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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Paper’s first edition extols area’s virtues

Sabine Goerke-Shrode

Fruits of living in Vacaville made evident

The Vacaville Reporter began its long career as the local newspaper with its first edition delivered March 10, 1883. Its first publisher was James D. McClain.

Half of its front page sported a number of local advertisements, while the other half was covered with a variety of small, one-paragraph news items from the community and, centrally placed, one larger article titled “Vacaville and Vicinity.”

This type of article was popular at the time, presenting the local town from a contemporary viewpoint. Today, they bring us as close to time travel as can be possible. What seems quaint and historic to us, was new, fresh and exciting to the first readers, the text brimming with community pride. These articles are also a good reminder that our achievements today well might appear quaint and historic to readers in another 123 years.

That article in the initial edition started with a short historic recap, beginning with the “Spaniards named Vaca and Pena” and Senor Vaca’s effort to found a city.

It read:

“August 21st, 1850, Vaca deeded to Wm. McDaniel nine square miles, the consideration being that he should pay $3,000 therefor and deed him 200 lots and lay out a town naming it Vacaville. This was done as agreed upon, and that is the origin of Vacaville, which is just now beginning to grow and develop into importance.”

By 1883, fruit was becoming the driving force in local agriculture. Within a short time frame, the advantages of local growing conditions were recognized and advertised.

“Vacaville as a town has numerous advantages over many others, the chief advantage being that it is located in the celebrated Vaca Valley, the finest small fruit producing region in the State of California, without any exceptions.”

The shift from cattle, hay, and wheat to intensive orchard industry seemingly happened overnight, and by the 1880s, Vacaville area ranchers entered a period of agricultural boom. Even small acreages were considered productive enough to sustain a family in comfort.

The Vacaville Reporter recognized that enterprising spirit in the local population. “For several years past the people of this vicinity have been paying extra attention to this branch of industry, hence those who have acted wisely have reaped golden harvests. The town is situated on a healthy site and is peopled with and surrounded for miles on evey (sic) side with an enterprising class.”

Increasing incomes led to a rapidly growing town. Main Street and neighboring streets bustled with new and expanding stores and businesses. The Reporter listed a number of these:

“There are three general stores, each one carrying an immense stock, one hotel, one boarding-house, a bank soon to be opened, a livery stable, lumber yard, butchery shop, millinery store, undertaker, two draymen, a barber, two shoemakers, two paint shops, two blacksmiths and wagonmakers, two laundrymen, two notaries, a drug store, a dentist, several physicians, a saddler, a tinner, six saloons, a large fruit cannery, a tailor, a watchmaker and jeweler, The California Normal and Scientific School, three church buildings and five organizations, with seven secret organizations. The trades are well represented by such as carpenters, bricklayers, plasterers, etc. In fact her workmen in every line are the equals in point of skill to any in the country.”

Contributing to the economic success of the area was the connection of the Vaca Valley Railroad to California Pacific at Vaca Station and thus to the transcontinental railroad system.

“The Vaca Valley and Clear Lake Railroad, running from Elmira to Madison, Yolo county, is a splendid line of road, and under the judicious management of A. M. Stevenson, President, is of vast benefit to the traveling public and the commerce of this important section,” acknowledged The Reporter.

The article then continues to quote the amount of produce that had been shipped out of Vaca Valley the previous two years. The numbers are truly staggering, giving a very real insight into the success of the orchard business. It also cites a local cannery, the earliest mentioned in Solano County. Commercial canning was still in its infancy, making the number of cans produced even more impressive.

“The fruit shipments from this place in 1881 were given in round numbers at 9,789,673 pounds of fruit and vegetables, while those of 1882 went over 10,000,000 pounds. The bearing acreage is largely increasing now each year. Broughman’s cannery house, last season, canned 336,600 cans of apricots, pears, etc.”

Like similar articles of the time, this one was not just meant for the local reader, but rather hoped also to attract notice across the country. Thus, it is no surprise that the editor invites his readership to contact him and even offers to write back. The term “letter to the editor” certainly has undergone a shift since then.

“There cannot be found, in our estimation, a healthier or more desirable section of country to live in than in that embraced in the territory adjacent to Vacaville, Winters and Elmira. To any one into whose hands this paper may fall, who is a non-resident, if they are seeking more definite information, by inclosing stamp for return reply, we will answer honestly and candidly any question as to information they may seek. While the Reporter is anxious to see this country thickly peopled, we don’t wish to see a single individual here by misrepresentation.”