It was the best of places it was the worst of places, somewhere everyone said they had fun, somewhere others said everyone sinned; it was close enough to town you could count on meeting friends, it was far enough away from town hopefully no one would recognize you; it was a legal business routinely caught breaking the law; loved and hated, tolerated and intolerable, it was any of the hundred-plus Sonoma County roadhouses in the early Twentieth Century.
Up to this point roadhouses have been peripheral to issues explored in this journal. Women weren't allowed to drink liquor or even enter a saloon so it was an interesting news item in 1907 when a roadhouse in the Sonoma Valley was closed after a party of men and women were spotted drinking together and cussing. Some places were also shut down for selling alcohol to Indians because under the strict 1908 county law there was a fine of $500 and six months in jail for selling booze to anyone with just one-fourth Native American blood. And in 1912, the sheriff raided a Fulton roadhouse because they were holding a dance where hipsters were breaking out those new, obscene "ragtime" dance steps.
(RIGHT: A roadhouse south of the Sonoma Plaza at the intersection of Broadway and Napa Road, c. 1900. There were at least two other roadhouses called One Mile House in early 20th century Sonoma County, west of Forestville and north of Healdsburg. Photo courtesy Western Sonoma County Historical Society )
Roadhouses were more than a saloon in the country. Sometimes they had a few bedrooms and it was claimed to be a hotel; sometimes food was served and the place called itself a restaurant, even if the only thing on the menu was a plate of saltine crackers (a couple of dives in Santa Rosa were busted in 1907 for serving up such a "meal"). But usually there was no pretense about the place; it could be an old farmhouse or shack, with a flat wooden board for a bartop, a few tables and chairs - and a liquor license.
Around 1910 most Americans probably lived only a few minutes away from a roadhouse (and maybe more than one) but that was nothing new. Here in Sonoma County, the 1877 county atlas shows three places a farmer could wet his whistle between Sebastopol and Santa Rosa and at least two were between Petaluma and Cotati, the most famous being Washoe House.
Being in the county, these were little fiefdoms ruled by the will and whim of the proprietor. Did saloons in town have to be closed on Sundays? Thirsty men could head out to the roadhouse, which was nearly always open. "Ragging" was outlawed in Petaluma in 1912 and Santa Rosa was under pressure to ban it as well, but there were no prudish rules about close contact dancing at the roadhouse (while there was no country ordinance against dancing, the deputy in Fulton apparently believed there was other monkey business afoot).
From at least 1910 on, the roadhouse and its offshoots take more of a central role in Sonoma County history. Some of the reasons were unique to where we are and who we were; some were more in common with other places in America. Certainly the advent of automobiles brought more traffic to roadhouses everywhere, but in Sonoma County we shouldn't make too much of it. At the time there was a popular electric trolley connecting all of central county as well as light rail going down the Sonoma Valley. There was probably a roadhouse only a few steps away from every rural train platform. And that's not even considering the booming playland along the Russian River which began to emerge after 1910, when the railway coming up the coast from San Francisco finally connected with the little train that rattled along the river. Every year new places popped up, making it a nearly continuous party scene. It would not be surprising to discover most money coming into the county by 1940 was tied directly to drinking and dancing along River Road.
Roadhouses always had a reputation for skirting the law, which was part of their rough appeal. Yes, there were arrests for selling liquor to Indians and women (plus allowing them inside) and come the years of Prohibition there was no better possible training for running a speakeasy than having owned a roadhouse. But increasingly activities in the unincorporated parts of Sonoma County would be tied to more serious crimes, including prostitution. And Santa Rosa may be to blame for some of that.
As longtime readers know, Santa Rosa had a major tenderloin district around the intersection of First and D streets, with at least a dozen houses operating. The city curbed prostitution somewhat in 1909, forcing the bordellos to be more discreet about their business and apparently pushing some of the traffic out into the countryside (MORE BACKGROUND). Soon after the crackdown a pair of "brothel agents" were arrested in El Verano, where they were apparently planning to setup a house. A few years later, a large bordello outside of Sebastopol was raided and closed. Never before had the Santa Rosa newspapers mentioned problems with prostitution in rural areas.
By 1912 the Sonoma Valley road was also glutted with roadhouses, causing the Press Democrat to lament something must be done to curtail them:
|There are so many saloons and road houses there that the district has become notorious. Much of the indignation aroused has been occasioned by the fact that practically every resort of this character is located right on the main county road, where it and the conditions it creates are constantly flaunted in the faces of the passers-by. Most of these places do not even have an excuse for existence, but are road-houses and nothing else...Present conditions in the beautiful Sonoma valley should never have been allowed to develop. Not all, but most of the road-houses there are cheap, unattractive places that have been established in the near vicinity of popular summer resorts in the hope of diverting trade that rightfully belongs to the institutions upon which they hoped to prey like leeches, they live off the blood created and furnished by somebody else. The number of saloons and road-houses in the Sonoma valley is out of all reason. No self-respecting community could be expected to continue forever to put up with conditions such as exist there.|
That led to the county trying to kill the roadhouses outright (or at least seriously hobble them), which created a political mess that will be unpeeled here later. Next, however, we're going to lurch forward more than twenty years to look at the aftermath of all this in El Verano, with the long residence of infamous madam "Spanish Kitty" and Sonoma County's claim to gangster fame with the stopover of trigger-happy Baby Face Nelson.
SALOON AND RESORT MEN FAVOR PROPER REGULATIONPresent Petition To the Board of Supervisors
"Whereas Residents and property owners of Agua Caliente and El Verano precincts have presented a written petition to this Board asking for additional regulations, concerning the issuance of retail liquor licenses, and the conduct of saloons, it is therefore
"Resolved, That no new or additional liquor licenses he issued for such business in either of said precincts, also that no license for any new saloon be granted until the number of saloons in said precincts become less than twelve, and that the number of such licenses be limited to twelve for both such precincts.
"It is also the sense of this Board that the ordinances governing the sale of liquor and the conduct of saloons be rigidly enforced, and that for the first offense a fine sufficient to have a deterrent effect be imposed, and for the second offense, in addition to any fine, this Board revoke the license of the offender."
At the meeting of the Board of Supervisors on Monday the Board was asked to adopt the above resolution, and the desire to have all the members of the board present when action was taken, resulted in its being deferred for that purpose. It is practically certain that the Supervisors will grant the prayer of the petitioners.
A petition from Agua Caliente and El Verano precincts, signed by about a hundred taxpayers of these districts, asking the Supervisors to take the action set forth in substance in the resolution mentioned above was presented to the Supervisors. The plan was suggested and brought to a head by the owners of summer resorts in the places mentioned, and they were here Monday in Supervisors' hall...
- Press Democrat, February 6, 1912
SONOMA VALLEY'S ROAD-HOUSES
It is reported that the people of Sonoma Valley are preparing to take determined steps to get rid of some of the road-houses which infest that region--that is, if such a thing be possible. They plan to do this by means of a special election. If such an election is held and results successfully, it will probably mean the closing of all the saloons now operating in the valley. The viticultural interests there are so extensive and so important that the idea of declaring for absolute prohibition is not [illegible microfilm]
Under the circumstances, it would seem that the relief asked for should come from the Board of Supervisors, who have the right to revoke as well as to grant the licenses under which these places are conducted closing up the objectionable road-houses and enforcing strict regulation of those resorts that are allowed to continue in business would probably remove all just cause for complaint, and at the same time it would allow the fairminded people of the valley a dignified way out of the perplexing situation which now confronts them.
That the residents of Sonoma Valley have just cause for complaint, no reasonable person can deny. There are so many saloons and road houses there that the district has become notorious. Much of the indignation aroused has been occasioned by the fact that practically every resort of this character is located right on the main county road, where it and the conditions it creates are constantly flaunted in the faces of the passers-by. Most of these places do not even have an excuse for existence, but are road-houses and nothing else. Others are part of reputable and well-established summer resorts--the kind that represent large investments and really attract people to such a community during the summer time. Comparatively few people have any serious objection to a resort of this character being allowed to conduct a bar or club-house in connection provided the same be properly managed and its existence not unduly emphasized.
Present conditions in the beautiful Sonoma valley should never have been allowed to develop. Not all, but most of the road-houses there are cheap, unattractive places that have been established in the near vicinity of popular summer resorts in the hope of diverting trade that rightfully belongs to the institutions upon which they hoped to prey like leeches, they live off the blood created and furnished by somebody else. The number of saloons and road-houses in the Sonoma valley is out of all reason. No self-respecting community could be expected to continue forever to put up with conditions such as exist there. The Board of Supervisors more than anybody else are responsible for these conditions, which have developed gradually and perhaps without full realization upon anyone's part of the ultimate consequences. The time has now come when there must be a change. This can be accomplished without any of the bitterness that is invariably engendered by a hard-fought prohibition campaign--a struggle that arrays neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend, brother against brother. The authorities responsible should remedy the conditions complained of, and at once. It will not do to merely adopt "resolutions of intention."
- Press Democrat, February 7, 1912
A NEW VOTER WRITES LETTERDiscusses the Conditions in the Sonoma Valley
Editor REPUBLICAN: Allow me a little space in your paper to express some views on the coming extra election, in which we will have to vote for "wet" or "dry" in this Supervisorial District...
...I have lived here for almost a quarter of a century, and have friends and neighbors in both factions. On both sides are bad and good arguments. Let us consider some of these from a financial and moral standpoint.
First the financial: Up to about ten years ago this valley was dead. Land near Sonoma, El Verano and along the valley could hardly be sold at any price; settlers were few and far between. Within the last decade there has been a great increase in population and real estate values. In the last five years Sonoma has forged ahead more than it did in the twenty-five previous years--with her court house, the water, light and sewer systems. The valley has also good electric light and telephone systems. What brought all this prosperity to the valley? The summer people.
...This valley is emphatically a summer resort and dependent on that alone for its prosperity. It creates a demand for hotels, such as Boyes, Fetters, Richards and the many other hotels throughout the valley; it creates a demand for small holdings for summer homes; it creates a home market for farm products; hence the demand for small farms and the rise in real estate values. The land, which could not be sold for $100 an acre, in selling fast now for $250 an acre.
Next the moral: Every decent person must and does object to the way (it is claimed) some of the road houses are run. There are plenty of laws regulating such matters. Why are they not enforced? And who is to blame? Why do not some of these people who are clamoring so loudly about the vileness of the places not go to headquarters with facts and data so that their license could be revoked? ...
A NEW VOTER. Glen Ellen, February 13, 1912
- Santa Rosa Republican, February 15, 1912
Santa Rosa would probably burn down if they didn't start a fire company, but many didn't seem to care if it did in 1860.
This is the story of the origins of the Santa Rosa Fire Department, but you could easily say it's also about the origins of Santa Rosa as a community. In 1860 the town proper had only about 500 residents and it was very much an I've-got-mine kind of place. There was no public school in town until the year before; why tax yourself to educate someone else's kids? Or why worry about your house catching fire since you're personally always careful with lamps and candles? An attempt to start a volunteer fire company flopped in 1858 because it was presumed fire-fighting equipment might cost too much. "We must have some kind of fire organization," the Sonoma County Democrat begged. "Santa Rosa is composed almost entirely of wooden buildings, and if a fire should break out in any part of the town, in all probability the whole place would be laid in ashes."
The paper renewed its call for something to be done after a September, 1860 house fire. Usually Santa Rosa was fighting fires with a simple bucket brigade - everyone who heard the cry of "fire!" grabbed his personal bucket and ran to the scene, where anyone brave enough would try to beat out the flames just using wet blankets or sacks. This homeowner was lucky enough to live next door to Santa Rosa House, the town's main hotel, where owner Edward Colgan had a hose and a force pump which helped extinguish the fire without too much damage. (This incident also provides a rare glimpse of the remarkable John Richards, an African-American man of wealth who welcomed former slaves into his home and guided them to new lives.)
Not so lucky was the town of Healdsburg, where most of the business district was destroyed a few days later, even though residents tried to make a firebreak by blowing up the cigar store. "Every effort was made on the part of the citizens to suppress the flames, but owing to their having no fire organization all their efforts were of no avail," the Democrat commented, again jabbing Santa Rosa with an editorial elbow. Still, nothing was done.
The Democrat coverage of those fires was fairly lengthy, considering they occurred in the autumn of 1860 just before the presidential election. Editor Thomas Thompson was squeezing out almost all local news to make space for tirades against for voting for Lincoln, denouncing him as a coward, fool and abolitionist who - horrors, the unthinkable! - was secretly planning to free the slaves once he sneaked into the White House. How it must have galled Thompson to waste those column inches to chide citizens over the importance of fire protection when the precious space surely would have been better used promoting Breckinridge, the candidate upholding the absolute legal right of slavery in the South.
The turning point came in the new year when Dr. Todd's home on Third street caught fire. It burned with remarkable speed; only by good fortune was a toddler rescued from being trapped inside. The flames lept to the house next door (home to Joel Miller and family, known to readers via the Otho Hinton story) and threatened the building just beyond that, which was the office of the Sonoma County Democrat. Only the doctor's home was lost and only thanks to an absence of wind.
Coming so soon after the devastation in Healdsburg, it was no longer a challenge to convince our penny-pinching ancestors that something must be done for the sake of the common good. In just a couple of days, Dr. Alban raised over $300 for the purchase of equipment and at the end of the week, meeting above Fen's Saloon at the corner of Third and Main streets, 25 men signed up to form Santa Rosa's first hook and ladder company. The date was February 2nd, 1861.
Other meetings followed and those stairs at Fen's Saloon must have had quite a workout. It was decided that three hundred bucks might buy a very serviceable hook and ladder truck but what the town really needed was a fire engine. So on June 29th they were reorganized as Santa Rosa Engine Company No. 1, despite having no engine, nor enough money to buy one, nor knowing where to find such a thing. (We know about those developments, by the way, only thanks to tidbits about the company history appearing in the papers during 1870s and 1880s. At the time editor Thompson gave them little mention, as he was now consumed with running wordy commentaries bashing the Lincoln administration and calling for California to join the southern states in seceding from the Union.)
A committee went to San Francisco and found the fire department there had a used engine made by the Hunneman company. An agreement was made: $400 down and three men in town signed a promissory note for the $900 balance. The engine arrived in mid-December. "The 'boys' tried her on Monday afternoon," the Democrat reported, "and rendered a verdict in consequence in perfect accordance with her name - 'Cataract.'" Then they apparently adjourned to the room above Fen's Saloon.
The name "Cataract" promised to drown a fire as if it were under a waterfall. Many fire companies at the time gushed boastfully of their engine's prowess with names such as "Torrent," "Spouter," "Cascade" and "Fountain." (The firemen of Islesford, Maine, however, with their craggy down-easter exactitude, dubbed their fire engine, "Squirt.")
(RIGHT: An 1850 Hunneman restored at Francestown, New Hampshire, probably the same as Santa Rosa's Cataract. Photo credit: New Boston Historical Society)
Santa Rosa was lucky to find a used Hunneman engine available; there were probably fewer than a dozen in the state at the time. Today they appear to us like large and fragile toys, but they were quite rugged and considered the standard of excellence for their compact and efficient design, made by a Boston company founded by a coppersmith who apprenticed with Paul Revere. They worked like this:
The engine and a two-wheeled hose carriage arrive at the fire, drawn by horses (which in itself was an innovation in the mid 19th century). The first job is to fill up the "tub;" Santa Rosa's engine probably held about 200 gallons so a leather hose is hooked up to a fire hydrant, if available, or dropped into a well. Copper nozzles are screwed on to one or both leather hoses attached to spigots on the sides. Firemen take positions holding the two long brass poles on either side of the engine which are called "brakes" (a 18th-19th century name for the handle of a pump) and begin seesawing them like mad. You can watch a video here. Inside the engine, those brakes are operating a two cylinder single acting piston pump. There is also a copper air chamber to produce a steady flow of water but as pressure builds up, the increased resistance makes it harder to pump. Firemen can only work for a few minutes without tiring, requiring them to work in teams. More details of the workings can be found at the New Boston Historical Society.
Note particularly the engine has no "engine" - no steam or other form of power except fireman muscle, and lots of it. It's a tribute to Hunneman's design and craftsmanship that the things performed so well; even the smaller model, as seen here, had enough pressure to shoot a stream nearly 200 feet in competitions held elsewhere. The company showed off the "bully Cataract" at a Sonoma mechanical fair later that year but didn't expect to win any prizes because "our machine is of much less capacity than any engine in the district," as commented the Democrat.
The provenance of Santa Rosa's Cataract is fuzzy. There are aficionados who seek to track down the history of every "hand tub" (particularly the Hunnemans), but this one seems to have slipped through the cracks. The Sonoma County Democrat mentioned "the engine has 'seen service' in the East, but not enough to injure it," and according to another paper we bought it off of San Francisco's Howard Engine Company No. 3, but there is no further genealogy. Possibly San Francisco sold it quickly because it was not as the East Coast seller advertised; with even the smallest model weighing nearly a ton and all shipping to and from the East sailing around the Horn, returns were not as easy as sending a defective gizmo back to Amazon.
The first real challenge for the Santa Rosa company came four months later, at the end of April, 1862 when the Eureka Hotel caught fire. "The flames spread so rapidly through the building that many boarders barely escaped with their lives," the Democrat reported, "and some made their appearance in the street minus 'unmentionables.'" The hotel was lost along with an adjoining store, the fire being uncontrolled in part because of an unreliable water supply; their engine drained four wells and its hose was working on the fifth well at the end, the paper noting that moving the hose from well to well cost considerable time. But members of the company bonded over the experience and nearly twenty years later they were still talking about it: "...To hear the old members speak of the excitement and daring of their comrades in vying with one another for bravery and the labor of gaining control of the fiery element, recalls vividly the pioneer days of raging conflagrations in San Francisco." Their company motto, "Faithful and Fearless" spoke to this pride.
Members of the company were all unpaid, but volunteering was not without its perks. They were exempt from jury duty and militia service - the latter being a particular draw after Congress passed the 1863 conscription act. While California was never required to send a quota to fight for the Union, the pro-Confederacy young men of Santa Rosa probably didn't want to take chances.
Since the town contributed nothing for equipment or to help retire the amount still owed on the engine, the "ladies" - none of whom were ever named - held annual Firemen's Balls. The first one in early 1862 was a complete bust so they hit the reset button and held another first annual ball in the summer. That one raised $35, which the company used to buy a "triangle" for sounding the alarm.
Aside from the Fourth of July festivities, these Firemen's Balls were the only major events in town not hosted by a church. A description is transcribed below, with dancing continuing until 4AM and a break at midnight for everyone to have supper. In a town where rancor over the Civil War ran high (Lincoln received only 18 percent of the vote in Santa Rosa, by far the lowest in the county), these benefits offered a unique, nonpartisan gathering for the whole community.
A crisis came in 1863 because $600 still was due for the engine, while the volunteers were paying interest on the debt plus the rent for the firehouse out of their own pockets. Cataract was about to be sold and the company reformed as hook and ladder. "But at last we see a glimmer of light," promised the paper. "The ladies, (Heaven bless them!) are coming to the rescue." And somehow, they did. In July, 1864 the engine was paid off AND a new firehouse was built with the parcel owned by the company. There was a ceremony and afterwards "the 'boys' then entertained those present with some tall 'playing' from the machine," which can be left to Gentle Reader's imagination.
The 1864 celebration at the new firehouse neatly ends the first chapter of the Santa Rosa Fire Department's story, albeit with large gaps. There are no photos of our "fire laddies" or the Cataract, although it's probably safe to assume it was a twin to the engine shown in the photograph above. Maps are scarce for that era so I can't find the whereabouts of the first firehouse nor the 1864 one - although some digging at the Recorder's office could probably determine that location since the trustees owned the building. And we'll probably never know how "the ladies" - with some unspecified aid from Otho Hinton - managed to quickly raise a great deal of money. The first county history stated there was "a fair and a festival" but if such events were mentioned in the newspaper they were small and easy to overlook. Afte all, space was needed to reassure Santa Rosa the war was going really great for the Confederacy.
Ten years later in 1874, the town's firefighting force doubled with the formation of Eureka Hose Company No. 1. This was a hook & ladder company despite the misleading name (some modern historians have mistakenly thought these were two different companies). Their horse-drawn wagon carried ladders, obviously, along with the hooks, which were long wooden pikes with a cast iron hook at the end to yank down walls or roofing in order to allow water to reach hotspots. These hook & ladder trucks are best viewed as a kind of giant fireman's toolbox; they also carried buckets, spare hose, parts for emergency engine repair and possibly some basic first aid and rescue equipment - some East Coast trucks even included stretchers. And most important of all, the new company added about two dozen fresh pairs of arms to pump away on the Cataract's brakes.
Ten years after that in 1884, we can say SRFD's wild 'n' wooly days were finally over. The firemen were still all volunteers, but the town provided them with a firehouse on Hinton Avenue, across from the soon-to-be-built courthouse in the square. The door to the north was for the engine company with a separate hook & ladder door next to it. On the second floor, better seen in the bird's eye view below, was Santa Rosa's city hall and first public library combined.
But the most significant change was the decision to upgrade to a modern steam pumper engine - after more than two decades of service here and goddesses know how many years elsewhere, the bully Cataract would be sold to help pay for the new gear. The Democrat announced this decision in an odd article, half promising the old engine still had years of life left in her, and half apologizing for the company still using an undersized antique:
|The money received for the old engine, which is to be sold, will of course also be applied to the same use. This is a good opportunity for some other community to secure, for a moderate outlay, an engine capable of doing good service for many years to come, for although it is not of sufficient capacity to be exactly what is necessary in a town of the dimensions of Santa Rosa, it would nevertheless be just the thing in a smaller and less thickly settled place.|
|Santa Rosa Engine Company No. 1 outside Hinton Ave. firehouse, c. 1885|
|Bird's eye view of Hinton Ave. c. 1883 showing firehouse nearing completion at right (Photos: Sonoma County Library)|
IT MUST BE HAD.--We must have some kind of fire organization. Santa Rosa is composed almost entirely of wooden buildings, and if a fire should break out in any part of the town, in all probability the whole place would be laid in ashes. We learn there has been an attempt made to organize a fire department here, but failed for want of the "one thing needful." People have an exaggerated idea, as a general thing, of the cost of forming such an association. We think it would be best to have an engine, but as that would involve considerable expense--and some of our citizens would rather take the chances of losing all they have, by fire, than pay fifty or one hundred dollars toward buying an apparatus that might be the means of saving them several thousand, we propose that they organize a Hook and Ladder Company, the expense of which would be trifling, in comparison with the good that might be effected thereby. This matter must be acted upon, and promptly, too. We are not, personally, so much interested in the matter as are a great many other of our citizens, but are ready and willing to put the ball in motion, and hope all will give it a push.
- Sonoma County Democrat, July 12, 1860
On Tuesday morning last, about 10 o'clock, our citizens were suddenly called into the streets by the fearful cry of "fire." We dropped our "stick," seized a bucket and hurried to the place of alarm, where we found, as might naturally be supposed, the wildest excitement; for although our citizens will not need heed the old adage, "In time of peace prepare for war," when the enemy is upon us they try to meet him to the best of their ability. The fire on Tuesday, proceeded from a frame building on the corner of Main and Second streets, owned by a colored man, named John Richards, part of which is occupied as a barber shop. The room adjoining the shop is a bedroom, and a little girl, three years old, the child of one of the occupants of the house, was alone in the room at the time the fire broke out. A box of matches had been left on a table close to the bed where the child was, and it is supposed that the little one in attempting to light a match, set fire to some articles of clothing, which were on the table, and it was soon communicated to the canvas ceiling. The child ran out of the room, screaming, which alarmed the inmates of the house--and on entering the room to see what was the matter, Richards found almost the entire ceiling in flames. He immediately commenced tearing down the canvas, and that together with the force-pump and hose, of Mr. Colgan of the Santa Rosa House, soon extinguished the flames. We could call the attention of those who have ridiculed the idea of having a Fire Engine in this place to the service rendered by the hose of Mr. Colgan, on Tuesday. No particular damage was done to the house, but Richards had his hands badly burned in tearing his hands badly burned in tearing the canvas from the ceiling.
"IN TIME OF PEACE, PREPARE FOR WAR."--We have several times urged upon our citizens the importance of having some kind of organization to protect our town against fire, and as we have just had another narrow escape from the dangerous enemy, we make one more appeal. Give us something; if the citizens do not feel able to buy an engine, let there be a Hook and Ladder Company organized at once. The cost would be but a trifle in comparison with the good that might arise from such an organization. Almost every one we have conversed with on the subject favors it, and we sincerely hope some of our merchants will call a meeting of the citizens, and do something for the protection of their property.
- Sonoma County Democrat, September 20, 1860
A destructive fire occurred in our town on Monday last. About eleven o'clock A. M., we heard the thrilling cry, and on going to the street, found it was only three doors from us, on Third street, and the residence of Dr. S. S. Todd. As near as can be learned, the following are the particulars of the origin of the fire: Mrs. Todd had stepped out to a neighbors, leaving two children, one about four years and the other eighteen months old, in the house, the older of whom states, that his little brother took a piece of paper, lit it, and set a pile of newspapers on fire, that was in a corner of the room. The house being lined with canvas, the flames spread instantaneously, and in a moment the smoke was seen issuing from the windows and roof. Messrs. J. B. Caldwell and Chas. G. Ames were the first to reach the building, and on entering it, the latter found the oldest child trying to open the front door. Mr. Caldwell, supposing that there was no one in the house, was on the point of leaving it with a piece of furniture, when he discovered the younger child standing in a corner, apparently unconscious of danger. The flames spread so rapidly that it was impossible to save much of the furniture. Dr. Todd informs us that he lost, also, a quantity of silver plate, which was, however, recovered after the fire, in the shape of "nuggets." He estimates his loss at seven or eight hundred dollars. The building, which was completely burned, was owned by J. Ridgeway, [sic] and valued at one thousand dollars. No insurance.
After the rescue of the children, our citizens turned their attention to saving the adjoining building, part of which was occupied as a residence by Joel Miller, Esq.--and the other part by the DEMOCRAT establishment. There was a space of about thirty feet between the burning house and the residence of Mr. Miller, and but for the superhuman efforts of our citizens, the whole building must have consumed. [sic] Men mounted the roof, and with the aid of blankets and buckets, succeeded in preventing the house taking fire. There was, fortunately, but little wind at the time. Mr. Miller's furniture was all moved to the street, as well as the contents of our office.
We take this occasion to give hearty thanks to those who so ably and promptly assisted us on the occasion. Owing to the exertions of our friends, our printing material was safely and seasonably deposited on the street. Since the fire we have frequently been asked how much pi was made, and remarks have been made that we sustained considerable damage. This is a mistake. Whenever we think of the occasion we are amazed that our loss should have been so trifling in the pi line.
HOOK AND LADDER COMPANY.--We are gratified to know that since the fire on Monday, our citizens are beginning to manifest an interest in the organization of a fire company. Dr. W. G. Alban has taken the matter in hand, and has already over three hundred dollars subscribed for the purpose. We hope every citizen will lend a helping hand. Much has been said as to the policy of procuring an engine or hooks and ladders. We do not profess to be much of a fireman, and the little experience we have had was with an engine company. But in few of the great scarcity of water and the enormous cost of a fire engine and sufficient hose to answer the purpose in our case, we think it far better to organized a Hook and Ladder Company. Something must be done at once to protect us from the dangerous element, and hooks and ladders with a truck can be procured at about half the expense of an engine. We are requested to state that there will be a meeting at the Court House on Saturday night, at which time a report will be made of the money subscribed, and steps taken to effect the organization immediately. We trust every property holder will be in attendance.
- Sonoma County Democrat, January 31, 1861
HOOK AND LADDER COMPANY.--Pursuant to call a meeting of the citizens of Santa Rosa was held on Saturday evening, for the purpose of taking steps toward the organization of a fire company...[about $350 collected, 25 named as members of the company, no mention of Hinton in article]
- Sonoma County Democrat, February 7, 1861
FIRE ENGINE.--At the meeting of the Santa Rosa Fire Company, Thursday evening last, arrangements were made for the purchase of a Fire-engine. A committee was appointed, who will purchase "der masheen" as soon as possible.
- Sonoma County Democrat, November 14, 1861
A Hunneman Engine has been purchased of the San Francisco Howards, for Santa Rosa.
- Marysville Daily Appeal, December 17, 1861
FIRE MATTERS.--The fire engine just purchased by the new fire company at Santa Rosa, is expected to arrive this week or the first of next week. It was built by Hunneman, the celebrated builder of fire engines, and was purchased by Mr. Frank Whitney, ex-Chief of the San Francisco Fire Department. The engine has "seen service" in the East, but not enough to injure it; indeed, it is in such good condition, that competent judges pronounce it to be "as good as new."
The Board of Supervisors, at the request of a number of petitioners, appropriated one hundred dollars to assist in purchasing the engine. The sum thus contributed is small, but had it been greater, there can be no doubt that our citizens generally would approve such an act by the Board, though, of course, all would be better pleased if the engine had been bought with money raised exclusively by the citizens. Vigorous exertions might have accomplished this, undoubtedly had our citizens generally concurred in the importance of the end to be attained. All who have been remiss in their duty in this matter, thanks to the Supervisors and their fellow citizens, may have the satisfaction of seeing their property saved from destruction not by their own providence, but through the foresight of others. The Supervisors doubtless thought that it was their duty to do all in their power to secure the property of the county from danger by fire. One thing is certain, they could not have adopted a less costly plan than the one of assisting the fire company at the county seat to purchase an engine.
We shall publish at an early day a full list of the members and officers of the new fire company. If the two companies at Petaluma and others in the county, will forward us a list of their officers and members, together with the matters pertaining, such as the dates of organization, etc., we shall thus be enabled to publish them together, the whole presenting in a convenient form a commendable chapter of local history.
The Santa Rosa Fire Company propose giving their first Annual Ball on the 8th of January next, the proceeds to be devoted toward paying for their engine.
- Sonoma County Democrat, December 5, 1861
FIRE MATTERS.--Santa Rosa Engine, No. 1, received their new (in one sense) machine on--that is to say, it came--Sunday last, together with three hundred and fifty feet of hose. The "boys" tried her on Monday afternoon, and rendered a verdict in consequence in perfect accordance with her name--"Cataract."..At a meeting of the Company, on Monday night, Andrew Ester was elected 2d Assistant Foreman..An adjourned meeting of the Company will be held in the room adjoining "Fen's Saloon," on Saturday evening next, at 1 o'clock, which every member is expected to attend, as very important business will be transacted.
- Sonoma County Democrat, December 19, 1861
RALLY, PUMPS AND HOSE!--The first Annual Ball of the Santa Rosa Engine Company, it should be remembered, will take place on Wednesday next. We bespeak for those who may attend a pleasant time, as the company have made ample preparations to secure the desirable end. The profits of the occasion are to go toward paying for the engine. Let those who delight to "trip the fantastic toe" turn out generally. The supper will be gotten up by Mr. VanDoren of the Eureka Hotel.
- Sonoma Democrat, January 5, 1862
NEW ENGINE HOUSE.--Santa Rosa Engine Company, No. 1, moved their engine into the new house, recently fitted up for them, on Saturday last. The company is now thoroughly organized, and will soon be in a condition to render valuable service in case of a fire...
[excerpts of by-laws, including fines and penalties. "...for bringing liquor near the engine house wile on duty, without the permission from the Foreman...one dollar"]
- Sonoma Democrat, January 9, 1862
FIREMEN'S ELECTION.-- [annual meeting to elect officers, all named]
- Sonoma Democrat, February 20, 1862
GOES TO THE FAIR.--Santa Rosa Engine, No. 1--the "bully Cataract"--left town of Tuesday morning for Sonoma, to compete for a prize offered for the best working and worked engine by the Sonoma and Napa county Agricultural and Mechanical Society. Notwithstanding our machine is of much less capacity than any engine in the district, we hope she will meet some competitors, even should she not carry off the prize. But nevertheless, our boys are heavy on the muscle, and go to win.
- Sonoma Democrat, October 9, 1862
LET THEM CLIMB!--Our fire laddies are soon to be the recipients of an appropriate and useful present, from a citizen of Sonoma. Mr. Anthony Krippenstapel, an exceedingly ingenius [sic] workman, has spent much time in constructing for them a fireman's ladder, which will be formally presented to the company on next Saturday evening. It is twenty feet in length, and every joint is fitted in the neatest and most exact manner; the material has been thoroughly seasoned, and while the ladder is sufficiently strong to support any weight that may ever be put upon it, yet it is so light that it can be handled with ease by one individual. We remember at the time of the burning of the Eureka hotel, such a ladder as this would have rendered material assistance to our firemen, and we doubt not this donation from Mr. Krippenstapel will be properly appreciated by the department.
- Sonoma Democrat, March 7, 1863
Our Fire Department.
Some time has elapsed since we reminded our citizens that our Fire Department is still encumbered with debt. In fact, we hoped that it would never be necessary for us to again make allusion to the subject. Two years ago there was purchased for this community a most excellent Hunnemann Engine, which has been the means at least on one occasion of preventing the total destruction of the town by fire. At the time the Engine was purchased a debt of $600 was necessarily incurred. As is too often the case in small towns, this Department has been mainly supported by those of our citizens who have least at stake in case of a conflagration. We have never seen in any community so little public spirit manifested in regarded to a matter of so much importance as in this. Aside from numerous endeavors to raise by benefits sufficient funds to liquidate the debt, the active members of the Department have been obliged to pay the interest on the $600, and all contingent expenses of the Company, rent, etc, from their own pockets. It is a shame and disgrace to the property holders of the town that this should be so.
But at last we see a glimmer of light. The ladies, (Heaven bless them!) are coming to the rescue. It has been stated that the Engine is to be sold, and the ladies have determined, if within their power, (and what is it they cannot accomplish?) to save our town from the disgrace attendant upon such an event. They propose by means of a series of entertainments, of their own getting up, to assist in relieving the Department of the incumberances hanging over it. If the property holders will pay the $600 due upon the Engine they will provide the Company with a house, and thereby place the Department upon a permanent footing. If it is desired that the Engine shall remain here something must be done at once. Gen. Hinton, we are pleased to see, has taken the matter in hand, and we hope soon to hear of a response on the part of our "substantial" citizens to the proposition of the ladies.
For the benefit of the Department, we re-publish below, from the Statutes of last winter, a law exempting members of this Department from "militia service and jury duty"...
- Sonoma Democrat, October 31, 1863
The New Engine House.
Last Saturday afternoon the new Engine House, built by the ladies of Santa Rosa, was formally presented to the Fire Department, with all the necessary title, papers to property, etc. The Company, in uniform, appeared before the house with their Engine duly decorated at 3 o'clock P. M. The house being well filled with the citizens of the town who had contributed so liberally to the enterprise. On behalf of the ladies, Gen. O. Hinton in appropriate and pleasing remarks passed over the property to the Trustees of the Department. On behalf of the Fire Department, Mr. P. B. Hood made a well termed speech in response to the General, after which cheers were given by the firemen for the ladies, the General and the citizens, and the assemblage were invited to partake of refreshments which had been prepared in the new meeting room by the firemen. The "boys" then entertained those present with some tall "playing" from the machine, and she was duly housed in her new quarters amid the cheers and applause of her members. The ladies have also ordered for the Department new leather hose, which unfortunately, did not arrive in time be presented with the house on Saturday. It will, however, be on hand in a few days, and then we can boast that we have as good Engine, house, hose, and Company, as complete in all their fixtures as may be found without the city of Frisco. Our boys are proud of their Company and well they may be.
- Sonoma Democrat, July 4, 1864
Letter From Santa Rosa.
Eds. Flag:--Your regular correspondent being absent I send you a short account of the Fireman’s Ball held at the Skating Rink on Friday last. I don't often go to balls; I have only been to one about twice a week, on an average, since I first flung out my shingle to the Santa Rosa breeze. Balls are demoralizing, don’t you think, Mr. Editor? That is the reason I don't attend more frequently. Having purchased a ticket at half price, I thought I could afford to be very indulgent on this occasion, so I took Amanda Jane along to show her a little of our Santa Rosa society--she not having been out much since we located here. I spent no end of money buying her Swiss over-skirts, paniers, hair, and such fixings, but, with all the outlay, she did not make an impression that night, unless she did it on some of her partners’ feet, and they'll recollect her if she did, for she do come down frightful heavy. She keeps her own time when dancing, regardless of the music; shows what an independent girl she is; what a wife wouldn't she make for some of us. Well, to proceed: The ball was a success, socially and financially, and so much encouraged are our gallant firemen with the result, that they propose again to pander to the tastes of an appreciative community next year. Had this ball not been well attended our brethren of the red shirt had concluded to make it the last, as they have been out and injured on the last three or four. Gus Kohle was here, there and everywhere, and, as a friend remarked, looked as if he and the "Cataract" could smother any fire in town if they could only screw on the hose. Jim Clark made a little speech which pleased everybody, and made another little 'speech which displeased somebody. Wm. O. Lloyd with his "harpist," assisted by a local violin and cornet, discoursed most pleasant music and kept every one on the hop till near 4 o’clock. At Kessing’s Hotel a fine supper was served about 12 o’clock. Riley & Brendel also had a large party at their restaurant. Had it not been for a certain unpleasantness with regard to where one should go to supper there would not have been a cloud to disturb the serenity of this ball, by far the most successful of any given by the Fire Company for many years. And Amanda reached home a perfect wreck, and wreaked her vengeance on the crockery by playfully seeing if she could hit my head for saying she did not get a partner to dance with her twice...
- Russian River Flag, February 27 1873
ENGINE COMPANY NO. 1--The fire which occurred on Monday night called out the fire company in full force. After the excitement was over many reminiscences were brought up by the old members, and on many points a variety of opinions existed. To refresh certain memories it may not be uninteresting to state that the first meeting for the organization of a fire company was held in the upper story of the brick building now used by Stanley & Thompson as a workshop over what was then known as Fen's Saloon. It was held on the 2d of February, 1861, and was organized by electing W. H. Crowell President and Thos. L. Thompson Secretary. It was then determined to start as a hook and ladder company. That meeting adjourned for one week. They met again on the 19th of February, 1861, and elected permanent officers as follows...At a meeting held in March 9, 1861, a committee which had previously been appointed to inquire into the cost of apparatus reported that it would cost from $1,200 to $1,500. It was then thought advisable to change from a hook and ladder to an engine company. On the 7th of November, 1861, Thos. L. Thompson, John S. Van Doren and B. Marks, were appointed as a committee to go to San Francisco and negotiate for an engine. The engine was purchased for the sum of $1,350, $400 of which was paid down, and J.P. Clark, B. Marks and A. Bromberger became responsible for the balance, $900. It was then that the ladies of Santa Rosa came to the relief of the company and by a succession of entertainments, fairs, festivals, etc., rendered the company very efficient aid in freeing itself from debt. About this time application was made to Gen. Otho Hinton to devise some plan whereby the company could extricate itself from debt. He took a lively interest in the matter and his personal efforts in its behalf and good counsels enabled the company not only to free itself from debt but to furnish besides a good and substantial engine house, which afterwards sold for $600. On account of his efforts in their behalf his memory is today highly revered by all the old members of the company, and they still keep his portrait hanging in their hall as a mark of the esteem in which he was held. This is an accurate account of the early days of Santa Rosa Engine Company No. 1, which still exists with the motto adopted in its infancy, "Faithful and Fearless" and which it carries out whenever occasion demands.
- Sonoma Democrat, December 1, 1877
Santa Rosa Engine Co. No. 1.
Extensive preparations are being made by the Executive Committee and the members of the Santa Rosa Engine Company for celebrating the 21st anniversary of their organization. They propose giving a grand ball at Ridgway Hall on Washington's Birthday, and it is the purpose of those having it in charge to make it surpass any of their previous enjoyable entertainments...Apropos of the coming event, through the kindness of the efficient Secretary, Mr. J. Doychert, we are enabled to present our readers a brief sketch of their organization. The Society was formed on February 2nd, 1861, as a Hook and Ladder Company. The list of charter members numbers 30 ...[living active founders named]...At a subsequent meeting a constitution was adopted and the members, subscribed the sum of $300 as the nucleus of a fund for the purchase of a hook and ladder truck. After a short time it was deemed advisable to purchase, instead, a fire engine. In accordance with this action the members on June 29th, 1861, reorganized as Santa Rosa Engine Company No. 1. By the aid of money subscribed by the citizens they were able to make a partial payment on the purchase price of an engine from San Francisco, the cost of which was $1,300. Subsequently by the material assistance of the ladies and Gen. Hinton, whose portrait at present adorns the walls of the meeting room, and the recollection of whose friendship will ever remain fixed in the hearts of the firemen, the balance due was paid. On December 22nd, 1861, the uniform of the Company was adopted, and the motto, "Faithful and Fearless" chosen as their emblem of duty. The first ball was given on the evening of July 8th, 1862, and netted some $35, which was applied to the liquidation of the engine debt. Four days later a triangle was purchased and this first means of sounding an alarm in those early days on several memorable occasions brought the Company into active service. During the first year of their existence hey were called upon to extinguish a fire in the old Eureka Hotel. The inflammable material burning fiercely, had enabled the flames to gain great headway, and to hear the old members speak of the excitement and daring of their comrades in vieing [sic] with one another for bravery and the labor of gaining control of the fiery element, recalls vividly the pioneer days of raging conflagrations in San Francisco. With a few exceptions, noticeable among which are the burning of the Santa Rosa Winery upon two occasions and the destruction of the frame buildings of Mrs. Spencer, and others, at all of which they rendered material aid, in the latter case saving adjoining buildings in the face of a raging conflagration, our city of late years has been remarkably free from casualties of this nature. But when occasion demands, the Company responds in a manner creditable to themselves and to the citizens. They have paid for and now own one good engine, two fine hose carts and 1,000 feet of good hose...
- Sonoma Democrat, January 29, 1881
On last Wednesday morning at about one o'clock an alarm of fire roused our citizens from their slumbers. Our reporter, with his usual fiendishness, saw a large blaze in the northwestern part of the city, and tumbling rapidly into his trousers and getting downstairs in the same dignified manner, sallied forth to do honor to his record as a fireman and to his name as a member of the press. Falling over two dogs and gouging out one of his remaining teeth against a picket fence, he rapidly approached the scene of the now raging fire. The burning building was a two-story dwelling house belonging to Guy E. Grosse, situated on the northwest corner of Tenth street and the Healdsburg road. After getting out of the ditch into which he had by some means found refuge, our man took in the situation. A few small boys were gazing at the flames, which were bursting out of every room. In a short time a number of citizens arrived and before a gret while both branches of the fire department were on the grounds. Nothing could be done to stop the flames, which by this time were rapidly consuming the whole building. After some preliminary tactics, a ten-foot stream was thrown onto the porch in front of the dwelling, which in the course of twenty minutes, by the judicious maneuverings of the heads of the two companies, was so augmented that a very respectable stream of the aqueous element could be forced right and left into the crowds of lookers on. Our man succeeded as usual in spoiling a seven-dollar hand-me-down suit of clothes. During the pyrotechnic display, which by the way lasted for an hour, the ceremony was diversified by the falling of two lofty chimneys--one of which came near ending the days of a telegraphically inclined ex-secretary of one of the organizations; had it not been for the agility displayed by him in talking to the "red-shirts," he would probably have been crushed into an unrecognizable mass of saur-kraut. Among the ludicrous scenes which transpired during the evening, there were some of another nature worthy of mention. The way in which Messrs. Ed. Nagle and Louis Keser fought the flames, after the tardy arrival of the water, was praiseworthy indeed. They did good service, and were it not for the headway gained by the flames, might have prevented a very serious conflagration. Speaking of bravery, we noticed a Republican reporter doing good work on the corner of Tenth and A streets, nobly saving his hands from the fury etc., by keeping them in his pocket. The course of an hour saw the building a mass of cinders. It was an old house, but had been lately repaired by the owner in a substantial manner; a fine outbuilding had been erected, the main structure hard-finished and painted and was about ready for occupancy. Strong suspicions of incendiarism are indulged in regarding the origin of the fire...As it was unoccupied it was undoubtly [sic] set on fire by some of the tramps who of late have invested our city to an alarming extent.
- Sonoma Democrat, April 16, 1881
New Fire Engine.
The citizens of Santa Rosa will be glad to hear that our firemen have definitely decided upon the purchase of a new steam fire-engine to take the place of the one now in use. The new machine, which is one of the many styles, all first-class, built by the Silsby Manufacturing Company, is a beautiful specimen of workmanship, and will cost in the neighborhood of $3,000. This amount is to be made up from contributions and the proceeds of fairs, festivals, etc. The money received for the old engine, which is to be sold, will of course also be applied to the same use. This is a good opportunity for some other community to secure, for a moderate outlay, an engine capable of doing good service for many years to come, for although it is not of sufficient capacity to be exactly what is necessary in a town of the dimensions of Santa Rosa, it would nevertheless be just the thing in a smaller and less thickly settled place. It is to be hoped that the property owners of Santa Rosa will all interest themselves in the matter of securing the new engine, as it is certainly something the importance of which cannot be overrated. The members of our fire department deserve well of their fellow citizens, and the latter should see that they do not lack for proper appliances in their faithful service of guarding property, not to say life, in our community.
- Sonoma Democrat, February 3, 1883
A City Hall.
It is announced on good authority that before long Santa Rosa will possess a "City Hall" with all necessary offices and departments for the accommodation of the city officials and the transaction of necessary business. Roomy and convenient quarters for the Fire Company and their engine and paraphernalia will also be provided in the building. The project has not yet been made a matter of record in the proceedings of the Common Council, the arrangement having been made somewhat informally. Col. Mark L. McDonald, not long since, purchased a lot lying east of the plaza upon which one of the China houses now stands. This he proposed to tear down and erect a building in its stead, the understanding being that the city authorities will take it off his hands as soon as sufficient money accrues from the tax levy to enable them to do so. The execution of this project will serve a double purpose, not only providing our city with fitting and needed accommodations, but also doing away with the miniature "China Town" east of the plaza, and redeeming what should be one of the choicest locations within the town limits.
- Sonoma Democrat, April 14, 1883
THE NEW CITY HALL.It is Dedicated with Appropriate Ceremonies
Os Saturday afternoon the members of the Fire Department, with Fire Marshal S. I. Allen at their head, safely housed the engine hose carts and apparatus of Engine Company No. 1, and concluded their jollifications by partaking of a lunch in their new quarters, where addresses were made and toasts were drank.
In the evening a number of our citizens assembled in the new Council Chamber with the members of the Council and several other city officers, and the new edifice was appropriately dedicated amid stirring speeches and flowing wine.
- Sonoma Democrat, March 8, 1884
When General Otho Hinton died in 1865, all of Santa Rosa mourned. Flags were lowered, courts adjourned and a "large concourse of people" attended his funeral, including the fire department in uniform. His obituary in the Sonoma Democrat cataloged the achievements of this civic leader:
|...our citizens are alone indebted for all the public improvements about the place. For our beautiful plaza, the well arranged, beautiful, and tastefully laid out cemetery, and the engine house with the fire apparatus of the department, we are especially indebted, for through his indomitable energy and public spirit these all were attained...|
Some years later a street was named after him - the only person so honored in the downtown core - and soon Hinton Avenue will spring back to life as part of the Courthouse Square reunification project.
But Santa Rosa didn't bestow a street name because the City Council decided it would be jolly to honor a celebrity criminal; it was presumably because of all the good deeds listed in the obituary - the cemetery, the plaza, the fire department. Yet in the newspapers of the time there is not a speck of evidence that Hinton had a significant role in any of those accomplishments. Never before being someone who hid his light under a bushel, he surely wasn't stricken with modesty once he actually began doing selfless acts. No, more likely he was given undue credit because he did what he always did: He looked you in the eye, oozed with sincerity and graciously allowed you to think the better of him.
(RIGHT: Detail of 1876 Santa Rosa map, showing the Plaza bordered by two unnamed streets. Hinton's office was on the northeast corner, shown here in a red star)
Evidence of Hinton's great good deeds should be easiest to find in regards to Courthouse Square, but before getting in to that, a quick tour of Civil War-era Santa Rosa is needed.
It wasn't called Courthouse Square at the time because the county courthouse was across the street at the corner of Fourth and Mendocino, where Exchange Bank is now. The Plaza was simply a small park criss-crossed by footpaths and surrounded by a fence. The landscaping was haphazard; descriptions mention heritage oaks and evergreens, pampas grass and century plants plus a hedge just inside the fencing. (The complaints today about all the trees lost for the Square reunification project are nothing compared to the howls of outrage when everything was clearcut in 1884 to make way for building the courthouse in the center. "A tree and a bit of grass is worth more than a Court-house," wrote an out-of-town attorney, "I hope every ___ _____ who has a law suit in the new Court-house will lose it.")
Sonoma Democrat editor Thomas L. Thompson was forever boasting it was the most beautiful plaza in the state - even while lamenting it was a godawful mess. The year 1881 was particularly fun; in January a stray pig was rooting up the grass and by summer Thompson was moaning the soil was so sun-baked that grass wouldn't grow, suggesting it would be best to plow it over in hopes that the place wouldn't look so terrible next year. In between those items he wrote about the "beautiful lawns of blue grass" and compared it to Golden Gate Park. Another time the paper cheered the nice new benches, along with commenting the City Council was now determined to keep the Plaza "free from all objectionable persons."
(RIGHT: Detail of 1876 bird's eye view of Santa Rosa looking north, showing the Plaza)
The modern-day Press Democrat gives Hinton credit for all work in beautifying the original Plaza, from planting trees to installing the fencing. But is any of that true? In March of 1859 there was a big public meeting to discuss landscaping, fences and how to pay for it all; Hinton was not on any of the committees formed that night, even though his law office was directly across from the Plaza. Later that year work commenced on the fencing. Was Hinton mentioned? Nope.
All Hinton actually did, according to the 1861 -1863 newspapers, was to pay some guys to do spring cleanups. If there was anything specifically done, editor Thompson - the #1 booster of the Plaza - somehow overlooked it.
A 1876 view of Fourth street looking west from the vacant lot which was the location of Otho Hinton's office. The Plaza fence and shrubbery can be seen to the left and the cupola on the right was the top of the county courthouse, at the corner of Fourth and Mendocino. Photo courtesy Sonoma County Library
Hinton's obituary also credits him for "the well arranged, beautiful, and tastefully laid out cemetery" which is surprising, as Santa Rosa's Rural Cemetery did not really exist in 1865. It would be a couple of years before the Cemetery Association was organized to legally sell deeds to burial plots; when Hinton died it was presumably still just an ad hoc graveyard on a hill. (Since there were no deeds prior to the Association we can't be completely sure he's buried where his newly-added tombstone stands, although that's the same place where a family friend and Otho's wife were later buried.)
In Hinton's lifetime the Sonoma Democrat reported there was interest in "buying a lot where the present burying ground is, and having it properly surveyed and laid off in lots, fenced, and otherwise improved" but apparently nothing was done for lack of leadership. In 1861 another small item appeared: "Efforts are making to purchase a tract of land near Santa Rosa, a part of which has been used as a burying-place by people of that town, to be set apart exclusively as a Cemetery. Those who favor this excellent project will please call at Gen. Hinton's office."
That terse "please call at Gen. Hinton's office" is the only thread linking him to the cemetery at all. We don't know what what he was doing: Forming a committee, signing up volunteer labor, or, lord help them, collecting donations - remember, there is no certainty that folks in Santa Rosa knew his history of stealing money.
There is a traditional story that Hinton did the road layout while August Kohle, a well digger, did the actual work of grading the paths. It's possible; someone had to mark the trails out around that time, and hammering markers into the ground isn't exactly heavy lifting. Peg this claim as a maybe.
Finally we come to the fire department, where there's a chance that the old scoundrel actually did a little something to redeem himself. A side benefit of all this Otho Hinton research is that I've accumulated enough information on the origins of the Santa Rosa Fire Department to tell that story, which will appear in the following article. Covered here are only the details related to Hinton's involvement.
Per usual, Hinton was given undue credit for good deeds. The obituary thanked him "...[for] the engine house with the fire apparatus of the department, we are especially indebted, for through his indomitable energy and public spirit these all were attained." More recently it's been written he bought the town's first fire engine, which absolutely is not true.
The Fire Department dates back to 1861, three years after Hinton arrived in Santa Rosa. He was not a charter member of the Association and later that year a handful of leading citizens arranged to buy a used fire engine. Hinton was not among them. Shift forward two years and $600 is still owed for the engine; the volunteer firemen were paying interest on the debt out of pocket, as well as rent for the firehouse. There were plans to sell the engine and return to being a hook & ladder company only.
"But at least we see a glimmer of light," the Sonoma Democrat gushed in 1863. "The ladies, (Heaven bless them!) are coming to the rescue...Gen. Hinton, we are pleased to see, has taken the matter in hand, and we hope soon to hear of a response on the part of our 'substantial' citizens to the proposition of the ladies." Then on the Fourth of July, 1864, the paper announced:
|Last Saturday afternoon the new Engine House, built by the ladies of Santa Rosa, was formally presented to the Fire Department...The house being well filled with the citizens of the town who have contributed so liberally to the enterprise. On behalf of the ladies, Gen. O Hinton in appropriate and pleasing remarks passed over the property to the Trustees of the Department...after which cheers were given by the firemen for the ladies, the General and the citizens...|
Other accounts at the time and over the next few years tells the same story: It was "the ladies" who paid off the debt and financed the firehouse by hosting dances; the first county history in 1880 mentions also "a fair and a festival" and as above, it was broadly hinted they were strong-arming their loving husbands into making contributions. Meanwhile, General Hinton did...something. Everyone just plumb forgot to mention what.
"He took a lively interest in the matter," it was claimed in an 1877 account of the Department's beginnings. "On account of his efforts in their behalf his memory is today highly revered by all the old members of the company, and they still keep his portrait hanging in their hall as a mark of the esteem in which he was held."
Along with Exchange Avenue, Hinton Avenue was born on July 3, 1872 by order of the City Council. Not that anyone noticed; for many years to come the street was unnamed on maps or sometimes called "9th Ave", which makes no sense in the town's street layout. Exchange and Hinton appeared in the newspapers very rarely - ads described businesses as being "east of the Plaza" or "in the Ridgway Block" or "across from the Courthouse," or similar. It's as if the town were populated by Missouri hayseeds who thought street names were uppity.
Santa Rosa made quite a show of his funeral in 1865 but aside from the street, Hinton's memory faded quickly; he was not mentioned in any local history until Gaye LeBaron's "Santa Rosa: a 19th century town." When his widow, Rebecca, died here in 1882, the Sonoma Democrat didn't report it and the Daily Republican ran only a one-liner when she was buried. His only lasting presence in Santa Rosa was his portrait, which was apparently destroyed in the 1906 earthquake.
But now Exchange and Hinton Avenues are being resurrected - although for some reason, the one-way traffic directions around the Square have been flipped - as part of our new Old Courthouse Square. And soon people will be looking at that prominent street name and be asking: Who was Hinton? Anyone who's read this series knows that will be an uncomfortable question to answer truthfully: "Well, he was an infamous criminal who apparently bamboozled the town's founders."
At the risk of being completely ahistorical, I'd like to make a modest proposal: Should we consider dropping the Hinton from Hinton Avenue?
Maybe we could name it Schulz Ave. or Doyle Avenue (although the other side is already named for his bank). The powers-that-be are itching to name something after recently deceased Santa Rosa nabob Henry Trione, so give him the honor. Or if they are willing to nod towards more appropriate history, call it Muther Avenue, after Santa Rosa Fire Chief Frank Muther who deserves it for saving the town from burning to the ground after the 1906 earthquake, yet currently lies in an unmarked grave. But for the gods' sake, do we really need to still commemorate a con man who died more than 150 years ago?
1947 street view from the same location as the photograph above. Courtesy Sonoma County Library
THE PLAZA.--Gen. Hinton, as is his custom at this season of the year, has had a number of men at work of late, beautifying and improving our town plaza.
- Sonoma Democrat, April 22, 1862
CLEANING UP.-- General O. Hinton, to whom our citizens are much indebted for the very pretty plaza of Santa Rosa, has had several workmen engaged repairing the railing of the sidewalk enclosure, and cleaning and otherwise improving the grounds on the inside. The plaza will be much improved this spring.
- Sonoma Democrat, January 17, 1863
SUDDEN DEATH OF GEN O. HINTON -- General Otho Hinton departed this life at his residence, in Santa Rosa, last Sunday morning, about 10 o'clock. Our citizens were somewhat startled by the announcement of his sudden demise, as he had been seen upon the streets the day preceding. General Hinton was a native of Hagerstown, Maryland, and was 65 years of age. He had resided a long time at Santa Rosa, and to him it may be said, our citizens are alone indebted for all the public improvements about the place. For our beautiful plaza, the well arranged, beautiful, and tastefully laid out cemetery, and the engine house with the fire apparatus of the department, we are especially indebted, for through his indomitable energy and public spirit these all were attained. His death cast a deep gloom over the community, flags were lowered at half mast and the County Court on Monday adjourned in respect to his memory. His funeral took place on Monday, from the M. E. Church, Rev. T. Frazier officiating, and was attended by a large concourse of people. Santa Rosa Engine Company No. 1, whom the deceased had so often befriended, attended in uniform, and by them his remains were consigned to their last resting place.
- Sonoma Democrat, March 11, 1865
A GOOD PICTURE. -- A life size Paintograph of Gen. O. Hinton, deceased, may be seen at the Engine House of Santa Rosa No. 1. It was drawn by Mr. W. H. Wilson, from a photograph likeness. The picture has been pronounced by all who have seen it an excellent likeness. Mr. Wilson has taken a number of pictures at this place which have given very general satisfaction. His art is a very simple one, being a drawing in indelible ink, the entire work being executed with a common pen and very small brush. He is now at Healdsburg.
- Sonoma Democrat, March 18, 1865
Santa Rosa has a beautiful graveyard, and it has been properly named "Rural Cemetery"...We took a walk through its avenues last Sunday. It was in the fall of the dying day, because of its symbolic character. We were alone. There was no one to cheer us "save the low hum of vegetation," and the music of the wind as it played Aeolean cadences in the branches above and the rens beneath. We paused before a neglected grave. A familiar name was graven on an ordinary slab. It carried us back to the days when Santa Rosa was yet in her infancy. Moss had grown upon the stone, and the name had become dim. Brambles of every description covered the spot, in which lay the body whose name we were then contemplating, and--we felt sad. The name was that of Gen. Otho Hinton. It is as familiar to the old settlers of this valley "as household words." His very countenance and benevolent expression is, at this writing, as plainly before us as if we had seen him but yesterday. But why is his grave thus neglected? Have the people forgotten the generous and noble hearted man, who in his life, took such an active interest in the welfare of "our future little city," (as he was wont to call it,) and who sacrificed all health, money and time, during his declining years, for our benefit? His magnanimity and public spiritedness for the public good, should never be forgotten, and his grave should, at least, be kept green as an evidence that we appreciated his many kindness which he did for our future good...
- Santa Rosa Daily Republican, November 10, 1882
Special thanks to Ray Owen, an indefatigable researcher who uncovered many court documents related to Hinton including the case file from San Francisco ; Steve Lovejoy, who found Hinton's application to the bar; genealogists Margie and Ralph Hinton who have spent more than a decade researching their family and shared details of Hinton's divorce suit found in Ohio archives.
History of Delaware County and Ohio 18801847 c.
https://books.google.com/books?id=wRAVAAAAYAAJHistory of the City of Columbus 1892
He was a man of ready tongue, slight education and great assurance, and his public speeches, though often ridiculed by his opponents on account of the grammatical inaccuracies they displayed, were generally effective and well received
He was a pretentious politician, of the most intolerant stripe, and had won his military renown by conspicuous service on the musterdays of the "cornstalk" militia. When the trouble with Mexico began, he denounced the Mexicans as savagely as he had been abusing his follow citizens of opposite politics, arid made a vainglorious tender of his services to the President.
Colton, Kenneth; John Frink & Company, 1846-1854; The Annals of Iowa Fall 19601847 Feb 20 Wisconsin Democrat
O. Hinton & Co. was awarded mail contracts 1846 for Illinois, Missouri and parts of Wisconsin
Frink open letter1847 Apr 28 Milwaukee Daily Sentinel
can't pay a $6 printing bill1848 Aug 14 Zanesville Courier
spoke 2.5 hours in close room 100 degrees "riveted the attention of his delighted hearers...the audience was as large when he finished as when he begun. The speaker that can accomplish that needs no other praise"1850 Aug 6 Baltimore Sun
special agent Shallcross arrested Thomas Burge July 31 in Woodwort NC for letter theft1850 Aug 29 Cleveland Plain Dealer
reprinted in History of the City of Columbus (op cit)1850 Aug 31 Zanesville Courier
Yesterday our town was thrown into great commotion by the announcement that General O. Hinton, a gentleman who has represented himself in these parts as the Ohio Stage Company, but who, in fact, was merely a pensioned agent of said company, was arrested on a charge of robbing the mail of some seventeen thousand dollars. . . . He was arrested in this city yesterday afternoon, and large quantities of the marked money contained in those [decoy] packages found on his person. He was examined before Commissioner Stetson and bound over in the sum of ten thousand dollars. He applied to several of our citizens without effect. . . . The following handbill in glaring capitals met our gaze this morning:
Five Hundred Dollars Reward will he paid for the arrest and confinement, in any jail of the United States, of General O. Hinton, Agent for the Ohio Stage Company. Said Hinton was under an arrest, charged with robbing the mail of the United States on the fifteenth instant, and a portion of said money was found on the person of said Hinton at the time of his arrest. He is a man about fiftyfive or sixty years of age; weight one hundred and eighty or ninety pounds; has dark hair, almost black, very fleshy, stout built, florid complexion, and looks as though he was a hard drinker, but is strictly temperate. D. Haskell, Cleveland, Ohio
another instance, that a man, though he present a fair exterior, may be rotten at the heart1850 Sep 2 Portage sentinel
Gen. O. Hinton, an agent of the Ohio Stage Company, was arrested at Cleveland, on a charge of robbing the mail of some seventeen thousand dollars.1850 Sep 4 Cincinnati Enquirer
suspected because money stolen when he was aboard - marked money found on him - $10k bail
...instead of taking him to jail, as they would a petty thief who had stolen a coat to cover his nakedness, or a few dollars' worth of food to satisfy the cravings of hunger, the officers took him to one of the most popular hotels in the city
handbills offer $500 reward Gen. O. Hinton, Agent for the Ohio Stage Company
The Cleveland Plain Dealer says there is on the another development about to take place, which it is said will throw Gen. O. Hinton into the shade. We long for the denounement"1850 Sep 4 Louisville Daily Courier
Haskel special agent offers $1000 for arrest - was caught with marked money in pocket - was arrested 8/28/1850 on mail robbery1850 Sep 9 Portage sentinel (Ravenna, Ohio)
from Cleveland Herald:
The General, being a gentleman instead of being sent to jail was indulged in his request to be under keepers at his own room at the Weddell House. About midnight he dodged out of the room, shut and locked the door after him; thus caging his three keepers and setting himself free.
Had he been a common rogue, arrested for stealing a sheep, instead of fingering the mail bags, he would have been safely lodged inside the prison walls.
reprint from Plain Dealer1850 Sep 12 Gallipolis journal
Whigs of Central Ohio will meet with an irreparable loss in the sudden demis of Gen. O. Hinton. The General seems to have been chief fugler for the Whighs in those parts.
quotes from 2 papers praising OH comments for speech nominating a candidate
Better have nominated Hinton. He is not only a good Galphin Whig, but a good runner.
reprint from Plain Dealer1850 Sep 13 Sandusky Register
With an eye on him, the word was 'passed along the line' and decoy packages with money marked, were put into the mail on purpose to be stolen out
It appears the General in "The wee' sma' hours of night" committed a 'breach of generous confidence,' as he had often done before. He took his guard, while off their guard, and vamosed [sic] through the door which was left ajar, quickly turning the key upon them, locking them in. Here was a pickle and such a rumpus followed as made night hideous. Stamping, hallooing, and kicking against the door, brought up the sleepers of the Weddell from pit to dome, and in dishabille, such as ghosts are said to wear.
part 1 of cleveland herald coverage four day examination1850 Sep 14 Sandusky Register
The prisoner looks usually hale and hearty...[and] bore himself with his usual self possessed and important air.
8/3 Daniel M. Haskell, Special Agent at Cleveland puts $1,000 in package addressed to fictitious name in Mt. Vernon, tells OH two packages with money were leaving that day
John Wheeler in coach to spy on OH
3AM stage stops at public house outside Mt. Vernon - sees Hinton take mailbag into a shed for 5-8 minutes - "While he was gone heard rustling of papers in that distance."
part 2 of Plain Dealer trial coverage1850 Sep 16 Sandusky Register
lady sleeping with head on his carpetbag - wakes her to put in papers
Haskell: homas McKinstry, deputy United States marshal first to suspect Hinton
A. J. Smith bank in Newark ohio "a practice of the bank to register all notes remitted through the mail" - this was money found on Hinton
Sturges & Wheeler bank in Zanesville lost draft on Philadelphia bank - $220 in Bank of Chester County which OH exchanged
Wheeling postal clerk: packages not in mail bag
charge 1: felony taking mail from those lawfully in possession
charge 2: robbing money from mail
8/15 OH laying down on top of coach next to the bags
8/16 OH at U.S. Hotel in Wheeling - asks for fire despite "quite warm" - slept with windows open - drafts taken with money were burned there
part 3 of Plain Dealer trial coverage1850 Sep 16 Portsmouth ohio inquirer
8/28 arrest - several marked bills from 8/15 robbery - OH at Weddell House/Cleveland before arrest - Haskell invites him to home for cards and "dance a little with a few of his particular friends" as McKinstry searches OH room - unable to open trunk - when arrested "asked them why they did not let him know before" appeared frank, showed a disposition to let us see everything- found $10 in marked bills, 15-30 keys - on 8/26 exchanged $220 "eastern money" for "Ohio money" - escape description at 12:15 AM - Hinton defense: he fled to contact witnesses and returned voluntarily - bail set at $5k on charge 1 $10k on charge 2 - OH asked to speak "his speech was ill-timed in spirit and manner, and regretted by his friends."
he was taken to the Blue Eagle and jugged up. It will be some days before his examination as witnesses will have to be summoned from abroad...1850 Sep 18 Cincinnati Enquirer
...The General complains of the poor accommodations the country affords to one who is in a hurry to 'get along.' He was two days getting to Bedford, and found nothing to eat during that time but a pan of milk and a dried fish, which he helped hiself to out of a farmer's pantry. He footed it to Akron, or near there, where he bought a horse as before described. When he left the Weddell he went [route] and lay in the bushes the first day.
Had he succeeded in his last robbery he would have expended the sum in electioneering for Johnstone, and been heralded as the most talented liberal Whig in Ohio1850 Sep 23 Portage sentinel
William "Booby" Johnston was whig candidate for governor
reprint from Plain Dealer1850 Oct 23 Sandusky Register
OH arrested at Mogadore by lawyer named Grove, who took pity after Hinton: "What will my poor daughters think of this?"
reprint of Cleveland Herald1851 Jan 9 The Republic
denounces reduction of Gen. Otho Hinton's bail from $15000 to $10000
no doubt about the guilt of the prisoner
Shallcross arrests man in Columbus GA1851 Jan 30 The Lancaster gazette
bailed out Jan. 251851 May 3 The Sandusky Register
"The General looks nothing the worse of his long confinement"
(multiple reprints)1851 May 21 The Plymouth pilot
Sandusky Clarion: Mississippi reference - "a gentleman recently returned from California, informed one of the editors of the Sanduskian, that he was saw Gen. Hinton at Cuba, but bearing the name Hanten"
(multiple reprints)1851 May 23 Indiana American
paraphrase of Sandusky story about Cuba
paraphrase of Sandusky story about Cuba - affidavit says he would bury himself and troubles in the waters of the Mississippi1852 Jun 16 Zanesville Courier
(multiple reprints inc. NY Times)1852-1853 House Documents for 1852-1853
reprint from Cincinnati Gazette
Deputy U.S. Marshal Jethiel Mills "traversed California in various directions, crossed over the Sierra Nevada to Utah Territory and visited the most remote places in pursuit of the object of his search. It is fully ascertained that Gen. Hinton was in the state when Mr. Mills arrived, but this fact had found its way into the Atlantic papers, which probably reached there in time to put the General on his guard. The U.S. Marshal, however, has found several gentlemen who were formerly acquainted with Gen. H., who have been cognizant of some of his movements since his arrival in California, and who are fully aware that he some time since left for some other quarter of the world--probably for South America."
https://books.google.com/books?id=6ogFAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA1381852 Aug 3 Zanesville Courier
Ithiel Mills $2854.50 "for services and expenses as a special agent to arrest Otho Hinton, a fugitive from justice, charged with robbing the mail
Plain Dealer says OH keeping public house in Portland OR under the name of Gordon1853 May 31
https://secure.sos.state.or.us/prs/profile.do?ancRecordNumber=1135091853 Aug 13 Marysville Daily Herald
marriage to Louisa Hopwood
Gen. Hinton who, some few years ago, committed several extensive robberies of the U.S. Mail in Ohio, and who made his escape to California, was arrested a few days since at San Diego. He will be taken to Ohio for trial1853 Aug 23 Alta California
General Richardson, the U. S. Marshal for the Northern District, came down on the Goliath yesterday for Hinton the mail robber. He will return on the same steamer this afternoon with the prisoner.1853 Sep 10 NY Times
O. Hinton alias S. G. Gordon, who committed a robbery of the U.S. mail in Ohio, has been arrested in Los Angeles and is in jail.1853 Sep 27 Spirit of the times ironton ohio
reprint from The Star1853 Oct 5 The Weekly Wisconsin
On July 25...Samuel G. Gordon, who has been a resident in Los Angeles a short time, was arrested by virtue of the warrant of ...to be held there for three months to await a warrant from the U.S. District Judge of California for his removal to Ohio for trial. The defendant's real name is O. Hinton. According to his statement he was once arrested in Ohio on this charge, held to bail in the sum of $10,000, and subsequently discharged under a nolle pros, entered by the U.S. District Attorney of Ohio...He claims that the charge in this instance is made against him because he would not pay hush money, and that the same thing was attempted to be done at Portland.
Cleveland Herald letter from SF 8/31/18531853 Oct 7 The Evansville iowa daily journal
doughty General is loose again
The writer says that no one appeared against him--that the man who caused his arrest cleared out, and there are no correct papers upon which to act, the General is exempt from arrest
same as above, was arrested in Los Angeles1853 Nov 7 Zanesville Courier
Cleveland Herald stringer describes OH in court - turned in by stage driver - supposedly just arrived in LA from Panama1853 Nov 8
Owen, Ray; The Sonoma Searcher Vol. 29 #2 "General Otho Hinton: Santa Claus on the Run"1853 Dec 1 The Wyandot pioneer
letter from U.S. Marshal Richardson to Mr. Inge, Circuit Court in Ohio: "...the case was examined and on the 26th day of August last, there not being sufficient evidence to authorize his detention, he was, by order of Court, discharged without [illegible]. A few days thereafter he [sailed] for the Sandwich Islands, where I believe he now resides."
reprint from Watchman1853 Dec 21 The Democratic sentinel
We knew him in his palmier days when he was considered honorable and wealthy. He put up a splendid hotel in Delaware in this state, his place of residence, was high in everybody's confidence, his word was good for thousands and his influence in the Whig party of the greatest weight.
nothing about stagecoaches - was mail agent - postmaster gave marked money - gambled away - now in Calif awaiting extradition - has been a vagabond on the earth
reprint from The Star1854 Jan 5 The Jackson ohio standard
was general agent of Ohio mail stage company - often rode on top of stagecoaches at night - had mail keys - after escape gave himself up, nearly famished - Calif released him under writ of habeas corpus, "testimony at hand there not being judged sufficient to warrant him being held" - immediately fled to Hawaii
released on habeas corpus and has fled to Sandwich Islands1855 Jan 10
https://books.google.com/books?id=M6kFAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA1061855 Feb 8 Washington DC Evening star
Senate asked to return bond monies
bill for relief of Rebecca Hinton was taken up by Senate and passed1855 Feb 15 The Jackson standard
reprint from the Chicago Press (also NY Tribune)1855 Feb 21
A private letter received in Cincinnati from Honolulu, a few days since, contains the following item of intelligence respecting the great mail robber, Gen. O. Hinton:
"Among the foreigners residing in this city is Gen. O. Hinton, well known to many of the older inhabitants of Chicago as a mail contractor, &c. When I arrived here he was attempting to practice law. Subsequently he kept a hotel, but with indifferent success. Latterly he is working as a journeyman house-carpenter, and, as I understand, makes a good living at it. He is sober, industrious and quiet, and seems disposed to acquire the reputation of a good citizen."
joint resolution for relief of Rebecca Hinton was taken up by House and passed1855 Mar 16 Fremont ohio journal
a joint resolution has lately passed Congress, which is very gratifying to every person acquainted with the circumstances of the case...This action of Congress will restore to this much afflicted but most excellent family the small private property of Mrs. Hinton, and she will be able to avoid years of poverty and toil...1855 Mar 21 Daily Milwaukee News
(multiple reprints)1856 Jun 7 Polynesian
Congress resolution to return property forfeiture from bail
moving law office1857 Jun 2 Washington Evening Star
(multiple reprints)1857 Aug 8 Polynesian
The prosecution instituted some years against Otho Hinton, in the Circuit Court of the United States for the district of Ohio, for alleged depredations on the mails, was, at the term of that court held this month at Cincinnati, finally dismissed by order of the court.
first ad as lawyer1857 Aug 29 Polynesian
Honolulu probate attorney1858 Feb 9 Cincinnati Enquirer
is Honolulu attorney1858 Feb 25 Wyandot pioneer Sandusky
card arrives Honolulu "attorney and counselor at law"1858 Apr 22 The Highland weekly news. hillsboro ohio
Honolulu correspondent for plain dealer1858 Jun 26 Polynesian
Gen. O. Hinton, the noted mail-robber of Ohio, is a resident here. He came down from California four years ago with his wife and they kept a boarding house, but lost money at it, and the old man was finally reduced to working by the day at carpenter work. Finally, the rheumatism prevented him doing even this, and now he has turned lawyer, and manages, I presume, just to live and no more. I sincerely pity the old man, and I think that he is truly repentant.
last notice found probate for estate of Kuokoa1858 Oct 21
application to the bar District Court Minutes Book B: 1191858 Nov 4 Sacramento Daily Union
petition to practice law in Sonoma County "The undersigned members of the Bar beg leave respectfully to report that we have examined the applicant [illegible] and find him qualified to practice law as an attorney and counselor of this Court. But there being in his past history some charges touching his moral character which although probably acceptable of full explanation, yet not having the evidence before us to satisfy us in that respect we recommend a postponement of his application as a member of the Bar until further explanation can be made."
OH admitted as attorney and counsellor in the Supreme Court yesterday, on motion of P. L. Edwards1858 Nov 11 date on first law office ad in Sonoma Democrat
1859 Mar 31 Sonoma Democrat
public meeting on plaza fencing and improvements - committee appointed - resolutions outlining improvements - $350 raised in subscriptions, over $200 still needed - no mention of OH in lengthy article - "The present primitive and rude appearance of the public Plaza fronting the Court House, is a matter to be regretted," read the opening to the resolution that came out of the meeting. It was agreed there should be "a good, substantial and ornamental fence" as well as ornamental trees, while the grounds were to be immediately plowed and sown with alfalfa.1859 Jun 3 Delaware gazette
legal notice foreclosure on $2000 mortgage1859 Jun 9 Sonoma Democrat
place of residence unknown
fencing of plaza underway - surveyor marking - men digging postholes1859 Jul 26 Sacramento Daily Union
from Sonoma County Journal Independent Democratic candidate for the office of County Judge
from Bulletin1859 Aug 24 Red Bluff Beacon
discusses crimes at length - If the candidate for County Judge in Sonoma county is the same Gen. O. Hinton who robbed the mail in Ohio, it is to be hoped he will not be elected
OH who committed heavy mail robberies in Ohio is candidate for County Judge1859 Sep 3 Daily State Sentinel Indianapolis
The Republican papers have been making a fuss over the supposed nomination of General O. Hinton as a Democratic candidate for Judge in California -- Hinton having been a mail robber in Ohio some years ago. It turns out that the man nominated is W. O. Hinton, altogether a different man from the General, who is no doubtless, as he was in Ohio, violently opposed to the Democracy.1859 Sep 1 Sonoma Democrat
OH not listed in county Democratic slate1859 Sep 8 The Wyandot pioneer
candidate for office of judge in Sonora county1859 Sep 14 The Pacific Commercial Advertiser
Gen. Otho Hinton, formerly of Honolulu, is running for the office of County Judge of Solano County, under the regular Democratic colors1859 Nov 24 Sonoma Democrat
About a year ago, there was some talk among our citizens, about buying a lot where the present burying ground is, and having it properly surveyed and laid off in lots, fenced, and otherwise improved...We would be glad to see the subject renewed, and the plan carried out; and for that object would suggest that a meeting of the citizens be held at some convenient time, say on Friday evening of next week, when farther and more definite action may be had.1859 election results
Hinton 665 - Churchman 24031860 census Delaware ohio
Rebecca age 55 property worth $45001860 Feb 3 Delaware gazette
public sale of Delaware OH property1860 Dec 18 Sonoma County Democrat
(multiple ads for years)1861 Jan 3 Sonoma County Democrat
Will continue the business at the old stand; the firm of Hinton & Wilks having been dissolved by mutual consent.
Streets in very bad conditions because of heavy rains - OH has proposal to improve main street from Plaza to bridge that will cost less than $800 - assessment to be presented to Main street property owners.1861 Jan 21 Sonoma County Democrat
"We are pleased to observe that Gen. O. Hinton, to whom the good citizens of Santa Rosa are so much indebted for the improvements of the Plaza, had commenced the work of renovating and cleaning the grounds for the approaching spring..."
Efforts are making to purchase a tract of land near Santa Rosa, a part of which has been used as a burying-place by people of that town, to be set apart exclusively as a Cemetery. Those who favor this excellent project will please call at Gen. Hinton's office.1862 Apr 22 Sonoma Democrat
Gen. Hinton, as is his custom at this season of the year, has had a number of men at work of late, beautifying and improving our town plaza.1863 Mar 9 Sacramento Daily Union
OH speaks at railroad meeting in Windsor re: building railroad from bay or deep water to Healdsburg1863 Dec 25 Delaware gazette
legal notice court ordered sale of property Delaware1863 Jun 13 Oath of Allegiance sworn
Otho Hinton and Mary Ellen Hinton of Santa Rosa
1865 Mar 18 Sonoma Democrat
description of OH painting in firehouse1866 Aug 3 Delaware ohio gazette
Legal notice from Rebecca against Mary Ellen and Oscar, all 3 residents of SonCo to sell two lots in Delaware1870 census
Rebecca in Petaluma alone property worth $9500 personal worth $16001872 naming of Hinton Ave
https://archive.org/stream/historyofsonomac00alle#page/4061881 Jul 14 Daily Republican
Munro-Fraser; History of Sonoma County 1880, pg. 406
No mention of any City Council proceedings for that meeting in Sonoma Democrat
On 1885 Sanborn map: "9th Ave" On 1888 Sanborn map: "Hinton Av. or 9th Av."
General Otho Hinton came to Santa Rosa more than twenty-five years ago. It was owing mainly to his energy that the land was purchased and laid out for a cemetery. It did well enough for that early day, but is now nearly all filled. His portrait, representing an old man, now hangs in the City Council chamber.1882 Feb 5 The Louisville, Kentucky Courier Journal
history of 1840s Whigs and the 1846 militia - educated wealthy man in Delaware, Ohio - Hinton House one of the finest hotels in the state - was Brigadier of the Central Militia District and was always to be seen on muster days on a white charger, dressed in a uniform that would have made Phil. Sheridan ashamed of himself - wanted to take brigade to Mexico, mounted one of his stages and proceeded to Cleveland and thence by steamer to Buffalo and then on to Washington. In a little over six weeks he returned confident, at own expense visiting regional militia captains - but Gen. Morgan selected by War Dept. Hinton disappeared - boards stagecoach, cuts mailbags and steals over $100,000 - $10,000 reward for capture - turned in by friend - OH arrives with mashal at Weddell House in Cleveland and escapes while waiting for steamer - OH next supposed to be in san fran under alias - next in Oregon running hotel as Hume - escapes ahead of capture - "Hinton was not heard of again for about a year [after he fled to Hawaii], when one of his sons, who was home in Delaware on a visit, and stated that his father was in Honolulu, Sandwich Islands, practicing law. He remained there for years, until finally the case was dropped from the docket in the United States District Court."1882 Nov 1 Oakland Tribune
Rebecca obit d. Oct 22 (no mention in Democrat, 1 line on burial in Republican Oct. 25)1882 Nov 10 Santa Rosa Republican
His very countenance and benevolent expression is, at this writing, as plainly before us as if we had seen him but yesterday. But why is his grave thus neglected? ... Have the people forgotten the generous and noble hearted man, who in his life, took such an active interest in the welfare of "our future little city," (as he was wont to call it,) and who sacrificed all health, money and time, during his declining years, for our behest? His magnanimity and public espiritness for the public good, should never be forgotten, and his grave should, at least, be kept green as an evidence that we appreciate how many kind acts which he did for our future good..1884 Central Sonoma: A Brief Description of the Township and Town of Santa Rosa, Thompson
pg 140: "a tree and a bit of grass is worth more than a Court-house"1890 May 13 The Wheeling daily intelligencer
in 1847 he weighed about 200 lbs close shaven and fashionable2000 Dec 17 Press Democrat
retelling of Shallcross version of mail theft story
"[Hinton] 'adopted' Julio's plaza in its pre-courthouse days, landscaped it, planted trees, installed wrought-iron fencing and hitching posts and benches. And he arranged to keep it clean...Gen. Hinton bought the town's first fire engine."