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Saturday, March 01, 1997

Papers swear, bicker over Union alliance

Kristin Delaplane

Neighbors pitted against one another

Fall of 1863 marked when the Solano County Herald became a semi-weekly. Nevertheless, subscription and advertising rates remained unchanged: Five dollars for a year’s subscription and advertising was $2 for 10 lines the first week and $1 thereafter.
With election returns in, a bonfire was set in Suisun’s plaza in front of the Wells Fargo office where one of the defeated candidates apparently worked.

Suisun J.B. Lemon lost out to Vacaville’s Edward F. Gillespie for sheriff with Lemon at 1,025 votes, Gillespie at 1,292. Gillespie quit his general merchandise store, located in one of the first business buildings, if not the first, in Vacaville.

In further election news, the proposition to build an asylum building did not pass. Early returns showed one “yea” and two “nay.”

With the Civil War on (1861-1865) the Solano County Herald cast itself as a Union newspaper as did its competition, The Press. Though the Herald commonly turned out editorials against the secessionists in the county, the Press accused the publisher of not being a true Union man. This reflected the mood of the times when neighbors turned against neighbors. During this election, there was a fight between the Secesh and the Regulars at Maine Landing (aka Maine Prairie) at the schoolhouse polling place.

The full extent of the prevailing divisiveness was evident in a letter to the editor from James M. Hawkins, a soldier of a California regiment in the Massachusetts 2nd Calvary. “I sincerely hope my relatives in the Golden State, my father especially, have come to the conclusion that they have taken the wrong state in this great struggle between our country and her enemies.”

Hawkins had just recovered from a head wound received at the battle at Ashby’s Gap. Two days before the battle he had been appointed the chief bugler. His horse was also shot, causing Hawkins to fall, breaking his arm and two ribs. He was taken prisoner but within hours the “boys” rescued him.

The Suisun Calvary and the Suisun Light Dragoons had their drill practices in full uniform near the Fairfield courthouse. Forty rifles and 50 revolvers had just arrived for the company. Other equipment was expected soon. To raise funds the company was preparing to give a dress ball.

Meanwhile, 46 members of the Vallejo Rifles Co. went to Camp Allen to drill. They were the only company with regulation uniforms. During the upcoming holiday season, they gave a soiree at the Washington Hall to raise funds to erect a proper armory. They were currently accepting construction bids.

The county assessor’s report made note of the fact that there were 1,665 men subject to military duty at that time.

For the soldiers relief fund, the Sanitary Fund, Vacaville donated $4.25; Rio Vista, $20; Tremont, $17.45; Suisun, $116.50; Denverton, $85; Green Valley, $3; Maine Prairie, $33.25.

Wilder’s Polyorama of the War was presented at Suisun’s Union Hall. The scenes these paintings depicted were described by Miss Viola Pomroy. Miss Viola and Mrs. Hattie Pomroy also provided the audience with songs and ballads.

In Mare Island, news bids were being taken for the construction of barracks for the U.S. Marines. Meanwhile, the marines and sailors were quartered in the ships called the Independence, Decatur and John Hancock. Maj. A. Garland, who was in command of the Marines, issued notice that deserters would receive pardons if they returned by Sept. 15.

A Russian fleet consisting of five war ships was undergoing repairs at Mare Island.

Commodore Selfridge’s wife and Mrs. Bishop were seriously injured when they were thrown from a buggy while riding.

An accident occurred on Suisun’s Main Street when a two-horse wagon collided with a four-horse heavier vehicle. No one was seriously hurt in this collision.

Two men were out in the Suisun tules with their guns trailing at half cock. One of the charges exploded severely ripping Charles Waterman’s arm.

At Vacaville, the Hostetter brothers were out hunting geese in the Vaca Valley. The eldest raised his gun to shoot. It prematurely discharged killing his younger brother instantly.

James Berry of Benicia placed a notice in the paper offering the return of a pistol he had found the past Christmas.

Denverton rang with news when its founder S.K. Nurse married Mrs. H. Nurse in San Francisco.

Sleeping accommodations were provided for some 2,000 people in Vacaville for a religious camp meeting at the Pacific Methodist Church. Due to this event, there was no service that Sunday at Suisun’s Solano Street Church.

Rev. Finley, a Baptist from Missouri, was to preach at the schoolhouse near Sampson’s Smith’s place in the Suisun Valley.

The Protestant Episcopal church at Benicia had just received a church organ from New York. It was believed to be the first church organ in California outside of San Francisco.

Rev. W.S. Urmy of Sacramento was appointed as the pastor for the Methodist Episcopal church in Fairfield. There was a presentation later that fell at the Sabbath School, the youngsters singing and giving recitations under the tutelage of Urmy and Joseph Hewitt, the county’s public administrator.

Stockmon, Suisun’s drug store proprietor, produced some cotton he had raised in his backyard, demonstrating to his satisfaction that cotton might be a good crop for the tule lands.

James Hollinger was the new barber saloon at the Pacific House. The previous three years he had been at Briscoe’s barber shop. It had since closed its doors.

Wagon-maker J.B. Shields formed a partnership with John Higgins. The firm was now known as Shields & Higgins.

Suisun’s John A. Peyton was reorganizing his meat market, Washington Market. Peyton’s competition, George Eichnor, purchased John Streeter’s interest in the books and accounts. Streeter drove Peyton’s meat wagon. Peyton’s butcher, Tom Clarke, quit to go to work at Fisher’s meat stall in Benicia. It was noted that the populace would miss Clarke’s “rich musical strains with which he was accustomed to greet the first dawn.”

The new postmaster, William Losh, moved the post office, boxes and all, to the telegraph office one door north of the Suisun Bakery.

The Monitor Feed Stable operated by N.C. Butler had moved nearer the courthouse at Taylor and Texas in Fairfield. Persons from “abroad having business at the courthouse ” were encouraged to leave their horses with Butler.

An itinerant “organ grinder” appeared in Suisun City. He set up a table in the plaza and entertained passersby with a puppet show. Other entertainment was provided by Dr. Baldwin J. Smith, a “bump feeler.” He amused his audiences with his lectures and examinations of people’s heads to exact the development of their cranium.

In that bustling city of Suisun a pistol was drawn and threats made over a game of cards. There was also “fierce demonstration with a knife against a butcher boy by a bit saloon keeper.” The saloon keeper made a hasty retreat from a shower of rocks and surrendered his weapon. Another fracas occurred between a “Chinaman and Negro” both employed at the City Hotel.

The 10th Annual Fair of the State Agriculture Society in Sacramento received a grade-C review from one citizen: “It was a very good showing for Sacramento,” but it was by no means an illustration of the vast goods grown or raised and stock raised in the state. Nevertheless, a number of county residents displayed their goods there, including the Benicia Cement Co., which sent samples of its cement, and Fred Werner who took a 9-inch pear branch laden with 30 pears.

Mr. A.P. Jackson of the Suisun Valley presented the newspaper with a box of grapes from his vineyards. He had 8,000 vines, 3-years old and 600 vines, 5 to 6-years old. He had been making wine for the past three years, selling it successfully on the San Francisco market.

J. Frank, Suisun’s dry goods store owner, presented grapes he had grown in his back yard.

The California Telegraph ran a new line through Fairfield to connect Sacramento with San Francisco via Napa and the Golden Gate.

Those with financial demands against Dr. C.H. Coffran were advised they would receive their pay by the 10th. Meanwhile, those indebted to the doctor were requested to pay him before that date.

It was called to Suisun Water Works Company attention that there were many places along the line of pipes that were in need of repair. If not attended to, the leaks would cause major mud holes during the wet season.

Suisun’s A.F. Knorp of the Fire Bell Committee reported his latest to the Engine Company No. 1. The committee had examined bells in San Francisco and chose one weighing 132 pounds with a sharp clear tone. It would cost a fraction over $75 including delivery. The expense of putting it up would not exceed $25 unless it was determined to build a frame tower disconnected from the engine house.

The bell was purchased, “the fraction over $75” being $95. But when the bell arrived, it was determined to be unsatisfactory. A bigger bell providing greater volume was required. At the next meeting, Knorp read a letter from Conroy & O’Connor, the San Francisco firm. They offered to the take the ‘cowbell’ back in exchange for a bell weighing 534 1/2 pounds costing $253.80. At this point, the committee went directly to the source-the bell manufacturer Cowing & Co. in Seneca Falls, New York. Their prices were $40 for a 300 pound bell; $75 for a 450 pound bell and $150 for an 850 pound bell. The question was why the San Francisco firm was not satisfied with a profit less than 400 percent, especially as they purchased the bells in greenbacks and sold them for gold.

Meanwhile, a fire cistern, that was 12-square feet and was capable of holding 6,000 gallons of water, was constructed on Sacramento Street at Main. The fire company planned a New Year’s Ball to raise money to build more cisterns. Tickets to the ball were to be $5.

News came in that a group of men discovered a fire retardant paint derived from the lead in rock found within a few miles of Suisun. The supply was pronounced to be inexhaustible. As paint it would come in two colors, the usual dark red and a dead brown shade.

Sorghum syrup produced in Solano had reached the marketplace and was commented on the San Francisco paper.

To meet the winter schedule the ferry from Benicia to Martinez would make its last trip at 5 p.m. instead of 5:30 p.m.

A school was being opened at Suisun City in Mr. W.K. Hoyt’s home on Solano Street. Mary Tourtillot was to supervise.

Around this time, Miss Atkins, who had been head mistress of the Benicia Female Seminary, left for Honolulu on the Yankee, the state of her health requiring the benefits of a sea voyage.

The holidays were fast approaching. Wright & Henry, owners of the recently enlarged and refurbished Union Hall in Suisun City, were giving a Thanksgiving Ball there. The $4 ticket price included a supper catered by the Pacific House. Unfortunately, a “prevailing complaint” prevented many sufferers from attending the ball.

Land disputes were the cause of a few killings. Such was to be John Coresdale’s fate. D.H. Fitzpatrick had time to think about his part while in jail. It seems Croesdale and Fitzpatrick had a running conflict regarding their claims. One morning Fitzpatrick was herding cattle with his 12-year old son when Croesdale approached. Croesdale, being blind in his right eye, was in the habit of carrying his gun on the left side resting on his saddle pummel. Fitzpatrick’s son testified that as Croesdale neared his gun was cocked, his finger was on the trigger and he was just raising it. This was when Fitzpatrick shot him. Fitzpatrick was charged with manslaughter and released on $5,000 bail.

Benicia’s Weinmann, proprietor of the famed Solano House, was in the stables attached to his hotel while the horses were being readied for the Suisun Stage line. He handed the lines to his 6 or 7-year old son, who was seated on the stage ready to ride with stage master Cutler. The horses, feeling the tension in the lines, took off. “The boy, with more presence of mind and better judgment than the majority of men would have shown, climbed over the top of the moving coach, down on the boot dropping off behind the stage without injury.” After he jumped, the king bolt came loose disconnecting the stage from the horses.