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

Sunday, November 05, 1995

Crime accompanies prosperity in Davisville

Kristin Delaplane

Information for this article came from the Solano Genealogy Society and the Yolo County Library.

Third in a series
Shortly before Isaac Davis died in 1869, the Jerome Davis homestead was converted into a hotel named Yolo House. It operated as a hotel under a number of landlords up to about 1871.

A second hotel, the American House, was erected in the fall of 1868. That construction was followed by establishment of the Weber Saloon.

In the first year as a shipping point, 1868, some 14,000 to 20,000 tons of wheat were exported from Davisville.

Naturally, real estate was booming. While lots were generally selling from $100 to $250 each, at least one lot was registered as selling for $700.

Davisville seems to be unique for the number of physicians it supported. The early-day doctor was Dr. O.C. Udell, who lived along Putah Creek and was one of John Wolfskill’s first neighbors.

In 1868, three doctors were listed in town. By 1870 there were four doctors, one dentist who came from England, and a man who specialized in dentures and who did business in the American House.

It seems not only were the doctors in town kept busy, but the justice of the peace as well. In 1857, two justices of the peace were named for the areas South Putah Township and North Putah Township.

It was at this juncture that the town’s most prominent citizen, Isaac Davis, was elected county judge.

The town’s prosperity was blamed for some law-and-order problems according to one citizen, “and with this prosperity there was an accompanying wave of debauchery and crime that seems to have become a never-failing companion of excessive prosperity in new towns.”

Saloons prevailed and often these were the places where differences of opinions came to light and fights erupted. Yolo House, the old Davis homestead, earned a bad reputation in this regard.

By 1879, five assaults with deadly weapons were recorded in the town. A black man cut a white man on the face and head with a razor in 1868. Next, a white man fired at a black man who suffered a bullet in the cheek.

A Mr. Bullard received a number of cuts on this chest in 1872. The assailant earned himself a two-year stay at San Quentin.

Mr. Wilson shot a saloon keeper in the head. The saloon keeper lived to tell the tale. Likewise, W. McEntire recovered from his bullet wound to the head in 1879. These pioneers were a sturdy lot.

A wound to the leg was to account for a murder in town. It was 1879 and a railroad crew had been drinking. A dispute erupted and one stabbed another in the leg. The stabbed man died a few hours later.

Two Chinese men were also murdered. A historical account states: “Two Chinamen have been murdered there but this don’t count as ‘The Chinese must go.’ ” It is presumed the writer was being sarcastic.

Other deaths resulted from suicide. One was the town’s Swiss jeweler. Then a shoemaker suffering from the DTs. Finally, there was the saloonkeeper who slipped himself a much-too-potent Mickey Finn.

Dresbach’s mercantile store was robbed in 1870. One of the thieves was caught and was sent up to the state prison.

On another occasion, the railroad company suffered a loss when its safe was burglarized in 1878. The culprits were never found.

On the other side of the coin, church life was in evidence.

As far back as 1852, the area welcomed a traveling Methodist minister of the Cache Creek circuit.

It was reported that many services were held in the blacksmith shop.

Once Davisville developed, services were conducted in one of the hotels. The Presbyterian populace often attended church services in Tremont.

The Presbyterian Church was organized in 1869, and the congregation got its church built in one day in 1870 through the efforts of an old-fashioned church-raising.

The first Catholic mass in Davis was offered in 1869 by a Sacramento priest at the Occidental House just after it had just been built. The Catholic congregation finally built St. James Catholic Church in 1875.

The Methodist-Episcopal Church was organized in 1874. A $3,000 building was erected for the small congregation.

It is not clear what happened to that structure, but it is likely it burned down or met some similar fate, because in 1890 the congregation merged with the Presbyterian Church.

Fraternity orders started up as the town became settled. The first to make its appearance was the Odd Fellows in 1870. The group erected a brick building at a cost of $3,000.

A Masonic Lodge was charted in 1873 and members were invited to share the Odd Fellows premises.

Though short-lived, the Siskiyou Tribe Improved Order of Red Men met in Davisville in 1870.

In response to the rowdiness at the local saloons, the temperance cause was in full fever and temperance societies flourished in the late 1870s and 1880s.

Next week: Schools, social life, businesses - and technology reaches town.