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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 from Sacramento.

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 of Yolo.

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. 

H. S. Maddox, in the chapter on “ Yolo County,” described the county as follows, circa 1915. (Sacramento Valley and Foothill Counties of California: An Illustrated Description of all the Counties Embraced in this Richly productive Geographical Subdivision of the Golden State, compiled and edited by Emmett Phillips and John H. Miller, published under the direction of The Sacramento Valley Exposition, J. A. Filcher, Director-in Chief, January, 1915)

“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.)



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