Historical Articles of Solano County - Printer Friendly Page
To print: Click here or Select File and then Print from your browser's menu.

Sunday, April 05, 1998

Vallejo booms while Benicia cheers Lincoln

Kristin Delaplane

In 1867, a suicide and an unrelated homicide occurred in Benicia. Col. R.A. Wainwright, commander at the Benicia Barracks, committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with a pistol. This was followed by the murder of a man named Watson, who was formerly of Suisun City.

Attorney L.B. Miznor was admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court.

E. Danforth & Co. were dealers in provisions and dry goods. This business was established in at least 1863 when it was called Scott and Danforth’s, a general store. They were located at the corner of 1st and E Streets.

H.F. Lawrence, a manufacture and dealer of domestic and Havana cigars, was located between B and E streets.

Miss Woodbridge had plans to open a school opposite the Masonic Hall. The terms were to be $3 a month. Woodbridge was no doubt the daughter of the Rev. Sylvester Woodbridge Jr., minister of the Methodist church.

A May festival and soiree was planned to aid St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

The citizens of Benicia suffered a devastating fire, that burned 25 buildings on the 1st Street. Insurance only covered $16,000 of the estimated $65,000 loss.

Following the fire, the citizens had a meeting at which the sum of $1,500 was collected for the sufferers of the fire. Arrangements were made to immediately rebuilding a portion of the burnt district with one-story brick stores.

In 1867, Samuel C. Gray left Solano County to go to San Francisco where he formed a partnership for the manufacturing and sale of leather. Gray had a long history in Benicia.

In 1855, it was reported that Gray’s establishment was at the southeast corner of 1st and D streets. By then it was considered a major dry goods store. He carried a line of boots, shoes, hats, crockery, hardware and stoves, including the Black Diamond stove, cooking stoves, Franklin, Parlor and office stoves.

He also sold farmer’s boilers, caldron kettles and flat iron heaters. In clothing items he had frock coats, black and fancy cassimere pants, velvet, satin and cloth vests, white and fancy shirts, undershirts and drawers (underwear), cover shirts, check shirts and overalls. He also proudly advertised Beebe & Co.‘s latest style black moleskin hats, which had just arrived from New York on the clipper Radiant.

Gray also operated Langton’s Pioneer Express, which supplied messengers to get goods to and from San Francisco, Sacramento, Marysville, Grass Valley, Nevada, Downieville and all parts of the Northern Mines. Messengers carried gold dust coin, bullion, packages and letters. Also bills, notes, drafts collected.

In 1856, Gray had expanded his store as was reflected in his new ad. ‘‘Dealer in staple and fancy dry goods. Hats and caps. Ladies and Misses bonnets. Men and boys clothings of every description. Men, boys, youth, women’s, Misses, children’s and infants boots and shoes. Crockery & hardware, Carpeting. Clocks. Looking glasses. Cooking stoves. Parlor and office stoves. Trunks and valises. Books and stationery.”

In 1865, the town celebrated Lincoln’s election. A great many houses were fully illuminated, including Dr. Verhave’s, which was brilliantly lit in every window, as was merchant Samuel C. Gray’s.


Vallejo had several enterprises in the works including a flourmill and a homestead association. The latter was slated to take care of the education of orphans. The Vallejo school had an average daily attendance of 187 pupils. The total enrollment was 303.

The Ensley Gas Co. broke ground to begin laying pipes, which was to supply the town with gas. Later in the year, the Ensley Gas & Water Co. incorporated.

Not everyone appreciated the advent of gas. John H. Lee shot M.P. Young when the two quarreled in regard to fitting up the Metropolitan Hotel with gas. Young’s injuries were so severe, he was sent to San Francisco for surgery. He did not survive. Lee was arrested on $2,000 bail.

George A. Poor announced his intention to begin publishing a newspaper to be called either the Vallejo Recorder or the Vallejo Chronicle.

The foundation was laid for the new Catholic church, which was bounded by Sacramento, Florida, Stanta Clara and Kentucky streets. The site commanded a view of the town, the bay and surrounding country for 50 miles.

The Catholic parrish had been founded in 1855 when the first Catholic church was built. The wooden building was located at Capitol and Marin streets. General Frisbie donated the land and Gen. Vallejo donated an English Sheffield bell cast in 1853. It had been used at the Mission church in Sonoma.

In 1865, Rev. John Louis Daniel arrived as the first resident pastor and a parish house was built next to the church. Meanwhile, the M.E. society was sponsoring a revival to raise $1,200 to liquidate the debt of the church.

The local racetrack was known as White & Lambert’s course and people from around the county entered their nags.

That year Suisun City’s A. Chrysler won a pacing race with his horse winning $50 and Barret of Vacaville won a running race.

C.W. Riley was the justice of peace. Perhaps he was related to John Riley. John suffered a great loss in 1867 when his young son drowned when he attempted to fish his hat from a well.

There was a major Odd Fellow’s celebration in Vallejo in April.

Joining the festivities were about 180 Odd Fellows, who represented eight lodges in Solano County. There was a church service, followed by a procession to the Eureka Hall where refreshments were served.

That evening there was a ball.

The Solano White Sulpur Springs Hotel, operated by Henry Connoley, was still going strong.

Connoley had been managing Vallejo’sWashington Hotel, a commodious hotel with 42 rooms.

Suggestions and local historical information for this column are welcome. Write biographer-historian Kristin Delaplane in care of The Reporter, 916 Cotting Lane, Vacaville 95688, or e-mail her at www.ohistory@masterpiecememoirs.com.