Suisun Valley’s recorded human history dates back to the Southern Patwin Indians, who lived between Suisun, Vacaville, and Putah Creek. By the 1800s, the Spanish and European invaders forced these Native Americans into small tribal units:
- Ululatos (Vacaville)
- Labaytos (Putah Creek)
- Malacas (Lagoon Valley)
- Tolenas (upper Suisun Valley)
- Suisunes (Suisun Marsh and Plain)
In 1823, Suisun Valley was considered by Padre Jose Altimira as the next Spanish Mission of California to follow the one established in San Rafael. Padre Altimira wanted three missions that would be created as the northernmost edge of their Spanish Empire, as a defense against the encroaching Russian presence. The Spanish padres considered the Russians as a “heathen” menace. Suisun Valley was a location that was considered, but ultimately Altimira deciding that this land couldn’t support a large population. He instead founded Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, on July 4, 1823. This became the final mission in California, with Altimira being forced to forget his dream for two more missions.
Suisunes Chief Sem Yeto was baptized by missionaries as “Solano.” At that time, Padre Francis Solano was a missionary to the Peruvian Indians. A story handed down states that in 1850, when Chief Solano died, he was buried in Suisun Valley. Also in 1850, on January 4, the California constitutional committee recommended the formation of 18 counties. The originally named “Benicia County,” was later renamed Solano County, to honor Chief Solano of the Suisunes.
In 1848, Daniel Berry is listed, in the 1877 atlas of Solano County, as being the first American settler in Suisun Valley. He arrived with five other family members, having relocated from Cache Creek. In the fall of 1850, Spanish, Mexican, and American settlers forced the Suisunes out of their valley. The greater part of the tribe migrated into Napa County, by carrying 1,000 bushels of grain on their heads, also according to the 1877 atlas of Solano County.*
A verdant location, Suisun Valley was soon recognized for its superior farming capabilities. Wheat was identified as a crop worth growing. Then, fruit trees were planted by those who migrated into the Valley. Families such as the Pierces, Hatches, and Chadbournes planted apricot, pear, cherry, peach, and nut orchards. These fruits and nuts became prized for their outstanding quality… And so began Suisun Valley’s rich agricultural history.
*Thanks to Barry Eberling of the Fairfield Daily Republic, for his research of Suisun’s history in the 1877 atlas of Solano County.