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Sunday, October 20, 1996

Property disputes lead to anger, deaths

Kristin Delaplane

Riders jump ship when boat runs aground

By spring of 1858, Benicia’s Collegiate Institute was adding on a brick building.  Meanwhile, a report was made for the newspaper by a citizen of Suisun City. This concerned news of “an affray” in the Montezuma Township.

A conflict had been brewing for some time between Mr. Adams and William Jones about a fence between the two men’s properties. Jones put the original fence up December 1857 and it was pulled down by Adams. The matter was taken to court and had been the subject of one or two lawsuits and much ill feeling.

At this time, John Jones was rebuilding the fence with the help of a Mr. Perry. Adams appeared on the scene with his man, Mr. Beehorn. There were words and then Mr. Beehorn drew his pistol and shot Jones, four balls lodging in his body. A fifth wounded Mr. Perry. The sheriff arrested Adams and Beehorn and, at the time of this report, Jones was not expected to recover.

Another shooting took place in Vacaville near Mr. McMillan’s house. A situation grew between Mr. McMillan and the Parks brothers when cattle stayed onto the other’s grain field. The brothers went to McMillan’s, but instead of resolving the issue, John M. Park was shot, dying from his wound later that day. No arrest had been made at the time of the report, but the matter was being investigated.

Back in Benicia, Joseph Summers was selling half of lot one in block 27. Selling points were that the property was said to have improvements and a well of good water.

John Hayman was selling the stock, tools and fixtures of his paint shop. This stock was soon purchased by drugstore proprietor J.W. Jones, and he was soon selling this line out of his store.

F.P. Weinmman, proprietor of the Solano Hotel, still had hopes of selling his inn or leasing it. He was wishing to take a trip to the new “El Dorado” on the Fraser River in British Columbia. At this time, gold had been discovered there and many took off to the new gold mines.

In spite of his desire to leave, Weinmann purchased the livery stable of Forbes and Co., located at First and E Streets. William J. Hooton went in with him.

Hooton was the clerk of the court and the publisher of the Solano County Herald. The partners placed an ad in the newspaper that they had saddle horses and double and single buggies. They also boarded horses by the day, week or month.

T.M. Swan, attorney and counselor at law in Suisun City, had recently placed his business card in the newspaper. Shortly thereafter, his business apparently expanded. Now his business card was entitled Swan & McMurty. G.W. McMurty was the firm’s attorney at the Benicia office, located in the Vallejo House.

An ad was placed for the Sulphur Springs operated by Mr. Brockman. These springs were located 3 1/2 miles northeast of Vallejo and 5 1/2 miles northwest of Benicia. There were good roads from both places. The resort featured hot and cold sulphur baths, a neat and pleasant hotel, billiards and the other normal furnishings of a hotel.

It is reported to be a pleasant resort, more worthy of patronage than many other places that were drawing a larger share of the market.

June Mitchell’s Equestrian Theater arrived in Benicia and performed under a pavilion. This “elegant” company, featuring dramatists and equestrians, was a large drama and circus company. Admission was $1.

Also appearing in the summer of 1858 was the New National Circus and Hipodrome Leviathan Co. Featured were a clown, single house rider, two- and four-horse riders, tightrope dancers, gymnastic performers, valuters, somerset (somersault) throwers and tumblers. Admission was also $1.

More people were settling up in Fairfield and Suisun City. William W. Fitch, surveyor and civil engineer and deputy county surveyor, had his office in Fairfield. John Cornwell & Co., a wholesale dealer in wines, liquors, cigars, etc., had its place of business in Suisun City.

The sheriff’s bill presented to the Board of Supervisors came to $975. Items included $484 for boarding prisoners at the Martinez jail and $312 for rent at the courthouse.

The report by the county treasurer showed cash on hand came to $4,944.96. The county’s debt amounted to $29,208.77. The amount of funded debt was $28,155.29. This brought the total debt to $57,394.06.

When the steamer Oregon, headed for Benicia, ran ashore in heavy fog at Point Reyes, a number of passengers panicked and jumped. Most survived and made their way to Petaluma. The Oregon made its way to Benicia to offload passengers and then went to Mare Island to go into dry dock for repairs. While waiting to get in dry dock, the steamer had to be beached twice to keep it from sinking.

The ladies of Benicia belonging to the Church of the Order of St. Dominic’s were giving a ball as a fund-raiser for the church’s indebtedness. Some major players were sponsoring it, such as Capt. Frisbie of Vallejo and a major and a captain from the Barracks. The ball was so well attended that the proceeds were beyond expectations with a profit of $783.75. As a side item, the ball was reported in the Christian Advocate as a ball for the benefit of “10 or 12 monks.”

Mr. B.R. Johnson of the photographers Johnson Brothers, located on Clay Street in San Francisco, came to Benicia and took up gallery space over Jones Drug Store and opposite the American Hotel.

Johnson offered people an opportunity to get in on the new style of photos called Crystal Gems. Also available were ambrotypes, melanotypes and patent leather.

Within three weeks, Johnson departed leaving behind an unpaid advertising bill. The $5.75 bill was sent to San Francisco, but was returned with the statement that the proprietors knew nothing about it. The editors sent out a warning to other cities to be on the lookout for Mr. B.R. Johnson.

It was customary for newspaper editors to get hold of papers from several towns and run items of interest from those papers. Being on the steamer lane, Benicia was well located for receiving a good selection of papers. Likewise, in mentioning the unpaid bill and putting out a warning about a Mr. B.R. Johnson, the editors knew a good number of editors would be getting copies of the Solano County Herald.

It was in 1858 that Capt. Cunningham took over command on Mare Island with Capt. Farraguts departure. Also, the warship St. Mary’s and the schooner Femimore Cooper were getting ready to depart after being repaired. The correspondent said those remaining on the island regretted the leave-taking of the gentlemanly officers and men from these two vessels.

For a time, Mare Island had felt the effects of the gold excitement at the Fraser River and business had been down, but by the summer of 1858 the town began to bustle. Property was being bought up and all were anticipating the railroad’s arrival, hoping it would be up and running by the time the county seat was moved.

Capt. Waterman was awarded a contract from the government to furnish 6,000 tons of limestone rock from his Angel Island quarry for the building of a sea wall at Mare Island. We may assume this was the same Capt. Waterman who was looking forward to the county seat being moved to his town - Fairfield.