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Sunday, October 13, 1996

Sunday Law sets aside time for church

Kristin Delaplane

Townships meet to vote on site for county seat

In the spring of 1858, a new stage line was being established to run between Marysville and Vallejo or Benicia by way of Smith’s Ferry, Cacheville, McMahon Ranch and Vacaville.
This route was nearly identical to that of the proposed railroad. That it was to operate within nine miles of Napa City meant it would be not only accommodate passengers to and from upper Solano County, but also Napa Springs.

Other news items included the pupils of the Young Ladies Seminary performance at the Court House. Also, Rev. Archbishop Alemany was scheduled to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation at St. Dominic’s.

A new item for purchase at a Benicia store was the newly published song book, “Johnson’s Original Comic Songs.” Those “interested in exercising their lungs” were encouraged to look into it.

Sad news were reported in the following reports: Lillie Condon, age 3 years, died of whooping cough.

A $100 reward was being offered by Nicolas Smith to the person recovering the body of his 9-year old boy, who drowned in the Sacramento River. The body was described as clothed in gray pantaloons and shirtsleeves.

Thomas M. Swan, attorney and counselor-of-law in Suisun City, began adverting by placing his business card in the newspaper.

A sore subject brought before the Board of Supervisors was that while the whole county was taxed for creating and improving roads, only Suisun City was receiving the benefit.

The new cemetery between Vallejo and Benicia was enclosed with a picket fence that spring. This last stop was on 25 acres of land that Capt. Frisbie donated located on the Vallejo side of the Half-Way House.

When prominent Benicia citizen, 40-year-old Mr. John McKenna, died, he was among the first buried there.

As a resident of Benicia since 1852, he was a member of the City Council and the Fire Department.

Under the direction of D.N. Hastings (the town’s prominent butcher), the funeral procession was headed by the barracks band, followed by the mayor, City Council members and other city officers. A long train of carriages and a large number of horsemen followed.

The first stop was St. Francis Church. Then this solemn procession proceeded on the Vallejo road to the cemetery, 3-1/2 miles from Benicia. Members of the Council wore the badge of mourning for the following 30 days in honor of Mr. McKenna.

That summer, D.N. Hastings would be faced with a tragedy when his son, 10-year-old William, was thrown from a horse, fracturing his arm. Complications quickly set in. Dr. Peabody and Dr. Murray of the barracks attended the boy, but within a few days the arm was amputated.

(We set the record straight: In an account written in Benicia’s book, “Great Expectations,” the cause is credited to a hunting accident when William was a grown man.)

Pioneer Von Pfister’s famed adobe house, the first structure in Benicia, and the lot it sat on were up for sale. It was located in back of the St. Charles Hotel.

The lot was 25 feet on D Street, running back to the alley 125 feet.

In river news, a passenger fell overboard from the steamer New World between Benicia and San Francisco. A boat was lowered in a rescue attempt, but it was too late.

John Kidd was found dead on Benicia’s beach. A five-shooter was lying by his side with one barrel empty.

A bullet had entered his body, but, apparently, it came from a different shooter, as his death was not ruled a suicide.

The murder of sailor Harry Frost at Mare Island was reported in the San Francisco Herald. The crime occurred on board the St. Mary’s, which was then undergoing repairs at the yard.

A May Festival was held at St. Catherine’s Academy. The arbors in the rear were decorated with flowers, and the band from the barracks provided the music.

There was a Spanish Queen, an American Queen and a Queen of Flowers. It was pointed out that this school of humble beginnings had become one of the foremost female institutions of the state.

The sisters intended to make the grounds one of the most beautiful spots in Benicia.

The band from the barracks was everywhere. When Capt. Hardie, who had resided at the barracks a long time, was leaving to join a new company, the Regimental Band serenaded him at the steamboat landing.

An “elegant” billiard table was offered for sale by James Ewing. Ewing was the proprietor of the Fireman’s Exchange Saloon.

His saloon was noted for its iced glasses, English ale, porter on draught and cigars.

A man named Rafferty was hired to work on a ranch in Contra Costa County, directly across the straits from Benicia.

Upon reaching his destination, Rafferty was immediately dissatisfied with the prospects. With no ferry or boat immediately available, Rafferty jumped in the water and swam to Benicia. Usually this would be a distance of three miles, but as the tide was going out, Rafferty reckoned he actually swam four miles beating upstream to reach his stretch of beach.

Charles Shannon fell off a wagonload of hay near the Half-Way House. One of the wheels of the vehicle ran over him, cutting his skull open and exposing the brain. Benicia’s Dr. Verhave hastened to the scene.

Remarkably the injuries were not fatal and the doctor dressed the wound. Shannon was then packed off to San Francisco by steamer for more specialized treatment.

L.D. Sanborn, a longtime Benicia entrepreneur, filed a petition of insolvency in the district court.

In 1855, Sanborn took up a shop in Benicia dealing in stoves and tin ware, and he did all kinds of job work in copper, tin and sheet iron. In 1857, Samuel J. Agnew bought out Sanborn. The year 1858 seems to have been the final curtain to this business venture.

Married in Benicia by the Rev. Mr. Woodbridge was Mr. D. Ferguson to Emily A. Walsh, daughter of Capt. Walsh, one of Benicia’s most noted citizens.

The Sunday Law took effect that summer. This law stated that every man, woman and child could be allowed time off work to go to church on Sundays as often as they desired.

In conformity to this law, Benicia’s barbers, T.J. Brown and P.C. Barnes, agreed to close shop on Sundays.

Change was in the cards. Solano townships were invited to an August convention in Suisun City.

The purpose of the gathering was to select a site for a new county seat to then be voted on by the citizens.

To this convention, Vallejo was allowed 11 delegates, Suisun 10, Green Valley 3, Vacaville 6, Montezuma 3 and Tremont 2.

The editors fixed this time to take another journey through Suisun Valley.

They found the farmers complaining of short crops. Since their visit in the fall, new roads had been constructed and a brick flour mill was being erected in Suisun City.

To add to the bustle, a steamboat was expected to be making regular trips between Suisun City and San Francisco that summer. The editors determined from this excursion that Fairfield, not Suisun City, would be the best spot for the county seat.

In the editors’ opinion, access to Fairfield was more convenient.

Mercy F. Wing, wife of Suisun City’s founder Josiah Wing, ran a Married Woman’s Declaration in which she declared her intention to do business as a sole trader of the Wing business, which had been established in 1852.

The business consisted of buying, selling and raising stock and poultry and a general farming and nursery business in Suisun.