It was reported by the Solano County Herald that Fairfield won the county seat election on Sept. 2, 1858, because of the grudge the city of Vallejo had against Benicia.
The grudge dated back to 1852 when Vallejo became the capital of California through the efforts of its founder, Gen. Mariano Vallejo. However, Vallejo wasn't ready when the Legislature met.
Buildings leaked. The lawmakers had to sit on barrels because there were no chairs. And, worst of all, there were no hotel accommodations or places to buy food. So when Benicia, a city of more than 1,000 inhabitants at the time, offered its accommodations, the Legislature moved.
Even though Benicia built a beautiful new City Hall in 1853, it couldn't beat the better proposals of Sacramento and lost the state capital in 1854.
Four years later not only had Vallejo matured, but farther north of Benicia other cities -- Fairfield, Vacaville and Suisun City -- were growing. The Solano County supervisors called a convention to figure out if the county seat should be moved to a more central location.
A.P. Jackson promised $5,500 and a city lot if the county seat was moved to Suisun City. Mason Wilson offered four blocks of lots and $1,000 to make Vacaville the county seat. The best offer came from Capt. Robert H. Waterman, founder of Fairfield. He promised 16 acres, which he called "Union Park" plus four blocks containing 12 lots each adjacent to the park.
On Sept. 2, 1858, the election occurred. Total votes cast: 1,730. Benicia got 625; Denverton, 38; Vallejo, 10; Rockville, 2; Suisun, 26; and the winner, Fairfield, got 1,025.
"In the list of killed and wounded in Wednesdays' battle, our eye falls mournfully on the name of Benicia, the long suffering, mortally wounded, if not dead -- killed by Vallejo's unsparing hand! ... While we hold in grateful remembrance the majority of the citizens of Vallejo, let us not forget those aspiring gentlemen who dealt us the deadly blow," reported the Solano County Herald, a Benicia paper.
The fight for the county seat kept going. By 1873 Vallejo had grown even bigger and so had the city of Suisun. Fairfield was described as a sleepy, dreary little town with not much going for it. Another vote was called for.
On Nov. 26 Vallejo won the election over Fairfield by 333 votes. But again the fight wasn't over. Fairfield supporters, which this time included Benicia voters, went to Sacramento. Voters in the northern part of the county felt the election hadn't been fair. They took their complaints to the Legislature and persuaded it to pass a bill making the city of Vallejo, plus a few surrounding acres, a separate county.
The bill was vetoed by the governor, who called it preposterous. At the same time he agreed that the Fairfield supporters had a point. He said he would approve a bill that made Fairfield the permanent county seat. The Legislature then passed such a bill and it was signed by the governor.
Days Gone By appears on Sundays. Contact Nilda Rego at email@example.com.