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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Buckeye tree may be Chief Solano burial site

Jerry Bowen

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General Vallejo gets big profit on rancho sale

In the last column we saw that Francisco Solano’s provisional grant issued to him in 1837 finally was made official on Jan. 28, 1842.

It is interesting to note that General Vallejo’s own personal lawyer represented Francisco Solano and Vallejo’s nephew, Governor Juan Alverado approved the final grant.

It appears that crafty old General Vallejo’s intention all along was to acquire the Suisun Rancho for his own use when he bought the land from Francisco Solano just four months later for $1,000. In 1850 he sold the land to Archibald Ritchie for $50,000, a tidy profit by any measure.

At this point we don’t know how much time Solano actually spent at the Santa Eulalia Asistencia. Most travelers who wrote accounts of their trips through the area during the 1840s usually only mentioned one of Solano’s fellow Indians, Jesus Molino.

One thing that seems certain is that in 1846 when the Bear Flag Revolt occurred, Francisco Solano disappeared from the scene altogether. It is said that he feared that his good friend Vallejo died when he was imprisoned at Sutter’s Fort. Unsubstantiated rumors say that he wandered far to the north, even as far as Alaska, although that is hard to believe.

In 1848, the war with Mexico ended with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and California was annexed to the United States. The gold rush began and was the pivotal point for great changes by 1850 in California. Solano had returned in 1850 to find his old friend Vallejo was still alive and then returned to his home at the Santa Eulalia Asistencia.

Vallejo was elected to the first session of the California Congress and was selected to serve as chairman of a committee that was to define the derivations of the new counties. It is in the report that the first documented evidence that Francisc o Solano was ” the great Chief of the tribes originally denominated Suisunes The residence of this chief was the valley of Suisun Before receiving the baptismal name of Solano, the chief was called “Sem-yeto,” which signifies the “brave of fierce hand.” So, from that day on Sino, AKA Francisco Solano, became known in history as “Chief Solano.”

Samuel Martin arrived in Suisun Valley from his gold mining ventures in 1850 and settled or perhaps more accurately “squatted” on land quite possibly at the mostly deserted asistencia where he found “Chief” Solano who had become desperately ill who soon died. For those of you that don’t know who Samuel Martin was, he was the builder of the stone Martin House, commonly referred to today as “Stonedene Mansion.”

From this point on history becomes quite unclear as to accuracy and documentation of Solano’s death. According to ‘Solano, The Crossroads County,’ an illustrated history, by Frank Keegan, “Samuel Martin, with a party of Americans discovered him (Solano) fatally ill at the rancho in 1850 and notes his passing.” Various reports over the years placed his burial under a buckeye tree alongside the Old Sacramento Road (today’s Suisun Valley Road) near Rockville, across from the Martin stone mansion that was built in 1861. The burial site is commemorated today with a bronze plaque on the Solano County College campus. The road has had been modified and widened over the years and the buckeye tree no longer exists.

During the early 1850s, squatters settled on the Suisun Rancho lands. On Dec. 11, 1850 General Vallejo sold most of the Suisun Ranch to A. A. Ritchie. Ritchie then sold one-third of the Suisun Rancho to Captain Waterman. During this time the grant was in dispute and the Land Grants Commission was formed to determine ownership of the land. The ownership by Ritchie was confirmed in 1853 and a patent issued later, which made the sale to Waterman legal.

Samuel Martin then made his first purchase of Suisun Rancho land from Waterman on Feb. 10, 1853 consisting of 136.60 acres, together with a piece containing six acres and making altogether 142.60 statute acres. That six-acre piece was from that time on surveyed as a separate property, and as we shall see, it appears that the location was the site of the old Santa Eulalia Mission/Asistencia site.