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Sunday, March 22, 1998

Suisun booms in population and activities

Kristin Delaplane

City had a bounty of stores

Suisun continued to be the bustling metropolis of the county in the 1860s, to which the following editorial attested:

“So far as we have been able to ascertain, there is not a vacant house of any kind in town and quite a number of buildings, both for business and residence, are in the process of being built. The hotels are daily filled to their capacity and the various modes of public conveyance, land and water, are liberally patronized. Immense quantities of grain and other farm products are being shipped. . . The crowded state of thoroughfares is at all times the subject of remark from all visitors.’‘

A list of Suisun enterprising populace included: 200 farmers or rancheros, 30 laborers, 26 merchants and traders, 14 carpenters, 12 blacksmiths, 11 clerks, 10 lawyers, nine saloon and barkeepers, six teamsters, six wagon-carriage makers and wheelwrights, five saddle and harness makers, five butchers, five mariners and seamen, four boot and shoemakers, four stable keepers, four printers, four house painters, three doctors, three hotel keepers, three millers, two each of ministers, editors, wool growers, masons, stock dealers, druggists, miners, bakers, mechanics, cabinet makers, machinists.

The population also included one each of the following: accountant, agent, artist, book agent, clergyman, dairy man, dentist, dealer, engineer, gunsmith, herder, joiner, lumberman, landlord, plumber, photographer, stagecoach proprietor, surveyor, stagecoach driver, speculator, stock raiser, tinsmith, teacher, telegraph operator, waterman and one gentleman.

Building improvements were ongoing. There was James Trainor’s two-story dwelling at the south end of the plaza, Capt. Anderson’s story-and-a-half residence of on Solano Street and 24 by 24 foot barn built in the rear of the Frank and Dinkelspiel dwelling.

There were no lack of general merchandise stores in town and, perhaps feeling the pinch, in either 1866 or 1867, Ehrman & Bachman had their business up for sale. In 1863, Ehrman & Bachman had opened with a line of dry and domestic goods and fashionable dress goods, such as new style clothing, boots and shoes. Additional stock included groceries, hardware, crockery, liquors, drugs and tobacco.

On the other hand, J. Frank & Co. expanded by opening a ‘‘furniture wareroom,’’ an addition to their general merchandise store. They featured fashionable, cheap furniture and bedding.

The San Francisco Store, adjoining Roberts Hotel, was run by Wolf Cerkel. He car002 . 0000.00ried staple and fancy dry goods, clothing, hats, caps, boots and shoes.

Wesley R. Morgenstern entered the arena with an auction store in Cannon’s building. This was located on the west side of Main Street, next to the bakery. He carried dried goods, groceries, crockery and clothing. (This is the same Morgenstern who eventually moved his business to Vacaville.) He placed a notice to hotels and saloons wishing to replenish their stock of cigars. His prices ranged up to $125 per thousand.

A large line of hardware goods could be found at Breck’s. They also had in stock wine, brandy and whiskey for medicinal purposes. Other goods included dry goods, clothing, boots and shoes.

Reeves and Co. was located at the northwest corner of Main and Solano Streets. Reeves built his brick building nearly a decade before, 1856. Apparently, his business was solid, as he didn’t bother to advertise until 1857. His was a country store where one could sell or purchase produce and groceries - butter, cheese and eggs - and provisions - crockery, hardware, agricultural tools, tin ware, stoves and kitchen ware. When a party of ladies of gentlemen took a sailing trip down the slough to the Potrero Hills, they purchased their picnic goods at Reeves.

It would seem Reeves & Co. was run by Col. P. Reeves. In 1863, Reeves put on an addition to the Pacific House, which was located in Reeves Block. In 1866, Reeves held an auction sale of dairy milk cows and working horses. In 1867, he held an auction of 30 head of American mules that had traveled across the Plains the season before.

It becomes a little unclear as to who later ran Reeves & Co store, because in 1865 it was reported that Perkins had fitted up Reeves Building for a grocery store. In 1867, the firm of E.D. Perkins & Co. dissolved.

Within months Eben Dorman Perkins opened a new store on Main Street opposite the Pacific House. Prior to 1865, Perkins had operated a tobacco store in town, where he also carried an assortment of nuts, fruit, vegetables and confectionery.

After opening his new store 1867, Perkins was elected as the first assistant foreman for the fire company. That same year, as a member of the Suisun Light Dragoons, he was awarded a gold metal for best-mounted target shooting. The dragoons had no armory, but held their meetings in a hall in Suisun City.

In 1866, J.H. Roberts sold his variety store to Nathaniel Winn. Winn moved the business to White’s new brick building. In 1867, Winn was known as the “cigar man’’ as this was where folks bought their cigars. In addition, he carried fresh and canned fruits, oysters and sardines, 002 . 0000.00and tobacco.

Shortly after moving, he took on Samuel G. Palmer as a partner. A short time later it was announced that Winn was leaving for back East due to some misfortune. Palmer took over the business.

Fred Plath was a manufacturer of French calf boots and farmer’s boots. His competitor, Maurice Meehan, announced a reduction in prices at his boot and shoe establishment.

Back in 1864, Meehan had reopened his boot and shoe store with a line of “fine pump-sole, dress and quilted bottom boots and every style of pegged boots,’’ as well as ladies, misses and children’s gaiters.

Shavings and hairdressing were done at the De Witt and Smith’s Cottage Saloon on Main Street. They not only catered to the gentlemen clientele, but established a business catering to the ladies and young misses as well.

Byron Nickerson and Robert M. Clarke entered into the lumber business, selling lumber, doors, windows, blinds, laths, lime, etc. They were competitors of R.D. Robbins.

Payton and Williams, proprietors of the City Meat Market, announced the expansion of their line of meat to include fresh produce. They bought in volume so they could sell cheaper than anyone else could. At the time, two schooners loaded with their produce could be seen in the harbor.

C. Cushing, M.D., established a practice in town with an office over McMahan’s drugstore. J.H. Marston and D.M. Stockmon dissolved their partnership in their drugstore business. It appears Stockmon was the son of the original owner and Marston was re002 . 0000.00lated by marriage. It may be assumed Marston only became a partner to see the young Stockmon on his feet.

In the 1867, it is mentioned that the former deputy sheriff of Solano County, Richard M. Apgar, was the county coroner and that he was a general auctioneer with offices at the Pacific Hotel. Later that year, R.M. Apgar, was appointed special policeman by the police commissioners in San Francisco to patrol the eighth district.

The former coroner, Knorp, took over as proprietor of the Pacific. During the political season, Knorp got into a scuffle with a party from Maine Prairie when the latter insulted Knorp.

William H. Smith opened the Coffee Saloon, where meals were served at all hours. It was located on Main Street, north of the Pacific House.

J.S. Haile, justice of the peace, was located at Bartlett’s Building. In 1898, Sam Stewart (Denverton denizen) and John Haile went out to Collinsville to hunt for gold. They took an auger, sand-pump and pan, but in spite of their high-tech gear, they did not meet with any success. They went down 13 feet to black sand, but the show of color was not sufficient to warrant further trouble

R.B. Cannon was selling his 002 . 0000.00livery stable. It was a large and well-arranged stable, stocked with new buggies, fine horses and good harnesses. He also was offering to sell three dwelling houses and several vacant lots in town suitable for residences or business purposes.

The social scene was alive and kicking. The commodious steamer, Paul Pry, finally took the place of the old standby, the Princess, on the route between Suisun City and San Francisco. This encourage the folks of Suisun to charter the steamer for a moonlight picnic excursion to Mare Island. The band was on board to provide dance music for the merry crowd and fireworks were shot in the sky. This was to return a visit to the Vallejo crowd, who had visited Suisun with in a four-horse wagon.

Either L.J. Beam or T.P. Hooper led the Suisun Cornet Band, a string band, which was hired for balls and parties. The band also took it upon themselves to add to the social scene. They gave a series of soirees every alternate Thursday at the Union Hall. A season ticket was $5, a single ticket $1.50. Dancing started promptly at 8 and ended at midnight.

Later in the year T. Jeff Owen opened a dance school - gentleman on Saturday nights, ladies on Thursday nights. Owen gave his own a 002 . 0000.00soiree at the Union Hall with an admission price of $1.50.

Holidays were big events. Chinese New Year was celebrated with fireworks, far outdoing the usual Fourth of July show in town. Most of the Chinese worked as ‘‘washmen.”

The Suisun Light Dragoons held many of the balls. A military ball for Washington’s birthday, a grand military and civic ball for the Fourth of July and a military ball for New Year’s Eve. Suppers at the Roberts Hotel were included with the $4 ticket price.

Many of the children in Suisun were taken down with scarlet fever the spring of 1867 and that was the year G.W. McMurtry passed away. In 1863, Attorney McMurtry had offices upstairs above McGarvey’s tin shop.

A volunteer is being sought to draw yearly maps of Suisun City showing where various businesses were located. Perhaps this would be an interesting project for a local school. Please contact Kristin Delaplane.