Gen. Mariano Vallejo's offer to provide money and land to turn his town into a magnificent state capital could hardly be turned down by California voters in 1851.
The Legislature had met in San Jose for its first two sessions. It was a hard place to get to. It turned out that most of the members had to take lodging in tents even though it cost the legislators $16 a day for room and board.
There was a ballot measure to move the capital to the new town of Vallejo, and the ballot measure passed.
In January 1852, Vallejo wasn't ready for the 200 to 300 people who would come to the town because of the legislative session.
On Jan. 4, the Sacramento Daily Union reporter wrote, "Tomorrow being the first Monday in January, the Legislature will assemble here and probably complete its organization. But the legislative business, I believe, will have to be deferred. Indeed, I have no idea that the Legislature will remain here at all."
The offices of the state government still hadn't been moved from San Jose. The furniture for the two legislative houses hadn't arrived. There were no printing facilities to publish the work of the Legislature, and housing for the legislators was limited. Landlords were charging from $20 to $30 a week for room and board.
That night when the steamer Empire arrived with 250 people on board including 50 members of the Legislature, the captain decided it made sense to keep the ship at the wharf for the whole legislative session as a floating hotel. It had 100 state rooms and a large saloon.
The Legislature stayed in Vallejo for seven miserable days. Members were forced to sit on "nail kegs with boards placed across the open head, or upon benches, which now and then would break under the weight of legislative dignity and let down a row of honorable gentlemen flat on the floor to the hazard of the gravity of the House," reported the Alta California.
Sacramento then came to rescue the Legislature. It offered its courthouse for free.
On Jan. 14, the Legislature left Vallejo and moved to Sacramento for the 1852 session with the plan of returning to Vallejo the next year.
On Jan. 16, the Sacramento Daily Union reporter wrote, "The town of Vallejo is almost entirely deserted and about 100 fine new buildings, which it contains will probably rot where they stand or be burnt for firewood."
In a brief space of time, every article of furniture in the capitol building was hurried on board the Empire, which had been chartered at a cost of $1,800.
In 1853 the Legislature tried Vallejo for a month. It was cold and windy. Accommodations were still lacking. The members accepted Benicia's offer to use its new two-story city hall. But the town wasn't big enough to house the growing state government.
Sacramento offered its county courthouse again. In 1854 the final move was made to Sacramento and California's capital stopped wandering.
Days Gone By appears on Sundays. Contact Nilda Rego at firstname.lastname@example.org.