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Sunday, September 06, 1998

Suisun City becomes city of enterprise

Kristin Delaplane

Ventures prosper in Solano

The 1870s were to be a prosperous time for Solano County. Many of those early pioneers were realizing their dreams and had become respected citizens.
Suisun City was the major town for enterprise, but several businesses were also established in Vallejo, and Benicia was still a focal point for business.

Silveyville, which had its inauspicious beginnings as a stop for gold miners, was suffering a humiliating demise. Convinced that their future prosperity lay in Dixon, only three miles away, the citizens conceived a plan to move lock, stock and barrel - literately.

Led by Peter Timm and others, the men hewed log rollers and with gangs of men and 40-horse teams, they moved Silveyville structures, church and all, to Dixon. The logs were placed under each building and, as the building was pulled forward, the men would seize the log emerging from the rear and place it up front.

By 1870, Dixon was gaining ground and W.A. Dashiell was one of the men prospering. He operated a grain warehouse at the Dixon Station. He stored grain for the farmers until they were ready to ship. He also bought and sold grain on a commission basis.

Suisun City

Francis Breck was the Notary Public for Solano County. Undoubtedly he was related to Samuel Breck. Indeed, Francis Breck’s office was in Breck’s building in Suisun City.

Samuel Breck was still operating his clothing and hardware store. He had been in business since 1866.

J.D. Brower was the justice of peace on Solano Street in Suisun. In 1864, John D. Brower was named justice of peace with his office over Lemon’s Building.

S.G. Palmer was still the news agent on Main Street in Suisun. In 1866, Samuel G. Palmer purchased the Suisun Newspaper Agency, which carried the Daily and Weekly Union, the Alta California, The Evening Bulletin and the Golden Era, as well as many periodicals from back East.

In 1867, Mr. Winn, known as the “cigar man” as his place of business was where folks bought their cigars, took Palmer in as a partner. In addition to cigars, he carried fresh and canned fruits, oysters and sardines, and tobacco and with Palmer as partner, they were the news agents in town with a complete variety store.

Shortly after this merger, however, Winn was forced to move back East and Palmer took over the business. In 1868, Palmer moved his business in the building on Main Street that had been occupied by Erhman & Bachman.

The Suisun City Mills was selling Berryessa Valley seed wheat. The operators of the mill were Marston, Porter and Co.

In 1855, the steam flour mill was in full operation. In 1858, a brick flour mill replaced the wooden building. The partners, Reed and Edwards, then operated it.

The building itself was three stories with a tin roof. It was situated on the east side of the plaza, just a little north of the old wooden mill owned by the same partners. When in operation, the mill could turn out 900 bushels of flour in a 24-hour period. The cost of the building and machinery was in the neighborhood of $30,000.

In 1863, Suisun Mills was put out of operation for six weeks so improvements and repairs could be made. At that time it was mentioned that J.G. Johnson of Benicia was an agent for mill, as wholesale and retail dealer.

By 1864, Marston must have been the proprietor, because Mrs. Marston donated a sack of flour at a charity function in town.

Dr. M.S. McMahan in Suisun had opened a drugstore in Suisun. In 1866, Corner A.F. Knorp sold the Cosmopolitan Saloon to Dr. McMahan and McMahan fitted it up as a drugstore and rented the upstairs room to at least one doctor. This was where Dr. James F. Pressley had his office.

McMahan had established his practice by 1863 in Fairfield. A physician and surgeon, he had attended the Eclectic-Medical Institute in Ohio.

F.B. Ross Lewin still had his dentistry practice, which he had established in 1868. His practice was over Stockmon’s drugstore. S.D. Campbell, physician and surgeon, also had his office over Stockmon’s drugstore. Campbell had come to town in 1865 to set up his practice.

As of 1868, A.L. White was the undertaker in Suisun. People could apply for his services at P.J. Chrisler’s saloon in Suisun. White first appeared on the scene in 1865 when it was announced he was operating the new school on Morgan Street.

There was a fire in the Golden Eagle Livery Stable, which fronted the plaza. The fire company quickly put it out. The stable belonged to William J. Morris, who also was foreman of the fire company. He had no insurance and his loss was $2,500.

In 1864, Morris was offering to rent his brick building where he had a saddlery and harness business. In 1865, Morris was still hoping to lease the business, but within that year he apparently resigned himself to remain and built a commodious livery and feed stable on the east side of the Plaza naming it The Golden Eagle. It was considered by all to be quite a handsome building.

Perkins & Co. still had their store. It was in 1865 that E.D. Perkins fitted up Reeves’ brick building on the corner of Main and Solano for a grocery store. Previously he had operated a tobacco stand with an assortment of nuts, fruit, vegetables and confectionery. In 1867, the firm of Eben Dorman Perkins opened a new store on Main Street opposite the Pacific House.

That same year Perkins was elected as the first assistant foreman for the fire company and also, as a member of the Suisun Light Dragoons, he was awarded a gold medal for best-mounted target shooting.

In 1863, John “Ben” Payton opened the New Meat Market on Solano Street in Suisun. That same year he renamed the market the Washington Market. He had previously had a butcher shop on the premises of what became the Snug Saloon. Apparently, he like to sing while he worked as was noted in a 1864 newspaper: “We love music, but when Ben Payton makes such an awful noise in the meat market we feel like pulling off our coat and gently remonstrating him.”

By 1865, Payton was partners with J.C. Owens and it was in that year that Payton purchased the Water Works for $3,600. In 1866, Payton opened the City Meat Market with a new partner named Williams.

William T. Kennedy was on the old corner of Main and California streets in Suisun. He had toys, canned oysters, pipes, tobacco and cigars. He also catered to hunters, carrying a line of powder, powder flasks, shot, game bags and gun wads. He had a bar where he sold wine and liquors.

In 1858, it was noted that Kennedy operated the Confectioner and Fruit Store at the corner of Main and California streets in Suisun City. In 1866, Kennedy expanded his business to a saloon and began carrying musical instruments and goods for hunters.

C.A. Gibson had a shaving saloon in saloon with bathing rooms attached to his shops where gentlemen could bath for 50 cents. His shop was on the east side of Main Street.


Attorneys abounded. Lawyer Thomas M. Swan was still in Fairfield and George A. Lamont was also an attorney there. Both were housed in the old courthouse.

Wells & Coghlan had formed a law partnership and were also in the old courthouse.

John M. Coghlan had arrived in Suisun City in the year 1868 to start a practice. In 1855, attorney William S. Wells was located in Benicia.

In 1856, the Sawyer House, a saloon belonging to one of Benicia’s first residents, von Pfister, was turned over to W.S. Wells. Wells, in turn, was advertising to rent the business out.

In 1858, Wells formed a partnership with Whitman, who represented the firm in Suisun City. This partnership was still firm in 1863 with offices in Benicia and in the old courthouse in Fairfield.

In 1866, Wells held the position of county & probate judge. He was also the agent for the Pacific Insurance Co. Wells was also a stock man and was offering sheep for sale in 1869.

The Fairfield Livery & Feed Stable accommodated travelers who had business at the courthouse. The stable was still operated by James T. Wells, who had purchased it from Yost in 1867.