Thursday, July 24, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Giant Chief Solano statue greets Events Center visitors

By
From page A1 | January 10, 2014 |

sculptingSolanostatue

William Gordon Huff stands next to his statue of Chief Solano, which is now in front of the Solano County Events Center. (Courtesy photo)

This is part of a periodic series telling the story behind various sights in Solano County

FAIRFIELD — A 12-foot-tall bronze statue of a Native American stands in front of the Solano County Event Center at 601 Texas St., clad in a loincloth, one hand raised in greeting or perhaps a blessing.

That’s not an anonymous Native American. It’s Chief Solano, also known as Sem Yeto, the county’s namesake. The depiction is powerful enough that its likeness serves as the centerpiece of the Solano County seal.

The real Chief Solano has been depicted in histories as either the noble chief of the Suisun Indians or a man with a mean streak and a tool of pre-California leader Mariano Vallejo.

But the idea of a less-than-noble Solano seems to be a more recent phenomena. When the Chief Solano statue was created, no such controversy existed. Newspaper articles of the time don’t reflect such a discussion.

In the early 1930s, the Native Sons of California, the Improved Order of Red Men and Degree of Pocahontas decided to immortalize Chief Solano in bronze. Artist William Gordon Huff went with a noble depiction and molded the statue in an Oakland foundry.

The idea for a Chief Solano statue had been around for years, the Jan. 22, 1931 Solano Republican reported. Nothing had happened because of disagreements over where Chief Solano had been buried, given the gravesite would be a good location for a statue.

H. Vance Clymer of the Improved Order of the Red Men pushed on. He received help from state Sen. Tom McCormack of Rio Vista. McCormack sponsored a law that got the monument erected on a knoll along the Sacramento Highway, four miles west of downtown Fairfield, near today’s site for the California Highway Patrol truck scales. The state provided $5,000.

“Chief Solano figures prominently in the early history of the state, especially that of the northern counties,” McCormack said. “The Improved Order of the Red Men are behind the project and it is worthy of support.”

On June 3, 1934, 3,000 people attended a dedication ceremony for the monument on a windy day. Bands played, Native Americans came dressed in native costumes and officials such as McCormack gave speeches. A black-and-white film from the day shows the statue initially covered in a white cloth that gets pulled off.

A program for the event said the White Man admits he wasn’t fair to Chief Solano by forcing him to sell a land grant for $50.

“It was a sad mistake and it is to the White Man’s credit that he regrets it. The White Man erects to the Red Man a monument in memory of those qualities that are never old – that are great in any man no matter what his color, creed or race – qualities of hospitality and brotherhood,” the program said.

Vandals damaged the statue and local leaders decided to move it. The search for a perfect, new home proved somewhat controversial.

“Some say the Chief would do well in front of the courthouse, but his southern exposure is not altogether inspiring – and all agree that to place the 12-foot giant on the library grounds near Texas Street or Union Avenue would simply ruin the library,” the Aug. 28, 1938, Solano Republican stated.

But the Chief Solano statue did indeed end up in front of the county library at 601 Texas St. The library moved away in 1976 to 1000 Kentucky St. and the county in 2010 renovated original Texas Street building to become the Solano County Events Center.

Sem Yeto became Solano when baptized by missionaries at Mission Dolores in 1810. He was named after Francisco Solano, the saint and missionary. Some histories depict Chief Solano as saving the Suisun Indians by establishing peace with pioneer settlers and with Vallejo. Solano died in about 1850 and Vallejo moved to have the county named after him after California formed as a state in 1850.

Yet other historians present a darker side, pointing to a supposed eyewitness account of Solano lancing a pregnant woman and a written rebuke to Solano from Vallejo for being involved in a scheme to kidnap Native American children.

A noble Solano is part of the county’s creation myth, as much as George Washington’s confession to chopping down the cherry tree is part of the founding myth of the nation. That’s the Solano that Huff immortalized in bronze.

Whatever the truth of the matter, Huff’s statue brings out the best in Chief Solano.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or beberling@dailyrepublic.net. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling has been a reporter with the Daily Republic since 1987. He covers Solano County government, transportation, growth and the environment. He received his bachelors of art degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Artists with trowels transform highway wall

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1, 4 Comments | Gallery

 
 
County court employees rally against cuts, furloughs

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3, 4 Comments | Gallery

 
Crews to begin Vacaville slurry seal street project

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A3

2nd candidate eyes Vacaville mayoral run

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Bertani schedules town hall meet

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3, 4 Comments

 
Vacaville police arrest fugitive Dezmon Frazier

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4, 5 Comments

 
 
Sesame Street USO tour visits Travis

By Staff Sgt. Christopher Carranza | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Suisun City police log: July 21, 2013

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

Suisun City police log: July 20, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

 
Fairfield police log: July 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

Fairfield police log: July 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

 
Weather for July 24, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B10

Fairfield police log: July 20, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

 
Suisun City police log: July 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

.

US / World

Lawsuit tests racial policy at California prisons

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 3 Comments

 
Honduran families deported back to a bleak future

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Lockdown lifted at Little Rock Air Force Base

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
US pushes for truce as Gaza battle rages

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Casualty numbers raise questions about Gaza war

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
40 bodies from jet solemnly returned to Dutch soil

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

.

Opinion

Rick Perry’s contradiction

By Ruben Navarrette | From Page: A7, 1 Comment

 
Editorial Cartoons for July 24, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

Good men lost due to Bergdahl

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A7, 1 Comment

 
Is Logue tripping over words?

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A7

 
Watch out for Bobby Jindal

By Jay Ambrose | From Page: A7

 
.

Living

Today in History for July 24, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: July 24, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

I resent my husband for not defending me to his mother

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

 
Horoscopes for July 24, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

CBS event marks civil rights anniversary

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
4-day Comic Con festival kicks off in San Diego

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Filmmaker Michael Moore’s divorce is finalized

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

 
CBS says Colbert keeping CBS’ ‘Late Show’ in NYC

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

.

Sports

Pence drives in 3, Giants beat Phillies 3-1

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Cespedes hits 2 HRs, A’s hold off Astros 9-7

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Big innings fuels 16-1 Expos victory in Area 1 opener

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Raiders start to arrive for start of camp

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Tight end Vernon Davis arrives at 49ers training camp

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Testimony ends in trial over $2B Clippers sale

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Playful Pole wins Tour stage, as Nibali marches on

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
4 Cities to meet with USOC about 2024

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Broncos owner giving up control due to Alzheimer’s

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Mavericks’ Felton pleads guilty in NYC gun case

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Chiefs, running back Jamaal Charles reach deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Seattle’s Sidney Rice announces his retirement

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

.

Business

Stopping deadly oil train fires: New rules planned

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
US economy, though sluggish, may now be sturdier

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

GM issues 6 more safety recalls

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
.

Obituaries

Mary Bell Scrivner Sanders

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
Arturo Montenegro

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Joseph Ross Smith Jr.

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Shirley T. ‘Mac’ McFadden

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 5 Comments

.

Comics

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A5

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9