The History of Fairfield and Solano County


Four years after the California Bear Flag Revolution, on February 18, 1850, the boundaries of Solano County were set by the first elected legislature of the territory of California, making Solano County one of the original 27 counties. The county derives its name indirectly from that of the Franciscan missionary, Father Francisco Solano, whose name was given in baptism to the chief of one of the Indian tribes of the region. Before receiving the name Solano, the chief was called Sem Yeto, which signifies “brave or fierce hand.” At the request of General Vallejo, the county was named for Chief Solano, who at one time ruled over most of the land and tribes between the Petaluma Creek and the Sacramento River.

Of the 12 townships that were created in the early days of the county’s history, seven incorporated into cities: Benicia (1850 and 1851), Vallejo (1868), Suisun City (1868), Dixon (1878), Vacaville (1892), Rio Vista (1893), and Fairfield (1903).

Solano County straddles the divide between the Bay Area and the Central Valley and its cities reflect that in their diverse identities. Fairfield is located at the center, on the plane between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Suisun Marsh, surrounded by lush valleys and beautiful vistas.

Artifacts of stone-age people have been found in Green Valley that date back to 2000 B.C.E. When the Spaniards arrived, Solano County was home to the Patwin Indians. Some of their village places have survived phonetically in such modern places as Suisun, Soscol, Ulatis and Putah.

Fairfield was founded by clipper-ship captain Robert Waterman in 1856 and named for his hometown of Fairfield, Connecticut. Waterman founded the town following failed attempts to establish a port city at nearby Bridgeport/Cordelia. Two years later, voters ratified a proposal to move the county seat from Benicia to Fairfield and Waterman, as he promised, donated 16 acres for new county buildings. The city of Fairfield was formally incorporated in 1903.

Despite its political prominence as the county seat, Fairfield was more isolated in its early years, when it had neither a port nor other easy access to larger market towns. Well into the 20th overshadowed by its neighbor and rival, Suisun City.

However, Fairfield had much more to offer than just its government center. Following its incorporation as a city in 1903, a bond measure was passed that created much- needed improvements, and with the re-routing of the Lincoln Highway through the town in 1915, Texas Street finally developed into a bustling center. Over the years, many other businesses began to come to Fairfield, attracting residents from the century, Fairfield did not have many residents and was often surrounding valleys and vicinities.

Today, Fairfield is shaped by the rapid growth along the Interstate 80 corridor and the influence of nearby Travis Air Force Base, which was built east of town in 1942 and provides a tremendous boost to the local economy. Fairfield is the home to a diverse industrial and commercial sector, employing workers in a variety of professional fields. Some of the largest employers include Travis Air Force Base, County of Solano, Solano Town Center and the Jelly Belly Candy Company.