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Sunday, January 11, 1998

Bridges built over troubling waters in town

Kristin Delaplane

Prophecy and suicide haunt Solano

Dingley’s Mill in Green Valley changed hands and the new owners had plans to enlarge the establishment and employ steam as the power source.
George Dingley was forced to abandon his mill through a foreclosure eviction notice. When he originally purchased the land, the seller failed to disclose the mortgage liability.

In about 1864, the mortgagee had come after Dingley, and he had refused to pay. He did manage to delay the loss of his land for two and half years.

Thomas Fowler, who lived in the Suscol Hills of the Green Valley Township, became a believer in the “doctrine of spiritualism.”

As such, it was his belief that he was imbued with the power of prophecy and the power to do miracles, such as raising the dead, healing the sick, opening the eyes of the blind, etc. He and his brother Samuel began to recite incantations night and day until they were ‘‘raving maniacs.’‘

Doctors McMahan and Modiset were called to examine the pair and on their recommendation the brothers were sent to the asylum in Stockton. In addition, Samuel’s wife was reportedly manifesting similar symptoms of aberrations of the mind.

One of H.C. Hooker’s mares returned to the corral badly cut about the head and without her colt. Hooker found the colt dead. A large animal had obviously killed it. He laced the carcass with strychnine and the next morning he found a dead mountain lion by the carcass. Lions were reportedly a rare sight by this time in history.


Coal was discovered 8 feet below the surface of the ground on Anderson’s island in the Montezuma Slough, about 3 miles below Denverton.

Rio Vista

There was a horse race, a single dash of a mile for $50. Four horses were entered. Antonio Moleno won the purse with a time of 2.09 minutes.

L. Miles was selling his farm - 320 acres of land enclosed with fence; 140 acres were planted in grain. The farm was located 3 miles from a navigable slough.

R.W. Parker purchased the stable at the corner of Main and 2nd. Horses and buggies, with or without drivers, were for hire. Persons going taking the steamer to Sacramento could leave their horses at Parker’s Stable.

Maine Prairie/Binghamton

The Pioneer Warehouse at Merithew’s Landing was built by John N. Utter. It was a large-frame warehouse, 50 by 200 feet, three stories high and capable of storing 4,000 tons of grain in its second and third stories. The first story was 16 feet off the ground making it 5 to 6 feet higher than during the great flood of 1862. Storage was by the month or season and vessels were running regularly from the landing to Sacramento and San Francisco. The proprietors bought grain, hay and wool and sold lumber and posts.

The winter of 1866 there was severe flooding and water was reported to be 3 feet deep at Snow’s Hotel. A few tons of grain were lost at Deck & Co.‘s warehouse and at Utter’s new warehouse.

A new steamer route was in place through the efforts of Joseph C. Merithew. The steamer, capable of carrying 200 tons, traveled to San Francisco and Sacramento via the Cache Slough providing freight and passenger service. J.N. Utter was the agent.

George S. Goodenough, 36, hung himself in his barn, where he was found by some men who were harvesting his grain. He had prepared breakfast for the men and, on their return from the fields for lunch, they had gone to the barn to feed their horses. Goodenough, a man of temperance habits and a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, was consider a man of good moral character and was well liked. He had come to California from Vermont in 1852. The Maine Prairie Rifles, of which he had been a member, buried him with proper services. It was adjudged that he must have been temporarily insane.

In April, the Maine Prairie Rifles had a grand target shoot and picnic at Binghamton. Samuel Pitts won first prize, a large family Bible. O. Bingham won the second prize, Webster’s Unabridged Pictorial Dictionary. In 1865, Justice O. Bingham broke his leg through carelessness in handling a wild Spanish colt.


A telegraph office was opened in the Solano House, which was located at the boarder of Yolo and Solano counties at the edge of the Davisville. Dresbach the proprietor had been nicknamed “Solano Bill’’ as the postmaster of the Solano post office, which was established in 1862. This was located at a stage stop located on the wagon road between Benicia and Sacramento and was just across the Putah Creek, from the Davis homestead. The post office served the residents of Davisville prior to the establishment of their own post office in 1868.

In 1865, all persons with heavily loaded teams who had occasion to cross Putah Creek near the Solano House and the ranch of Jerome Davis were requested to travel a lower road as the bridge was undergoing repairs. In 1865, the Rural Home Journal gave a description of the ranch of the Jerome C. Davis on Putah Creek. It was 12,000 acres fronting the river for 3 miles with 7,680 of those acres were fenced in and divided into eight fields. The stock connected with this ranch was 2,000 head of cattle, 210 horses and mules, 600 sheep and 150 hogs. The dairy consisted of 250 milch cows. The orchard numbered 3,000 fruit trees and 6,000 grapevines. There was a nursery with 65,000 trees and vines.


The county was producing plentiful crops of grapes and Putah Canyon came out with the earliest grapes. These were table grapes. The Wolfskills were raising the greatest number, and had devoted little attention to wine making. On the other hand, in Green Valley there were several vineyards, owned mostly by Germans. Those in the know said the greater profit was in raising grapes for the wine press and that there was little profit in raising table grapes for the San Francisco fruit stalls. Money was expended in the boxes, wages for picking and hauling to market and the cost for the services of the commission merchant.

In Silveyville, a May Day ball given by E. Marsh at Washington Hall. Mrs. Marsh was well known as a caterer for such occasions. Members on the committee were from the Solano House, Buckeye, Maine Prairie, Vacaville, Suisun City and Silveyville.

A brown mare horse was stolen from Wolfskills, which the sheriff of Sonoma County returned a few weeks later. The thief was William Roberts, who had been in the employ of the Wolfskills for some 20 days prior to taking the animal. When he left, he stayed the first night at the house of P. Drysdale of Colusa County. He tried to sell the mare to Drysdale, but Drysdale, knowing the man, would not purchase. Roberts then stayed overnight in Lake County. Again no one would buy the mare. When he reached Santa Rosa, he traded the mare for a different animal. In court he stated he was raised to horse stealing in Kentucky.

A mail route was established between Rio Vista via Maine Prairie and Binghamton to Silveyville. Mail was delivered three times a week.


The contractors for the new college building abandoned the job. The Building Committee decided to take it all down and rebuild with brick, determining that they had made a serious blunder in the selection of building material.

A new stage line formed by Vacaville’s E.L. Bennett. He was going to run two-horse coach daily from Vacaville to Suisun City at a $1 fare.

A. R. Pond of Vaca Valley died in May 1866 at age 67. He was one of the oldest settlers in Solano County who had located in Green Valley in 1849 with John Stilts and others. In 1854, his numerous family members arrived after traveling across the Plains.