History of Suisun & Fairfield, CA
From: History of Solano County, California
By: Marguerite Hunt
And Napa County, California.
By: Harry Lawrence Gunn
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago 1926


Suisun and Fairfield, located only a mile apart, the latter the county seat of Solano, were once included in the holdings of Chief Solano, for his grant, petitioned for in 1837, and secured by him through Governor Alvarado, embraced in its four square leagues most of the Suisun Valley. Here, then, and at Rockville, a few short miles distant, ruled Solano in the days when he brought the Suisun Indians together following the death of Malica. He died about the time that the white settlers first entered the valley in any numbers, and his burial place is unknown. Tradition has it that an old stone cabin and a group of trees in Green Valley shadow his last resting place, but General Vallejo was authority for the story that he was buried below Rockville and that thousands of warriors from the entire Sonoma district came to the funeral and buried their chief with full Indian pomp, despite the fact that he had prayed to the white man's God.

Suisun City was originally an island, its slough the head of navigable waters down which the grain crops of the valleys to the north were shipped. For grain was the great output of the state in 1850, when Curtis Wilson and Dr. John Baker first sailed up these waters and made a landing at what is now Suisun City. Wild grain and tules surrounded the place and the stay of Wilson and Baker was short. Captain Josiah Wing, with his good schooner, the Ann Sophia, was the first to develop the place commercially. He sailed up the slough in 1851, and in the following year built a warehouse. Wagons drawn by sixteen mules brought the wheat down from the northern country to be stored there between the Ann Sophia's trip, and by 1854, the place had developed to an extent which warranted Wing and John Owen laying out a town site. Owens and A. W. Hall ran the first store.

James Thomas Wells, of Fairfield, a deputy sheriff of Solano County for twenty five years, who celebrated his eighty first birthday in September, 1925, has many an interesting tale to tell of the early days of Suisun and Fairfield history. He came out from Quincy, Illinois, making the trip via New Orleans and the Isthmus of Panama, and with his people located in the Gomer district, just outside the present town of Fairfield.

"There was not much here then except a slaughter house," said Mr. Wells, "and Captain Wing used to have the wild grain around here harvested and then take it down to San Francisco on his schooner. Allen Miller and J. B. Lemon, his brother in law, were already settled here, having come to California in search of gold. They were then engaged in stock raising. Wing's schooner used to carry away the grain which was brought in from the valleys, being hauled to Suisun by teams of sixteen to twenty mules. I can remember when the stage coaches came in, here, one line running from Benicia to Fairfield and the other from Napa to Sacramento. Solano's first courthouse was built of wood, right on the end of this lot where I am living now. It was in 1866, that I moved in from the Comer district and started a livery business here in Fairfield. James McNulty was my partner. Thomas Hooker was the first postmaster we had in Fairfield and he ran the postofilce on one side of a partition through his store and a bar on the other side. I can remember how the Vallejo newspapers used to roast him because of the combination. We had some pretty good stores here then, but there was a time when we lost them all. Suisun had too much pull and got them away from us. But after a while we got them back."

Colonel D. D. Reeves, who had early settled in Suisun Valley, opening a blacksmith shop, moved into Suisun City in 1857, - for from its very inception the place has been called a city - and with his brother, C. P. Reeves, erected one of the first brick buildings. John M. Jones, Asa Crocker, John W. Pierce, D. E. and D. M. Stockman all settled in the valley during the early '50s and in 1860, R. D. Robbins arrived, with only a few cents in his pocket as he frequently told in after years. When he died he left an estate worth several millions. The Bank of Suisun National Association is familiarly known as the Robbins Bank.

In 1868, the town had grown to such a size that steps were taken to incorporate it. This was done on October 9th of that year. Up to the time when the railroads entered Solano County, Suisun was one of the most flourishing little communities north of San Francisco. The chance for business which Josiah Wing had foreseen had more than materialized and from the time that he put the Ann Sophia on the run until the railroad was built into the town it was the main shipping port for the vast surrounding area. At the time when the Central Pacific acquired the rights of way, the site for a depot, donated by R. D. Robbins, stipulated that it should be located at or near the junction of the railroad with the one running to Vallejo, the California Pacific. This agreement bore the signatures of Leland Stanford, James Fair, Collis P. Huntington, et al. But thereby hangs a tale. With the growth of Fairfield, the citizens of that county seat were not satisfied to make the trip to Suisun when they wished to board a train. The rival contentions of the two towns continued for many years and finally, some fifteen years ago, the Southern Pacific Company sought to compromise matters by locating the Fairfield-Suisun depot midway between the two. But there are Suisun residents today who stoutly maintain that it should still be in their town.

At this writing, 1925, Suisun, although having a population of only about nine hundred, has two banks, five hotels, three churches, (Grace, Episcopal, founded in 1857; St. Alphonsis, Catholic, founded in 1868 and the Congregational, founded in 1876), and a fine grammar school. It is included in the Armijo Union High School district, the school of which is located in the town of Fairfield. Its government is vested in a board of trustees, those serving in 1925 being Edward Dinkelspiel, mayor; G. N. Edwards, manager of the Winters Canning Company, one of the town's largest industries, which employs six hundred to seven hundred people for two thirds of the year; E. D. Holly, State Senator Benjamin F. Rush, and Henry Bird. The term is for four years.

Suisun and Fairfield are on the main line of the Southern Pacific Railroad, and like other towns in Solano, they are also on the state highway. Then, too, the position of Suisun at the head of water navigation, Suisun Channel as it is now known, makes a very low competitive freight rate, something which is of extreme importance when it is remembered that the town has contiguous to it the rich Suisun Valley of 30,000 acres, with its wealth of fruit trees. Cattle and sheep ranges, grain farms and a rich dairy country contribute to the wealth of this portion of Solano.

Allen Miller, referred to by Mr. Wells as being a settler there at the time of his arrival, drove stock across what is now the town of Fairfield in 1852. At that time tules separated it from Suisun and it was included in the Armijo grant. In later years, Mr. Miller held the post of deputy county treasurer. His brother in law, John B. Lemon, pioneer merchant of Fairfield, built the first house in what is now the town.

The founder of Fairfield was Captain R. H. Waterman, who came from Fairfield, Connecticut, acquired land of the Armijo grant and, in 1858, in company with A. E. Ritchie, had the town surveyed and the plat filed for record. At the county seat convention of 1858, when the war was on to take from Benicia the county seat which she had had for eight years, Captain Waterman offered to deed to the county about sixteen acres if his town should be selected. The records of this convention set forth his offer as follows: "To deed to the Board of Supervisors of Solano County a certain piece of land containing about sixteen acres, known upon the plat of the town of Fairfield as "Union Park," also four blocks, each block containing twelve lots, to be selected as follows: two from the north and two from the south, or, two from the east and two from the west, of "Union Park." He offered to enter into bonds for the performance of the same. This offer was accepted by the voters of Solano at the general election held on September 2, 1858, and thus Fairfield gained its prominence. The county records were at once moved from Benicia and a temporary courthouse built while other buildings were rented from Waterman for the use of the county officials. The same year the Board of Supervisors; J. G. Gardner, D. B. Holman, and E. F. Gillespie, called for plans and specifications for a courthouse and jail and in January, 1859, requested the Legislature to pass an act, authorizing them to levy a special tax of fifty cents on each one hundred dollars worth of property for a period of two years, for the cost thereof. Ten bids were submitted for the new buildings, that of Larkin Richardson for $24,440, the lowest, being accepted. In striking contrast to this courthouse is the present one, erected in 1911, a stately white granite building which is the pride of all Solano residents. In 1875, a county hospital was established at Fairfield in rented buildings and in the fall of that year sixty acres on the plain adjoining the town were purchased from L. Fitch and the first county hospital was erected. The property cost the county $25 per acre. The present hospital is a fine, strictly up to date institution which cost $130,879.

Fairfield, smaller than its twin sister, Suisun, is also a thriving little town and although the two are located so close together, there has never been the slightest desire on the part of either to combine. Fairfield and Suisun may be linked together in the minds of the traveler, but to the residents they are as separate and distinct as if acres upon acres divided them, instead of the one mile, long since reclaimed, where once the sloughs cut in and the tules were.

As the past with its colorful and kaleidoscopic years accompanying the discovery of gold and the coming of the Gringo will always be the most interesting part of California's history, so Vacaville with its Spanish setting appeals to the student of Solano's early records. For here Senors Vaca and Pena had settled when they secured the Los Putos of 44,380 acres, and here they lived on the immense ranchos, devoting their time to stock raising. Long ago the land was divided up and passed out of the hands of their descendants, but there is a flavor of romance about those days when nine square miles could be deeded away for the paltry sum of $3,000, with the only stipulation attached being that a town site should be laid out on one mile thereof and 1,055 lots of said town should be deeded back to the owner. And this was how the town of Vacaville was founded for Manuel Cabeza Vaca made just such a deed to William McDaniel in the year 1850, and the plat of the town was recorded by E. H. Rowe on December 31, 1851.

It was McDaniel who erected the first house of the town while the second was run up by James McGuire. In 1855, the Christian Church was organized about two and a half miles from Vacaville but shortly thereafter moved into the town. M. J. Dobbins had been among the arrivals of the year previous when Vacaville consisted of a little more than a few dwellings, a blacksmith shop, a store and a postoffice. The year 1855, also marked the founding of the California College, as it was known, by Professor Anderson of San Francisco, a private school and one of the first in that section of the county. Later this became the property of the Southern Methodist Denomination and long flourished as an educational institution. Dobbins was the director of this for many years. In 1869, the Vaca Valley and Clear Lake Railroad connected the town and township with the outside world and the place has had a steady growth since then. The development of the rich surrounding country, the Vaca Valley, as a fruit section has made the name Vacaville synonomous with California early fruits for it is from this town that the first carloads go to eastern markets. Shipping companies now located in Vacaville include the Pioneer Fruit Company, F. H. Buck Company, Vacaville Fruit Distributors, the Earl Fruit Company, F. B. McKevitt Company and the Vacaville Fruit Growers Association. The town is connected with Suisun and Sacramento by electric railway and is also served by the Southern Pacific.

Dixon was founded much later than the other towns of Solano, dating only from 1868. It was the outgrowth of Silveyville, located in the township of the same name made interesting by the fact that in this township John R. Wolfskill, the first white settler, located. Following him a number of new corners settled from time to time in the region through which the best road led from Benicia to the mines when the gold fever broke out. So Elijah S. Silvey, in 1852, built a house and stock corral, named it the Half Way House and hung a lantern out at night to guide the weary traveler on his way. By 1865, Silveyville had reached the height of its prosperity with about one hundred fifty residents in the town. Then came the California Pacific Railroad Company and W. R. Ferguson, considering that on the line would be a good location for a town, purchased an acre of land from Thomas Dickson and built a dwelling house. Later Dickson donated ten acres for a town site and depot and thither the people of Silveyville moved over night. The place was named for the donor of the land, but as the first consignment of merchandise delivered to Ferguson was addressed "W. R. Ferguson, Dixon," this spelling was adopted. The town was incorporated by a special act of the Legislature during the session 1877-8. In the early days the country surrounding the town was devoted chiefly to the growing of grain; later this was supplanted by alfalfa, but it is chiefly as a dairy city that Dixon is best known.

After the California Pacific Railroad had been built from Vallejo to Sacramento a small depot was established one mile south of the present town of Elmira and given the name of Vaca Station. A general merchandise store was built by W. Levi and about the same time Tom Eddington ran up a boarding house. As more residents were added to the town a movement was started to have the railroad station transferred to the place and this was finally accomplished. Later when the railroad was completed from Vacaville to Elmira confusion arose over the name of the station which was still called Vaca, and it was decided that this should be changed. To Jerome Bank is due the fact that it was called Elmira for the New York town of his birthplace.

Collinsville on the Sacramento River, fourteen miles south of Rio Vista serves as a shipping point for the immediate surrounding country. Birds Landing, another of the small towns of Solano is located a short distance from Collinsville and is a trading place for ranchers of the surrounding districts.

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