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Sunday, July 12, 1998

Steamers, trains provide Solano transportation

Kristin Delaplane

Mule thief turns out to be San Quentin escapee; set free

The steamer Cora made daily trips between Suisun, Benicia and San Francisco. The fare to and from San Francisco was a dollar each way.
There was a great deal of complaint about the racing on the waters between the steamer New World and the boats of the California Steamship Navigation Co. It was feared a terrible explosion or serious accident would occur. The captain of the New World responded that the New World was simply keeping her regular speed, which other boats were unable to excel.

Sure enough, within weeks, there was a collision between the Cora and New World. The main damage was to the New World. A passenger said the New World attempted to pass the Cora and crowded her.

This incident was followed by a major accident on the Cora when a loosened iron rod, 18 feet long, was blown by the boiler. The rod severely injured one of the crew.

The steamer Contra Costa towed the Cora to San Francisco. The steamer Amelia took over the Cora’s route. But the Amelia also had trouble when it broke its shaft and had to be towed to San Francisco. The steamer Antelope took over the Suisun-San Francisco route.

There was a major fire along the railroad line, resulting in the loss of a great deal of grain along the railroad line. The cause was the result of careless on the part of the engineer that several fires were kindled along the line between Suisun and Vaca Station (Elmira). A 175 acres of growing grain were burned on the properties of Cannon and Staples, 10 acres on Edmonds’ and a quantity of hay near Vaca Station.

Suisun City

The folks of Solano County felt a slight earthquake in the early part of 1869.

Grover & Baker sewing machines were being demonstrated by J.H. Holt a traveling agent for the company at the J. Frank & Co. in Suisun City.

John Herman, a ‘‘hardened desperado,’’ had been drinking heavily when he stole Marion Goldas’ mule. He was tracked down in Oakland where he was arrested.

It was discovered that he was an escaped convict from San Quentin. The proper authorities were notified by telegraph, but when the lieutenant governor failed to act in time, the police judge in Oakland had to let Herman free.

The Suisun Market Report was made up by local grocer, E.D. Perkins of Perkins & Co. Ranch butter selling at 30 cents a pound. Cheese at 20 to 30 cents a pound. Eggs were 25 cents a dozen. Lard in 5-pound tins was 15 cents a pound. Hams or bacon sold at 14 cents a pound.

The Pierce Bros. were becoming recognized as large property owners in the area. In 1869, they paid $23,000 for Landy Alford’s farm in the Suisun Valley.

Suisun’s dentist Dr. F.B. Ross Lewin made an apparatus to administer nitrous oxide gas to his patients. Those who had their teeth extracted praised this procedure as quite successful.

Dry goods businessman Samuel Breck had apparently contemplated closing up, but then reconsidered and decided to remain in business. His store was on Main Street and he had a stock of groceries and hardware, women’s dresses, men’s clothing cotton goods, men’s, women’s and children’s boots and shoes.

The Great Champion Circus & Zoological Institute, the ‘‘only legitimate circus on the West Coast,’’ came to town. Acts included great Shakespearian jester and equestrians. Admission was $1.

Dr. James F. Pressley had offices over Dr. McMahan’s drugstore. In 1876, Dr. J.F. Pressley was to be in charge of the county infirmary, known as the “poor house.”

The Union Fire Co. held an Independence Ball on July 5, charging $4 for entrance and supper.

A company was formed with the capitol of $25,000 to build a major hotel.

Wilson’s Great World Circus & Exhibition of performing African lions came to Suisun City.


David H. Piece succeeded J.W. Reser as proprietor of the Union Hotel.

William Wells was offering sheep for sale.

John Woolaver, who in 1864 was named Solano County’s surveyor and architect, died in Sacramento at age 52.

In the County Courthouse, Annie Robinson’s trial was ongoing. Annie was charged with killing her husband, Jabez Robinson. As the story unfolded, a boy had come to the house, perhaps looking for work, and was permitted to stay. Soon after his arrival he came down with small pox and he died.

Jabez Robinson contracted a mild case of the sickness, and James Campbell was asked to act at his nurse. Campbell stayed for a month in early 1869.

During that time, it was said he consumed a quart of liquor a day. Three weeks after Robinson died, Campbell appeared before the district attorney and placed Annie was the murderer. However, after questioning, both Campbell and Annie were arrested and charged with the murder.

The newspaper accused a storeowner of ‘‘cheap advertising’’ by giving frequent accounts of burglary attempts.


Father of Auger came to Elimra and said mass at the Vaca Station, which was the name of the railroad station in those early days.


Vacaville residents held their first railroad meeting in March or April regarding building a line to connect them with the C.P.R.R.

Mason Wilson was the president of the Vaca Valley Railroad. Twenty-five thousand dollars had already been subscribed in capitol stock, leaving $10,000 to $12,000 needed. The line was completed that summer with a stump-tail locomotive making the trips to and from Elmira (Vaca Station). Plans were underway to build a warehouse to hold grain at the terminus in Vacaville.

There was quite a stir in Vacaville when Jack Adams, a native of England, was found with his throat cut by his own had. Adams was a cattle dealer and had been a resident of Solano and Yolo counties for 25 years, since 1844. He had been drinking heavily and had considerable domestic difficulties.

A shepherd, “Dutch John” also committed suicide. He was known to drink liquor to excess.

A major fire burned the ranch house of Price & Cotting, which was known as the Robert’s place. The house had been being occupied by a man named Lindsay, but no one was hurt in this incident. The building was valued at $1,600 and there was no insurance.

Rio Vista

A report on the current status of Rio Vista appeared in the Sacramento Union:

“Rio Vista has within eight months past increased her population and buildings by one half. Some of the receipts are as high $210 per week to a boat. The salmon are more plenty this spring that they have been since 1853.’‘

Some 12 miles square were planted in wheat and barley and wild oats and it was estimated that 15,000 tons of wheat was shipped from the area. The California Steam Navigation Co. purchased Bruning’s old wharf and was building a warehouse there.

The citizens of Rio Vista were anxious to be considered for a Normal School. It came to their attention that the State Normal School was being removed from San Francisco and they made a bid to have it located in their town. In their petition they noted they had a salubrious climate and a beautiful site for the school. The town’s founder, Bruning, offered to donate whatever land was needed for the school.

The man sleeping in the building did not awaken when thieves entered the stores Westgate & Co. and Chase & Co. The loss to Westgate & Co. was $50 to $70 and an equal amount of stamps. The stamps, however, were discarded on the backsteps. The loss to Chase & Co. was a small sum of money.

George Kagee, who had a wife in Sacramento, ran away with a 16-year-old Rio Vista girl, Miss Elliott. The pair were tracked down to Antioch and the girl was returned to her parents.

A Protestant church was organized with 18 members.


Cattle thieves were fairly active in the vicinity of Benicia. Eight head were stolen from Andrew Goodyear, two miles from town and several other ranchers had been subject to the loss of cattle to thieves. Finally, Peter Pursell, who lived in the neighborhood, was arrested and identified as one of the guilty parties. As he could not put up the bail of $2,000, he was incarcerated in the county jail.

Dr. Breck’s college in Benicia was enlarged. In 1852, the Family Boarding School for Boys was established. In 1855, it became the Benicia Collegiate Institute, the first law school of California. In 1867, it was sold to Dr. James Lloyd Breck.

Under Breck it became the Episcopal College of St. Augustine and was operated as a strict military school stressing discipline for mind and body.

The enlargements made in 1869 at a cost $5,000 allowed for the accommodation of 40 more pupils and included a hall 40 by 60 feet. The school was entitled a “mission’‘

General gossip had it that the Benicia Barracks was to be turned into a ‘‘soldier’s home” to accommodate some 2,000 invalid soldiers.

The ladies were distressed to learn that the ice cream being shipped from San Francisco for their ice cream festival had not been off-loaded and was taken down to Stockton. The navigation company donated $50 to repair the loss.

Burglars broke into A. McDonell’s store and took away $300 in coin. The man pursued and arrested in Batavia.


Miss Mary Ivaa Inez Falls was appointed postmistress in Vallejo. She was a native of Solano County and the first woman appointed to this important federal office on the Pacific Coast. It was noted that vulgarity and tobacco were not to be tolerated.

Gen. Frisbee purchased the Solano White Sulphur Springs from Henry Connolly. Frisbee was having a number of elegant cottages built on the premises. A grand opening ball was planned for June 4.

Stanford C. Baker was the publisher of the Solano County Advertiser, a Vallejo publication. The publication was established in 1868. In 1869, it published a 72 page pamphlet entitled ‘‘The Resources of Vallejo,” a completion of articles that had appeared in the past year. A railroad map and a chart of the bay were added.

William Porter, an employee at the Grain Elevator in Vallejo fell from the building, some 70 to 80 feet. An old time resident, he left a wife and three children.

The cornerstone of the Good Templar’s Orphan Home was laid and the frame was up by mid summer.

A Pioneer Association was formed with J.B. Frisbee as president. Those eligible were people who arrived on the Coast prior to January 1850. The association opened with over 60 members.

The foundation for a three-story flour mill was completed at a cost of $15,000. Pierson & Starr were to erect a mill at cost of $75,000. Starr was then back east purchasing the latest in machinery.

The foreman of the car shop of the C.P.R.R. was leaving for back East and was present with a gold headed cane, a gift from the mechanics, who worked under him.