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The Name, The Place

John Rico

Searching back into history, it is interesting, and at times amusing to note how some cities received their names. Those of us in Vacaville have heard many times how Vacaville was named after Manuel Vaca, who deeded the land on which the townsite of Vacaville was to be laid out.

Over in Elmira, which for many years was called Vaca Station, a Jerome Banks of Elmira, New York, was quite influential in the area for many years, and it was he who was able to attached the name of Elmira to the small settlement.

Fairfield was named by Captain Robert Waterman in honor of his home town of Fairfield, Connecticut, and over in Suisun (Soo-soon) an Indian word for West Wind provides the names for that community.

Vallejo is named for its founder Gen. Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, of Sonoma.

Angels Camp, the site of the frog jumping event in the Mother Lode, is not named for an Angel, but received its name from the pioneer California resident, George Angel.

We hear much these days about Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay. It received its name from the Spanish “La Isla de los Alcatraces,” island of the pelicans. Far back in 1775 these birds inhabited the island.

Benicia is named after a woman, wife of Gen. Mariano Vallejo, and Calistoga is derived from two words California and Saratoga, with the town’s founder, Samuel Brannan, envisioning the place as the Saratoga of the West.

Fresno is Spanish for ash tree, and Gilroy is named after the Scotch sailor, John Gilroy, and when the explorer Arguello discovered an unusual amount of feathers floating on a river, he named it the Feather River.

Martinez is named after the Mexican officer, Ignacio Martinez, who was commandante of the Presidio of San Francisco for several years. Marysville was named after Mary Murphy Couvillard, because she had been gracious to minors who were ill.

Napa Indians are honored with the name of the city of Napa, and Petaluma is also an Indian word, Pet-ah-loo-ma, meaning flat-back, descriptive of a hill near that city.

Surprising, Walnut Creek is named after “El Arroyo de’ los Nogales,’ meaning the creek of the walnuts, and the word California, although having many meanings, has lost its origin.

A DEAD ISSUE — Football is dead here, probably too much dead to ever be resurrected. In 1903 the Vacaville High School put out a team worthy to be proud of. Out of the seven games played, they lost not a one. But in the spring of 1904 all of the team but two left school, and the shock was too great to be borne. The next fall the team was reorganized but it was so late before the team was ready to play that no games were secured and finally the football team disbanded without playing any games. By the fall of 1905 almost all of the remaining men were gone, and the fact that football was dead was recognized. Reprinted from the 1906 Vaca High yearbook.

And the football coaches of today think they have problems.

In those days old Vaca High was on the present site of Andrews Park. The athletic field was raw dirt and gravel, and many an athlete received scars and bruises from spills into this rough earth, but there was no choice in those days and it was “take it or leave it.”

This perhaps accounts for the lack of interest in football back around the turn of the century at old Vaca High.