seat of Solano had been already
removed from Benicia to Fairfield, and that the present case came within
the provisions of the law. The examination of the last great register of
the county, they stated, shows a total of 5,600 names, one-third of which
was 1,867. The counsel, therefore, submitted that the number of signatures
was inadequate, and that in consequence, the petition was invalid.

It was finally decided by the Board that the number already passed upon
was sufficient, and an order was made premising with the recitation that a
petition had been presented to their body, praying that an election, to de-
termine the place of the county seat, might be held ; that said petition con-
tained 1,325 names; and that so far as examined, they had found upon it
1,097 legal names; and that the same being more than one-third of the
number of votes, they therefore ordered, in accordance with the prayer of
the petitioners, an election to be held on the last Wednesday in November.
A protest from the counsel for Suisun was spread upon the minutes, stating
in substance, that on such a day the county seat was removed from Benicia
to Fairfield : that the archives of the county and county officers were
ordered there ; that the Great Register of the county contained 5,000 uncan-
celled names at the time, and that it required one-third of that number of
signatures to constitute a legal petition for an election, which number was
not on the petition upon which the Board had taken action.

The " Weekly Solano Republican," published at Suisun, writing on Octo-
ber 30, 1873, remarks : "We object to the removal, because —

First — The county seat is centrally located now, which makes the expense
and trouble of reaching the seat of justice more nearly equal to all than
any other location can ; and we deny the justice of any arrangement which
makes any man pay two dollars, or travel two miles, in order that two, or
ten other men, may save one dollar each, or avoid travelling one mile each.

Second — The county now possesses, unincumbered by debt, buildings
fully adequate to its wants for the next ten years ; and we denounce the
policy which will add the cost of even less serviceable buildings to the
heavy debt the county is now carrying and groaning under.

Third — The removal of the county seat will work a huge injustice to a
very large majority of the tax-payers of the county, whether the cost of
removal be much or little. Vallejo contains half of the population of the
county, but only one-third of the taxable property ; and whatever may be
the cost of removal, two-thirds of that expense will be paid by that half of
the population, whose interest will be injured by the removal."


At length the long looked for election day — November 26, 1873 — arrived
and ended, the ballot showing at its close, a majority for Vallejo over Fair-
field, of 333. Benicia's rancor was of no avail ; but retribution was near
at hand. It was directed that the county offices should be removed on Feb-
ruary 9, 1874, to Vallejo, and that that city be declared the county seat,
through the public newspapers. In time a few of the offices were carried
thence, notably those of residents in that city, when arrangements were
made for the temporary location of the several departments.

But the northern part of the county had conceived the reasonable idea
that the election of Vallejo was not carried out in as clear and straightfor-
ward a manner as it should have been ; they, therefore, proceeded to Sacra-
mento, and while the Legislature was in session, had a bill passed through
both the Assembly and Senate, creating Vallejo into a county seat in its
own right, since it was so ambitious of provincial honors. This, to the
eyes of the Governor, seemed too preposterous a scheme, acknowledging at
the same time the justice of the objections, he, therefore, vetoed the bill,
but informed the complainants that another one, locating the county seat
at Fairfield, would be favorably considered. Thus, for the present, all
heart-burnings were ameliorated, and ruffles smoothed, and the question
finally set at rest by the Act of the Legislature, approved March 28, 1874,
whose first section pronounces the doom of Vallejo, in the following ver-
dict : " Tii£ county seat of Solano County shall be Fairfield, in said county."


In the old days, long ago, somewhere in the year 1817, as has been shown
in another part of this work, Jose Sanchez, then a Lieutenant in the Span-
ish Army, was despatched with a small force to subjugate the Suisun tribe
of Indians, an expedition which was attended with but little loss on one
side, and sad havoc on the other. As time dragged out its weary course,
but little was gained ; the aboriginals were coerced into the service of their
taskmasters, and without doubt endured many a torture of mind and body,
when brought under the yoke of the Mexican Government. It is not for a
moment to be- imagined that, though the savages were driven into bondage,
they suffered all the distress supposed to be a part and parcel of their thral-
dom ; this is not the case ; for General Vallejo, who had the lands of Suscol
granted to him, held as lenient a sway over his aboriginal vassals as was
possible under the circumstances ; and, indeed, was the first to prove the
soothing influences of even a partial civilization ; yet, these people have
now vanished, whither it is impossible to trace ; the advent of a dominant
race was more than they could cope with; hence, they are nowhere to be



found ; and it is only at distances, few and far between, that traces of their
former locations are to be discovered. It is believed that those who inhab-
ited the valleys with which we have especially to deal, were thinned by the
hostilities in which they were engaged with the Spaniards, materially aided
by a djecimating scourge of small-pox that carried off numbers of the half-
fed and ill-clothed savages. This epidemic broke out in the year 1839, and
such was the devastation which ensued that almost an entire race was ship-
wrecked, leaving but few survivors of the catastrophe. They died so rap-
idly that the usual funeral rites were abandoned: huge pits were dug, and
the pestilential corpses placed therein by twenties while they were covered
up, when filled, with a rude mound of earth ; many of them forsook the
land of their birth, now become accursed on account of the presence of the
odious intruder ; their wives and daughters, by the maltreatment received
at the hands of these half -civilized soldiers from the Spanish Main, had
ceased to bear children, and thus they drifted out of ken, until now they
are a thing of the past, their presence in Solano County being at best but a
memory which only lingers in the mind of the early pioneer.

A short distance from the small town of Rockville, situated at the foot of
Suisun valley, on the property of Lewis Pierce, stood a rude cross, which
was popularly believed to mark the resting place of Sem-Yeto, otherwise
Francis Solano, the Chief of the Suisuns. It is said that this tribe removed
in 1850 to Napa county, taking with them all their grain, to the amount
of several hundreds of bushels which had been held in reserve in their rude
granaries near the above-mentioned site. This exodus would appear to
mark the arrival of the hated white man.

It has long been, and in all human probability, it will be many a year
before it shall be authentically decided who was the first settler in Solano
county. That General Vallejo and his troops were the actual pioneers of
the district now known as Solano, is conceded on every hand ; but they
can scarcely be classed among the settlers, for though a great district of
some ninety thousand acres had been granted to him by the Mexican Gov-
ernment, still, he never had, until later, any actual domicile in the county,
his residence being at Sonoma, whither he had been ordered to fix his head-
quarters, and lay out a town.

The people immediately succeeding the aboriginal Indians were Span-
iards ; or, more properly speaking, natives of Mexico, a race who were by
no means calculated to improve and lay out a new country. Born in a warm
and enervating climate, they were prone to pass their days in indolence.
To be able to get sufficient food to allay the pangs of hunger and enough
of water to assuage their thirst was to them satiety. In their own land
they had made no change, nor in any way advanced their home interests by
any civilizing influence save that of a forced Christianity, since the days
when Montezuma was so barbarously and treacherously murdered by Cortez


and his pirate crew ; therefore, this country wherein they had cast their lot,
was allowed to rest in its state of tangled confusion. Happily all of those
who came from this southern clime were not of this somniferous kind, as
the following remarks will show. The Baca (now pronounced Vaca, and in
some law deeds Americanized into Barker) and Pefia family arrived in Los
Angeles, and after a residence of one year, came, in 1841, to the valley
which now bears the name of the former, and there settled, building adobe
houses for themselves ; that of Juan Felipe Pefia being constructed in
Laguna (Lagoon) valley, and Manuel Baca's about one mile north-east there-
from. These structures still stand on their original sites, the former being
occupied by the widow of Pefia, while the latter is the dwelling of Westley
Hill. In the succeeding year (1842) there arrived the Armijo family, who
took up their grant in the Suisun valley, built an adobe, and entered into
residence about five miles north-west of Fairfield, the present county seat.
With these three families to take the lead, others, as a matter of course,
followed, not so much to labor in their own interests and toil for their
wealthier fellows, but that they loved the dolce far niente mode of living
to be found on the Haciendas of the rich. A certain amount of state was
maintained by the rancheros of those days, which they had learned from
the splendor-loving cavaliers of old Spain ; they seldom moved abroad ;
but when they did, it was upon a handsomely caparisoned horse, with at-
tendant out-riders, armed, to protect their lord from wild animals, which
infested the country. The earlier locators of land brought with them herds
of cattle, which, in the natural sequence of things, became roving bands of
untamed animals that provided the Spanish master and his servile crew
with meat ; while enough grain was not so much cultivated as grown, to
to keep them in food, as it were, from day to day. Their mode of travel-
ing was entirely on horseback ; accommodation there was none ; when
halting for the night, an umbrageous tree was their roof ; the fertile valleys
their stable and pasture ; while, when food was required, to slay an ox or a
deer, was the matter of a few moments.

Mention has been made of the adobe houses of the early Californians.
Let us consider one of these primitive dwellings : Its construction was
beautiful in its extreme simplicity. The walls were fashioned of large
sun-dried bricks, made of that black loam known to settlers in the Golden
State as adobe soil, mixed with straw, with no particularity as to species,
measuring about eighteen inches square and three in thickness ; these were
cemented with mud, plastered within with the same substance, and white-
washed when finished. The rafters and joists were of rough timber, with
the bark simply peeled off and placed in the requisite position, while the
residence of the wealthier classes were roofed with tiles of a convex shape,
placed so that the one should overlap the other and thus make a water-
shed ; or, later, with shingles, the poor cententing themselves with a thatch


of tide, fastened down with thongs of bullocks' hide. The former modes of
covering were expensive — the Pena family, it is said, having given a man a
considerable piece of land for shingling their house — and none but the
opulent could afford the luxury of tiles. When completed, however, these
mud dwellings will stand the brunt, and wear and tear of many decades, as
can be evidenced by the number which are still occupied in out-of-the-way
corners of the county.

Thus were these solitary denizens of what is now the prolific garden
known as Solano county, housed in the midst of scenery which no pen can
describe nor limner paint. The county, be it in what valley soever we wot,
was one interminable grain field ; mile upon mile, acre after acre, the wild
oats grew in marvelous profusion, in many places to a prodigious height —
one great glorious green of wild waving corn — high over head of the way-
farer on foot and shoulder high with the equestrian. Wild flowers of every
prismatic shade charmed the eye, while they vied with each other in the
gorgeousness of their colors and blended into dazzling splendor. One breath
of wind and the wide emerald expanse rippled itself into space, while with
a heavier breeze came a swell whose waves beat against the mountain sides,
and, being hurled back, were lost in the far-away horizon. Shadow pursued
shadow in a long merry chase. The air was filled with the hum of bees,
the chirrupping of birds, an overpowering fragrance from the various
plants, causing the smallest sounds, in the extreme solitude, to become like
the roar of the ocean.

The hill-sides, overrun as they were with a dense mass of almost impene-
trable chapparal, were hard to penetrate ; trees of a larger growth struggled
for existence in isolated sterile spots. On the plains but few oaks of any
size were to be seen, a reason for this being found in the devastating
influence of the prairie fires, which were of frequent occurrence, thus
destroying the young shoots as they sprouted from the earth ; while the
flames, with their forked tongues, scorched the older ones, utterly destroying
them, leaving those only to survive the rude attack which were well ad-
vanced in years.

This almost boundless range was intersected throughout with trails
whereby the traveler moved from point to point, progress being, as it were,
in darkness on account of the height of the oats on either side, and rendered
dangerous in the lower valleys by the bands of wild cattle, sprung from the
stock introduced by the first settlers. These found food and shelter on the
plains during the night; at dawn of day they repaired to the higher grounds
to chew the cud and bask in the sunshine. At every yard, cayotes sprang
from the feet of the voyager. The hissing of snakes, the frightened rush of
lizards, all tended to heighten the sense of danger; while the flight of
quail, the nimble run of the rabbit, and the stampede of antelope and elk,
which abounded in thousands, added to the charm, making him, be he


whosoever he may, pedestrian or equestrian, feel the utter insignificance of
man, the " noblest work of God."

At this time, as now, the rivers, creeks, and sloughs swarmed with fish
of various kinds that had not, as yet, been rudely frightened by the whirl
of civilization. The water at the Green Valley Falls, that favorite picnic
resort of to-day, then leaped as it e'en does now from crag to crag, splashing
back its spray in many a sparkle. Then, the shriek of the owl, the howl of
the panther, or the gruff growl of the grizzly was heard. Now, the scene
is changed ; it has ceased to be the lair of the wild beast, but civilization
has introduced the innocent prattle of children, and the merry tones of
womanhood, causing one to stay and ponder which be best, the former wild
solitude, or the pleasing pleasant present sunshine of sparkling voices and
sparkling water.

Let us here introduce the following interesting resume of the experiences
of the first of America's sons who visited California :


The following: interesting: record of the adventures of the first American
argonauts of California is abridged from an article which appeared in " The
Pioneer" in the year 1855 :

The first Americans that arrived in California, overland, were under the
command of Jehediah S. Smith, of New York. Mr. Smith accompanied the
first trapping and trading expedition, sent from St. Louis to the head
waters of the Missouri by General Ashley. The ability and energy dis-
played by him, as a leader of parties engaged in trapping beaver, were
considered of so much importance by General Ashley that he soon proposed
to admit him as a partner in the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. The
proposal was accepted and the affairs of the concern were subsequently
conducted by the firm of Ashley & Smith until 1828, when Mr. William L.
Sublette and Mr. Jackson, who had been engaged in the same business in
the mountains, associated themselves with Mr. Smith and bought out
General Ashley. They continued the business under the name of the
Rocky Mountain Fur Company until the summer of 1830, when they
retired from the mountains, disposing of their property and interest in the
enterprise to Messrs. Fitzpatrick, Bridger, Solomon, Sublette, and Trapp.
Mr. W. L. Sublette subsequently re-engaged in the business.

In the spring of 1826 Mr. Smith, at the head of a party of about twenty-
five men, left the winter quarters of the company to make a spring and fall
hunt. Traveling westerly he struck the source of the Green river, which
he followed down to its junction with Grand river, where the two form the
Colorado. He there left the river and, traveling westerly, approached the
Sierra Nevada of California. When traveling in that direction in search of
a favorable point to continue his exploration towards the ocean, he crossed


the mountains and descended into the great valley of California near its
south-eastern extremity ; thus being not only the first American, but the
first person who, from the east or north, had entered the magnificent valleys
of the San Joaquin and Sacramento, or who had ever seen or explored
any of the rivers falling into the bay of San Francisco.

The following winter and spring he prosecuted with success the catching
of beaver, on the streams flowing into the lakes of the Tulares, on the San
Joaquin and tributaries, as also on some of the lower branches of the Sac-
ramento. At the commencement of summer, the spring hunt having closed,
he essayed to return, by following up the American river ; but the height
of the mountains, and other obstacles which he encountered, induced him
to leave the party in the valley during the summer. He accordingly re-
turned ; and, having arranged their summer quarters on that river, near the
present town of Brighton, prepared to make the journey, accompanied by a
few well tried and hardy hunters, to the summer rendezvous of the Rocky
Mountain Fur Company, on the eastern slope of the Rocky mountains.
Selecting favorite and trusty horses and mules, Mr. Smith, with three com-
panions, left camp to undertake one of the most arduous and dangerous
journeys ever attempted. Ascending the Sierra Nevada, he crossed it at a
point of elevation so great, that on the night of the 27th of June, most of
his mules died from intense cold. He descended the eastern slope of the
mountains, and entered upon the thirsty and sterile plains that were spread
out before him in all their primitive nakedness ; but his horses were unable

Online LibraryJ. P Munro-FraserHistory of Solano County...and histories of its cities, towns...etc. .. → online text (page 5 of 57)