Just to the west of Marshall Cut in Solano County sits an abandoned farmhouse. Like many others it is neglected and tumbledown. It has been damaged by time, the elements and vandals. It is utterly unremarkable except for one fact, it was originally built by Lansford W. Hastings, the man whom many blame for the tragic fate of the Donner-Reed Party. It is one of the oldest, buildings in Solano County.
While Lansford Hastings is best remembered for his 1845 publication, The Emigrant’s Guide to Oregon and California, which contained a very vague suggestion of a shortcut overland to California and was followed, with tragic results by the Donner-Reed Party in 1846; Hastings had many other interests in California and the West. He was an early pioneer in Oregon and California, a delegate to the California Constitutional Convention in 1849, an attorney and surveyor and a business associate of both John Sutter and Sam Brannan.
Lansford W. Hastings was born in Mount Vernon, Ohio in 1819, the son of Dr. Waitstill and Lucinda Hastings He was educated as a lawyer and in 1842, joined the migration of emigrants to the Oregon Country. While in Oregon he surveyed the site of Oregon City. In the spring of 1843, Hastings traveled to Alta California form Oregon and, amazed by the richness and beauty of the area, described in The Emigrant’s Guide, he decided that California should be populated with Americans and become an independent republic. In 1844, he traveled back to the United States and The Emigrant’s Guide was published in Cincinnati in 1845.
In April of 1846, Hastings headed west to California again and by the time he arrived, the Mexican War started. In October, he was elected Captain of Company F of the California Battalion. After seeing service in the conquest of California, Hastings returned to his law practice. There is, however, a bit more to this story. While in New York, in the summer of 1845, Hastings met with Sam Brannan and others. An agreement was reached by which Hastings would return to California and secure a land grant to be the site of a Mormon colony proposed by Brannan. This led Hastings to build his adobe on Suisun Bay at the junction of the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers and naming the proposed town site “Montezuma”. The site was chosen because the Sacramento and San Joaquin would provide water transport into the vast Central Valley and also through the Carquinez Straight and San Pablo and San Francisco Bays to the Golden Gate and the Pacific Ocean.
With California becoming part of the United States at the end of the Mexican War, the plans for a Mormon colony on the shores of Suisun Bay came to naught and by 1850, Hastings Adobe was abandoned. In 1853, the adobe was occupied by L. P. Marshall and his two sons, John and Charles Knox; Charles later became County Recorder of Solano County and lived in Benicia. Hastings eventually demanded payment for the adobe and the Marshalls gave him two mules and six head of cattle, which were valued at $1000.00 at the time. The Marshalls improved and expanded the adobe, surrounding the original walls with a frame and siding structure.
In 1908, The Marshall family sold the adobe to S. O. Stratton and the Stratton family lived in the dwelling and ran a cattle ranch until 1963 when the land and the adobe were sold to Pacific Gas and Electric Company as as site for a proposed nuclear power plant. After 1963, the house sat vacant although the Strattons retained grazing rights. In 2006, work began on the Shiloh wind power plant and the house is now located on the land upon which the Shiloh power plant is built. As late as 2006, it was possible to drive right up to the house but the area is now fenced off and there is a locked gate. It is possible to see the Hastings Adobe from the locked gate. Public access is restricted.
There are a couple of places of interest near the Hastings Adobe; first there is the Bird’s Landing Hunting Preserve and Sporting Clays located at 2099 Collinsville Road in Bird’s Landing. (707-374-5092) The Bird’s Landing Hunting Preserve is open from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, Wednesday through Sunday. The second is Shirley’s Tavern, 1299 Collinsville Road, Bird’s Landing. Shirley’s is a small tavern which serves beer and wine and is chock full of local history. The owner, Shirley, is over 90 and is a font of local knowledge. Grab a beer, eat some peanuts and throw the shells on the floor.
Getting There: From 414 Mason Street, take Interstate 80 East to Exit 43 andCA-12E. Take CA-12E toward Rio Vista. Turn right onto Shiloh Road. Continue on Shiloh Road after it becomes Collinsville Road. Turn Left onto Stratton Lane. Follow Stratton Lane until you reach the locked Gate #6. From the gate, it is possible to see the Hastings Adobe.