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Uncovering the Past

John Rico

It is interesting to note some of the progress made by Vacaville as the years roll on. But it is also interesting to reminisce back to the early days of the area. The printed word here goes back to 1883, at least newspaper files of that date are still in existence.

Records reveal that Vacaville at one time had a cannery, perhaps the only one to operate here in the long history of the fruit season which flourished for about 100 years. Broughman’s cannery house was known to have put up as many as 336,000 cans of apricots, pears and other fruits in one season.

As trends and habits changed so did the community. Saloons were quite prominent here, furnishing liquor for the typical “fruit tramp” who made the rounds of the Vacaville area every fruit picking season. At one time there were as many as a dozen saloons operating here.

In referring back to the file of 1883, Vacaville may not have been a community of many people, but it did possess a diversification of professions and business interests. The -file reveals Vacaville had the California Normal and Scientific School, three .church building and five organizations, with seven secret organizations.

Of course there were the typical shoemakers, harness makers, bricklayers, plasterers, a saddler, a tinner, two blacksmiths and a wagonmaker, along with a drayman and one barber. There was no bank, but one was soon to be opened.

Here are some of the tidbits of news which were interesting then, but today may seem quite unusual or amusing to see in print:

A Chinaman named Jap Ah Clayo, engaged on the E. R. Williams ranch, was working with a group of Chinese blowing out tree stumps. One of the men lit the fuse and all men scattered in a hurry. A large chunk of tree struck Clayo on the side of the head killing him instantly. The news report reads: “The accident caused quite a stir in the community where, ordinarily, nothing of a serious nature happens.”

“Earth to earth and dust to dust” especially dust on the streets of Vacaville during windy weather. A. laudable effort is being made to induce the business men of the town to sprinkle the streets the ensuing season, and we hope they will subscribe liberally to the fund. (The fund did raise $56.)

Rev. McNaboe is undertaking the erection of a Catholic Church here. “Until we hear from the Rev. gentleman himself we forbear further mention just now.”

A flock of 1000 sheep were driven through Vacaville last Friday, on their way to Suisun Valley from Capay. They are being transferred there for pasturage.

Quite a party of ladies spent an enjoyable ‘afternoon Wednesday at the residence of Mrs. W. B. Kidd, having congregated in the capacity of a “sewing bee.” It is fair to presume a great deal of work was done as ladies seldom talk on such occasions.

I. F. Davis, the gentlemanly landlord of the Davis Hotel presented the Reporter’s better-half with a large quantity of fresh peas which were raised in the vicinity. They certainly bestowed more pleasure than he thought probable.

Willie Davis, the dairy boy, is becoming one of the prominent necessities of this town, and it does one good to patronize one so worthy of encouragement as he is.

His milk is excellent and at 5 cents a quart is far cheaper than to keep a cow, pay for food and the trouble of milking.

On Monday three families passed through town in covered wagons moving from Woodland to Mendocino County. They reported they didn’t like the Woodland country.

There are two mud holes in the Wilson lane, west of town.

If you wish a cool drink this summer you will have to “wipe off your chin at the Davis Hotel. They have a large stock of beautiful ice.

Dr. Meeker of Elmira was in town Monday. The old gentleman, after feeling Vacaville’s pulse, pronounced the town in a healthy, prosperous condition.

Call again, Dr.

This all happened back in 1883, right here in Vacaville and at Elmira.