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Saturday, July 12, 1997

Solano sprouted food, good times in 1864

Kristin Delaplane

From raisins to local fair, results good

According to the 1864 assessment, the total value of property in Solano County was $2,629,185.12. The taxes would come to $90,766.33.
About 1,000 tons of wheat and 200 tons of barley were stored in Lewis Pierce’s warehouse in Suisun that early fall. In addition, a large quantity had already been shipped to San Francisco.

California raisins were just an experiment. Pleasants Valley’s M.R. Miller of Pleasants Valley was the man with the idea.

He took the Malaga grape he grew and produced 1,000 pounds of raisins and was planning to do the same with each grape harvest.

Collinsville raised and shipped more wool than any township in the state with the same number of inhabitants.

The cultivation of the tule land there had been a great success that year. A statewide drought proved to be a benefit for the farmers who raised corn, potatoes, onions, wheat and barley.

Despite all the prosperity, a few were subject to bad debts. When the courts made a judgment against Benicia’s saddlery shop owner, T.S. Billings, a sheriff’s sale of his property was planned. For sale were leather items, saddles, harnesses, bridles and other tack.

Another sheriff’s sale took place at Francis Horan’s ranch in Suisun to satisfy his debts.

In the fall of 1864, out on Mare Island, the U.S. war steamer Saranac was in for repairs.

This wasn’t the Saranac’s first visit to the dry dock. The year before when it was in, a man named Howell was knocked from the staging on the steamship, falling to his death.

Following that incident, 138 carpenters went on strike when the joiners were asked to perform tasks on the Saranac that they considered their job.

In looking over some old papers in the clerk’s office in Vallejo, a certificate was discovered showing the corporation of the Vallejo Water Company in 1862 with a capital stock was $3,000.

Henry Connolly, proprietor of the new Solano Sulphur Springs near Vallejo, was described as a “splendid fellow, who did everything possible to entertain all who patronized him.”

He grew his own fruits and vegetables on the premises for his table and provided omnibuses to convey passengers to and from the springs.

The place was especially suited for families as a place to spend a week or two in hot weather.

The springs were said to throw up large quantities of water. Connolly had constructed accommodations for bathing and shower baths in each room.

In Benicia, the news was that L.B. Mizner, attorney, had resumed his practice in that town at an office on the corner of 1st and D streets.

It was announced in the early fall that the new owner of the American Hotel in Benicia was Reynolds & Co. A short time later, this pioneer hotel at 1st and C streets was under the proprietorship of Lewis Glassen, formally of Sonoma.

Out in Binghamton, the Maine Prairie area, a new post office was established. O. Binghamton lived in the area. In Maine Prairie Perry’s Hall people regularly gathered for many events that took place there.

The salmon were plentiful in the waters at Collinsville and Rio Vista. On one trip out of Rio Vista, 1,017 salmon were taken aboard the steamer Chrysopolis.

Arson was suspected in several incidents involving farm property. Several tons of hay were destroyed by fire on John Wentworth’s property near Vallejo.

Charles Pearson’s large barn, a few miles from Silveyville, was consumed by fire. His loss amounted to $3,000, including a new wagon valued at $500.

Out in Vaca Valley an arsonist set fire to Joshua Donaldson’s barn. Damages came to $2,000.

The hunting season had started. In 1864, the “game law” allowed hunters to load up after the 15th of September.

Ducks had begun to be seen in the tules and snipe were spied around the sloughs. As the season progressed, wild geese made their appearance. The tules had become a busy place with hunters bagging game from morning to night.

In the Fairfield courthouse, the county clerk was moving his office to the second story adjacent to the supervisors’. Contractors J.W. Pearce and Q.A. Hall were constructing shelves, drawers and pigeonholes so the office would be fitted in a convenient manner.

Larkin Richardson, 65, died from heart failure in his cabin near Garrote in Tuolumne County. He had first settled in Solano County in 1852.

In 1856, it was recorded that he held 125 acres of land in the Vacaville area. In 1858, he was awarded the contract to build the courthouse and jail in Fairfield.

In November, there was a fire at the courthouse. With no cistern near the building for the fire engine to use, ladders were raised and with only buckets the fire was extinguished. It took about 20 minutes.

The fire had started on the second story in the District Court. A stove, a tall sheet-iron affair, had heated up the baseboard, which then took fire.

Damage was estimated to be less than $1,000. Pearce and Hall had the job of making the repairs.

News came that another old pioneer, Nathan Lincoln, age 75, died in his residence near Vacaville. Lincoln was born in Massachusetts in 1789. In the War of 1812, he was one of the defenders of the Atlantic coast—one of 18 men who defended Bedford when the British attempted to land. He was one of the principals at the laying of the cornerstone at Bunker Hill monument. At that time, he had an extensive cotton manufacturing establishment. As times changed, he sold out at a loss.

In 1830, he moved to Illinois and in 1859, he came out to California.

The firm of Ballard and Hillborn dissolved. The two had been operating a warehouse on the wharf. Ballard had originally been in business with McCrory. They built a brick store and operated a dry goods business, which was subsequently taken over by Frank & Co. A while later it was announced that Sheriff E.S. Gillespie was moving from Vacaville to Suisun, having leased the residence of the late Duane Ballard at the corner of California and Suisun streets.

A.F. Knorp, the county coroner, still carried on an undertaking business from his office at The Cosmopolitan in Suisun.

The Cosmopolitan Saloon was at the corner of Main and Solano streets. P. Leifenfeld the proprietor.

Knorp listed his prices for coffins; children’s ranged from $5 to $30. Adults from $15 to $40.

A hearse was provided to the poor free of charge.

P. Leifenfeld advertised that he had a billiard table and carried the celebrated larger beer from the Philadelphia Brewery in San Francisco. A five-gallon keg was $1.87 and a 10-gallon keg was $3.75.

Dr. C.H Coffran’s wife was president of the Ladies Sanitary Association of Fairfield and Suisun. The ladies gave a very successful fair and ball to raise money for the National Sanitary Commission.

The national commission used the money to make “hospitals home-like, camps cleaner, death more decent and life more endurable.”

The event in Suisun was a two-day affair, ending with a fancy dress ball. Tickets to the fair were 50 cents and children were half price. Tickets for the ball, including supper, were $1.50. The fair was held at Pierce’s warehouse.

Owners of the steamer Princess gave $50 in coin. A fortune teller was fitted up in a scarlet dress and had heavy tresses. There was a magician on hand. Eleven little girls sang patriotic songs.

Cartloads of letters from soldiers at the war front were delivered; many were read out loud.

The event netted the group $1,866.