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Statues Are Impressive

John Rico

On a recent trip to Europe, and especially in Italy, I was fascinated with the number of historical monuments, many of them immortalizing individuals. These statues are all over the place and in proper surroundings add greatly to the atmosphere of the particular city or town.

Statues are not too prominent in the USA, presumably because our history does not go back too far, yet we could use a few of some of our great men and women to help break the monotony of some of our parks which are surrounded by pillars of concrete, and super-highway overpasses and underpasses.

Right here in Vacaville we could use one of Manuel Vaca, after whom the city was named, and perhaps one of Juan Filipe Pena, another of the original settlers of the area.

What an impressive sight it would make if a statue was made available of one of the Chinese labor-em, carrying his gourd water container and his hoe as he walked off to work in the Vacaville fields. This could well be representative of Edwin Markham’s “Man With the Hoe.”

Old-timers and historians have attempted to find the burial place of Manuel Vaca so that proper recognition could be bestowed upon the man either with a monument or a plaque, but there is some question as to his burial place. The closest guess is that it is near the town of Davis.

The Vaca and Pena families came to the local area in 1841, the exact day being August 14, and it has been printed many times how Vaca deeded lands for a townsite which to bear his name. Had Pena made the offer, we would probably be living in Penaville instead of Vacaville.

The Vacas and Pena came out of their native Mexico back in 1840 and made their way up the coast until they found a spot where they wanted to settle, and that was in Lagoon Valley, south of Vacaville, known then to them as Laguna Valley. Vaca soon received a grant of 44,380 acres of the choicest lands around Vacaville, and that was quite a hunk of real estate, even in 1850. The Vacas and Penas were here about five years before any American came upon the scene.

The Pena adobe, now a historical landmark, was built on its present site because of the fresh water Laguna lake. Now that lake is only a wet spot in winter and a dry spot at summer’s end.

It is not quite clear in history why the Vacas and Penas picked this particular area in which to settle, but as one person so ably stated: “Somebody had to be first.”

When the Vacas and Penas came here the landscape was lush with wild oats and massive oak trees. There were fresh water springs and streams dotting the entire area. This in itself was inviting to these two men, and the climate was such as they had experienced in their native Mexico.

Nearly 100 years ago a Vacaville doctor was sincere in his statement that people lived longer in Vacaville than in any other section of California. He had statistics to prove the annual death rate in California was 18 to every 100 population, but in Vacaville it was down to seven and three fifths persons to every 100. No one could dispute the doctor’s claims, and perhaps no one cared to. His writings earned favorable publicity for Vacaville, but in the year 1970 we will have to say that the death rate ratio here is the same as it is anywhere else in California.

The Vacas and the Penas were accustomed to the warm climate of their native Mexico, and they found a similar climate in Vacaville—fog free and clear. They found winters with a mean average low of 52 degrees and summers with a mean average high of 70 degrees.

Perhaps the day may come when we may be able to pay tribute to these two men, and others who are deserving.

The name of the town perpetuates the name of Vaca, and the preservation of the adobe does some honor for Pena. At least these two men have not been forgotten entirely.