A prominent Vacaville family makes headlines for the wrong reasons
Many of the early families who moved to the township of Vacaville in the 1800s have streets bearing their namesake today. The Dobbins family was one such family, with Dobbins Street, running from Merchant Street to Gibson Canyon Road, named in their honor. Here’s the story of an infamous murder in Vacaville’s early history.
Jeff Dobbins, the son of Dr. W.J. Dobbins, an early leader in the community, made headlines when the younger Dobbins shot and killed a man. The man he killed was Eldridge Boyd Ball and the murder took place at John Burn’s Saloon inside the historic Odd Fellows building in downtown Vacaville.
On August 4th, 1900, an argument broke out during a poker game in a card room of the saloon between Dobbins and Ball, a well-known blacksmith in the area. According to reports, Dobbins drew a pistol and fired two shots at Ball. A wounded Ball made his way to the second story of the Odd Fellows building and into the office of Dr. J.W. Stitt, who advised an ailing Ball that one of the gunshots he sustained was likely fatal. Ball passed away early the next day.
Dobbins was taken into custody shortly after the shooting and subsequently charged with first degree murder. Dobbins was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison at San Quentin.
The violent episode and its association with gambling, saloons, and alcohol, was one of several crimes that helped fuel the local temperance movement which succeeded in making Vacaville a dry city in 1909 and then remain so for 24 years.
Ronald Limbaugh recounts the murder and its impact on the local temperance movement in his history book, Vacaville: The Heritage of a California Community.
The Vacaville Odd Fellows lodge was founded on March 5, 1859. The Odd Fellows building in downtown Vacaville was rebuilt after two fires destroyed the previous structures in 1877 and 1884. Repairs were made to the current building following the earthquake of 1892.
The group rents out the bottom floor to maintain the meeting hall upstairs. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows in Vacaville is a fraternal organization that has provided charitable donations and scholarships to local students.
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