Yolo County is north west of Sacramento County and is known
for its fertile soil. The County’s entire eastern boundary is
the Sacramento River and its western boundary is a chain of coastal
mountains. The plain in between has a rich soil built up from
centuries of winter run off and flooding from the Sacramento River.
The name Yolo is derived from the Patwin Indian word “Yoloy”
which means place of the rushes. The entire west bank of the Sacramento
River once had great fields of tule rushes, and the County abounded
with swamplands, marshes and sloughs.
The California Gold Rushes of 1848 and 1850 brought an increase
in population in Yolo County. Some prospecting for gold was done,
but most immigrants realized early on that the fortune to be made
in Yolo County was through farming and ranching.
By 1852, the Census of Yolo County showed there were 1,085 white
males, 189 white females, 11 Negro males, 3 Negro females, 109
Indian males, and 3 Indian females. (It is likely that many Native
Americans were missed in this census.)
Yolo was one of the original counties when California became
a state on September 9th 1850. The town of Fremont, south of present
day Knights Landing on the Sacramento River, was named the county
seat, as it was the only organized town in Yolo County. Fremont
suffered flood damage, and in 1851 the county seat was moved to
the town of Washington (later called Broderick) across the river
By 1857 the population in Yolo had grown, and a more centrally
located county seat was desired. A small community on Cache Creek
called Huttons’, (named for James Hutton who had built a large
house there) was finally laid out and named as the county seat.
It was named Cacheville at that time and is now known as the town
In 1860, the county seat was moved back to Washington, but the
1862 floods in Washington prompted voters to move the county seat
to the newly organized town of Woodland. Woodland was centrally
located in the county in a natural park of oak trees. It has remained
the county seat ever since.
“Situated sixty miles from the Exposition City, in a northeasterly
direction; immediately across the Sacramento river from and west
of California’s capital city; lying directly between San
Francisco, Portland and Sacramento – is Yolo County.
“Almost in the center of California, and the great fertile
Sacramento Valley – is Yolo County.
“Our argument has to do primarily and principally with
the farmer, the man of family who is seeking a location in
the last great West, the Pacific Coast States of America.
“To such a man, three factors stand out most prominently
in the development of the varied resources of Yolo County,
to wit: in order of their importance, irrigation, reclamation,
subdivision. More money has been expended in irrigation enterprises
during the past two years than in all previous history; more
has been expended in reclaiming low and overflow lands and
placing them in a high state of production in the past three
years than in all previous years combined. Results? More than
twenty subdivision propositions are now on the market, many
of them offering small farm units at tempting figures and terms
to the purchaser who may have but a little ready cash to apply.
“Water, both surface and subterranean, everywhere present
for irrigation at all seasons; with diversified crops intensively
farmed, proves conclusively that the man with but a few acres,
say twenty to forty, is accomplishing larger and more certain
results with less of labor and of worry than the man with
an excess of acres.
“Yolo is truly a progressive county. It is really an agricultural
community without any great city to overtop and dominate its
affairs. There is a cohesiveness about the county that gives
it strength. It is governed by a board of five Supervisors, every
one of them a man of the soil, individually and collectively;
men who think first of the benefit and needs of those who make
more grow than ever grew there before. To this end they maintain
a County Horticultural Commission with eight assistants who are
in constant touch with every farmer in the county; a government ‘Farm
Adviser’ who devotes his entire time in the field, giving
attention and encouragement to farmers who seek it, maintaining
bureaus throughout the county at convenient places where neighborhood
meetings are held at frequent intervals; a magnificent public
school system with free books for pupils; a free Carnegie library
with 53 county branches, and a County Board of Trade with a
number of branches in charge of competent men. These organizations
are all supported by the County Supervisors, and they obtain
funds from no other source, that the home-seeker and investor
may be supplied with accurate, unbiased information, advice
and helpful suggestions free of charge.
“The county contains nearly half a million acres of about
floor level land; the largest contiguous body of unbroken soil
of any county in the West. Let us quote Elwood Mead, United States
Government soil expert, who in reporting result (sic) of this
soil and production investigations in Yolo County said: ‘It
is ideal grain, alfalfa and fruit land. You may find growing
on this soil wheat, barley, corn, oats, alfalfa; all the vegetables
of a temperate and sub-tropical climate; apples, figs, pears,
apricots, nectarines, plums, prunes, oranges, lemons, limes,
pomegranates (sic), grapes (table, wine and raisin), almonds,
olives, English walnuts, berries of all kinds, and melons.’
“The transportation problem has been splendidly solved
in Yolo County. A number of steam and electric railways permeate
every section of the county, and with a frontage of ninety
miles on the Sacramento river, which is always navigable, give
every town and village within its borders excellent shipping
and marketing facilities.
“Yolo County producers are within one hundred miles
of more than one million consuming peoples (sic).
“This county has the lowest tax rate, with but one or
two exceptions, of any county in Northern California, and
is virtually out of debt with all current bills paid in full.
“This county is favored with nearly one hundred rail
and water shipping points. Many of them are splendid towns
and villages, having fine schools, churches, a high class American
citizenship, and with one or two exceptions, are free of saloons.
“Woodland, the county seat, in the center of the county,
is one of the most progressive cities in California, and its
clean, well-paved streets are lined with magnificent residences
and fine business blocks. Woodland has more money in bank, and
bank assets than any town of similar size in the entire country,
and this wealth came from Yolo County ’s peerless soil.
“Winters, situated twenty miles southwest of Woodland,
is the second largest town in the county. It lies at the base
of picturesque hills, and is in the very center of Putah Creek’s
rich delta lands.
“Guinda and Rumsey are located near the head of Capay
Valley, one of the most beautiful and picturesque spots in
the Sacramento Valley.
“Capay is situated where the Capay Valley opens into
great Sacramento Valley. Esparto is three miles from the entrance
to Capay Valley. Madison is twelve miles west from Woodland.
These are all thriving towns in important farming sections.
“Davis is situated on Putah Creek, thirteen miles west
of Sacramento and ten miles south of Woodland. It is a railroad
junction and enjoys excellent transportation facilities.
“The University farm operated in conjunction with the
Agricultural department of the University of California,
is situated at Davis. This site was chosen after considering
seventy-seven other localities in California. This was due
to the superior climate, soil and transportation advantages
of Yolo County. The soil is adapted to almonds, fruits of all
kinds, and alfalfa.
Dunnigan and Zamorra* are railroad towns in the northern part
of the county. Yolo is a flourishing village in the heart
of a great fruit county. Then we have Washington and Bryte
City just across from Sacramento, also West Sacramento and
Clarksburg nearby. All these towns, in fact, all the towns
throughout the county, are in flourishing condition. All are
making, and will continue, a good substantial growth indefinitely.”
(* Zamorra should be spelled Zamora.)