The geography of the area has also played an important role in Vallejo’s development and future. Located at the northern tip of San Pablo Bay, Vallejo’s waterfront location has made it an important harbor not only for the military but also for commercial shipping, industry, oil companies and ferry transportation.
Prior to the 1830s, the countryside where the City of Vallejo now stands was inhabited by the Suisun and Karkin Indians. In 1835, a Mexican military officer, Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, was sent to the northern California frontier where he established several land grants. One of these grants, the Rancho Suscol, included the area where the cities of Vallejo and Benicia are now located. Chief Solano, a leader of the Suisun Indians, allied himself with General Vallejo, an alliance which allowed the region to remain primarily inhabited by Native Americans until the 1840s.
After the legislature left Vallejo for good, the city became something of a ghost town for a brief period of time. But the United States Navy came to the rescue in 1853 with their purchase of Mare Island for the creation of the first naval installation on the west coast of the United States. Suddenly Vallejo’s future once again became brighter.
The author of an 1863 book entitled The Resources of California described the budding city: “Vallejo has a magnificent site for a town. The present village is built on the slope of hills about a hundred or a hundred and fifty feet high, which rise from the harbor so gently, that a heavily laden wagon can be drawn over without an extra team. About a half a mile back from the landing lays a beautiful and very fertile plain several miles wide and extending from the lower part of the harbor. I have never seen a city provided with such a magnificent place for country residences as this.”
Although the town is named after General Vallejo, the man regarded as the true founder of Vallejo is John B. Frisbie. After his daughter Epifania married Frisbie, General Vallejo granted him power of attorney for the land grant. It was Frisbie who hired E.H. Rowe, the man who designed the city layout and who named the east-west streets after states and the north-south streets after California counties.
Frisbie encouraged settlers to stay in the area and sold them lots to build houses and businesses upon. He helped establish the city’s government, supported the thriving wheat-shipping business, presided over banks and founded the White Sulphur (Blue Rock) Springs Resort. It was also due in part to Frisbie’s diligent lobbying in Washington D.C., that Vallejo was officially incorporated as a city in 1867.
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