Back in the Day: The medieval history of Fairfield, California

Back in the Day: The medieval history of Fairfield, California

Originally published in the Fairfield Daily Republic on July 5, 2013

By Tony Wade
Once upon a time, Lord Robespierre Waterman surveyed the countryside in his castle atop Cement Hill. The summer heat was stifling in his chain mail armor and as he walked from behind the battlements, he hoped to catch one of the breezes for which his Fairfield fiefdom was famous.

He looked down the castle wall at the dried-up moat and made a mental note to assign serfs from nearby Claybank Dungeon to refill it.

Suddenly, the trumpet warning of imminent attack sounded. It came from the east, so Waterman guessed it was the dreaded Vacavillians attempting to plunder his castle again. The wretched telltale stench of onions in the air confirmed his suspicions.

Unsheathing his sword Excalibrate, given to him by the mystical Lady of the Slough, Waterman and his knights fought valiantly, but the Vacavillians, used to the scorching heat, outlasted and overran them.

Before all was lost, Waterman mounted his trusty steed Eye Eighty and, along with three knights who had not been killed, rode across the shire until they came to the hamlet known as Washington Empire.

Waterman had hidden his beloved Maiden Cordelia in the 50-foot octagonal tower there to keep her from falling into the hands of Vacavillian brutes. Alas, her fortress had become a prison as the tower was surrounded by knights loyal to the evil Lord Vallejo.

Waterman and his knights were outnumbered. But spotting an unguarded catapult, he had an idea.

The moment Maiden Cordelia appeared at the top of the tower, Lord Waterman was catapulted in a perfectly executed arc over the top of the structure where he plucked his startled beloved up with one arm and continued on his arc until landing perfectly in the saddle of his waiting steed.

Lord Vallejo’s minions gave chase, but they were no match for Eye Eighty. Waterman and his bride lived happily ever after. The only remnants of their medieval lives are the ruins of the castle on Cement Hill and the remarkably well-preserved tower near Armijo High.

The End

OK, that was a silly story, but no sillier than some who think that the still-visible ruins on Cement Hill were actually ever a castle. Or where the Easter Bunny lives, as one local surmised.

Actually the “castle” was a rock crusher and is one of the few remaining pieces of physical evidence of the once-bustling town of Cement owned by the Pacific Portland Cement Company.

From 1902 to 1927, the 900-acre town supplied cement for concrete used all over the world. The town of Cement had a hotel, movie theater and was poppin’ until the ore ran out and the town died.

The Daily Republic used to run an annual interview with the late Donald Heimberger, a Cement City historian. You can view a presentation on Cement narrated by Heimberger on the Solano History Exploration Center website here: www.solanohistorycenter.org.

The land the “castle” sits on has been owned by the Tooby family since the 1940s and was a cattle ranch. Mary Tooby Aiu is tired of trespassers.

“Historical stuff related to the town lives only in history books and in a few pictures. I would think that anyone who goes, or has gone, up to ‘the castle’ is disappointed as to what they find, which is just concrete towers of nothingness,” Aiu said. “There are some who think it is OK to cut fences, paint graffiti and irresponsibly start fires. Many years ago, my brother had the opportunity to blow up the ‘castle’ with dynamite. My dad decided against it at the time . . . too bad.”

So, view it from afar, daydream all you like . . . but keep out.

The tower by Armijo High, likewise, was not Rapunzel’s crib, or a torture chamber or the gallows of Henry VIII that was taken apart brick by brick, transported here and reconstructed – although I must give bonus creativity points for the last ridiculous claim.

It was just a water tower built in 1919 with architecture matching the old jail, now demolished.

You know that classic “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” article that defends the spirit of the holidays and shoots down negative naysayers? This column is the opposite of that.