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Full text of "Solano Historian May 1987"

The Solano Historian 



VOL. Ill NO. 1 



MAY 1987 



msmi 



Solano Historian 

The Solano Historian is pub- 
lished twice yearly at Vallejo, 
California, by the Solano 
County Historical Society. 

Edited by 
Matthew and Lee Fountain 

and Robert Allgood. 
P.O. Box 922, Vallejo, Ca. 94590 

Printed by 
Wheeler Printing 

The purpose of the Solano 
Historian is to stimulate the 
enjoyment and preservation of 
history by publishing pictures, 
stories, articles, and letters fur- 
nished by its readers. Much 
valuable material that would 
flesh out our knowledge of the 
past is lost each year because 
those who might save it either 
do not realize its value or lack 
the motivation to take any 
immediate action. The Solano 
Historian will supply the moti- 
vation by showing there is an 
appreciative audience for such 
material and that people are 
intensely interested in items 
relating to their own back- 
ground, that jog their memory, 
remind them of memorable 
events, and satisfy their 
curiosity. 

Readers who furnish material 
for publication will find they are 
amply rewarded by their own 
feeling of satisfaction and the 
recognition earned by their 
contribution. 

The Solano Historian is now 
soliciting material of Solano and 
North Bay interest for future 
issues. More details concerning 
this may be obtained by contac- 
ting President Sue Lemmon or 
Lee Fountain. Comments on this 
issue are also welcome. 

The Society does not assume 
responsibility for the accuracy 
of statements or opinions of con- 
tributions although every effort 
is made to be historically 
correct. 

Solano County Historical Society 
P. O. Box 922, Vallejo, CA 94590 




About 
Our Authors 



President's Message 

As the Solano County Historical Socie- 
ty starts another year, it is a good time to 
look back. 

It was a good year for outgoing Presi- 
dent Mary Higham and her fellow officers. 
The meetings were interesting, there was 
increased fellowship among the members, 
and best of all, two more issues of the 
Solano Historian were published. These 
preservations of stories of our past will 
become more valuable as time moves on, 
and we plan to gather and print more of 
them in the coming year. 

Our Spring Trip to Mare Island was en- 
joyable; the weather was superb; it was a 
great day to walk through the old cemetery 
and meditate in St. Peter's Chapel. 

We start this next year with a new Presi- 
dent and Vice President, and continuing 
Secretaries and Treasurer whose ex- 
perience and guidance will be most 
helpful. Our BIG goal this year is to get 
more members. 

Bringing in more members is a job best 
done by individuals— in a one-on-one situa- 
tion. We especially need to interest young 
people to become active in our Society. 
Each of you is encouraged to solicit new 
members. If you don't want to make the 
contact individually, give us names and 
WE'LL contact any likely candidates for 
membership. 

It should be a good year with our 
Pioneer Day in September, the annual 
Christmas Party, and talented speakers for 
our general meetings. We look forward to 
seeing you in the months ahead. 

Sue Lemmon President 1987-1988 

Our Cover 

The cover depicts the beautiful Green 
Valley Falls as viewed by the anonymous 
traveler of 1879, whose account of a plea- 
sant trip through Green Valley appears in 
this issue. 



Charlene Erwin, a descendant of the 
famous Paladini-Dillingham sea-going 
family, wrote several articles for the 
Benicia Historical Society's "Benicia Sen- 
tinel" before her death in 1981. We are 
happy to reprint one of these charming 
pieces that relate personal memories of the 
great old ferries. Miss Erwin lived in the 
family home in Benicia and taught school 
in Vallejo for many years. A series of her 
articles will appear in the Solano 
Historian. 



Lee Fountain, a retired Solano Com- 
munity College instructor, has been a 
volunteer at the Vallejo Naval and 
Historical Museum since its inception and 
a longtime Solano County Historical Socie- 
ty worker. 



Matthew Fountain, a retired research 
chemist, is treasurer of Solano County 
Historical Society. He turned writer when 
he found historical anecdotes among the 
county's treasures. 



M.C. Low is librarian at Solano Com- 
munity College and a historian on the side. 
He is doing primary field research on the 
history of early Green Valley and Suisun 
Valley. He is chairman of the Solano 
County Historical Roundtable. 



Ernest Wichels is Solano County's best 
known historian. He has co-authored two 
books with Sue Lemmon and has written 
the history column in the Times Herald for 
many years. His specialty is all- 
encompassing, -Mare Island and Napa- 
Solano History. 



Anonymous—the article "Green 
Valley" was first published by the Week- 
ly Solano Republican on April 10, 1879. 



Green Valley 

The following article was printed in the 
Weekly Solano Republican, published in 
Suisun on Thursday, April 10, 1879. The 
anonymous author describes his walk 
through Green Valley as he visited the 
homes and farms along the way. 



Bridgeport 

Last Friday morning we boarded the 
west bound train and were whirled along 
through green fields and past blooming or- 
chards for a few miles, and after a short 
ride arrived at Bridgeport, the metropolis 
of Green Valley. We found the town very 
quiet, and the monotonous hum-drum of 
every day life with scarce a ripple on its 
surface. 

We called upon the efficient Postmaster, 
Mr. Humphreys, and found him the genial 
gentleman he is so widely noted as being. 
He has on hand a fine stock of general 
merchandise. 

Next door is the boot and shoe making 
establishment of Jas. Turner. He was busi- 
ly "pegging away" and as he is the only 
shoemaker in the town, doubtless does a 
good business. 

Next place of business is the meat 
market of H. Bihler. Mr. Bihler has been 
engaged in this business for over 35 years, 
hence knows just how it is done. We 
should judge from appearances that he 
does quite an extensive business. 

In the same building is a saloon under 
the management of Al Wood, where the 
thirsty wayfarer may rest and refresh 
himself. 

Next comes the general merchandise 
establishment of Behrmeister & Siebe. 
These two gentlemen were too busy with 
their customers to talk much; but we no- 
ticed they carried a very nice stock of 
goods, and are evidently thriving. 

Lastly on the north side of the block is 
a nicely fitted up saloon. We have unfor- 
tunately forgotten the name of the 
proprietors. 

W.J. Jewell, an old-time friend in Rio 
Vista, is Station and Wells', Fargo & Co.'s 
Agent, also telegraph operator. He was 
chock full of business, and keeps things in 
apple pie order. 

Phillip J. Doll has opened a barber shop 
and confectionery store. He is a pleasant 
little gentleman, and we hope he will suc- 
ceed in his enterprise. 

J.G. Valentine is just opening a carriage 
and wagon painting establishment, he will 
doubtless be kept busy, as he appears to 
be a tip top workman. 

The saws and planer in W.W. Mason's 



box factory were buzzing at a fearful rate, 
and Mr. Mason has his hands full of 
business. He has a blacksmith shop con- 
nected with his business. 

L. Eber has a blacksmith shop, and 
seems to be full of business. He is a plea- 
sant gentleman. 

Ed. Gerow is busily engaged in Mr. 
Eber's shop in perfecting an original 
device in the way of a patent double-trees. 
Instead of placing the double-trees in the 
usual position behind the horses, these are 
suspended from the back bands of the 
harness, and the traces are short rods of 
iron extending from the hames to the clips 
of the single trees. It is claimed that by this 
arrangement a man can plow as close as 
he chooses to his trees and not injure them; 
also that he can plow grape vines and not 
touch them. These double-trees will prove 
of great service to persons using derrick 
forks, as the double-trees will always be 
suspended, and never bother the horses 
heels. It will be found useful on street cars 
also, as it will do away with a tongue 
altogether. 

Jas. Crowly is the proprietor of a saloon 
and boardinghouse, and everything around 
him looks neat and tidy. Mrs. C.J. Pitman 
is the proprietor of the Bridgeport Hotel. 

She keeps an excellent house, and we 
tried the merits of her tables, and can 
vouch for them. 

Green Valley 

Refusing the kindly offer of a horse and 



buggy, we preferred to take a tramp up the 
valley. 

Just as we leave town we pass the school 
house. The school is at present under the 
management of Mr. Jamison and Miss Lula 
Owens. 

As we trudge along up the road, the 
valley begins to open to our view, and we 
soon have in perspection a perfect 
paradise. 

The first house we came to is occupied 
by John May hood. He has a small tract of 
land well under cultivation. Next is the 
farm of Mr. Lynch. He has a neatly 
painted house, and a well cultivated farm. 

North of this place is a tract of the 
Ramsey estate, rented by Mr. Herbison. 
He is engaged chiefly in growing grain and 
corn. He has a fine field of wheat. 

In the first house on the east side of the 
road lives G.M. Berry. The house is on 
Capt. C.E. Shillaber's place. 

Further to the eastward is the residence 
of Captain S. His farm consists of 180 
acres, nicely situated, with part of it fitted 
up only for pasture and the balance rich 
valley land. He has 10,000 grape vines set 
out and is preparing the ground to plant 
10,000 Eucalyptus trees. He has a 
curiosity, of which he is justly proud, in 
the way of a barberry hedge, around the 
house and barn. It is probably the most ex- 
tensive hedge of the kind in the State. 

The next place is the estate of C. 
Ramsey. This farm contains 1,000 acres 
of very fine land. There is a large and 




MRS.CJ. tmMAN.rkomrt BfflOGPORT, solano co.cal. 




1877 Map of Green Valley. 



Historical Atlas of Solano County, Thompson and West. 



elegant stone mansion on it erected in 
1860. There is a great profusion of trees, 
flowers, shrubs and vines growing around 
the house, giving it a most beautiful se- 
questered appearance. 

Crossing over the valley to the west side 
we pass the residence of Isaac Crow. This 
gentleman has 160 acres and grows prin- 
cipally grain. He has a fine lot of stock 
hogs on hand, which will doubtless yield 
him a handsome return this fall. 

On the west side of the valley lies the 
ranch of Geo. Mason. He has 156 acres, 
all in good cultivation; also quite a large 
vineyard. 

Passing up the valley on the west side, 
the next place is owned by James Capell. 
He has 254 acres. We noticed a fine, 
young vineyard on his place, also an ex- 
tensive one of older growth. 

North of him lies the extensive vineyard 
of F.S. Jones. It was now getting dark and 
Mr. Jones kindly took us in out of the wet 
for the night, and to say the we enjoyed 
his kind hospitality after the day's tramp 
but poorly expresses our keen appreciation 
of it. 

He has 307 acres of beautiful land. He 
has a large and substantial stone house 
nestled among huge over-hanging oaks on 
the side of the mountain. His wine cellar 
is perhaps the largest in the valley. It has 
a capacity of about 30,000 gallons. There 
are sixteen casks in it which will hold on 
an average of 1 ,000 gallons. He has a still 
connected with his cellar, where he makes 
an excellent quality of brandy. There are 



106,000 vines on the place and of this 
number 1 ,500 were not out this year. This 
vineyard produces about 250 tons of 
grapes, which will yield about 35,000 
gallons of wine. 

After bidding Mr. Jones good-bye we 
started for a tramp up the canyon to Green 
Valley Falls. 

The morning was breezy and damp and 
the grass and the bushes dripping wet. For 
a while the road was very good. It then 
became a wide path, then a sheep trail, 
then a forest of dripping chaparral, and as 
we floundered around it we almost fancied 
we were in the river up to our shoulders, 
shoulders. 

At last we spied a little shanty away 
down on the bank of the stream and good 
road beyond. We descended the hill as best 
we could. The house was vacant. We then 
started up the road. The wheel tracks soon 
vanished and at last it became simply a 
trail, and we were beginning to lose all 
hopes of reaching the falls. 

Just then we spied the familiar form of 
Marion Stilts down on the bank of the 
stream trolling for trout. From him we 
learned that the falls were near at hand, and 
a few minutes' walk brought us to where 
we could see the water shimmering down 
the facade of the solid wall of the 
mountain. 

We then saw that we were more than- 
paid the trouble. We have seen many falls 
from the grand, stupendous Niagara on 
down through the various grades, but 
seldom have we seem so small a fall so 



beautifully located and surrounded by such 
picturesque scenery. Space forbids an ex- 
tended description of it. It is enough to say 
that it is a sight well worth going to see. 

Coming again out into the valley we 
came to the Beauferton Ranch now owned 
by some Italians. This ranch is almost 
devoted to viniculture and is beautifully 
located. 

Passing on up we came to the "Belle 
Vista" vineyard owned by Votypki and 
son. There are 380 acres in the farm, of 
which 36 acres in vine, which yield about 
140 tons of grapes. These gentlemen have 
quite a large wine cellar, and some very 
choice wines stored therein. The cellar will 
store about 20,000 gallons. These 
gentlemen ship most of their wines to 
Milwaukee, Wis. They shipped several 
cases this year to Hamburg, Germany. 

The view of the valley from this place 
is unexcelled. Looking down over the 
fields of growing grains one realizes to the 
fullest extent the adaptness of the "Green 
Valley." For miles the eyes meet a mass 
of living green. Then comes a belt of 
amber-colored rules belting the bay, then 
a strip of the blue waters of Suisun Bay and 
the vista is walled in by the huge propor- 
tion of Mount Diablo. 

On our return trip we passed over to the 
eastern side of the valley and came to the 
ranch of Geo. Cook. Mr. Cook has fine 
improvements on the place, and in time 
will have a beautiful place. He has 850 
acres, on which he grows some grain, and 
cuts large quantities of wood yearly. 




Green Valley School House at north edge of Cordelia 



Further down the valley is the ranch of 
H. Brown. He has 44 acres in the highest 
state of cultivation. Vines and orchards oc- 
cupy the most of it. He has a wine cellar 
which will contain 25,000 gallons of wine. 
He made 6,000 gallons last year. 

Passing on down the valley we pass the 
ranch of Mr. Meister. A fine row of al- 
mond trees are planted along the road. 

Further down we came to the old mill. 
The walls were built of stone. The wood- 
work and interior burned out some years, 
and it now stands like some ruined castle 
of a bygone generation. Mr. Curtis Wilson 
has just purchased the property and will 
make it a beautiful place in a few years. 

Passing down on the valley we next 
came to the Durbin tract, owned by W.P. 
Durbin and sons. There are 1,000 acres in 
the tract, which lies in the very heart of 
the valley. There is a large vineyard on it 
containing 20,000 vines. There is also a 
fine, large orchard of almond and cherry 
trees. 

We were shown a fine horse here owned 
by S.P. Barbin. "Bob Woodward" is a 
fine, beautiful iron gray horse of good 
pedigree. He was sired by Eugene Caller- 
ly; dam a Shakespeare mare. 

The next place is P. Stilts'. J.J. Finley 
is conducting it now. It is a fine farm 
devoted to grain-raising, orchard and 
vineyard. 

This ends our tramp. The crops 
throughout the valley are looking fine and 
the prospects are good for a bountiful 
harvest. Our time was spent most pleasant- 
ly, and we found the people of the valley 
very sociable and pleasant. 



-CORDELIA- 



Sliaving Parloi* 

A. II. HI.AH1V, Proprietor 



HOT and COLD BATHS 

Agency for San Francisco Laundry. 
CORDELIA , CAL] FOliNIA 



WARNING 

To Hunters! 



Any person found hunting - on any 
of our land will be prosecuted with- 
out further notice. 

W. & L. PIERCE. 



Ads from Cordelia X Ray, 1898 



The Legislature 
in Vallejo 

by Lee Fountain 



The often told story of the early years 
of California's nomadic legislature has 
usually emphasized the sensational aspects 
of its travail, has sometimes cited a mere 
calendar of events, and has almost always 
dismissed the several sessions as the 
meanderings of a group of discontented, 
disgruntled, and self-seeking law-makers. 
Little has been written of the awesome 
tasks these neophyte legislators faced, 
tasks which demanded concentration and 
objectivity, qualities hard to come by under 
even the best of circumstances. 

Under the primitive conditions of the 
early capitals, the law makers found it 
almost impossible to work. It is true liquor 
or the lack of it may have played a part 
in some of their decisions; it is undoubtedly 
true the men were very concerned about 
their own comfort; and it is true no north- 
ern California city offered them a suitable 
capital nor the amenities that were found 
in the state buildings in the Atlantic 
seaboard states from which they had come 
But these men from the mines, ranchos, 
sea lanes, general merchandise stores, and 
fledgling newspapers needed all the help 
they could muster in order to establish a 
legal government so far removed from its 
supporting sister states or the federal 
government which had procrastinated in 
defining its relationship to its newest 
member. 

Monterey was probably the logical 
choice as a capital for it was almost in the 
center of the state; it had a good harbor; 
the climate was almost ideal, and it had 
been the official headquarters of the 
Spanish, Mexican and United States 
military governors from 1770 to 1849. 

However, the new government, feeling 
its authority for the first time, wanted none 
of the old Hispanic influence nor the 
ambience of its previous heritage. The ag- 
gressive Yankee entrepeneurs, merchants, 
and farmers wanted to have their govern- 
ment in a city of their own choice. They 
wished the capital closer to the hub of the 
mining activities, the new center of popula- 
tion, and the deep water transportation of 
San Francisco Bay and the river delta of 
the Sacramento and the San Joaquin. 

After the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, 
the United States military authority was 
centered in Monterey at the old presidio. 
A succession of five military governors in 
three years— Sloat, Stockton, Kearney, 
Mason, Smith, and finally Riley— tried 



their hands at running the new territory un- 
til the United States could get around to 
supplying a civil authority. But distance 
and tradition made the temporary solution 
distasteful to the fast growing and indepen- 
dent colony; so on his own General Riley 
issued orders for a constitutional conven- 
tion to create a territorial or state legal 
system. 

The men who gathered in Monterey at 
Riley's request in 1849 had the patterns of 
the constitutions of the other states to 
follow. With dedication and hard work, a 
reasonable document was forged that func- 
tioned in a more or less adequate manner 
until 1878 when a second constitution was 
written. Its greatest weakness was the am- 
biguous wording concerning a permanent 
state capital and this became the source for 
the wandering capital. 

When their work was finished, the forty- 
eight delegates scattered to their individual 
responsibilities at business, mine, farm or 
profession and most made no attempt to 
run for the elective offices they had so 
recently created. The booming enterprises, 
the rich veins of gold, the great unexplored 
territory were all too attractive to permit 
many of these eager men to discipline 
themselves to the tedious and thankless 
work of changing a constitution into a 
government, especially of trying to in- 
tegrate conflicting state and federal claims 
and responsibilities. 

One of the problems the constitutional 
delegates attempted to solve was the choice 
of a city in which to establish a capital. 
Many communities were aware of the great 
advantage it would be to have the capital, 
and all kinds of overtures and offers were 
made to the delegates. Some offered free 
land or free buildings; others, more 
cautious, offered vague property at 
reasonable prices. However, the promoters 
of San Jose got there first with the most 
persuasive campaign and the delegates ac- 
cepted Pueblo San Jose for a capital. 

The first session of the legislature met 
in San Jose on December 15, 1849, and 
worked until adjournment on April 22, 
1850. After only one day in session, one 
legislator offered a resolution to move the 
capital back to Monterey. The miserable 
weather, the deep mud, inadequate capital 
building, and poor transportation seemed 
overpowering. The problems that plagued 
this first session continued to follow subse- 
quent sessions until 1854, and even then, 
at the end of their wanderings, their selec- 
tion of Sacramento was based more on 
negative factors of other cities than on the 
positive or logical qualities of Sacramento. 
Of course, the political antics of the 
unscrupulous lobbyists played a significant 
part. 



During the entire time in San Jose of- 
fers poured in to change the site of the 
capital. It was the generous offer of 
General Mariano G. Vallejo that was final- 
ly accepted because it exceeded any others. 

"His offer was fabulous; 156 acres of 
land facing San Pablo Bay; $370,000 
within two years for public buildings, in- 
cluding a capitol that would cost $125,000; 
other public buildings, a state university, 
botanical gardens, schools, hospitals, 
asylums; and a state penitentiary." 

Since a roving capital had been the pat- 
tern for the Mexican regime, —San Diego, 
Los Angeles, and Monterey had all served 
as capitals at the discretion of the military 
governors—it did not seem too significant 
to continue the impermanence. 

The controlling factor in choosing a new 
site was money. The infant state, while 
potentially wealthy, had few immediate 
resources. The first session had sold bonds 
and levied real and personal taxes. But 
already the state was in debt and the taxes 
so recently laid could not be spared for real 
estate or property. 

The citizens of California voted to ac- 
cept General Vallejo's offer on October 7, 
1850. Following the dictate of the populace 
Governor McDougal signed the legal 
document that accepted the Vallejo offer 
on February 4, 1851. It is inconceivable 
that these early lawmakers could actually 
have believed that such a magnificent gift 
made in good faith could become a reali- 
ty, especially in the nebulous time frame 
suggested. But the reality of the primitive 
environment in Pueblo San Jose made any 
promise of a highly respected citizen such 
as General Vallejo look good. Regardless 
of the desire to have pleasant working and 
living quarters, these law makers were 
aware of the shortage of materials and 
laborers everywhere. There wasn't even 
a village where the proposed new capital 
was to materialize. Everything had to be 
brought in. Not only the capitol had to be 
built but also living quarters and service 
agencies like laundries, bath houses, 
barber shops, and stores to support the 
governmental activities had to be created. 
Although General Vallejo was held in high 
regard by most California residents, his 
wealth and previous achievements could 
not cause an instant city to materialize. 
Aware that this actually could not happen 
between the adjournment of one session of 
the legislature and the beginning of 
another, the legislators watched what ac- 
tually was happening and they knew what 
to expect when the third session of the 
legislature convened. If they didn't know, 
it was not the fault of the Aha California, 
a San Francisco newspaper that reported 
regularly on the status of the emerging 



government. The editorial policy of the 
paper clearly and persistently said the 
capital should never have been put in 
Vallejo. 

Eight months after the offer of General 
Vallejo was accepted the following article 
appeared in the October 14, 1851, issue 
of Aha California. 

' 'What can be said for California, to extenuate the 
fact that she has no seat of government at all. Or, 
that her people, after having been seduced into the 
folly of voting to locate a city where God never in- 
tended—a capital where sensible, considerate men 
free from all expectation of personal aggrandizement 
could never have found a reason should not now know 
where the capital is, or if it is? Or, that after one 
Legislature has definitely fixed the seat of govern- 
ment, the next should be in as great doubt how or 
where to find it . . . Or, that the probabilities are now, 
that while the next Legislature will meet at some 
unknown spot near Napa creek, yclept Vallejo, the 
Governor will be at the capital he has made by his 
proclamation— San Jose. 

This paper opposed from the beginning the wild 
and speculating project of building a city where none 
existed, none was needed; a capital where it must lie 
under all the disadavantages which could be urged 
against other places, but enjoying none of the advan- 
tages which they possessed." 

Another typical article appeared three 
weeks later. 

"Where shall the Legislature Meet? 

One of the most stupendous follies of which the 
last Legislature was guilty was the removal of the 
capital from the city of San Jose to the Rancho of 
Vallejo; .. .The act under which the capital was 
removed was based upon certain obligations entered 
into by and between Don Mariano G. Vallejo and John 
McDougal, Governor the State. The law reads thus: 

" 1 . That from and after the present session of the 
Legislature, the city of Vallejo, situated upon the bay 
of Napa and the Straits of Carquinez, shall be the per- 
manent seat of Government for the State of Califor- 
nia provided, that the said M. G. Vallejo shall pro- 
vide for the space of three years a State House and 
other offices of State equal or better than those now 
occupied, without expense to the state, &c, &c, &c. 

Now, the import of the foregoing language would 
seem to be that the capital was removed to Vallejo 
immediately upon the adjournment of the Legislature. 



yet such was not the fact, so far as the public offices 
and officers were concerned. Nor could the legislature 
have so intended to be understood; and yet they say 
in a law, that Vallejo shall be the State capital from 
and after the close of their then session, knowing as 
they well did that there were no accommodations there 
for public offices or officers! Nor did they make any 
provision for removing the archives, or give authority 
to any one to remove them." 

The articles or editorials— the line is not 
clearly drawn between the two in the 
newspapers of the mid-nineteenth century— 
continue during December to voice 
dissatisfaction with the choice of Vallejo. 

"In the state of things, the Governor, under such 
assurances, or upon such information, as he deemed 
satisfactory, assumed the responsibility of removing 
the Government effects and officers to Vallejo, in June 
last. In so far as we can perceive, although Vallejo 
was in reality the capital from the day of the 
Legislature's adjournment, yet this act of the Gover- 
nor appears to have been one of entire individual 
responsibility; but it was, we presume, performed in 
good faith, and may, by a long stretch, be said sanc- 
tioned by the spirit of the law. 

Well, the archives were removed, and Vallejo 
became in every respect the capital of the State. But 
in September it was found that the state house and 
public offices were not sufficiently complete to 
preserve the public record or accommodate the public 
business, and the Governor again took the respon- 
sibility of removing the valuables of the state back 
to the city of San Jose. Now, clearly the Governor 
had no power to do this. 

With the Picayune and Aha California 
editorializing constantly about the un- 
suitability of Vallejo as capital and the con- 
fusion of the law regarding the immediate 
removal from San Jose, the legislators 
were being conditioned to expect the 
worst. When the steamer Empire docked 
in Vallejo some fifty lawmakers were on 
board among the over two hundred 
passengers. One must assume the bulk of 
these were lobbyists, opportunists, and 
political hangers-on since there was 
nothing in the village other than the capitol. 

The Senate and Assembly met in Valle- 




Engraved by Charles H. Holmes, of Sacramento, in 1SSS; copied from an old print in an early California magazine. 

Capitol at San Jose — 1849-1851. 




When Vallejo's Capitol was first built, few of the buildings shown in this early drawing existed. 



jo first on Monday, January 5, 1852. The 
first day in the partially finished and fur- 
nished capitol was filled with the ordinary 
business of beginning. The Hon. W. S. 
Sherwood, Judge of the Ninth Judicial 
District, administered the oath of office to 
the members. A Mr. Wall of Monterey 
presented a signed petition protesting 
meeting in Vallejo. After the petition was 
read, it was "laid on the table," a tactic 
followed many times in the next two years. 

The following day no quorum was pre- 
sent so there were no sessions, but ob- 
viously business was being conducted 
because on January 7, announcement of 
many appointments was made. During this 
session several challenges to seating 
assemblymen were made, based mainly on 
the fact that ballots from local elections 
were not delivered to the state officers in 
the proper manner. After all the legal 
maneuvers about who was and who was 
not permitted to take his seat, the law 
makers then elected their own officers to 
handle the business at hand. R. P. Ham- 
mond from San Joaquin was elected 
Speaker of the Assembly, Blanton 
McAlpine, Chief Clerk, and a whole bevy 
of subordinates from Assistant Clerk to 
Assistant Page was given positions. 

By January 8, the Houses were notified 
that Governor McDougal's message was 
ready, and from this message one can ap- 
preciate the momentous task that faced the 
law makers, for the message did contain 
the problems that had to be tackled in order 



to bring California in line with the other 
states. 

The first problem Governor McDougal 
discussed was the fact California had been 
admitted to the Union as a free state, thus 
quieting for awhile the severe tensions be- 
tween the North and the South. The chief 
executive warned that being a free state did 
not solve the problem; California had 
many Southerners and southern sym- 
pathizers, but the federal laws concerning 
runaway slaves and free black men had to 
be scrupulously followed. Fear of slaves 
as workers in the mines bothered the 
miners who felt only free men should be 
allowed to work their own claims. 

The second item the governor instructed 
his listeners and readers about was the 
"operation of our system of taxation" 
which operated most unfairly on the 
citizens of the southern part of the state 
which was essentially agriculture and graz- 
ing. The southern Californians who de- 
rived little benefit from the state govern- 
ment said they paid double the amount the 
people in the mining counties paid and that 
their representation in the legislature was 
only one third of what the northerners had. 
The six southern counties with a popula- 
tion of 6,367 paid into the treasury 
$41,705.26 while twelve northern mining 
counties with a population of 1 19,917 paid 
only $21,253.66. The southern counties 
had twelve representatives and the northern 
mining counties had forty-four. Making 
matters worse was the fact that the capita- 



tion tax was easily ignored in the mining 
counties who had paid only $3,580 after 
being assessed $51,495.00 while the 
southern counties had paid $3,903.50 
against an assessment of $7,205.00. Tax 
revenues showed all the agricultural coun- 
ties with a population of 79,778 paid into 
the treasury $246,247 while the mining 
counties with a population of 1 19,917 paid 
only $21,253.66. Southern counties had 
held meetings and were attempting to 
organize to present their side. Many 
southerners had to sell some of their land 
to pay their taxes. It was obvious 
something had to be done to keep peace 
within the state and right an obvious 
wrong. 

The establishment of an educational 
system was a paramount need, the gover- 
nor continued. Elementary education 
before statehood had been in the hands of 
the family or the church. By 1852 
academies and a university system as well 
as common schools had to be established. 
Many of the legislators had left their 
families in the East where children could 
be educated or the children had been sent 
back to relatives to live while they went 
to school. As a result these men were eager 
to see their communities with good 
schools. Also they felt that the right kind 
of immigrants would come to their com- 
munites if there were good schools. 

Another serious problem, according to 
Governor McDougal, was the judicial 
system. The number of judicial districts 



needed to be cut in half. Fewer and larger 
districts would save a great deal of money. 
The complete legal system must be 
clarified, codified, and simplified. 

A most unusual request came next from 
the governor. It concerned the Fremont 
Battalion. Fremont was a part of the Bear 
Flag rebellion and had, according to him, 
saved California for the United States. All 
the state below Sonoma fell away from 
the Mexican government just by the mere 
presence of Fremont and his men. Also the 
English were deterred from seizing the 
state by the threat of Fremont. The federal 
government had refused to pay the fair- 
haired captain's expenses for his sojourn 
in California because no state of war ex- 
isted with Mexico in 1846 nor with 
England. California friends were shocked 
at the "ingratitude of the nation" and 
turned to the legislature for the payment 
or for pressure to obtain payment from 
Congress. 

The threat of intervention by the federal 
government in the regulating and control- 
ling the mines was ever present and need- 
ed to be guarded against. The mines had 
been carefully kept free of any regulation 
and the miners meant to keep it that way. 

Another problem the governor worried 
the law makers with was the unsavory im- 
migrants coming from the penal colonies 
of foreign countries, especially England. 
Now that California was a state, the 
population was terribly concerned about 
what new citizens should be admitted. This 
concern also related to the disposition of 
the native population. Several Indian upris- 
ings had taken place since the last 
legislature had met. The governor, ex- 
pressing his own deep-felt convictions, 
suggested it might be wise to follow the 
course President Jackson had recommend- 
ed - remove all Indians from the state 
because controlling them would be a con- 
tinuing expense. Under any circumstance, 
the natives should be completely isolated 
from the white man, McDougal urged. Ac- 
tually there were probably more Indians 
than white men at this point. 

One way the federal government was un- 
fair to its newest member was the unequal 
postage rates charged. Californians had to 
pay twice as much as for the "transition 
of mails" as did citizens of other states, 
the governor added. 

Another problem that the chief executive 
insisted must be worked out with the 
federal government was the establishment 
of lighthouses, buoys, and dry docks. 
Especially acute was the lack of a federal 
mint. In its short existence as a state over 
$200,000,000 in gold had been carried 
away from the state. Also, no legal place 
had been established for either federal or 



state arms or ammunition. In order to 
satisfy federal requirements for members 
of Congress, the state had to be divided 
into Congressional districts and dates of 
elections had to be changed to permit 
California to be represented at all times. 

After all the problems with the federal 
government were discussed, the governor 
continued with more local concerns. He 
wanted the legislators to review all the laws 
that fettered commerce and the laws that 
heavily taxed commerce and navigation. 
If California business were to prosper and 
be able to compete these laws needed 
revision. 

The most pressing state problem the 
governor finally presented came as a warn- 
ing to the legislators. They had to find 
ways and means to pay government ex- 
penses, retire the bonds with their punitive 
three per cent interest. Also in the realm 
of finance McDougal asked the legislature 
to negotiate with the federal government 
for monies collected by the military 
government before California became a 
state. While withholding territorial status 
or statehood, the United States Congress 
levied taxes on the citizens— actually tax- 
ing without permitting representation. 
Now the governor was asking the federal 
government to remit some if not all the il- 
legally collected money the state so badly 
needed. 

In addition to these problems that Gover- 
nor McDougal requested the legislature to 
solve or attempt to, he closed by saying 
that he knew the law makers should be tak- 
ing care of the problems of their own par- 
ticular districts. 

Faced with the tasks of developing a tax 
system that was fair, establishing an educa- 
tional system from grades 1 — through 
graduate school, revising a cumbersome 
judicial system, deporting some 200,000 
Indians to some remote area, and 
negotiating with the U.S. Congress con- 
cerning its negligent treatment of Califor- 
nia, these legislators answered by having 
the address printed and distributed-3,000 
copies printed in English and 1,000 in 
Spanish. Bilingualism seemed to be no 
problem to them. 

At this point Governor McDougal 
resigned and John Bigler who had been 
elected in September was inaugurated as 
governor. The law makers were recipients 
of an inaugural address, but this time in- 
stead of problems there were platitudes and 
rhetoric of a characteristic kind. 

One piece of business, the vote to per- 
mit the State Supreme Court to hold its pre- 
sent session in San Francisco, was fol- 
lowed by another,-to direct the treasurer 
' 'to make no further payments out of the 
General Fund until the archives are 






I li I [ 1 1 f f 1TI I 

r I i i i 1 1 1 1 1 1 

TJJ IT 



«C MM 




Vallejo Capitol Years Later 

brought to the place where the Legislature 
is in session." This act, transporting the 
archives from place to place, later became 
one of the most irritating and expensive 
factors in the whole political fracas. Then 
the motions to move to Sacramento or San 
Jose began. Between resolutions to adjourn 
to some far off place and resolutions stating 
Vallejo was the legal capital, represen- 
tatives gave notice of bills they intended 
to present and argued over some on second 
and third reading. Sixteen standing com- 
mittees were appointed although there 
were no rooms in which they could meet. 

The Journal of the Third Session of the 
California Legislature succinctly reports 
bills requesting money for service in the 
state against the Indians and a bill to 
organize a militia. Then appears a surprise 
resolution. "Resolved: that the Sergeant- 
at Arms of the House be directed to deliver 
to the city authorities of Sacramento, the 
stationery to be transferred to Sacramento 
for use of the House of Assembly." 

Regardless of the dissatisfaction with 
both governmental and personal accom- 
modations, the law makers remained 
uneasy about changing the location ot the 
legal capital. Several resolutions were 
made to move the capital to Sacramento, 
to Stockton, even to San Francisco, but 
they ended up being "laid on the table" 
or being referred to the second house for 
confirmation. Even one resolution left va- 
cant the place and the date-just the resolu- 
tions to move! 

However, the following message was 
finally received by the Assembly from 
A.C. Bradford, Secretary of State. 

"I am instructed by the Senate to inform 
the House that they have concurred in the 
resolution that the Legislature adjourn 
from this place to meet in the city of 
Sacramento, on January 13th, 1852, at 12 
o'clock, M., with this amendment, by in- 
serting the 16th January, instead of the 
13th." 

Thus a second time the weather, the 
mud, and the poor facilities drove the law 
makers to seek better quarters, this time 
to the second largest city in the state. One 
of the great attractions was the promise of 
a great ball in Sacramento and the happy, 



9 



relaxed trip on the spacious steamer going 
up river. The senators and assemblymen 
left feeling Vallejo was the legal capital, 
but they didn't feel obligated to meet there 
under the circumstances. But even this 
change did not solve the problems of the 
law makers. Mud they lived with in San 
Jose and Vallejo, but the flood waters of 
the Sacramento River proved more 
disastrous and eventually forced the 
legislators back to Vallejo for the fourth 
session in January 1853. 

However, after a seven months absence 
they found few improvements had been 
made. The capitol had been furnished but 
there were still no committee rooms nor 
adequate offices for state officers. 

Governor Bigler's address to the fourth 
session revealed his lack of sympathy with 
the state constitution because he asked 
there be biennial legislative sessions rather 
than annual ones, that the office of 
Superintendent of Public Instruction be 
eliminated, that the office of the 
Superintendent of Public Buildings be 
eliminated, that the office of State Prison 
Inspectors be eliminated. He also sug- 
gested that the legislators reduce their 
salaries from $16 a day to $12 a day, but 
that they be paid in gold or silver, not 
script. This would help them actually, 
because they had been paid in script, which 
had been redeemed at 40 to 50 cents on the 
dollar but they had to pay state taxes in 
gold or silver. 

As with Governor McDougal, Bigler 
was unhappy with the federal government. 
He complained about inadequate federal 
troops for defense and he pointed out that 
when other states were admitted to the 
Union the U.S. Congress donated lands for 
schools, universities, and seminaries, but 
in California this had not happened. He 
considered this a major problem for the 
legislature to undertake. 

After considering all these serious and 
really significant problems on January 10, 
these busy men adjourned to celebrate in 
honor of the Battle of New Orleans, fought 
some thirty -eight years previously. 

By January 11 the law-makers were 
again considering resolutions to move to 
Sacramento, to remain in Vallejo or even 
to go to Benicia where a fine brick city hall 
was available to them. 

They did pass a bill to attach "Signor 
or Mare Island" to Solano County and had 
first and second readings about the cost of 
the state prison arrangements; mail routes 
were established; the duties of sheriffs 
were detailed; and bills concerning the 
Superintendent of Public Instruction and 
the revision of the Courts of Justice were 
being discussed. 

Actually the legislators were at work on 




This Sacramento flood of 1850 was less devastating than the flood of 1852. 



the local problems that faced them most 
frequently. Their immediate concerns were 
being considered— how much to pay civil 
servants, how to administer justice 
economically and fairly, the rights and 
duties of law officers, the state of the 
Marine Hospital in San Francisco, the pro- 
tection of the rights of miners and their 
operators. Always finances were of deep 
concern. 

Finally on January 19 a committee was 
formed to meet with General Vallejo to see 
if it would be feasible or possible for him 
to live up to his commitment to establish 
a state capital with its satellite buildings 
and establishments he had promised. 
McDougal had signed the bill making 
Vallejo the state capital on February 4, 
1851 and the third session of the legislature 
met there January 5, 1852. In that short 
time the building of a capital was impossi- 
ble. Even with another year— January 5, 
1853, not much could be expected as far 
as a city was concerned. Even though most 
of the representatives came from quite 
primitive living conditions, a city the size 
of Sacramento, which was only fourteen 
years old, seemed more appropriate than 
the barren hills on the north side of the 
Carquinez Strait. 

On January 24 the committee had con- 
ferred with General Vallejo who had asked 
to be released from his bond. He stated that 
his plan had been jeopardized by the 
number of times the state archives had 
been moved to and from Vallejo. He and 
his associates were unable to come up with 
the money he had felt certain he could 
supply three years previously. The state 
was willing to cancel the bond if the 
General would not sue the state for its 
share in the unfinished bargain. Governor 
Bigler, a Sacramento man who never gave 
up effort to get the capital for Sacramento, 
demanded the buildings totaling $370,000 
that the General had originally offered. 
The time frame mentioned casually was 



two or three years. A state capitol did 
materialize but the rest of the project re- 
mained a dream. Had that building been 
adequate and a semblance of adequate 
housing and services been available, 
perhaps the government might have been 
patient while the other buildings slowly 
emerged. However, the Yankee impa- 
tience for getting on with the project ruled 
the actions of legislators, urged on by the 
lobbyists constantly luring them with the 
treasure and pleasures of other shores. Any 
worldly wise man knew than any such 
scheme as presented by the honorable 
general could not happen even in a decade. 

While the contract between General 
Vallejo and the state was being dissolved, 
the legislators continued to struggle with 
the decision concerning a new choice for 
a home. They took one moment out to ex- 
press their philosophy of government by 
sending a message to the French govern- 
ment on the accession of Louis Napoleon 
to the throne. The message read "We 
regret the downfall of republicanism and 
can only view him as an enemy to France 
and republican institutions. ' ' It was easier 
to dabble in foreign policy than to clarify 
domestic issues. They also were con- 
templating sending a commission to China. 

After struggling with the ponderous 
problems of establishing a state govern- 
ment, with the pressures of aggressive self- 
seeking politicians, and with the complex 
finances of an infant state, these harassed 
legislators packed up again on February 4, 
1853, and moved to Benicia where a fine 
brick city hall was made available for the 
law makers, and boarding houses were 
more numerous. When they arrived, they 
discovered the boarding houses already 
filled to capacity. Sacramento promoters 
two days earlier had sent two hundred men 
to Benicia to overtax Benicia 's facilities. 



10 



The Incredible 
Train Ferry—Solano 

by Charlene Erwin 

One of the greatest ferryboats of all 
times played a "stellar role" in the drama 
of America's Transportation History right 
here upon our own Strait waters! Her 
"backers" were the Central Pacific and 
then the Southern Pacific Railroad 
Companies. 

From 1879 to 1930, our nation's first 
trancontinental railroad connected New 
York with San Francisco by passing over 
Carquinez Strait on the train ferry Solano. 
This unique side-wheeler was for thirty- 
five years the largest craft of her kind in 
the entire world— a veritable wonder of her 
age. Yet in spite of her mammoth size and 
weight— 3549 tons— she was ever called 
"beautiful" by men who understood such 
construction. And as with many "Stars" 
of the past, her stage was small— the three- 
mile span of water between Benicia's train 
ferryslip and the Port Costa terminal. Back 
and forth; back and forth; back and forth 
through splashing spray and seething foam 
for fifty-one years; an unbelievably reliable 
"leading lady;"— then, an ignominious end 
when the "curtain fell." 

Solano was designed by, and built in 
1879 under the supervision of, Arthur 
Brown, superintendent of the Bridge and 
Building Department of the Central Pacific 
Company, whose shipyard was at Oakland 
Point. For the first time ever, the principle 
of a truss bridge was applied in the con- 



struction of a hull. A pair of walking (ver- 
tical) beam engines, each of 1500 
horsepower, propelled Solano by means of 
"two great partially-covered paddle- 
wheels, thirty feet in diameter." 

Residents of, and visitors to, Benicia 
before November of 1930 might remember 
that beloved "steamboat" if they are now 
at least fifty-five years old. The 420 foot 
long by 1 16 foot wide train ferry had a four 
parallel track deck and could carry two 
locomotives, her own and a "diamond- 
stacked Central Pacific eight- wheeler" 
with 24 passenger cars, or two locomotives 
and 36 freight cars. Yet because "the 
steering apparatus was hydraulically 
operated . . . one man had no difficulty in 
holding the huge boat to her course, ' ' even 
against storms and heavy tides. And that 
in 1879! Moreover, so superbly con- 
structed and so ably operated was Solano 
that, during her half-century of churning 
through the Strait channel, she was prac- 
tically never out of commission! 

Cars and engines consistently became 
heavier between 1879 and 1930, yet 
Solano was able to cope because she had 
been designed with the future in mind. 
Cargo volume was something else. 

So in 1914, Contra Costa-a still larger 
train ferry— was built as an assist, but the 
two boats operated "under an ever increas- 
ing burden until 1927, when they carried 
98,262 passenger cars and 148,130 freight 
cars, their full capacity." A bridge was in- 
evitable and by 1930 one had been con- 
structed between Army Point just beyond 
Benicia and Suisun Point at the south-east 
tip of Carquinez Strait near Martinez. A 
"record performance" had ended. The 



"theater was closed." 

Never again on a heavenly night would 
poets, artists, and lovers alike thrill to 
Solano's widening moonlit wake- 
magically become a mermaid's bridal 
train, ablaze with glittering diamonds. 
Beauty and romance had again bowed to 
"Progress." 

These two Wonders of the World, still 
the largest train ferries ever built, were 
finally dismantled. Tales of their fates 
vary. One author leaves Solano's hulk 
moored at Morrow Cove, sinking into the 
silt near the Carquinez Bridge. If this be 
so, then today she lies buried in the 
foundation-soil of the California Maritime 
Academy, where young men and women 
learn to navigate those seas which Solano 
never knew. 

A college student then, I was aboard the 
beloved ferry-boat when she made her last 
official trip to Port Costa on Saturday, 
November 1, 1930. I can still remember 
the thrill I felt on the return train-trip 
across "The New Bridge," halfway to the 
sky. I was too immature to comprehend the 
tragic effect Solano 's demise would have 
upon Benicia and Port Costa, and 
thousands of involved people, or that an 
era of "river pageantry" was over. 

Now, forty-seven years later, as I tear- 
fully write this nostalgic tribute, I under- 
stand the sorrow which must have filled 
the hearts of many old time residents 
when, on that autumn day, they bade a last 
farewell to a tried and faithful friend; a 
friend that for those many years had sus- 
tained a dramatic water-oriented way of 
life for the Strait communities— that train 
ferry par excellence, Solano! 





The Solano, the largest train ferry in the world before the Contra Costa, was operated by the Southern Pacific Railway Com- 
pany from December 30, 1879, to October 15, 1930. 



11 



Judge Randall Retires 

by Matthew Fountain 



The Honorable Ellis R. Randall, after 
twenty years of serving as a judge of the 
Solano County Superior Court, retired Oc- 
tober 31, 1986. It is fitting that we recall 
his distinguished career, and the excep- 
tional service he has rendered our 
community. 

When the Solano County Historical 
Society held its first organizational meeting 
February 29, 1956, in Fairfield, there was 
much to do, and for the first few years the 
pace of accomplishment was tremendous. 

There were many reasons for this. It 
took on worthy projects of immense ap- 
peal involving many people and generating 
much positive publicity. And its social ac- 
tivities of programs, trips, and dinners 
were inexpensive, yet prestigious. Who 
wouldn't want to take a bus tour and din- 
ner at Mare Island Naval Shipyard for 
$3.50 (June 1961), a five hour cruise on 
the Show Boat Mansion Belle on the 
Sacramento River with a trio for dancing 
and a buffet supper for $4.50 (Sept. 1961), 
or a tour and prime rib roast dinner at 
Travis Air Force Base for $2.75 (Oct. 
1961)! The most popular event of each 
year was the Annual Dinner at the Nut 
Tree. 

Active from the start was Ellis Randall. 
The files of the Society show his hand in 
practically everything the Society did. He 
was the one who appeared before the coun- 
ty supervisors to ask their help in funding 
conversion of the Herbert House into a 
Solano museum, and again to ask support 
for the restoration of the Pena Adobe in 
Vacaville. He also appeared before the 
Benicia City Council to obtain its 
assistance in asking for the State to take 
over the Hanlon House in Benicia. 

Besides acting as an authoritative 
spokesman for the Society, he assumed 
much of the tedious, detailed work of the 
Society and handled a voluminous cor- 
respondence. Obviously he contributed not 
only his own efforts but that of his 
secretary. Some of the letters dealt with 
such critical problems as the discovery that 
the lot intended for the Herbert House was 
shown on an old city map as being over 
a street never built and with a shape not 
conforming to existing fence lines. Should 
the city abandon the street, the land would 
revert to the neighbors. Fortunately, the 
neighbors fancied having the museum next 
to them, and the matter was amicably 
settled. 

During work on the Herbert House, he 



received many of its bills. These bills in- 
variably showed that labor and material 
costs had been partially absorbed by the 
supplier. Ellis Randall would send a letter 
of thanks, with mention that the bill would 
be paid as soon as money was available, 
and sometimes ending with "Why not join 
this great organization? It is $8.00 a year 
and you will enjoy the finest association 
and fellowship in this country.' He then 
would forward the bill to Percy Neitzel, 
the treasurer, with a note asking it be paid, 
if there were any money handy. 

He spoke to a number of organizations, 
from the Soroptimist International to an 
elementary school class that later sent him 
a $2.00 donation for the Society. He 
recruited many new members into the 
Society. He solicited speakers for the 
meetings, writing long letters to the 
speakers in advance, and then sending 
thoughtful letters of appreciation after- 
wards. He was master of ceremonies at 
various functions such as the 1960 
ceremony in which Mare Island Naval 
Shipyard was declared a California 
Historical Landmark. His daughter Diane 
unveiled the plaque. 

He served as president of the Society for 
the two terms between 1959 and 1961 , suc- 
ceeding Robert Power. 

When interviewed for this article, it did 
not occur to him to mention the part he 
played in the Historical Society. He would 
rather tell of how others helped the socie- 
ty, such as how CM. Syar donated 500 
yards of top soil and graded the grounds 
for the Herbert House and that Carl 
Recknagel was in charge of building 
renovation, or how Congressman Robert 
Leggett worked to get President Johnson 
to name the Polaris Sub SSBN658 the 
Mariano G. Vallejo. 

The two accomplishments in which his 
participation gave him his most satisfac- 
tion were the Vallejo J.F.K. Library, and 
the volume and quality of work turned out 
by the Solano Superior Court. 

While serving as president of the Valle- 
jo Friends of the Public Library, his group 
conceived the idea of financing the new 
library through the Redevelopment Agen- 
cy. Working with Vallejo 's City Manager 
Lohn Ficklin, means were found to secure 
$1 ,950,000 in library lease revenue bonds 
and a grant of $900,000 from the Califor- 
nia state library system. It is a building that 
is built to serve the growing needs of the 
future. 

He much more enjoyed talking about his 
grandfather's older brother Dr. Andrew 
Randall. Dr. Randall actually was a 
geologist, but he was known to everyone 
as Doctor. He came to San Francisco April 
12, 1849, with General James Collier who 




Judge Ellis Randall. 

had been assigned a post as Head of 
Customs. Randall was assigned as the Col- 
lector of Customs in Monterey, where he 
became a favorite of the Mexican popula- 
tion, who succeeded in electing him to the 
second session of the California Assembly. 
One of the laws enacted was the death 
penalty for robbery and grand larceny. The 
reason for this law was the absence of jails, 
and no means to replace out-of-ordinary 
tools. It remained on the books for five 
years. 

Dr. Randall was then appointed 
postmaster of Monterey. During this time 
he began dealing in Mexican ranchos, ac- 
quiring five, including a big 44,000 acre 
property at Point Reyes. 

Land poor, he borrowed money from an 
English gambler by the name of Joseph 
Hetherington and was unable to repay. 
Hetherington swore he would have the 
money or his life. Randall armed himself, 
knowing Hetherington had murdered Dr. 
Baldwin three years earlier. But Hether- 
ington caught him unawares while he was 
reading mail in the St. Nicholas Hotel on 
Sansome Street, and grabbing him by his 
flowing long beard, said "I've got you 
now." 

Both men drew their guns and fired, 
missing each other. By family tradition, 
Randall then had the drop on Hetherington, 
but he put his gun down and crouched 
behind a counter. Hetherington came right 
over and shot him. 

Justice was swift. Two days later while 
the funeral bells were ringing for Randall, 
the vigilantes were hanging Hetherington. 
Another murderer, Philander Brace, was 
hanged at the same moment. H.H. Ban- 
croft devoted seven pages of Volume 37 
of his Works to describe the details of the 
hangings, which were observed by a crowd 
of fifteen thousand. 



12 



Over the years Ellis has gathered 
material about Dr. Randall while toying 
with the idea of making him the subject of 
a book. Before making a final decision, he 
says he must become used to being without 
a secretary. Others have written on Dr. 
Randall as he was certainly noteworthy. 
Among other things, he was the founder 
and the first president of the California 
Academy of Sciences now in Golden Gate 
Park. He had established the first 
newspaper in Minnesota, the Minnesota 
Register. His wife was a Todd, a niece of 
Abraham Lincoln. 

By chance Ellis located in the Solano 
Courthouse the original record of a law suit 
involving General Vallejo and Dr. Ran- 
dall. General Vallejo sued claiming he had 
sold Randall 30,000 acres of land lying 
along what is now Highway 680, the Gib- 
son freeway, for $15,000 down and a 
mortgage of $25,000 and had received 
nothing on the mortgage. Randall 
answered by saying that on the face of it 
it looked as if the mortgage were due, but 
Vallejo and he had agreed outside of what 
was written that the mortgage was not due 
until Vallejo's Soscol Grant had been con- 
firmed, and Vallejo would vigorously pro- 
ceed before the land commission, and he 
hadn't. Vallejo lost because his lawyer had 
filed the suit over in Marin county as Ran- 
dall lived in Corte Madera. The law re- 
quired filing in the location the land is 
situated. 

Ellis R. Randall was appointed judge of 
the Solano County Superior Court by 
Governor Edmond Brown in December 
1966, and was reelected four times. 

After appointment, Judge Randall 
became active in the California Judges 
Association. He served as Chairman of the 
association's Public Information Commit- 
tee and of its Bench-Bar-Media Commit- 
tee. In 1978, he was elected to its Ex- 
ecutive Board for a three-year term. He 
served as a seminar leader at the College 
of Trial Judges sponsored by the Califor- 
nia Center for Judicial Education and 
Research. He served on its Committee on 
Civil Law and Procedure. 

He was born in San Francisco, Califor- 
nia. After receiving his B.A. degree from 

the University of Nevada, he received his 
law Degree from University of Califor- 
nia's School of Jurisprudence in Berkeley. 

He engaged in private practice in 
Oakland, California, from 1934 to 1936 
and in Vallejo from 1936 to 1942 and again 
from 1945 until his appointment to the 
bench. In 1940 he was elected President 
of the Solano County Bar Association. 

On April 8, 1942, he married the former 
Marian Leachman, the daughter of a Valle- 
jo physician. December 1942 he was com- 



missioned as Lieutenant in the United 
States Naval Reserve, serving till May as 
Executive Officer of two naval air stations 
near San Diego, California, and later 
served at the Bureau of Aeronautics in 
Washington, D.C. He was separated from 
the Naval Service as a Lieutenant 
Commander. 

Upon returning to Vallejo, he was 
associated with and later became a part- 
ner with Russell F. O'Hara, City Attorney 
and subsequent President of the State Bar. 
It was a busy law practice representing per- 
sonal injury and business plaintiffs together 
with a number of entities, including in- 
surance companies, government agencies, 
hospitals, utilities, newspapers, and depart- 
ment stores. The firm participated in the 
State Bar Activities, with Judge Randall 
serving on several committees, including 
the one that resulted in passage of the In- 
ferior Court Act of 1950 which established 
the municipal and justice court system as 
we know it today. He also served on the 
State Bar's Pre-Trial Committee which 
helped introduce pretrial conference pro- 
cedure in California. He was active in the 
Solano County Bar's effort to provide a 
Public Defender System and a Vallejo 
Branch Court. 

In 1953 he was elected to the State Bar's 
Board of Governors for a three year term. 
From 1956 to 1960 he was Vice Chairman 
of the State Bar's Legislative Committee 
and subsequently became Chairman, with 
duties frequently taking him to Sacramen- 
to. He also served on the State Bar Com- 
mittee to Reform the California Constitu- 
tion and also its Fair Trial - Free Press 



Committee. 

On August 27, 1960, he was elected a 
Fellow of the American College of Trial 
Lawyers, whose membership is limited to 
no more than one percent of the lawyers 
in any one state. He is a former member 
of the Board of Governors (1955-60) of the 
California Maritime Academy in Vallejo. 

He is a past president of the following 
organizations: Vallejo Chamber of Com- 
merce, Vallejo Kiwanis Club, Vallejo Golf 
Club, Navy League of the U.S. - Vallejo 
Council No. 1 (twice), Solano County 
Historical Society (twice), and Vallejo 
Friends of the Public Library. 

He is a charter member of the Green 
Valley Country Club. He was one of the 
founders and incorporators of the Vallejo 
Downtown Association and of the Solano 
County Taxpayer's Association. He was 
one of the founders, member of the first 
Board of Directors, and Secretary 
Treasurer of the Solano County Fair 
Board. 

He is a member of the Elks Lodge, a 
Mason, a Shriner, and a Republican. 

In 1975 his wife, Marian, died after a 
long illness. He has one daughter Diane 
Vale and one grandson, Erik Beauchamp. 
In 1978 Judge Randall married the former 
Maxine H. Smith, a prominent leader in 
local civic and cultural organizations. 

It is difficult for anyone knowing the 
long hours and the innumerable details 
associated with an active law practice and 
judgeship to conceive how one man could 
have done so much. And in particular how 
he could have accomplished it with so 
much grace. 




"The Museum. . .has been the work of many people and firms, but no one deserves 
more credit for establishing it than Ellis Randall. . ." (Quote from December, 1961, 
Note Book from which this picture has been taken.) 



13 



George Dingley and 

the Early Mills 

of Solano 

by M. Clyde Low 

1. The Ghost that Refuses to Die 

In the fall season of recent years for 
Halloween entertainment of the young the 
local newspapers of central Solano Coun- 
ty are wont to resurrect the ghost legend 
of the girl who perished in the old Dingley 
Mill in Green Valley, and whose dying 
screams are said to be heard on quiet 
nights. The tale is embellished with 
photographs of a gutted stone structure 
with weathered board doors, broken win- 
dow panes and clinging ivy. 1 The source 
of the legend can be traced to an early 
newspaper account of the tragic death of 
Mary Eliza Parker, age 17 years and 11 
months on August 5, 1864. The published 
account is as follows: 

"Accidental Death - Last Friday afternoon, by one 
of those unfortunate accidents which by their very 
isolation shock the community more than tidings from 
the bloody battlefield, or of the march of a dreadful 
pestilence, a young lady of great beauty and 
remarkable intellectual endowments was hurried in- 
to the Great Unseen, while in the flush of hope and 
the bloom of youth. A number of visitors were at 
Dingley's Mill in Green Valley, amusing themselves 
in inspecting the machinery and its operation, when 
Miss Mary E. Parker passed between one of the hop- 
pers and the perpendicular shaft by which the motive 
power is supplied to the stones. While leaning over 
the hopper and handling the barley that was being 
chopped, her dress stuck to the grease on the slowly 
revolving shaft, and soon wound round so as to 
become fast. She did not seem to realize the extreme 
peril of her position, and said to the miller near by, 
in a half-laughing tone, "My dress is caught!" The 
miller cried out, "My dear girl— you will be killed!" 
and sprang to her aid while orders for the stopping 
of the machinery were instantly given; but it was too 
late; losing her balance, by the irresistible motion of 
the shaft, she was thrown down with great force, her 
head striking the cast iron boxing of one of the stones 
so violently as to break the iron in, spattering her 
brains all around and killing her in an instant. The 
girl's mother was in the mill, and frantically sought 
to seize her child, but was forcibly prevented from 
placing herself in danger. It was a horrible sight to 
witness, but the bystanders could not do anything for 
several minutes to rescue the body. The mill is car- 
ried by water power, having a wheel sixty-five feet 
in diameter—the largest in the United States— and no 
mortal power could stop the machinery in season. If 
the girl had known her danger, and had retained her 
presence of mind so as to clasp the shaft with her 
hands and go round with it until speed was slacked, 
this calamity would not have occurred." 2 

The death of Mary Parker was only the 
first one of a series of misfortune that 
marked the history of this landmark. 

2. The Enterprising Emigrant 

The builder, owner and operator of this 
ill-fated mill in Green Valley was George 
Dingley, a pioneer emigrant to California, 
who was settled in Solano County at least 



by the year 1850. This article will describe 
the activities of George Dingley and his 
contributions to early Solano County. 

George Dingley was born in Connecticut 
about 1825 and died in Cacheville, present 
Woodland, California, in 1867. He is first 
listed in Solano County records in the U.S. 
Census of September 1850 as a resident of 
Benicia, age 25 and occupation, carpenter. 
Whether he came overland or by ship is 
unknown. 3 A bachelor all his life, Dingley 
was evidently staying in a rooming house 
for newly arrived young men. The fellow 
residents of his place of dwelling, as 
enumerated on the census sheet, included 
nine other persons, all of whom originated 
on the east coast and all but one were in 
their twenties or younger. They were by 
occupation two sailors, two farmers— one 
with a 17-year old "female" of the same 
surname, and one with a two-year old boy 
born in California. Also included were a 
merchant and two other carpenters. 

Dingley demonstrated Yankee enterprise 
in promptly making a place for himself in 
the business life of the new town of 
Benicia, which had been founded only 
three years before in 1847. He is record- 
ed as being given the power of attorney by 
a local resident, Josiah Knight, and as be- 
ing the owner of two building lots in 
Benicia in 1852. In 1853, he bought a 
64-acre mill tract in Green Valley, where 
he built and ran a flour mill. In the 1854 
tax roll he was listed as the owner of a third 
Benicia lot with a building erected on it 
worth $2,000. 4 The 1855 Delinquent Tax 
List showed him as owning yet a fourth lot 
with a structure on it worth $1,200. 
Whether he, as a carpenter by trade, built 



houses on vacant land or by plying his 
trade earned money to buy lots with houses 
already constructed is not indicated. 

In the tax essessment roll of August, 
1858, at which time he was established in 
Green Valley, he is credited with owning 
a $3,000 steam mill and being worth 
$4,445 in personal and real property. The 
U.S. Census of June 1860 lists his wealth 
at $30,000 in real property and $1,000 in 
personal property. 

3. The First Flour Mill in Solano County 

The first water-powered flour mill in 
Solano County was built by George 
Dingley in 1853 at the headwaters of 
Wildhorse Creek in upper Green Valley. 
It utilized the water flowing down from 
and below the scenic Green Valley Falls. 
The location and later occupancy of this 
watershed by the City of Vallejo in 1893 
is described in the December 1985 issue 
of the Solano Historian. 5 The existence of 
this pioneer mill, heretofore unidentified 
in local oral tradition or historical 
literature, was revealed by examination of 
land and civil court records. The first clue 
was discovered in a deed to George 
Dingley on August 25, 1853, from a 
"Charles P[omeroy] Stone of the U.S. Ar- 
my," as attorney for three San Francisco 
land speculators, conveying a 64-acre 
parcel in the watershed referred to above. 
The parcel is described as "commencing 
at a post and stones near Dingley's Mill 
stream." 6 This clearly indicated the prior 
existence of a milling operation in that area 
of Solano County. 

The second clue to its existence was 
found in the civil suit of Robert H. Vance, 




The writer, M.C. Low, pointing out likely site of George Dingley's first mill of 1853 
on Wildhorse Creek in upper Green Valley. 



14 



a ranch owner of 700 acres of land in 
Ulatis (or Vaca) Valley against George 
Dingley on February 2, 1857, for not 
fulfilling the contract they had made in San 
Francisco on August 14, 1854. He claim- 
ed that Dingley had delivered only 600 of 
the 800-1 ,000 barrels of flour due from the 
amount of wheat supplied by Vance to 
him. The case dragged out for six years 
of successive appeals, with Dingley even- 
tually the winner. 7 In addition to providing 
another confirmation of this previously 
unknown mill's existence, it shows that the 
mill served an area as far away as present 
day Vacaville, and thus indicates the scar- 
city of milling services for farmers in cen- 
tral Solano County and the contribution 
Dingley was making to the agricultural 
economy of the County. 

Testimony given in the case by the 
workers as material witness included that 
of one Millard Meister. He identifies 
himself as "German, 28 years, in the 
United States in the spring of 1849, in 
Green Valley in the fall of 1853;" and con- 
tinues, "I began working at the mill in 
December 1853 at various tasks, including 
preparing the dam. Wheat was ground in 
December 1853 and in January, February 
and March 1854. There was no water in 
June, July and August to grind wheat." 
Dingley, himself, testified that "the mill 
was in continuous operation 24 hours a day 
after December 1854, when an engine was 
installed, until the fall of 1855. " 8 Dingley 
on a later occasion recorded that the mill 
continued to operate until the fall of 1857 
when he moved a mile downstream to 
undertake a larger milling operation. 

The precise location of this first mill has 
been finally identified on an 1856 survey 
published as a "Map of the Eastern Por- 
tion of Suscol Rancho. ' ' 9 This map shows 
the location of the mill in the upper area 
of Dingley 's 64-acre parcel. A field in- 
spection of the site lying just above the City 
of Vallejo picnic ground revealed a low 
knoll adjacent to the stream suitable for a 
natural ramp to haul grain to an upper level 
of a mill structure. Stone steps were found 
ascending from the stream level. Further 
exploration located the remaining ends of 
a low stone dam on either side of the creek. 
(See photographs). 

4. The History of Mill Construction 
in California and Solano County 

Constructed between the years 1853 and 
1860, the Dingley flour mills were part of 
an accelerating curve of mill construction 
by Americans during the first three 
decades of their occupation of California, 
the 1850's, 1860's, and 1870's, during 
which period grain production was the 
foremost agricultural activity. Between 




Stone steps and path leading from knoll to stream bed at George Dingley 's first mill 
site of 1853. 




Remnant of eastern end of the dam serving George Dingley's 1853 mill. Behind the 
writer can be seen the Wildhorse Creek's upper course. The Green Valley Falls is 
about an eighth of a mile farther upstream. 



1852 and 1855 in Solano County, for ex- 
ample, grain output nearly tripled. 10 

California's first water-powered grist 
mill—a grist mill is a custom operation for 
local farmers— had been built in 1794 in 
Santa Cruz and another is recorded in San- 
ta Inez in 1 82 1 . n The Russians constructed 
a wind-powered flour mill at their colony 
of Fort Ross some time after 1812. It was 
still standing in 1842 when John Sutter 
took possession. 12 

Herbert H. Bancroft in his History of 
California provides a survey of the growth 



of American mill-building as follows: 
"Spanish Californians produced grain only 
for their wants, and were content to grind 
it on the household metate, or at best, with 
arastras, by mules... The Americans 
quickly applied water-power to the mills 
erected in the early forties in Santa Cruz, 
Santa Clara, Sonoma, San Joaquin, and by 
Sutter; Capt. Smith's combined saw and 
grist mill possessing the only steam-power 
before the gold era... In 1854 there were 
54 mills; in 1869, 91 mills; in 1870, 115. 
The Census of 1880 enumerates 150, [of 



15 




Trace of the half-mile pipeline bed from George Dingley's second dam to his second 
mill of 1859/60. 




Cistern at south end of the pipeline from where water from the dam would have 
been carried by a trestle to the water wheel of the mill. The northwest side of the 
mill ruin can be discerned downslope. 



which] 97 were operated by steam... The 
largest mill [was] erected at Vallejo in 
1869. " 13 This was the Starr Mills, which 
later became the Sperry Flour Co. Ban- 
croft's survey does not single out any other 
mills by name in Solano County. George 
Dingley's mills were not cited, even 
though they may have been entered into the 
enumerations. 

During the years of operation of 
Dingley's first mill or 1853-57 and before 



the building of his second mill in 1859 to 
1860 several other flour mills were built 
in Solano County. In Suisun City, found- 
ed in 1851 and a major port for shipping 
grain across the San Francisco Bay in the 
old "bay schooners" until the advent of 
the railroad in 1868, a water-powered grist 
mill was built in 1854 by J.G. Edwards and 
S.C. Read beside a local stream. It must 
have had an "undershot" wheel design as 
contrasted with the "overshot" type of 



George Dingley's mill on the headwaters 
of Wildhorse Creek, where the steeper gra- 
dient allowed for conducting the 
downstream flow by sluice and trestle to 
the top of a waiting water wheel. With a 
frame structure, this first Suisun City mill 
was in operation from October 1854 to the 
spring of 1858, when it was demolished 
and replaced by a three-story mill made of 
cut stone and brick and powered by a 
40-horsepower steam engine. The latter 
was operational in October 1858. 14 It is in- 
teresting to note that the contract (discussed 
below) made by George Dingley with the 
stone mason, John O'Connor, on 
December 30, 1858, for his next mill 
specified that ' 'the stone work is to be done 
similar to the stone work of the Suisun 
Mills, located in Suisun City." 

5. George Dingley, Squatter 
and Title Holder 

George Dingley's entrepreneurial activi- 
ty as a miller involved him in the throes 
of the tumultuous phase of California 
history involving disputed land tide owner- 
ship. In basic conflict were the Mexican 
and American heirs of former Mexican 
land grant titles and the claimants to the 
same territory as "public land", the 
landless American settlers. This research 
reveals that Dingley sought to guaranteee 
his land rights by joining both sides in this 
struggle at the same time. 

The cities of Benicia and Vallejo and the 
watershed of Green Valley were part of the 
huge 84,000-acre territory, called the 
Suscol Grant, that former Mexican Com- 
andante General, Mariano G. Vallejo, 
claimed to have received as a personal land 
grant on June 19, 1844, from the gover- 
nor of Mexican California, Manuel 
Micheltorena. As with all Mexican land 
grant claims, it was examined for validity 
under Mexican land laws before being 
honored as required by the treaty with 
Mexico of 1848. The claim although con- 
firmed at the first two stages was finally 
argued on appeal before the U. S. Supreme 
Court between 1857 and 1862 and rejected 
as "imperfect" under the former Mexican 
land laws. 15 

Dingley had bought his original 64-acre 
"mill tract" in 1853 from holders of the 
Vallejo title to the Suscol Grant. Now in 
1857 as the "Suscol Claim" was being 
challenged in the Supreme Court, he 
entered as a "squatter" upon a parcel of 
land farther down the valley with the in- 
tention of establishing a future right to it 
if the Vallejo title should be invalidated and 
the Suscol land be declared ' 'public land' ' 
open to American settlers under federal 
pre-emption laws. 

Testimony in a later lawsuit— one of the 



16 



many litigations in which Dingley became 
involved— stated that he had settled as ear- 
ly as November 1, 1857, upon this parcel 
of valley land lying one mile south of his 
first mill site, and that he had improved 
some eleven acres of this land by planting 
a garden, vineyard and also by digging into 
the hillside on the northern edge to build 
an earthen ramp for his future mill struc- 
ture. 16 

In this suit Dingley was defending his 
claim to ownership against the claims of 
holders of "Vallejo" titles to the land in 
dispute. Included among the defendants 
was the name of John Stilts, the first set- 
tler in the valley, who had purchased the 
land from General Vallejo back in 1849. 
By the time of this lawsuit (1866) part of 
the land in the Stilts title had been acquired 
by the Granville P. Swift of Bear Flag Par- 
ty fame. Swift's stone wall— still existing 
as the north fence of the Green Valley 
Country Club golf links— was cited as con- 
stituting the limit of any claim Dingley 
could extend in that southernly direction. 
(See photographs) What appears only as 
a picturesque ornament today, once had 
substantial legal meaning to former 
owners. 

On April 19, 1858, George Dingley took 
two legal steps to protect his ownership 
rights. He purchased a "Vallejo" title to 
a 6.82-acre parcel from John D. Bristol, 
a land speculator of Sacramento whose ti- 
tle had descended from the same John Stilts 
referred to above; and on the same day at 
the U. S. Land Office in San Francisco, 
Dingley formally declared his status as a 
settler under the provisions of the U. S. 
Preemption Law of 1853. In his 
"Declaratory Statement" he "claims to 
have settled and improved the following 
described Government lands, to wit, the 
southwest quarter of Section number 
twenty-three. . .containing one hundred and 
sixty acres, which land has not been of- 
fered at public sale and thus rendered sub- 
ject to private entry. 17 This claim to the 
quarter section took in all of land that was 
to be owned subsequently by Granville 
Swift and at present by the Green Valley 
Country Club! 

6. The Stone Mill of 1859/60 

The deed from John D. Bristol to George 
Dingley of April 19, 1858, reveals the 
significance of Dingley 's milling enterprise 
for the enhancement of agricultural 
development in Solano County. Bristol 
who had invested in the Green Valley area 
only two months before, conveyed title to 
the 6.82-acre parcel for "the sum of one 
dollar... and in consideration 
that... [Dingley]... shall erect upon the 
premises... a flouring and grist mill." 18 




The three story stone structure of George Dingley 's second mill taken some years 
after the fire of 1867 gutted the wooden structural parts. The trestle would have 
carried the water to the wheel from the hill slope on the right. (Photo stamped 
"Solano Art Studio-J.G. Smith Vallejo, Calif." no date.) 



Dingley thereby committed himself to a 
venture that would bring him profit, local 
eminence, historical note and, perhaps, his 
greatest woes. 

It was not until the 30th of December 
that Dingley drew up a contract with a 
mason, one John O'Connor, for the latter 
to build "a stone building 60 feet long, 40 
feet wide and 31 feet high with walls for 
the first two stories 2 feet thick and walls 
for the third story and gable ends, 18 in- 
ches thick." The price was agreed to be 
$2,100.00, of which $800 could be 
covered with a note for one year at an in- 
terest rate of 24% (sic!) per year. The 
building was to be finished in one year. 
The contract, for some reason, was not 
signed until March 23, 1859. 19 . 

O'Connor proceeded to build the stone 
structure with stone he cut from the local 
Burns and Harbin quarries, which, by the 
agreement, Dingley hauled to the site. In 
seven months, by December 7, 1859, the 
stone work on the building proper was 
completed. It must have appeared essen- 
tially as shown in the accompanying 
photograph, which was taken eight years 
later after a destructive fire destroyed all 
of the wood structures built onto it. (see 
below for details). 

Along with the construction of the mill 
building, Dingley built a dam on the same 
"mill creek" about a half mile above the 
new site. He laid a twelve-inch diameter 
pipeline along the hillside to the south-east 
from the dam to bring the water to the top 
of his 40-foot overshot water wheel. A sec- 
tion of the pipeline's hillside trench is still 
visible to this day. (See photograph) The 
use of the mill pond for water power was 
abandoned in February 1866, when this se- 



cond mill was also equipped with a more 
reliable steam power plant. Recurrent 
drought years, such as that of 1863-64, 
must have precipitated this conversion. 

Separate walls to hold the large water 
wheel were built six feet away from the 
building wall— the one on the front right in 
the photograph. Between them a wheel pit 
eleven feet wide, 30 feet long and six feet 
below the bed of Green Valley Creek 
was to be excavated so that the main shaft 
of the wheel would enter the building at 
a height of fifteen feet. After cutting down 
five feet through extremely hard rock, 
O'Connor gave up on this separate project, 
which had been added by a later agreement 
in June of that year. Dingley was forced 
to finish the task after the main structure 
was built. This was one point of disagree- 
ment between the miller and the mason. 

The other point developed later after 
Dingley decided as late as October to have 
the planned gables on the ends of the 
building omitted in favor of a new design 
for a "hip" roof on the building. When 
it came time to factor this into the payment 
due, the two men disagreed on how much 
should be deducted from the cost of the 
construction. O'Connor thought $50 was 
appropriate; Dingley insisted on $150, and 
for this petty difference he refused to pay 
O'Connor the final installment of the pay- 
ment due for his services. O'Connor 
resorted to a Mechanics Lien on January 
5, 1860, for $1,033.16 which he calculated 
was due him on a principal and interest, 
and in September of that year commenced 
a lawsuit against Dingley for the purpose 
of foreclosing the lien. 20 The litigation in 
this case was to drag on for a full seven 
years, with successive appeals at each ver- 



17 



diet, taking the case as far as the Supreme 
Court of California! The last document in 
the file is dated June 2, 1867, with no in- 
dication as to which party won. By this 
date George Dingley had already lost 
possession of the mill one and one-half 
years earlier. He would also be dead in 
three months! 

O'Connor's lien action of January 5, 
1860, was immediately countered by 
Dingley with a suit against O'Connor in 
the County Court of Solano County for 
damages in the amount of $200 for the ex- 
tra cost of finishing the tailrace trench in 
the wet winter season. O'Connor prompt- 
ly counter-sued for an equal amount for 
Dingley 's failure to supply a suitable pump 
and suitable board for his workers. 

An insight into George Dingley 's per- 
sonality, in addition to evidence of his ap- 
parently uncompromising character in all 
the litigation he got himself involved in, 
is suggested in the following testimony in 
this case from one of O'Connor's 
workers. 21 

"Mr. O'Connor boarded us in Mr. Dingley's 
house . . . [and] when [I] complained about the insuf- 
ficiency of food for sustaining a laboring man, Mr. 
Dingley, who was present, became very angry 
and. . .told me with an oath 'Damn you, leave here 
as quick as you can' ! I was afraid of him and left. 
I did not return to work." 

He further alleged that O'Connor of- 
fered to give Dingley all the work done so 
far on the trench without charge. It should 
be noted, however, that Dingley's 
witnesses disputed these statements. This 
case also dragged on with appeals until 
finally ended with a verdict in favor of 
Dingley on May 2, 1862, for damages of 
$20 and costs of $142.75; but an execu- 
tion order to the sheriff, then John M. 
Neville, was "returned in no part 
satisfied." 

In the meantime Dingley had hired a 
millwright, B.F. Shepard, on December 
30, 1859, to design and construct the 
working machinery of the mill, while 
Dingley, himself, attended to putting on his 
hip roof and other carpentry. By the mid- 
dle of 1860 the mill must have been in 
operation. 

7. George Dingley, Citizen 

George Dingley was now at the height 
of his career at age 34, a miller, worth 
$30,000 in real estate and $1,000 in per- 
sonal property, according to the listing in 
the U.S. Census of June 26, 1860. 

In the following years he appears to have 
been an involved citizen. He was empanel- 
ed a member of the Solano County Grand 
Jury on April 6, 1863. He also served as 
a delegate from Green Valley at the Union 
(political party) County Convention in both 
1863 and 1864. The delegates elected Cap- 
tain John B. Frisbie (General Vallejo's 




The northeast face of George Dingley's 1859/60 mill as it appears today. The top 
story had been dismantled many years ago. 




The northwest side of George Dingley's 1859/60 mill. This is the middle story where 
grain would have been taken inside. The top story's eastern part has been replaced 
by a makeshift wooden structure and metal roof. 



son-in-law) and Captain Robert H. Water- 
man (a founding father of Fairfield) to the 
state convention. In 1864 they supported 
—it was during the Civil War-Abraham 
Lincoln for reelection with the slogan 
"suppress the rebellion and prosecute the 
war to final success." 22 

Even after he was forced by a 
foreclosure eviction from his mill proper- 
ty in 1865 to establish a milling business 
in adjacent Yolo County, Dingley main- 
tained his political involvement in Solano 
County. He is recorded as registering in 
the Green Valley district on July 31,1 867 
for the general election of that year. 23 



8. Dingley's Loss of the Mill 

From this high point in his career the 
world of George Dingley began to unravel. 
Already strained by his double litigation 
with John O'Connor, he was now threat- 
ened from an unexpected quarter. As ear- 
ly as March 14, 1860, an A.M. Comstock, 
a San Francisco money lender and real 
estate broker, and his associate Frederick 
Repenn started a suit to foreclose a mort- 
gage on all the mountain and valley land 
in upper Green Valley that John Bristol and 
another speculator, Cyrus Eastman, had 
separately acquired on February 9, 1858. 24 
Bristol, as we have seen, had then sold the 



18 



6.82-acre part of his purchase to Dingley 
just two months later and without disclos- 
ing to him the mortgage liability! Eastman, 
who owned the mountain land, paid off the 
plaintiffs and released his tracts, but he 
specifically excluded any hill rights that 
may have been included in George 
Dingley 's deed. Presumably Dingley, in 
keeping with his stubborn character, re- 
fused to do likewise. Thereupon a decree 
of sheriff's sale of Dingley 's mill proper- 
ty was issued by the trial court on August 
15, 1863. Dingley managed by several 
strategems to delay his loss of the proper- 
ty for two and one-half years. He first 
subverted the foreclosure sale with the ap- 
parent connivance of the sheriff, John M. 
Neville, a close associate of his. When this 
strategem was countermanded by the 
court, Dingley tried another ploy which 
convinced the judge to order a special 
survey to examine Dingley's objections. 
The court-ordered survey of September 
1865, however, disproved Dingley's 
arguments. 

On December 21, 1865, Frederick 
Repenn was finally in possession of 
Dingley's mill. In the May 4, 1866, issue 
of the Solano Herald the new owners, 
Frederick Repenn and his lawyer, and new 
partner, James B. Townsend advertised 
their installation of "a first class Steam 
Engine and Boiler, a new Run of Stone, 
new and superior Bolting Apparatus, 
Smutter and Separator and new Machinery 
generally . . . The substitution of Steam for 
Water-power will enable the mill hereafter 
to run constantly without interruption and 
to execute orders without any of the delays 
or uncertainties which have heretofore oc- 
curred from lack of water and other 
causes." 

One could draw the inference that 
George Dingley might well have had 
operational as well as legal problems to 
deal with in his second milling enterprise 
of a brief three and one-half years. 

9. Destruction of the Mill 
by Suspicious Fire 

On November 13, 1867, the Solano 
Press carried this news report: 

"Destroyed by Fire - On Monday night, the 11th 
inst., the well know "Dingley Mill," situated at the 
head of Green Valley, was completely destroyed by 
fire, unmistakenly the work of a villainous incendiary. 
Nothing remains of the building except a few charred 
walls, and even the large wheel did not escape the 
conflagration. The mill was built by the late George 
Dingley seven years ago, but two years since the 
ownership was transferred to James B. Townsend of 
San Francisco who had it ensured for $8,000, one- 
half of the amount in the "Pacific" and $4,000 in 
the "Manhattan Company." No clue has yet been 
discovered of the incendiary, but we have learned that 
the insurance companies hesitate about paying the 
policies on account of the suspicious nature of the fire. 
Future developments may reveal startling facts." 



10. Epilogue 

Undaunted by the loss of the mill in the 
closing days of 1865 George Dingley set 
out for Yolo County, where with Jabez 
Hatch, a Benicia merchant and general 
store proprietor, and also a fellow New 
Englander and Union party member, he 
built yet another flour mill in Cacheville 
-now called Yolo City. It was built of 
brick and was apparentiy steam powered. 25 
George Dingley died in Cacheville on 
September 12, 1867. 26 

Started by the haunting headlines of the 



tale of the tragic death of a young girl in 
an old mill, this investigation has un- 
covered forgotten achievements, awakened 
sleeping monuments, revealed bitter con- 
troversies and followed endless court trials 
of early California. We met with a pioneer 
American, George Dingley, who came 
west to make his contribution to the 
development of California, and we fol- 
lowed his journey through those brief and 
turbulent times. The old ruin called the 
Dingley Mill still stands as one salient 
landmark of that journey. 

ft 




The southwest corner of George Dingley's 1859/60 mill as it appears today with only 
two of the three stories standing. 




r i 






Stone wall along the northern edge of the former Granville Perry Swift ranch which 

set a visible and physical limit to George Dingley's squatter's claim to this area. 

This acreage is now part of the Green Valley Country Club. 



19 



Sperry Flour Mill 

by Ernest Wichels 
and Matthew Fountain 



What is undoubtedly Solano County's 
second oldest industry, and celebrating its 
118th birthdate this year, is the Sperry 
Division of General Mills, Inc., located on 
Mare Island Strait in South Vallejo. 

Its history goes back to a flour mill built 
in South Vallejo in 1869 by Abraham 
Dubois Starr. Like other mills of that 
period, its grinding was done by means of 
the old-fashioned millstones. It had a 
capacity of 400 barrels a day. 

Starr had come overland to California in 
the spring of 1 849 with three other young 
men. Both his parents had died several 
years before. He first tried mining, but 
abandoned it after a heavy snow and heavy 
runoff washed away a dam he had built 
with his savings. 

The year 1852 found him in the freight 
business with a Mr. Brown supplying min- 
ing camps from Sacramento to Marysville. 
He was the first to succeed in reaching 
Downieville over the mountain route with 



wagons, an event marked by a lively 
celebration. 

In 1856 he married Mary Anna 
Teegarden, daughter of Dr. Eli Teegarden. 
Mr. Teegarden owned the Buckeye Mill, 
a flour mill built at Marysville in 1853. In 
1861 the Marysville Directory listed the 
mill under A.D. Starr & Company. Starr 
sold the mill to J.H. Bowman and Justus 
Greeley when he left Marysville to come 
to Vallejo. Much later, in 1902, the mill 
was taken over by the Sperry Flour 
Company. 

A.D. Starr came to Vallejo in late 1868, 
at first operating his new mill alone. In 
1871 he was joined by his brother, Capt. 
Augustus W. Starr. 

For the first few years their operation 
was overshadowed by another enterprise 
which dominated the waterfront and cap- 
tured the imagination of all local 
businessmen, the Vallejo Elevator. 

Central California was, in the 1860's, 
in transition from a cattle country (hides 
and tallow) to a wheat empire. Eastern 
visitors noted that while California was 
growing and exporting thousands of tons 
of wheat annually, the farmers adhered to 
the use of sacks in handling their grain, a 



practice Easterners considered a useless 
and extravagant waste. 

In 1867 G.C. Pier son, a Chicago grain 
elevator man and a capitalist, came to the 
state determined to introduce the elevator 
system of handling grain in bulk. Finding 
the new railroad tidewater terminus at 
Vallejo most suitable, he decided to erect 
his elevator on the waterfront of Vallejo. 
However, he was compelled to abandon 
the project when he was unable to reach 
an understanding with the railroad. His 
idea was then taken up by others. The 
Vallejo Evening Chronicle of May 22, 
1869, devoted an entire page to the in- 
auguration of the Vallejo Elevator, as it 
was then called. 

The grain elevator project was nurtured 
into development by Dr. D.W. Rice, presi- 
dent of the California Pacific Railroad and 
for whom Rice Street in Vallejo is named, 
General John B. Frisbie, founder of the 
city of Vallejo and son-in-law of Mariano 
Vallejo, and other local citizens. 

They associated themselves with Charles 
Wheeler, a grain merchant of Oswego, 
New York, who was elected superinten- 
dent of the Vallejo Elevator Company, 
afterwards incorporated with the follow- 




This picture of the General Mills Flour Mill was taken before the razing of the tall smokestack (upper left) of the American 
Smelting and Refining Company's lead smelter. The busy Union Oil Refinery appears in the upper right. 



20 




This 1872 view of South Vallejo shows Isaac Friedlander's Grain Elevator, the schooner Alice Waacke, two steamers, the 

Sacramento and the Vallejo, the California Pacific Railroad Company's Vallejo and Sacramento passenger train with Engine 

#1, Yolo, and Engine #4, Yuba, the Thomas and Hunt warehouse, and a livery stable. 



ing officers and stockholders: I. 
Friedlander, D.C. Haskin, Charles 
Wheeler, D.W.C. Rice, Dr. Spencer, and 
J.B. Frisbie. They selected as architect 
Robert Mackie of Chicago. 

Because of lack of suitable building 
materials, the scheduled "cornerstone- 
laying" for the summer of 1868 was 
delayed until almost wintertime. 

The first phase was the piling and cap- 
ping by John A. Fulton, a contractor of San 
Francisco. The initial work consisted of 
700 piles, with an average length of 40 
feet. These were joined by heavy timbers 
as braces against capsizing in an 
earthquake. 

Then the entire area was filled in with 
thousands of yards of stone. 

The first structure was massive. The first 
two floors of the elevator were made of 
12xl2-inch timbers from Puget Sound; the 
posts in the structure numbered 260, cap- 
ped by 12x1 8-inch timbers running the 
width of the structure, which was 85 feet. 

The third floor consisted of grain bins, 
built in crib-fashion, each 10x20 feet with 
hoppers in the bottom. 

There were three grain elevators (emp- 
tying through wooden spouts) for receiv- 
ing, and two elevators for loading. In both 
cases there were huge scales for weighing, 
manufactured by Fairbanks. 

The handling capacity of the elevator 
was 35,000 bushels per day, and the 
storage capacity of the building was 
350,000 bushels. 

A separate building housed the engine 



and boilers, with a 118-foot smokestack. 
An example of the size of the operation can 
be gleaned by knowing that the driving belt 
on the main engine was 226 feet long and 
30 inches in width. 

The roof of the building was covered 
with tin. 

While the elevator could handle grain 
brought in by steam railway connected 
with Solano, Yolo, Napa, and Sacramen- 
to Valley grain regions, much of the in- 
coming grain came by barges from the 
Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and 
tributaries. 

The river barges were built in several 
locations, including Benicia, but surpris- 
ing to many is the fact that numerous 
wooden wheat barges were built in a 
shipyard in the town of Maine Prairie on 
Cache Slough. The site, today, is the 
pumping plant of the Vallejo Municipal 
Water intake. 

By 1 870 Vallejo was the leading wheat 
export port in the United States; Jim Hill 
hadn't yet "discovered" the Dakotas and 
Minnesota with his railroads. 

Before Christmas Day 1869, the first 
year of the operation of this Friedlander 
elevator, twenty-two clipper ships had 
loaded from this Vallejo elevator, bound 
for English ports. 

The first clipper ship to load was the 
British "Star of Hope," followed by the 
"Lizzie Williams." 

The elevator was the pride and hope of 
Vallejo, as the beginning of another great 
grain mart of the world. It towered above 



everything along the waterfront and its pic- 
ture was used freely by the business men 
of Vallejo for advertising. But the farmer 
would not cooperate. He and the grain 
merchants of the Pacific coast had become 
wedded to the idea of handling grain in 
sacks. Also the insurance agents 
discriminated against grain in bulk as its 
shifting was considered a cause for sail- 
ing ships to capsize. Mr. Friedlander end- 
ed up using the elevator as a warehouse, 
storing the grain he purchased from the 
farmers. 

Then on September 16, 1872, a brief 
three years after its erection, the elevator 
collapsed into a monstrous heap, its face 
buried thirty feet deep in the mud of the 
estuary. The roar of the crash reached 
almost every ear in town. 

Now we return to the Starr mill. In 1874 
its building was enlarged and another unit 
installed with a capacity of 600 barrels. 
The following year A. Brannstetter was 
made a partner in the mills, which became 
Starr & Company, also known as Starr 
Mills. 

Meanwhile A.D. Starr participated in 
civic activities in Solano as he had in 
Marysville. He was elected a Solano Coun- 
ty supervisor and in 1873 he was a delegate 
to the Republican convention in 
Philadelphia which nominated Grant for 
reelection. Then in 1879 he and his fami- 
ly moved to Oakland while his brother re- 
mained in South Vallejo. 

The business prospered, and in 1883 it 
was incorporated under the name of Starr 



21 



& Co. by A.D. Starr, Alfred Bannister, 
George C. Perkins, all of the city of 
Oakland, A.W. Starr of South Vallejo, 
Justus Greeley and N.D. Rideout of 
Marysville. The capitalization was 
$830,000 with $550,000 of this credited 
to Bannister and the two Starr brothers. 
The old millstones were replaced, the mill 
enlarged and converted into a modern 
roller mill. Its capacity then was about 
2000 barrels a day. 

Little by little the company had 
developed trade with Central America and 
China. Enactment of the Chinese Exclu- 
sion Bill caused the Chinese to desert a 
favored competitor, and soon Starr & Co. 
was shipping immense quantities of flour 
to China. 

It then developed a large business with 
Europe with shipments of flour to Ireland 
and England, while neglecting to make 
prompt deliveries to its Chinese customers, 
and on occasion, supplying them with flour 
the Chinese considered inferior. The 
Chinese finally reached the limit of their 
patience and ceased doing business. 

Starr & Co. started a second plant at 
Wheatport, now part of Crockett. It was 
to be the biggest flour mill in the world 



with a capacity of 8,000 barrels a day. Its 
massive foundations were an engineering 
feat. A huge grain warehouse and clean- 
ing plant was completed in 1884. It had a 
capacity of 150,000 tons of grain with 
docks capable of accommodating as many 
as six ships for loading. All the grain 
received was in sacks weighing about 140 
pounds each and handled by barefoot men 
as shoes would cut the sacks in the lower 
layers. The flour mill was built more 
leisurely, with the mill building not 
equipped for milling wheat until 1891 , but 
its large capacity was never utilized. 

Liverpool set the world's price of grain 
and flour. Starr & Co. shipments to 
Europe were by sailing ships around the 
Horn. As competition increased, the 
business became highly speculative, and 
less and less profitable. Contracts 
contained time clauses and late shipments 
could be refused. Losses due to expiration 
of time allowances were particularly large 
in 1893, when due to unusual weather 
ships were more frequently becalmed. 

From 1888 to 1894 Starr & Co. tried to 
weather the storm by building back its local 
trade, but in the meantime other firms, in- 
cluding Sperry, had become too firmly 



established. 

In 1893 came the financial panic which 
started the great depression of the nineties. 
Wheat reached the lowest price in the 
country's history. In 1894 production fell 
to 23,000,000 bushels, whereas in 1884 
and 1886 it had been close to 45,000,000 
bushels. 

In 1894 Starr & Co. retired from 
business, renting its mills to Sperry Flour 
Company for one year. Starr & Co. was 
bankrupt. A.D. Starr died December 24, 
1894. 

It is interesting to note that at the time 
the San Francisco offices of the two rival 
companies were nearly adjacent to each 
other. Starr & Co. was at 16 California, 
Sperry was at 22 California, and Buckeye 
and Pioneer Flour Mills was in between. 

In 1895, just prior to the expiration of 
the lease, Mr. George W. McNear bought 
a majority of the stock of Starr & Co. and 
took over the properties to run in conjunc- 
tion with his large interests at Port Costa. 
By this time the Southern Pacific Railroad 
Co. had built its main line from Suisun 
City across the marsh to Benicia and was 
operating the large train ferries to Port 
Costa. So Port Costa took over and became 



Sri 







22 



the grain port of the West. 

McNear also had twenty-five grain 
warehouses in the interior valley, which 
with his Port Costa and Wheatport 
holdings, had a total storage capacity of 
8,000,000 bushels. 

In 1897 McNear sold the Wheatport 
plant to a group of California and Hawaiian 
business men including members of his 
family. The Mill was converted to a sugar 
refinery. In 1903 the refinery was shut 
down and sold to Sugar Factors Company, 
Ltd. of Honolulu. The mill was converted 
into a strictly cane sugar refinery and 
resumed operations in 1906 as California 
and Hawaiian Sugar Refining Corporation, 
Ltd., owned by thirty-three producing 
sugar plantations in the Hawaiian Islands. 

Some months after acquiring Starr & 
Co., Mr. McNear incorporated the Port 
Costa Milling Co., and with his son 
Seward B. McNear as president the South 
Vallejo mills continued to operate until 
1910. One change that took place in 1906 
was that the machinery of Mill "B" was 
torn out and replaced by a complete barley- 
rolling plant and a number of cereal 
machines. During this time unsuccessful 
attempts were made to regain the lost 
China trade. But it was too firmly 
entrenched in other companies, one of 
which was Sperry. In 1910 Sperry pur- 
chased Starr & Co. whose sale may have 
been influenced by the death of George 
McNear December 31, 1909. 

Austin Sperry arrived in California in 
1852 to search for gold. After back- 
breaking panning for twenty-three days he 
decided there were greater riches in pro- 
viding food for the army of prospectors in 
the Mother Lode country. 

So he erected a mill in Stockton to grind 
wheat into flour and to provide feed for 
animals. A fire destroyed his Stockton Mill 
in 1855, and he was joined by Samuel 
Baldwin and his cousin, Samuel Sperry, 
in building a larger mill. At the same time 
another Sperry, John L., was engaged in 
building a hotel in the now historic town 
of Murphy s, California Landmark No. 
275. The hotel, now known as Murphy s 
Hotel was for years called the Sperry 
Hotel. 

After Austin's death in 1881, his four- 
children carried on the business. Then a 
merger/ with five other mills occurred in 
1892. "Sperry Drifted Flour" became a 
household trade name around the world, 
first packed in Salinas in 1881. 

The sale of the mill in 1910 did not hurt 
Seward B. McNear. By 1913 he was on 
the board of directors of Sperry with the 
title of vice-president. In 1918 when the 
president, John H. Rossiter, was doing his 




The schooner Champion was known as the work horse of the sloughs. In this pic- 
ture she is at Rio Vista load with sacks of grain. 



war effort on the United States Shipping 
Board, McNear was the top manager of all 
Sperry 's activities. Other directors were 
Hugh Goodfellow, Dunning Rideout, and 
William Crocker. 

In 1914 Sperry began construction on a 
completely new mill eight stories high, to 
be completely electrically driven and the 
largest flour mill in the state. On 
November 22, 1917, plant superintendent 
Jesse E. Godley (one of the founders of the 
Vallejo Rotary Club, and its first president) 
pulled the slide in a wheat spout to release 
the first wheat to the grinders. 

The December, 1917, issue of "Sperry 
Family" reported "Mr. John Conway, 
who packed the first sack of flour at the 
old Vallejo Mill in 1868, also packed and 
carried out the first sack of flour in the new 
Vallejo Mill." He had retired but two 
years before. This account placed the 
beginning of the first mill one year earlier 
than the date listed in Thompson and 
West's First Historical Atlas of Solano 
County. Another old-timer was H.T. 
O'Neill who began in 1873 and was still 
working forty-six years later at age 
seventy-five. 

The war created a huge overseas demand 
for flour. From 1915 to 1919 the 
employees at the mills increased from 125 
to 363, including fourteen girls largely 
employed in the laboratory. Twenty-six 
employees enlisted as soldiers or sailors. 
None were known to have been killed. 

The last cargo of flour shipped by sail- 



ing ship was 2,000 tons carried by the 
Andrew Welch in 1916 for Herbert 
Hoover's Belgium Relief Committee. The 
flour bags were marked with a special 
"American Indian" brand. The Vallejo 
Naval and Historical Museum now has on 
exhibit one of these bags that was return- 
ed skillfully embroidered by Belgium 
women in appreciation. 

In 1917 there was a wheat crop partial 
failure, while Australia had a huge surplus, 
having been unable to secure shipping for 
three years. The United States Government 
arranged for French ships lingering in the 
Pacific to escape U-boats to bring 
Australian wheat to California for milling. 
Then steamers launched in our shipyards 
took cargoes of flour through the Panama 
Canal to feed our allies in Europe. In 1918 
ten percent of the flour exported from 
United Stated came from California, an 
importing state. 

One of Vallejo 's most spectacular fires 
destroyed the Sperry dock and bins on 
August 30, 1934. A total ot twenty-one 
bins of grain, 500,000 grain bags and two 
marine elevators were lost. But a large part 
of the plant was rebuilt. 

In 1929, a number of milling companies 
in the United States combined to form the 
corporate structure of General Mills. 
Sperry's Vallejo Mills was one of these. 

Of course the current operations are a 
far cry from those of 1 18 years ago. Pro- 
ducts are different, containers are dif- 
ferent, and chemistry is vital. 



23 



References to Legislature 

Alta California, Sept. 22, 24, Oct. 14, 22, 27, Nov. 4, 24, 

Dec. 24, 31, 1851; Jan. 6, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 1852. 
Bancroft, Hubert H. , The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft, 

History of California, Vol. VI. 
California's State Capitol, State Dept. of Finance, 

Sacramento, California, 1956. 
Emparan, Madie Brown, The Vallejos of California, 

Gleeson Library Associates, University of San 

Francisco. 
Jones, Senator Herbert C. , The First Legislature of Califor- 
nia, Senate of the State of California, 1950. 
Journal of the Third Session of the California State 

Assembly, 1852. 
Journal of the Fourth Session of the California State 

Assembly, 1853. 
Journal of the Third Session of the California State Senate, 

1852. 
Journal of the Fourth Session of the California State 

Senate, 1853. 
Murphy, Marion Fisher, Seven Stars for California, Sonoma 

Print Shop, Sonoma, California, 1979. 



GEORGE DINGLEY AND 

THE EARLY MILLS OF 

SOLANO COUNTY 

Footnotes 

1. See, "Haunted Green Valley Mill Still Echoing Girls 
Screams," Daily Republic, July 13, 1975, p. 10; and 
"Haunting Tales," Vacaville Reporter, October 26, 
1986. p. 1C. 

2. Semi-Weekly Solano Herald, August 19, 1864. The 
statement in this article that the waterwheel of the mill 
was "sixty-five feet in diameter— the largest in the 
United States" is demonstrably in error. Documentary 
proof of the falsity of this excessive claim was found 
and the true size was revealed to be an ample enough 
forty feet in the survey of George Dingley's parcel by 
T.J. Dewoody, September 1865, showing location of 
the mill and the placement and size of the water wheel 
and the tailrace. Survey and report is part of docket of 
A.M. Comstock and Frederick Repenn v. John D. 
Bristol, George Dingley, et. al.,, 7th District Court, No. 
704, March 14, 1860. 

3. His name does not appear in passenger lists of ships ar- 
riving in San Francisco. No genealogical connection has 
been found with other Dingley surnames prominent in 
early California history, such as Nathaniel Dingley, who 
established the Star Mills on I Street in Sacramento in 
1850, or Captain Charles L. Dingley, who sailed around 
the Horn and engaged in flour and lumber business in 
San Francisco. 

4. Solano County Assessment Rolls 1 854- 1 869, Vacaville 
Heritage Council, Vacaville, California. 

5. Sally O'Hara Woodard, "John Frey and the Vallejo 
Water System," Solano Historian, Vol. 1, No. 1, 
December 1985, pp. 10-16. Included is a photograph 
of the falls and a map of the water system built in the 
20th century by the City of Vallejo. 

6. Solano County Deed, Book G, p 387. It is interesting 
to note that Charles Pomeroy Stone, Captain, U.S. Ar- 
my, Corps of Engineers, was founder and first comman- 
ding official of the Benicia Arsenal (1851-1856) and later 
a General in the Union Army in the Civil War, from 
which he was forced to resign in disgrace. Many years 
later in 1883, as a civilian, he was chief engineer in 
charge of the construction of the Statue of Liberty's 
pedestal on Beldoe's (now Liberty) Island! 

7. Robert H. Vance v. George Dingley, 12th Judicial 
District Court, No. 599, March 1858. Solano County 
Clerk Records. Vance's land acreage and location was 
cited in the Solano County 1856 Delinquency Tax List. 

8. loc. cit. This must have been a year of severe drought 
because water flows adequately in normal years at this 
location. 

9. Map of the Eastern Portion of Suscol Rancho. A.S. 
Easton, surveyor San Francisco, November 1856. 
Original in the California State Library. On the map of 
the City of Vallejo water system reproduced in the 
Solano Historian of December 1985, loc. cit., the site 
lies midway between the diversion dam and the Green 
Valley treatment plant. 

10. Munro-Fraser, History of Solano County (San Fran- 
cisco: Wood Alley and Co., 1879) pp. 73-74. 



1 1 . Jean Bruceward and Gary Kunitz, "Some New Thoughts 
On An Old Mill," California Historical Society 
Quarterly, Vol. 53, No. 2 Summer 1974, pp. 142-145. 

12. E.O. Essig, "The Russian Settlement at Ross," Califor- 
nia Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. 12, No. 3, 
September 1933, p. 194. 

13. H.H. Bancroft, History of California, Vol. 7, p. 84. 
For discussion of the importance and history of mills 
and milling see John Storck and Walter Teague, Flour 
For Man 's Bread: A History of Milling (Minneapolis: 
Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1952). See Eric Sloane, "The 
Mills of Early America," American Heritage, Vol. 6, 
No. 6, October 1955, pp. 104-107 for illustrations of 
different types of mills. 

14. Munro-Fraser, op. cit., pp. 299-300. Two other mills 
are cited by Fraser. One, which he describes on page 
79 with the note "not yet finished" seems to resemble 
the description of the "four-run-of-stone flouring mill" 
which was to be built on Southampton Bay by "Messrs 
Spaulding and Cook" according to a Benicia item in the 
Solano Press issue of November 13, 1867. The other 
he describes on page 316 as follows: "the mill lately 
erected by [J.M. Pleasants of Pleasants Valley] . . .The 
motive power is oxen working on a treadwheel. Five 
of these animals are now used, but these have been found 
to be inadequate to perform the required tasks; the 
power, therefore, will be augmented by the addition of 
others. Everything is ground in this mill, from barley 
to xxx flour." 

15. For full discussion of this important case in the history 
of California land law see Paul W. Gates, "The Suscol 
Principle, Preemption, and California Latifundia," 
Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 39, No. 4, November 
1970, pp. 453-471. The author recounts how the influen- 
tial Vallejo-title holders persuaded Congress to pass a 
special act on March 3, 1863 granting them preemp- 
tion rights to as much of their land as ' 'had been reduc- 
ed to possession." This action sought to forestall the 
claims of settlers like George Dingley, but the issue was 
not decided in favor of the former until a Supreme Court 
decision in 1869, which finally nullified the settlers' 
claims. 

16. George Dingley v. Warren P. Durbin, John Stilts, et. 
al., 7th District Court, No. 1408, January 1 , 1866, Ex- 
hibits A and D. It is interesting to note that the testimony 
in this case also refers to Dingley's earlier mill of 1853. 
This case was eventually decided in favor of the defen- 
dants on January 25, 1871, three and one-half years after 
Dingley's death! 

17. Exhibit A in the case of Dingley v. Durbin cited above. 
Dingley did not file his final Preemption Application un- 
til November 5, 1864, when his "Vallejo" title was be- 
ing foreclosed in another action. 



18. Solano County Deeds, Book N, p. 163. Before the date 
of the contract with Bristol on April 19, 1858, Dingley 
engaged in two inexplicable real estate transactions in 
which he sold his original 64-acre mill of 1 853 tract to 
a John M. Neville, a prominent merchant of Benicia, 
who later became county sheriff, for a remarkable sum 
of $ 1 0,500 on July 9, 1 855 , and thereafter bought it back 
on April 12, 1858-just seven days before the Bristol 
deal -for the same inflated price, loc cit. , Book H, p. 
490 and Book M p. 1 14. Neville appears to have been 
closely associated with Dingley and his milling opera- 
tions. He was cited by Robert Vance in the suit refer- 
red to earlier as having received the flour properly due 
to Vance. Dingley's financial indebtedness to Neville 
seem to have affected Neville's role as sheriff in 
Dingley's and his own interest in the first foreclosure 
proceedings against Dingley's mill during 1862-65. 
Neville's partner, J. Roome Lewis, acquired title to the 
6.82-acre mill site still in the deceased George Dingley's 
estate in a second foreclosure sale on February 2, 1868 
to clear Dingley's outstanding debt to Neville. 

19. This contract was presented as Exhibit A in the case of 
John O'Connor v. George Dingley, 7th District court, 
No. 711, September 1, 1860. The testimony in the 
docket of this case and that of the case cited below sup- 
plied much of the detailed information on the nature and 
progress of the mill construction. Dingley also argued 
that O'Connor's masonry work was defective and that 

it cost him $2,000 to rebuild and repair it. 

20. op. cit. 

21. George Dingley v. John O'Connor, County Court, 
Solano County, No. 94, January 9, 1860. 

22. Solano County Herald, January 17, April 11, June 20, 
1863; and March 5, 1864. 

23. Great Register, Solano County, September 4, 1867. 

24. A.M. Comstock and Frederick Repenn v. John D. 
Bristol, George Dingley, et. al. , 7th District Court, No. 
704, March 17, 1860. 

25. The inventory and appraisal of George Dingley's estate 
made on March 26, 1868 includes among his property 
in Cacheville, Yolo County, a "Brick Flouring Mill," 
worth $10,000 and a supplemental inventory dated 
August 7, 1868 lists an "engine boiler," worth $3,500. 
Probate Court, Solano County, California-Estate of 
George Dingley-File, Solano County Clerk Records. 
Curiously, in the History of Yolo County, California by 
William O. Russell (Woodland, Calif., 1940) on p. 140 
there is the statement that the mill was rented in 1870 
to an E.A. Eastham who installed steam machinery. 

26. Sacramento Bee, September 14, 1867 and Weekly Solano 
Herald, September 20, 1867. 







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