GenWeb Logo Image

Transcription of

The Western Shore Gazetteer and Commercial Directory,
For the State of California…, Yolo County,

Compiled and published annually
by
C. P. Sprague & H. W. Atwell,
Woodland, Yolo County, 1870, pp. 41-158.

Transcribed by Peggy B. Perazzo
(Feel free to use the following transcription for your personal use or your non-profit web sites.)

[ HOME ] [ Page 1 2 3 ]

Yolo County (Description) – Continued

Alfalfa.

It has been but a few years since this clover came under consideration in this State, yet it is already creating considerable attention among stock-growers and dairy-men. It forms the only green feed we have during the dry season, apart from the tule marshes. Farmers are rapidly adopting it in various parts of the county, and already look upon it as being indispensable to the future prosperity of stock-growers. It is claimed for this clover that it is perennial, furnishing an equal amount of green feed in wet and dry seasons. It will yield as much or more feed on one acre of ground as is produced from six acres of the natural grasses. It will yield in hay an amount equal to six acres of natural grass, and many claim to cut as much hay from one acre of alfalfa as can be cut from ten acres in a wild state. Ten tons to the acre of alfalfa, when well rooted, is not uncommon, while an acre of natural hay rarely gives over one ton.

We have visited several beautiful fields of alfalfa lately, among which was the field of N. Wyckoff, Esq., near Woodland, who has devoted much time to experimenting with this clover, and now has about sixty acres, as green and thrifty now (August 20th) as in the early spring when the ground was saturated with water. A portion of this – about fifteen acres – is kept for seed; the remaining portion is used for pasturage.

We will chronicle his experience, as that is of far more interest and value to our readers than any crude observations of our own. First, regarding the necessary qualifications of the soil: It should be deep, loose and strong, allowing the root to strike deep enough to reach perpetual moisture, to assure a good stand or growth. This requisite obtained, the ground should be carefully tilled, summer fallowed, if necessary to remove all foul weeds. The seed should be sown in the spring, and with no other crop, from fifteen to twenty pounds being sown to the acre. Great care should be taken in securing seed free from foul weeds, and otherwise of good quality. When the stand has reached a height of eight or ten inches, feeding can commence without injury to the plant, if not fed so close to the roots are injured. It seems to grow more rapidly in the very warmest weather, and to be insensible to the ills which affect other grasses in seasons of drought. During the month of June last, when the thermometer ranged from one hundred degrees upward, the clover in the fields spoken of grew with marvelous rapidity. It seemed to delight in the excessive heat and take a new growth, covering the ground with a carpet of green that contrasted most favorably with the dry, parched fields adjoining. The amount of hay on the ground uncut was estimated by Mr. Wyckoff at five tons per acre. When cut for hay, four crops are easily gathered in one season, and the fields are then pastured through the fall and winter. When grown for the seed, the fields are fed until the middle of April, and then two crops of seed are gathered, and the stock again turned on. From eight acres of clover in 1869, Mr. Wyckoff secured about five tons of seed, which sold readily for twenty-five cents per pound. From the same ground he will harvest six tons of seed this season. He has been at great pains to secure perfectly clean seed, and has met with entire success. His arrangements for threshing and cleaning are brought to perfection, and the increased demand for the seed evinces the regard in which it is held, as compared with the imported article. This season the price has been fixed at twenty cents per pound, and a large supply will be kept there for home use. In connection with this, we gathered many interesting facts regarding the culture of this plant, which we cannot refrain from giving a place in these pages. The clover that he cuts for seed paid him three hundred dollars per acre, before he made specialty of it. He is now (August 15th) harvesting his first crop, which will yield three tons of seed. Other lands which were pastured yielded him seventy-five dollars per acre for the season. He estimates that one acre of this land in alfalfa will sustain as much stock as ten acres, when in its natural state, or with any other species of feed that can be successfully grown in this climate.

He first experimented with it in '55-6, but owing to the seed being foul he abandoned those fields and replowed them. Noticing the fondness of the stock for the few bunches that would not be killed, he concluded to try it again, being convinced that it was just the thing for dry seasons and stock. Some of the planting of '55 still remains, despite the continual wheat culture, annually reaching a growth of five feet and upward in height, showing that it is worthy of its German name – "Everlasting Clover." It shows moreover that when it once has taken root, it is extremely hard to eradicate, but continues to increase from year to year. Around Woodland are many fields of from one to fifty acres in extent, the owners of which speak in the highest terms of its value. About twelve hundred acres were seeded during the last spring, and the number will be largely increased this coming seeding season.

The successive cropping of wheat, as practiced by the farmers, has seriously impoverished their lands in many instances, and will eventually tell on the strongest soils. Aware of this, many are preparing for a change, and will proceed to plant alfalfa in lieu of grain, not alone for the profit, but to enrich their lands.

This clover, called by many Chile Clover, has long been grown with marked success in Chile. We have seen vast fields of it there, on soil similar – perhaps inferior – to thousands of acres in this county. With a climate similar to that, we have the same or greater advantages otherwise necessary to insure success. In that state it has almost entirely superseded all native grasses. It is supposed by many that it is a native of Chile, but this is an error. It is a native of Southern Europe, where it is known under the name of Lucerne, from a canton in Switzerland, where we first learn of it.

In a paper read before the American Institute Farmers' Club, by Mr. Curtis, we find the following description of the clover, in which the reader who is at all acquainted with alfalfa will recognize it at once. Mr. Curtis, in expatiating on the value of this plant for soiling, says:

"It will grow in the same climate and soil with red clover, but needs stronger land, and, being a native of Southern Europe, requires, to perfect itself, more sunshine and warmth; but this peculiarity can be remedied, to a considerable extent, by a rich soil, a warm exposure and stimulating manures. When furnished with these advantages its rapid growth and the amount of Lucerne which can be taken off from a small piece of ground is most astonishing – from four to six crops being cut in one season from the same land. For flesh-forming and nutritive elements it is superior to red clover, containing 50.7 parts to 41.2 in clover. Like clover, it covers the ground in a dense shade, thus enriching the soil, while the roots strike down into the subsoil to the depth of several feet, defying drought and leaving the land in admirable condition for subsequent cultivation. Lucerne resembles clover in appearance, with a smaller leaf, and if left to ripen has a more woody stem. I would not recommend it to take the place of clover for general purposes; but I do most emphatically indorse it for a soiling plant, to meet the great want of the diary-man and stock-breeder. For horses it has special merits – not being soft and washy, they are not liable to scour on it. It is perennial; once get it rooted, and with a clean soil it will thrive for years, yielding its successive burdens of richness. The seed is larger than clover seed, and when ripe and fresh, glossy and yellow, as the sample shows. They can be obtained of any first-class dealer at fifty cents per pound. The crop may be sowed with grain – rye being the best – but it is preferable to sow it alone, from eight to ten pounds per acre.

Mr. Curtis was writing for another people and gave the experience of another climate; therefore, a portion of his remarks cannot apply to the cultivation of Lucerne or alfalfa here. We quoted them, however, to show the estimation in which the plant is held in the East, where the finest qualities of clovers and grasses arrive at perfection; also to show that alfalfa and Lucerne are one and the same, having its origin elsewhere than on the American Continent. Germans readily recognize it as their "Everlasting Clover," and the Swiss welcome it as the Lucerne of their native valleys, where it is held in the highest estimation both as a fertilizer and soiling plant.

Thousands of acres in this country are peculiarly adapted to its growth, and vast wealth could be added to the county by turning these scantily-clad fields into alfalfa pastures. It must prove itself of immense value, as long as fresh-green feed is considered essential to successful dairying and stock-raising. Ere long many of the worn wheat-fields must be abandoned, unless sooner planted to that which will enrich, not impoverish them; and this plant seems to be the article required.

Creeks and Sloughs.

The water-courses of the county, aside from the river, are divided into creeks, sloughs and arroyos. The principal creeks are: Cache Creek, Putah Creek, Cottonwood Creek, Dry Creek and Buckeye Creek.

The principal sloughs are Sutter, Elk, Babel, Willow and Sycamore sloughs.

There are several deep arroyos, among which are: Salt Arroyo, Pine Arroyo (or Cañon), and several others having local names, and others that are nameless.

The Arroyos

Are deep mountain ravines – torrents in winter and dry in summer, with the exception of the few springs and pools found at intervals along their beds.

Salt Arroyo rises in the first range of high hills, or mountains, on Scott's Ranch, in Buckeye Township, and empties its winter's floods into Buckeye Creek.

Pine Cañon rises in the same range and on the same ranch, emptying its waters into salt Arroyo. There are several arroyos heading in to the same range of hills, which, coursing northward, reach Cache Creek, well up in Capay Valley. The springs found in their beds serve as watering places for stock, there being but few found elsewhere in this range of hills.

Deep Arroyo.

This arroyo, or slough, heads into the southeast corner of Buckeye Township, and follows a northeast course for about eight miles. It probably connected with Willow Slough at one time, and is doubtless the old bed of Buckeye Creek. It is known as "Dry Slough," in Plainfield, where it approaches Willow Slough. About one mile from Putah Creek, and extending parallel with it for about three miles, is another arroyo, or slough, possessing many of the remarkable features of Willow Slough, such as large ponds of fresh, pure and cold water, fed, doubtless, from the same source.

Willow Slough.

This remarkable stream differs from all others within the county, inasmuch as its waters are supplied by springs clear and cold as those flowing from the mountain gorges. It first makes its appearance on the farm of Abram Barnes, about nine miles southwest from Woodland, rising from a large spring, or pond, whose waters cover an area of perhaps one-fourth of an acre. From this spring, or pond, a succession of pond-holes occur for about six miles, united with each other during the rainy season. The general course of the stream is southwest until it reaches Grayson's Ranch, where its course is about due east for two miles further.

At Grayson's, the springs, or pond-holes, become more numerous, and are united at all seasons – in summer, by a shallow rivulet, in places ten to fifteen feet wide. From Grayson's east two miles we come to the head of the slough proper, near Merritt's Bridge, where it deflects to the north, and, following a northeasterly course, discharges its waters in the tule marshes, about fifteen miles from the first large spring mentioned, including the sinuosities of its course.

At Merritt's Bridge, or near there, the first large body of water begins, and extends in one unbroken sheet – averaging about fifty yards in width – for a distance of two and one-half miles. Its greatest depth, so far as has been ascertained, is seventy-five feet, and in no place is it less than from six to ten feet. As a general rule, the banks are abrupt and the bed composed of gravel.

Two and one-half miles from the bridge the slough passes through Dr. Ruddock's Ranch, where the main body of water is divided by a riffle of about one hundred and eighty or two hundred rods in length. In this distance the water falls several feet, there being a fall of nearly or quite eight feet on the Doctor's place.

At the foot of the riffle the slough again assumes the proportions of a river, and continues so for about two and one-half miles further, or until it reaches Ryon's Crossing, nearly east from Woodland. This second division has the same general appearance attributed to the division already described, though it lacks some of the charms which characterize the other.

From Ryon's Ranch toward the tules, its fair proportions are somewhat curtailed, the character of its bed and banks materially changed, owing to the different kinds of soil through which it passes; and thence through the marshes the slough presents but little of interest or beauty. Passing by the lower division, we will briefly glance at the two portions separated by the riffle. These two large bodies of water are clear, cold, and well supplied with many varieties of fish. In bathing in the stream, one finds the presence of large and strong currents of chilly water – so cold, in fact, that during the warmest part of the season the temperature of the whole body is too cold for pleasure a few feet beneath the surface; and if a vessel be sunk to any considerable depth, the water so obtained will be found cold as the mountains springs.

The volume of water passing over the riffle at Dr. Ruddock's place will probably reach one hundred thousand gallons in twenty-four hours at the lowest stage of water. From this, one can form some idea of the number and size of the springs which supply this remarkable stream. That the sources of supply have not their origin in the land immediately surrounding or bordering on the slough, is evident from the vast difference observable between the taste and properties of the water obtained by boring, or that which is taken from the slough. The water obtained from wells – and especially those at some distance from the slough – is hard, heavily charged with minerals, and in some instances brackish and saline, while the waters of the slough are the reverse. It is evident that the numerous springs which are to be found at intervals along both banks of the slough take their rise far away – their hidden channels being above the present water-line of the surrounding plains.

These curious springs have been the cause of many conjectures, arguments and theories regarding their real source, as by that is determined the source of Willow Slough. By some they are supposed to belong to the general body of water underlying the plains around Woodland, at an average depth of about fifteen feet; but this theory is untenable, as has been shown by the vast difference in the qualities of the two divisions of water. Another and more reasonable theory is, that Willow Slough is the continuation of Cottonwood Creek, which, in summer, sinks at the foot of the hills, some eighteen miles west from the first springs, or pond-holes. And yet again another theory gives to Cache Creek the credit of furnishing Willow Slough with its limpid waters. That Cache Creek has at various times had other than its present channel is evident. Old beds are plainly discernible in several places, and other channels have been found beneath the surface, when sinking wells, that give no evidence of their presence by the formation of the upper soil. From the first pond, on Barnes' Ranch, to the old El Dorado Ranch, on Cache Creek, the evidences of the old creek bed are numerous and plain. The distance – some eight or nine miles – is marked at intervals with beds of gravel and deposits of sand stratas, and at points the old banks have not been entirely obliterated. the level character of the country, and the fact that the volume of water materially decreases from the time that it leaves the cañon and debouches on the plains, lends additional strength to the theory. In the summer the waters of Cache Creek disappear at intervals, or sink in the sand; and it is but reasonable to suppose that they follow the old channels far beneath the present surface. The hidden waters of Cottonwood Creek doubtless mingle with those of the larger stream, whose underground currents are not affected by the change of seasons.

During high water, when the heavy rains have swollen Cottonwood Creek to the dimensions of a powerful stream, and Cache Creek to a formidable river, their waters are united in the overflow, and Cache Creek discharges a large volume of water through the Cottonwood Plains, which finds an outlet to the tules through Willow Slough. At such times the slough is a mighty river, bearing on its turbulent bosom driftwood from the mountains, as well as fences which have been swept from the surrounding plains. When the floods have subsided, and Cache Creek has settled down within its regular channel, and Cottonwood Creek does not venture further than the shadows of the hills, Willow Slough resumes its placid expression, and remains with unchanged aspect until the floods again visit it.

During one of these periodical floods, in March, 1847, Joe Buzzy got into his canoe at the north door of Sutter's Fort and sailed through the tules and up Willow Slough to Gordon's Ranch, on the north side of Cache Creek, meeting no greater obstructions than the length of the current. Along the slough, or the two large bodies of water composing the main portion, the banks are well wooded, the trees and undergrowth thickly interlaced with wild grape and other vines, forming a pleasant shady retreat, where one can enjoy the sport of angling to his heart's content.

The fish, with which the stream is well furnished, consists of pike, chub, dace, sunfish, and a species of perch, very palatable and easy to capture. No trout is found in the stream, though it is evident that they could be cultivated to great advantage, especially the Lake Tahoe variety. Fish have been taken from the slough weighing five pounds, though the average are much smaller. No effort, as we have learned, has been made to demonstrate whether the slough contains large fish, though there is every indication that such is the case. The depth of the water, rarely disturbed by natural or artificial agencies, is favorable in the extreme to the various kinds of California fish which are invariably found on the bottom of deep streams, their habits never bringing them within range of shallow fishing.

On the farm of Dr. Ruddock, which embraces the ripple and the lower end of the first large body of water, are some very singular springs or wells, situated at some distance from the main slough and separated therefrom by high, firm grain land. These wells are circular in form, about sixty feet in diameter and three in number. Their depth has never been ascertained, but it is known that they reach at least to the level of the bottom of the slough, by which they are doubtless fed with water. These wells are supplied with fish, some of them being very large, of the same varieties as those found in the main stream. The general appearance of these wells is similar to the far-famed Humboldt wells, while the water is much superior to the taste for all uses. To those who imagine the plains present no objects of curiosity or interest worth examining we would recommend a visit to Willow Slough and the natural wells on Dr. Ruddock's farm, premising that, having done so, their minds would be disabused of their first and erroneous impression.

The sinuosities of the slough probably extend it to about fifteen miles in length, that is, that portion which is comprised within the limits spoken of – murmuring rivulets, deep and broad sheets of water, shady nooks and cosy, vine-laced bowers. A sail on the waters or a plunge in their cool and bracing depths will well repay one for visiting this locality.

At certain seasons of the year the wild duck can be found here in great numbers, as well as different varieties of the wild goose. At no season of the year is the slough destitute of ducks, but the wild goose only remains through the rainy season.

The value and importance of a body of water like that of Willow Slough can hardly be overestimated, especially so when we consider the general absence of pure, living surface water on the plains of this and other counties of the State. There is enough flowing over the riffle to supply two or three such towns as Woodland with pure, sweet, wholesome water, and, should that supply prove inadequate to the demand, nature has provided reservoirs which are capable of supplying half the county with water during the dry season. Perhaps, when Woodland shall have attained to the dignity of an incorporated city, and counts her inhabitants by thousands instead of hundreds, she will look toward this point as the source from whence she will draw a supply of wholesome water with which to provide for her population's comfort.

Elk Slough.

This slough is one of the outlets of the tule marshes, and is supplied entirely from their waters. During the summer there is no running water in it, and then it presents a series of long, deep ponds, unconnected with each other. The head of the slough approaches the river near the brick school-house, about nineteen miles below Washington. After various meanderings, and having maintained a southerly course, it reaches the river near the head of Sutter Slough, about six miles from its source. Along both banks of the slough is a narrow strip of garden and grain land, varying in width from fifty yards to one-half a mile. Between the river and the slough the tule marshes are shallow and could readily be reclaimed. Beyond the slough the marshes are deep, the water standing in large bodies all the season. This portion of the tules will probably remain in its present state for many years, and it is extremely doubtful whether any effort will ever be made to reclaim it.

The principal occupation of those who reside on the slough is stock-raising and dairying. But little grain is grown and but few gardens cultivated. Messrs. Hindsdill, Krull and Waterbury are engaged in dairying on a moderate scale. Further down the slough we find the King brothers, engaged extensively in stock. They also possess some fine grain fields. Still further down are several small ranches, where excellent crops of barley were raised this season.

At the ranch of Mr. Feran, where the arable belt is very narrow, we find an extensive aviary. Mr. Feran informs us that bees thrive exceedingly well when located on any part of the high lands bordering the slough. The dense undergrowth bordering its banks, the multitude of wild flowers and vines with which the undergrowth abounds, and the vast tule marshes filled with water plants, vines and flowers, afford a luxuriant harvest to the tiny laborers. At certain seasons of the year the honey-dew is deposited in large quantities on the belt of upland, affording another source from which they gather their sweet stores. There is something singular and at present unexplainable regarding the annual fall of this remarkable dew. We do not know of this phenomena existing elsewhere than in California, and we have never learned of any satisfactory reason for its annual appearance. Perhaps some of our savans will investigate the matter, and advance some theory regarding its origin. The honey-dew is found on the banks of the main sloughs of the river, also on the Sacramento, San Joaquin, and other rivers of the State, after they have entered the vast plains which form the great inland basin of California. the same feature may exist elsewhere in the State and out of it, for aught we know to the contrary; but if so, we have seen no mention made of the fact.

The wild blackberry grows in great profusion among both banks of the slough, attaining the finest flavor of any we have seen in the State. Thousands of gallons are annually gathered here and along the river for the Sacramento and San Francisco market, where they find ready sales and fair prices. It is probable that a profitable source of industry could be inaugurated by cultivating and improving the wild blackberry. The fruit arrives at maturity in its wild state in advance of any of the varieties now cultivated, and doubtless careful cultivation would improve both the quality, quantity and the time of maturity. The experiment is certainly worth trying.

Bable's Slough. (Note: AKA Babel's Slough)

This slough connects the tule with the Sacramento River, having its outlet in the marshes, about five miles from Bable's (sic) Ranch, where it leaves the river. Its course is southwest for about half its length, when it turns to the southeast, and follows that course until lost in the marshes. Along its banks are some good grazing, and, in ordinary seasons, grain farms. The breadth of land is wider than that of Elk Slough, though its average height is less, subjecting it more frequently to overflow. As it approaches the river, the land rises considerably, and at the river the banks have never been submerged. On the fifteenth of May, 1849, Mr. F. Babel (sic) settled at this point, and has remained there since. He was the first settler in this part of the county, and from him the slough derives its name. It has long been a noted point on the river – one of the old land-marks which has not changed with the intervening years. The old sycamore tree fronting the farm house can be seen for a long distance either way from the decks of the passing steamers. At the foot of this old sycamore, the bodies of two men were recovered, who were drowned in the floods of '62, and their bodies were buried near the roots of the old monarch of the river.

The floods which have at times swept over the low lands have never reached the high ground on which the buildings are situated, though portions of the farm have been submerged.

The land here, as well as that along the slough, is adapted to stock, and the ranchers in this locality follow this occupation. Babel's Ranch, Ristine's Ranch, and that of the Du Bose Brothers (further up the river), are fine stock farms, and some of the best stock in the county is found there.

Islands.

In connection with the lands bordering these sloughs, we will give a short description of one of the largest islands in the county, formed by one of the streams which we have named and the river. We refer to

Merritt's Island.

This island, from which Merritt Township takes its name, is formed by Sutter and Elk sloughs and the Sacramento River. It is bounded on the south by Sutter Slough, west and north by Elk Slough, and on the east by the Sacramento River. Elk Slough is filled, or partially so, at each end, and has no running water in the summer. Sutter Slough is a large arm of the river, but, owing to snags and other obstructions, is unnavigable.

Merritt's Island may be considered as the extreme southern part of the county, some few farms, however, lying on the other side of Sutter Slough. There are a few farms lying west of Elk Slough and on the northwestern bank of Sutter Slough that are as far to the southward as the southern end of Merritt's Island, and one or two extend a little below the southern line. By the river road from the extreme southern end of the island to Woodland is about forty-five miles, owing to the tortuous course of the river, whose banks present the only high ground on which a road could be located.

The island is about eight miles long, with an average width of two miles. Along the river, which has nearly a north and south course at this particular point, the garden, or high land, has an average width of about seventy rods, which is protected by a substantial levee, over which the highest floods have not risen. On Elk Slough the island has a frontage of high land, averaging about thirty rods in width, unprotected by a levee. The intervening land, between the slough and river, is a shallow tule swamp, in which but little water stands during the summer, affording excellent range for stock of all kinds. This land is very productive when cultivated, and were it reclaimed its value could hardly be overestimated. The island contains four thousand nine hundred and fifty-three acres, of which about three thousand are in tule.

During the dry year, when grain crops were almost a total failure through the county, Mr. Green broke a portion of this tule with three horses, and planted it to barley on the twenty-eighth of April. The yield was forty bushels to the acre. A plan is now under consideration by which the island may be reclaimed; and the project is certainly feasible. It is proposed to segregate the island from the district in which it is located, and create of it a separate swamp land district. Then, by leveeing on Elk and Sutter sloughs, joining the river levees at each end of the island, the back-water (which now causes the overflow) could be kept out and the whole body of the land be reclaimed. Whether this will be accomplished is probably simply a question of time, as most of the land-owners are in favor of the measure. The expense would be heavy, but the increased value of the land would more than compensate for the outlay. The island was settled in 1851, by J. B. Green, Mr. Cave and several others – some of whom still remain in their original locations.

While speaking of islands, it may be well to glance at

Grand Island,

The largest island in the county limits, and one of the largest in the Sacramento River. About twelve or fifteen miles in length of this island lies within the county limits, the remainder in Colusa County. It possesses a luxuriant soil, suitable for grains, orchards, gardens or grazing. The more elevated portions of the island are devoted to grain growing, the remainder to stock ranges. Some very fine orchards are on the island – one within the limits of Colusa County, of grand proportions.

Sycamore Slough

Is an arm or branch of the Sacramento River, which leaves the main bed in Colusa County, to find it again near Knight's Landing or Grafton. About fifteen miles of its course are within the borders of this county, the larger portion of which lies through tule marshes. During the season of high water, the slough is full and strongly defined, but during the summer there is no running water in its course. It does not possess high banks, like Elk or Babel Slough, with the exception of that portion near Knight's Landing, where are some splendid farms along its course.

Cache Creek.

This beautiful stream has its source in Clear Lake, Lake County. From thence it flows southeast, through Cache Creek Cañon for twenty miles, until it reaches the head of Capay Valley. Continuing its southeast course for about fifteen miles, it then turns to the eastward, and five miles from this point leaves Capay Valley and debouches on the plains. From Lang's its course is south of east for a few miles, or to the east end of the Gordon Grant, where it turns to the northward and, following a general northeast course, enters the tule swamps near Laugenour's Ranch, the "sink" being about twenty miles from where it left Capay Valley.

For the first twenty miles, through Cache Creek Cañon, the scenery is quite grand and impressive. Flowing through a rugged range of mountains, cleft asunder, as it were, from top to bottom, it presents precipitous walls of solid slate and granite bare of verdure, while, on either hand, the gulches and ravines which occasionally force their way through the solid walls, dark and gloomy in their wild grandness, are lined with a dense growth of chaparral. This is a favorite haunt for deer, bear and other game, who roam free and undisturbed in this wild region. The hunter rarely troubles them with his presence and the cañon is as free from the settler's influence to-day as it was when Mr. Gordon first ascended its rocky bed, thirty years ago. The stream is well supplied with fish of excellent varieties, but we note the absence of the mountain trout.

There is an abundance of water-power, which at some day will be turned to good account in driving machinery.

Through Capay Valley the stream winds among giant oaks, which dot vast fields of grain in inviting groves and pleasant retreats from the summer's scorching sun.

Without doubt the loveliest part of Yolo County is Capay Valley, when clothed with the verdure of spring and enlivened by the murmuring waters of Cache Creek, which meanders through it – at this time of the year a formidable river.

At the mouth of Capay Valley, or at Lang's, is the Hungry Hollow Ford, which is considered safe at most seasons of the year. Below this place are several fords at intervals, and at Cacheville and Nelson's Ranch are substantial bridges.

During the season of drought the creek bed is dry at intervals on the plains, owing to the water ditches which deploy the main volume of water form its natural bed, and to the general sinkage of the water in the sands. Still there is enough for stock purposes, standing in pools or springs. It also supplies the following

Agricultural Ditches.

There are three ditches located on Cache Creek, two of which are completed and in use.

The Cacheville Agricultural Ditch heads on the north side of the creek, about five miles above Cacheville. This ditch is used for irrigation and also as the motive power of Cacheville flour mills. Value, five thousand dollars.

The Woodland Agricultural Ditch, or Moore's Ditch, taps the creek on the south side, about ten miles from Woodland. This ditch is used solely for irrigation, covering that section of the county around Woodland and lying between that point and the creek. Value, ten thousand dollars.

Stephens' Ditch, which taps the creek on the south side, well up in Capay Valley, would afford water for a large scope of country around Cottonwood. This ditch has been partially completed, but, owing to the loss of the dam by floods, it is at present unused and unvalued.

Putah Creek.

This stream rises in Big Cañon, Lake County, about twelve miles from the source of Cache Creek, and follows in a southerly direction for several miles, when it turns to the eastward, and, after traversing a portion of Napa County, forms the southern boundary of Yolo County for about thirty miles, when it sinks in the tule marshes at Montgomery's Ranch, in Putah Township, about eight miles from its source.

The headwaters of Putah Creek, in Big Cañon, rise in one large spring, which gushes out from the mountain side about fifty feet above the bed of the gulch, clear, cold and sparkling as the waters of the Sierras. The volume of water measures two hundred and fifty inches, and is secured in ponds, ditches and reservoirs, forming Roberts' Trout Farm.

The cañon is alive with mountain trout, the larger of which reach a weight of three pounds. From this spring, through Big Cañon, the scenery is grand, wild and rugged. The mountains are covered with pine and oak, and a favorite resort for various kinds of wild animals, deer and bear predominating. After entering Putah Cañon the stream is increased in volume by the addition of several minor creeks, though at no time does it average in size with Cache Creek.

During the winter rains the creek rises very suddenly, often overflowing its banks and sweeping everything before it; but these floods last but for a few days, and often but for a few hours. The water-shed of this creek is much less than that of Cache Creek, which drains the whole of the Clear Lake Country.

Gardens of Putah Creek.

On Putah Creek are the famed early gardens of the State. These gardens are in both Yolo and Solano counties, and justly rank among the most valuable in the State. The produce from this section generally reaches San Francisco in advance of any other, and at a time when enormous prices are realized for fruit and vegetables. Peaches, grapes, pears, etc., ripen here from six to ten days in advance of any part of the State accessible to San Francisco, with the exception of Edgar's Garden, in Yolo County, which possesses the same advantages though situated in another part of the foothills. These gardens now afford profitable employment to a number of men, and they will doubtless be increased in size as fast as practicable, until the garden land of the foothills shall all be under cultivation.

Buckeye Creek.

This stream rises in the foothills of Buckeye Township, formed by Pine Cañon and Salt Arroyos. It is dry in summer, but in winter it has a channel of several miles in length, which traverses the plains in a westerly direction, its waters passing off through Deep Arroyo and Willow Slough to the tule marshes about fifteen miles from its source. Deep Arroyo is probably the old bed of Buckeye Creek, through which its waters found an uninterrupted channel to the slough in the olden time, when there was more water in these channels than has been known within the memory of the "oldest settler."

Cottonwood Creek.

This stream rises from a spring on Scott's Mountain Ranch, about seven miles from the plains, and follows a northeast course until it approaches the south corner of the Cañada de Capay Grant, when it turns to the southeast and is lost in the cottonwood plains. During the winter, when the channel is full, the waters of Cottonwood find their outlet in Willow Slough, twelve miles from where it enters the plains, nineteen or twenty miles from its source.

This stream is dry during the summer, with the exception of the main mountain spring and an occasional spring or pond-hole along its course, until it reaches the plains, where these disappear.

Dry Creek.

Dry Creek is formed by numerous arroyos and gulches, which, leaving the foothills in the northwestern part of the county, unite and form this stream near the base of the range. The general course of the stream is west northwest, for about fifteen miles from its source, where it discharges its winter floods in the tule marshes near Dunigan's Ranch. This stream is dry in the summer, as its name denotes, with the exception of a few springs in its mountain gulches; but during the winter rains, quite a large volume of water reaches the tules through its channel.

Water.

Yolo County is very well watered by the streams enumerated, sufficiently so to render it a good stock country; but, aside from that, it would be considered rather deficient in this necessary element. It is true that springs are rare on the plains, but water is readily obtained by boring in any locality. Around Woodland the water is hard, and strongly impregnated with mineral. The average depth at which water is obtained is about eighteen feet. The Court-house well is sunk one hundred and thirty feet, for the purpose of testing whether a flowing well could be obtained here as well as in other valleys, but the projectors quit their labors before the question was decided. At that depth a stream was struck which produces excellent water, though no colder than some other wells near by, of much less depth. In the section bordering the tules the water is from six to ten feet below the surface, but the wells are generally bored through the first stream and into the under channels, from twenty to thirty feet below the surface. In the vicinity of Putah Creek the wells average from twelve to fifteen feet, and the quality of the water is good, though hard. In the gravel-belt spoken of, the wells range from thirty feet downward, the well of Webster's Blacksmith shop being but eight feet deep, and the water rising within four feet of the surface. Around Cottonwood the wells average about twenty-two feet, and around Buckeye they are from two to five feet, the water rising within forty and forty-five feet of the surface. This is the case on Scott's Farm, where two wells but a mile apart present this difference. One is sunk one hundred and fifty feet, the water being within forty-five feet of the surface, while the other is sunk but forty-five feet and the water rises within thirty-five feet of the top. A mile from the latter well is one on the same ranch, twenty-five feet deep, and supplied with pure, soft water. We note another well about two miles from the latter, also soft water, and about the same depth. With but few exceptions the well water is hard throughout the county, and in some sections salt and brackish. Such is the case along a strip of land lying back of Knight's Landing and bordering on the tules marshes. The coldest well water obtained in the county is along the Sacramento river, where many wells are found whose waters resemble in taste those of the mountain springs. The average depth of water, as reached throughout the county, might be at twenty feet; the general quality hard and slightly mineral.

Sulphur Springs.

In Cottonwood Cañon, Salt Arroyo and in several localities among the foothills are several springs strongly impregnated with sulphur. None have been turned to any purpose as yet, the water not being in sufficient quantities to make them of much note. Their medicinal qualities have never been tested, except by thirsty wanderers, and the stock which frequent the water-places. The latter having never expressed an opinion regarding the merits of these waters, and as we have no other reliable authority on this point, we are compelled to remain silent.

Timber.

The county is comparatively well wooded, though large portions of it are bare of trees, especially portions of the plains. The foothills and mountains produce several varieties of timber, including oak and willow or nut-pine. Of shrubs, the manzanita, spice and nutmeg tree, wild plum and elder are in the ascendancy, though there are other varieties of less note. Among the oak family are the post or white oak, pin oak, shrub oak, red oak, black or mountain oak, burr oak and water oak. Two varieties – the black and red oak – furnish a very good substitute for Eastern oak in departments of manufacture. The post oak, both in the mountains and on the plains furnishes material for excellent posts, preferred by many to ordinary or brash redwood.

The willow pine is little used, it being valueless for any building purposes, where exposed to the weather or resting on the ground. There are large bodies of this timber which would eventually find a ready market were there means of cheap transportation between the cañon and points near the mining counties, where this wood is used extensively in the form of blocks or riffles, for the lining of the flumes and tail-races of the mining claims. In the mining sections this timber has been exhausted, and these blocks are now hauled on wagons for many miles, rendering them very expensive.

The laurel is occasionally found in the hills of this county, but not in quantities, or of size sufficient to render it of any interest or value. Yolo County may be said to possess no building or fencing timber within her limits, the quality and character of her timber rendering it suitable for wood alone. With proper care, the supply of wood is sufficient for all the county for many years to come, but in many parts this care is not exercised, and the county is fast being denuded of its chief beauty – its noble groves of oaks, which are cut into cord-wood and sent to other localities. Woodland, once surrounded by beautiful groves, is almost stripped of its chief ornament. The traveler who visited this county fifteen years ago could not fail of being favorably impressed with its well-wooded streams and the tracts of oak timber which marked the old water courses. Should he return now, he would find but a small portion of this peculiar beauty remaining. The Americans have justly been called the exterminators of timber. In no civilized country are the laws regarding the wanton waste of timber so loosely framed or so little regarded as in our own. And with the lessons of the past before us, we have not ceased in our insane efforts to destroy the only real beauty to be found on these plains. Thousands of cords of oak have been destroyed in this county by the timber being felled for brush fences and rotting in that position. Thousands of cords are annually wasted by the careless, wasteful manner in which the trees are worked into wood. And year by year the noble oaks are felled, long before their prime, that the money realized from their sales may be drawing interest for their former owners. A few years hence and the effect of this wanton destruction of timber will be felt, when Cache Creek and the plains shall be stripped of their groves and left bare and dreary.

All are aware, or should be, of the great influence exerted on the atmosphere, the water and the health of a community in the timber. Take, for example, the changes that have occurred, compare the present with the past of those lands once heavily timbered but now stripped of their forests. A scarcity of water, warmer summers, colder winters, and diseases before unknown are among the results plainly attributed to the destruction of the forests. There is an excuse for the total removal of timber from fields in countries where the necessities of agriculture demand it. But that excuse is not valid when urged in extenuation of the crime – for we can call it by no milder name – by which the plains are being shorn of their most valuable ornament. And we make this plea for the preservation of these grand old oaks from wanton destruction, in hopes that some lovers of nature may be induced to spare the timber as much and as long as possible, that the coming generations may partake of the natural beauties and advantages so lavishly bestowed on their ancestors. If this suicidal course is continued, and no timber planted, Yolo County will be compelled to import fire-wood ere fifty years shall elapse. And when groves of oaks are no more, the changes in climate, health and fertility will attest the folly of those who thus wantonly transgress the laws of nature and of reason. Plant timber; rather plant an acre than destroy a tree without just cause. If farmers would plant say ten or twenty acres of their one hundred and sixty, to timber of rapid growth, within ten, at the farthest fifteen, years these plains would become the loveliest part of the State. Aside from the advantages of health, comfort and beauty, these bodies of timber would become sources of great and lasting wealth. The locust, walnut, black walnut, white walnut or butternut, the pecan, and other valuable woods, grow readily and rapidly in this climate, and in a few years, by additional plantings to meet the expected cuttings, the large and constantly-increasing trade in Eastern hard lumber would be transferred to our own State, and millions of money annually expended abroad would be kept at home. The love of gain, which has caused the wholesale destruction of the timber, should induce men to plant more, even if no other inducement were offered. Remember that the large timber of California sprouts not when felled; that a grove once felled has passed away forever.

We propose now to consider some of the various productions of this county, that are not generally raised elsewhere.

Peanuts.

In 1853, Dr. Joshua S. Curtis brought fifty pounds of peanuts from New Orleans and planted them in his garden, on the Sacramento River, one and a half miles below Washington. This was the first experiment of raising peanuts in this State. This effort proving successful, the Doctor followed it up the succeeding year on a more enlarged scale, and has continued in business since. During the first few years the experiment proved very remunerative, and several others engaged in the enterprise.

As the product became larger the price decreased, until a much smaller margin for profit was left the producer; but still the amount planted increases annually. This year there are about forty acres planted on the ranches of the Doctor and his son. The first lot shipped to San Francisco brought twenty-five cents per pound, at that price yielding an income of five hundred dollars per acre. Gradually the price has decreased, the lowest point reached being eight cents per pound. Last year's crop brought ten cents, though a few Chinamen gardeners sold for eight cents.

The average yield on favorable soil is one ton per acre, though the crop sometimes is heavier. The nuts are planted in hills like potatoes, and cultivated in much the same manner. The vines are covered twice, leaving but the ends above the surface. This causes a new setting of nuts at each covering. It is supposed that the crop is sure, as no failure has been known where the vines were properly cultivated and planted in congenial soil.

The soil required for successful cultivation is a loose, sandy loam, such as is suitable for sweet potatoes. When planted in this kind of soil and properly attended, the result has, so far, been very flattering.

It is not likely that the demand for this article will induce the raising of the nut for export. The home market will constitute the demand, and that is in a measure quite limited. Owing to the facility with which they are grown (one man can take care of from five to seven acres, except during harvest), the home market has been already closed to importers and fully supplied with the State product. There was none imported last year, and probably will not be during the present season. The sales in San Francisco alone reached over fifty thousand dollars last season, and the main part of the nuts thus sold were raised in Yolo County.

From the small beginning of fifty pounds, planted by Dr. Curtis in 1853, has sprung up an annual trade of about three hundred tons, grown in this county. If it were not probable that the market would be easily over-crowded, many more acres would be planted annually, for there is a deal of land along the river and creeks suitable for this plant. Owing to the price of labor, it will not be found profitable to grow them for export.

There is one peculiarity about the peanut culture, noted by those who have followed the business for years. It does not seem to injure the land, or detract from the natural strength of the soil in the least, but, on the contrary, seems to keep the soil loose and lively, leaving it enhanced in value by the thorough cultivation necessary to eradicate the weeds and keep it in a healthy condition.

Silk Culture.

From I. N. Hoag we have received a comprehensive account of the silk interest in this county. We commend it to the careful perusal of our readers, as it embodies the experience of one who has been long and earnestly engaged in the business, as well as the experience of all prominent sericulturalists in the county. Coming, as it does, from one actively engaged in the business, it possesses a value far above the crude opinions or hasty sketches of the uninitiated writer on the subject.

While the feeding of the silk-worm as an experiment, and upon a small scale, had been followed by the late Louis Prevost, in Santa Clara County, for a number of years previous to its introduction into any other county of the State, Yolo County has the undoubted honor of introducing this rich industry as a matter of real, legitimate and lucrative business. In 1867, the writer, having become satisfied of the adaptability of our soil and climate to the prosecution of this branch of husbandry, and desiring to add one more to the limited list of agricultural products of our State, planted ten acres of land, situated on the Sacramento River, about two miles above the Town of Washington, with mulberry cuttings and seed. The cuttings were very successful – but a very small proportion of the seed planted grew. However, as a result of the enterprise, he produced about half a million of thrifty trees. These trees were grown partly for his own use in the production of silk, and partly for sale; but as no one had yet made a financial success in feeding silk-worms in the State, Mr. Hoag found no demand for his trees, as he had hoped, during the winter and spring of 1868. During the spring and summer of that year, however, he fed the levees from the trees produced from his morus multicaulis cutting on three and one-half acres of land (the trees then being a little more than one year old) to the worms produced from about ten ounces of silk-worm eggs; and, as a financial result, he made a net profit, over and above all expenses of feeding, of three thousand four hundred and forty-eight dollars. The time occupied in feeding the worms and preparing the product for sale was only about six weeks, commencing on the first of June and ending on the twenty-fifty of July.

It will be seen that the trees from which the leaves were picked were only a little over one year old from the first cuttings. The success of this first real business operation in this industry called the public attention to it more effectually than would thousands of pages of finely-written arguments in its favor, and in 1869 there were many plantations of mulberry trees started in almost all portions of the State. Among the largest and most important of these is that of the California Silk Culture Association, located near Davisville, in this county. This company is composed mostly of San Francisco capitalists, and it was organized through the energy and enterprise of our indomitable fellow-citizen, C. W. Reed, who is himself a large owner in the concern. The company's mulberry plantations now cover one hundred acres of land and contain about six hundred thousand trees from two to three years old. They have erected two large and well-arranged cocooneries; one in the spring of 1869, and the dimensions of which are thirty by one hundred feet square on the ground and two stories high. The other was built in 1870 and is much larger and better. Both are capable of accommodating the worms from over one hundred ounces of eggs at the same time. In the spring of 1869, the same year in which the trees were planted, the company made about a million cocoons, most of which they reeled, producing some of the finest raw silk ever shown in any country. In the spring of 1870 they made over two millions of cocoons, a portion of which were allowed to hatch and reproduce eggs to the number of some three thousand ounces. The eggs have nearly all been sold at an average of four dollars per ounce, for export to Europe.

Encouraged by their success so far, the company have determined to extend their operations, both as to the size of their plantations and the number of the cocooneries. They will also add buildings and machinery for reeling silk on a large scale.

Mr. Hoag has also extended his plantation, so that the ground now occupied by his trees is about fifty acres and the trees number about two hundred thousand, between three and four years old. He has three cocooneries, one fifty feet square, one fifty by sixty and the other thirty-six by forty, capable of feeding the worms from eighty to one hundred ounces of eggs. His trees are about half multicaulis and half moretti or alba.

Besides the above, there are within the county other establishments for the cultivation of silk, on a less formidable scale, among which may be mentioned that of H. G. Ballou, on the Sacramento River, four miles above Washington. Mr. Ballou commenced in the spring of 1869. He has about twenty thousand trees, covering some ten acres of land. The success of Mr. Ballou has also been very gratifying. He gives as the result of his first year's feeding, from a limited number of trees, a net profit at the rate of seven hundred and sixty dollars per acre.

James Haworth, some two miles below Washington, has a plantation of about ten thousand trees, and has been engaged in feeding worms for the past three years with uniform success. Dr. C. Ruddock, of Willow Slough, and James Edgar, of Cottonwood, and a number of others in the county, have a limited number of trees, and we are informed that many others will engage in the business the coming year.

While Sacramento, Santa Clara, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and other counties have been wide awake in the introduction of this valuable industry, we believe Yolo is still justly entitled to be set down as the banner county of the State in silk culture.

It has been shown by the experiments and operations above cited that silk culture can be very profitable entered upon as an exclusive business, yet we believe it would be found one of the most valuable and remunerative products of every farm carried on in connection with other industries. Its active operations cover but a very small portion of time each year, and that time is in the spring, when other farming occupations in this State require but little attention. The expense of making a beginning is but a mere trifle for trees, and every farmer can so manage as to use some portion of his dwelling or some of his out-buildings for the short time required each year. The work of feeding the worms being light and mostly in-doors, can be done by the women and children of the family, and thus, with almost no increase of capital and with no additional expense for labor, every farmer in the county might, by engaging in the culture of silk, add materially to his annual income and increase the comforts of his household.

As Yolo County has been the first to successfully introduce the business and render it remunerative, we hope she may be the first to render that business general among her agriculturists. We are assured that our grain-growing districts are well adapted to the successful growth of the trees, they being of a hardy nature, like cottonwood, and that the leaves grown on trees in a hard, dry soil will produce the best quality of silk.

Another source of wealth which furnishes employment to several of our citizens is but little understood. From the meager data before us we give the following very imperfect sketch of the

 

[ TOP OF PAGE ]
yolmail.gif - 14.9 K Peggy B. and Patrick Perazzo
Horizontal Bar - 16.7 K
Copyright 1996- - All Rights Reserved.