Candidate for best headline ever in the Press Democrat: "The Town OK, People Wrong". That was how the paper described one of the talks given as part of a 1913 lecture series titled, "What Is the Matter with Santa Rosa?" Some of the complaints were quite serious (corruption, unsafe schools) and some were personal gripes (our kids "are allowed too much of a certain kind of liberty") but they all offered a unique window into life here a century ago.
Leading off the series was Rev. G. W. Henning, pastor of the Unitarian church at the corner of Third and D streets. His charges were broad and explosive: Our elected officials ignore the will of the people and we need a new city charter, "one under which ‘bad’ men can do no mischief."
Most eye-opening was his complaint about "our partnership in the saloon and 'red-light' district," going into some detail that we must rehabilitate the prostitutes "whereby they can earn an honest and decent living." Santa Rosa's tenderloin was supposedly abolished in 1909, although there were hints in subsequent years that most of the ladies were still working at several houses around the intersection of First and D streets. This is the first confirmation it was still an ongoing problem.
(RIGHT: Scene from "An Unseen Enemy" with Dorothy and Lillian Gish. This short silent film played at the Theaterette in Santa Rosa October 4, 1912)
It was also surprising to find the reverend insisting the charter must be rewritten to keep "bad" men from harming the town. That sounds like the accusations made shortly before the 1906 earthquake in the Santa Rosa Republican, when that paper was briefly operated by a pair of muckraking journalists. They charged city leaders were in cahoots with a "scheming coterie of gentlemen who manage to protect their private interests by the conduct of the city government through the present administration." Nothing more about their detailed allegations of graft and corruption was discussed in the Republican after editorial control returned to the publisher after the quake.
The next speaker was City Health Officer Jackson Temple who complained he was underpaid and overworked, his department lacked funding, the water supply would likely be contaminated because the city was too cheap to improve it and someone's gonna die because important public health decisions were being made by know-nothings like the mayor and police chief. Dr. Temple was probably lots of fun at parties.
The lecture with the winning "The Town OK, People Wrong" headline was presented by Attorney Frances McG. Martin, an eloquent suffragist in the 1911 fight to grant women the right to vote in California.
Press Democrat coverage of her remarks was slim, but the Republican newspaper reprinted all (or nearly all) of what she said. And some of it was pretty wild, telling the audience you can't legislate morality, but you can criminalize immoral conduct and drive it into the shadows. ("...Even if immoral men and women are only forced to be secretly immoral, it is far preferable to flaunting their indecencies in the faces of young and old.") Then she went on a rant against the lousy way Santa Rosa parents were raising their kids:
|Young people of Santa Rosa are allowed too much of a certain kind of liberty. Children, disobedient to parents and teachers, bid fair to make very poor citizens. Young girls and boys are permitted to frequent our streets and public places of amusement at night, unaccompanied by parent or guardian, thereby incurring the gravest risks. High school girls, in many cases, attend school dressed as though for a social function, sometimes roughed and powdered and crowned with a wealth of rats and false hair. Elaborate dancing parties, given in club house or hall, are here considered necessary for pupils attending school, instead of simple home parties; and no 'coming out' will be possible for these young people when their school days are over, for a 'bud' once unfolded, can never again be a bud.|
The PD didn't cover the following talk at all, but Attorney Thomas J. Butts was the most cheery and optimistic speaker of the bunch. Our schools were good, churches plentiful, courthouse the best and "our city government is as good as we deserve" The following year Butts ran for mayor and lost by a considerable margin.
"The one great trouble with Santa Rosa is lack of co-operation," said Butts. "We don't work together. Take the matter of parks. The energy and zeal which it called forth is commendable, but there was no co-operation. Every section wanted a park. Every property owner want a park in his back yard. Consequently, we have no spot to which we may point with pride, much less where a person may rest." The town's lack of a single park was obviously a cause for Butts, who wrote an essay on the same theme a year before. As I commented then, you should read it and decide for yourself whether it’s the work of someone a little unhinged.
Butts also wanted the citizens of Santa Rosa to get serious about gardening. "We have Luther Burbank in our midst...All our gardens should be emulation of Burbank's but we seem to prefer to raise cabbage."
The final speaker was Margaret Stanislawsky, a parent and activist for better schools. She singled out the Fremont school (corner of Fourth and North streets) and Lincoln school (Eighth and Davis) as being "fire-traps," invoking the tragedy of the 1908 Collinwood school fire, where 172 children were trapped and burned to death at an elementary school on the outskirts of Cleveland. Frances McG. Martin earlier had also commented on school conditions: "The Fremont school house has been the lurking place of contagious diseases for more than 20 years, and should fire break out on the lower floor, the faulty construction of this relic of the dark ages would surely cause the loss of many precious lives."
These comments echo muckraking stories on the poor conditions of Santa Rosa schools which appeared in the Republican during Dec. 1904. The reporter found the elementary schools overcrowded and in poor condition, with only natural lighting so classrooms were sometimes dark. The South Park school didn't even have a sewer hookup, with toilets draining into an open ditch in front of the building. Like the investigative series on political corruption, there was no followup concerning school issues by either Santa Rosa paper after the muckraking duo departed.
Martin and Stanislawsky were also in agreement that the town treated people from outside the town like second-class citizens, even though Santa Rosa was "dependent on the farmers of the surrounding territory for an existence," as Martin said. She chided the city for "refusing to supply them with hitching places for their horses," a complaint which first aired in 1910 because hitching posts were yielding to parking spots. Martin also dropped the interesting statistic that there was then (in 1913) three hundred automobiles owned in Santa Rosa.
Stanislawsky further slapped the town for not allowing farmers to use its public library. "You people in town depend upon these neighbors as much as they depend upon you. If it were not for their support, there would not be much business in Santa Rosa-—not much business property to bear taxes for the sake of the library or for anything else. It is well worth your while to have the goodwill of the country people," she said.
"WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH SANTA ROSA?"
Reproducing in part the lecture of the previous Sunday evening, the Rev. G. W. Henning continued last Sunday evening to point out some of the things that are the matter with the city of his adoption. He said:
"We are not satisfied with out streets, our lights, our schools, our partnership in the saloon and 'red-light' district, and want these conditions changed. We have elected 'good' men—-the very best available to administer our municipal affairs, and yet are not satisfied—-in fact, we repudiate their sober propositions 15 to 1. We are sure we have neither efficiency, economy nor progress in our municipal management-—and will not be satisfied with anything else, nor less.
"But, I want it understood," said Mr. Henning, touching the ’red light proposition, "that I will take no part in a campaign to drive out these unfortunate and sinful women, not to disturb them in any way until provision is made whereby they can earn an honest and decent living. They are driven for the most into vice by economic conditions our making—-and we-—the social body-—must bear the blame and the shame until we provide the remedy.
"In diagnosing the case of Santa Rosa, I have decided that it calls for constitutional treatment. Our charter is antiquated and unfit for a modern city. We must have a new one, adapted to changed conditions, one under which ‘bad’ men can do no mischief. We must have the latest and the best—-a city government after the pattern of Houston, Des Moines, Sioux City-—efficient, economical, progresslve."
Mr. Henning announced the would be assisted in the case of Santa Rosa by Dr. Jackson Temple, Rolfe Thompson, Dr. I. H. Wyland and District Attorney Clarence F. Lea, whose several topics and dates would be advertised.
- Press Democrat, March 4, 1913
"WHAT’S THE MATTER HERE?" "NOTHING!" SAYS DR.TEMPLE
"You and I, and the rest of us—-we are Santa Rosa!" City Health Officer Jackson Temple told an audience of about 250 persons at Unitarian church Sunday evening. "There Is nothing the matter with us--that is, nothing that we ourselves may not remedy," he went on.
The occasion was the first of a series of five lectures to be delivered by prominent citizens upon invitation of the Rev. G. W. Henning, on the subject "What's the Matter With Santa Rosa?" Dr. Temple, as health officer, devoted his speech mainly to matters of sanitation. He favors a "commission" form of government, and would have the health department reconstructed, with a physician and a sanitary plumber as its working officers, rather than the present body, which consists of the Mayor, the Chief of Police, the City Engineer, one member of the City Council, and a physician, who is also health officer. Their duties are to enforce municipal ordinances and State and national laws affecting sanitation; enforcement of quarantine regulations, and recording the city’s vital statistics. The health department is handicapped by lack of equipment and by lack of funds,
"When I assumed my duties as health officer," said the speaker, "I did so for the munificent recompense of ten dollars a month. I had to pay out of my own pocket more than that amount just for the filing of necessary records alone. This fault has since been partially obviated by increasing my salary to twenty-five dollars a month: but still I use that much or more for absolutely necessary expenses of the work, and I do the work for nothing. The same may be said of the other members with whom I serve. We have made periodic inspections of stores and restaurants: we have had backyards cleaned when they needed it, and have enforced the provision of fly-proof containers for such garbage as cannot be frequently removed. We have enforced the State law requiring all food to be screened from flies, and we have helped the State Dairy Bureau in improving your milk supply. Without expense to the city we have made bacteriological and microscopic examinations in contagious and infectious diseases-—there having been more than 250 of these in four months for diphtheria alone. The State board can do this work, but we can always do it 24 hours earlier than they can; and if the gain in time has saved only one life, it was certainly worth while to have the work done by the local board...
..."Our streets and their drainage present a trying problem. Our city has been laid out in disjointed sections, complicating the problems of the sewer system. The city's water supply needs additional protection from contamination. Improvement has been made in this respect, but there Is more to be done. A concrete wall to keep surface water from the wells would cost approximately $2,000, and it is badly needed.
"Our present form of city government lacks the essential element of fixed responsibility. A commission form of government would change this. The people of Santa Rosa—-you and I and all of us-—should study these questions and solve them ourselves." The Rev. Mr. Henning called upon those who endorsed Dr. Temple’s views to signify their approval by raised hands, and virtually all those present did so. Also the audience gave the health officer a vote of thanks for his discourse.
- Press Democrat, April 1, 1913
THE TOWN O. K. PEOPLE WRONGAttorney Frances McG. Martin Has Something to Say on "What Is the Matter with Santa Rosa?"
The question "What is the matter with Santa Rosa?" which is being discussed by various speakers at the Unitarian church, was ably handled Sunday night by Attorney Frances McG. Martin. A large audience greeted the speaker and her remarks were cordially received.
Mrs. Martin held that nothing was wrong with Santa Rosa, but that several things were wrong with the citizens of the community. She dwelt on the fact that although dependent on the farmers of the surrounding territory for an existence, the city treated the farmers in a most selfish manner, refusing to supply them with hitching places for their horses or a park in which they might spend a part of their long trying shopping days.
The speaker said that the question of cost had been raised, but pointed out that there were three hundred automobiles owned in Santa Rosa and that if the cost of each machine averaged $1,000 it would mean that $300,000 was spent for machines to take people out of town, while the cry was being raised that there was not money enough to provide accommodations for the people coming into town.
Mrs. Martin touched on many other points, and her argument was logical, clear and forceful. She was heartily applauded by her hearers at the close of her remarks.
- Press Democrat, April 8, 1913
"OUR SCHOOLS FIRE-TRAPS" SAYS WOMAN IN LECTURE
"No community has the right to compel children to attend school in buildings wherein any precaution for their health and safety has been neglected. Attendance upon our grade schools in Santa Rosa is made compulsory by law. Can we say that sucn precautions are not neglected here? If catastrophe should come, with what horror-stricken eyes and aching hearts should we look back upon what might have been done!
"Does Santa Rosa need the lesson of Cleveland brought to her own doors? May God avert it! To my mind, remedy of this neglect is Santa Rosa’s most urgent duty."
The speaker was Mrs. Henry Stanislawsky. Sunday evening at First Unitarian church, in one of a series of lectures by well known residents ot this city, upon the same topic—-" What Is the Matter with Santa Rosa?" Mrs. Stanislawsky has not lived in Santa Rosa so long as have others who had given lectures upon the same subject in the same church, but she is evidently a close observer and a thoughtful student. Withal she is a pleasing and forceful speaker, with an earnest delivery and a lucid diction that make her meanings clear. Improvement of the school buildings was her first and strongest demand.
"In the town where I lived before I came to Santa Rosa," she said, "there was at the time of the terrible Cleveland fire a nearly new brick schoolhouse—-large, commodious, comfortable. The shocking disaster at Cleveland made every school district in the country at least momentarily alert to precaution for safety in case of fire. Then it was seen that our new schoolhouse was utterly and criminally unsafe. Fire drills had been frequent, but the exits from the upper stories were only two flights of stairs leading Into the central hall—-exits like to those that had murdered so many little ones at Cleveland-—exits quite similar to those of the Fremont school and the Lincoln school in Santa Rosa. It was seen that, if fire broke out, the large probability—-almost certainty-—was that the draft in those stairs and halls would make them the main pathway of the flame; exit there would be blocked, and the fire-drills would have proved worse than useless. A panic would be inevitable...
...If you cannot afford new buildings, can you not at least make, the old ones safe?"
Extend Library Privileges
"Another recommendation I wish to urge is, that Santa Rosa should make her public library free to her rural neighbors. True, the townspeople maintain the library, but to permit people from the nearby country to borrow books would involve no initial cost, and but a slight additional cost for upkeep. That courtesy to your neighbors would be appreciated. You people in town depend upon these neighbors as much as they depend upon you. If it were not for their support, there would not be much business in Santa Rosa-—not much business property to bear taxes for the sake of the library or for anything else. It is well worth your while to have the goodwill of the country people. It is a good business proposition...
- Press Democrat, April 29, 1913
As the presidential election approaches, the Santa Rosa paper is relentlessly attacking the Republican candidate. Readers are told he lies about his past to impress voters and he won't listen to others because he foolishly believes he's always right. His own party wants nothing to do with him. His proposals are simplistic as well as unworkable and unconstitutional (a document he's obviously never read) and he will destroy the country if he gets within a mile of the White House. Plus, he looks funny.
The newspaper is the Sonoma Democrat. The Republican is Abraham Lincoln. The year is 1860.
The Sonoma Democrat was the direct ancestor of the Press Democrat and before, during and after the Civil War was relentlessly pro-Confederate. Most of Sonoma County shared those sentiments to some degree - this was the only place in the state which did not vote for Lincoln either time. But editor Thomas L. Thompson shaped the Santa Rosa newspaper into the sort of rag that might have been published in the Deep South at that time, not only pro-slavery but astonishingly racist. Now that the Democrat is online we can search it and find there were at least 330 uses of the "n-word" between 1857 and 1886. To squeeze that many hateful slurs into a four-page weekly reveals Thompson to be an awful person and probably a little crazy. There's no question he was certifiably nuts when he committed suicide in 1898; the coroner's jury ruled he was "mentally deranged" after ranting that the Odd Fellows' Lodge was out to get him.
(RIGHT: Abraham Lincoln May 20, 1860, two days after winning the Republican party nomination)
In the run-up to the election, sample items from the paper transcribed below show Thompson fed his readers a steady diet of anti-Lincoln, anti-abolitionist bile. To make sense of some of these articles it's important to know this was an odd four-way election with both Northern and Southern Democrats in the running. Besides Lincoln, the official Democratic Party candidate was Stephen A. Douglas, who thought he could somehow forge a grand compromise to keep the United States patched together; Southern Democrat Breckinridge, who wanted to uphold slavery as an absolute Constitutional right; and third-party candidate Bell, who wanted to appease the South by ignoring the slavery issue altogether.
The Sonoma Democrat introduced readers to Lincoln that summer with ad hominem attacks. Lincoln had "neither firmness in his countenance nor fire in his eye" and lied about being a rail-splitter in his youth, as people in that part of Illinois made their fences from pieces of wood picked up in swamps (having grown up near there, I can attest there are no prairie swamps). During his service in the Black Hawk war, the paper claimed he forgot to untether his horse and fell with the animal when he tried to ride away; believing his horse had been brought down by an ambush, "Old Abe" tried to surrender to the non-existant Indians.
Sonoma county readers were told that some delegates at the Republican convention were "mad as March hares, and swear they would as soon go for Jeff. Davis, Douglas or any other minion of slavery, as for this third rate, rail-spliting Lincoln." Items reprinted from like-minded journals insisted he was a dead weight on the ballot and could not possibly win - although his inevitable loss in New York state would cause chaos, as the outcome would then be decided by the House of Representatives (he won New York by nearly eight points).
But more than anything else, Thompson kept hammering that Lincoln was a "Black Republican." In Thompson's argot, this was the worst thing he could call someone because it meant they believed African-Americans were human beings with legal rights. Whatever lip service Thompson and his ilk gave to state's rights and the constitutionality of slave-holding, its rotten core was always racist hatred.
On election day Lincoln got 1,236 votes in Sonoma county, behind Breckinridge's 1,466. Petaluma was the only town Lincoln won, with 375 voting for him. Santa Rosa cast 91 ballots for Lincoln and 205 for Breckinridge.
Thompson hunkered down in the final weeks of 1860, bitterly spinning a story of gloom and doom. Stock markets were in a "panic" and banks in two southern states were expecting to be closed. The "free negroes, their aiders and abettors" were plotting to avenge John Brown's death with help from the Republicans. There was a recurrent theme in the dispatches from the pro-southern papers that the South was keeping a steady keel while the North was falling apart. Charleston supposedly would not allow steerage passengers on steamboats coming from the North to disembark unless there was a guarantee they would not become vagrants.
Thompson also launched a trope that the North was trying to nullify the Constitution and forcing the Southern states to secede against their wishes. Failing to return runaway slaves was nothing short of treason, according to Thompson, who hoped that Congress would mete out punishment "if the present disunion cloud should blow over." There is the Confederacy mindset neatly summed: 1) we're the victims; 2) we have the only true understanding of the Constitution; 3) we will never, ever, compromise on slavery. For these reasons and more, one dispatch from Alabama concluded: "Revolution is inevitable."
DOUGLAS AND LINCOLN. -- The men are entirely dissimilar. Douglas is a thick set, finely built man, with an air of self confidence. Lincoln is a tall (six feet four), lank man, awkward, apparently diffident, and when not speaking has neither firmness in his countenance nor fire in his eye.
- Sonoma Democrat, June 21, 1860
News from the Atlantic states.The Overland stage with the St. Louis mails of the 21st ult. arrived at San Francisco on Monday last. On Friday, the 18th May, the Chicago Convention nominated Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois, for President, on the third ballot, and Hannibal Hamlin, of Maine, for Vice President, on the second ballot. The nomination of Lincoln struck the Republicans of the Middle and Eastern States cold. A forced enthusiasm, however, was got up in some cities...The New Yorkers are as mad as March hares, and swear they would as soon go for Jeff. Davis, Douglas or any other minion of slavery, as for this third rate, rail-spliting Lincoln. They say they can’t begin to carry New York with Lincoln, and the dead weight of their abominable Legislature added. Bets are made that Lincoln will lose N. Y. by 20,000...
- Sonoma Democrat, June 14 1860
...Abe Lincoln has declared, that if he were in the halls of Congress, and the question of the abolition of slavery were to come up, ho would vote for it in spite of the Dred Scott decision. In other words he declared that the highest Tribunal of the land was no authority for him, that he would disregard all principles of law, justice and order, and would by the mere force of physical superiority compel nearly one half of the states of this Confederacy to change their social and domestic institutions, at the beck and nod of a tyranous majority; and this is the candidate of the party who with emulous ostentation denounce the South as disunionists and traitors. This is the party who daily shout and swagger about union and nationality, who complaining of intolerance on the part of the South, deny to her all toleration, all equality, all justice, all rights under the Constitution, and insult her with threats of coercion if she dares resist their sovereign will...
- Sonoma Democrat editorial, July 12 1860
The Pittsburg Post says: An old citizen who traveled in Illinois thirty years ago, and was especially familiar with the district of country where Abe Lincoln resided, says that Abe never split a rail in his life. In those days, he says, the people never thought of such a thing as splitting rails. They went into the swamps and cut hoop-poles and saplings for fences, and used them, round, as nature made them.
- Sonoma Democrat, July 19 1860
At the time of the Black Hawk war, ‘Abe’ enlisted. The company numbered about eight mounted men. They started off in fine spirits to engage in the deadly fray. Arriving at a point on the prairies, about two hundred miles from the Indian lines, the party bivouacked for the night, picketed their horses, and slept on their arms...During the night, the sentinel, whoso mental caliber was in no measure proportioned to his patriotism, imagined he saw the Indians! and immediately discharged his old fusee. The camp was aroused in an instant, and each sprang to his saddle. ‘Old Abe' shot out in the darkness on his charger like lightning, until the ropes 'hove taut,' when over he went, horse and himself, headlong! Thinking himself caught in an Indian ambush, he gathered up, mounted, putting spurs to his horse, took the opposite shute, but soon brought up as before, horse and rider tumbling headlong. ‘Old Abe’ got up, thinking he was surrounded! and shouted, 'Gentlemen Indians! I surrender without a word. I have not a word to offer. All I want is quarter!’ There ‘Old Abe’s'' first campaign ended!’
- Sonoma Democrat, September 13 1860
The conservative and Union loving men of the North are making every effort to defeat Lincoln. All parties concede that should Lincoln lose New York his defeat inevitable.
By reference to our Eastern news today, it will be seen that there has been a complete fusion between all the elements of opposition to the Black Republicans in New York-—the vote of that State to be cast for Douglas, Breckinridge or Bell, as they shall receive the highest popular vote. This will undoubtedly throw the election into the House of Representatives, and secures beyond question the defeat of Lincoln.
- Sonoma Democrat, September 27 1860
...On one side stands Lincoln, proclaiming the social, moral and political superiority of the North over the South, and calling upon men to enter into an "irrepressibly conflict" for the complete and entire destruction of the Southern States. On the other hand we have Breckinridge proclaiming the equality of the States, the harmony of commerce and industry, the sacred and constitutional right of self-government.--N.Y. Herald.
- Sonoma Democrat, October 11 1860
REPUBLICAN MEETING.-- Hand-bills have been staring us in the face upon every corner for the last week, announcing that James Churchman, Esquire, of Nevada, would address the irrepressibles of this place yesterday. Well, the eventful evening arrived and so repaired to the Court House expecting to hear the Democracy entirely demolished. We found assembled exactly seven Republicans, most of whom were from abroad; there may have been as many as twelve, since there were three or four persons there whom we did not know. There were besides these some fifteen or twenty snuff-colored gentlemen, and about seventy-five Breckinridge and Bell men. The irrepressible gentleman had already commenced when we arrived, so that we did not hear the first part of his harangue. We listened to him, however, about three quarters of an hour, and we must say, we heard the most pithless, pointless batch of misrepresentations we have ever listened to. Mr, Churchman’s address is pleasing, and his manner well calculated to attract tho attention of a promiscuous assemblage; but he did not make a single point during the time we listened to him, that deserves the space it would take to refute it.
- Sonoma Democrat, October 18 1860
KEEP IT BEFORE THE PEOPLE, that Abraham Lincoln opposed the war with Mexico and declared it unnecessary and unjust.
Keep it before the people, that the Republicans are in favor of placing negroes on an equality with the whites, and in many of the free States sanction amalgamation.
Keep it before the people, that in Massachusetts the Republicans proscribed foreign-born citizens and attempted to deprive them of the right of suffrage, and would have succeeded had the Democrats not opposed it.
Keep it before the people, that in the same State negroes were elected delegates to conventions and assisted in nominating Republican candidates for Congress.
Keep it before the people, that the infidel Garrison, a leading Black Republican, unblushingly declares, that the Constitution of the United Slates "it a covenant with death and an agreement with hell!"
Keep it before the the people, that this same Republican leader Garrison, blasphemously asserts, that if “God had the power to abolish slavery and would not, he wae a very great scoundrel!"
- Sonoma Democrat, November 1 1860
The contest is over, and from the partial returns so far received, it is doubtful if the State has not gone againat us. In this County the Democracy have scarcely deserved anything else. At a time when every element of opposition was combining against them, when every energy was needed to secure success, they have remained passive and indifferent until they have actually allowed the election to go by default...
- Sonoma Democrat, November 8 1860
San Francisco, Nov. 13th, 1860. Editors Sonoma County Democrat: The great battle is over, and although it has resulted in partial defeat, let not Democrats be disheartened, but rather let them organize and prepare themselves better for the next struggle, when the now prevailing party will have been "played out," as were their immediate successors. Although six days have passed since the election, little is yet known of the result. According to latest accounts Lincoln is about 1100 ahead, but this seems doubtful, as it is strongly suspected that the despatches are not much to be relied on, having been gotten up more for betting purposes than for the diffusion of reliable statistical information. The news from the East will be sent with the greatest despatch by the Pony, and will be received here the fore part of next week. The telegraphing facilities of the Eastern States will be tested to their utmost, but it is generally expected that the general result will be known by that time. How annoying it is that the knowledge of a great event must be kept from us for days when a few hundred miles of telegraphic wire would put us in immediate possession of the all-desired information.
- Sonoma Democrat, November 15 1860
The news by the Pony confirms the unwelcome intelligence of Lincoln's election as the next President of the United States. At the same time it brings the news of movements in several of the Southern States, which indicate a fixed determination on their part to remain no longer in the Union. Their perfect and sovereign right to secede, if they desire to do so, must be conceded from the very nature and formation of our government. There are but two means by which any Union of States can be maintained or preserved; one is a community of interests, the other a preponderance of force. The former is the only means which was ever contemplated, in the formation of our Constitution, for the very objects of its formation, viz: "To establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty," utterly preclude the idea of using force for its preservation, for this use of force would at once defeat every object for which the Union was formed. If these States, therefore, in their sovereign capacity, see proper to secede from the Union, there is no power under the Constitution to prevent them; and any attempt to coerce them would be as unconstitutional as it would be unholy, unjust and futile. This movement may be one pregnant with mighty consequences. There has never been a period in the history of our government when there was so much necessity for wise, deliberate and cautious procedure, and it is well that the people should weigh and consider the causes which have led to these untoward results, and prepare to meet the mighty events which loom up so portentiously in the future, for, as has been well said, it is for them to decide what course they will sustain the administration in pursuing toward those states which may secede.
- Sonoma Democrat, November 29 1860
The excitement in the South continues, accompanied with general depression in the markets and trade, amounting to a panic. There has been a general decline in stocks at New York, and a great increase in rates of exchange at Chicago. There is a tightness at St. Louis, and perfect derangement in monetary affairs South. The South Carolina and Georgia Legislatures have prepared for a suspension of their banks. No suspensions have yet taken place. The Mayor of Charleston has notified the agents of Northern steamers that he would not permit the landing of steerage passengers, unless the companies guaranteed their maintenance, if they became vagrants. Merchants have now goods on hand, but no new orders will be given to the North, except such as are indispensable.
- Sonoma Democrat, December 6 1860
Negro Lincoln Clubs. — We copy the following advertisement from the Pittsburg Dispatch, of October 16th, an influential Black Republican organ: "Colored Men of Pittsburg and Vicinity!--You are requested to meet and form yourselves into Wide Awake Clubs immediately, for the purpose of farthering the interest of the friend of the human race, Abraham Lincoln. Already New York has spoken in favor of universal suffrage. And if colored men would have their rights, they should move for the success of their friends. John Brown, the hero of Harper's Ferry, is yet to be avenged."
Is it strange that the South should bo excited und alarmed in the face of such proceedings, sanctioned and encouraged by the Black Republicans of the free States? Does not prudence dictate that they should be prepared to meet and repel a second John Brown raid? Do not the free negroes, their aiders and abettors, contemplate a second foray into the Southern States? Do the negroes not hope to avenge the death of John Brown, and have they not reason to anticipate assistance and protection from the Republicans?
- Sonoma Democrat, December 13 1860
WHO ARE THE DISUNIONISTS?-- The New York Herald, of the 10th ult., says: We publish below an account of the Northern Slates which prohibit their officials and citizens from aiding in the execution of the Federal Fugitive Slave Law, and which by their action, have boldly nullified the Constitution of the United States...It will be seen from the above that the Northern States are nearly all in a position of practical disunion--that is, they have refused to sustain the constitution which their fathers adopted.
LEGISLATING FOR TREASON.--If the present disunion cloud should blow over, as all lovers of their country sincerely trust that it may, we hope Congress will make a point of re-enacting, at an early day, some law defining treason, and providing sufficient means for its prevention or punishment...
- Sonoma Democrat, December 27 1860
For everyone interested in Sonoma County history and genealogy, it's a frabjous day: The historic Santa Rosa and Petaluma newspapers are now online and searchable. This includes the Press Democrat (up to 1916), the Sonoma Democrat, The Argus-Courier and many Argus' (Argussess?) before that paper emerged. Together with the Healdsburg archive that's been available for awhile we finally have a pretty good picture of local doings all over the county.
To make it easy for you (and myself!) to search the Santa Rosa and Healdsburg archives I've created an Internet resources web page where queries can be entered for each paper. There are also links to the Petaluma papers - available through a newspapers.com subscription - as well as other county journals. The web page additionally includes sections with every online Sonoma county history, local maps, searchable books on state history, Luther Burbank, the 1906 earthquake and more.
That resource page is part of SantaRosaHistory.com which I've been developing over the last several months. It's a spinoff from the Comstock House web site with several important differences.
The house web site was designed 'way back in 2007 and integrates four blogs on house restoration, architecture, gardening and local history plus a few pages with precise layouts. It all looks fine on a desktop computer but today most people are using smartphones or tablets, and not being 100 percent "mobile friendly" is the kiss of death when it comes to the search engines. Non m.f. pages may rank lower in the display of search results or not be shown at all, which means the material effectively has disappeared from the Internet. That Google et. al. are putting thumbs on the scale to favor pages deemed to have a high quality "user experience" over high quality of content should concern you.
There are also technical issues with the "I See by the Papers…" blog, which started with modest ambitions to discuss newspaper items about the Oates and Comstock families. Now it has almost 600 articles containing a million words. The Blogger service (owned by Google) was state-of-the-art a decade ago but has been plagued with problems; as just one example, I can't correct a typo in an older item without being prepared for the Blogger editor to mess up parts of my page layout by "fixing" it without warning or asking permission. I have spent untold hours in the archives undoing these and other monkey-wrench changes made by Blogger.
Rather than redesign all the sections of the house web site and continuing to workaround Blogger's bugs and quirks, the easiest solution was to port "I See by the Papers…" to a more stable platform that was mobile-friendly from the start - hence SantaRosaHistory.com. I will continue to mirror the blog at both sites, with the difference that I'm no longer going to make major repairs to the original site the next time Blogger blows up.
Thanks to the WordPress platform, SantaRosaHistory.com is not only more stable but easier to customize; I was able to add those newspaper search fields with ease and am contemplating several improvements that could make it easier to find stuff. And it's all being done in a context that Google considers m.f. and worthy of being shown on a tiny screen.
In the meantime, rip into those newspaper archives; today I found answers to six impossible questions before breakfast, to borrow from Lewis Carroll. If you're looking for nothing in particular, call up a paper from a century ago today or 150 years ago. Browse; prowl our past. A couple of pages after the breakfast quote in "Through the Looking-glass," Alice walks into a shop and is asked if she knew what she wanted there. "I don't quite know yet," Alice said very gently. "I should like to look all around me, if I might."
Finally, after years of determined work trying to undermine social media by personally ignoring it, I have finally created an "OldSantaRosa" account on Facebook and Twitter. I shall never be productive again.
It was like clockwork: In June the Barlow boys arrived, then a few weeks later came reports of runaways. But after the 1911 season, it appeared the escape attempts stopped. What happened? Boys were still trying to get away, all right - but the Santa Rosa newspapers just stopped reporting about it.
(For those just tuning in: In the early Twentieth Century, California courts usually sentenced boys who committed minor crimes or were deemed incorrigible to spend the rest of their youth at institutions not unlike a modern prison halfway house. One of these places, the Boys’ and Girls’ Aid Society of San Francisco, struck a deal with the Barlow family of Sebastopol; during summers the boys would camp on the ranch and pick berries and fruit for low pay. Soon other farmers were asking for orphans and it wasn’t long before the Aid Society and similar institutions were sending up hundreds of boys – some as young as seven – to work in West County fields and canneries every year. For more background, see "SEBASTOPOL'S CHILD LABOR CAMPS".)
We know the escapes continued thanks to the archives of the Petaluma Argus-Courier, which just came online this week via newspapers.com. It's a huuuuge deal that this trove is simply available, but that it's also searchable with great accuracy is enough to make genealogists and historians purr and mew.
There are a few possible reasons why the Petaluma paper informed their readers about the runaways while the Santa Rosa papers blacked out the news. Rarely were escapees nabbed around Santa Rosa; usually they were caught in the countryside or en route to San Francisco, so it was more likely the boys would be seen close to Petaluma or Marin. There also might have been editorial bias in keeping quiet about bad news; the use of child labor was a fast-growing part of the West County economy - in 1912 the boys picked 407 tons of berries and fruit, up from 125 tons just five years earlier, showing farmers were lining up to get in on this sweet deal for ultra-cheap juvenile labor. And to be fair, it must be noted that in 1913 the Press Democrat did offer a paragraph on seven runaways being captured and even mentioned the Barlow ranch by name.
(RIGHT: Mess tent for boys working on the Barlow ranch, date unknown. Photograph courtesy Western Sonoma County Historical Society)
But there was one related story which the local press couldn't ignore because it made all the Bay Area papers: The 1913 theft of summer earnings by the boys of the Armitage Orphanage - and that the robber was the orphanage's superintendent.
While it was was rarely mentioned which orphanages and charities were shoving their kids down the Sebastopol berry picking pipeline every June, it comes as a shock to find this outfit was among them. The [Episcopal] Bishop Armitage Orphanage was a pet charity of the San Francisco swells who funded it via lawn parties, balls, country club polo matches and other high society soirees ("Tableaux Vivants to Show Masterpieces - Famous Art Works Will be Staged by Members of the Board" - San Francisco Chronicle, March 16, 1910).
That orphanage certainly didn't need any income from the boys; the stolen $3,000 was petty change to its society matron directors and to their credit, they promised to reimburse the children. Well-funded does not mean well-run, however. While the 150 boys were working in the orchards and fields, the orphanage was being closed and their buildings sold, so at the end of summer the Armitage inmates were split up other institutions. The superintendent who disappeared with their money was known as Robert Ellis, although that was not his real name for some reason - and the directors were aware of that. He had been superintendent for a couple of years, the board having raced through four managers in six months before him. There seems to be a quite the scandal unreported there, although the society sections did not speak of such unpleasantries.
On related news, the Press Democrat recently presented a couple of items about the orphanage at Lytton Springs operated by the Salvation Army. The property near Healdsburg is now on the market with an asking price of $24 million.
One of the PD article nostalgically waxes about Lytton success stories - a pair of brothers who built a successful contracting business and a man who became an important Santa Rosa lawyer. Healdsburg High School welcomed the Lytton kids, according to the PD writer, because the Salvation Army encouraged them to play band instruments and the boys were strong and scrappy from all their farm work.
That's a very rosy view. The situation may have changed later but in their earlier days Lytton youths were allowed to attend Healdsburg High only if supervisors ruled the child had "capacity for high school training;" per a 1909 article about Lytton, only about 5 percent of their residents were permitted to continue schooling beyond 8th grade. Otherwise, the kid had no choice but to work on the Salvation Army's commercial farm. As I wrote earlier in "THE CHILDREN OF LYTTON:" The cruelest aspect of the “orphanages” was that wards of the system lost nearly all chance of an education beyond readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic. While Santa Rosa High School was then offering typewriting classes and teaching other office skills which were in growing demand, Lytton and other Aid Homes were preparing kids for a 19th century future.
While the institutions could have done more to keep their kids in classrooms, a century ago state law didn't require it. The Jones-Hughes Act of 1903 made it compulsory for every child in California to attend school between ages 8 and 15, but offered a grabbag of loopholes allowing families to opt out of schooling altogether - children who lived over two miles by road from the nearest school could be claimed as exempt, for example. Those exemptions were removed in 1919 and the compulsory age raised to 16, but that still didn't mean a child would make it to high school. According to a report that year from the state's Dept. of Education, most of the students who were to be added to the attendance rosters hadn't yet finished elementary school by age sixteen.
There were many institutions far, far worse than Lytton, but it wasn't free of controversy. In November, 1913 the Oakland Enquirer published a series of investigative articles "berating the management of the institution for alleged cruel treatment of children at the institution," according to a mention of the articles in the Santa Rosa Republican. Unfortunately, not much more can be said about that reporting because the paper is not online and the only known surviving editions from that year are at UC/Berkeley. The Republican added the main incident was "punishment meted out to two boys who stole horses and got away from the institution."
Sonoma County District Attorney Clarence Lea thought the charges were credible enough to have the grand jury investigate. Oakland Enquirer reporter Fred Williams was summoned, and the mother of the boys also testified, which suggests the pair were at Lytton not for being orphans but having been sentenced there by a court for delinquency.
Jurors visited Lytton and found it was overcrowded, but the children were well cared for and no "unmerited punishments were inflicted." The grand jury report concluded with praise for the institution, which deserved "support and commendation." The jury foreman wrote, "in view of the splendid work that is being accomplished at the institution we feel that minor criticisms which might be made would be uncalled for."
Not so fast, there, mee bucko. Their report did not mention the jury interviewed the boys making the charges although it's implied ("we investigated all cases called to our attention"). Nor did it explain what the Oakland Enquirer reporter had to say; that was a significant newspaper with a reputation for muckraking - it's doubtful they would run a series based only on wild yarns from a pair of malcontent kids who apparently had been in trouble with the law.
More interesting is a mention at the end of the jury report that the superintendent and his wife together earned only $14 a week, and no one there was paid more than $400 a year. Those earnings are on the low side for unskilled labor at the time, but not unreasonable. But from a Press Democrat article the previous year, we know that Lytton annually spent about $3,400 on salaries. Now project the numbers: Lytton must have operated with only eight paid staffers, twelve max - to run a 400+ acre commercial farm AND care for about 250 kids full time.
"Mother Bourne," the beloved figurehead of Lytton may indeed have been worthy of sainthood, but the institution was clearly dependent upon the children to keep the wheels turning. And barely supervising so many kids - most there because they were deemed to be "unmanageable" - is surely an invitation to bullying or even worse forms of abuse.
But as the Santa Rosa papers seemed wanting to tell readers only good news about the Barlow boys, the grand jury wanted to see Lytton as a shining example of noble work. Look how well we are treating these troubled and troublesome youths, our ancestors seemed determined to boast. We have plucked them from nothing and given them something.
TWO BOYS MADE ESCAPE
Two boys whose names are given as Butts and Landingan by Superintendent Turner, escaped from the Barlow berry fields above Sebastopol on Monday afternoon at an early hour and later Deputy Sheriff R. L. Rasmussen was notified.
He kept a close watch on all departing trains and the steamer Petaluma but the youngsters have not yet come to this city.
A watchman was in this city on Monday evening investigating. Both the lads are wearing blue overalls. They are from the Boys and Girls Aid Society which is now at Barlow's picking berries.
They have only been there two days and during that time the two boys have been trying to get away. They are thought to be in this county yet.
- Petaluma Argus-Courier, June 18, 1912
TWO MORE BOYS MAKE ESCAPE
The local police were notified on Wednesday night that two boys had escaped from the berry pickers' camp at the Barlow ranch near Sebastopol and the officers are keeping a watch for them and examined the outgoing trains and steamers Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
The boys are Harry Herman, aged 18, and Chas. Sargent, age 17, both of San Francisco. The former is 5 feet four inches in height and the latter slightly shorter. Both wore straw hats, blue overalls and dark coats. The former wore a yellow khaki shirt and the latter a light colored soft shirt. Herman is slightly stooped and walks with swinging gait and has dark brown hair and dark eyes.
Sargent is of dark complexion with light brown hair. Both wore heavy shoes. For some reason the custodians of the boys, are unusually anxious to capture these escapes, so it is probably that they are detained fore [sic] more than the ordinary wrong doing.
- Petaluma Argus-Courier, July 11, 1912
THREE BOYS RAN AWAY
Several officers of the Boys and Girls Aid Society were in this city on Sunday morning looking for three runaway boys who made their escape on Saturday evening from Barlow's station where the girls and boys were picking berries. The officers remained here for a short time and then went to Sausalito where they captured the three runaways who were taken to Barlow's on the next train.
- Petaluma Argus-Courier, June 23, 1913
HERE AFTER RUNAWAYS
Special Police Officer T. Connolly of San Francisco who is connected with the Boys and Girls Aid Society was in this city on Wednesday seeking Allen Luhra, Joe Fahey, Abe Bernard, Sam Telaxney and Charles Griffin, who escaped from Barlow's station during the present week. The last four named left on Tuesday afternoon, while younger Luhra left on Monday.
Chief of Police Flohr has been notified of the disappearance of the boys and has been given a good description of them so if they are in this city they are likely to be captured in a short time.
- Petaluma Argus-Courier, July 16, 1913
MANY OF THE BERRY BOYS ARE FOUND AND RETURNED
The Sheriff's office received word on Thursday that four of the boys who escaped from the berry picking camp on the Barlow ranch had been captured by the Aid Society's officers, and had been returned to camp. Four boys were found in Forestville, and three in Green Valley. Thursday Mrs. Dick Isaacs telephoned the Sheriff's office that four of the boys were on a place back of their ranch. Superintendent Turner was notified and went after the boys.
- Press Democrat, July 18, 1913
DECAMPS WITH COIN OF BERRY PICKERS
Thirteen days before the Armitage Orphanage was to pass out of existence and his term of office expire, the superintendent, known in San Mateo as Robert Ellis, disappeared, and is accused of having taken with him about $3,000 belonging to the boys in the institution. Detectives are searching for the former superintendent, but have found no substantial clews.
The orphanage will pass out of existence on October 23, when the property will be taken over by Antoine Borel and Ellis' employment would have expired on that date. He disappeared last Friday, but the loss of the money was not discovered until yesterday by Mrs. William G. Hitchcock, treasurer of the orphanage.
The money represents the earnings of 114 boys who picked berries at Sebastopol last summer, and was given to the superintendent for keeping. It is said that the boys will not lose by the theft, as the directors will make good the deficit.
Ellis has been superintendent of the orphanage for two years. He went to San Mateo well recommended, and although it was known that Robert Ellis was not his true name the directors made no objection to the masquerading. He is the son of an Episcopal minister in Philadelphia and is married, but separated from his wife.
- Santa Rosa Republican, October 16, 1913
Want an example of how different our ancestors were a century ago? Try this: Imagine dentistry as a spectator sport.
On a summer evening in 1913 Santa Rosa, an audience gathered on the corner of Courthouse Square to watch fifty people have a tooth pulled - or maybe it was just two people having all their teeth yanked. The local paper was not clear on the details except that it "attracted a large crowd who were interested in seeing the operations performed."
The article in the Santa Rosa Republican is a rare description of the traveling exhibition by the "Painless Parker" dentist's office in San Francisco. Using a large Locomobile touring car - probably similar to this one - everything behind the front seat was custom rigged with "a platform on the rear large enough to accommodate a miniature dental office, with operating chair, instrument table, lights, etc."
(RIGHT: Dentist ad from the October 31, 1913 Santa Rosa Republican)
This was demonstration auto #6 (out of eight) prowling the state, and although "Painless Parker" himself was not in Santa Rosa that evening he was a real person and actually a dentist, although his profession disowned him. By 1913 Edgar Rudolph Randolph Parker (1872-1952) was a multimillionaire running a chain of dental offices on the West Coast but he began as a Brooklyn street dentist, drawing crowds with dancing girls and a brass band that played on cue whenever he "painlessly" ripped out some poor devil's tooth.
When he came to California around 1908 he teamed with "Wizard Walton the Wonder Worker" and developed a traveling medicine show, complete with a parade where coins were tossed into the crowd, all leading up to an evening vaudeville performance that ended with a extravaganza of teeth pulling. Walton was a snake-oil huckster of the type that regularly visited Santa Rosa in that era, promising miracle cures in a bottle. A 1908 blurb promised, "gall stones are removed by the use of three doses of medicine in 24 hours without knife, blood or pain. Cancers cured permanently. No knife, blood or pain."
Parker's secret to painless dentistry was "hydrocaine," a local anesthetic he claimed to have developed himself (a man in Chicago had trademarked that name as an anesthetic in 1899). Some of his ads specified it was not cocaine but "a purely vegetable product, harmless yet powerful enough to remove all fear of the dental chair." In a 1915 suit, two former employees demanded danages for alleged injuries to their "eyes, nerves, muscles and tissues" from administering the "poisonous drug." Whatever that stuff was, it certainly had no connection whatsoever to the fine medical product available with the same name today and whose manufacturers, distributors, and customers are noble people kind to their children and small pets. Please don't sue me.
His New York Times obit noted he "often had his license revoked but for no great duration." Parker was the bane of the dental community, his fame coming just as they were scrabbling for legitimacy - medical doctors usually offered a dignified two-line ad in a newspaper's "professional" classifieds, yet dentists often ran large and garish display ads, promising to fix your bum teeth for less than the price of a cheap wool suit.
Parker fought back in the press, arguing the "Dental Trust" was opposed to affordable dentistry. His display ads were often op/eds and he offered papers a serial, "Painless Parker, Outlaw: His Confessions" that ran to at least 87 (!) parts. He tried to get the state Board of Dental Examiners disbanded in California and Oregon, and in 1935 he sued a doctor for slander because of a speech to the California Dental Association saying the state needed a law "to control the advertising of charlatans, quacks and painless parkers."
Most often he was hassled for using the word "painless" in his ads, forcing him to promote the "E. R. Parker System" instead. In 1915, his foes in California thought they finally had him beaten via passage of a state law requiring dentists to use their real name in ads. But in a true Believe-it-or-not! manner, he won by going to court that September and having his first name legally changed to "Painless."
DENTAL OFFICE "EN TOUR"Auto Fitted With Modern Appliances
Many Santa Rosans were entertained last evening at the corner of Fourth street and Exchange Avenue by a demonstration of painless dentistry made by the Painless Parker demonstration car, number six, from San Francisco. A short lecture was given on the care of the teeth and then about fifty teeth were extracted free of charge. The car will be at the same corner again tonight and it is announced that all teeth will be taken out free of charge.
The car is a large Locomobile, and one of the eight that the Painless Parker institution has. It is splendily [sic] equipped for the work, having two seats in front and a platform on the rear large enough to accommodate a miniature dental office, with operating chair, instrument table, lights, etc., and attracted a large crowd who were interested in seeing the operations performed. Those who had teeth taken out stated that they felt no pain and several were extracted for people said that they had been broken off by other dentists in unsuccessful attempts to extract them.
The Painless Parker institution is the largest dental concern in the world, having offices in several large cities stretching from Brooklyn, N.Y. to San Francisco. There are five offices in California: Los Angeles, San Diego, Bakersfield, Oakland and San Francisco. The San Francisco office is one of the three largest dental offices in the world, having twenty-two chairs. All of the operations by this concern are performed by a local anaesthetic [sic] originated nearly 25 years ago by Dr. Parker. The doctor makes his home in San Francisco where the general offices of the concern are located. He has a summer home in Marin county about ten miles from Fairfax on the Bolinas road. He is in New York now but his family is at the summer home. The car is in the charge of Drs. FitzGerald and Baird.
- Santa Rosa Republican, July 17, 1913
It was a solemn and historic occasion, but all we remember about it today is that some bozos showed up and made fun of everybody.
The event was the Fourth of July 1876 ceremonies held in Santa Rosa. "At an early hour the streets were thronged with carriages, horsemen and well dressed and happy looking men and women," reported the town's Sonoma Democrat. The parade formed on Third street; near the head was the Santa Rosa Brass Band and judges and dignitaries in carriages (including Bear Flag veterans with their famous flag). In the parade were also carts or displays representing local businesses, among them a wagon loaded with coal from the Taylor Mountain Coal Mine. "The procession marched through the principal streets which were gaily decorated with flags," the paper continued, before returning to the grandstand on Santa Rosa's plaza.
Gaye LeBaron wrote about the notable event that happened that day in "Santa Rosa: A Nineteenth Century Town," but the version that appeared in her 1998 column was a bit more concise:
|The Squeedunks made their first appearance in Santa Rosa in 1876, on the occasion of the Centennial Independence Day. When the county’s honored “First Citizen,” General Mariano Vallejo, ended his long oration (in Spanish, with a translator) and the formal portion of the celebration drew to a close, a band of masked men in outrageous costumes seized the podium and began a mock-heroic “Oh Ration,” an extemporaneous and outrageous send-up of the venerable Vallejo’s speech.|
It's a fun story and often retold - except none of it happened quite that way.
This was not the debut of the "Squeduncques" at a Santa Rosa Fourth of July celebration but at least their third appearance. Their "comical uniforms" were mentioned in a review of their 1874 showing so yeah, it's probably safe to assume they were also dressed up two years later, although nothing about it was mentioned. Those are quibbling points, tho.
(RIGHT: Sonoma Democrat ad, June 26, 1874)
But in no way did they seize the stage following Vallejo's speech to ridicule him. They were a scheduled part of the program at the end of the celebration, which wrapped up with the Squeedunks presenting the mayor with a wooden sword as "the thanks of every member of this beer destroying gang." And before they went on stage they presented their own parade which mocked that morning's procession. Where earlier the Sonoma Democrat was carting around a small printing press turning out programs for the day's events on the fly, for example, they had the "Dum Oh Krat Steam Press." Once they were at the podium they continued making fun of the original program with "intejuicery" (introductory) remarks, a "poim" (poem) and "Oh Ration," which was a sendup of the town's foibles and failings. All of this is transcribed below - complete with comic spellings as they appeared in the newspaper - but here's a sample:
|Look at our big brick depot, that we haven't built yet nor never will. Look at our grand school houses for the edification of the hoodlums of generations yet unborn. Look at all these and say are we not mighty in ourmightiness? Then let the proud eagle squawk; let the great American Jack bray and proclaim in stentorian tones "Erin go unum, E pluribus Bragh."|
Nor did General Vallejo even speak at the event. As described in the paper, he sat onstage as his speech was read by Charles E. Pickett, a well-known (and somewhat notorious) orator.1 The Sonoma Democrat didn't indicate whether it was in Spanish or English although it was likely the latter, as the paper commented the speech "was listened to with deep attention by all." The entire address in English appeared in the Democrat the following week.
Even delivered in English by a popular orator the Vallejo speech was a real stemwinder, which probably added to the anticipation for the Squeedunks' part of the show - the paper reported before they appeared the large crowd "seemed by this time to have grown a thousand or two stronger." It's easy to understand their appeal; much of the irreverent humor still holds up today, 140 years later - and works particularly well if you can imagine Groucho Marx reading it. For some in the audience, however, their antics probably had a nostalgic appeal; the Squeedunks were part of a long American tradition on the East Coast better known as the "Fantastics."
The Fantastics - sometimes "Fantasticals" - began in Colonial times (and can even be traced farther back to British mumming) were mainly young men dressing up, sometimes in women's clothes or wearing blackface while noisily mocking propriety and figures of authority. Think of it as trick-or-treating for adults, not children, and it happened at Thanksgiving or Christmas or any other holiday except Hallowe'en. Also: They wanted you to give them booze, not candy. More about the origins can be read here.
Needless to say, our more sober ancestors were not approving of their young men carousing drunkenly in costumes four or five times a year. (Did I mention firing guns in the air was also a big part of the custom?) Apparently starting in the 1830s, restrictions began to be imposed limiting the partying to the Fourth of July and requiring the costumed revelers be enrolled in some sort of organized group. The earliest example of this I can find is an ad in the June 27, 1839 Baltimore Sun that calls for members of the "Eagle Fantastical Club" to attend a meeting for the upcoming parade.
For about twenty years on either side of the Civil War, parades of Fantastics were to be found all over the East; there's a mention from 1843 which suggests the Fantastics were long part of the Fourth of July celebrations in Maine and up to the start of the war their shenanigans were particularly popular in Pennsylvania and Maryland, Georgia and South Carolina. From the New York Sun, November 27, 1885:
|Fantastic processions burst out all over the town in unusual abundance and filled the popular eye with a panorama that looked like a crazy-quilt show grown crazy and filled the popular ear with the din of thumping drums and blaring trumpets. Thirty-six companies of fantastics had permits to march around making an uproar, and they did it with great success. Local statesmen went around.with the down-town paraders and helped them whoop things up. There were lots and lots of fantastics who hadn’t any permit, and who didn’t care either. They were the thousands and thousands of small boys who put on their sisters’ old dresses, smeared paint on their faces, pulled on red, yellow, brown, black, and indiscriminate wigs, and pranced round their own particular streets, without the least fear of police interference.|
Why our local "patriotic hoodlums" chose to call themselves "Squeduncques" instead is not known for certain, although in the early 1870s a squeedunk was the name of a homemade noisemaker that made a particularly horrific screeching sound.2
The Squeedunk tradition continued in Sonoma county for decades, spreading to Sebastopol, Healdsburg, Cloverdale and other communities. The last great ballyhoo in Santa Rosa was in 1908 (see "SQUEEDUNKS ON PARADE") but attempts at revivals popped up occasionally in later years. How sad to have lost the custom of celebrating our old bums, lunch eaters, and scalawags.
1 Charles E. Pickett was then 56 years old and well known as an eccentric who claimed his profession as "philosopher." Despite a complete lack of legal training he was long a gadfly concerning the state supreme court, insisting the system of selecting judges was corrupt because the governor could appoint someone to fill a vacant seat until the end of the six year term of office. Thus a justice who was elected in 1870 and died or resigned the following year would be replaced with a politcal appointee until 1876, despite the opportunity for voters to choose a new justice in two general elections during that span of time. (Or at least, that's my reading of the confusing rules - see more details here.) In Pickett's view this meant the entire court should be impeached and as a new session began in August, 1874, he stormed the bench during opening ceremonies and took a seat himself. An uproar ensued and he was ejected, fined, and served over a year in jail for his unusual contempt of court.|
|2 Squeedunk (usually spelled Squedunk) came to be used as a joke town name, similar as Podunk, Skunktown and many others. Sometimes it was meant as the name of a place where backwoods yokels lived, othertimes it was just the name of a a hypothetical town. See: H. L. Mencken, The American Language, 1936. In the early 1870s, however, a squedunk was the name of a popular homemade noisemaker with a teeth-rattling sound created by drawing a violin bow or a waxed string on the rim of a tin can. Thus by calling themselves Squeedunks, the joke could have been either proclaiming themselves to be proudly "backwards country folk" or intending to be really, really annoying. Or both.|
Tbe Squeduncques, a distinguished band of imps, devils, patriotic hoodlums and screachers, will parade the streets of Santa Ross on the Fourth of July.
- Russian River Flag, July 2, 1874
...The fantastical display of the Squeduncques, which took place in the afternoon, drew to their stand, at the Court House, a vast assemblage. Their officers were: Captain, George Dunnegan; President of Day, D. H. Shahan; Orator, M. S. McClaire; Poet, L. W. Boggs; Reader, T. Woodward. Their burlesques, local hits and comical uniforms created shouts of laughter, and added much to the pleasures of the day. The Squeduncques were generally pronounced a success...
- Sonoma Democrat, July 11, 1874
CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION.Santa Rosa, July 4th, 1876.Oration by hos. H. Burke -- Historical Address by Gen. M. G. Vallejo - Poem by F. M. Dimmick -- Bear Flag Men - Veterans -- Squeduncques -- Grand Sword Presentation to Mayor Neblett
The celebration of the Centennial Fourth of July in the city of Santa Rosa was one of the grandest demonstrations ever witnessed in the county...
At the close of the oration Mayor Neblett announced that Gen. M. G. Vallejo had arrived on the morning of the fourth in Santa Rosa, having concluded to accept the invitation of the committee sent from Santa Rosa some days previously to invite him to deliver his historical address here, the managers of the Sonoma valley celebration having concluded to omit this feature from their published programme. The large audience hailed the General's advent [illegible line of microfilm] with much enthusiasm. His well prepared history of the early settlements of the north side of the bay of San Francisco, and other incidents, was read by Mr. Chas. E. Pickett of the city of San Francisco, a pioneer of 1842, was listened to with deep attention by all. At his close three cheers for the General were called for and loudly given. This instructive, graphic and exact historical sketch, with characteristic comments by the author, will appear in the weekly issue of the DEMOCRAT.
At four o'clock in the afternoon the ancient and honorable order of Squeduncques suddenly made their appearance. The crowd which was immense in the morning seemed by this time to have grown a thousand or two stronger and greeted the appearance of the Squeduncques with cheers and shouts of laughter. They were headed by the old He Sque Dunk as Grand Marshal, and he was followed by the Drum Corps, who discoursed strains of discordant music which the pen of no living man can fully do justice to. Suffice it to say that the music department was a most distracting success. After the band came a line of vehicles which looked as though they once belonged to Noah's family and had seen rough usage since his death. These were drawn by horses who had the appearance of being in their Centennial year and for a long time strangers to oats and corn. Then came burlesques on the Water Company, the Dum Oh Krat Steam Press, the Fire Companies, the New Depot, the Street Sprinkler and other things; which we find we have not descriptive powers sufficient to do justice to and therefore cannot attempt it. The procession was followed by large crowds and cheered all along the route. When the pavilion was reached and the Officers of the Day, Orator, Poet and Reader, accompanied by the Drum Corps ascended the platform, the rush and jam of that vast crowd to get near was awfully sublime. The intejuicery [sic all misspellings below] remarks of the President of the Day, the Poim the Reading of the Declamation, the Oh Ration, and the
Of a magnificant sword (wooden) to his Honor Mayor Neblett, who was called to the stand. The grand gyascuius of the Squedunques then addressed him as follows:
Most potent, grave and reverend Seignor. Oh, thous noblest Roman of them all. Oh, ubiquitous chieftain of all patriotic emblems that adorn our American Eagle domain. Open your port-holes and hearken to the words that will immortalize you forever.
For over nine million years it has been the custom of this lunch destroying band ever to recognize merit in the human family. Our four fathers, ants and sisters, were celebrated for a looseness in this disgusting familiarity of Freedom.
For many sleepless nights we have watched the bursting character of your patriotic bosom. We have seen it swell--heave and pad out with a grandeur which few bosoms can ever expect to reach.
For tendering us the use of this lumber pile, and for aiding us in the rescue of our hungry recesses, by the donation of the sum of one hundred dollars, accept the thanks of every member of this beer destroying gang.
We are overflowing with gratitude but we can beer it all times. In order to make a proper showing of our inside feelings towards you, we present you with this beautiful sword. In other hands a club of this character would prove a very dangerous weapon. May you never entertain suicidal notions, for it won't do to get reckless in order to provide free rides for old bums.
Take it--Hang it up in the cellar where it can never rust, nor become mortified by bad use. And when your beaming head shall have assumed the radiance of a white-wash bucket, and when telegraphing shall have been supplanted by the lightning speed of Fortson's street railroad, may you be rolled up in the emblems of eternal ease, surrounded by limburger cheese, and beer, and with this shining blade buckled to your majestic form may you march on to Fame and Glory, and find sweet repose in the happy hunting grounds of our Honorable Order.
[ .. non-Squeedunk description of fireworks and late dinner ]
- Sonoma Democrat, July 8, 1876
SQUEDUNCQUE OH! RATION
FELLOW SQUEDUNCQUES: One hundred years ago to-day the booming of patriotic cannon awaked from their heroic slumbers a band of ancient Squedunques. That Cannon has never ceased to boom from that day to the present. You hear it now, you have heard it all day.
Why, Fellow Squedunques, is all this grand parade? Why all this vast assemblage of old bums, lunch eaters, and scalawags? Why all this tootin of horns banging of drums and squallin of "nest hiders?" It is, my fellows in iniqnity, to remind us of the fact that he who fit and run away has lived to fite another day.
Yes, my Fellow Dunks, we have cause to squelch over our misdeeds. Aye, and in Santa Rosa, too.
"For not a town go far and near,
That does not find a rival here!
I ask you, Squedunques, are we not great in our greatness? Compare us today with Santa Rosa one hundred years ago. Look at these sombrero oaks, which within the hundred years from little acorns grow. Look at these beautiful maidens who a hundred years ago were clad in homespun linsey and tow linen. How are they now? Wrapped in silk and satins from the Injins, bedecked with laces from Crapean and Deutchland adorned with gold and silver from Som Evaders, pinned back till the hump raises on their backs equal to the Camelias of Arabia. Look at our farms where a hundred years ago, notight was heard but the war whoop of the Digger and the wild screech of the Coyote, now blossoming and blooming with mustard and dog fennel. Look at our bankin institutions. There's the Anti Roses Bank where every Squedunque can borrow all he wants, if he leaves two dollars in the place of every one he borries. Then there's the Shavings Bank with millions in it saving up for the widders and orphins of deceased Squedunques, to be divided a hundred years from to-day. Then there's Long Pillars' Pharaoh bank that declares a divy every night, if you only copper the loser and go straight up on the winner. Ain't that improvement?
Then look at our young bucks, gay fellers with kid gloves and high-toned mustaches--they are away up. They are all great and grand, but each one presents some splendid exemplification of some singular qualification. One, a perfect Dick Nailer, fascinates his lady love by simply stroking her hair until in ecstacy exclaims, "Oh, how sweet!" While the Spring Valley man contents himself with playing with cotton pads while his dulcina holds the reins in an afternoon ride. Ain't that fastness? But, feller Squedunques, that is not the climax of our progress. Look at the great financial ability we display! A common weaver, without a loom, without any filling, without any warp, comes to our town, opens an ox-eyed-dental, wears a big bonanner and takes in the keenest and shrewdest mercadores of the town, even the Maccaroni and Crown Princes could not get away with him; even the great Southdown who for 20 years has been chief, and who saved him from the dungeon chains, and assisted him in escaping the wrath of his fellow dunks, cries out, "he [illegible line of microfilm]
Once more: Look at our great array of Policioners and County Deficients, who have entrusted us with their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honors. Don't they give up the jail keys valiantly and nobly; did they not a few weeks since with pistol and club arrest a powerful gang of marauders, put them in prison and save the life of an innocent criminal? Who cares for $1,500 reward?
Then look at our defences! Don't we keep a cannon, always loaded full to the 'nuzzle, parading our streets from rosy morn to dewy eve, guarding the destinies of all good and worthy gin slingers?
But this is not all, old bums! Look at our broad gouge railroads that President Don't-know-who has built clean through our county and down among the switches and hazel brush to Stumpville, with only $300,000 and the right of way to help him. Look at our big brick depot, that we haven't built yet nor never will. Look at our grand school houses for the edification of the hoodlums of generations yet unborn. Look at all these and say are we not mighty in ourmightiness? Then let the proud eagle squawk; let the great American Jack bray and proclaim in stentorian tones "Erin go unum, E pluribus Bragh." Happy proud Squedunques the lightning of tarantula juice has yielded to your animosity, let not the temptations of mint juleps and sherrey cobblers seduces you from the paths of sobriety. Fare you well.
- Sonoma Democrat, July 8, 1876
It was a momentous day: On February 24, 1854, the state legislature gathered in Benicia to vote on moving the state capitol to Sacramento. Three assemblyman stood and proposed to choose their own county seat instead - one wanted Marysville, another Stockton. James Bennett suggested Santa Rosa before the Yolo legislator rose and asked: "What county is Santa Rosa in?"
See, Santa Rosa wasn't the Sonoma county seat at the time. In fact, Santa Rosa didn't really exist. It had only two houses and five little businesses, including a tavern. Yet despite its drawback of being almost non-existent, Bennett and other men were about to make it the centerpiece of the county.
When Santa Rosa was celebrating the Centennial Fourth of July in 1876, an article about Santa Rosa's founding appeared in the local Sonoma Democrat newspaper. It was unsigned but was clearly written by someone who was here during 1851-1854, which were the years being described. It's a key reference; traces of it pop up in every regional history. But aside from a Gaye LeBaron column published four decades ago, the bulk of the piece hasn't appeared anywhere over the last 140 years. It can be found transcribed below.
(RIGHT: Detail from 1866 Map Of Sonoma County)
That article covered the birth of Santa Rosa, death of Franklin (a village near the Carrillo adobe) and the campaign to capture the county seat. It was surprisingly slim on the particulars of those notable events. Instead, the value of this piece lies in its first-hand descriptions - such as Squire Coulter rolling his building from Franklin to Santa Rosa on wheels. Other buildings, including the Baptist church, likewise rolled away from Franklin over the following months, in what must have been a very odd and very slow procession. The author also described the Carrillo homestead as the main commercial center north of the town of Sonoma, a "lively spot" where "almost every day pack trains and wagons from the Russian river and the neighboring country surrounded the old adobe."
Mostly the item described who was there and what they did. Personally, I'm not much interested in who was the first blacksmith in Santa Rosa and where his shop stood, but details of that sort can give genealogists a case of the vapors. For more information on the people mentioned there - including correct/alternate spelling of some names - refer to pages 20-22 of "Santa Rosa: A Nineteenth Century Town" by LeBaron et. al.
Left unanswered in the article about the early 1850s - and not discussed in any local history that chronicles those years - was a key question: Why did Santa Rosa come to exist?
The old item from the paper explained how the story ends: There was a vote over the county seat in Sept. 1854 and Santa Rosa won over Sonoma, 716-563. Historians credit the victory to the blowout Fourth of July party thrown by Julio Carrillo and the other Santa Rosa promoters, which "invited to the feast the rich and poor, the lame, the halt and the blind - in fact everybody who had, or who could influence or control, a vote," according to historian Robert Thompson. An estimated 500 showed up to eat barbecue and dance until dawn, apparently going away with full bellies and warm feelings about the potential of Santa Rosa as the new county seat, in spite of the town only having added two houses over the previous year, bringing the grand total up to four. (One of those new houses was the Masonic Lodge, built at great expense because they shipped in East Coast pine, as no one was yet sure if redwood would be good for construction.)
But events leading up to the vote are sketchy. That's not particularly surprising; much of California history between 1850-1855 is full of gaps. Even in Sonoma county it's hard to peg down what was happening year to year. There's no doubt, however, that nearly everyone, Californio or American, rich or poor, was fretful over keeping their property. Should you build a cabin and plant crops if you could be kicked out before the harvest? Would the ranch supporting your family be taken away by the government, or taken over by squatters?
Once California became a state, no one - no one - was happy with the situation over Spanish/Mexican land grants. In theory, anyone who had land under Mexico simply had to provide documentation to claim ownership under statehood. In practice, the system set up by the U.S. to settle ownership issues was the worst possible, leading some properties to remain in limbo for over twenty years.
The Yulupa rancho east of Cotati was a good example; although Jasper O'Farrell had surveyed the surrounding ranchos, Yulupa specifically had no survey of its own, so the government rejected the claim in 1854. Appealed to federal District Court, the claim was approved in 1857. Two years later it was rejected again, this time by the U.S. Supreme Court. Not until 1865 was that large chunk of central Sonoma county (about 25 square miles) legally available for ownership. Squatters, of course, had been living and farming on that land for years.
The legions of settlers pouring into California expected to find the same encouraging homesteading policies followed elsewhere in the rest of the West - that anyone who could throw together a shack on public land could declare it as their own, paying the government little or nothing. But because the grants covered nearly all of Sonoma county, there was no public land. "The whole County is claimed. There is not a foot of ground that will do to cultivate but what is claimed," complained a new arrival in 1853 to his family in Kentucky. "...We cannot tell anything how they will go."1
Some settlers leased acreage or had other arrangements with the grant holders, but others squatted without permission. Twice confrontations with armed bands of squatters nearly came to shooting wars - near Healdsburg where a deputy sheriff was killed, and near Bodega where the rancho owner recruited a gang of toughs from San Francisco in an attempt to drive them off.
The state legislature fielded various proposals to mollify settlers, such as considering giving then 160 or 320 acres of public land somewhere else in the state or requiring grant holders to pay evicted squatters for what they had "cultivated or improved," the value to be set by a jury specifically composed of other settlers. Meanwhile, the Mexican grantholders - usually land-rich but cash-poor - were being bled dry by legal fees defending their claim. To raise funds they usually sold off parts of the rancho to settlers or speculators, even though those sales would be invalid if the courts didn't eventually validate the Mexican grant. Did I mention no one was happy with the situation?
"Settler's rights" became a political rallying cry all over the state, and nowhere louder than Sonoma county. Before the state election of 1853, there was a settler's convention here independent of the Democratic or Whig parties and they nominated for the Assembly one James N. Bennett, a recently-arrived squatter living near or just outside rancho Yulupa (named for him is Bennett Valley and Bennett Peak). Bennett won the election by just 13 ballots amid charges there were "importation of voters."2
Bennett was a single-term assemblyman. Besides asking the legislature to move the state capitol to Santa Rosa in 1854, his only legacy was passage the following month of "An Act to locate the county seat of Sonoma anew." According to the Sonoma newspaper, the proposal came as a surprise to the town:
|The first intimation we had of the people's desire to move the county seat from Sonoma to Santa Rosa was through the legislative proceedings of March 28, which inform us that a bill had been introduced and passed for that purpose. From what source did our representatives derive the information that a change was demanded by our people? In the name of a large body of their constituents we protest against the measure as premature, unauthorized and impolitic. The county cannot even repair the miserable building, and the only one it possesses; how then can it bear the expense of erecting new ones?|
That "miserable building" was the county courthouse, and had earlier been condemned by a grand jury, which called it "an old dilapidated adobe of small dimensions, in part roofless and unfit for a cattle shed." They say it had cost $9,000, of which $3,000 had been paid and $6,000 was still claimed. The town paper - unaware that a plot was afoot to move the county seat - commented at the time, "the old court-house is about being deserted, and high time it should be, unless our worthy officers of the law would run the risk of being crushed beneath a mass of mud and shingles, for we really believe it will cave in the next heavy rain."
Clearly some measures had to be taken by the county to provide a useable courthouse, but a seat of government usually doesn't pack up whenever a building needs repairs. Not only did Bennett's "Act to locate the county seat of Sonoma anew" propose exactly that, but its language was crafted to specifically fit Santa Rosa: "...said location shall be as near the geographical centre of the valley portion, or agricultural portion of said county, as practicable."
But the county residents, I believe, saw it as something more than just voting on moving the courthouse to Santa Rosa - and the tipoff is that part of the Act regarding the importance of the new seat being at the center of the county's agricultural region. There is clearly no need for the county seat to be in the middle of the farmland, but in 1854 Sonoma county, that meant being at the center of local squatter activity. It was, essentially, declaring the county to be welcoming to squatters while being also a gesture of defiance against both state and nation for their failure to "solve" the land grant problems to the settler's liking.
That is, I'll grant, just my reading of events. We don't know the content of speeches made at the Fourth of July BBQ, which probably declared what Bennett and others were really after. But "up-county" (as the Sonoma paper called areas north of them) certainly had more small farmers likely to be very upset about the indecisive, snail-paced processing of the grant claims, and the horseback ride to the courthouse in Sonoma took at least two hours, each way. Aside from a couple of tiny districts, Sonoma and Petaluma were the only places that voted against the move.
And moving the county seat was only the first of Sonoma county's many contrarian positions in that era. In the 1855 elections there was a local "settler's ticket" where every single candidate won. The county remained out of step with the rest of the state a few years later as the Civil War began, being the only county in California that never voted for Lincoln. And in the center of it all was Santa Rosa, a town created from nothing.
Which brings us back to the big question: Why did Santa Rosa come to exist? Towns usually evolved organically around something like a trading post, a riverport, a stagecoach or railroad stop. Maybe there was an adjacent swift-moving waterway to power a mill or factory; maybe there was a mine which employs lots of miners. The only apparent advantage of Santa Rosa's location was that it was at a crossroads, although to date that had not provided enough incentive for anyone to build a house or store there. Ignored in every published history, however, was the significance of this: The town was pressed tightly against the side of a very old Pomo village.
Kabetciuwa was a large and significant community, extending the equivalent of two blocks along the bank of Santa Rosa Creek from modern-day Santa Rosa Ave. to E street. (There was also another village about a mile west called Hukabetawi, around the location of Olive Park.) Whether any Pomo families still lived at Kabetciuwa in 1853 is unknown; about fifteen years prior smallpox epidemics decimated the population, and from later accounts we know many survivors regrouped near Sebastopol and Dry Creek.
Perhaps Santa Rosa was at that particular spot in order to exploit those Indians who remained as laborers; over their centuries of living there the Pomo would have developed the best possible ways to access the confluence of Matanzas Creek and Santa Rosa Creek, which certainly would be an advantage to residents of the new town. Today, sadly, Kabetciuwa has been completely obliterated by Santa Rosa's city hall complex and the federal building. Our squatter forefathers would be so proud of how the city they created just took a place over without so much as a look back.
1 James Jewell Letters 1853, cited in "Oliver Beaulieu and the town of Franklin" by Kim Diehl, 1999, pg. 6
2 "Fighting Joe" Hooker, California Historical Society Quarterly v. 16, 1937, p. 307
|Santa Rosa as shown on A.B. Bowers wallmap of 1866|
SANTA ROSA--CONDENSED SKETCH OF ITS EARLY HISTORY
In 1851 there were but three houses in the vicinity of Santa Rosa and none upon the present site of the town. The old Carrillo house on Santa Rosa creek, distant about a mile, was built in 1838 or 1839. Then came another adobe house on the Hanneth place which still stands, and then the Boileau House now owned and occupied by Dr. Simms, formerly the property of John Lucas. This house was build in the summer of 1851.
In January 1852, A. Meacham, now of Mark West, was keeping store at the old adobe, on the Carrillo place, now owned by F. H. Hahman. Hoen, Hahman and Hartman succeeded to the business of Meacham. For the next year the old adobe was a lively spot and these pioneer merchants drove a brisk trade. There was no other store north of Sonoma, and almost every day pack trains and wagons from the Russian river and the neighboring country surrounded the old adobe.
In the summer of 1853, the question of the removal of the county seat from the town of Sonoma to a more central locality was agitated. A town was laid off at what was then the junction of the Bodega, Russian river and Sonoma roads, just where the cemetery lane unites with the Sonoma road, near the eastern boundary of the city. Dr. J. F. Boyce and S. G. Clark built and opened a store there. Soon after, J. W. Ball built a tavern and a small store. H. Beaver opened a blacksmith shop, C. C. Morehouse, a wagon shop, W. B. Birch, a saddle-tree factory.
In September, 1853, S. T. Coulter and W. H. McClure bought out the business of Boyce and Clark. The same year the Baptist church was built, free for all denominations. Thus early was liberality in religious matters established on the borders of Santa Rosa, and happily it continues down to this day. The only two dwellings were owned by S. T. Coulter and H. Beaver.
Franklin town had now touched the high tide of its prosperity, and was destined to fall before a more promising rival which, up to this time had cut no figure in the possibilities of the future.
In 1852, John Bailiff built on the bank of Santa Rosa creek, for Julio Carrillo, the house now owned and occupied by James P. Clark. Soon after, Achilles Richardson built a store and residence between the Carrillo house and the creek near where the iron bridge now is. This house was afterwards burned. Mrs. Valley built a dwelling house on the corner of second and D streets. The old Masonic Hall, was built in the fall of 1853. E. P. Colgan who had been at the old adobe keeping a public house, moved to Santa Rosa, and rented the lower part of the Masonic Hall, and commenced building a house on the opposite side of the street which was the first hotel and was known as the Santa Rosa House. Ball moved down from Franklin and built a blacksmith on Second street now used as a barn next to the lot of John Richards, and soon after built a dwelling on the south side of Second street, just east of Main or C street. Hahman, Harman and Hoen, in the spring of 1854 built a store on the corner of C and Second street and moved to Santa Rosa in July of that year. The building now occupied by Moxon's variety store.
Hahman and Hartman bought of A. Meacham, 80 acres of land the west line of which ran through the plaza, paying therefor $20 an acre. They in conjunction with Julio Carrillo, laid off the town and donated the plaza to the County of Sonoma. The town limits embraced the space including between First and Fifth streets from south to north, and between A and E streets from west to east, the survey [illegible microfilm line] A man named Miller started a store in the building now occupied as the Eureka barber shop on the south east corner of second and C streets. It was managed by W. B. Atterbury.
In the fall of 1853, the election for members of the Legislature hinged on the removal of the county seat from Sonoma to Santa Rosa. Col. now General Jo Hooker, was a candidate, and opposed removal; James N. Bennett favored removal; at the election a tie vote was cast. Another election was ordered and Hooker was beaten by a few votes. Bennett introduced and caused to be passed, a bill authorizing the people to vote on the question of a removal of the county seat at the general election in the fall of 1854.
On the Fourth of July, 1854, the people gathered to Santa Rosa from all parts of the county to a grand barbacue [sic] which was held on the ground now owned and occupied by H. T. Hewitt. A Guerny, a Baptist preacher, was the orator of the day. John Robinson, Sylvester Ballou and Joe Neville also spoke on the occasion. Four or five hundred persons were present and the exercises closed with a grand ball at the new store. It was claimed by the people of Sonoma that the Santa Rosans made good use of the time and expenditures incurred, in electioneering for the removal of the county seat.
Be that as it may they won the fight, and in the fall of 1854 the county offices with the archives were transfered to the new capital. The first court convened in Julio Carrillo's house. Soon after, a temporary court-house was built where Ringo's grocery store now stands, on Fourth street, opposite the north-east corner of the plaza.
After the election Franklin town was removed to Santa Rosa. S. T. Coulter hauled his building here on wheels, set it down where the Santa Rosa Savings bank stands, purchasing there 80 feet front for the sum of one dollar front foot--$80 for two lots. The Baptist church came soon after and was re-located on Third street, near D. A few years ago it was turned broadside to the street and converted into two tennement [sic] houses.
Henry Beaver was the first blacksmith in Santa Rosa. His shop was near the bridge were Bill Smith's shop now stands, on the east side of C street. Beaver purchased two acres of land and built a residence on the place now owned by Capt. J. M. Williams, on Mendocino street, opposite the Episcopal church. Julio Carrillo started the first livery stable. The Eureka Hotel was built on the site of the Kessing Hotel by J. M. Case and W. R. O. Howell. Obe Ripito and Jim Wilson built a livery stable where the Grand Hotel now stands, on the south-east corner of Third and C streets.
John Ingram built the first brick house in Santa Rosa. It was one story, situated on Exchange street, adjoining the DEMOCRAT office, and is now owned by Gus Kohle. The next brick built is owned and occupied by the pioneer mercantile firm of Wise & Goldfish.
There are but few now in the city who lived here when the county seat was removed. Among those we can recall are Julio Carrillo, Joe Richerson, Ike Rippeto, S. T. Coulter, F. G. Hahman, Dr. J. F. Boyce and W. B. Atterbury. Dr. Boyce was the first physician in Santa Rosa, and Judge J. Temple and the late Col. William Ross were the first attorneys.
The first public school was kept by W. M. Williamson, now a resident of the Navagator Islands, [sic - now known as Samoan Islands] and a former subject of Ex King Steinberger of Samoa. The first bridge over Santa Rosa creek was built by Charles White. The first church built in the town was the Christian Church, which stood on the corner of B and Fourth streets where the Occidental Hotel now stands.
F. H. Hahman was the first Postmaster. One of the first children born here now living, was C. A. Coulter, on the 12th of December 1854.
Want of space prevents our going more into detail or further along in the history of Santa Rosa. From 1856 to 1870 the town grew slowly. At the national census in the last named year it was credited with but 900 inhabitants. In 1872 the railroad was completed from tide water to Santa Rosa, and since that time the town has increased from a population of one thousand, to nearly five thousand.
Two flourishing colleges have been founded. The city limits embrace an area of one and a half miles square. There are more than 1,000 houses and there is a rapid growth in material prosperity as well as in population. The future we will not predict. We are thankful that our lot is cast in a land so fair, a climate so salubrious, a soil so fruitful that it laughs with plenty if "tickled with a hoe."
A zealous priest, Father Amoroso, gave the stream and valley the name of Santa Rosa--in honor of Santa Rosa de Lima. The 26th day of August is her festival, and it must have been on that day that the good father discovered and baptized the stream.
[...Two paragraphs on Santa Rosa de Lima...]
- Sonoma Democrat, July 8, 1876