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Sunday, February 27, 1983

Pioneer families of the area

Ernest D. Wichels

For the past 20 years it has been my privilege, once every two or three months, to present brief biographical sketches of Napa and Solano pioneers to whom all of us are indebted for the heritage and the traditions they created for us more than a century ago.

I have done so in upwards of sixty names, and today I present a few more.  First, the Manuel Madrid family - a name indelibly woven into the history of our county.  Manuel Madrid, a native Californian, who came to Napa County with his parents in the 1860s; went to Napa schools, and came to Solano County in 1880, accepting employment on the Tobin ranch another pioneer name.  He served as manager of the Tobin properties for about 12 years until about 1895, when he decided there . might be a future in the operation of the White Sulphur Springs east of Vallejo.

This resort, founded by General John Frisbie (Vallejo’s founder and son-in-law of Mariano Vallejo) and converted into a resort of beautiful trees, Solano’s largest rose garden, a hotel, dining room, cottages and large stables capable of accommodating a dozen surreys and horses, had fallen into disrepair during the several subsequent ownerships.  Incidentally, it was once owned, in part, by Mrs. Leland Stanford who founded a home for retarded children. This, eventually, became the California State Hospital at Glen Ellen.

Madrid added a bowling alley, dancing pavilion, enlarged the hotel to 100 rooms, bath houses and croquet grounds. By 1902 he owned the property.

For easy access he inaugurated a horse-drawn stage line which met the boats and railroad trains in. Vallejo; later, the auto stage superseded Old Dobbin. The campgrounds on the property were very popular.  He put in a bottling works and shipped the water; he renamed the resort “Blue Rock Springs.” He built a lake for swimming.

In the 1920s the Madrids ceased operations and, once again, under other ownerships, the resort gradually disappeared.  In 1937, when the first Vallejo Recreation District was formed, the City Council purchased the 160 acres from one of the McDonald family and today Blue Rock Springs is one of Vallejo’s community assets.

The late Manuel. Madrid was married in July, 1886, to Angelita Coronado, a native of Napa County, to whom seven children were born: Manuel, Carmelita, Loreto, Antonio, Francisco; Rafael and Angelita.  Another name familiar to three or four generations of Vallejoans is that of Magistrini.

Philip G. Magistrini, founder of one of the city’s first sporting good houses, was born in Italy in 1865, learned the gunsmith’s trade and, in 1890, came to New York and pursued his trade.

He returned to Italy and married a girlhood sweetheart and in 1,892 returned to the United States, first settling in Sacramento. Ten years later he came to Vallejo and opened his sporting goods establishment on Georgia Street, anti built his own building to house the business In 1921 he transferred the business to his son Stephen. Two daughters, too, were in this family¬? Theresa and Gladys.

Very few pioneer names have left a greater or more favorable impact on Solano and Napa county histories than that of McDonald.  Born in Ireland in 1858, James J. McDonald came to New York at the age of 18 in 1877. He came immediately to Solano County, and for a few years he cultivated a ranch in Oregon.  In 1894 he returned to Vallejo and established himself in the livery stable business at 216 Virginia St. Adjacent thereto, and for many years, McDonald operated one of the city’s leading undertaking parlors.

In 1898, the citizens of Solano County honored him by election to the office of coroner. In 1902 he was re-elected to this office.  In 1906 he was elected sheriff of Solano County¬? an office which he filled with distinction for numerous terms. It was during his first term the present jail in Fairfield was built.  McDonald was married in 1889 to Adelia Devlin, a native of Solano County, and the daughter of John Devlin. Four children were born of this marriage: Aloysius J., Francis I., Justine E. and Cyril J.

As noted in the sketch of Manuel Madrid. it was Justine McDonald who sold Blue Rock Springs to the City of Vallejo.  Cyril established Twin Chapels Mortuary, and the family was also interested in property in Napa County.