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Those That Followed

John Rico

Much has been written about the early history of the Vacaville area, and the names of Vaca and Pena, the two families first to arrive here from Mexico, but not too many people know who followed the intrepid adventurers from Mexico.

Historians say that Albert Lyon, John Patton, J. P. Willis and Clay Long were the first to come here from eastern states. This was before 1850. With the fertile fields the men went into stock raising.

Following closely behind was Marshall Bayse, and then the Dollarhide family. Up to the time the Dollarhide family arrived here, there were only two women in the entire valley — the wives of Lyon and Hollingsworth. In 1848, Hollingsworth and a companion were on their way to the mines and were murdered. Hollingsworth’s family remained in Vaca Valley for 10 years after his death, later moving to other sections of the state.

In 1851, J. P. Long drove a flock of 10,000 sheep from his home state of Missouri, and when he arrived in Vaca Valley only 3,000 had survived the long journey. It was the first flock of sheep in the valley. Long remained here for about three years, later going back to Missouri and then to Texas.

In 1852 Edward McGeary, John Fisk, Mason Wilson, J. G. Parks, W. R. Miller, S. W. Long and W. A. Dunn located in the valley and there was every indication a settlement had started.

Thus, we learn a bit about some of the first families to plant their roots in this valley.

AND AT ELMIRA — Research shows that the first settlers in the Elmira area were Stephen Hoyt, Charlie Pearson and Judith Williams back in 1853. As time passed the California Pacific Railroad passed through a thriving community known as Vaca Station, which was later to become Elmira, named after the city of Elmira in the state of New York. The Solano County board of supervisors ordered a new township should be formed out of portions of Vacaville, Silveyville and Maine Prairie, to be known as Elmira township. In 1868 a plat was filed for a city at Elmira, to be comprised of an area covering 40 acres of property, formerly owner by Stephen Hoyt, who laid out the town in that year. Back in 1879 the population of Elmira was estimated at 500. It had two stores, yard, livery stables, three blacksmith shops, along with extensive properties owned by the railroad company.

THE COUNTY SEAT — Fairfield became the county seat of Solano County by an odd quirk — in fact the county seat would have been in Benicia today had not some antagonism manifested between Benicia and Vallejo residences, making it possible for Fairfield to grab off the county seat.

Back in 1858, R. H. Waterman, who dominated affairs in Fairfield, donated considerable lands in that city to the county, with the stipulation that on some of the land county office buildings would be constructed.

The board of supervisors called an election on Sept. 2, 1858, to determine just where the people of the county wanted the office buildings. Out of a total vote of 1730, here is the breakdown: Fairfield 1029, Benicia 625, Denverton 38, Suisun 26, Vallejo 10, and Rockville 2.

As mentioned in an early paragraph in this article, the reason for the large vote being cast for Fairfield was that Vallejo residents were mad at Benicia residents because Vallejoans wanted the state capitol back in 1852, and Benicia was able to get this honor, so when it came time to select a site for county office buildings, Vallejoans cast their lot with Fairfield. Here is what one writer said back in 1858 about the election:

“In every general engagement, however glorious the bulletin of victory, there necessarily follows the melancholy supplement of casualties. In the list of killed and wounded in Wednesday’s battle, our eye falls mournfully on the name of Benicia— Benicia, the long suffering, mortally wounded, if not dead — killed by Vallejo’s unsparing hand. That the people of Suisun and the adjoining region should have desired a removal of the county seat, was by no means surprising; but Vallejo et tu Brute In the house of our friends we were wounded. While we hold in grateful remembrance the majority of the citizens of Vallejo, let us not forget those aspiring gentlemen who dealt us the deadly blow. “Lord keep your memory green for good and evil.”

Mason Wilson of Vacaville promised the supervisors he would donate four blocks of lots in Vacaville and $1000 in money, if the county seat was located here, but this offer fell on deaf ears and Vacaville was sidetracked.