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Transcription of

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

Compiled and published annually
C. P. Sprague & H. W. Atwell,
Woodland, Yolo County, 1870, 602 pp.

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

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History of Yolo County

Geographical Outlines.

Yolo County is bounded on the north by Colusa and Sutter Counties; on the east by Sutter and Sacramento; on the south by Solano and Napa, and on the west by Napa and Lake counties. It is separated from Sacramento and Sutter counties by the Sacramento river; from Solano by Putah Creek, and from Lake and Napa by the summit of a spur of the coast range of mountains.

Upon the organization of the county by the Legislature, in 1850, the boundaries were not very minutely defined; but sufficiently designated to show that they have not been materially changed.

Whatever legislation there has been since the organization of the county upon the subject of its boundaries, has apparently been more for the purpose of explaining what was intended by the original Act, than for the purpose of making any material changes in its actual boundaries.

Although several Acts have been passed for that purpose, one of which was as late as the session of 1867-8, perhaps there are none more definite than the Act of March 26th, 1857, which is as follows: "The boundary line of Yolo county shall commence at a point in the middle of the Sacramento river, near the head of Merritt's on Steamboat Slough, at a point where the township line, between township number five and township number six, north of the Mount Diablo base line intersects said river; thence running due west with said township line to the range line, between range number two and range number three, east of the meridian of Mount Diablo; thence due north with said range line to the south branch or old bed of Putah Creek; thence westerly up the middle of the old bed, as well as the main Putah Creek, to a point in the cañon where the highest ridge of mountains divides the valleys of Sacramento and Berryessa; thence along the highest ridge of said mountains, north to the outlet of Clear Lake, or until it intersects a line dividing the counties of Yolo and Colusa; thence east with said line to the middle of Sacramento River; thence south along the middle of said river to the place of the beginning."

That section of country thus bounded and embracing the County of Yolo, has its greatest length from northwest to southeast, measuring on an air line in that direction a distance of fifty-eight miles.

The county has been wholly surveyed and sectionized, from north to south, from Colusa County to Solano County line, a distance varying from twenty-seven to thirty-three miles. It has been surveyed due west from a point on the Sacramento River opposite Sacramento City, a distance of thirty-three miles, that being the greatest width of the surveyed portion of the county – there being an average width from east to west of about twenty-seven and a half miles, except that portion extending south of the sink of Putah Creek, as shown by the map.

The extent of the survey westward may, for all practical purposes, be considered the western boundary of the county, for beyond that survey the mountains are rugged and rocky, and wholly unfit for cultivation or grazing. That portion of the county which has been segregated or sectionized, covers an area of about nine hundred and forty square miles, which, perhaps for average productiveness of soil, is nowhere surpassed, and it may be considered capable of supporting as many inhabitants to the square mile as any portion of the country, and we will venture here to digress so far as to observe that, with a population as dense as an average of some of the Eastern States, the number of Yolo's inhabitants would exceed one hundred thousand.

Except for a distance of three or four miles along the western line of the surveyed portion of the county, the whole surface presents the appearance of a perfectly level plain, extending from Colusa County on the north to Solano on the south, from the Sacramento River on the east to the low hills at the foot of the mountains on the west, with a descent so gradual from the mountains to river as not to be perceptible to the naked eye.

This plain is only broken by a few creeks and ravines, which are but trenches worn into the earth by the action of water as it has drained from the mountains during the rainy seasons, except Cache Creek, of which we shall presently speak. We should further state that it is broken by a low, gravelly ridge (which does not amount to the dignity of a hill), extending about half way through the county, northwest to southeast, and being from one to two miles in width.

Along the bank of the Sacramento River there is a strip of land varying in width from a few rods to one or two miles, of a rich, sandy loam, unsurpassed in its productiveness of fruits and cereals. Adjoining this, and further from the river, is a strip of tule and salt-grass land, from half a mile to three or four miles in width, of a black, clayey soil, impregnated with alkali, unfit for cultivation and only used for grazing purposes. Then comes the great body of farming lands of the county. The soil may be designated as a black, clayey loam, intermingled with a small portion of sand, and it appears to be especially adapted to the growth of wheat and barley, whilst grapes and other fruits grow luxuriantly. Such soil is of the great body of the county, though the low ridge we have mentioned is a red, gravelly clay, not so productive as the former, yet by no means a poor quality of land.

Cache Creek is the only stream of water of note in the county. West of the mountain spur forming the boundary line, and in the midst of the coast range, is a basin, in which is situated Lake County, and that beautiful sheet of water, some forty miles in length, known as Clear Lake, the outlet of which is Cache Creek, which appears to have marvelously cut its way through that high mountain range, for the purpose of transporting alluvium to fertilize the soil of Yolo. As it has merged from the mountains in ages past, it appears to have washed away the hills on either side, and formed that beautiful and productive district of country now known as Capay Valley. It appears to have taken nearly a direct course to empty the waters of Clear Lake into the Sacramento River; but, ere it reaches its apparent destination, its waters are spread out upon the surface of the soil, and are made to disappear by natural absorption and evaporation. The county for the most part may be said to be destitute of timber, yet there are belts of stately oaks along the borders of Cache Creek, on the banks of the Sacramento River, and on the low hills at the foot of the mountains, sufficient, with proper economy, to supply the county with fuel for a long series of years.

The pen would utterly fail to convey an adequate idea of the native beauty of that district of country, a brief geographical outline of which we have given, especially to one whose travels have been confined to the States east of the Rocky Mountains. Imagination would hardly picture a country more attractive to the pioneer – a country whose soil is more productive of agricultural staples, whose climate is more healthful, and whose native growth of vegetation are more luxuriant.

Prior to the settlement of this section of country, it is said that the horseback traveler, whilst sitting upon his animal, might bend the tops of wild oats over his shoulders, the roots being still uncovered from the ground. Less than thirty years ago this country, possessing, if we may use the expression, such mines of agricultural wealth, was the abode only of wild beasts. Here the grizzly bear roamed in his majesty over the plains and upon the mountain side, undisturbed by the encroachment of man or beast, conscious of his superior prowess and of the inability of all other animals to cope with him, he proclaimed himself lord of all he surveyed, and neither the native inhabitants nor brute animals of the country invited him to bend his course for their convenience. Here the elk, the deer and the antelope, congregated in droves of hundreds and thousands, grazed upon the rich fields of wild oats, ruminated in the shade of stately oaks, bathed in the limpid waters of Cache Creek and of the Sacramento River, undisturbed by the crack of the hunter's rifle, and unconscious of the dangers that awaited them. Here the prowling wolf came down from his mountain haunts in pursuit of his prey – the hare, ground-squirrel and, perhaps, occasionally a deer or an antelope; here worked the industrious beaver at the mouths of Cache Creek and Putah Creek and along the Sacramento River, undisturbed by the trapper and the hunter. In the district of country we are describing, there were two solitary camps of Indians – the one on Grand Island, toward the northern boundary of the county, and the other in a small valley over the first range of hills from Cache Creek Cañon or Capay Valley. These were of the lowest order of native Americans, indolent and inactive, and in intelligence but little higher than the brutes, clover blossoms and grasshoppers, with such small game as they could kill with their arrows.

Chapter II. – From 1841 to 1848.

What boy has not listened with pleasant emotions to tales of pioneer life as related by his grandfather, his father or other aged relatives or friends? What child's pulse has not quickened and eye moistened while listening to stories of privations and sorrows, toils and hardships, accidents and dangers, incident to the early settlement, of every country? Who, in maturer years, does not delight to dwell upon those themes with which he has become familiar by the oft-repeated tales of his sire or grandsire, and especially when they relate to the early settlement of one's native or adopted country?

Even at this early day, doubtless, many items of interest in the history of this and other countries of the State have been lost to memory, and without the adoption of some means of preserving a record of the facts, in a few years more they would be entirely forgotten, or be known only in tradition.

The history of a county being inseparably connected with that of the State in which it is located, and with the lives and experiences of its inhabitants, it will be impractical, if not impossible, to confine ourselves strictly to institutions wholly within the limits of the county, or to persons whose residences have been within its borders. Countries are usually settled by those whose love of adventure and attachment to the frontier, more than avarice, prompts them to press forward into regions uninhabited and comparatively unexplored; such was the character and disposition of the early settlers of Yolo County – the most conspicuous of whom was Mr. William Gordon, now a resident of Lake County, to whom we are indebted for many of the facts and incidents we are about to relate. Mr. Gordon may be considered the first white settler of the county, who, so to speak, planted here the germ of civilization, who set examples of industry and morality worthy of emulation by any people.

Before referring, however, to particulars regarding his settlement here, we will relate a tolerably well-authenticated story of one who settled here at a much earlier date: It is said, when Mr. Gordon and his party reached the borders of Yolo County, there were at the head of Grand Island two or three half-breed Indians, who were the descendants of a Scotchman; that some thirty years prior to the arrival of the Gordon party, the Scotchman referred to was a sailor upon an English vessel who landed in the harbor of what is now San Francisco; that he, either in fact or in his imagination, was maltreated by the officers of the ship, and so determined, rather than endure such usage, to leave the vessel and cast his destiny alone, in a country only inhabited by ferocious beasts and the lowest order of barbarians. Like Robinson Crusoe, upon the Island of Juan de Fernandes, he wandered forth in quest of associates until he reached Grand Island, now a part of Yolo County, where he fell in with the tribe of Indians before referred to, took up his abode with them, and, after the Indian style of marriage, took to himself a wife, with whom he lived several years (begat the half-breeds referred to, who, in 1841, were from twenty-five to thirty years of age), and died without ever again visiting the sea-shore or being able to communicate his experience and destiny to his fellow-sailors or to his relatives and friends in the Old World. Such is the story as we have learned it from one who informs us that the facts were communicated to him by said half-breed sons of the red-headed Scotchman. This story is corroborated to a certain extent from the following facts: In the year 1851, on the west bank of Feather River, a few miles distant from where these half-breeds resided, a stone was found of a reddish gray color, about ten inches in length, four inches in width and one inch thick, on which were engraved the following letters and figures: "1818 – Gold cave, in this M. Ship – Lodes, L. M." Whether the Scotchman referred to, in his rambles in that early day, placed the inscription there after having discovered lodes of gold, hoping that at some future day it might be instrumental in making known his fate to his friends, will doubtless ever remain an unsolved mystery. The stone may be seen at any time at the rooms of the California Pioneer Association at San Francisco. Taking this circumstance in connection with the fact that the half-breeds were actually discovered as above related, we are inclined to the belief that there is something in the story. If but little truth, there is at least a good deal of romance. But to return to Mr. Gordon. He was born in Ohio in the year 1800, while that State was yet a Territory, and much of it a vast, uninhabited wilderness. In his earliest infancy, being thus accustomed to frontier life, love of adventure became his ruling passion, and now, at the age of threescore years and ten, he is never happier than when with his favorite rifle he is roaming over the mountains in pursuit of wild game, and but few young men are able to cope with him in the chase. At an early age he emigrated to the Territory of Missouri, and before he was twenty-three years of age he went to New Mexico, and became a citizen of that country, and though he religiously adhered to her laws and never uttered a disloyal sentiment or cherished an unkind thought towards his adopted government, we shall see that the familiar couplet –

"Of all the lands from East to West,
I love my native land the best,"

Would have been as appropriate a quotation with him as with others.

For the purpose of effecting permanent settlements in California and perpetuating the dominions of Mexico over that territory, the Mexican Government has provided, upon certain prescribed conditions, for making very liberal grants of land to actual settlers in this country. Amongst the conditions upon which these lands were granted we may note the following: The applicant was required to be a Mexican citizen, either native or adopted, or must have married a Mexican wife (in which case the land was granted in the name of the wife). He was required to reduce the land to actual occupancy, either by cultivation or grazing; must erect a dwelling-house of prescribed value and dimensions on every square league; must maintain a good reputation, possess a good moral character, and if he acquired his land by the means of marrying one of the daughters of Mexico, he must provide well for his family and supply all their reasonable wants, if within his power to do so.

Mr. Gordon's love of adventure and the inducements thus held out by the Mexican Government, prompted him, early in the spring of 1841, after having secured a grant of two square leagues of land (three miles in width and six in length), to invest his limited means in a few head of stock cattle and some horses and start with a party of men overland to California.

In this party were Mr. Gordon, who now resides in Lake County; Messrs. Workman and Roberts, who now reside at Los Angeles; Mr. William Knight, who subsequently settled at Knight's Landing, in this county, and died at Knight's Ferry, on the Stanislaus River, in what is now Stanislaus County, in 1849 or 1850. There were in the party four heads of families, the whole consisting of twenty-five persons, of whose destinies we have not been able to learn, except of those mentioned above.

Late in the fall of 1841 this little party, after having traversed a country almost unknown to civilization for many long and weary months, with nothing to disturb the monotony of their toils, arrived at an old mission opposite San Diego, where they took up their winter quarters. In the spring of 1842 the party separated; Mr. Knight returned to Mexico to procure a wife and a grant of land, and Mr. Gordon and his family pushed forward with their stock into what is now Yolo County.

Before crossing the Sacramento they went to the quarters of Gen. John A. Sutter, who has been located there about eighteen months, and had completed his fortifications against the Indians, who gave Mr. Gordon and his family a cordial and hospitable welcome. But they did not remain many days at the fort before they crossed the Sacramento and settled on what is to this day known as the Gordon Grant, about ten miles west from the present flourishing town of Woodland. Here Mr. Gordon and his family resided the best part of a year before there were any other inhabitants of what is now Yolo County.

His time was spent in trapping beaver and dressing their pelts, hunting other wild game, such as elk, deer and antelope, preparing their hides for market, "jerking" and drying their flesh, herding his cattle, etc., not slaughtering any of his domestic animals, but suffering them to increase as rapidly as their natures and the prolific climate would admit of. The supplies of his family consisted principally of wild game, and Mr. Gordon informs us that this was the happiest year of his life.

When he was on his way from Mexico he first heard of the conflict of arms in Texas, which resulted in her independence and final annexation to the United States, and was a part of that series of events that brought about the acquisition of California by the United States and the settlement of Mr. Gordon's immediate neighborhood by people from his native land.

It was not the fate of Mr. Gordon long to remain without neighbors, though they were not located so near him as to be particularly troublesome. They were as follows: Mr. Thomas O. Larkin, now a resident of Monterey, in 1842 obtained and settled upon a grant of five leagues of land, where the town of Colusa now stands, about fifty-five miles north of his (Gordon's) residence.

The same year Mr. Thomas settled on a grant at the mouth of Thoms' Creek, about one hundred miles north of Colusa, or one hundred and fifty miles from Gordon's; and soon after Mr. Shards located a grant near Thoms'. The following year, in 1843, a Mr. Toombs located at Napa, about seventy miles, and Mr. Wolfskill on Putah Creek about twelve miles south, and William Knight about fifteen miles northeast from Gordon's – the last two being within the limits of what is now Yolo County. This for years constituted the neighborhood of the early settlers, but in 1845 Mr. Hardy obtained a grant of eight leagues of land adjoining Gordon's on the east. But we should have mentioned that don Antonio Armijo settled upon a grant at Suisun about forty miles south in the year 1841.

At an early day one Berryessa obtained a grant of what is now known as Berryessa Valley, and his brother located a grant in what is now Yolo County, and is designated as the Rancho Cañada de Capay or Capay Valley, which afterwards was purchased by Messrs. Arnold, Gillig & Rhodes. A man by the name of McDowell settled where Washington now stands in 1844 or 1845, and established a gunsmith shop, where he repaired guns for his neighbors until the discovery of gold. He was killed in a drinking saloon in Sacramento in 1849.

We believe we have mentioned the names of all the actual settlers of the county previous to 1849 (though there were numbers of adventurers traveling through who temporarily sojourned with the settlers). Let us turn our attention to their avocations.

From the date of these first settlements until about the time of the discovery of gold, money was comparatively unknown to the stock-men and grantholders. The few heads of cattle that had been driven here had increased to herds of thousands. Elk had been slain by thousands, and their hides, which were worth four dollars each, prepared for market. Innumerable beavers were also captured, whose hides in barter were of the value of about six dollars each. The vast herds of cattle were watched and attended by Indians under a species of peonage, as they were forced away from their tribes and compelled to perform these services, but received as a compensation about six dollars per month in whatever articles the employers could dispense with. There were no courts in the country, and none were needed, for there were no crimes committed and no commercial contracts to be violated. What books the settlers had brought with them had been read and re-read until every page was memorized. Very small patches of corn had been produced and ground in a hand-mill and prepared for food. Stockmen had imported some thoroughbred animals as early as 1844, for the purpose of improving their breeds. Mr. Gordon, in 1844, purchased two Berkshire sows and their families, whose increase amounted to large droves. He gave for the sows two fine horses, and before the gold discovery he sold from these a large number of brood sows at one hundred dollars each.

A short time previous to the discovery of gold, these scattered settlers had commenced a rapid accumulation of money. Their families were well clothed and well fed; their Indian serfs lived in luxury. No bar-room broils and gambling bickerings were known; no jails and penitentiaries were required; no public hospital in which the poor were cared for, because there were no poor to be thus supported; there were no disputes about landmarks and no neighborhood babblings. Peace and quiet reigned supreme. Why should not the people have been happy?

The reader may pause to imagine from what source these settlers had derived their surplus money – where was the market for the thousands of cattle, elk and beaver hides, we have mentioned? Whence came the thoroughbred cattle and swine? How were the clothing and provisions obtained that families possessed in such abundance? We answer, hide-dealers or traders came regularly with their trading ships to San Francisco (where there were but two or three adobe houses in 1841); thence they would send out their ships' launches with cargoes up the streams and sloughs and exchange them for the produce of the country, such as hides, furs, tallow and dried meat, and occasionally some live stock.

About the time these traders were expected (and they came very regularly), the slaughter of the herds began; hides were cured, tallow rendered and the meat dried. Then rude trucks or carts were loaded with the products and drawn by oxen to the rivers or sloughs, where the ships' launches could reach them, and these exchanges were effected. The nominal prices of the exports that they there obtained were about as follows: Cattle hides, two dollars; elk hides, four dollars; beaver hides, six dollars; dried meats and tallow, ten cents per pound. For these the settlers received in exchange clothing of any desired quality, flour, rice, tobacco, sugar, tea, coffee, salt, spices, dried fruits, and, in short, everything in the line of clothing or provisions that their necessities required.

After a few years the settlers were able to export more than enough to pay for their required imports, and the balance they received in cash, and thus before the mines were discovered had commenced accumulating actual cash.

We will here relate a few disconnected incidents, and then pass on to a later period in our history. In March, 1847, a man by the name of Joseph Buzzle started in a canoe from Sutter's Fort, in Sacramento County, paddled his canoe across the Sacramento River, across the country in the County of Yolo, and to the very door of Mr. Gordon's dwelling, ten miles west of Woodland – an incident destitute of interest to persons unacquainted with the country, but of astounding interest to many of the present settlers.

In June, 1846, the owners of the Ranch Cañada de Capay had not yet asserted their rights thereof, and those few persons who were temporarily stopping in what is now Yolo County, had no knowledge of the claim. Mr. W. L. Todd, now a resident of the county, a William W. Roulette, with his wife, one G. J. Scott and his brother, W. W. Scott, built a cabin on that grant. We have said that Don Antonio Armijo was a grantholder at Suisun; he had produced a few acres of wheat, and as he had no means of harvesting it, except by cutting it by hand with knives, he with a few men went to the cabin above referred to, stopped for the night, got Todd and Scott to reinforce his party – in all consisting of thirteen persons – and went to Grand Island to capture some Indians to harvest his wheat. When this object was accomplished, on their return they stopped at Mr. Gordon's residence. At this time the war was raging between the United States and Mexico, but not a blow had yet been struck in California.

General Vallejo was in command of a company of five Mexican soldiers at Sonoma. When Don Armijo arrived at Gordon's with his party, some of them were informed by him (Gordon) that Captain Merritt had started from the "Buttes," and on the following day would take Sonoma; but the rumor was withheld from Armijo, on account of his being a native-born Mexican citizen. The little party then went and joined Merritt at Sonoma; this was the first town captured from the Mexicans in California.

In the capture of the place General M. C. Vallejo (subsequently a delegate to the State Constitutional Convention and member of the first Legislature of California), Captain Don Salvador Vallejo, Colonel Victor Pruden, Don Jacob P. Leese and Don Julio Carrello, were taken prisoners of war and sent to Sutter's Fort. On the fourteenth of June, 1846, this little handful of men proclaimed California a free and independent republic, and on that day hoisted their flag, known as the "bear flat"; this consisted of a strip of worn-out cotton domestic, furnished by Mrs. Kelley, bordered with a red flannel, furnished by Mrs. John Sears, who had fled from some distant part to Sonoma for safety, upon hearing of the war that had been thus commenced. In the center of the flag was a representation of a bear, en passant, painted with Venetian red, and in one corner was painted a star of the same color. Under the bear were inscribed the words "Republic of California," put on with common writing ink. This flag is preserved by the California Pioneer Association, and may be seen at their rooms in San Francisco. It was designed and executed by W. L. Todd.

Subsequently, the American flag was substituted for the "Bear flag," William B. Idle was left in command of a little garrison to guard Sonoma, and most of the company went and joined Fremont, and with him went on to Lower California.

When, subsequently, the treaty of peace was made, whereby California was ceded to the United States, all the grand-holders acquiesced, and many, doubtless, inwardly rejoiced, but no outward demonstrations of joy were discoverable, and quiet was maintained amongst the people, out of respect to their neighbors of Mexican birth.

When John C. Fremont was occupying California, about the year 1847, and Commodore Stockton was in the Territory, one M. M. Wambough was paymaster, or otherwise had possession of Stockton's money, he professed to have been assailed, overcome and robbed, by a crowd of bandits. The money was gone, but Wambough returned, his hat having been pierced by many bullets. Subsequently, and after the organization of the State Government, application was made to the Legislature for relief, and the hat was brought before that body in proof of the robbery. It is said that the relief bill was about to pass, when the late David C. Broderick rose in his seat and holding the hat in his hand exclaimed: "had it not been for a miraculous intervention of Providence, the assailed must necessarily have lost his life" – pointing to a hole on one side of the hat and then upon the other side – "the bullet which entered here, passed there through the crown of the hat near the band and, had not providence caused the missile curve over the top of his head, it must necessarily have passed through the center of the brain." The bill did not pass, and it was subsequently shown that, soon after the supposed robbery, Wambough had passed through Yolo and stayed over night with Mr. Gordon, and had attempted to exchange a large amount of silver for gold, rendering probable that the alleged robbery was but a sham. We have not examined the legislative journals to ascertain whether any record of the affair has been preserved, and do not know to what extent this account may be relied upon. We have related it as we received it.

Chapter III. – From 1848 to 1870.

On the nineteenth day of January, 1848, John A. Sutter and his partner, James W. Marshall, were engaged in the construction of a saw-mill, on the south fork of the American River, at a place now called Coloma, in El Dorado County, about forty-five miles eastward from where the City of Sacramento now stands. On that day Mr. Marshall, who yet resides at Coloma, was engaged in removing obstructions from the mill-race, when he made the first discovery of gold in California of which we have any account. There was no mistaking the character of the mineral discovered.

Mr. Marshall knew it to be gold. He very correctly judged that if the fact were revealed to his employees, that all other business would be abandoned for the pursuit of gold. He attempted to keep the discovery a secret, for a time, but it was found in too great abundance – the secret could not be kept. The intelligence was soon conveyed to the scattered inhabitants of the Territory of California, and then the gold excitement had fairly commenced. It is hardly probable that Mr. Marshall, on the morning of the nineteenth of January, 1848, had ever imagined that he, on that day, was to be made the instrument that should revolutionize the commercial world; that he should make a discovery that would be the direct cause of uniting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans with bands of iron; that should, in time, be a commercial highway for all parts of the earth, populate three-fourths of the Continent, open a commerce with the Continent of Asia, with South America and the Islands of the Pacific, unprecedented with them; that should send to the American shores men of every clime, whose national characters and love of home, under any other imaginable circumstances, would have impelled them to remain in their native lands. But such was the fact.

News of the wonderful discovery was carried, as if by magic, to all parts of the civilized world, and became the topic of conversation in every family and social circle, and the theme of speculation amongst capitalists and commercial men.

The inhabitants of Yolo, from twenty-five to thirty in number, all went in search of gold, and these rich agricultural regions were depopulated. Discoveries followed each other in quick succession, until the vast fields of placer gold mines were developed. Merchants and speculators saw that the nearest points to the gold mines upon navigable streams would inevitably be the sites of future towns and cities, or, in other words, that the heads of navigation were the most feasible localities for furnishing supplies to the mining communities.

For the supply of the rich placers on the American and its branches, the point where Sacramento City was located was the most accessible. In the same year the rich placers on Feather and Yuba rivers were developed, and fortunate indeed would be the man who should discover and secure the town site, most accessible to those mines, that could at the same time be reached by vessels of fair tonnage. At this time, as we have remarked, the few settlers of what is now Yolo County, had left for the mines. At a point on the Sacramento River, where the Feather River empties into that stream, was the head of navigation. Here the Feather River was fordable.

This was the nearest point to the mines of Feather River and the Yuba that could be reached by vessels of sufficient size to supply their wants. Here, on the Yolo side of the Sacramento, the land was high, and furnished an inviting locality for a town. At this place, which is now called Fremont, occupies a conspicuous place in the history of Yolo County, we shall speak of its settlement, of its progress and final fall, with such incidents as are immediately connected therewith, without attempting, in the same connection, to keep in view other contemporaneous occurrences of the county.


About the first of March, 1849, Mr. Jonas Spect freighted a small schooner with merchandise at San Francisco, and sailed for the head of navigation on the Sacramento, for the purpose of establishing a trading post, from which the mining communities on the head waters of that stream and on Feather and Yuba rivers and their tributaries, might obtain their supplies. He found that point on the Sacramento River, at the mouth of Feather River, and named the place Fremont. It was not without difficulty that this point was reached. He was about twenty days sailing from San Francisco to Sacramento. On the twentieth of that month, having arrived at the latter place, he started overland in advance of his vessel, and on the twenty-first arrived at the point we have mentioned. On the next day the schooner arrived. The day following he, with his men, built his business stand, composed partly of willows and in part of canvas brought for that purpose, in which his goods, wares and merchandise, were placed. And he, then the only inhabitant of Yolo County there, on the twenty-fifth day of March, 1849, in the tabernacle thus constructed, commenced the joint business of merchandising and hotel keeping. This trading post and hotel soon attracted not only the attention of the mining communities referred to, but of capitalists and speculators.

There was every prospect of the town becoming a city second to none in importance in the interior of the embryo State of California. Before another building had been erected the place was visited by Samuel Brannan, William McD. Howard, Lieutenant Maynard, and hosts of others, who afterwards became notable Californians. It was confidently believed that Fremont would ever remain the head of navigation on the Sacramento River, and that Feather River would ever become navigable, was not dreamed of.

Although the town-site was embraced within the "Harbin Grant," such estimate was placed upon the rights of Mr. Spect and Mr. T. B. Winston (the latter having become associated with the former), that William McD. Howard, as agent for the firm of Mellus, Howard & Co., visited Fremont and offered them one hundred and fifty thousand dollars in gold for their town-site privileges. Prior to the settlement of the town by Mr. Spect, a camp of Indians had located there, and the crossing of the Sacramento River was effected by the use of a skiff and some canoes. Wagons were crossed by placing an Indian canoe under each wheel, and then paddled across by the Indians. Feather River was then fordable at its mouth; teamsters and packers could take their supplies thence on either side to the mines.

The first material augmentation of population was by an emigration from Oregon, headed by a Mr. John E. Bradley, now a resident of Santa Clara, a Cumberland Presbyterian preacher, who preached to the new settlement regularly for several weeks. Families came across the plains and located there. In July, 1849, a corps of civil engineers arrived from the State of Louisiana, amongst whom was William J. Frieson, a native of South Carolina, now a resident and flourishing farmer of this county, residing near Knight's Landing. During this season large immigrations arrived from the Atlantic States; Fremont continued to grow in importance; mercantile houses were becoming plentiful; drinking saloons were established; gambling houses were abundant; and, though there were no courts, no Territorial, State or County, organizations, the legal profession had its representative there, who advertised to attend to the duties of his profession – C. P. Hester, Esq. – who since has been Judge of the District Court of the Third Judicial District. Dr. R. W. Murphy, now of Sacramento City, was the first to commence the practice of medicine.

Early in the spring of 1849, Miss Matilda McCord, of Bloomington, Indiana, opened the first school. The first regular church was established by Rev. Isaac Owen, a missionary preacher from Indiana. On the twenty-second of February, 1849, the whaling ship William Henry sailed from New Bedford, Massachusetts, having on board two buildings and a cargo of goods belonging to a company of thirty men. In September, 1849, they arrived in San Francisco. A part of the company, with a supply of the goods and one of the buildings, were sent to Fremont; they purchased a town lot for one thousand dollars and erected the building, and commenced business. C. H. Gray (for several years Sheriff of the county) and H. B. Wood, now partners in the hardware business in Woodland, were members of this company. Six of the company died with the cholera in 1850, at Benicia. All trace of the remainder of them is lost.

About this time a ship arrived at Fremont from Bangor, Maine, having on board the steamer Governor Dana and a large cargo of goods. The company erected an extensive mercantile house, and placed it under the supervision of the late Henry Hare Hartley, subsequently County Judge, and at a later day a candidate for Justice of the Supreme Court.

In October, 1849, a company of Government troops, with a supply train, passed through the place on their way to Benicia. One of the soldiers entered a gambling saloon, became intoxicated and somewhat abusive, and was killed by a gambler. This was the first homicide committed in Yolo County. The gambler was not arrested, and no particular excitement arose from the transaction.

The town of Fremont now contained a population estimated by some as high as three thousand, though this is probably an over-estimate. Among those who were residents there, and who have since become generally known throughout the State, may be mentioned the late Humphrey Griffith; the late H. H. Hartley, already mentioned; Charles F. Reed, late candidate for Surveyor-General, and I. N. Hoag, Esq., long Secretary of the State Agricultural Society. It will be remembered that, up to the time referred to, there was no State Government, and, of course, no county organization.

After the treaty with Mexico, by which this State was ceded to the United States, the Commanding General of the Department – Brigadier-General Riley – in accordance with instructions from the Secretary of War, by authority of the President of the United States, became the Governor of the State, for the purpose of administering its civil affairs. It is an established principle that, when territory is acquired by a foreign power, the laws of the Government from which it is acquired remain in force until other laws are enacted by the Government acquiring such territory; hence the laws of Mexico were those in force in this country until the machinery of our own civil jurisprudence should be put in operation. Under the laws referred to the State was divided into ten districts, one of which was denominated the Sonoma District, and embraced all that part of the State bounded by the sea, the Bay of San Francisco and Suisun, the Sacramento River and Oregon, and, of course, included Yolo County.

The principal officers in each of these districts were a Prefect and sub-Prefects, who were charged with the preservation of public order and the execution of the laws. Their duties, to some extent, corresponded with the duties of Sheriffs and Marshals, a Judge of the First Instance and a District Alcalde. This system of government could not long remain in a land then being rapidly populated with American citizens. On the third of June, 1849, General Riley issued a proclamation calling a Convention, to meet at Monterey on the first day of September, to frame a State Constitution. By that proclamation it was provided that the Convention should consist of thirty-seven delegates, four of whom should be chosen from the Sonoma District. Elections were to be held for that purpose on the first day of August, at sixteen designated places in the State, as follows: San Diego, San Juan Capistrano, Los Angeles, San Fernando, San Buenaventura, Santa Barbara, Nepoma, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, San Juan Baptiste, Santa Cruz, San José de Guadalupe, San Francisco, San Rafael, Bodega, Sonoma and Benicia.

The elections were held, and the Convention met in pursuance of the proclamation, and completed its labors on the thirteenth of October. The delegates in that Convention, from the Sonoma District, were J. Walker, R. Semple, L. W. Boggs and M. G. Vallejo.

Immediately thereafter, by proclamation of Governor Riley, an election was called for the fifteenth of November, to vote upon the adoption of the Constitution and the election of officers, in pursuance of its provisions. This proclamation designated as the places for holding said election the same as those mentioned for the election of delegates to the Constitutional Convention; but the fast young town of Fremont was not content to have the election pass without letting its voice be heard. Accordingly, on election morning, the polls were opened at that place, and there were nearly twice as many votes cast as in all the rest of the Sonoma District; but the votes were not finally estimated. The members of the Legislature then elected convened on the fifteenth day of December, 1849, and then organized the first Legislature of the State of California.

At this session of the Legislature, the Sonoma District was represented in the Assembly by J. E. Bracket and J. S. Bradford, and in the Senate, we believe, by Jonas Spect and M. G. Vallejo; but, upon this point, we do not speak with certainty, having no documents at hand from which we can satisfactorily determine the facts.

At this session of the Legislature, Yolo County was given an existence and a name. And here we may observe to the curious that "Yolo" and "Tulare" have the same origin, and are identical in meaning. Members of the first Legislature probably knew but little about Yolo County, except that portion bordering on the river, abounding in "tules," expressed by the Spanish word "tulare" or "tular" – this word the Indians had corrupted to "yolar." Accordingly, when the county was organized by an Act of the Legislature, passed February 18th, 1850, it was organized under the name of "Yolä" (statutes of 1850, page 61), but we have not learned how it happened afterwards to be written Yolo.

By the Act organizing the County of "Yolä," the county seat was established at Fremont. The Legislative Acts of the first session, having direct effect upon Yolo County, were as follows: By Act of March 16th, dividing the State into Judicial Districts, it provided that the Eighth District should be composed of the counties of Yolo, Sutter and Yuba. The first term of this court for Yolo County was held at Fremont, on the second day of September, 1850, W. R. Turner, District Judge. The first case upon the calendar is an indictment against Emma Place. The District Attorney stated that the witnesses could not be found, and the court, upon its own motion, ordered the case dismissed. The first case upon the civil docket was Austin & Johnson against Conwillard and others. The last term of the District Court held in this county by Judge Turner was on the second day of October, 1850, for the reason that the State was soon after re-districted, as we shall presently see.

By an Act passed April 4th, 1850, dividing the State into Senatorial Districts, it was provided that the Eleventh District should be composed of Yolo, Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Solano, Mendocino, Colusa and Trinity, and should elect one Senator, and that Yolo, Colusa and Trinity combined, should elect one member of Assembly.

By an Act of March 2d, 1850, it was provided that an election should be held on the first Monday of April in each of the counties of the State, for the purpose of electing county officers. Of this election the county records afford us no information; but, from court records of that year, we learned that Judge G. A. Marguam, now of Portland, Oregon, was elected County Judge, and B. Frank Brown, County Clerk.

The Legislature then in session passed an Act, April 13th, 1850, establishing the County Courts; provided that the terms of said courts should be held in the months of January, April, July and October; also providing for the establishment of Courts of Sessions in each county, composed of the County Judge and two Justices of the Peace, which courts should hold their terms on the first Mondays of February, April, June, August, October and December, of each year. Accordingly, on the first Monday of June, the Court of Sessions met in the town of Fremont, for the transaction of business. There was nothing, however, of importance came before the court at that session. Henry H. Hartley was admitted to the bar as Attorney and Counselor at Law; P. A. Marguam was the Judge of the court, Ferdinand Woodward and Levi B. Austin, Associate Justices, and B. Frank Brown, County Clerk. The court met again in August, the same officers being present.

Let it be born in mind that the Judge of the Court of Sessions was also the County Judge. At this August term the Court of Sessions fixed the salary of the County Judge at four thousand dollars per annum; granted a ferry license, and a license to H. H. Hartley to act as auctioneer in Yolo County, and adjourned. This court met again in November, the last term for 1850, and Marguam being present as Judge and B. F. Brown as Clerk. The calendar was called, consisting of two cases, one of which was tried and the other dismissed. The court met again in October, but, having no business before it, adjourned. this constituted all the business of the County Court for the year 1850.

A law was passed on the sixteenth of April, 1850, as follows: "Every person who shall feloniously steal, take and carry, lead or drive away, the personal goods or property of another, of the value of fifty dollars or more, shall be deemed guilty of grand larceny, and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment in the State Prison for any term not less than one year nor more than ten years, or by death, in the discretion of the jury." A somewhat startling story is told of a conviction, under the provisions of this law, in Yolo County. It is said (though not recorded) that John C. Murphy, late Judge of Mono County, then a resident of Yolo, was driving a mule-team in the winter following, and got "stalled" in the mud. He chanced to be near a corral of horses running loose, two of which he caught, harnessed and attached to his team, to assist him out of the difficulty. The horses chanced to be the property of a Justice of the Peace, who arrived in time to catch Murphy "in the very act." He immediately issued a warrant and placed it in the hands of a Constable for Murphy's arrest. The prisoner was brought into court and demanded a jury trial; but the "court" decided that the province of the jury was only to determine the guilt or innocence of the party, and of the court to pronounce the sentence; and, in this instance, the "court" knew of his own knowledge that the prisoner was guilty, therefore a jury was unnecessary. The "court" then ordered the Constable to take the prisoner to some convenient place and execute him without delay. As the sentence was about to be carried into effect, Mr. A. McDonald, subsequently a prominent man in the county, arrived at the scene of action, and prevented the execution. Whether this story is all true, or founded in fact, or all false, we have no knowledge; we give it as it was given to us by one of Murphy's personal friends, who professed to give us a true version of the affair.

Let us now turn our attention to the commercial and business aspects of the county. The heavy floods of the previous winter had washed the bar from the mouth of Feather River, and made that stream navigable to the point where the City of Marysville is now located, and opened up navigation of the Sacramento for more than a hundred miles above. This demonstrated the fact that Fremont could not become a great inland commercial metropolis. Mining communities immediately discontinued obtaining their supplies from this place, and the town commenced to decline. Still, hopes were entertained that the place might continue of considerable importance for retail business, but each day weakened those hopes, and it soon became apparent that Fremont was doomed unless it should remain the county seat.

In the meantime, quite a settlement had been made at Washington, and the interior of the county for grazing and stock-raising began to attract some attention. Yet the population of the county, by the removals from Fremont, was materially diminished in numbers, so that, in the fall of 1850, a correspondent of a New York paper had ranked Yolo County amongst the barren, worthless sections of the State, it being then believed that no considerable portion of the State could be made available for agricultural purposes.


The Legislature again convened, on the first Monday of January, 1851. The Eleventh Senatorial District, consisting of the counties of Yolo, Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Solano, Mendocino, Colusa and Trinity, was represented in the Senate by Martin E. Cooke, and the counties of Yolo, Colusa and Trinity, constituting one Assembly District, was represented in that body by George W. Crane. An election was held in Yolo County on the twenty-fifth day of March, 1851, at which a re-location of the county seat was to be determined, by a vote of the qualified electors under the provisions of an Act of the previous session. The result of the election showed a majority in favor of establishing the county seat at Washington.

Four weeks subsequent to the election, an Act was passed in which it was declared that Fremont should be the county seat. On the eleventh of March, the Judicial Districts, by legislative action, were re-arranged. By this Act it was provided that the counties of Yolo, Placer and El Dorado, should constitute the Eleventh Judicial District. By an Act, passed May 1st, it was provided that the counties of Yolo and Colusa should constitute the Twenty-first Senatorial District, and should elect one Senator and each one member of the Assembly.

On the twenty-fourth of March, 1851, G. M. Keene having resigned the office of County Treasurer, H. H. Hartley was appointed to the Court of Sessions to fill the vacancy, and Humphrey Griffith, Esq., was appointed County Assessor. By an Act of the Legislature, passed March 23d, 1850, it was provided that: "Whenever a special election is necessary to fill a vacancy in any county or township office, the County Judge shall issue an order for such election, designating the office to be filled and the time of holding the election, and shall publish the same in the manner required by the sixth section of this Act." Those who had held the county offices in this county, in the spring of 1851, all appeared to have left or resigned; and, since it is certain that no general election was then held in the State, we may perhaps safely presume that a special election was held under that statute; for, early in that season, we find E. A. Harris officiating as Sheriff; G. M. Keene, the former Treasurer, as District Attorney, and H. H. Hartley as County Judge. On the twenty-second of May, 1851, the Court of Sessions being open, made an order as follows: "It is ordered by the court that the Seat of Justice of this county shall be at Fremont – the Legislature of the State of California having on the twenty-fifth of April, 1851, passed a law to that effect, which law, having been passed subsequent to the election held on the twenty-fifth of March, 1851, for the removal of the county seat of said county, annuls said election."

Notwithstanding this order, for some cause there was never another term of court held at Fremont after July of that year. And the first session of that court was held at Washington, on the eleventh of August following. Humphrey Griffith was appointed County Clerk by the Court of Sessions, in July, 1851, and continued to hold that position until December, 1853, having been elected at the expiration of the unexpired term.

During this year permanent settlement began to be made of the farming lands of the county, with a view of raising stock, but no attention was yet given to the cultivation of the soil. The first settlement of note was that made by A. H. Willard, on a portion of the Gordon Grant. Settlements were also made at Knight's Landing and at other places, and much attention began to be given to the production of cattle. The town of Fremont went down. Some of the buildings were moved to Knight's Landing, some to Marysville, some to Sacramento, and some onto the plains. The inhabitants abandoned their city lots and dispersed, and nothing remained of the town of Fremont but the name.


In the Legislature that convened in January, 1852, Yolo County was represented in the Assembly by John G. Parish, in the senate by Martin E. Cooke. The counties of Yolo and Colusa constituted one Senatorial District.

It was in 1852 that H. H. Hartley was elected County Judge; H. Griffith, County Clerk; E. A. Harris, Sheriff, and Alexander Chisholm, Treasurer. John M. Howell was elected District Judge for the Eleventh Judicial District, composed of the counties of Yolo, Placer and El Dorado. But, of course, the latter did not enter upon the duties of his office until the commencement of the following year.

There was nothing occurred during the year in the governmental affairs of the county requiring special attention. The agricultural lands continued to be settled and yet but little attention was paid to the production of cereals. The settlements were materially retarded, in consequence of the extensive Spanish grants – some real and some fictitious – that covered a large portion of the lands of the county that were valuable, either for grazing or cultivation. These led to troublesome and expensive litigations, and were the source of constant turmoils and troubles.

Those who had settled here previous to the discovery of gold in the county, had encouraged an increase of their herds, and the plains were literally covered with cattle. Many new-comers had settled here, and it is said to have been remarkable with what rapidity their herds increased. A story is told of one settler, for the strict truthfulness of which we are not entirely willing to vouch; but it is said that, when he settled, he had barely means to purchase a single ox; that he had no visible means of support except from the increase of his stock; but so incredibly prolific was the animal that, in a little more than one year, the increase amounted to several hundred head of yearlings and calves.

A man by the name of James had settled near the foothills, whose stock increased so rapidly that other stock-growers became so incensed against him, that they arrested him and brought him to trial before Judge Lynch. He was found guilty, as charged, and sentenced to receive fifty lashes of a cowhide on his bare back, and to banishment from the county; he received the lashes and left the country, and has not been heard from since!

Our history would not be complete if we failed to notice transactions in courts of Justices of the Peace as well as in courts of more general jurisdiction; but, as Justice's courts are not deemed, in law, courts of record, the only means of knowledge of their transactions is hearsay, and such evidence, if admissible, not being sufficiently to convict, we give it to the reader for what it is worth. A Justice of the Peace, of good standing in the county, at the time of which we are writing, had a case before him in which the title of a certain mule was involved. The Justice very dignifiedly informed the plaintiff if he would swear the mule was his, it should be so adjudged and taken from the defendant and delivered to him. "Well," said the plaintiff, "I will swear that it is my mule." "When you swear to the mule," said the Justice, "it shall be delivered to you." "I am ready now to swear to its being my mule." "When you do so swear," said the Justice, "you shall take the mule." "I be damned if it ain't my mule," said the plaintiff, "and by G–d I am going to have him." The court considered the evidence sufficient, and adjudged accordingly.


In the Legislature that convened in January, 1853, Yolo County was represented in the Assembly by Mr. Caldwell, and in the Senate the District of Yolo and Colusa was represented by M. M. Wambough. At the commencement of the year J. M. Howard entered upon the duties of his office as Judge of the District Court.

During the session of the Legislature, May 18th, 1853, an Act was passed re-districting the State, in which it was provided that Yolo, Solano and Napa, should constitute the Tenth Senatorial District. The county officers remained the same as the year before; but at the election held in September, Harrison Gwinn, now a flourishing farmer residing near Knight's Landing, was elected County Judge to succeed Judge Hartley, R. H. Baskett was elected as Clerk to succeed H. Griffith, and J. W. Gish was elected Sheriff, and H. Meredith District Attorney; all of whom commenced their official duties the March following.

During this year the settlement of the county was more rapid than formerly, and some attention began to be given to the cultivation of the soil, the planting of some small vineyards and orchards, and the fencing of farms. The soil was found to be of almost unequaled fertility, but from the scarcity of fencing material and high prices of lumber, and the fact of the county being overrun with herds of cattle and hogs, the production of grain was not deemed a very lucrative avocation, especially when the expense of improvements were taken into account.


In the Legislature that convened in January, 1854, the county was represented in the Assembly by Humphrey Griffith, whose term as County Clerk had just expired, and the Tenth Senatorial District, composed of the counties of Yolo, Solano and Napa, was represented in the Senate by E. McGarry.

On the sixth of February of this year, Judge Hartley held his last term of court as County Judge of this county. It was ascertained that Alexander Chisholm, former Treasurer, was defaulter in a large sum of money, and on the twelfth of August the Grand Jury of the county presented a bill against him for fraudulently retaining the money; but the funds were never recovered, and Chisholm was not convicted of any offense. His bonds were declared forfeited.


In the Legislature of 1855, Yolo County was represented in the Assembly by J. H. Updergraff, and Mr. E. McGarry continued to represent the counties of Yolo, Napa and Solano, in the Senate.

The county officers remained the same as the previous year; but at the general election in September, A. McDonald was elected County Clerk; George Bell, Sheriff; W. N. Brooks, Treasurer, and F. Woodward District Attorney.

The Legislature passed an Act, May 7th, 1855, authorizing the qualified voters of the county, at the general election to be held in September, to determine by a majority vote upon some point as a permanent place for the county seat. The contest was chiefly between Washington and Knight's Landing. It was a close and excited election, but the result was in favor of Washington.

During this year the agricultural interests of the county were greatly increased, and wheat and barley commenced to be raised in considerable quantities as staples but the scarcity of timber for fencing rendered it difficult and expensive to protect the growing crops against the encroachments of the herds of cattle and hogs running at large through the country and it prevented very extensive grain-growing operations. People began to conceive that there was a conflict of interest between the grain producers and cattle growers; and the still unsettled condition of the grant-lands rendered titles through the county uncertain, and it, of course, was not settled so rapidly as it otherwise would have been.


In the Legislature that met in 1856, Yolo County was represented in the Assembly by E. Bynum, the present County Clerk, and in the Senate by his brother, S. Bynum. E. Bynum was elected on what was known as the Democratic ticket, and S. Bynum on the ticket designated as the Know-Nothing or Native American. The contest for one or two years between those two political organizations had been very close, but the latter in the ascendancy. E. Bynum was the only candidate elected on his ticket. The county officers chosen at the general election in 1855, at the proper time assumed their official duties, but during the year the sureties upon the Sheriff's bond became dissatisfied with the manner in which he performed, or neglected to perform, his duties, took steps to withdraw their signatures from the bond, and Sheriff Bell being unable to obtain new sureties, the office became vacant, and F. G. Russel, now of Buckeye, was appointed to fill the vacancy, which position he held until the expiration of the term.

On the first of March the Legislature passed an Act as follows: "John Vanarnam, of Washington, Yolo County, is hereby released from any and all liabilities incurred by him as surety on the official bond of Alexander Chisholm, late County Treasurer of Yolo County, and is hereby fully discharged from any and all judgments recovered against him upon said official bond.

It was a rule of the District Court in this county, up to this time, to set days for hearing and determining motions and demurrers, and on those days the roll of attorneys was called at the opening of the court. It may not be uninteresting to those who were in the habit of attending the courts at that time, and to attorneys at the present time, to give here a roll, as it was called in 1856, as follows: P. L. Edwards, W. R. Cantwell, H. H. Hartley, H. Griffith, Henry C. Meredith, Horace Smith, Samuel Ruland, James C. Goods, Ferdinand Woodward, William S. Long, John Heard, W. C. Wallace, B. F. Ankeny, George H. H. Carter, G. W. Bowie, J. H. Gass, J. G. Hyer. Of these, P. L. Edwards, H. H. Hartley, H. Griffith, Henry C. Meredith, Horace Smith, George H. Carter, B. F. Ankeny and John G. Hyer, are now deceased. W. R. Cantwell, J. C. Goods, F. Woodward and John Heard, now reside in Sacramento; Bowie resides in San Francisco; Wallace is Judge of the Seventh Judicial District; Ruland resides in Woodland; Gass broke Sacramento jail and left for parts unknown – further particulars of which may be mentioned if we ever have occasion to compile a history of Sacramento County.


In the year 1857 Yolo was represented in the Assembly by Dr. J. S. Curtis, and by S. Bynum in the Senate.

Some years previous to this, James A. Hutton, a worthy and enterprising citizen, had settled on the north side of Cache Creek and there made himself a comfortable home; had erected a dwelling-house large enough to accommodate guests, and it soon became not only the home of Mr. Hutton and his family, but the "traveler's home," and was designated through the county as "Hutton's Ranch." A post-office was established by the name of Yolo Post-office.

The Legislature passed an Act, on the twenty-fifth of March, providing that from and after the first day of June, 1857, the county seat of the County of Yolo should be and thereby was changed from the Town of Washington to a place on Cache Creek before that time known as Hutton's, but which should be thereafter known as Cacheville. In May the books, papers, maps, records, etc., belonging to the county were transferred to the new county seat. It was in the midst of the richest agricultural lands in the State, pleasantly situated on Cache Creek, interspersed with oaks of the largest growth, and was really one of the most attractive places in the county. A town was laid off, surveyed into lots and blocks which were rapidly disposed of, and the town exhibited signs of permanent prosperity. This ever should have remained the county seat; but we shall see that such was not its destiny.

The first birth that occurred at Cacheville was the Yolo Democrat, a small, weakly – weekly – journal, that was born almost to blush unseen; for a newspaper could not yet be supported in so sparsely settled a county as was Yolo County. Of the merits of the paper we know nothing, but only know that it shared the fate of most journals established under like circumstances. It lived to see its second birthday, just began to speak understandingly, then died and was buried.

The terms of the county officers elected two years before, of course, were now about to expire; and H. Gwinn's four-year term as County Judge was also about to close.

At the general election in September, Isaac Davis was elected as County Judge; the Rev. J. N. Pendegast, County Clerk; James L. Cox, Sheriff; William H. McGrew, District Attorney, and W. N. Brooks was re-elected County Treasurer.


In 1858 the Senatorial District, composed of Yolo, Napa and Solano, was represented in the Senate by Humphrey Griffith, and Yolo County was represented in the Assembly by William Minis, the present State Senator for this district. The county officers elected in 1857 entered upon their duties at the time appointed by law. The term of John M. Howell, the second District Judge for the Eleventh Judicial District, composed of the counties of Yolo, Placer and El Dorado, was now about to expire, and at the general election, held in September, B. F. Myers was elected Judge of that district, and at the close of the year commenced his official duties.


In 1859 Yolo County was represented in the Assembly by Harrison Gwinn, who had the year previously left the County Judge's bench, and the Tenth Senatorial District continued to be represented by H. Griffith. At the general election of this year, J. T. Daly was elected County Clerk; James A. Douglas, Sheriff; J. W. Jacobs, District Attorney, and W. N. Brooks was reelected County Treasurer. In November or December of this year, some parties discovered gold in considerable quantities in several gulches emptying into Putah Creek, in the southwest part of the county. A sufficient supply of water could not be obtained to work the mines to advantage, and not sufficient to work them at all, except whilst it was raining. There is no stream that can be conducted to the head of these gulches and made available for washing gold there found. After the discovery, miners from different parts came to the newly-discovered gold-field, and found the gold in such quantities as to afford them very fair wages – sometimes making as high as eight dollars per day with the old-fashioned rocker. Several hundred miners congregated there with their equipage, and remained until the rains of that season had ceased. No attention had been paid to the workings of the mines there since, yet, it is almost certain that, if means could be devised by which water could be obtained without great expense, in sufficient quantities to wash the earth by means of sluices or hydraulic power, as it is called, large fortunes might be taken from these ravines.

During that year, Mr. James Lowe, a resident of Yolo County, crossed the Sacramento River into Sutter County, and "jumped" a farm belonging to a German, whose name we have now forgotten. The German secreted himself in ambush and shot Lowe, killing him instantly. An arrest was made; the German was tried and acquitted, and subsequently was drowned in the Sacramento River while in a state of intoxication.


In 1860, Harrison Gwinn, having been reelected, continued to represent Yolo County in the Assembly, and Henry Edgerton, then of Napa, now of Sacramento City, represented the district in the Senate. The county offices were filled by the officials who were elected at the last general election.


In 1861, Yolo was represented in the Assembly by W. S. Wood, and the district in the Senate by Henry Edgerton. At this session of the Legislature, an Act was passed and approved March 15th, again establishing the county seat at Washington. Accordingly, in July of that year, the records and papers belonging to the county were again transferred to that place. An Act was also passed re-dividing the State into senatorial Districts, in which it was provided that the counties of Yolo and Solano should constitute the Seventh Senatorial District.

W. S. Ravely gathered together the dry remains of the Yolo Democrat that had been published at Cacheville, transferred them to Knight's Landing, and with the material established a small paper, entitled the Knight's Landing News. At the general election, held at September, John B. Smith was elected County Judge; E. Giddings, County Clerk; Charles H. Gray, Sheriff; Charles W. Reed, Treasurer, and H. P. Hamblin, District Attorney.

In the summer of this year a homicide was committed in this county by a man named George Doane. One Samuel Fellows, it appears, had been guilty of making criminal advances to Doane's wife. When the fact came to the knowledge of Doane, he immediately sought Fellows and killed him with a single stroke from the butt of a horsewhip. Doane was arrested and held to bail, but the Grand Jury never found a bill against him.


Yolo was represented in the Assembly, in 1862, by I. N. Hoag, and the Senatorial District by O. B. Powers, now County Judge of Solano County. John B. Smith, the County Judge elect, failed to qualify, and I. N. Hoag was appointed by the Governor to fill that office until the general election of 1862. The remainder of the county officers entered upon their duties at the time appointed by law.

An Act was passed on the nineteenth of April, attaching Yolo County to the Sixth Judicial District, whereupon J. H. McKune, Judge of that district, entered upon the duties of District Judge for Yolo County.

In 1855, one James McClure and James McClure, Junior, built a small blacksmith shop about four and a half miles southeast from where Cacheville was subsequently built, and commenced the business of blacksmithing. During the same year one Henry Wyckoff put up a small building near this shop, and commenced merchandising on a small scale. In October, of the next year, E. R. Moses, now resident of Woodland, was permitted by the proprietors of said blacksmith shop to occupy a portion of it for wood work. In 1857, he and his brother, A. C. Moses, purchased the shop, and therein built a number of threshing machines, which were sold in the community. This purchase, however, was not made until after the elder McClure had sold his interest in the shop to Joseph Wolgamot, and business had been carried on for a time in the name of Wolgamot & McClure. During the summer a gambling and whisky shop, made of canvas, was started by a man known by the not very euphonious name of "By Hell." He was indicted by the Grand Jury, and left of parts unknown. The same year, 1857, a division of the "Sons of Temperance" was organized by the community around, and a school-house was built near the shop, to which a second story was added and occupied as a hall by the "Sons of Temperance" and as a Masonic Lodge. In the fall our enterprising citizen, F. S. Freeman, purchased the little store built by Mr. Wyckoff, and stocked it with goods, and this little neighborhood took the name of Yolo City. In 1858 a post-office was established here by that name, and F. S. Freeman was appointed post-master, who purchased of the Government the land upon which the few buildings, except the school-house, were located, near the southwest corner of which a whiskey-shop was established, where laboring men from the neighboring farms occasionally congregated and played cards for liquor. On one of these occasions, one William Harbin and one Frank Wright had been engaged at playing when a dispute arose between them as to the number of games that had been lost, whereupon the former drew a knife and stabbed the latter, killing him almost instantly. Harbin made his escape and was never arrested.

In the autumn of 1860, there resided, about one mile southwest from Freeman's store and Moses' shop, the Reverend J. N. Pendegast, and about three miles southwest from his place the Reverend J. Lawson – both quite noted pastors of the Christian Church – who, by their energy and influence, succeeded in enlisting the interest in that organization to an extent to induce the building of an institution known as the Hesperian College – a more perfect history of which will be found under another head in this volume. The few buildings we have mentioned comprised the whole or nearly the whole of Yolo City until 1862.

On the thirteenth of March, 1862, an Act was passed, providing that, on the twenty-first day of April, 1852, an election should be held in the County of Yolo to locate and establish the county seat of said county, and to determine, by a majority of all the votes cast at said election, whether the said county seat should be and remain at the town of Washington, or be removed to the town of Woodland, commonly called Yolo city.

Seldom have elections been more vigorously contested than was this; sectional prejudices arose in different parts of the county which have not now, after a lapse of eight years, been wholly healed. The result of the election was to establish the county seat at Woodland. This place is situated near the geographical center of the county, in the midst of a rich agricultural community. Of its advantages, social relations, growth, prosperity and present flourishing condition, the reader is referred to other parts of this volume. At the general election in 1862, H. Griffith and L. R. Hopkins were the opposing candidates for County Judge, to fill the vacancy occasioned by the failure of Smith to qualify. L. R. Hopkins was the successful candidate, and entered upon the duties of his office in December. The election was conducted with vigor, but in a friendly spirit. Both candidates had warm, personal friends; both were amply qualified for the position. H. Griffith died the May following, and L. R. Hopkins, as Probate Judge, issued letters testamentary upon his estate, and in two months afterwards Judge Hopkins also died.

Early in 1862, a man was killed, by the name of Jacob Byhard, whilst attempting to get unlawful possession of a farm, the particulars of which we have not learned, but only know that there was no conviction for the offence.


In the Legislature of 1863, Yolo was represented in the Assembly by Edward Patten, and the Seventeenth Senatorial District was represented by O. B. Powers. At this time certain amendments to the State Constitution went into effect, whereby State Senators were to hold their offices for the term of four years, and Assemblymen two years. The sessions of the Legislature were to be biennial, and were to meet on the first Monday of December, instead of January.

At the general election held in September, L. C. Brownell was elected County Clerk; C. H. Gray was reëlected Sheriff; G. A. Fabricious, County Treasurer, and H. G. Burnett District Attorney; and at the Judicial election held in October, J. H. McKune was reëlected Judge of the Sixth Judicial District and James A. Hutton, County Judge.

In June of this year, a brutal murder was committed near Buckeye, in this county. An old gentleman, by the name of Palmer, was found dead in a barnyard, with a rope tied around his neck, with one end attached to a saddle. There was a horse in the yard, from which the saddle had evidently been taken after having dragged the corpse several times around the yard. The skull of the deceased had been broken with some implement having square edges and being about one inch thick; a board of that thickness was found, secreted under some straw, upon which there was an abundance of human hair and blood. J. W. Markley was accused of the crime, indicted and tried, but finally acquitted.


The Legislature met in December, 1863, for the session of 1863-4. Yolo was represented in the House by J. B. Hartsough, and the District of Yolo and Solano by J. T. Hall. By the Constitutional Amendment, the Senate of that session was to be divided into two classes: one class to hold office for two years and the other for four. Mr. Hall drew the short term. The county officers elected at the last election entered upon their duties as provided by law – the judicial on the first of January and the ministerial on the first of March. During this session of the Legislature a law was passed to prevent the trespassing of animals, providing for a recovery of damages in case of such trespass, whether the lands were or were not fenced. This gave a new impetus to the grain-growing interests of Yolo County. Farmers could cultivate their lands in safety without the expense of inclosures; it led to a development of the agricultural interests which it could not otherwise have obtained for many years.

About the month of May of this year, the Knight's Landing News was transferred to Woodland, changed its name, and was afterwards published under the name of The Woodland News.

The only death penalty ever executed in this county was in the spring of 1864. William Williams had been convicted of murder in Sacramento County some years previously; his case was taken to the Supreme Court, the judgment reversed and sent back for a new trial; it was then transferred to Yolo County, and he was again convicted; another appeal was taken to the Supreme Court, and the judgment was affirmed. He was accordingly executed by the Sheriff of Yolo in the Spring of 1864.

The year 1864 was a hard one for Yolo County. The dry season was felt in all parts of the State, but probably in none more than in Yolo. Two years before, the crops had been almost unprecedented in the county. An average of forty-five bushels of wheat or sixty bushels of barley to the acre was not an unusual yield. Such prosperity tempted farmers, in hopes of a continuance of like yields, to make investments to an extent unwarranted. In 1863 the crops were light, and in 1864 they were a perfect failure. Land depreciated in value more than a hundred per cent.; those who were in debt were almost compelled to sell their possessions. There was, perhaps, not grain enough raised in the county to feed the fowls of the common, much less to supply the wants of the people.


Early in April, 1965, L. C. Brownell died, leaving the office of County Clerk vacant, and immediately thereafter E. Giddings was appointed by the Board of Supervisors to fill the vacancy.

At the general election, in September following, E. Giddings was elected County Clerk; William Minis, Sheriff; Giles E. Sill, Treasurer, and H. G. Burnett was re-elected District Attorney. L. B. Mizner was elected to the Senate to represent Yolo and Solano counties, and Charles F. Reed to represent Yolo County in the Assembly and serve during the session of 1865 and 1866.

In the fall of 1866, a homicide was committed near Fremont, in this county. Some of the circumstances disclosed by the evidence were as follows: T. A. Russell and W. A. Currie were brothers-in-law, stopping at the house of Mrs. Dawson, their sister-in-law. The fact came to the knowledge of Russell that Currie was criminally intimate with his wife, and as Currie entered a room where Russell was sitting, immediately after the facts had been learned by him, he drew a pistol and shot Currie, killing him instantly. Russell was arrested, tried and acquitted.


In 1867, M. A. Woods was elected County Judge; E. Bynum, County Clerk; William Minis was reëlected Sheriff; Giles E. Sill was reëlected County Treasurer, and J. C. Ball was elected District Attorney; John M. Kelly was elected Assemblyman from this county and represented it in the Legislature of 1867 and 1868 – L. B. Misner continuing in the Senate.

Early in the winter of 1867, a homicide was committed at Knight's Landing. Two men who were perfect strangers met in a bar-room – James Stewart and C. A. Brown. Brown was intoxicated and crazed with alcohol – no personal prejudices to avenge – no previous hatred to be aroused. A few words of altercation were heard, a clinch ensued, a knife was drawn, and Stewart fell, bleeding and dying, to the floor. The demon of intemperance impelled the mortal stroke; a good man was a corpse – an awful warning to those who indulge in the intoxicating bowl! Brown was tried in 1867, and by a jury of his countrymen found guilty of manslaughter.

We have said that the Yolo Democrat, published in Cacheville, in 1857, died in its infancy and was buried. But: "After death is the resurrection." We have said, also, that the remains of the institution were removed to Knight's Landing and converted into the Knight's Landing News. This paper continued to be published until the autumn of 1867, and died on the sixteenth of November of that year. On Saturday, the twenty-third of November, there appeared in the streets of Woodland the Yolo Democrat, the resurrected remains of the paper that died in Cacheville ten years before. It had materially improved in appearance by its long slumber; for it had not been dead but sleeping!

On the first of October, 1868, the Yolo Mail, a Republican journal, was established at Woodland. Both papers are now flourishing institutions at that place.


In 1869, E. Bynum was elected County Clerk; J. P. Bullock, Sheriff; A. C. Kean, Treasurer, and J. C. Ball was reëlected District Attorney; John M. Kelly was reëlected to the Assembly, and William Minis was elected State Senator for this district; Lewis Ramage was elected Judge of the Sixth Judicial District – each of whom yet holds the office to which he was then elected.

In the fall of 1869, Isaac Wyckam killed a man by the name of Ferris, in this county. The cause of the homicide was a difficulty about a land claim. Wyckam is yet in jail awaiting his trial. The facts have not yet been given in evidence, and we shall not attempt to give them in advance.

M. A. Woods, County Judge, died January 30th, 1870, and James Johnson was appointed by Governor Haight to fill the vacancy.

We have now completed our little history of Yolo County, from its earliest settlement until the year 1870. We do not flatter ourselves that it contains a large amount of matter interesting to those who have not been to some extent identified with its interests.

But if it shall awaken in the minds of the early settlers pleasant and romantic reminiscences of the past, become a source of gratification to those who in the future may become citizens of the county, or be found convenient as a statistical reference, our whole object will have been obtained.


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