J. P Munro-Fraser.

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

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Dunn, and his family (among whom was Alexander, the present County
Clerk of Solano), who located in Fairfield in December, but afterwards
moved permanently to Vaca valley ; Dr. Frisbie, and Paul K. Hubbs and
his family, in Benicia ; S. W. Long, in Vacaville ; and Harvey Rice, of

In 1850, Benicia had assumed considerable proportions as a city ; while,
through the auspices of General Vallejo, another town, within seven miles
of it, was commencing to spring into existence. This is now the city of
Vallejo, which was to have been called Eureka, and at one time actually
bore the name of Eden. It is known to all how this county became the
possessor of the legislature — it fluctuating between Vallejo and Benicia,
until it was gobbled up by Sacramento — the full history of these doings
appear in another portion of the work ; and also to this period belongs the
credit of seeing the erection of the first two-storied frame building in the
county. This was built by Daniel M. Berry, in the summer of 1850, and is
now occupied by his son, Elijah Berry ; it being located on the farm of


Joseph Blake. The following years still saw the population on the increase ;
in 1851, came E. F. Gillespie, to the upper end of Suisun valley, where he
commenced farming and haying ; Robert and Thomas Brownlie, with their
families, to Vallejo ; James G. Edwards, to Suisun, locating on the farm now
owned by John McMullen ; Charles Ramsey, to Green valley ; about this
time there settled, also, Captain Wing. In the following year, among those
who cast their lot in the county, were W. G. Davisson, George A. Gillespie,
the present Deputy County Clerk, a most worthy gentleman, and a complete
encyclopaedia of information in the various affairs of the country since the
date of his location in it ; J. B. Lemon, the present County Treasurer, in
Green valley ; Christley Manka, in Suisun township ; Elijah S. Silvey, in
Silvey ville, from whom that village and township takes its name ; and Dr.
O. C. Udell, on Putah creek. At this epoch of the county's history, there
was only one blacksmith shop ; it was situated at the foot of Suisun valley,
and kept by J. M. Perry ; to this establishment had the farmers from miles
around to come to get their ploughs repaired, their harrows mended, and
horses shod, consuming, in many instances, two entire days. In 1852, the
first store was opened in the Suisun valley, by J. W. Seaver, on the ground
now occupied by Sam. Martin, which lessened the distance to procure the
necessary commodities for existence. The country had now become well
populated ; the wild oats of earlier years showing a commencement of van-
ishing before the enterprise of the new-comers ; they for the while contented
themselves with but scant covering from the rude winds ; a log cabin, of
proscribed dimensions and primitive build, was all that the greater number
could afford. True, John R. Wolf skill had already built a fine frame dwell-
ing on the banks of Putah creek, the timber for which he had procured
from Benicia, a distance of forty miles, which cost him a " bit" a foot, and
for transporting which, he providing horses and wagons, he paid a driver
sixteen dollars a day. The later arrivals were not thus blessed ; their mode
of getting along was different. A few acres would, at the outset, be enclosed
by a ditch and mound, with brushwood heaped on top, to protect the rising
crops from the depredations of the wild oxen and other animals ; timber
was not to be procured save under disadvantageous circumstances of fatigue
and risk ; while a still greater enemy was ever to be feared in the firing of
the uncut portions of the wild oats, which, when ignited, burned with
fearful rapidity. Civilization had, however, made its impress upon the
land. Hay was made ; grain was grown ; and though the markets were at
a long distance from the producer, even at this early date small crafts found
their way to the Suisun embarcadero, and transported the freight, to what
was then, the thriving city of San Francisco.


We quote from the abstract of the census of 1852, of the State of Cali-
fornia, the following return, having reference to Solano county :

Population 2,835

Whites, male 2,324

Whites, female 402

Citizens, United States, over 21 years of age 1,298

Negroes, male 26

Negroes, female 2

Mulattoes, male 35

Mulattoes, female None.

Indians, male 31

Indians, female 15

Foreign residents, male 790

Foreign residents, female 101

The quantity of land under cultivation in 1852, was five thousand nine
hundred and forty-nine acres, which was situated chiefly in the Suscol,
Sulphur Spring, Green, Suisun, Ulattis, Vaca, and Putah valleys.

The number of horses, cattle, and live stock generally, is appended :

Horses 1,957

Mules 187

Milch Cows 2,185

Beef Cattle 1,085

Hogs 2,264

Sheep 2,000

Oxen 1,149

The quantity of produce raised in the county was :

Bushels of Barley 105,630

Bushels of Oats 13,870

Bushels of Corn 3,555

Bushels of Wheat 8,395

Bushels of Rye 100

Bushels bf Potatoes 25,905

Tons of Hay ••••.. 2,146

Number of Grape Vines 5,811

Number of Fruit Trees 1,961

Thus is seen what gigantic strides had been made towards the establish-
ment of Solano county as a centre of agricultural production, and with
what just pride may we now refer to those of our relations and friends who
are still alive, who did so much towards bringing the valleys, and now some
of the mountains, within the influence of the plough. Jt is not within the


province of this work to follow individual by individual in his location in
the county ; it has been a sufficiently intricate task to particularize those
few whom we have enumerated ; how much more difficult, therefore, would
it be, were it possible, even to account for the two thousand and more who
were already settled in the county in the year 1852. As year followed
year, the cry of immigration was "still they come;" as month succeeded
month the wants of the communities were supplied. Churches were built,
schools established; peace, order and good government were maintained as
effectively as could be ; while the judicial system had been put into practi-
cal operation.

The first hotel opened in the county was naturally at Benicia, the then
metropolis of Solano. It was carried on in an adobe house, by Major
Stephen Cooper, and named the " California House." The Major kept it
but for a short time, when it passed into the hands of Captain E. H. Von
Pfister, at a rental of five hundred dollars a month. The first church was
one for the Presbyterian order, constructed by the residents in 1849, the
frame having been imported from one of the Eastern States, and occupied
by Doctor Sylvester Woodbridge, now of San Francisco. The first school
was opened in 1849. The first birth was that of a daughter to the wife of
Nathan Barbour; the first marriage occurred on December 16, 1847, being
that of Doctor Robert Semple to Miss Fannie Cooper, daughter of the Judge
of the Court of First Instance, Major Stephen Cooper, at which there was
considerable merriment ; and the first record of a death, is that of John
Semple, a young man of twenty-one years of age, and son of the Doctor by
a former marriage.

In December, 1851, the plat of the town of Vacaville was filed, the origi-
nal grantors of the land being sponsors for the same ; while in every portion
of the county immigrants arrived, and locations taken up on all sides. Such,
indeed, was the influx of settlers into these valleys, the fertility of which
had already been noised abroad, that we find, in the year 1853, the estab-
lishment of a post-office at Cordelia, a small village, which now only exists
in name. In this year, Doctor S. K. Nurse established himself at a spot,
which he named Nurse's Landing, now known as Denverton, where he
built a residence, and in 1854, continued his enterprise by building a wharf
of considerable size, and a store as well.

Let us now consider what the prospects of the county were in 1855,
as we gather from statistics. In that year the amount of land within the
county, was 535,000 acres, of which there were under cultivation, 18,500
acres, divided as follows :

Mowed for Hay 4,000 acres— yield 6,000 Tons.

Planted in Wheat 7,500 acres— yield 150,000 Bushels.

Planted in Barley 5,200 acres— yield 156,000 Bushels.

Planted in Oats 700 acres— yield 28,000 Bushels.


Planted in Com 700 acres — yield 21,000 Bushels.

Planted in Potatoes . . 200 acres — yield 30,000 Bushels.

Planted in Onions ... 50 acres — yield 50 Tons.

Planted in Broom-corn 135 acres — yield

Planted in other crop. 26 acres — yield

The estimated stock of animals was :

Horses 3,000.

Cattle 24,000.

Mules 300.

Sheep. 18,000.

Goats 200.

Hogs 17,000.

While the value of animals slaughtered was approximately stated to be
$100,000, an emphatic proof of the increase of population. This, however*
did not rest here, railways were mooted, steamboats already plied to Suisun,
which daily left loaded to the water's edge with produce for the San Fran-
cisco market. Early every morning strings of wagons, sometimes of forty
or fifty in number, arrived with large loads of grain and vegetables, which
were borne down the muddy slough and through the vast bleak expanse of
tule to the centre of traffic. Suisun was then the outlet for all the surroud-
ing country ; the county, through the energies of successive governments?
had been intersected in every direction by good roads, making travel easy
and pleasant ; the fertile valleys were becoming more thickly peopled as
day succeeded day ; a ready market was found for produce, and all went
" merry as a marriage bell." The attention of the reader is called to the
following report of the County Assessor in 1862 as an example of what
remarkable progress was made in the first ten years of the agricultural
history of Solano.

Description. No. Acres.

Valley Land adapted to tillage 292,000.

Mountain and Hill Land suitable for grazing purposes.. . 118,440.

Swamp and Overflowed Lands, lying principally on the

eastern and southern side of the county, about 92,000.

The Bays and Estuaries within the borders of the county

cover the surface of 43,000.

Total 545,440.


Of the two hundred and ninety-two thousand acres of tillable land,
there is not probably upon the face of the globe, so large an amount of


farming land, lying in a compact form, that presents more alluring induce-
ments to the husbandman than this. Experiments have proven it to be
susceptable of the highest state of cultivation, yielding abundant harvests
of the grains and fruits indigenous to every zone. Wheat, barley, oats, rye,
corn, buckwheat, peas, beans, potatoes, yams, onions, etc., flourish luxuriantly
while the growing of flax, hemp, tobacco, cotton, rice, broomcorn, and
Chinese sugarcane, has been pronounced a success. Here also grow beauti-
fully, the apple, peach, pear, plum, cherry, nectarine, quince, apricot, fig,
orange, olive, pomegranite, pineapple, almond and prune trees ; and goose-
berry, raspberry, strawberry, and grape vines, are yearly laden with fruit.
We have according to statistics :

Description. No. Acres.

Land enclosed 115,774.

Cultivated 44,454.

In Wheat 14,256.

Barley 15,687.

Oats 580.

Rye 320.

Corn 970.

Buckwheat 36.

Peas 120.

Potatoes 1,473.

Onions 462.

Hay 42,160.

Alfalfa 23.

Broom Corn 170.

Of fruit trees and vines, we have :

Description. Number.

Apple trees, acres 15,996.

Peach trees 32,381.

Plum trees 1,592.

Pear trees 3,573.

Cherry trees 1,486.

Apricot trees 2,144.

Fig trees 1,772.

Grape vines 520,630.

Wine, manufactured, gallons 10,580.

Brandy, manufactured, gallons 460.

It will thus be seen that the inhabitants of Solano are not unmindful of
the comforts that surround civilization, and make happy homes ; and as the
great drawback on California, the land titles, are becoming adjudicated, new
evidence of thrif tiness and industry are being added to those already inau-



This portion of the county (one hundred and eighteen thousand four
hundred and forty acres) consists of the mountain spurs of the Coast
Range, and lie on the eastern side of the dividing ridge between this county
and Napa, and the low hills that are adjacent to, and form a portion of the
shores of the Suisun bay. The surface is covered with a dense growth of
" bunch grass " and wild oats, the former growing upon the summits and
the north sides of the highest peaks, being green nearly the whole year, and
a grass of hardy growth, nourishing best upon the most sterile hills. It is
valuable to the farmer, being very nutritious for stock.

Of the wild oats it would seem almost superfluous to speak, being indig-
enous to the soil, and familiar to nearly every inhabitant of California.
But, lest there were some who -have not visited this portion of the State
when its growth is most abundant, I will endeavor to describe it : The seed
bears a strong resemblance to the tame black oats, with this difference: it
is smaller, and has a hirsute appendage that grows upon the base of the
grain and nearly envelops it. This seemingly useless appendage has its
uses. In the fall, the soil, after many months of uninterrupted sunshine, is
hard and impenetrable, and would be impossible to seed were it not for the
cracks that are produced by contraction. The oats ripen in the months of
July and August, and are shattered by the action of the wind.

Falling upon the hard and impervious earth, they could not take root if
they did not make their way to these cracks, which they do in two ways :

First. — The heavy fibres that surround it act as legs, and prevent the
grain from lying close to the earth, at the same time being a sort of sail
that catches the lightest breeze that blows, thus turning it over and over
until it is safely lodged in the nearest crack, to await the coming rains of

Second. — The action of water upon these fibres has a singular and novel
effect. The first rains falling upon the seed, produce a desire for locomo-
tion, or a crawling propensity, and, by a curious process, the grain will
move itself several inches, thereby falling into cracks that are yawning to
receive and nourish it. Early in the winter, the oats, sprouting from these
cracks, give the earth the appearance of being spread with a beautiful net-

This grass is the stand-by of the farmer. It nourishes his stock in the

spring, fattens them in summer and fall, and sustains them in winter. From

it he makes his hay, which is pronounced by good judges to be the best that

is used.


As before remarked, our estimate of the quantity of this land laying in
this county is about ninety-two thousand acres. A few years since, this


portion of our State was deemed valueless ; but more enlightened and recent
experiments are awakening the public mind to the fact that it will be quite
an important element in enhancing our future wealth. The manner of its
disposal, as marked out by the Legislature of 1858, in a law enacted during
that session, was a wise termination of this previously mooted question.
Since the passage of that law, these lands are being rapidly taken up, and
are yielding an increasing revenue to the State. Moreover, there is no one
now who doubts the fact that these lands are a more speedy way to reclam-
ation by private energy and enterprise than they would have been had they
been jobbed out in large quantities to corporate associations and irrespon-
sible parties. The more elevated portions of these lands in our county are
being tilled to good advantage, and the day is certainly not far distant
when this now neglected soil will be made .to furnish support and susten-
ance to thousands of immigrants arriving upon our shores.


This county has long since been denominated a " cow county ;" therefore
little will be expected under this head. Gold has been found, however,
within our borders. There are about seven thousand acres of mountain
and hill laying on the north of Township No. 7 N. R. 2 W., and on the
south side of Township 8 N. R. 2 W., in the vicinity of Putah creek, from
which gold dust has been taken to the amount of fifteen hundred dollars, in
the past year.

Stone has been found in several localities suitable for building purposes.
Still, our quarries are inferior to those of Folsom. Our marble quarries
have gained considerable celebrity, furnishing a peculiar kind of striped,
variegated marble, that admits of the highest polish, and is elegantly
adapted for ornamental uses. These quarries are located upon the summits
of the hills that surround Suisun valley.


The timber of Solano comprises several species of oak, pitch-pine, ash,
cotton-wood, etc., growing upon the mountains, in some of the valleys, and
on the margin of streams. It is worthless for any mechanical use, and
serviceable only for fuel. It is the opinion of many, that as soon as the
land is all fenced, and the annual fires prevented from ravaging the country,
timber can be grown here as successfully as upon the prairies of Illinois or


We come now to a branch of industrial pursuit that, next to our agricul-
tural interests, surpasses all others in point of importance. The rearing of
stock of every species has occupied the attention of our citizens for years ;


and upon no other avocation has the same amount of money been expended
as upon this. Stallions, bulls, jacks, and rams of the choicest breeds, have
been imported from Europe and the older States. If the same interest that
is now taken in regard to the improvement of our breeds of stock, remain
unabated, with the healthful climate we possess, the time is not far distant
when we will proudly take rank with the stock-raising localities of the
East. According to our statistics, we have as follows :

Description. Number.

Horses, American 1,343

Horses, Spanish 2,667

Mules 269

Cattle, American 25,652

Cattle, Spanish • 3,634

Oxen (Yoke) 169

Sheep 132,000

Hogs 11,737

Chickens 12,960

Turkeys 2,452

Ducks 560

Geese 128

Wool, American, pounds 154,000

Wool, Spanish, pounds 220,000


Our buildings are beginning to assume an appearance of stability. Red-
wood shanties are being supplanted by comfortable frame and brick dwel-
lings ; substantial plank fences are taking the place of the miserable ditches
so long used ; and barns and stables are becoming indispensable to every

Of our public improvements we have : First — The United States Navy
Yard, at Mare Island. This island lies near the southern shore of the
county, opposite the town of Vallejo. It was formerly the property of
General Vallejo, and was purchased by Government of Wm. H. Aspinwall,
for the sum of eighty thousand dollars. The immense sum of four millions
five hundred thousand dollars has been expended in building docks capable
of raising vessels of the largest class, and the following named buildings,
which are constructed in the most durable manner, of brick and stone :
four naval store-houses, sixty-five by four hundred feet each ; blacksmith
shop, two hundred by two hundred and fifty feet ; foundry, five hundred by
nine hundred feet — said to be the largest building of the kind in the United
States ; thirteen elegant residences for officers ; a magazine, sixty-five by
one hundred feet, and a sea-wall or bulkhead four hundred feet long.

The Pacific Mail Company. — This company has, at Benicia, two build-


ings of large dimensions, used as a foundry and machine shop. Here they
repair and coal their steamers, besides doing an immense amount of work
for other parties.

Marysville and San Francisco Railroad. — Of this road, forty-eight
miles are located in Solano county. Twenty-two miles — from Putah creek
to Suisun — are graded at a cost of about one thousand dollars per mile-
Our county owns stock in this road to the amount of two hundred thousand

Court House and Jail. — Our county has recently completed a new
Court House and Jail, at a cost of thirty-five thousand dollars. The
amount was raised by special assessment.

Grist Mills. — We have two grist mills — one built of stone, and not yet
finished ; is to have four run of stone, and to cost fifteen thousand dollars.
The other is built of brick, at a cost of twenty-five thousand dollars. It
has three run of stone, and is propelled by a forty-horse-power engine ; has
ground two thousand five hundred and twelve tons of grain during the past
year, and is capable of making seven hundred and eighty barrels of flour per


Assessed value of real estate 1860 $1,217,472.48

Assessed value of improvements 704,516.00

Assessed value of personal property 1,960,712.50

Total $3,882,700.98

It can be gathered from the foregoing report how much the prosperity
of Solano county had increased. With the establishment of the Navy Yard
on Mare Island, a full account of which will be found elsewhere, a new line
of labor was imported, whereby the skilled mechanic was introduced to this
portion of the State, who brought a variety of excellent qualities which
have made many of them citizens worthy of the best confidence of their
fellow residents. Among these may be named Messrs. A.' Powell, John
Wentworth, Honorable C. B. Denio, and others, who have taken prominent
positions in the supervisoral chair, county offices, and the political rostrum.

In later years the Pacific Mail Company have almost entirely withdrawn
their interests from Benicia ; these works, therefore, have fallen into disuse.

Let us now present the statistical report for the year 1876 furnished to
the Surveyor-General by the Assessor for Solano county, which shows a
most flourishing condition of afl'airs when taken in contradistinction with
those which we have already alluded to :


Description. Number. Number.

Land inclosed — acres M 9,652

Land cultivated — acres 109,394

Wheat — bushels and acres 1,965,175 93,575

Barley — bushels and acres 553,665 15,819

Oats — bushels and acres 4,700 145

Corn — bushels and acres „ 5,980 237

Beans — bushels and acres 400 25

Potatoes — tons and acres 60 20

Sweet potatoes — tons and acres 23 11

Hay — tons and acres 19,515 13,502

Butter — pounds 118,800

Wool — pounds 427,240

Value of fruit crop — dollars 112,000

Bearing orange trees 264

Grape vines — acres 1,387

Wine— gallons 149,710

Brandy — gallons 2,200

Breweries 3

Beer— gallons 180,000

Horses 5,476

Mules 622

Horned cattle 12,790

Sheep 71,146

Cashmere and Angora goats 35

Hogs 8,322

Grist mills (steam power) 3

Flour made — barrels 312,000

Corn ground — bushels 1,000

Miles of railroad 56


Description. Value.

Real estate $6,350,519

Improvements . 1,560,895

Personal property 1,327,248

Total valuation $9,238,662

Estimated total population 20,750



Among the many improvements that have been worked in the county,
more especially those of a public nature, which attract the largest share of
attention, is the


This beautiful structure is situated on an eminence commanding a fine
view of the city of Vallejo, Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo and Napa bays,
the Straits of Carquinez, and the varied and beautiful mountain scenery
adjacent thereto, including Mounts Diablo and Tamalpais. It' is a frame
building 110x71 feet, three stories high, with a Mansard roof, and will
accommodate about three hundred inmates. The rooms in each story are
lofty and well ventilated, the general plan being well adapted for the pur-
poses for which it was designed ; while the interior and exterior archi-
tectural design and finish are highly beautiful.

This noble work is the property of the Good Templars of California and
Nevada, and will ever stand as a monument of their enterprise, disinter-
ested benevolence, and charity. Its doors are open to all orphans under
fourteen years of age, without distinction. The origin of this orphanage is
ascribed to Mrs. Elvira Baldwin, of Sacramento.

Online LibraryJ. P Munro-FraserHistory of Solano County...and histories of its cities, towns...etc. .. → online text (page 8 of 57)