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Sunday, September 08, 1996

Suspected horse thief escapes lynch mob

Kristin Delaplane

Judges decide rondo game is gambling evil

The Solano County Herald was celebrating its third year as a publication in October 1857. In those three years it had been handled by four or five different owners.

The current owner stated that the Herald was to be democratic in its character, as he felt it was better for a paper to have a distinctive character than no character at all. He stated that the main object of the paper was to advocate the interests of the county of Solano and the city of Benicia by the construction of the railroad from Benicia to Sacramento and beyond and by advocating the reclamation of swamp and overflow land

Agents for the newspaper in the outlying areas were as follows: Suisun: Dr. Stockman at the News Depot; C.J. Pittman, the postmaster in Cordelia; T.M. Page, Page’s Store in Rockville; and E.F. Gillespie, postmaster in Vacaville.

In December, the newspaper was advertising a job for a boy 15 to 16 years of age to learn the printing business.

Another advertisement was placed by H.M. Lillie, who was conducting business as an attorney and counselor-at-law. He was also listed as the county superintendent of public instruction for Vallejo.

A notable citizen, Mr. C.A. Cellars, former owner of the newspaper, had been appointed notary public in Solano County by the governor.

Meanwhile, in the probate court, the principal business at this time was the appointment of E.F. Gillespie of Vacaville, who was to administer the will of Vacaville’s most prominent citizen, the late Winfield Scott Dollarhide.

There was a near lynching that fall, which had its roots in the Putah Creek area. The account was reported by the Sacramento Bee.

It reported that a horse belonging to the Wolfskills was supposed stolen. When it returned with its saddle on, a Spaniard living in Vaca Valley was fixed upon as the guilty party.

Horsemen promptly rode out to his house. Some conversation took place, while in the background some men began preparing a rope. The supposed horse thief, seeing the suspicious-looking rope, put spurs to his horse and fled.

The horsemen gave chase and the man was finally run down in the vicinity of the Potrero Hills. Here he was taken to a tree and the lynch mob ran him up. And there he would have died had not one of the horsemen been convinced he was not their man. When the Herald ran this story, it was stated that the matter was to be investigated.

A man named Thurman, alias Phillips, was apprehended in the upper part of Solano County for horse stealing and brought to Benicia. It was there that it was discovered that he had recently escaped from San Quentin and was to be shipped back.

It was during this time that an earthquake of some magnitude shook up the citizens of Benicia. The quake was felt as far away as Napa.

The Pennsylvanians, a singing group, appeared in Benicia for two nights running. Their group included a soprano, contralto, basso, tenor and a comic. Their program called for songs and ballads interspersed with comedic skits, local songs, burlesque, extravaganza and recitations. Admission was $1. After appearing in Benicia, the group traveled to Vallejo for a performance.

Rondo was the evil of the day. This game was said to have “resurrected the latent fire of gambling that was thought to be obliterated” by legislative action.

In the case of rondo, the judges had not been able to decide against it. However, shortly after this appeared in the paper, the Benicia City Council authorized the marshal to close all rondo tables and dance houses on Sundays.

More and improved public roads were being established bit by bit in Solano County. Typically, the roads that were ordered to be carved out were described in the following manner: “From the house of James Sweeny, north to Mr. Harlan’s, east to the creek, then northeasterly to Joseph Zumwalt’s, then due east to the house of E. Silvey. From there to the claim of Piles and Clark and then easterly to Willow Point Turnpike.”

In November there was to be a bay horse put up for sale to the highest bidder in front of the Washington Hotel in Vallejo. The horse had been left in the charge of Henry Connelly by B. Hazel and apparently B. Hazel failed to return for his nag.

The popular and prosperous Solano Hotel was being sold and the saloon business of G. Egar in Vallejo was also up for sale.

Egar’s was a place with four good 10-pin alleys and all bar fixtures. The saloon was situated in the best part of town; opposite the Washington Hotel and next to Green’s Brick Building at the head of the Georgia Street wharf. The business could be bought cheap for cash, as the owner was anxious to leave the area.

County’s assessor Jameson’s report came out in the Sacramento Union. Solano County had the following assets: Stock: Cows, 4,200; calves, 1,200; beef cattle, 3,100; other cattle, 8,314; horses, 3,986; mules, 368; sheep, 18,103; hogs, 7,684; goats, 517.

Produce shipped: hay, 11,300 tons; wheat, 2,461 tons; barley, 2,120 tons; oats, 460 tons; corn, 380 tons; wool, 67 tons.

Manufactured in county: flour, 70,000 barrels; lime shipped, 3,000 barrels; amount of land in vegetables, 600 acres; three flouring mills.

Lots were being auctioned off in Benicia. These were said to comprise some of the best locations in the city. Sold to highest bidders, the terms were 10 percent at close of sale, the balance due on delivery of deed.

An issue that had been predominant that year of 1857 was the fact that Benicia lacked a public school for children over 10. It was a matter of great concern to parents, especially when a census by the school marshal confirmed that the number of children over 10 eligible to go to school were 110 boys and 127 girls.

It was hoped that the City Council and board of education could get together and provide a school. By the close of the year, a resolution seemed close at hand.

At a meeting in December, it was announced that Judges Hastings and Curry had hatched a plan to have the city purchase the Court House for a school. A meeting was to be scheduled with the board of education and the city attorney to draw up the necessary contract.

With the holidays coming up, there were a few parties planned. The Young Bachelors of Benicia gave one in Mr. Flatt’s schoolroom. It was said that the “loveliness and gaiety of the ladies” acted on young men’s hearts.

A second annual ball of the Vallejo Library Association was set for Christmas Eve. Tickets were $5.

And to round out the festivities, a New Year’s Ball at Social Hall in upper Benicia was scheduled.