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Sunday, June 28, 1998

County rich with opportunity, thefts

Kristin Delaplane

Steamers, trains used during 1860s for travel

In 1869, horse thieves were the bane of society. Early in the year a couple of mares were stolen from Lagoon Valley and then the most valuable two horses of 18 were taken from Mosley’s Ranch near Vallejo.

Thomas S. Wilson, son of pioneer Mason Wilson of Vacaville, was nominated by the president of the United States to be the minister to Copenhagen. He arrived in California in 1852. His parents settled in Vacaville, where his father opened what is thought to be the first business enterprise in Vacaville in 1853-54. Thomas received his education in Vacaville and then went to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md. He served as a midshipman for the Union cause on a Mississippi ironclad and was wounded at Vicksburg. After the war, he studied law at Cambridge University. Upon graduation, he married a Solano County lady. The couple moved to San Francisco, where Thomas established a law practice.

Vacaville’s A.B. Bernard presented a microscope to the college at Vacaville. A full set of surveying instruments had been procured and the principal was seeking an electrical machine, air pump, galvanic battery and a telegraphing apparatus to complete his teaching instruments collection.


Joe Pierce (aka Pearce), who escaped trial in Solano County twice, died near Silveyville. In 1862, when he had lived in Silveyville, Pierce got in a fight with Dr. Ogburn, a strong Union man. Pierce shot the doctor, nearly killing him. In 1863, while out on bail, Pierce began publishing a secessionist paper, the Banner of Liberty. The type was set up in Silveyville, and sent to Sacramento to be printed. Pierce soon fled the area to avoid his trial. The last that had been heard of him, he was publishing a ‘‘rebel sheet” in Arizona. There he got in a scrape of some kind and stabbed a man. The citizens ran him out of town and he returned to Silveyville where he died.

Plans were made to build a Masonic Hall in Silveyville. Blum & Co. was proposing to donate a lot and $100.

Mrs. Elijah S. Silvey resumed management of her hotel, which her husband had established in 1852. Her husband, founder of the area, had passed away.

A number of citizens from the Suisun City area were moving to the newly located Dickson (Dixon) and Batavia, where they felt the farming opportunities offered much.

William R. Ferguson was appointed to take charge of the new post office at the Dickson Station; however, as yet the station was not on any mail route.


J.W. Reser purchased the Knight’s Hotel in Davisville. He had experience as a hotel man. In 1866, Reser was noted as the proprietor of the Union Hotel, which was located in Fairfield in front of the courthouse.

Maine Prairie

Maine Prairie residents were bemoaning the loss of the greatness of Maine Prairie as a shipping point as much of the grain trade was going instead to points on the railroad line. The firm of Deck & Co., to which the area owed much of his prosperity, was dissolved upon the retirement of Mr. Deck. The partners had been H.S.G. Deck, W.D. Vail and H. Wilcox. The remaining partners were going to conduct the business under the firm name of Wilcox & Co. They were dealers in dry goods, groceries, provisions, boots, shoes, hats, caps, etc. Lumber and grain bought and sold and stored and shipped.

Rio Vista

The Board of Supervisors approved the grading of the road at the foot of Main in New Rio Vista. The contract was awarded to M.S. Stone for $1,150.


Emory Irving Upham of Montezuma owned about 1000 acres of land. John Hagan attempted to establish that Upham’s claim was invalid and insufficient to keep the land from ‘‘preempters.” To do this, Hagan built a small building on the land. Upham immediately warned him that neither he nor the building could remain; however, he also offered not to force the issue if Hagan would procure a certificate from the U.S. Land Office showing that Upham’s title was not good. Hagan would not agree to do this, so Emory and Joseph Upham and two assistants armed with an ax, pistol and gun went to the place to demolish the structure. The place was torn down, but in doing so there was a scuffle and Hagan was received a blow and cut to the head with the ax handle. Hagan filed a complaint and the result was that Upham was bound to keep the peace on $500 and Hagan on $700.

Upham had just gained title in a sheriff’s sale and the town formally known as Collinsville and briefly as “Newport” was deeded over to E.I. Upham. He eventually increased his holdings to 6,000 acres.


The following item appeared in the Gold Hill News: “The new railroad and steamboat route from Sacramento to Suisun, Vallejo and San Francisco is becoming quite popular among travelers. At six o’clock every morning the hotel omnibus leaves Sacramento and crosses the bridge to Washington where the cars for Vallejo leave at a quarter past six, arriving in Suisun in an hour and half. In another hour they arrive at the wharf in south Vallejo where they are joined by another passenger train from Calistoga. The fast steamer, New World, receives passengers and an hour and 45 minutes later arrives in San Francisco. So the trip from Sacramento generally occupies four and half hours.’‘

The New World had been overhauled and repaired and was acknowledged as the fastest steamer on the Bay under the command of Capt. Galloway.

The Sacramento Union also ran a story about the Vallejo railroad. The writer suggested there was a need for a depot or some cover for the protection of passengers at the Vallejo Station on the point where the carriage road led to Benicia.

Sadly, 1869 marked the first death on the California Pacific Railroad. It occurred at Summit Station, 10 miles from Vallejo. As the train was starting up, John Henley attempted to swing up onto the cars. His hand slipped and he fell on the track. Though literally severed in half, the poor man remained alive for an hour and said he felt no pain. In that hour, he put his affairs in order, disposing of his personal effects. A native of Ireland, 37 years old, he had been in charge of a gang of Chinese workers.

Billy’s Saloon, on Georgia Street between Santa Clara and Sacramento, was run by J.W. Ryan. He furnished his patrons with a billiard table and customers enjoyed their choice of wine, liquor and cigars.

William Page’s restaurant was on Georgia Street. In early 1869, thieves broke in and helped themselves to sugar, coffee, tea and wines and liquors. They also sampled some of Mr. Smith’s stock of cigars and tobacco. The loss to Page and Smith was about $100. It was conjectured that for their getaway, they took a small boat from the Columbia House.

A lone thief went through the Union Hotel and took $250 from under one person’s pillow and stole $15 from another guest.

On the first day of the year, the town marshal arrested a resident who had armed himself with a razor. In a previous arrest, he had attempted to kill his wife. Still, relatives requested that he be discharged.

Building had started on the I.O.G.T. hall, a brick structure, on Georgia Street. The property had formally been home to the Rainbow Restaurant.

Arnold Bros., a gentleman’s clothing store, opened. It was located in Roloff’s new building on Georgia between Sacramento and Marin.

Three or four citizens donated 20 acres of land in the outskirts of town for a college.

The sales of real estate in Vallejo for the month of February amounted to $120,345.

E.M. Benjamin lost two fingers when he accidentally touched a circular saw at his mill.

Bogus $5 pieces were circulating in town.

Green Valley

Mrs. Annie Robinson of Green Valley and James Campbell were arrested on a charge of poisoning and killing her husband, Jabez. Some weeks previous a boy had come to the farm and was permitted to stay. However, shortly after his arrival, he came down with smallpox and Jabez also suffered a mild attack of the smallpox. The boy died and Annie got hold of James Campbell and asked him to bury the boy and help her nurse Jabez. Campbell remained at the home for about a month’s time. It was said that during that time he consumed about a quart of liquor a day.

When Jabez died, strychnine was found in his system and Annie was arrested. After her arrest, Campbell came in and denounced her and shortly after that he was also arrested. Campbell stated that Jabez appeared to be improving. At that time, Annie sent him to buy some strychnine. On drinking his tea that evening, Mr. Robinson remarked that it tasted “mighty curious.” That night he was taken with fits and jerks and suffered for the next day or two. In day or two, Mrs. Robinson took a trip to Napa. On her return she produced some quinine gin and Florida water for her husband. She produced a vial, which she instructed Campbell to administer to her husband. That evening, Jabez was once again seized with spasms and this time he died. The next morning Annie purportedly gave Campbell the vial and told him to bury it. Instead, he hid it and produced it for the trial.