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Saturday, March 15, 1997

Animal husbandry big business in Vaca

Kristin Delaplane

In 1883, the newly founded Vacaville newspaper, The Vacaville Reporter, advertised that the company provided services that are today provided by the downtown services of Pip’s and Ulatis Printing, such as circulars, envelopes, handbills, business cards, funeral notices, billheads and visiting cards.

That spring, out in the valley, J.M. Pleasants had just relocated to a beautiful new residence. Contractor D. Eaton was in town building a house for John Vine, and J. Stahl was building two cottages on Davis Street for Miss Lizzie M. Long. Her cottages measured 26 by 20 (520 square feet) and 14 by 28 (392 square feet).

Local contractor J.M. Dagget and his wife were riding their buggy past Wykoff’s home when Dagget’s dog got into a fight with Wykoff’s. The dogs rolled under the horse, whereupon Dagget leaped from his wagon. The reins he threw to his wife failed to reach her grasp and the horse, bothered by all the commotion, took off. The runaway wagon eventually crashed into a fence.

Another accident occurred to L. Muzzy and his wife. The couple had gone to Bird’s Landing to attend to family affairs when his uncle accidentally killed himself at that place. On the return trip, Muzzy’s buggy turned over throwing both Muzzys to the ground. Mr. Muzzy dislocated his shoulder. His wife was more seriously injured.

Out in Pleasants Valley Milo Deeker was on board a wagon that took off down a steep hill when the mule team ran amuck. And George Long was bruised when his foot got caught in a stirrup and his horse dragged him along the ground for several feet.

Presumably local doctors attended to those injured. A Dr. Odell was in town seeing about setting up a practice. Dr. N.R. Barbour, who had been practicing in Vacaville for three months, relocated to another area. Dr. Cargill vacated his office on Main Street and moved his practice to his home on Davis. His memorable operation that spring was the removal of a 54-foot tape worm from Mr. Murphy. Murphy had become a virtual skeleton before having the worm extracted. N.B. Upchurch was the town’s dentist. On a regular basis he took his practice out to Elmira’s Hubert Hotel to serve that population

In business news, Rogers & McKinney operated the butcher shop in town. E.H. George was in the process of establishing his business - serving ice cream and other goodies. The post office was moved to the drug store operated by Creighton & Griffin. J.M. Miller quit his drug store and left for Suisun. Edward Long was set to take over the business. A.B. Miller’s Beer Saloon was situated opposite the train depot.

Marcus Davis, who was in charge of the silks and satins at Blum’s merchandise store and occasionally spewed Latin phrases when talking to the ladies, fell from his ladder one day but did not suffer undue damage.

The store and warehouse built by the Odd Fellows for Morgenstern & Milzner general merchandise business was being painted to match the color of the adjoining new bank building and the Davis Hotel.

Livery stable operator Dan K. Corn was forced to travel to Santa Rosa to retrieve a team of horses that had been leased by a commercial traveler for a six to eight-week trip, but who had not returned.

Hodgins House, a boarding house, had been enlarged to include a proper kitchen. A small fight occurred between the residents one night over a “friendly” game of cards.

In the process of digging a sewer trench for the Davis Hotel, Indian bones and a number of Indian arrow heads were unearthed. The Davis Hotel was proclaimed a glorious summer resort with shaded grounds, green lawns and airy, well-furnished rooms. Hot and cold baths with showers were available. The visitor to Vacaville could enjoy a day’s outing among the fruit orchards.

One visitor from Elmira enjoyed Vacaville’s food and drink to excess and he ended up walking off the banks of the Ulatis Creek, falling some 15 feet. In his relaxed state, he received only minor injuries.

Women figured strongly in the business arena. Besides those who worked side-by-side with their husbands in the orchards and farms, a number of women were launching their own business. Zilla Rogers had been in the millinery and dressmaking business with Mrs. Fulton. Upon Zilla’s untimely death, Mrs. Fulton brought in a party by the name of Long as her new partner.

Animal husbandry was big business in the Vacaville Township and two enterprising ladies jumped in. Living about a mile from town, Mrs. Marshall and Mrs. Farnsworth embarked upon a chicken, turkey and duck hatching business. To start up they had 400 chickens and a few turkeys. Mrs. Marshall’s domain lay with the hatching of ducks. She anticipated turning out 1,000 ducks in two week’s time and within two months having them ready for market. A profit was to be made. The current market price for ducks was $12 to $13 per dozen ducks.

In another venture, W.B. Long and G.N. Platt took possession of two carloads of hogs that they planned to fatten up for market.

M.D. Cooper advertised his stallions, Duke of Morris, Optimus, King William and Judge, for stud service.

Town folk periodically had to step aside that spring as sheep were driven from the ranches to be sold to other ranchers. One day a thousand sheep passed through town on their way to the Suisun Valley. However, raising sheep was no easy matter with coyotes and eagles preying on the young lambs. Coyotes were responsible for killing over 100 of W.J. Pleasants lambs and two hunters killed a great gray eagle suspected of killing a number of lambs. At the time $2.50 was the bounty price for these birds. It was suspected that the mate would show up in no time, as indeed it did and was soon shot. Even bears were a problem. One of the Vacaville’s top hunters had been called to Gordon Valley where three bears were suspected of killing sheep.

With spring on, the orchards were in full bloom. In addition to this beautiful array of color, many of the local farmers found time to plant vivid flower gardens around their homes. W. Brongham, who lived at the head of Gibson Canyon, boasted a grand fish pond. In these surroundings, people took great pleasure in watching Miss Julia Bassford’s excellent equestrian talents as she daily cantered into town to attend the Normal School.

With fruit raising the main industry, one fruit grower provided his theory on cultivation. “The land should always be plowed the way it drains and not crosswise. Fruit trees, as a rule, suffer from too much rather than too little water. My rule is to plow once away from the trees and later in the season, to plow toward them, always using a hoe to cultivate near the tree.”

L.G. Burpee who lived a couple of miles up the valley had a small cannery on his premises so as not to waste a bit of his growing efforts.

H. Scott was the local agent for the Plummer Fruit Drier. Also advertised for sale was a six-horse fruit or grain wagon. The $700 wagon being sold at the Pioneer Ranch in Pleasants Valley was going for an asking price of $250.

A cookhouse, belonging to a traveling threshing machine crew, passed through town on its way to one of the ranches.

Dr. McDonald was on the lecture circuit. He spent a week at the Davis Hotel giving phrenological exams (The study of the shape and protuberances of the skull, based on the now discredited belief that they reveal character and mental capacity). His charts corresponding to the exam results advised people on self-improvement, type of business they should pursue and, in general, how to make their life a success.

There were two competing St. Patrick’s Balls that season. One was in Suisun and the other was held out at Elmira’s Star Hall. Forty couples attended the latter. The next day the Sportsman Club’s free-for-all shoot failed to get off the ground as a majority of the men were too pooped from dancing all night and could not focus their sights.

With the hunting and fishing season on, reports of hauls were news. In Pleasants Valley, two men out fishing the local creek caught 210 speckled trout. The Gates boys and friends traveled out to Maine Prairie and returned with 60 geese and 75 catfish. The Gates killed 30 rabbits on the Gates and Bassford hills. Long and three Bassfords went to Maine Prairie returning with 65 geese and 135 fish. Other fishermen were reporting on the ones that got away - the fish being so big the fishing lines were breaking.

Others in town enjoyed the sport of baseball. The local team, the Daisy Cutters, was captained by John Pena.

Will Beelard attended boxing school in San Francisco and on returning called all challengers to try to “send him to the grass.”

It was reported that South Vallejo was in the process of establishing a curfew to keep young boys off the street at night. In Vacaville there was a problem with boys tearing down posters and breaking windows. The Methodist-Episcopal Church was said to be in a bad way due to these problems.

Five Chinesemen, including Hay Sing, were studying the Bible at the Presbyterian Church. Rev. Beard of the Presbyterian church was busy those days building a house on a hill overlooking the train depot and putting in an orchard in the surrounding acreage.

A number of merchants from nearby towns took to advertising their businesses in the Reporter. Dixon’s Morris Stenge, a tailor, advised his goods and services. He carried cheap suits and made to order suits from $18 on upwards. Mrs. L.M. Lawrence was in the millinery and fancy goods trade. She sold pianos, sewing machines, patterns and sheet music.