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When the County Seat Almost Was Vacaville

John Rico

THE MOVE — Back in 1858 it was proposed to move the county seat of Solano County from Benicia to another town in the county, and the move to Vacaville was considered.

With Suisun and Fairfield beginning to show some signs of growth back in that year, it was believed that a more central location in the county for the county seat would be in the best interests of all of the people.

Mason Wilson, a prominent Vacaville land owner at that time offered four blocks of land and $1,000 in cash in an effort to entice the move of the county seat to Vacavile.

Suisun, through A. P. Jackson, proposed giving $5,500 in cash and a large lot if the county seat was moved to that small community.

R. H. Waterman of Fairfield offered 16 acres of land to the county, along with four blocks of land.

At a meeting held in Suisun of August 7, 1858, elected delegates met to consider all of the proposals for the new location of the county seat. At this election Fairfield received 16 votes, Suisun City 12, and Denverton 1. Although there were 10 people on the committee representing Vacaville Township, there was not one vote cast in favor of locating the county seat at Vacaville.

In September of 1858, the proposal of relocating the county seat was put to the voters, with Benicia receiving 625 votes, Fairfield 1029, Denverton 38, Vallejo 10, Rockville 2, and Suisun 26.

Election analysts of that day surmised that Vallejo, which had long borne a grudge over Benicia for having taken away the county seat in 1852, had cast all of its votes in favor of the Fairfield location.

To this day it is believed that the county seat is at Fairfield due to the combination of votes cast by residents of Fairfield and Vallejo, against Benicia.

The Solano Herald in 1858 had this to say about the results of 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 our memory green, for good and evil.”

It did not take long to make the move from Benicia to Fairfield. In October of the following year offices were ready and moved into. The board of supervisors went into action immediately to have a new jail and temporary court house constructed at Fairfield.

The supervisors wanted a jail first — at a cost of $24,000.

A HUNDRED YEARS — One hundred years is a long, long time, and as we dig back into Solano County history we will find that the county has changed considerably in that period of time. A report issued around 1870 shows that there were three breweries in the county then brewing 180,000 gallons of beer. Three grist mills produced 312,000 barrels of flour, and the several wineries bottled 150,000 gallons of wine — and three gallons of brandy. Wheat was the county’s major crop, and there were 622 mules counted in the county.

OLD ROADS — The Solano County Road Department reveals that the oldest dedicated road in the Vacaville rural area is Lovers Lane, dating back to 1866. Buck Avenue got its name in 1889; Davis Street in 1890; and Burton Road, 1890. (Burton Road is now Fruitvale Avenue, and how the change came about is a mystery.) In fact throughout the years Ulatis Valley had its name changed to Vaca Valley —which is also a mystery.

ANOTHER CHANGE — A small town east of Fairfield, known as Nurse’s Landing had its name changed in 1858 to Denverton, honoring J. W. Denver, a member of Congress from the district at that time. The houses there had city water. Today there is no such town as Denverton. And in 1869 a few energetic men built a railroad from Elmira to Vacaville so that the fruits and vegetables from the area could be transported to the main line tracks at Elmira.

SOME OTHER FIRSTS — Vacaville veterans of World War I wanted their own meeting hail so plans went forward to construct one at the corner of Dobbins and Kendal Streets, but the project never materialized. An old house was taken over on Merchant Street, and used until January, 1932, when the present building was made available with county funds.

Hundreds and perhaps thousands of Vaca High and Vacaville grammar school students have perched on the concrete wall along School Street, which was built in 1915 so that the hillside would not slide into the dirt road. Much of the filling behind the wall was sweepings from Vacavile streets, dumped there by the city’s street dump wagon.

Dedication ceremonies were held on Sunday for Vacaville’s new public library. The old Carnegie Library at the corner of Main and Parker Streets was opened in mid-1915.

Vacaville, founded around 1850, got its first mechanized fire engine in the year 1916, and there was quite a controversy among firemen as to just who should be able to drive the engine because it was found some of the firemen mixed whiskey drinking with fire fighting.

In more recent years it will be found that one of the most modern theaters in Northern California opened here in 1926, known as the Clark Theatre. At that time a new innovation of “talking” pictures made their appearance, and the owner, the late W. J. Clark, was made penniless in an attempt to bring this type of entertainment to Vacaville. The theater is the present Vacaville Theatre, changed in appearance throughout the years, but basically the same structure.

The Hume brothers and a partner came to Vacaville in 1933 and experimented with the drying of onions at the Uhl prune dehydrator on the Uhl ranch, located just north of the present Albertson’s grocery store. From that experimental beginning has grown the world’s largest company for the dehydrating of onions, known to Vacaville residents as Basic Vegetable Products.

The late Max Brazelton raced down to the street from the second story of Hotel Raleigh on the night of July 11, 1909, to spread the news that the big hotel was on fire. The hotel burned to the ground in one of Vacaville’s biggest fires.