Few people in Davis today know that this community was the center of the “Purple Circle” in Yolo and Solano counties from about 1916 to the 1960s.
Purple is the color of ribbons awarded to grand champion livestock, drawn from the blue-ribbon winners. In December 1916, The Davis Enterprise used banner headlines to announce the grand champion ribbons won by Davis ranchers and farmers at Chicago’s International Livestock Exposition, the premier event of the time.
The herds closest to Davis were owned by the Schmeiser, Roby, Irwin, Pierce, Hopkins, Anderson, Swingle, Dolcini, Briggs and Rowe families and by Davis Horse and Cattle Company and UC Davis.
The museum’s exhibit includes a history of the Purple Circle, a sampling of the animals awarded purple ribbons in Chicago and a 1920s coverlet constructed of purple and other ribbons awarded to the Rowe family’s Innisfail Herd of milking shorthorns developed by John “Johnnie Shorthorn” Rowe.
The exhibit was put together by museum director Dennis Dingemans and docent Kate Morrss with the assistance of Stuart and Charles Rowe and Evelyn Rowe Rominger.
Other exhibits at the museum include pictures and descriptions of Davis homes surviving from the 19th century, histories of UCD and the Davis Library, artifacts from the Jerome Davis ranch, the coming of the railroad, an iron ball once installed on top of the first water tower in Davisville (upon which, it is said, the town’s fire chief stood on his head for the amusement of town children) and a 1908 piano that once belonged to the pioneer Schmeiser family who arrived the same year Davisville was founded — 1868.
For Christmas, the museum volunteers decorate a tree in the style of 1898 and provide goodie bags for children echoing those distributed to Davisville’s 200 children on Christmas Eve that year, containing an orange, an apple, nuts and candy.
The museum is at 445 C St., in the northeast corner of Central Park. Hours at 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays. Admission is free, as are the gifts for children. Donations are always accepted with gratitude.