Jerome Davis and Davisville (Yolo County), California
From: The History of Yolo County, California
History By: Tom Gregory
The Historical Record Company.
Los Angeles, California 1913


When Jerome C. Davis came to Davisville there was little doing. This was early in the '50s, but the state agricultural report of 1856 says that he had eight thousand acres of land, one thousand of which were enclosed. It also stated that he was irrigating some of his land by pumping water from Puto creek with a steam engine; that he had a large peach orchard, several thousand bearing grapevines, one hundred and fifty horses, three thousand head of cattle and about the same number of sheep, and that four hundred acres of wheat and barley had produced for him over thirty bushels to the acre that year. In 1858 he had twenty one miles of fencing and in 1864 he had thirteen thousand acres, and had eighty eight hundred and eleven acres of land, upon which was thirty three miles of fencing. In 1867 William Dresbach leased the old Davis homestead and changed it to a hotel, calling the place the "Yolo House." Other buildings were added to the town and Dresbach named it Davisville. When the rails reached the place it boomed into a small city. It was the only railroad station in the county and was quickly a great grain shipping point. Building lots sold for a high price and Davisville - it was Davisville then and long afterwards - grew by leaps and bounds. William Dresbach was the first merchant, first Wells, Fargo agent, and that express company did a huge monthly business. The extension of the' Marysville branch of the Central Pacific Railroad northward in 1868 and the building of the Vaca Valley road to Madison in 1875 naturally withdrew much of the shipping business from Davisville, but the development of the surrounding productive agricultural country largely made up for such loss.


The location of the State University Farm, College of Agriculture, at this point is a grand testimonial to the soil value of Yolo. The entire seven hundred and eighty acres of this classic ranch is of the rich winter wash from the upper lands. For countless ages Putah creek has been spreading its sediment over the Davis plain and the alluvial crust of from fourteen to twenty feet resting over a water level is of wondrous fertility. This soil characteristic is found in the Cache creek delta and other hill streams that sink their floods in the rich plains between the range and the river. When the state legislature in 1905 appropriated the preliminary $150,000 and started a commission to select a farm for the agricultural department of the University of California almost one hundred tracts of land in different portions of the state were examined, and this site was chosen as best adapted for the various purposes for which such a farm must be used. The land cost about $103,000, and the legislature of 1907 made a further appropriation of $132,000 for the necessary buildings and equipment of the institution. The farm was opened for instruction in October, 1908, with five separate short courses for farmers, and the School of Agriculture, consisting of a three years' course for boys who have finished the common schools, was opened in January, 1909.


As time goes on the remarkable and unlimited productive possibilities of California's soil become better known. Ages before the agriculturist with the white skin walked over these plains the elements in the earth and Air were storing chemicals among the grass roots for the coming centuries. In no portion of the state is this more apparent than in the great central valley of this territory. The day cannot be set when the Sacramento river broke its way through the middle plains, rolling down to its meeting with the sea, but year after year it has gathered fertility from the higher lands to sow it in moisture and sediment on the lower. There were wide floodings in those prehistoric winters when the spreading tides followed the Indians and animals to the safety of the hills, but the deposit covered land surface grew richer from the inundation and every little tributary stream swollen from the mountain showers adds its part to the deluge below, also adds its contribution to the accumulations of richness annually stored in the soil. Yolo as well as its upper and lower neighbor - Colusa and Solano - appears to have been favored by the builders of the hemisphere, and this strip of country between the Coast range and the Sacramento river seems to have been receiving seasonal benefits from such arrangements ever since the cornerstone of the continent was laid. These great Yolo reservations of fertility are to be found in the "made lands" at the sinks of Cache and Putah creeks as well as in Cottonwood, Dry and Buckeye creeks or sloughs. Willow slough in summer appears from a large cold spring, and its course toward the marshes is marked by a succession of ponds or springs. In winter Cache creek drives a large volume of water into Cottonwood creek and into the plain which finds outlet into the tules through Willow slough. So navigable has been this winter system of valley streams that frequently in the past boatmen have easily floated from Sutter's Fort in Sacramento to Gordon ranch on Cache creek in Yolo county.


In the region bordering the western mountains and among these chains are the grain, grape and apple lands, the warm sandy or clayey loam being especially fitted for this thermal loving vegetation. And here the irrigating ditches have their uses, and here is seen the need of the great natural reservoir hanging amid the Lake mountains above the Yolo plains which will one day be tapped for the thirsty farms and gardens below. Though the late years have seen the immense wheat fields of this section shrink in acreage as the fruit market of the world increased in volume, the great traction plows yet furrow the warm loam, and the same steamers reap and thresh the full harvests. More to the east and bordering the bile belt are the ideal fruit lands of the Sacramento valley, and no soil in the crust of the planet is more productive for the uses of mankind. It is twenty or thirty feet of sedimentary deposit, entirely without hardpan, the long ago dead vegetation and the hill erosion of ages washed from the western ranges and pressed into a stratum as fertile as the mudbeds of the Nile.


Here amid the tree and vine tracts grows the alfalfa, king of the forage plants, the busiest vegetable in the green kingdom. It is always growing. Mow it and before the hay is cured for baling another crop is under way to maturity. It is the evergreen, the semperviren of the lower plant life. Its rootlets will find moisture in the driest soil, but in the rich alluvium of the Woodland plains and especially where the irrigating waters flow the three or four crops a year are enormous. Twelve or fourteen thousand acres is probably the area devoted to this exceedingly prolific clover, the luscious lucerne of the Swiss meadows transplanted in the rich soil of the far west. Five sixths of the hay crop (value about $600,000) of this county is alfalfa.

The chief cereal of the Yolo plains is barley and its annual crop now reaches a value of $1,500,000. Being of the export variety, it finds a ready European market. In the latest reports of the State Agricultural Society the acreage of barley is about 100,000; wheat, 16,000; alfalfa, 15,000.


Another plant that is showing up Yolo as a garden spot is the sugar beet. This industry is a new one in the county, but the valuable vegetable has found in this warm, rich loam just the fertility it requires, and the eight or ten thousand acres yearly produce for the mills probably 60,000 tons of beets. Along the river bottoms grow the hop crops which add yearly to the income of the county. One of the great divisions of horticulture in Yolo is the culture of raisin grapes and the varieties most grown are the Alexandria muscat, the seedless Sultana and the Thompson seedless. The Sultana is the choice, bearing in some years as high as fifteen tons to the acre. It is a small berry, seedless, and of a yellowish tint when ripe, and five pounds of fresh grapes will make one pound of raisins. The present yearly output is about 4,000,000 pounds. About 165,000 gallons of sweet wine are annually made in this county. Probably $550,000 worth of butter each year is the showing of the dairies. Yolo has ninety miles of Sacramento river front and something like 4,500,000 pounds of marketable fish, representing a value of about $250,000, are caught in the waters that belong to this county. A total present annual fruit output of Yolo county may be estimated as: Green fruit and vegetables (6), 40,000,000 pounds, value $650,000; dried fruit, 25,000,000 pounds, value, $1,400,000; canned apples, 16,000 cases; cherries, 700 cases; peaches, 33,000 cases; plums, 900 cases. Total value, $124,000.

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