Solano County

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In that fine and picturesque group of "old salts" who in a day now gone did so much toward the development of the maritime interests of this wonderful bay country there were few who had a wider or a better acquaintance, not only in marine circles but throughout the countryside, than the late Captain M. Wallace Dillingham, who though now more than thirty years resting in the enjoyment of the final reward reserved for all good seafaring men, is still pleasantly remembered here. For many years prior to his death in 1894 Captain Dillingham had been in charge of the schooner service in the transportation line between San Francisco and Benicia and did much for the development of that service. Born to the sea he had ever followed that line and upon attaining executive rank brought to that service all the fine traditions of the sea inherited from a long line of seafarers of the old Cape Cod type.

Captain Dillingham was born in the port town of Sandwich in the "hook" county of Barnstable on the bay of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, with an honorable tradition of seafaring ancestry back of him and as a boy "took to the sea," his early service being rendered on fruit packets plying between Philadelphia and the Azores. His first introduction to this coast was in 1862 when, as a sailor on the full-rigged ship Belvedere out of the Atlantic around the Horn, he sailed through the Golden Gate into the port of San Francisco and beheld the glories of the finest harbor in the world. Here he decided to remain and the remainder of his life was spent in useful service in the bay.

Not long after his arrival here Captain Dillingham married the widow of Captain J. C. Paladini, who at that time was managing the line of schooners established by her deceased husband in the transport service between San Francisco and Benicia. Captain Paladini, who died in 1861, had begun his service here back in the early '40s, in the days of the Mexican possession, and was a widely known figure in local marine circles during the days of the "gold rush" and of the rapid development of San Francisco following the American possession and the opening of the gold fields. He had a fleet of three schooners, the Santanella, the Sophia Johnson and the Thelma, and after his death his widow continued managing the fleet. Following his marriage to Mrs. Paladini Captain Dillingham took over the management of this fleet and carried on the business quite successfully until his death in 1894. Mrs. Dillingham came into California in settlement days, by way of the Isthmus and up the coast in the old sidewheeler, Orozabo. By her marriage to Captain Paladini she had a daughter who died some twenty years ago, and by her marriage to Captain Dillingham she had a daughter, Oceana, who in 1900 married Charles E. Erwin and is still living at Benicia. Charles E. Erwin is the district sales agent for the Shell Oil Company in the neighboring county of Contra Costa.

Mrs. Erwin was born at Benicia and her schooling was completed in St. Catherine's convent there. During the days of her young womanhood she was helpful in the service of her father's transport line, both she and her half-sister taking a hand in this service, she tallying the cargoes at the Benicia end of the line and her sister rendering a like clerical service at the San Francisco end. Mr. and Mrs. Erwin have a daughter, Miss Caroline Dillingham Erwin, an honor student at St. Vincent's Academy, Vallejo.

History of Solano County, California By Marguerite Hunt and Napa County, California By Harry Lawrence Gunn. From Their Earliest Settlement To The Present Time. Chicago. S.J. Clarke Pub. Co. 1926. 883 pages.

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This page was last updated 21 Oct 2007

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