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Sunday, November 17, 1996

Port made Suisun City the county’s hub

Kristin Delaplane

Wares from San Francisco arrived daily

In 1858, with the location of the county seat in Fairfield, building and business in that part of the county took off at break-neck speed. The county valuation for that year was upwards to $4 million dollars at a time when taxes were $1.35 on $100.  By mid-October a brick building, built by Capt. Waterman for the county clerk and treasurer, was completed by local builder A.P. Jackson.

Though the county seat was in Fairfield, Suisun City was established as a shipping port and was where most business was transacted. That was where John Cornwell & Co., wholesale dealers in wines, liquors, cigars, were in daily receipt of pure wines and liquors from San Francisco. Hooton, publisher of the Solano County Herald, gave a personal testimonial that their brandy was of excellent quality.

He also gave the soda from the Suisun Soda Factory high praise.

A military encampment was planned for November near Suisun City. Bringing military companies together was a means of promoting understanding and fostering mutual cooperation. Here the soldiers would practice regimental drill and field tactics. Those to attend were the Marin Rifles, Stockton Blues, Sutter Rifles and a few companies from Nevada.

Reports on the prices the Suisun markets were fetching were as follows: flour, $11 a barrel; wheat, three cents a pound; barley, one cent; oats, two cents; hay, $10 to $14 a ton; and potatoes, 11 cents a pound.

Shipping traffic was constant. The steamer Peytona arrived from San Francisco Oct. 2 with merchandise. The schooner J.A. Burr arrived from Sacramento Oct. 3 and departed the same day with grain.

The schooner Ann Sophia departed Oct. 5 with grain. The sloop Randall arrived from Stockton Oct. 5 and departed Oct. 6. On Oct. 6, the Redwood departed for San Francisco with broom corn and hides.

The schooner Mary Gratwick arrived from San Francisco Oct. 7 with lumber. The sloop Nimrod arrived from San Francisco Oct. 7 with lumber and goods. That same day the Peytona arrived from San Francisco with merchandise.

Back at the county court, Capt. Robert Horner of the steamship Sam was honorably acquitted on a manslaughter charge.

William Parks was indicted for assault with intent to kill. James Vehom was indicted for the same crime in another case.

The lack of a jail was of primary concern. The Grand Jury made a recommendation that a suitable jail be built at the county seat immediately.

The case of one Amos Winchell no doubt highlighted this concern.

Amos had been arrested for stealing cattle. Reportedly he had been in the “cattle trade” for the past two or three years, sometimes driving large herds to market. He had been residing at the jail in Martinez jail and was brought to Fairfield to be tried.

With no jail to house the thief, his guard brought him in tow to a concert given by a African-American minstrels. The jailer, Officer Johnson, may have been lulled by a promise from Amos that he would not try to escape. His word was no good. He gave the officer the slip.

Immediately, Johnson took out after Amos, but to no avail. A $200 reward was offered for the return of the prisoner. Amos was described as 5 feet, 8 inches, brown hair, hazel eyes, eyebrows that grew over his nose and sporting a mustache. He was last seen wearing a white hat, a light colored coat, dove colored pantaloons, no vest and a blue shirt.

He supposedly escaped on a Canadian pony with no saddle or bridle. Word soon came that Amos had reached San Francisco and so Johnson and another deputy set off for the city where they did indeed apprehend Amos and return him to Solano County.

Suisun City businesses included the following items. The co-partnership of Marston and Merrill was dissolved. The two had been in the mercantile business operating out of a large brick store. J.H. Marston planned to carry on the with the business with out J.P. Merrill.

Knorp and Doughty’s Furniture and Bedding Store was on the plaza opposite the American Hotel. They made furniture to order and repaired same.

The Excelsior Saloon was operated by Goodwin and Co. and was located on Main Street near California on the south side.

This saloon had been recently renovated and “furnished in a style not to be exceeded by any in the county.” It boasted marble bed billiard tables.

D.E. Stockmon operated the drugstore. He filled prescriptions and carried pure drugs and medicines, chemicals, perfumery, etc. He also had on hand books, stationery, school books, blank book, inks, and so forth.

Stockmon was also the local news vender carrying newspapers, magazines, and Atlantic and California newspapers. In 1863, Stockmon Bros. was still in business and located in the Express Building in Suisun City. The business had grown a bit, but he still carried the staples of a drugstore, such as drugs, medicines and patent medicines.

The new Suisun City Mills works was upgraded to a new building. A steam flouring mill based in a brick building, it was operated by Reed and Edwards. The building was built with a stone basement measuring 34-feet by 50-feet deep. The tin-roofed building was three stories high and situated on the east side of the plaza, a little north its predecessor, an old wooden mill. The masonry on the new building was completed by A.P. Jackson who had built the Fairfield’s courthouse. The steam engine was 40 horse power and the balance wheel was said to be the largest in the state at the time. When in operation, the mill could turn out 900 bushels of flour in a 24-hour period. The cost of the building and machinery was estimated to be $30,000.

The Solano County Herald office was in the building that had been designated as the future courthouse had the vote for county seat been located in Suisun City. J.B. Lemon and Co., dealers in dry goods, groceries, boots and shoes and hardware, were located in the post office building at the “Old Stand.”

The Excelsior Block, opposite the plaza, was where M.C. Tibbets was doing business as a house and sign painter. He was also in the paper hanging, graining and glazing business.

Mr. J.J. Peko was the local vegetable man. He raised most of the produce on his farm.

Hoping for a free mention, he presented a 10 pound sweet potato to the newspaper. He not only got his mention, but made the paper again when he brought in a second potato weighing 13 1/2 pounds.

S.A. McMeans was a physician and surgeon for Suisun City and Fairfield. Dr. McMeans had been in on the operation to amputate the Spanish vaquero Antonio’s leg.

Much building and industry was taking place on Solano Street. Cutler and Anderson added a spacious carriage house to their livery stable operation.

Mr. Ayres was adding a front porch to his boarding house and had intentions to hang a bell large enough to be heard through the city. A private school was being opened by Miss Miner in the Congregational Church.

In other parts of the city, William T. Kennedy and Charles Edwards were building private residences.

The plank road between Fairfield and the island of Suisun City was to prove to be a constant problem. One day a couple of city officials rented a horse and buggy to get to Suisun City.

When they met an ox team coming in the opposite direction, they stopped to let it pass.

Their Spanish horse got jittery and proceeded to back up. Their commands of “Whoa” went unheeded as the horse only responded to Spanish commands.

Apparently the officials were not bilingual. All landed in the drink.