Suisun Valley History Archive

Water and wine fuel growth of Green Valley

Characters, tales of ghosts enrich

History by Kris Delaplane Conti

Information for this article came from the Vacaville Historical Society, Vacaville Museum, Solano Genealogical Society and Fairfield Public Library.

Green Valley was originally part of the Soscol Land Grant. In 1848, the early settlers of the valley were John Stilts, W.P. Durbin and Charles Ramsey. These men and others soon discovered that the area was particularly well-suited for grape-growing, and the valley became noted for its bountiful harvests and quality wines.

Another early-day arrival in Green Valley was John Volypka, an Austrian. He settled on his farm in 1858, planted his vines and built a wine cellar. Volypka's wine proved to be quite a profitable enterprise. By 1863, it was being shipped to San Francisco from Cordelia.

In 1860, Henry Shultz planted his vineyard. He and his brother formed the winery C. Shultz & Co. They built an enormous wine cellar, 38 feet by 100 feet. It was said to be able to house about 25 casks and, counting pipes and barrels, that the entire operation's capacity was about 10,000 gallons of wine.

Henry Brown was also a large producer of wine in the area, planting his vine in 1863.

It is not clear exactly when F.S. Jones arrived in the Green Valley. Some accounts have him arriving in 1860. Others in 1868. If he arrived as early as 1860, he first settled in an adobe that Gen. Mariano Vallejo built in the 1830s as a residence for his vaqueros.

Though remodeled a number of times, this house is known as the Vallejo/Jones House on Green Valley Road and is the oldest adobe in Solano County. Jones married Granville Swift's daughter and they moved into Swift's stone house.

Jones was destined to become the area's largest wine producer. He had all the necessary appliances and paraphernalia of the wine-making trade and constructed a cellar capable of holding 50,000 gallons of wine. He laid out 90 acres in vines, distilling 6,000 gallons of wine per acre.

But nature was to have her say. Disaster struck in the early 1870s when a plant root disease devastated the vineyards of Green Valley. Grapes continued to be harvested, but too many of the growers were never able to recover what they lost and so they went into other areas of farming such as fruit crops and took up stock raising.

In 1879, a writer spent two days meandering through Green Valley Township. Arriving in Green Valley, the following information was filed in his story.

A Capt. S. owned 180 acres and had 10,000 grapevines planted. He was just preparing to plant 10,000 eucalyptus trees and was justly proud of his barberry hedge around his house and barn. It was probably the most extensive barberry hedge in the state of California.

The Charles Ramsey estate consisted of 1,000 acres, a stone mansion surrounded by a profusion of trees, flowers, shrubs and vines. Isaac Cros had 160 acres with wheat as his primary crop. He was also raising hogs.

The writer spent the night at the F.S. Jones house. The house nestled among overhanging oak trees was part of a 307-acre ranch laid out in grapevines and cherry trees.

The wine cellar was impressive. He had 30,000 gallons of wine on hand and 16 casks of brandy. He had planted 50 cherry trees in the 1860s to beautify the carriage drive to his house. Those trees were the beginnings of what was to become one of the largest cherry orchards in the world by the 1900s.

The next day, the wandering writer hiked to the Green Valley Falls, forested with dripping chaparral. The hike commenced on a wide path and then became a sheep trail. He happened up a vacant shanty along the way and a gentleman trolling for trout in the stream. The falls were described as ''water shimmering down the facade of a solid wall of the mountain.'' The falls themselves were small as falls go, but the accompanying scenery was always described as most picturesque.

On the main road once again, there was a stop at the Beauferton Ranch, owned by Italians and devoted to viticulture. It was noted that wine from Belle Vista, the winery owned by Volypka, was shipped to Hamburg, Germany. But most of the wine was shipped to Milwaukee.

Leaving the valley, the writer noted the profusion of cherry trees along the route. Cherry orchards proved to be Green Valley's most successful crops in years to come.

Suggestions and local historical information for this column are welcome. Write biographer-historian Kris Delaplane Conti in care of The Reporter, 916 Cotting Lane, Vacaville, 95688.


Published August 13, 1995 in the Vacaville Reporter