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Sunday, September 20, 1998

Solano County communities bustling in 1871

Kristin Delaplane

In the winter of 1871, farmer Mathew Cooper was spitting wood he purchased some months before. He came upon a hollow log and discovered a large white oak walking cane.

It was a T-handle style with two old-fashioned silver caps marked with the initials ‘‘M.A.G.’‘

No one in the region matched those initials or could identify it.

Many of the farmers in the area were planting Norway oats, which Chrisler & Co. of Suisun City was selling.

The Chinese were gearing up to celebrate the beginning of another 1,000 years according to their calendar. The festivities were going to last two weeks. It was noted that in December nearly 600 of the wealthier Chinese from Northern California had sailed to China to celebrate this auspicious occasion in their homeland. Several hundred more set sail in January.

A couple of new mail routes were being proposed. One was for three times a week from Dixon to Maine Prairie via Binghamton, a distance of 24 miles round trip. The other was to be once a week from Vacaville to Woodland by way of Vaca Valley, Pleasants Valley, Scroggins near the mouth of Putah Creek and Buckeye. The distance was 78 miles round trip.

Solano County had three of the costliest steam flouring mills in the state. The Benicia Mill, costing $70,000, belonged to Ballard A. Hall and had a capacity of 500 barrels a day. The Starr Mills in Vallejo was priced at $90,000 and also had a capacity of 500 barrels a day. The Suisun City Mills, operated by Marston and Porter, was set at $35,000 and had the capacity of 150 barrels a day.

Later in the spring of 1871, J.H. Marston decided to quit the flour mill business and he and George Porter dissolved their partnership. At the flour mill they put out graham flour, corn meal, middlings, bran and ground barley. The also produced ground feed.

In one of the sloughs, Chris Neilson, a drayman, accidentlly shot himself while hunting. The hammer of his gun caught on the oar gunnel of his boat and fired. The shot hit him in the thigh and hand, taking out a fair bit of flesh.

He managed to row the boat a half mile and then walk to his home. Once there he immediately fainted due to loss of blood. Benicia

The congregation of the Episcopal Church dispensed with the usual Christmas festival and instead made a donation to the Protestant Orphan Asylum school.

Grading had begun on the California Central Railroad Co. for a line from Benicia to Red Bluff. On the day grading commenced opposite the Goodyear schoolhouse, a group of citizens was there to hear Benicia’s leading citizen, attorney L. Mizner, speak and read letters from the officers of the company.

A new ferry service was instituted - the Benicia-Martinez Ferry. Mizner and Shirley were the partners in this venture. The ferry was outfitted with a sitting room for the ladies and a gentleman’s cabin opposite. They also took animals, charging 40 cents per head for 50 or more cattle or horses.

The Thespian Society donated the proceeds from a performance for the enclosure and beautification of the new Solano Square, which was in front of St. Catherine’s Convent.

The Young Ladies Seminary changed hand. The Rev. C.H. Pope purchased the property form Mr. Mills, who went on to found Mills College in Oakland.

The Young Ladies Seminary in Benicia was celebrating its 20th year.


Vallejo was growing. The boundaries were extended and many new buildings were being erected. In 1871, the Vallejo public school accommodated 1,000 students.

Deputy Sheriff Edward Longon went to Vallejo to pick up Joseph Kane on some charge. When he arrived at Kane’s dwelling, Kane was hauling a boat tied to a milk wagon.

Longon, believing it to be stolen property, attempted to take possession of the boat, which led to a fight. Longon got the better of the fight and hauled the suspect to Justice Riley’s office in a butcher cart.

However, with several witnesses testifying, it became clear Longon had used undue force and the charges against Kane were dismissed. The two were related by marriage, their wives being sisters.

James Shouse was charged with driving his wife and children into the tules and forcing them to remain there overnight while threatening to kill his wife.

Col. R.J. Falls was divorcing his wife, Mary Falls. (Their daughter Mary Ivaa Inez Falls was appointed postmistress in 1869.)

Wilkins of the Gem Saloon in Vallejo advertised a contest for a champion billiard cue. Pool shark William T. Bartlett of Suisun went there and entered the contest. He won his game and demanded the cue.

Wilkins told him he could not have it, as it had to remain at the Gem Saloon to be in the contest for a year. Wilkins then produced the rules, with the last rule - the one in question - written on a separate piece of paper.

George Jones was sent to jail for 50 days for hitting Marshall Likins and breaking his two front teeth. Perhaps Marshall was related to William Likins, who owned the Capitol Hotel in Vallejo. Rio Vista

Josiah Pool, a quiet, hardworking and unpretending farmer, invented a rotary sod cutter that was extremely efficient, simple and cheap. It was so simple, the question on everyone’s lips was why it hadn’t been thought of sooner. Pool quietly applied for a patent.

John Ball suffered the kind of accident farmers dreaded. He was plowing when his horses became frightened and ran. The harrow struck Ball fastening one of the teeth in his thigh, dragging him 50 yards or more. Collinsville,

Bird’s Landing and Deverton

Thomas P. Hooper was appointed justice of the peace for Montezuma Township.

John Robinson was advertising his stallions for stud. He had a rattler station and a premium jack. His ranch was 4 miles north of Denverton and he kept one stallion at David Hale’s ranch hills at Nurse’s Landing (a.k.a. Denverton). Maine Prairie

A May Day ball was schedule for which Hunt’s Band had been engaged. Elmira

John Myers of Vaca Station (Elmira) put out the word that people should be wary of trusting his wife, Eliza, as she had left their home without provocation. Silveyville/Dixon

The Methodist Church was the site of the Christmas celebration and by 7:30 p.m. the church was filled with people. Gifts for the children were hidden in the boughs of the tree and Santa Claus came to distribute them. The festivities lasted four hours.

It was noted by all present that three years before not a house marked the site of what was now Dixon, a flourishing village.

Three years earlier, Silveyville was the hub of business. That town was now deserted. Armon Drew, who grew up in Silveyville, took a ride up there to make a report. He rode through Silveyville’s principal street, which was now only a dusty road lined by a few dilapidated houses.

Jacob Blum was one of the last to leave Silveyville. Proposals were being submitted to furnish the materials and brick for a storehouse in Dixon. The plans and specifications could be seen at Blum’s store in Silveyville.

In spring of 1871, the post office in Silveyville was discontinued.

Easter Sunday in Dixon was celebrated with an equestrian performance followed by a ball. Great numbers of people attended the event and the town was full of people, horsemen and carraiges.

B. Myer, a merchant of Dixon, was out driving a young lady in his buggy, with another couple following in their buggy. They first visited Batavia and then headed for the Vaca Station (Elmira). In coming to the crossing at Vaca Station, Myer failed to be aware of the train coming. His buggy was hit and dragged. The lady, who was his passenger, went on to Suisun City to be tended to, but Myer was too badly hurt to travel and was tended to in Elmira.