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Saturday, April 05, 1997

Building a bustling business in Vacaville

Kristin Delaplane

Guns, youth a 1883 concern

The summer of 1883, Mr. and Mrs. James Collins, who lived 40 miles north of Vacaville, had an open house at their new house and invited all to come. About 70 guests came arriving at about 9 p.m. and coming from Vacaville, Suisun, Bridgeport (also known as Cordelia), Elmira and San Francisco. While dancers whirled to the music of the fiddles, others walked the well-lighted grounds or sat in groups on the porch.

The Davis House came under new management in July 1883, when Little and his partner Barker took over. Al Marston was put in as the head clerk. The new proprietors were planning a housewarming and, in preparation, a permanent dance floor was being constructed in the garden for this and future festivities. The Dixon Band agreed to provide the music for this particular occasion. Admission was free and supper was to be $1 per couple.

The former proprietor, I.F. Davis, was busy building residence in the grove located near the hotel.

W.C. Hodgins, who operated the town’s boarding house, rented one of his rooms to a Chinese man, who was making plans to open a store at that spot.

All the building taking place in Vacaville was attracting people in those trades. B.F. Tucker, builder and draftsman, provided estimates and plans free of charge. The current list of building activity included Meredith R. Miller’s six apartment-like rentals as well as a private residence for his family. Miller was one of the first settlers in Pleasants Valley, arriving in 1851. During that time, he made his money mainly from grapes. J.B. Robinson was building a new frame structure, Lizzie Long was building yet another cottage, Buck Long was putting on an addition and J.R. Tilson was building a small apartment-like residence.

Tom E. Kinsmill, the saddler, was building a cottage. The bald Kinsmill was continually bothered by flies landing on his head. He got the idea of making a cap from fly catch paper to solve the problem and it for him. Those sitting next to him had to wonder at the circus of flies stuck to the paper. In business, Kinsmill sold his store on Main Street to David Dutton for $1,800. Dutton had plans to tear down the building and erect in its place a brick structure. Kinsmill turned around and purchased two lots from the blacksmiths, (I. or J.) S. and W.C. Donoho. Since his arrival in Vacaville, Kinsmill had built several buildings and was burned out twice. In one fire, he had only been able to save his books and shotgun. The structure he planned for the two lots was a two-story, measuring 70 feet by 40 feet.

J.B. Murton and family were camping on the land where he was building a new residence. Murton sold his former homestead to Frederick Hutton.

Newspaper publisher McClain had calmed down his aspirations for the Triangle property and now, instead of a five-story building, he was drawing up plans for a two-story structure, which would serve as offices and residence.

Hugh Cernon tore down a smaller building next to his blacksmith shop, and was planning to build a new addition to his enterprise.

J.T. Rivera was contemplating opening a general store and building a structure for that purpose.

G.W. Thissell was adding gables and porches to his homestead.

W.B. Parker was having an elaborate home built by a Sacramento contractor. The building was going to be 32 feet by 67 feet, two stories high with a basement. The basement was also going to be made of brick and have a 7-foot ceiling. The first story was going to have 12-foot ceiling and the second story an 11-foot ceiling. The first floor was going to have six large rooms: a parlor, sitting rooms, office, kitchen, dining room. The second floor would also have six large rooms with closets and a bathroom with hot and cold water. A circular porch would be at the east and north sides of the upper story and a porch would also circle the lower story. The cost of construction was $7,000. Vacaville’s Dan Corn would be supplying the building materials.

Edgar Long, who had been managing J.M. Miller’s drug store in Suisun, bought the business outright.

G. W. Warner made deliveries of fresh fish, but he temporarily halted these deliveries as he was unable to keep the fish fresh in the summer heat.

A new store was in operation, the Bazaar Store. It was primarily a men’s store. Available for sale were tobacco cigars at 5 cents a bit, men’s clothing, notions, fruits, nuts, candies.

Mrs. P. Wiley of Long and Wiley’s millinery and dressmaking establishment was teaching dressmaking and was also the agent for the White sewing machine.

A. J. Dobbins opened a law practice in Vacaville. He didn’t lack for clients. First, there was a raid on an opium den. Constable Parker deputized two men and the three of them raided Sam Sing’s wash house. They arrested 11 Chinese for allegedly smoking opium. All were fined $20. As they could not pay, they went in jail. Sam Sing was arrested the next day and fined $40. Because he couldn’t pay, he was also taken to jail.

Then there was the case of Ah Sue, whose troubles started when he caught sight of a man going into Hay Sing’s wash house, which was operated by Wong, Fun and Yook, Sue followed the man in as the man owed an acquaintance of Sue’s money for board and Sue saw this as a chance to collect money. When the man refused to pay, a fight broke out. Sue was punched and was sprawled out on a pile of just-washed clothes. Fun issued orders to have Sue thrown out. When he was arrested, Sue, sporting a black eye, claimed $40 had been taken from his pocket when he was ejected from the wash house. Following a court appearance all charges were dismissed.

Dr. Day, who believed all men good, had taken a gentleman in who was sporting the military title colonel. Col. Delano promptly stole Day’s gold watch, an overcoat and vest, a bull-dog revolver, a $7 hat and $10 or $12 in money. He was arrested in Elmira and taken to the county jail. The county really didn’t need more prisoners. At this time there were 31 people being housed in the county jail

There was no safety, even in town. An 18-month-old child, who had been crawling in family’s the back yard, died after getting a foxtail grass lodged in its throat.

There was voiced concern about children with guns as the practice of young boys carrying concealed weapons was increasing. And they carried these revolvers and guns with poor safety precautions. Constable Nathan Holt disarmed a couple who had been firing their revolvers at random endangering the public.

Out on the farms, guns were also a concern. Mix, Winchell and Pleasants all issued notice that hunters and sportsmen were prohibited from their property. This warning was due to fires occurring from to gunfire.

A parcel of 100 acres, 30 of which were in orchards and grapes, was selling at $150 per acre. A 30 acre ranch was selling for $5,000 or $166 per acre. This last piece of property included the land under cultivation in fruit orchards and grapes, a house, barn and water resources.

There was evidence of the Italian community. L. Poggetti, east of town had five acres in watermelon and 40 acres in vegetables

People were invited to go to Brougham’s ranch to see the Wheeler Fruit Cannery in operation from 2 to 5 every afternoon. This piece of caning equipment was selling for about $15.

W.B. Davis and H.H. Clark took up claims in the Wild Horse Canyon. They built cabins and were planning to raise wolves and sell their scalps.

J. M. Oiler was selling dairy cows. Oiler’s Grove, once the site of the Christian Church, was going to be the site in September of a State Christian meeting. A large number of ministers were going to be attending. In August, there was to be a grand harvest picnic at the grove. The Elmira Brass and String Band had been notified and was holding the date. No alcoholic beverages were to be allowed. Bids were being taken for the food booth, ice cream booth and shooting gallery. Oiler had ambitions to make this piece of property a community recreational area.

Out in William Butcher’s field, a young red fox, rare to this area, was caught and taken on as a family pet.

A San Francisco butcher rented 600 acres of land to pasture 200 head of sheep. The hired herdsman left them one day without any water. It was the middle of the summer, the animals were suffering terribly. A passing housewife, Mrs. McMurtry, tried to start the windmill to get them water, but was unable to man it.

On the other hand, unwanted animals didn’t stand a chance. A rattlesnake with 12 rattlers on its tail was found in Miss Carrie McFarland’s home. Without flinching, she beat the unwanted visitor over the head with a club, killing it.

A large male brown bear was killed in the hills of Vacaville. Newpor was out hunting and had stopped by a stream for a rest. He heard a noise above him, looked up and saw the bear. He immediately aimed, fired and the 400-pound bear came tumbling down.

Though Thomas Owens, teamster for Thurber, was noted as the most graceful four-in-hand drivers on the road, not every one had his knack and pedestrians had to be constantly vigilant. When Charles Willard’s horse team became frightened by the sound of the approaching train, they took off at breakneck speed through Vacaville streets.

Miss Fannie Thurber and Miss Cora Dutton were out riding in a wagon downtown. They were 100 yards from the Main Street when the horse became startled and took off. The young ladies were unable to contain the horse and the wagon wheel struck another vehicle tipping their wagon over. Mannie Reams of Suisun had been chasing the ladies’ wagon and was there just in the nick of time to catch Fannie as she was about to plummet over the bridge, a drop of about 30 feet. The shaken young ladies were taken to the Davis House and Dr. Cunningham was called in. Luckily they were not seriously injured.