Click Here to Print This Story!   Click Here to get a PDF Copy of this Story!   

Sunday, November 03, 1996

County voters pick Fairfield as new hub

Kristin Delaplane

Decision highlighted by local opera

In the summer of 1858, John W. Barton declared himself an insolvent debtor. It’s highly likely this was the Barton who operated Barton’s Store in the area now known as Mankas Corner.
A school had flourished at Barton’s Store for several years and it was a regular stop for the stage coach.

This year, 1858, marked when the county seat was to be moved from Benicia, if the public so voted. The two towns in greatest competition to be the new county seat were Suisun City and the new town of Fairfield.

Caught up in the excitement of this move, an original opera was being staged in Suisun City entitled “The People’s Wish” or “The New County Seat.”

The principle characters were being played by distinguished citizens of the town with the assistance of performers from neighboring cities. The hero was named Robert Le Diablo or the Jolly Waterman. Admission as free and whiskey would be available between acts.

A convention was held in August to decide the proposed location of the new county seat which then would be put on the ballot for voter approval.

Suisun City offered $5,550 and a lot known as Owen’s Tavern Stand, which measured 100 feet by 120 feet. Capt. Waterman offered 16 acres known as Union Park in the town plat of Fairfield. He also offered four blocks with 12 lots each.

Vacaville’s Mason Wilson offered four blocks of lots and $1,000. Denverton ran on its own merits.

The final vote by the delegates was for Fairfield at 16 votes. Suisun City received 12 votes and Denverton came in the with one vote.

Back in Benicia, the Rev. Bishop Kip was set to give an Episcopal service at the “chapel” or the Masonic Building. The following week or so he was to give a service in Vallejo at their M. E. Church.

Capt. Walsh of Benicia was running a “To Let” ad offering a commodious house with 10 rooms located on L Street.

A report came from Suisun City that summer that Col. McElvain of the Barracks in Benicia had lost his footing and broken his leg while making his way to Vacaville to visit a friend. At the time of the report he was being put up by friends in the vicinity of Suisun City.

In a further communication from the area, it was reported that business was very active in Suisun City and large quantities of grain were being brought in daily by the farmers to be sold or store.

In late August 1858, there were several robberies in Benicia. The finger was being pointed at a group of “vagabonds,” or tramps, who had been hanging about town.

The thieves had entered St. Charles Saloon through a window and taken $25 from the till and a Colt six-shooter. Within days, the town marshal and his posse arrested four of the “hard looking” individuals.

With no proof, they were forced to let them go. They were given a warning to leave town, which they promptly did.

In another robbery, one of the men from the Barracks stole a hair brush, comb, nail brush, pen and inkstand from Mr. Barne’s barbershop.

Apparently, in immediate need of cash, the thief promptly set up the stolen wares for sale at the Solano Hotel. The articles were returned to their rightful owner. In a act of compassion, the robber was allowed to go free.

A visit was made by the editors to Mr. Anderson’s highly reputed school in Vacaville. The school was renown for its thorough course of study which included Latin and mathematics. The school boasted a well filled library that lined the walls. So well thought of was the school that several of the students were from other towns. The students included the sons of the Hon. George Levison of Benicia.

The Vacaville Hotel was now under the proprietorship of Dr. Sproul and Mason Wilson was busy erecting a commodious brick house for his family and as a public house. The estimated construction cost was $7,000.

With the election coming up, John Curry’s name was prominent. He was running on the Black Republican ticket for Supreme Judge. Curry had large parcels of land in Solano County.

In 1852, Vaca and Pena had conveyed land to Curry and S.C. Hastings in the Vacaville area for a sum of $6,000. In 1853, Hastings conveyed his share to Curry which included one-quarter of the town of Vacaville.

In 1857, William McDaniel conveyed more land in that region to Curry. In that same year Curry gained land on the Suscol Grant from S.C. Hastings.

Finally in 1858, Vaca convey another three English miles to Curry. In total, Curry owned 4,000 acres of the Vaca Grant and 320 acres on the Suscol Grant.

Now John Curry had a huge hunger to be in office and was “up” for something every year. In 1850 he was appointed Judge, but was not confirmed. In 1853, he lost his bids for state Senator and for Judge of the Supreme Court. He ran for Assembly in 1854, lost and then asked the Whigs to put him on the Supreme Bench. They did, but he was never approved.

In 1855, he expected the get in on the Know-Nothings ticket as a candidate for Judge of the Supreme Court, but that attempt failed. He made another stab at the Supreme Court in 1857 and lost.

Again, in 1858, he tried for the Supreme Court position, but, as it would turn out, all he could carry were his neighbors’ votes in Solano County.

With the elections scheduled for September, a new polling place had been set up to serve a newly named 3rd prescient in Montezuma Township. This voting place was located at Sidwell’s Store in the relatively new town, Rio Vista.

In these election results, Fairfield was voted to be the next county seat. It was learned that a brick building was to be built in 30 days with room for the county officers and a court room. The election results were celebrated with a ball in Suisun City at Reeve’s Hall.

Meanwhile, the railroad company was re-analyzing their proposed route. Should the railroad from Marysville end at the first navigable waterway? Should that be Col. Davis’ resident located at Rio Vista? Were the people of Solano County prepared to pay $250,000 for construction of a railroad that would in effect only enhance the value of property of a few?

Suisun City was a hub for stage coach traffic. The Suisun Stage Line operated by the Culter Brothers changed its departure time from Benicia. It now left Benicia with the arrival of the San Francisco boat and arrived in Suisun City about 10 p.m.

Prior to this the stage had left Benicia early in the morning. In addition to Milton Cutler’s line of stages there was the McKenzie & Browns Sacramento and Napa stage line that stopped in Suisun City.

The steamer Peytona now operated three times a week from San Francisco to Suisun City, with a stop at Benicia. It was a favorite steamer with passengers. It took a large number of Benicia residents to Suisun City to attend the Celebration of the Pioneers.

The Peytona was under the command of Capt. S.H. Dubois and Dr. Mentzer. Dr. Mentzer was well regarded in the transportation business having been an agent for a line of coaches that had run between Stockton and the gold mines.

A new Mason lodge was established in Suisun City named the Suisun Lodge.

With the results in from the Marysville Fair, the people of Suisun again echoed the desire for a county agriculture society with an accompanying county fair.

Many from Solano County took prizes at the Marysville Fair: The Collegiate Institute took a prize for superior pencil sketches. Miss Matilda Reuger won for best exhibit. Oliver Hyde of Benicia took home a prize for a model of a superior pile and post driver. Hyde and Co. came in for its exhibit of an excellent screw iron picket. Mrs. T.T. Hooper delighted in her prize for her pencil drawings and bur frames.

Hooton, the publisher of the newspaper, had recently gone in as a partner with F.P. Weinmann on a livery stable in Benicia.

He must have given up his interest as F.P. Weinmann was advertising as sole proprietor. Perhaps this was due to the move Hooton was about to make to Suisun City where he would now publish the Solano County Herald as of October 1858. This move was to be near the action in Fairfield as the new county seat.