Had Martin Tarwater behaved himself, he would have died peacefully at home near Mark West Creek and been quickly forgotten. Instead, he did something so crazy that he was immortalized in one of the best stories written by Jack London.
London spent a few weeks with Tarwater during the 1897 Yukon Gold Rush. Martin was 66 years old at the time and had no experience with prospecting or, for that matter, surviving in extreme weather conditions, having lived his entire adult life in the placid clime that is Sonoma county. He lacked backcountry gear and didn't arrive in Alaska with much money, in stark contrast to the others who were pouring off the boats equipped with a ton of outfitting and grubstakes to pay for whatever else they would need. What Martin Tarwater had instead was a boundless cheery attitude and indefatigable certainty that in spite of everything he would triumph in the end. And because of that, Jack London made him a hero.
On a genealogy web page one contributor sniped, "It is hoped no one will find that story (included in one of his books, the title I have forgotten at the moment), because everything written about Martin Tarwater is complete fiction." The story is "Like Argus of the Ancient Times" and is so named for Martin's love of singing even if he didn't always remember the correct words to the song. That title was part of his scrambled substitution lyrics for the Unitarian version of the Doxology hymn ("From all that dwell below the skies...").
As for everything London wrote about him being "complete fiction," I don't think that's at all true, although the Tarwater character in the story is instead named John and came from Michigan, not Missouri. But mostly everything in the story up to the ending tracks very well with what appeared about Martin in local newspapers and in writings of his Klondike compatriots. No spoilers here, but you'll enjoy the rest of this article more if you take a moment and let Jack London introduce him to you.
"Mart" Tarwater - as apparently everyone called him - came here in 1853, which is to say he was here before Santa Rosa was here. He and wife Sarah had several hundred acres near the headwaters of Mark West Creek and like most of his neighbors, proceeded from logging redwoods to ranching to grapes. He had the largest sheep ranch in the area and nine children, not all of whom lived to adulthood. His eldest son died in his arms after a farming accident. There is still a Tarwater Road off St. Helena Road and there was a Tarwater school district with a one-room schoolhouse which served for dances and other get-togethers. Oddly, they named their micro-community "America."
In a Believe-it-or-Not! twist, Charmian London met the unforgettable Mr. Tarwater first, while her future husband was still playing oyster pirate. In volume two of her biography of Jack she wrote of accompanying her aunt, Ninetta Eames, as she trekked about the North Bay researching an article. Charmian wrote she "made a pilgrimage to his mountain cabin and sketched that abode and himself for an illustration," but that's not entirely true; while the article had drawings (by Grace Hudson, no less) it was a photograph that appeared in the August, 1892 Overland Monthly captioned, "A Shepherd's Arcady." Thus if she's right about meeting Martin, that's him in this picture:1
Jack's story begins in the summer of 1897, as does the provable history. "Grandfather Tarwater, after remaining properly subdued and crushed for a quiet decade, had broken out again. This time it was the Klondike fever," wrote London. "The multitudinous family had sat upon him, but had had a hard time doing it. When all else had failed to shake his resolution, they had applied lawyers to him, with the threat of getting out guardianship papers and of confining him in the state asylum for the insane."
The fictional Tarwater sneaks out of the house the next morning and took the horses and wagon to Santa Rosa, where he sold them and other items, raising $42.50 before taking the train to San Francisco. "A dozen days later, carrying a half-empty canvas sack of blankets and old clothes, he landed on the beach of Dyea in the thick of the great Klondike Rush. The beach was screaming bedlam."
In truth, we know nothing about Martin's departure - which suggests Jack London had it mostly right. When local residents left for Alaska (or were even rumored to be possibly thinking about going, maybe) there was an item about it in one of the Santa Rosa newspapers. For Martin there was not even the customary single-line mention of his going to San Francisco, which strongly implies the family kept it quiet.
Among Mart's fellow travelers over the next week would be Fred Thompson of Santa Rosa. Fred is worth special mention because he left a diary (which scholars often cite) and wrote several letters to the Republican newspaper (which most scholars don't seem to know about). Fred was a court reporter and brother of Rolfe L. Thompson, well-known to readers of this journal for being the lawyer who led attempts at reform efforts in the years after the Great Earthquake.
Through Thompson's first letter, dated August 1, we meet the other four members of his party: Someone else from Santa Rosa and a carpenter with some experience building boats, plus "J. H. Shepard, 1068 East 16th street Oakland, Cal., who is an attorney and quite a well to do man and an old prospector and miner--a personal friend of Judge Crawford who can tell you all about him; Jack London of same address as Mr. Shepard and a brother-in-law. Mr. Shepard is backing Mr. London, who is a sailor and marine engineer." It's amusing that 21 year-old Jack London was trying to pass himself off as a "marine engineer," but even more howling was James Shepard claiming to be a sourdough miner and "well to do." Shepard, the subject of the previous item, was a ne'er-do-well military pension lawyer whose wife mortgaged the home in her name to fund his misadventure.
The first glimpse of Mart on his odyssey comes from Santa Rosa blacksmith John Poat, who wrote on Aug. 12 that he and another Santa Rosa fellow, Clarence Temple, were on the same boat bound for Alaska as "Old Man" Tarwater. As it turned out, our local blacksmith found it too much to endure and was back in town by the end of the month. He gave an interview to the Republican and told them, "I left Tarwater and Temple in Juneau. The former, when saying good-by to me the day I left, said he was going to do his best to get in with a party and work his way over one of the passes."
The narrative resumed with an Aug. 24 letter from Clarence Temple. He wrote to the Republican that Mart had fallen in with a party and gone to Skagway, expecting to go over the pass at once. The "old man" was in luck for he was not well equipped with cash and could not have gone over the pass alone, the paper summarized.
All of the Santa Rosa adventurers told the paper of the daunting conditions. "At Juneau it is believed that hundreds will perish on the way to Dawson," wrote Poat. "Those who have taken tents will find them useless when winter sets in. They say at Juneau that the only way one can pass an Alaskan winter is to build log huts, make them almost air tight, and then keep a roaring fire going all the time." Another correspondent told the paper he had just left Dawson City - the destination camp everyone looked to as a refuge - on Aug. 26 because stores and restaurants were already closed for the winter because there was no food to sell.
The surprise correspondent was James Shepard, whose letter appeared in the Republican Sept. 27. By then he was sleeping in his own bed back in Oakland, having given up five days into the trek (he lied and claimed he made it all the way to eleven). Shepard - who supposedly had a mild heart attack even before leaving the Bay Area - wrote that he was only doing cooking chores while the other four members of the party were lugging their collective 6,000 pounds of supplies up the mountain, from 4 in the morning until around 9 at night.
Before continuing our story, it may be helpful to review Klondike 101: Tarwater, London, and the rest of our pals were on the Chilkoot Trail, later dubbed "the meanest 32 miles in history" and remembered for those photographs of the ant-like procession of men crawling up the mountainside. As the goldfields were actually in Canada, "stampeders" had to pay custom duties on their supplies at a Mountie station located at the summit. The Canadian government also required each man entering the Territory to bring along enough food for an entire year, which alone weighed half a ton. Add in camping and mining supplies and the need to combine resources with others was essential to keep the weight down.
Climbing the Chilkoot was easiest in winter when the trail was packed snow, as supplies could be pulled by sled; Jack London and the others were on it at the peak of Indian Summer when temperatures were close to 100 degrees, which meant backpacking up a craggy slope in multiple trips. Shepard wrote that when he left, their company was making 1¼ miles a day - and that was before the trail got really steep. As they were about to start the climb, London wrote to a friend how this relay would work:2
|I expect to carry 100 lbs. to the load on good trail & on the worst, 75 lbs. That is, for every mile to the Lakes, I will have to travel from 20-30 miles. I have 1000 lbs. in my outfit. I have to divide it into from 10 to fifteen loads according to the trail. I take a load a mile & come back empty that makes two miles. 10 loads means 19 miles, for I do not have to come back after the 11th. load for there is none. If I have 15 loads it means 29 miles.|
The day after James Shepard turned back, Thompson entered this in his diary: "August 15. Very warm today—-did not do much. Met Tarwater of Santa Rosa--took him as a passenger, exchanging board and passage for his work." Five or six days later, photographer Frank La Roche took the picture below, which is the only known image of Jack London in the Yukon.
|Left to Right: Jim Goodman, Jack London, Martin Tarwater (partially obscured by pipe), unknown man with pipe and Fred Thompson3|
For all his faults, Shepard had contributed money and a full outfit to their party; Mart Tarwater looked like nothing but burden. He had little but the clothes on his back and was a dozen years older than the old man he was to replace. As London wrote in his short story, it wasn't easy to convince the others to take him on. But once he was accepted in their ranks, London wrote, "Old John Tarwater became a striking figure on a trail unusually replete with striking figures. With thousands of men, each back-tripping half a ton of outfit, retracing every mile of the trail twenty times, all came to know him and to hail him as 'Father Christmas'...On a trail where hard-working men learned for the first time what work was, no man worked harder in proportion to his strength than Old Tarwater."
Aside from bearing his share of the burdens, London tells us Mart kept everyone's spirits up with his enthusiastic singing: "...as he worked, ever he raised his chant with his age-falsetto voice...Weary back-trippers would rest their packs on a log or rock alongside of where he rested his, and would say: 'Sing us that song of yourn, dad, about Forty-Nine.' And, when he had wheezingly complied, they would arise under their loads, remark that it was real heartening, and hit the forward trail again."
Another returnee from the Yukon told the Press Democrat of running into Mart unexpectedly:
|"Suddenly while we walked along the wooded trail, a voice broke the stillness of the night. The sound of that voice seemed familiar to me. Who can it be I asked myself? As we came nearer the spot I was more convinced than ever last I knew the singer. In that strange land it was so good. Presently we came opposite the place from whence the singing came. I stood rivetted to the spot. The singer was warbling the old song "How the Miners Made Pancakes in ’49." Leaning against a tree, his face muffled almost to hide his features, back of him the smouldering embers of his little camp fire, was a man whom I afterwards learned was none other than mv old friend. Mart Tarwater, of Mark West, the old mail carrier. Away up on the Skaguay apparently all alone old Mart was just as merry as he was when driving along the Healdsburg road in his little old mail wagon. There was no mistaking that noise. I would have known it anywhere in the world."|
It was now September and the freezeup was a few weeks away; plans to survive the coming arctic weather had to be made before winter slammed in and made them for you. It was decided they would join with another party and construct a pair of boats to speed their journey. It was grueling work; in his story, Jack wrote, "They worked night and day. Thrice, on the night-shift, underneath in the saw-pit, Old Tarwater fainted."
Near the end of that month, a Santa Rosa man wrote the Press Democrat: "Yesterday a party from Santa Rosa, consisting of J. E. Goodman, Fred H. Thompson, Mart Tarwater, and seven others launched a 32-foot boat in the lake and sailed gaily out of sight. They were a gay and happy looking crowd." Over the next few days they pushed on through strong freezing winds, snowstorms and ice, not to mention shooting the boats down rapids which few attempted even in best conditions. This is the stuff of high adventure and is retold in several Jack London stories and novels.
While they were still days away from Dawson City they came across abandoned log cabins built by an old trading company. London and the Santa Rosa boys saw this as great good luck, particularly since their guide book said gold had been found in the area. The party in the other boat would continue on, with Martin Tarwater aboard. It was the last time Jack would see his aged friend.
Mart and the others had made a terrible choice. They were unaware that Canadian authorities had just posted a notice that there were not adequate food supplies at Dawson, even with the cargo of a recent supply steamship which would be the last to make it in before spring. Any prospectors without an adequate personal food supply would have to evacuate immediately to Fort Yukon. Tarwater was among them.
A few updates appeared in the Press Democrat over the winter, among them a letter from Fred Thompson saying their group was doing well. There was also word that Mart was writing for a local paper (!) and had filed a mining claim where he was picking up $10 in gold every day off the ground. "This news is good. No one deserves to get rich any more than does Mart." Of course, both were completely untrue.
Then came the news: Martin Tarwater had died on May 20, 1898 at Fort Yukon.
The family received a letter from a man named Orion T. Thomas, who had linked up with Mart after the Dawson evacuation. They built a cabin together but "as Mr. Tarwater had very little money," wrote Thomas, and without the protectorship of his Santa Rosa friends, he was compelled to work, cutting wood for $5 per cord in weather 40 degrees below zero. He quickly became seriously ill. In Jack London's story "his creaking and crackling and the nasty hacking cough" was often mentioned and Thomas wrote, "the doctor says the cause of his death was acute asthma."
The next year Orion Thomas popped up in Santa Rosa and stopped by the Press Democrat, giving the newspaper an opportunity to write a second obituary for a favorite son.
|Before he was taken sick, Mr. Thomas says Old Mart was the life of the camp. His Sonoma county friends will always remember his ready wit and his ability to launch out in verse to suit a popular air. He was the same in the frozen north, and could always be relied upon to have a stock of verse on hand concerning the Klondike, to keep all those around him in good humor.|
Thomas, who was a bugler for the Union during the Civil war, "carried a cornet with him all through his travels," the PD reported. "He says it was very amusng to see the interest taken in his music by the Indians, who bad never seen such an instrument before. Whenever he played in his cabin he could always have a large audience of Indians, male and female."
How fitting that the last word on Martin Tarwater is from someone who shared his enthusiasm for making music. And you can bet as Orion tootled his cornet on those winter days, old Mart was howling along with the tune, even if he didn't properly recall the right words. It was surely that odd duet which drew the Gwich'in native people over to their cabin in -40° temperatures - after all, you don't hear unearthly sounds like that every day. No sir, you don't.
1 Robert Tarwater had a large spread in Anderson Valley and a little item in the 1875 Sonoma Democrat mentioned Martin driving a herd of a thousand sheep up there. Robert moved there from Santa Rosa in 1857 and was likely a brother or cousin of Martin's. I don't particularly enjoy genealogy research, so if anyone wants to shake the Tarwater family tree, here's Robert's obituary.
2 Letter to Mabel Applegarth; The Letters of Jack London: 1913-1916. Volume three
3 The identification of the men was made by author Dick North in 1981 and discussed at length in his book, "Sailor on Snowshoes." North speculated the unknown man could be Dan Goodman's brother James or famed author and John Muir companion Samuel Hall Young, but it seems to me that it is more likely boat carpenter Merritt Sloper, who remained a member of the London party through the next year. Credit: Frank La Roche Photograph Collection, University of Washington
For many weeks past the families of Fred Thompson and J. E. Goodman of this city, and Mart Tarwater, the veteran mail carrier of the Mark West Springs district, have been looking for letters from them.
In a letter received last night from Virgil Moore, the Bulletin correspondent in Alaska, dated Lake Linderman. Sept. 29, he speaks encouragingly of the trio mentioned above. The news will be received by their friends here with pleasure.
The writer says: "Yesterday a party from Santa Rosa, consisting of J. E. Goodman, Fred H. Thompson, Mart Tarwater, and seven others launched a 32-foot boat in the lake and sailed gaily out of sight. They were a gay and happy looking crowd and had only been on the road sixty-three days."
From this piece of news it would appear that the Santa Rosans are doing first-rate. All of the boys have good, genuine grit, and if any one can succeed they will. Their friends here will always be glad to note their success.
"Suddenly while we walked along the wooded trail, a voice broke the stillness of the night. The sound of that voice seemed familiar to me. Who can it be I asked myself? As we came nearer the spot I was more convinced than ever last I knew the singer. In that strange land it was so good. Presently we came opposite the place from whence the singing came. I stood rivetted to the spot. The singer was warbling the old song "How the Miners Made Pancakes in ’49." Leaning against a tree, his face muffled almost to hide his features, back of him the smouldering embers of his little camp fire, was a man whom I afterwards learned was none other than mv old friend. Mart Tarwater, of Mark West, the old mail carrier. Away up on the Skaguay apparently all alone old Mart was just as merry as he was when driving along the Healdsburg road in hie little old mail wagon. There was no mistaking that noise. I would have known it anywhere in the world."
This interesting incident was told to a Press Democrat reporter on B street Friday morning by Neal Brieson, the former superintendent of the R. L Crooks ranch at Mark West, who left San Francisco on July 31, on the same ship carrying Hy Groshong, for Alaska, and who returned from there last week. Mr. Brieson went to Alaska to obtain ail the information he could relative to the resources of the country. He returns impressed with the idea that the country is very rich and one capable of marvelous developments. He went to Dyea and along the Skaguay [sic] trail. Friday morning he pulled from his pocket a bottle filled with rich golden nuggets from Dawson City. From what he learned while in Alaska, Mr. Brieson says, the horrors of the Chilkoot Pass have never been adequately described in the newspaper accounts. In fact he thinks it would fail the human tongue to describe them. He heard of Clarence Temple, Fred Thompson and Jim Goodman but did not see them. Mr. Brieson came back from Dyea with three men who were from Dawson City. These men had been on the Yukon for three years and were going home for winter as they said thev would not stay on their claims for $l0,000 during the winter for they feared a scarcity of food. Brieson says many of those now in Alaska are wishing that they had waited until spring before going. They complain very bitterly of the fairylike visions of gold told by those who came out from the Yukon when the excitement first commenced. Mr. Brieson had an exceeding interesting time in Alaska and gained lots of information. His many friends here are glad to see him again.
Everybody remembers the veteran mail carrier Mart Tarwater, the former driver of the mail cart from here to Mark West Springs, and who in conjunction with a few others got the gold craze last fall and went to Klondyke.
For several months nothing has been heard of Mart in any way and lots of the veteran miner's friends have wondered what had become of him.
Thursday it was learned that Mr. Tarwater’a family had heard indirectly from him through a Calistoga man who returned from the Stewart river district a few days ago.
The returned miner brought the news that he had seen old Mart on Stewart river just before he left; that he was well and that he was making things "stick.” The man said that Mr. Tarwater had a claim on Stewart river and in taking out ten dollars’ worth of tbe shining metal per diem "right off the surface."
This news is good. No one deserves to get rich any more than does Mart.
After a long silence a letter was received here Tuesday by Deputy County Clerk R. L. Thompson from his brother Fred, who in company with Jim Goodman of this city and others left last fall for Dawson City.
The letter bears date: “Stewart City, on Henderson creek, N. W. T., October 10." [EDITORIAL NOTE: This date is clearly wrong, as Jack London and others had formed the camp. This letter was most likely written in December or January. According to Charmian's biography, they were in Dawson from about Oct. 20 to Dec. 3. -je] The writer says that his party are well and are pleased with the country. They had a terrible time crossing the Chilkoot Pass.
The Thompson party claim the distinction of having come across a spot on Henderson creek on which was an old unoccupied cabin and having named the place Stewart City.
Four days after their arrival at Stewart City they prospected on Henderson creek, and finding good color, located claims. Fred Thompson went on to Dawson City and filed on claims for each member of the party. He remained in the vicinity of Dawson City tor seven weeks and located other claims, one being on Sulphur creek. While there he says he was offered $4,000 for one of his claims on the Henderson creek, but refused to sell. At Dawson City he met the former poet-journalist of Santa Rosa, Virgil Moore, and had a very pleasant talk with him.
Fourteen claims are owned by Thompson’s party. They are now working the claims on Henderson creek. The writer’s description of the way in which they made their boats at Lake Linderman and shot the White Horse rapids is very graphic.
The boys seem confident of success and all their Santa Rosa friends sincerely trust that their hopes will be realized to tbs fullest extent. The receiving of the the letter here wae a great pleasure to the relatives of both Messrs. Thompson and Goodman.
News received from Yukon state that Mart Tarwater, tbe former mail carrier from Santa Rose to Mark West Springs, and who went in the rush to the golden north early last fall, ia now writing for newspapers started in that region.
News has been received of the death of M. Tarwater in Alaska, sent, it is stated, by the minister who read the burial service at his funeral, says the Press-Democrat. When last heard from Mr. Tarwater was sick in the hospital near Dawson City. Mr. Tarwater, it will be remembered, was the veteran mail carrier to Mark West Springs and Altruria, and for events which have transpired in California and Sonoma county in early days, he was an encyclopedia. Few men were better known, and at every fireside in Sonoma county, he was a welcome guest.
Last Saturday morning the Press Democrat published a report of the death, in Alaska, of Martin W. Tarwater, a pioneer of Sonoma county and formerly mail carrier between this city and America postoffice. No confirmation of the report could be secured by this paper at that time.
Nevertheless, Mrs. Tarwater then had in her possession a letter received last Thursday from Orion T. Thomas, formerly of Los Angeles, containing news of the death of Mr. Tarwater on May 20. Mr. Thomas was a constant attendant of the deceased during the last days of his life. Mrs. Tarwater, who resides at America still has hopes that her husband is alive, despite the conclusiveness of Thomas’ pathetic letter, which is herewith printed:
"Fort Yukon, Alaska, May 22, '98.
“Mrs. M. W. Tarwater— Dear Madam; It is my sad duty to inform you of the death of your husband, which occurred Friday morning, May 20, 1898, at 3 o'clock. Mr. Tarwater had been sick nearly two months, and the doctor says the cause of his death was acute asthma, although he also suffered from liver trouble.
“The burial took place Friday evening from the Episcopal mission, Rev. J. W. Hawksley officiating. The remains were interred in the Fort Yukon graveyard. I had a headboard painted with his name, age, time of death and native state (Missouri) placed at the head of his grave.
"I first met Mr. Tarwater last November on my arrival here from Dawson City; we worked together on a large cabin, and on its completion we bunked together, but as Mr. Tarwater wrote you a long letter, sometime in December, I think he undoubtedly told you of the hard trip into this country, and working in the woods with the thermometer forty degrees and more below zero.
"Early in March, Mr. Tarwater and I bought a stone, axes, etc., and went to an island about three miles from here, to cut wood for the North American Trading and Transportation Company, for which we were to get $5 per cord. We had to wade in snow about three feet deep and cut brush to fall the trees on, to keep them from being buried in the snow, and cutting, splitting and piling wood under such circumstances was hard and necessarily slow work, especially for a man as old as Mr. Tarwater—-fifteen years older than myself. We had been working about three weeks when your husband took sick aud we had to leave the island and come back to the cabin at the Fort, I pulling him part the distance on a sled.
"When Mr. Tarwater took sick he gave me your address and requested me 'if anything should happen to write to you and take charge of his effects.'
"Mr. Tarwater seemed to improve after he got back here and we thought he would he able to start for home on the first boat down the river; I went to Lieutenant Richardson and he promised me he would provide him transportation home, as Mr. Tarwater had very little money; both of us together only cut twenty-six cords of wood.
"We all had hopes, and Mr. Tarwater was confident that he would be well enough to start home on the first boat, but he suddenly grew worse and be passed away peacefully--regretting that be could not be at home where loving hands could help and soothe him in his last hours.
"I did what I could for Mr. Tarwater--cooking, washing and care--and I must say I never saw a man with more patience--I never knew him to become angry with anyone, no matter what the provocation.
"There was not much expense. I paid the doctor, gave the two men tbat made the coffin each an ax and gave the cooking utensils, etc., to the men who were in the cabin and assisted in getting ready for burial. There is a little money left, and although the men here say I more than earned it in taking care of him, I will if I ever get out of here alive and with any money, send it to you-—not charging anything for my services.
"Inclosed is a certificate from Minister Hawksley, which I asked him to give me.
"I left my home in Los Angeles the 26th day of last July, and like Mr. Tarwater and hundreds of others, found myself down here in November, where we were compelled to come in order to get provisions. I expect to leave here in a day or so for Dawson City. I will mail this letter at Circle City on the way up.
"Please accept my sympathy in this bereavement. Sincerely yours,
"Orion T. Thomas."
Following is the certificate of burial by the Episcopal clergyman, which was enclosed in Mr. Thomas’ letter...
Yesterday a letter was received from Fred Thompson, who is at Dawson City, which contained much of interest to his family. With Mr. Thompson at Dawson City when the letter left there, were James and Dan Goodman, also of Santa Rosa. The trio were engaged in shipping logs from Stewart river with which to build a cabin for the winter. All the Santa Rosa boys, the letter stated, are well.
O. T. Thomas, who was with Mart Tarwater, the former veteran mail carrier of Mark West springs, when he closed his eyes in death in far-off Alaska, called at the Press Democrat office last night, and from him was learned much to interest the old pioneer's friends all over the county.
Mr. Thomas and Mr. Tarwater shared a cabin together while both were chopping wood. The old man seemed to suddenly break down, Mr. Thomas said last night, and finally grew so weak that he had to give in. Very tenderly Mr. Thomas watched over him until the summons came, which ended his long and eventful career.
Before he was taken sick, Mr. Thomas says Old Mart was the life of the camp. His Sonoma county friends will always remember his ready wit and his ability to launch out in verse to suit a popular air. He was the same in the frozen north, and could always be relied upon to have a stock of verse on hand concerning the Klondike, to keep all those around him in good humor. Mr. Thomas took quite a liking to Old Mart. He bore his last illness bravely and without a murmur.
Mr. Thomas talks very interestingly of the time he spent in the north. He carried a cornet with him all through his travels. He says it was very amusng to see the interest taken in his music by the Indians, who bad never seen such an instrument before. Whenever he played in his cabin he could always have a large audience of Indians, male and female.
"We never did learn whose hand applied the torch," Charmian London wrote in her biography of husband Jack London. She thought of the unknown arsonist as an "assassin" because "The razing of the house killed something in Jack...something in his heart burned out that night and was destroyed forever."1
"The house" was Jack's baronial arts & crafts castle called "Wolf House," which was in the last stage of completion when it burned down in August, 1913. At the time no one doubted an arsonist had set the fire. "Many people were accused of the firing, a good part of them in anonymous letters sent to Jack," Irving Stone noted in his acclaimed biography, "Sailor on Horseback." Among the suspects "...A workman whom Jack had thrown off the ranch for beating his wife was seen in the vicinity; he was accused. An ill-tempered foreman was accused. [Chief contractor Natale] Forni was accused, jealous socialists were accused, disgruntled tramps were accused."2
There was even gossip Jack or Charmian set the fire. Long before construction was underway Jack had written ominously in a 1906 essay, "it will be a happy house - or else I'll burn it down" and in the months before the fire the pair were anything but happy. His health was failing and she had a miscarriage after three days of labor; freakish weather destroyed most of his crops and someone shot one of his most valuable horses; he was nearly out of money and had mortgaged everything he could. In the Forni family a story was handed down that the couple was overheard fighting with Charmian saying, "You'll never live in this house."3 Irving Stone also supposedly was told by a workman that he saw Charmian walking away from the house swinging an empty gasoline can and saying, "It's going to be a hot night tonight."4
Years later, Natale Forni told Stone he wondered if the cause might have been spontaneous combustion, as earlier that day workmen had been rubbing down the interior woodwork and there was "turpentine-saturated waste." Since a solvent like turpentine is used on finished wood only in combination with other things such as linseed oil, it's presumed he meant there were oily rags lying around. And when a 1995 team of forensic experts looked at the Wolf House fire they concluded that yep, it was spontaneous combustion, all right.
Not everyone agrees with that. Jonah Raskin (local author of "The Radical Jack London" and other books) was told by an SSU anthropologist it's an example of "hollywooding" - neatly wrapping up the mystery by making scapegoats of the nameless workers and letting everyone else off the hook.5 And as I explained in "TIME TO REOPEN THE JACK LONDON FIRE INVESTIGATION," data in the 1995 study supporting that spontaneous combustion theory is clearly wrong, making the matter far from settled. To be fair, it has to be acknowledged the fire could have been caused by burning rags - only not in the very specific way claimed in that investigation.
But if the cause wasn't spontaneous combustion we are probably looking at arson. It was easy to rule out financial gain as motive; the place was famously underinsured because Jack presumed a stone and concrete building like that couldn't burn. There was a single $6,000 policy - less than one-tenth of the building's estimated value - and that payment apparently went to the bank holding the most recent mortgage. And despite what anonymous letter-writers were telling Jack, odds for the fire being started by jealous socialists or disgruntled tramps were pretty low (the guy who was fired for wife-beating might have been worth a second look, though). But in his listing of suspects under consideration, Irving Stone dropped in this little nugget: "Shepard, whom Eliza was divorcing, had quarreled with Jack that very day."
"Eliza's husband shoots up the ranch," was the May 3, 1913 entry in Charmian London's diary. That was about fourteen weeks before the fire.6
"Eliza" was Eliza Shepard, one of Jack London's stepsisters. She was his business manager, the superintendent of his ranch and construction boss of the Wolf House project. Jack depended upon her utterly - as he had for much of his life.
She and her 13 year-old son lived near Jack's cottage in a little house he built for them (and likewise mortgaged shortly before the fire). They had arrived on the ranch in 1910 after she separated from her husband, Captain James H. Shepard.
What happend that day in May, 1913, is unclear. Both the Press Democrat and Argus-Courier stated James lived on the ranch, but it is more likely he was there to visit his son who was seriously injured in an electrical accident a few weeks earlier. Also involved in the incident was Eliza's sister, Ida and her husband Jack Byrne, who lived in Glen Ellen.
From accounts in the PD (transcribed below) it seems Capt. Shepard pulled his pistol on Jack Byrne. Eliza grappled with him for the gun and it fired twice, injuring no one. Apparently Jack London heard the shots and ran next door, jerking the gun out of Shepard's hand. The next day Shepard went to Santa Rosa and filed assault complaints against both Jacks, claiming Byrne held him defenseless while London choked him. They were arrested and released on $50 bail. Charges were quickly dismissed at a hearing the following week. In her biography, Charmian wrote this:
|An old man ran amuck one night and 'shot up the ranch.' Jack landing upon the scene, in the space of three seconds had disarmed the lunatic, who, in retaliation, haled [sic] him into court for 'choking an old man into insensibility.' "Me, choking an old man into insensibility!" Jack fumed. "Can't you see me?"|
Self-serving, yes, but what's striking about her telling is that she went considerably out of the way to avoid identifying the "old man" as Jack's brother-in-law (none of the newspapers mentioned the family connection either). Charmian was emotionally close to Eliza and dependent upon her her managerial skills as much as Jack was, so she was presumably shielding Eliza and her son, Irving.
But within the family, an entirely different story was told. In his oral history the grandson of Eliza and James Shepard said he was told grandpa hated Jack London so much he was there with a gun in 1913 because he intended to murder the author. "He came to the Ranch, and he was going to kill him because he claimed Jack London stole his wife...He blamed Jack for the breakup."7
Eliza London was roughly eight years older than Jack and from his earliest days was a combination playmate and surrogate mother. When she was sixteen she married a man who was lodging with their family and moved away. Her husband was 41 and brought with him a family of three, the youngest still an infant.
His name was James H. Shepard. Little is known about his personal life except he was born in Bergen, New Jersey in 1843. The name of his first wife is a mystery, as is what became of her. A profile of him appeared in an 1895 San Francisco Call which shows he was a Captain during the Civil War, posted at the San Francisco Presidio and Fort Yuma, where he was nearly fatally wounded in the southwest Indian wars. After that he spent nearly twenty years at the surgeon-general's office in Washington, D.C. He returned to California in 1884 and almost immediately met and married Eliza. Besides having three kids and a teenage wife he also had lots of bills, and legal notices appeared in the papers stating he was insolvent.
Shepard became a veteran's pension attorney, which is to say he helped old soldiers or their widows obtain the federal pensions for military service which was their due. It was also considered the most sleazy aspect of the legal profession.
Drawing of Shepard from the July 21, 1895 San Francisco Call
By all accounts Captain Shepard was the rare good guy, advertising in the newspapers as "J. H. Shepard & Co. The Old Reliable Attorneys." He was a high-ranking officer in the regional G. A. R. (Grand Army of the Republic - the organization of Civil War and Mexican War veterans) and was apparently the whistleblower exposing graft and fraud at the veteran's home in Yountville, then operated by a private association. He lobbied the state legislature to eliminate a fee on claim forms (and won) and testified in one court case where he had worked for nine years to have a Civil War claim approved. Eliza joined the office as a notary public and herself became a lifelong advocate for veterans, national president of the American Legion Auxiliary 1925-1926.
Jack remained close with Eliza and in the sphere of the Shepard clan. James' son Hubert, three years older than Jack, got him a laundry job in 1897. That summer Jack decided to join the Klondike Gold Rush and the Shepard home in Oakland was mortgaged to finance his grubstake, with one condition: James insisted he tag along. James was then 54 and not in the best health.
James reportedly had a mild heart attack just before their ship left for its eight-day voyage to Alaska, making the older man more of a burden than equitable partner. Onboard they formed a party with three other prospectors to share equipment.
Once ashore they joined the parade of miners headed for the Chilkoot Pass, the impossibly steep trail to the goldfields. James gave up after
Once home, James faded. The only notable event in his life during the following dozen years was the 1899 birth of Irving (Washington Irving Shepard, actually) his only child with Eliza. The pension attorney advertisements stopped in 1901. He was mentioned briefly in 1904 for having his son-in-law arrested for abandoning his wife. In 1909 he offered himself as a longshot candidate to lead the national G. A. R. Meanwhile, Eliza's star was in ascendance. She often appeared in the legal notices for buying and selling property around Oakland as well as her many activities as a leader of the local Women's Relief Corps, which was the G. A. R. auxiliary. When she took Irving and moved to Glen Ellen in 1910 she wasn't just turning away from a failed marriage - she was leaving a social network which meant everything to her.
To Geoffrey Dunn, Captain James Shepard remains the prime arson suspect: "By lighting a fire to Wolf House, Shepard would have been exacting revenge on the two targets of his burning rage - London and Eliza." Dunn, a Santa Cruz historian and investigative journalist whose deep dive into the political background of Sarah Palin was a longtime Amazon bestseller, adds that Shepard uniquely had "motive, opportunity and the capability to commit the crime."
Start with motive: Shepard blamed Jack for his wife leaving him, according to their grandson. But he was also sour on Eliza - in 1915 he sued for divorce charging she had deserted him. According to the FBI profile of "personal retaliation" arsonists (see part one), fire locations are meaningful, specifically chosen to show it was an act of vengeance. Jack and his sister had everything invested, both financially and emotionally, in the completion of Wolf House.
Opportunity: Shepard was at the ranch that very day and arguing with Jack, according to author Irving Stone. The FBI says this type of arsonist is opportunistic - he walks to the fire scene, rarely breaks in, and starts the blaze using materials already there. Wolf House was then completely open (even the windows were not installed), unguarded and Natale Forni was probably right that workmen had stuff lying around.
Capability: Shepard's grandson said he wanted to kill London in that gun-waving incident a few months earlier and Dunn points to another incident in his past: At an 1896 G. A. R. convention, Shepard angrily said to an opponent, "if you say anything about my character that you cannot prove I'll make you bite the dust." That may read like corny cowboy dialogue today, but in context of the era it was very clear he was making a death threat. But these were examples of dramatic emotional behavior, not violence - he didn't draw a gun on the guy in 1896 and if he was determined to shoot Jack he could have attempted that; instead, the gun fired only while Eliza was trying to wrestle it away. These episodes demonstrate, however, that he wanted to make a show of pushing back hard when he felt his honor had been wronged - and that's significant.
There's probably no question that Shepard had been on a downward spiral for some time. Contributing factors could have been drugs or drink or simply his age - he was 70 the year Wolf House burned down. He was living in Knights Ferry, a Gold Rush ghost town which was enjoying a second life as a tourist stop thanks to the new fad of automobile excursions. There he worked at a jewelry shop where his son was allowed to visit in the summers.8
Capt. Shepard's last hurrah came in 1916 when he revived his pension advertisement (for a single day!) in the Oakland Tribune. He had been divorced from Eliza for a year with her retaining all the property; he now sued claiming some of it had been bought with his money. As ownership was settled in the divorce, the case was thrown out. He died in 1917 a fairly poor man, with a little over $2,000 and no possessions to speak of.
There is no proof James Shepard set the Wolf House fire, but there is no better suspect; if it was arson it was almost certainly by his hand. What I think happened is this: Late that night he walked into the building, still stewing over the earlier argument with Jack London. I doubt he had pre-meditated plans. Perhaps he saw a bucket with sawdust, wood scraps or even oily rags; perhaps he dropped in a cigarette; perhaps he thought he'd be getting even with his unloving wife and her unsympathetic brother by causing them headaches with a little fire. It would cause some damage, sure, scorch the woodwork, stink up the place, and maybe set back the completion date, but it certainly wouldn't take down the whole building. Not a big magnificent house like that.
1 London, Charmian; The Book of Jack London, Volume 2; 1921, pg. 263
2 Stone, Irving; "Sailor on Horseback," 1938, pg. 300
3 Raskin, Jonah; "Burning Down the House." The story was told to Gaye LeBaron by William Forni, whose father heard the argument while playing in the house the month of the fire.
4 Shepard, Milo oral history: "The Jack London story and the Beauty Ranch" 2001, pg. 17
5 Raskin, Jonah; "Burning Down the House," Valley of the Moon Magazine January, 2016, pg. 47
6 Stasz, Clarice; "Jack London's Women," 2003; pg. 172
7 Shepard, Milo, op. cit. pg. 8
8 Shepard, Milo, ibid
JACK LONDON IS MADE DEFENDANTTenant on Novelist’s Glen Ellen Place Charges Writer with Assault and Battery
Jack London, the famous novelist, and John J. Burns of San Francisco, a bookkeeper for the Southern Pacific Company, were arrested Monday morning on warrants issued by Justice of the Peace Atchison, charging them with assault and battery. The complaint was sworn io by J. H. Shepard, who lives on the London place at Glen Ellen. A cash bail of $5O was deposited in each case and the matter set for trial next Monday morning.
Mr. Shepard states that there was trouble between his wife and her sister in which the sister upbraided the wife. He claims that Burns was present and did not take Mrs. Shepard's part. Burns was invited to the Shepard home, but Shepard decided that he could not be admitted.
When Burns came to the house Shepard, who had a pistol in his side pocket, went to the door and ordered him away. Mrs. Shepard came out during the trouble and found that her husband was abusing Burns. Fearing that he would draw his gun she took it out of his pocket. Her husband then attempted to get it away from her and Burns interfered. In the tussle that ensued the weapon was discharged twice.
Mrs. Shepard retained the gun after the trouble between Burns and Shepard; she then appealed to London, whose home is not far away. When London came he sided with Burns and this so angered Shepard that he again tried to wrest the gun from his wife. Both Burns and London then interfered and Shepard claims that Burns grasped him by the wrists and held him while London choked him.
- Press Democrat, May 6, 1913
CHARGE AGAINST LONDON IGNOREDTook Gun from J. W. Shepard When Latter Was Striking Wife and After Threats Had Been Made Against Burns
At the conclusion ot the cross examination of the third witness in the case against Jack London and John Burns in Judge Atchison's court Monday afternoon District Attorney Clarence Lea moved to dismiss the charge as the evidence did not warrant a conviction in his opinion.
The charge was assault and battery and was preferred by J. W. Shepard after a quarrel in which London and Burns were called upon to interfere. The evidence showed that Shepard was armed and had made threats against Burns and that in grappling with his wife the weapon was discharged twice the trigger being pulled by Shepard.
Mrs. Shepard stated that her husband was striking her with one hand while grasping the weapon with the other and that she called upon Burns to help her which he did. London had been summoned and he jerked the gun out ot Shepard's hand.
- Press Democrat, May 13, 1913
JACK LONDON'S HOME BURNS
The interior of Jack London’s nearly completed new home on his ranch near Glen Ellen, was gutted by a fire that started shortly before midnight and which was still burning at 1 o’clock this morning. At that hour the fire was reported to have spread to the wooded hillside and the canyon beyond the new home.
A man employed on the London ranch told a Press Democrat representative over the long-distance telephone this morning that the origin of the fire was unknown. At the time he was ’phoning from the old house at present occupied by Mr. and Mrs. London, he said the novelist and his wife were at the scene of the fire.
The magnificent stone castle on the hillside which Jack London has been building for a long time was nearing completion and the damage done by the fire, of course, was necessarily confined to the expensive woodwork and finish that has been installed, not damaging the walls. The house was to have been ready for occupancy in the fall and a large force of men have been employed on the place.
A telephone message to The Press Democrat from Sonoma this morning also confirmed the news that it was the new London home which the fire destroyed. A fire would do considerable damage to the scenery and wooded hillsides and canyons if it spread to any extent.
At 2:30 this morning, Q. R. Wickham. of the Sonoma State Home, telephoned that he had just returned from the scene of the fire and that the entire building had been gutted, leaving nothing but the masonry standing. The fire did not spread to the timber owing to the prompt action of guards on the place when the fire was discovered.
Mr. Wickham said he talked with Mr. and Mrs, Jack London, who had been on the place up to 6 o’clock, and the foreman, who left at 8 o'clock, and none of them had the least idea how the fire originated. The loss will be very heavy.
- Press Democrat, August 23, 1913
JACK LONDON’S CASTLE IS TO BE REBUILT AT ONCEDamage by Fire Is Estimated Between 30,000 and 40,000
The spirit of Jack London is not depressed by a fire, even if the flames do devastate the interior of a majestic castle he has been building for a couple of years on the hillside on his big ranch near Glen Ellen, occupying the most romantic spot in all the country round. The author of "The Sea Wolf” and other thrilling stories, decreed Saturday that the work of reconstruction of the castle shall commence immediately after the Insurance adjuster has inspected the premises. Be it known that Mr. London had $10,000 insurance on the castle, In three companies represented by Luther W. Burris of this city. His loss however, will be between $35,000 and $40,000, according to the estimate furnished on Saturday.
As stated Saturday morning in The Press Democrat's account of the fire, the walls of the castle are still standing, but the interior of the building is gutted. The roof of red tile, which had just been completed, cost $6,000. The marble work, hewn and carved by the experts in that line, until its finish excelled anything like it in this state. This is where the great loss comes in, in addition to the magnificent oak and walnut and the other wood furnishings. As to the origin of the fire, it may have been the work of a discharged employee and it may not. Anyhow, it is still a mystery and when the red glow leaped from the turrets of the castle on Friday night shortly before midnight, it surprised everybody who saw it, and particularly surprised Mr. and Mrs. London, who were aroused from their slumbers in their old home some distance away with the news that the castle was burning. It was hard for people here and elsewhere to realize how a fire could do so much damage in a massive stone building and to glance up now it seems harder to imagine with the stout walls and the turreted sides still standing.
- Press Democrat, August 24, 1913
MANY VIEW RUINS OE LONDON'S CASTLE
There are many people taking a peep at the standing walls of Jack London's castle near Glen Ellen, the scene of the Friday night fire. A large number of people took a drive down to Glen Ellen for the purpose and not a few city residents motored up from the different resorts to take a look at the ravages wrought by the flames upon the interior of what was rapidly assuming shape as one of the finest country homes in the State or in the West. The insurance adjusters went out to the place on Monday to inspect the premises. London will get ail of the $10,000 called for in the policy as the loss is complete and only the walls of the building remain.
- Press Democrat, August 26, 1913
JACK LONDON WRITES WHILE HOUSE BURNS
L. W. Burris, fire insurance agent of this city and H. M. Farrar, loss adjuster, visited the scene of the Jack London fire Tuesday. It was only a formal viewing of the remains as the flames of early Saturday morning left nothing except bare walls to view. There is a strong belief that the disaster was not accidental, but no clew has been extracted from the mystery. Mr. London will begin rebuilding at once. He was working on his last story, a sea yarn, the color of which he gathered in his recent voyage around Cape Horn, and he finished the last chapters two days after his rare house burned down.
- Santa Rosa Republican, August 26, 1913
Every Sonoma county schoolkid knows well the story: A suspicious fire in 1913 destroyed the mansion built for Jack London just days before the celebrity author and his wife were to move in. Rumors of arson circulated for decades until a 1995 study concluded it was started by spontaneous combustion of oily rags left by careless workmen. I completely believed that theory until I saw the newspapers from the day and began reading primary sources about the incident. Now I'm convinced it was arson after all - and it seems pretty certain whodunnit.
To begin, we have to look at problems with the 1995 report, written by a team of crack forensic investigators. Unfortunately, we can't read the full document - neither the county nor the SSU library has a copy - although there is an 800-word summary published at the same time (some additional details can be found here). Should the whole report turn up and contain info that contradicts my assumptions I'll gladly publish corrections here.
Their main conclusion was spontaneous combustion cause the disaster, due to discarded cloths soaked in linseed oil used to finish interior woodwork. Natale Forni, masonry contractor of the project, also blamed spontaneous combustion but thought it was because of the "turpentine-saturated waste with which the woodwork had been rubbed down."*
Turpentine? Linseed oil? Which was it? The answer is both - mixed with other ingredients. And this reveals a weakness of the 1995 top gun team: They included engineers and criminologists, but apparently no architectural historian.
Let me interrupt here to mention my other preoccupation: Old house restoration. Over the last decade my wife and I have returned Santa Rosa's 1905 Comstock House to mostly its original condition and along the way I've immersed myself in the study of turn-of-the-century wood finishing methods. Just as Sherlock was always hectoring Scotland Yard detectives about different types of tobacco ash, I can bore anyone to tears about those archaic varnishing formulas (unfortunately, I can even tell you how some of them taste). Visit one of my other blogs, "Restora Obscura" for more on this topic.
As the workmen were in the final stages of finishing the woodwork, they would not have used pure linseed oil inside the house. That stuff was only applied to wood as a first coat before it was brought inside and put into place (in order to coat the back and end of the piece as well). When it came to finish work, they would have used a recipe of linseed oil and turpentine along something else, depending on how they wanted the surface to look and be preserved. Most probably it was the old standby 1:1:1 mix of the two with beeswax, which forms a paste (think shoe polish) that fills any imperfections and polishes up beautifully.
But the 1995 investigation didn't explore waxy rags and considered linseed oil alone. As stated in the summary: "A loosely piled handful of cotton rags dampened with boiled linseed oil has been shown by our experiments to be capable of self-heating to flaming ignition in a few hours." Well, yeah, that's a popular middle school science fair project. Visit YouTube and enjoy hours of videos showing little autoignition bonfires with linseed oil rags. (My personal fave is the one where the guy got bored because it took too long and left the smoldering pile, only to conclude the video by showing a lump of charcoal. "The wife came home and said 'your rags are on fire.' So. There you go.")
Those home videos always show test rags piled on concrete driveways or in Weber grills, places where heat will collect on sunny days. That's the other important factor in getting rags to burst into flames - the higher the ambient temperature, the more likely it is a fire will start. And the investigators emphasized that night was extremely warm: "The one striking observation of London's neighbor was that the night of the fire was the hottest night in memory," supposedly still over 100° after dark.
That is absolutely false. According to the weather reports in the Press Democrat and other Bay Area newspapers it was a typical August day, with highs in the low 80s. There was a light westerly wind in the afternoon and marine layer fog overnight.
The mistaken neighbor of London's was thinking about the record-breaking heat that happened six weeks earlier with the hottest day in Santa Rosa history - 113 degrees at one o'clock, with 126 recorded in direct sun (see "HUGE WILDFIRES, DROUGHT, RECORD HEAT: THE AWFUL SUMMER OF 1913)."
The provable temperature gaffe and likelihood the investigators tested the wrong material are reasons enough to question spontaneous combustion as the cause. But what about arson? They concluded it was a "low probability" because there was apparently just a single point of origin - the high-ceiling dining room, where there was no certainty the fire would spread and destroy the whole building. Nor would a dedicated arsonist be content with setting a single blaze, they concluded.
It's now understood there are six motives for arson, as defined by The National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (part of the FBI). One of the motives is revenge. According to the Center's textbook, a subtype involves personal retaliation, where the fire is "intentional, pre-meditated and targeted. Although he may sometimes set a fire impulsively...He blames his actions on conflict with others that leads to feelings of anger while setting the fires." The fire will usually be "set using available materials found at the scene" inside buildings were there is open access.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you in the following article to Jack London's troubled brother-in-law Captain James Shepard, who quarreled with Jack a few hours before the fire.
|Photo courtesy Sonoma County Library|
For many in Sonoma County, the results of the election were unthinkable; voters had approved a county ordinance for prohibition, banning sale of alcohol anywhere outside of major towns. Of course, exceptions could be made - if you had the right connections.
At the stroke of midnight, January 1, 1913, every roadhouse in the county lost their liquor license. But anyone who presumed those 110 rural saloons would close or only serve soft drinks were mistaken; a couple of days later the Santa Rosa Republican commented, "...in some roadhouse localities the indications were that frequently the 'hard' quality leaked into the 'soft' glasses." Congrats, voters - you just launched the speakeasy underground culture, and with it, opened new doors for political corruption.
When the anti-roadhouse ordinance passed the previous November numerous questions were immediately raised, particularly whether a county-wide vote was legal. California had a “local option” law allowing communities to choose being “wet” or “dry,” as a portion of West County had earlier elected to ban liquor sales. While waiting for a decision from the State Supreme Court, it was unclear if the law was in force or not. The ordinance was also specific that exceptions could only be made for hotels with a dining room and at least 35 separate guest rooms. For full background see the previous article in this series, "LAST CALL FOR THE ROADHOUSE."
In the wake of the vote some saloon owners raced to build the required number of rooms. The Argus-Courier reported George Rodd was adding 15 additional rooms to his Penngrove hotel and 25 rooms at his Cotati place. He had hired "all of the carpenters he was able to secure," according to the paper, and they would "work overtime and Sundays and holidays in rushing the work to completion at both places so as to have the additions in readiness by the time the new roadhouse law goes into effect."
There were also two test cases quickly filed by County District Attorney Clarence Lea. One was against a man named Ellsworth who had a nondescript roadhouse just outside Santa Rosa city limits; the other charged a man named Connolly who owned the Hotel Altamont in Occidental, which was the premiere drinking spot in West County outside of select Russian River summer resorts. Ellsworth was arrested for violating the ordinance and spent time in jail. Connolly was granted a liquor license by the Board of Supervisors because he filed an affidavit with the county clerk attesting his joint really did have 35 rooms, even though the District Attorney's case - months away from a court decision - was based on the fact Connolly was short on the required number of beds.
District Attorney Lea told the Supervisors the new law was filled with loopholes. It simply counted how many rooms, regardless of the character of the establishment (he was presumably worried about brothels); there was no specified fine or other penalty for breaking the law; and probably most significant of all, it placed no limitation on the power of the Board to issue licenses. Already the latter was problematic; besides Connolly's Hotel Altamont, liquor licenses were immediately issued to thirteen other places deemed to have thirty-five rooms, although it seems likely that odd number was chosen by the prohibitionists because they presumed few if any places would qualify.
It wasn't long before violations were filling court dockets. Was selling "near beer" against the law? (Yes, then later, no.) Was a West County violator prosecuted for breaking the “local option” law or under the new ordinance, which had no punishment? Hugh McConnell of the Electric Hotel in Forestville was prosecuted under the former, fined $150 and had his booze confiscated - although it was put to good use: "The fifty-eight quarts of whiskey will be used medicinally at the county hospital for the patients needing such nourishment as prescribed by the county physician."
Two particularly notorious roadhouses tried to sneak around the law. The Riverside, a couple miles south of Petaluma, claimed it was a "blind pig," where customers supposedly pay to look at an odd animal or other attraction and given a free drink. The other was Jacob Koblar/Kobler's place near River Road which was probably the main reason for the earlier West County crackdown. His lawyer now said the place was the private "Mt. Olivet Social Club,” with a 35¢ membership and organized “for the moral and intellectual” uplift of the members. Um, no, sayeth the judge. Pay the $200 fine, please.
Meanwhile, the sheriff and his deputies were kept busy hunting and busting speakeasies. Only one hotel/resort had its liquor license revoked, and it was because a deputy testified "the resort is visited by dissolute men and women with the approval ot the proprietors and that the place is conducted in an immoral manner," which means prostitution. That was Louie Parente’s joint near El Verano, previously introduced here in "THE VILLAGE OF VICE IN THE VALLEY OF THE MOON." A decade later his resort would be raided like clockwork by prohibition agents, and another ten years beyond that it would become infamous as a hideout for gangsters like Baby Face Nelson - but in 1913 Louie's attorney told the Supervisors he was wrongly accused: "According to the testimony of the defense the place was the best conducted of any in the country and the employees were almost saints themselves..." reported the PD.
As 1913 wore on, the Board of Supervisors liquor license hearings were probably the best show in town, the room packed with both supporters of the applicant and teetotalers. To oppose a Freestone license, women brought a large crowd of little girls dressed in white and carrying banner and pennants marked, "We Want Dry." At another hearing, a petition was presented asking for more licenses in the Sonoma Valley. A PD reporter commented on one meeting, "...a number participated in the arguments, and at times considerable excitement was created and feelings engendered." In other words: Angry screaming.
Increasingly temperance advocates were voicing frustration that the Supervisors were too lenient in issuing licenses, and the Grand Jury issued a report agreeing with them. "In some instances tents were put on the premises, far away from the main building, and counted as 'bed-rooms,'" commented the Healdsburg Tribune. "In other instances old machine shops, back rooms of furniture stores, were curtained off by cheese cloth and counted as bed rooms. Ihe dog house, the stable and chicken roosts were put in when necessary to make up the thirty-five rooms."
How much of that was true is unknown, but the application for Guerneville's main drinking hole, the Louvre, was pretty remarkable - they claimed apparently every guest room in town as part of their own "hotel:"
|...The board then took up the application of Pool & Pool, who run a saloon in Guerneville. The testimony showed that there was but one sleeping apartment in the saloon building; that there was a dining room in the rear of the building, with a summer garden between and that the sleeping apartments were located in different parts of town. One building with fourteen rooms was located across the street from the saloon and dining room; another down the street had fourteen more rooms; still another a little further on had five more rooms and across the railroad track was still another with thirteen more...|
That was too much for the Supervisors to swallow, but the Pool brothers were granted a liquor license soon after they announced plans to build a 38-room hotel next to their saloon and beer garden. The only surviving photograph (see below) shows a building probably about half of that promised size.*
Sonoma County residents likely hadn't been as divided over any issue since the Civil War, and the fighting was often personal. In an astonishing 2,300 word letter to the Press Democrat transcribed below, District Attorney Lea snapped, "Ever since the adoption of the initiative liquor ordinance in this county I have been subjected to unscrupulous persistent, and premeditated attacks, all emanating from a very small coterie of hypocrites." The main target of his fury was attorney Rolfe L. Thompson, one of the founders of the Anti-Roadhouse League, who had criticized the county for being lax in prosecuting speakeasies. "There is not a man on this earth that can state a single specific fact questioning my motive in reference to the initiative law...those who have questioned my motive have done so in deceived ignorance or maliciously and corruptly, as has R. L. Thompson."
Then there was the attempt to recall Henry Weise, Supervisor for the Sonoma Valley. The petition claimed he was "guilty of misconduct in office" for failing to oppose roadhouses with sufficient vigor. Behind the recall effort was Guy J. K. Bigelow of El Verano, apparently the loudest voice on the temperance side. Bigelow was saying Weise was a drunk and had accepted "a sack of money" from Fetters Springs to obtain a liquor license. Weise sued him for defamation of character and slander, demanding $65,000 damages.
The recall failed by three to one and when the slander suit went to court the next year, a jury found Bigelow not guilty because he claimed he was only repeating rumors. Bigelow testified he heard Weise had been given a $1,750 bribe. "I said I did not believe the report and that if it was true I would be helping put Weise in stripes." Well then, obviously Bigelow meant no harm.
By the end of 1913 it was apparent the anti-roadhouse ordinance had accomplished little aside from picking off the smallest hole-in-the-wall places where the owner had no political clout. Instead of 110 roadhouses there were now 24 rural hotels serving drinks. At the close of 1914 there were 46 licenses, and 52 the next year.
The Board of Supervisors did pass a stricter county liquor ordinance. Now rooms had to be built of wood or permanent material and contain 500 cubic feet of air space and eight feet of window space. Liquor could not be sold within fifty feet of any dance hall while a dance was in progress, unless the hall was on different floor of the building. Anyone selling both soft drinks and liquor had to keep the booze stored at least ten feet away from the building.
Silly? Probably, but it gave the Mrs. Grundys their token legal victories - even while the Supervisors were approving more and more liquor licenses because hotels the size of a city block were supposedly springing up in places like Agua Caliente and Monte Rio. Geyservllle had two, and there was another application waiting.
* The Louvre saloon was only steps away from the front of the train station on the corner of Railroad/Main Street and Armstrong Woods Road, which was then still known as Cinnabar Avenue. The building now at that 16200 Main St. location is currently home to a Community First Credit Union and is not the old saloon structure, but a complete rebuild from the 1960s following an arson fire. The Pool brothers partnership ended in 1914, when John Pool sold his interest to Charles, who continued running the Louvre with Joe Montoya. In 1916 the liquor license was transferred to Bill Nolan, owner of the Guerneville Hotel. Through the 1920s Nolan and his wife advertised the hotel was first "run in conjunction with Hotel Louvre," then later promoted their operation as the "Guerneville Hotel and Louvre Annex." The Guerneville Hotel was catty-cornered from the Louvre on the other side of Armstrong Woods Road. Much thanks to John Schubert for help in sorting out those locations and histories.
An ordinance was drafted which will be presented to the Board of Supervisors under the initiative or direct legislation law. It is the purpose of those at the meeting to have the proposed ordinance presented to the board in time so that it can be submitted to the voters at the general election to be held in November.
Besides those present from Santa Rosa and vicinity, a representation was in attendance from Sonoma.
After adopting the name of "Anti-Roadhouse League," Dr. J. W. Scamell was elected president, G. L. Reed secretary, Rolfe L. Thompson and Ross Campbell attorneys.
A committee was appointed to solicit membership, and to attend to the circulation of the petition to secure the requisite number of signatures in order that the ordinance may be submitted to a vote of the people.
The league is formed solely for the purpose of eliminating the road houses from the county, and is not dominated by any religious sect or temperance organization, and does not propose to interfere with licenses now held by hotels or summer resorts now in business or which may hereafter desire a retail license.
The proposed ordinance submitted by the league's attorneys, and upon which the people will be asked to express an opinion for or against, is as follows:
No person, corporation, firm or association shall sell, or engage in the business of selling, offering for sale or giving away distilled, fermented, malt, vinous or other spiritous or intoxicating liquors or wines or beers in any portion of Sonoma county lying without the corporate limits of any city or town of said Sonoma county, except such person, corporation, firm or association engaged in the business of conducting a bona fide hotel, having at least thirty-five separate sleeping apartments properly furnished for the accommodation of guests, and having dining room at which meals are served at regular hours to boarders and the traveling public.
A prominent member of the league in an interview Friday said: "This is not a prohibition movement. None of those composing the membership of the league favor prohibition laws. Of course this ordinance will not affect the saloon men in the cities or towns, but will, on the contrary, help them, as it will tend to elevate the business in general and rob it of its most objectionable feature, and also relieve them of the danger of prohibition, which must come if the roadhouse stays. It will relieve the county hotels and summer resorts from being criticized along with the roadhouses, for faults which are not theirs, and will place the real estate of Sonoma county on a equal footing in the market, with that of Southern California, where this evil does not exist."
- Santa Rosa Republican, August 30, 1912
The opinion of Justice Chipman upholds the Wyllie Local Option law against interference from the initiative law, and Charles Zany, who was arrested near Modesto, Stanislaus county, charged with violating a county initiative ordinance, making it unlawful to sell liquor, was liberated from jail.
Among other things Justice Chipman said:
"...In many counties there is now 'wet' and 'dry' territory. A county wide vote on the matter would put in the power of the electors of the populous cities or towns to control the subject for the entire county, or the electors outside of the cities and towns might be strong enough to control the matter in the cities and towns."
The Court held that the Legislature did not intend by the initiative and referendum to bring about such confusion or to destroy the operation of the local option law.
The Hon. Thomas Geary, who has been looking into the matter very thoroughly, having been requested to furnish an opinion as to the validity of the ordinance, when told of the Appellate Court decision quoted above, stated that there was no doubt in his mind but that Justice Chipman was right and that the decision bears directly upon the Sonoma county situation. So certain was he of the invalidity of the ordinance that yesterday he was considering a course to follow in testing the matter in the courts.
- Press Democrat, November 16, 1912
[.. no position on ordinance, but I shall proceed that it is valid until the courts rule otherwise.. ]
- Press Democrat, November 24, 1912
“Resolved, That this Board issue no further liquor licenses, except in conformity with the provisions of said ordinance, until the courts have passed upon the validity of the same and that thereafter licenses shall be issued only in conformity with such court decision."
The above resolution was passed at Monday’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors, and will be read with considerable interest. Unless the suit now pending before the courts to determine the validity or invalidity of the anti-roadhouse ordinance by the first of January all places other than hotels with thirty-five rooms will have to close their doors, as the resolution passed by the Supervisors above quoted will preclude the issuing of the usual number of licenses which date from January 1.
- Press Democrat, December 3, 1912
In this proceedings the validity of the ordinance will be tested and the means of prosecuting under it, should it be sustained by the higher courts. It will also ascertain whether the power for punishment on violation is not already provided for under the old and present existing ordinance passed by the Board of Supervisors, The contention of the District Attorney is that prosecution can be sustained under the old ordinance for violation of the new.
District Attorney Lea also stated that there is nothing In the report that the civil suit filed in the antl-roadhouse matter against John D. Connolly of Occidental, will be dismissed or dropped. Mr. Connolly has not thirty-five rooms as prescribed by the ordinance in his hotel at Occidental, but at the time he filed application for the renewal of the license, which was prior to the opinion of the Appellate Court, which cast some cloud on the validity of the initiative ordinance, he was contemplating putting on the additional rooms, having them ready by January 1. Mr. Connolly’s attorney will file an answer to the complaint, and it will be admitted that there are not the thirty-five rooms as contemplated by the ordinance. The case against Mr. Connolly is also a test of the anti-roadhouse ordinance.
- Press Democrat, December 4, 1912
The discussion that has arisen since the adoption by the voters of this county or the ordinance referred to has aroused attention of people all over the county, and in consequence it was not to be wondered at that the courtroom was thronged at the hearing of the matter Wednesday. The courtroom audience was composed of a number of the men vitally concerned in a business way in the outcome of the court's decision--hotel and resort keepers and saloon men, and also some of those who were strong advocates of the crusade against the roadhouse in Sonoma county.
The law bearing on the situation involved was thoroughly presented. Many citations from authorities established in prior Supreme court, Appellate court and Superior court decisions, were read by counsel, and the powers vested by the Constitution were also called up.
The matter was brought into the Superior court judicial determination by the filing some time since of a complaint against John D. Connolly, proprietor of the Hotel Altamont at Occidental, setting forth the fact that Mr. Connolly's hotel did not contain the required thirty-five rooms specified in the provisions of the anti-roadhouse ordinance. This was the suit being argued on Wednesday.
- Press Democrat, December 19, 1912
The Court's ruling was in the suit of the People against John D. Connolly of Occidental, proprietor of the Hotel Altamont in that town. The action was brought merely for the purpose of testing the validity of the initiative ordinance which provides that liquor licenses may not be issued outside of incorporated towns except for bona fide hotels with thirty-five sleeping apartments. After passing upon the Connelly case Judge Denny also made an order in the case of the People vs. Ellsworth, who keeps a saloon on the Healdsburg road, near this city, denying the writ of habeas corpus applied for, and remanding Ellsworth to the custody of the Sheriff. An appeal will also be taken to the highest court in this case at the same time as one decision will settle both cases.
- Press Democrat, December 20, 1912
- Press Democrat, December 29, 1912
At midnight last night all over Sonoma county the dispensing of intoxating liquors outside of incorporated towns in saloons, roadhouses and resorts ended for the present at least until the Supreme court shall have determined the validity or invalidity of the anti-roadhouse initiated by the people at the November election. The reason for the closing of the places in the outside territory is because the licenses expired at midnight last night and no new ones have been issued by tho supervisors in accordance with their resolution to await the decision by the highest tribunal in the State on the antl-roadhouse ordinance already mentioned.
Attorney Thomas J. Butts, who represented E. N. Ellsworth in his habeas corpus proceedings, growing out of his arrest, charging that he was violating the anti-roadhouse ordinance, received word that the Appellate court had upheld Judge Thomas Denny of this county, who denied the writ of habeas corpus. The Appellate court does not pass upon any of the points in the case, merely denies it so that it can get to the Supreme court with as little delay as possible. The court's order is as follows...
... The Connelly case is not disposed of, but the points urged in the Ellsworth case were practically the same as in the Ellsworth habeas corpus matter.
- Press Democrat, January 1, 1913
- Santa Rosa Republican, January 3, 1913
This was followed by a motion granting licenses to J. D. Connolly, W. L. McCray, E. E. LaFranchi, L. B. Selenger, John Lopus, F. M. Haley, Morris Levy, Boyes Hot Springs, (a corporation); H. P. Trusty, Theodore Richards, E. Forni, W. H. Wilson, P. L. Crlblet and Geo. Fetters, they having filed affidavits with the county clerk that they were bona fide proprietors of hotels with thirty-five or more rooms.
On filing sworn statements with the county clerk that they were proprietors of bona fide hotels, now under construction, which will contain thirty-five or more rooms, liquor licenses were also granted H. Hoerner, D. J. Crone, Louis Larnotte and Parenti Brothers.
- Press Democrat, January 7, 1913
He finds so many loopholes in the initiative law passed last fall that this step becomes necessary in order that any prosecutions may be made under it. These deficiencies and the need of a penalty are ably set forth in the following letter:
The Initiative ordinance is uncertain and defective in these particulars: First: It places no limitation on the power of the Board to issue licenses, but simply prohibits the sale of liquors, except by a person engaged in conducting a hotel of thirty-five sleeping apartments for guests. In other words, it permits the Supervisors to give a license to a man who has no right to sell liquor after the license is granted...
...Fifth: It fails to discriminate along the line of decency or indecency, morality or immorality. The question of how many rooms the dealer has does not determine this question. Much more important than the number of rooms are the question as to whether or not the liquor dealer is a fit person, or his place a fit place for a saloon.
...But the Board has power to make such additional regulations as it deems appropriate. As any ordinance you adopt can go into effect in thirty days, the adoption of the proposed ordinance would soon provide a clear and efficient method of enforcing all the ordinances relating to the liquor traffic...
- Press Democrat, January 10, 1913
Assistant District Attorney George W. Hoyle prosecuted the case and Guidi was defended by Thomas Jefferson Butts. Lawyer Butts announced after the trial that he would take an appeal to the Superior court for a ruling on a question which he says is involved, as to whether the county ordinance is in force or what was repealed by the initiative ordinance. The question is said to he somewhat hazy.
Justice Atchlnson postponed sentence of the accused until Tuesday, and in the meantime Lawyer Butts will take his appeal.
- Press Democrat, March 8, 1913
Attorney T. J. Butts filed a bill of exceptions yesterday in the case of the People against Charles Guldi of Kenwood, convicted by a jury in Justice Atchinson’s court of selling liquor in violation of the initiative dry ordinance and fined $l5O.
The attorney for the defendant will base his appeal entirely on the validity of the action of the court in accepting the conviction under the initiative ordinance and fining him under the county ordinance. It is claimed that the initiative ordinance repealed the county ordinance in its entirety, leaving the law without a penalty.
Two other cases from violation of the law for selling liquor were up in the Superior Court yesterday. These were both under the old county ordinance and the Wylie local option law in Supervisor Green’s district.
C. J. Curtis of Graton, charged with the sale of liquor In "dry" territory, had an information filed against him in open court by the district attorney before Judge Seawell and the arraignment was set for March 24, next Monday. The case of Hugh McConnell of Forestvllle, recently arrested on a similar charge, was given similar treatment. These two cases will probably be tried very shortly and will be the first to be heard under the Wylie law in Sonoma county.
- Press Democrat, March 19, 1913
Guidi was arrested after the Initiative ordinance had been adopted at the special election and was operative under the old county ordinance passed by the Board of Supervisors. He was convicted of selling liquor without a license and fined under the penalty clause of the old ordinance.
The attorneys for Guidi contended that after the initiative ordinance had been adopted it superceded all liquor license ordinances previously passed by the supervisors and left the county without any penalty for selling liquor without a license as the initiative ordinance contained no penalty. The district attorney held that the initiative was simply an amendatory ordinance to the previous liquor license ordinance of the county dealing with only one phase of the business and that all old ordinances not in direct conflict with the new law were still operative.
Judge Seawell, in passing on the appeal from the Justice’s court, sustained this view and upheld the district attorney’s position. The opinion of the court in full is as follows:
- Press Democrat, April 2, 1913
Attorneys Rolfe L. Thompson and E. W. Kilgore were present representing the protestants in several cases, while Attorney A. B. Ware appeared for several petitioners. At the morning session a number participated in the arguments, and at times considerable excitement was created and feelings engendered. The afternoon session passed off quietly.
As a result of the hearings the supervisors before adjourning for the day passed a resolution limiting the number of licenses to be Issued at Geyservllle to two and set May 8 at 10:30 for hearing the petitions of [six people]...
The applications of John Walk and Sam N. Cowan of Kenwood, and N. Bacci of Rincon Hill, to which protests had been made, were taken under advisement.
Licenses were granted to James A. Serres of Alder Glen Springs, Fred Tartter of Fulton, James E. McKenna, Plantation House, and L. Bevier of Guernevllle.
It was also Voted to grant to Morris S. Enio, at Sea View; A. W. Ellingwood, at Penngrove, and E. A. Mason, at Geyservllle, upon their furnishing good and sufficient proof that they had complied with the terms of the county initiative ordinance, in reference to having 35 furnished rooms in their hotel.
A new feature of the license question was injected into the situation with the presentation of a petition by residents of Sonoma and vicinity asking the board to rescind its resolution of February 7, limiting the number of licenses to be issued in the district between Eldridge and Shellville to 11 and asking the board to hear the petition for licenses from Paul Varmucci, Mary Farrell, H. P. Mathewson and George Garoni.
...Kenwood was represented at the hearing by a very large delegation. Among the number were [10 people]. The Guernevllle section was also well represented at the hearing of the petition from that district. Among those present were George E. Guerne [and 10 other people].
- Press Democrat, April 12, 1913
The complaint will be heard by the Board of Supervisors. It is charged that the resort is visited by dissolute men and women with the approval ot the proprietors and that the place is conducted in an immoral manner. There has been much complaint regarding the resort from those residing in the neighborhood and the officers, and now it is expected that a case will be presented to the Supervisors which will warrant the revoking of their license.
- Press Democrat, April 12, 1913
- Press Democrat, May 10, 1913
Superior Judge Emmet Seawell made an order in the Superior court Thursday afternoon whereby fifty-eight quarts of whiskey, 420 pints of beer, and some fixings, found on the premises of Hugh McConnell at Forestville when a search warrant was made for evidence to support the charge that McConnell was violating the local option law, will be destroyed.
The court also ordered the destroying of 200 pints of “near beer," two cases of real beer and two cases of malt found on the premises of C. J. Curtis at Graton.
McConnell entered a plea of guilty of violation of the law in the Superior court on Thursday afternoon and Judge Emmet Seawell imposed a fine of $150.
The fifty-eight quarts of whiskey will be used medicinally at the county hospital for the patients needing such nourishment as prescribed by the county physician. The other liquor has found its way down the sewer.
- Press Democrat, June 6, 1913
The Supreme court of the State of California, in its opinion, mentioned in this paper on Sunday morning, has practically upheld the county ordinance which provides that a retail liquor license cannot be issued outside of incorporated cities and towns in Sonoma county except to bona fide hotels with thirty-five rooms,
The validity of the ordinance is practically sustained in all its details in the opinion of the highest tribunal which was rendered in the Ellsworth case.
Ellsworth, who kept a roadhouse on the Healdsburg road, just outside the city limits of Santa Rosa, was arrested for violating the ordinance and was punished. The contention was made that the new ordinance could not hold him as it did not contain any penalty clause. In passing upon this point the court was also referred to others.
The matter is one of such general interest in Sonoma county that The Press Democrat herewith presents the opinion of the Supreme court in full.
- Press Democrat, June 17, 1913
Armed with search warrants issued by Justice of the Peace Harlow of Petaluma, Sheriff Jack Smith and Deputy Sheriffs McIntosh and Rasmussen entered the Riverside resort about two miles below Petaluma, and took possession of a quantity of beer and whiskey. H. F. Arenburg, the proprietor of the resort, was placed under arrest and taken before Justice Harlow, and was admitted to bail in the sum of $250 cash, which he furnished. His preliminary examination will be held within a few days.
Sheriff Smith found the blind pig well stocked with beer. A quantity of whiskey was also seized and loaded on a van. It was taken to Petaluma and later in the day shipped to this city, where it will be held as evidence and later confiscated.
The Riverside was a notorious resort in the days before the anti-roadhouse ordinance went into effect. It is on the San Rafael road about two miles south of Petaluma.
Leaving Petaluma, Sheriff Smith went to Freestone, where he visited a resort run by B. Shreeve...
- Santa Rosa Republican, June 17, 1913
The Superior Court of this county will pass upon certain conditions Imposed by the county initiative ordinance that abolished roadhouses and provided that no license could be Issued other than to bona fide hotel, outside of incorporated cities, with thirty-five separate sleeping apartments.
The Court will construe the ordinance and will decide whether tents or cottages that now in some instances make up the thirty-five rooms suggested in the ordinance, are permissible, or whether it means that all the rooms must be under one roof. A contention has been raised that either comes under and is sufficient obligation to meet the ordinance.
Tn the Superior Court on Thursday the People of the State of California is plaintiff, and P. S. Newton, proprietor of a hotel on the Russian River in western Sonoma, is made defendant in a suit commenced for the purpose of having the ordinance construed regarding the tents and cottages forming pat [sic] of the rooms of a hotel. District Attorney Clarence F. Lea and Assistant District Attorney Geo. W. Hoyle are attorneys for the people. The decision will settle a much mooted question, and the same will be awaited with interest.
- Press Democrat, June 20, 1913
Jacob Koblar, a Mt. Olivet man, arrested again on a charge of the violation of the liquor license ordinance, applied for a writ of habeas corpus in the Superior Court on Saturday. He was admitted to ball in the sum of $1,000, which he furnished, and Judge Denny set the hearing of the writ for Monday afternoon at two o'clock. An interesting point will be involved in the decision of the matter, Koblar claims that he is running a club.
- Press Democrat, June 13, 1913
Notices were received here Thursday from the Clerk of the Appellate Court at Sacramento, conveying the information that the case of The People vs. Connolly had been affirmed by that court.
This was a case that recently attracted widespread interest in this county and elsewhere as it involved the right of the people to use the initiative for the purpose of enacting regulations governing the liquor traffic.
Subsequent to the initiative liquor ordinance at the election last fall, the Appellate Court in another case held in substance, that the initiative could not be used for the purpose of regulating the liquor business and that the local option law was the sole method of regulating such business by vote of the people. That decision was made in the celebrated Zany case.
Its effect was to render the Sonoma County initiative ordinance invalid, should that decision stand.
Prior to that ease a decision had been rendered in the Appellate Court of the southern district, to the opposite effect. To clear up this uncertainty. District Attorney Clarence F. Lea instituted the Connolly case, which was a suit to enjoin the defendant
from conducting a retail llpuor business without having a thirty-five room hotel. The suit was based on the contention that the Sonoma County ordinance was legal. This contention of the District Attorney has been sustained.
J. E. Pemberton was associated with the District Attorney and his assistant, G. W. Hoyle, in the case. Hon. T. J. Geary and T. J. Butts represented the defendant and R. L. Thompson and Ross Campbell appeared as amicus curiae. An injunction was granted by the lower court. Judge Thos. C. Denny presiding. The defendant appealed to the Appellate Court where the matter was again argued. The attorneys amicus curiae again appeared there and tried to secure a dismissal of the case, which the court denied.
The decision follows the habeas corpus in re Ellsworth recently decided by the Supreme Court. The effect of the decision is to hold that the initiative ordinance is valid.
The District Attorney has instituted another injunction case in the Superior Court to secure on interpretation of the doubtful language in the ordinance. As soon as judgment is secured in that case it is hoped that the uncertainties of the law will be definitely determined.
- Press Democrat, July 4, 1913
Superior Judge Denny again sustained District Attorney Clarence F. Lea in his prosecution of the violators of the roadhouse ordinance in Sonoma county, by denying Jacob Koblar a writ of habeas corpus and remanding him into the custody of the Sheriff, yesterday afternoon.
Some time since Koblar was arrested on evidence furnished by a detective the District Attorney had employed, that Koblar was again violating the ordinance and a complaint was sworn out and Koblar was arrested and taken before the justice court. He then applied for a writ of habeas corpus, and yesterday Judge Denny heard arguments. When the case was submitted he made an order as stated above.
Koblar urged that he was entitled to dispense liquor, as a club, known as "Local Mt. Olivet Social Club,” had been organized at his place, but the District Attorney maintained that he was violating the anti-roadhouse ordinance, club or no club. Judge Denny’s ruling yesterday virtually holds that such clubs as Koblar says he has organized at his place are unlawful.
At the opening of the proceedings in Judge Denny’s court yesterday, Assistant District Attorney George W. Hoyle appeared for the People, and Koblar was represented by his counsel, H. W. A. Weske. Attorney R. L. Thompson appeared and asked to be appointed amicus cura and to be associated in the case for the prosecution. He introduced a surprising affidavit in support of his position, going so far as to allege that there had been collusion on the part of the District Attorney’s office in the preparation of the complaint and the attempt was being made, he said, to present the matter to the court in the wrong light.
There was some warmth aroused over the unexpected attack of such an affidavit, and when he got an opportunity. Assistant District Attorney George W. Hoyle sternly repudiated the insinuations contained in the affidavit, as did District Attorney Lea later in the day.
The court proceeded with the hearing of the matter and during the argument many citations were used and the ordinance and its language frequently cited.
The Assistant District Attorney insisted that Koblar’s supposed club was only a subterfuge and that he was plainly violating the provisions of the law and ordinance. Attorney Thompson acquiesced in the remarks of counsel. Attorney Weske, representing Koblar, took another viewpoint. Koblar will have to take his punishment now, that he has been refused the writ.
Attorney Thompson also produced affidavits yesterday from two detectives, said to be Pinkerton men, Von Appen and Ring, and who were employed recently by G. J. K. Bigelow in the Sonoma Valley, one of whom is said to have stopped at the Koblar place last Thursday night, and to whom Koblar is said to have imparted information that the liquor interests would try another move if the organization of clubs did not prove effective, and that a wholesale branch would be established for the distribution of liquors at his place, with himself acting as agent.
- Press Democrat, July 23, 1913
Attorney Rolfe L. Thompson filed an affidavit in Judge Denny's Court which has proved a sensation in the charges that it makes. The matter was filed by Attorney Thompson as attorney amicus curae (friend of the court); and shows some startling things in the trial of Jacob Kobler, which was being heard before the Court that day.
Upon the result of this trial depended the existence of the roadhouse, it would tell whether the roadhouse could come back into the county despite the wishes and votes of the people or not.
There had been a complaint filed in the justice’s court charging Mr. Kobler with selling liquor without a license, this complaint had been drawn up by the District Attorney's office, and had been sworn to by a deputy sheriff. As shown by Mr. Thompson, the complaint after charging Mr. Kobler with selling liquor without a license stated that he had done so "under the following conditions.” Then followed what was really a defense instead of a complaint. It is stated that a social club had been organized “for the moral and intellectual” uplift of the members: that incidental to the club it kept and sold liquor to its members. Mr. Kobler was the manager of this club and sold the liquor as such manager.
After the arrest, Mr. Weske, attorney for Mr. Koblar, applied to the Superior Court with Judge Denny sitting, for a writ of habeas corpus. According to law upon the hearing following the granting of a writ of habeas corpus ‘which hearing is to decide whether there are facts sufficient to hold the prisoner or not), the judge in deciding the matter can only take into consideration the facts stated in the complaint This was a peculiar situation, the judge had only a "defense” to hold the prisoner.
In the documents filed by Attorney Thompson, the district attorney’s office is charged with filing a complaint the face of which indicates that it is a portion of a frame-up for the purpose of procuring a court decision to permit road houses to resume business in Sonoma county.
Judge Thomas C. Denny stated from the bench that the pretended club of Mr. Koblar should have been proved as a matter of defense and not set up in the complaint by parties who had brought the action.
Mr. Thompson had the affidavits of two Pinkerton detectives that had been working on the case for him. The facts as shown in their affidavit, which was read in open court, was startling. It showed that the club had as members among others the Grace Brothers Brewery and the Enterprise Brewing Company of Sebastopol. The by-laws of the club showed that the only requirement for membership was the payment of thirty-five cents, and the majority vote of the "members present;" which of course could mean the members already lined up before the bar.
To Detective Ring Mr. Koblar is alleged to have unbosomed himself freely, and in his confidences set forth the coming action of the liquor interests in case the present action did not restore the road houses, and permit the sellllng of liquor. According to the affidavit filed by Ring, and presented by Thompson, should the present “club” of Poblar rove [sic, sic] to be too frail to pass muster in the courts, in the present action, he was to deed part of his property at Woolsey station over to Grace Brothers Brewing Company and the Enterprise Brewery at Sebastopol, and then he (Koblar) was to act as the agent of these corporations. Koblar said to the detective that Bigelow of Sonoma was the only man whom the liquor interests held in fear.
He also stated to Ring “that they did not fear the district attorney, for he was a good fellow and would not hurt them any more than he could help.”
Judge Denny from the bench without any hesitation dismissed the writ and remanded Koblar to the custody of the sheriff. The Judge summed up. He said:
"If this pretended social club really existed, it ought not to have been set up in the complaint; that is a matter for the petitioner’s (prisoner's) defense. There is no question in my mind: this is another way of whipping the devil around the bush; this social club is Just a subterfuge. If I should discharge this prisoner, I have no doubt all these roadhouses, which the people here just voted out, would be back in a week."
- Healdsburg Tribune, July 24, 1913
“And we further recommend that no licenses be issued simply on the recommendation of one member of the board, in whose district the applicant seeks a license, as has been the custom, but that licenses be authorized by the board as a whole, and not otherwise.
“We further recommend that the board immediately proceed to investigate and determine what proprietors of hotels now holding licenses, are actually qualified, and that they revoke the license of those not so qualified.
"And we further recommend that the officers of this county proceed to prosecute with diligence all persons who are selling liquors contrary to the ordinances of this county.”
The above recommendation was made by the Sonoma county grand jury in its partial report to Judge Denny in the Superior Court, prior to adjournment ot the call of Foreman Robert Potter Hill, Thursday afternoon. The recommendation was ordered filed by the court.
- Healdsburg Tribune, July 24, 1913
...Some weeks ago the opposition to Weise met and selected E. W. Kilgore as their candidate against Weise. So that the grounds of the recall petition may be understood the following is a copy thereof:
Petition to recall J. H. Weise, Supervisor, First District of Sonoma County, California.
We, the undersigned qualified electors of the First Supervisorial District of the County of Sonoma, State of California, demand the recall of J. H. Weise, the duly elected, qualified and acting Supervisor of said district, and that his successor be elected in the manner provided by law.
For grounds of this petition we allege:
That the said J. H. Welse was elected. and qualified as such Supervisor of the First District of Sonoma County. California, on January 1, 1913, and ever since said time has been, and still is the duly elected, qualified and acting Supervisor of said district, and during said time has been and still is guilty of misconduct in office, as follows:
1. In falling to keep his pledge to confine the issuing of liquor licenses to a minimum, and to uphold the Anti-Roadhouse ordinance.
2. In advising, encouraging and issuing liquor licenses in defiance of the spirit and plain provisions of the Anti-Roadhouse ordinance, to persons not engaged in conducting a bona fide hotel with 35 sleeping apartments properly furnished for guests.
3. In advising and recindlng the resolution of the Board of Supervisors, limiting the number of licenses in a portion of said district, to eleven.
- Press Democrat, July 25, 1913
District Attorney Clarence F. Lea last night gave out the following statement in reply to an attack made upon his office In the Kobler case in the Superior court by Attorney Rolfe L, Thompson, which was given wide publicity yesterday in a paper specially published for that purpose:
BY CLARENCE F. LEA
District Attorney of Sonoma County
It is commonly said that people would rather hear evil than good of their public officials. Whether this be true or false it is doubtless true of some. The credulity that is willing to believe without investigation or just cause to accept unfounded attacks on public officials, furnishes a temptation to the unscrupulous *nd disreputable.
Ever since the adoption of the initiative liquor ordinance in this county I have been subjected to unscrupulous persistent, and premeditated attacks, all emanating from a very small coterie of hypocrites. In order that the public may understand the history of this so-called roadhouse controversy and how much merit there is in these attacks, I desire to briefly recite the facts.
Shortly after the adoption of the initiative ordinance the Appellate Court of the Third District decided what is known as the Zany case. That case in effect held that the local option law furnished the only means by which liquor regulations could be established. The effect of the decision, if not reversed, was to nullify the initiative ordinance adopted by the people of Sonoma County. The decision, however, was contrary to a former decision of another district court made in the Giddlngs case. Shortly after the Zany decision R. L. Thompson visited my office and urged the institution of a suit to establish the validity of the Sonoma county ordinance, I refused to associate him in such a case, but on my own Initiation I filed the case of People vs. Connolly, which was based upon the theory that the initiative ordinance was legal and if sustained by the Appellate Courts would reverse the Zany case and establish the law for our county. That was the object which Mr. Thompson himself had claimed to desire.
After instituting the Connolly case, Mr. Thompson wrote articles in the public press of this county, alleging that the Connolly case was instituted bv me “for the benefit of the roadhouse.” And by frequent insinuations and innuendo sought to create the impression that my purpose was to defeaf the initiative law. Mr. Thompson, through the press, repeatedly informed the public in substance that the Connolly case could not be decided in favor ol the people but would be decided on a technical point.
Mr. Thompson neglected, however, to tell the people that the only party directly concerned in that suit, who was trying to evade its decision on the merits, was himself. He has never told the public that when the Connolly case came up for hearing in the Appellate court that he appeared there and tried to secure its dismissal and prevent a judgment sustaining the Sonoma county initiative law, on a purely technical point.
After the Connolly case was finally decided, sustaining the validity of the county ordinance, Mr. Thompson, inspired articles written for the benefit of the public, stating that the decision in the Connolly case is "one of the most important cases for Sonoma county that has been decided in years.” The same newspaper articles inspired by himself are full of self-praise and he attempts to appropriate the credit for the very decision which he used every means in his power to prevent.
In fact, his attitude in that case, as in the whole roadhouse controversy, has been purely selfish and hypocritical. R. L. Thompson has not been true to the anti-roadhouse cause. He has tried to juggle with the matter for his own aggrandizement, all the while sacrificing the interests of those he deceived into believing he was serving. He has been trying to serve his selfish interests and do a little dirty politics instead of really and in good faith attempting to aid in the enforcement of the law. He has never filed a complaint for a single violation of that law; he has never requested this office to file one. Practically his whole attempt has been not to fight the roadhouse but to try to besmirch and injure the district attorney. Instead of trying to aid and encourage and assist the district attorney In these cases, the public is well familiar with the fact that he has constantly hampered, attacked and obstructed the officers in trying to enforce the law.
While the Connolly case was pending Mr. Thompson told me in private that he knew that I stood for decency in public life, and had my best interests at heart. While he was trying to convince me of his faith in me he was at the same time writing articles for the newspapers, trying to convince the public of his lack of faith In me.
At the December meeting of the Board of Supervisors, in conformity to my suggestion, the Board of Supervisors refused to issue any license and deferred any motion until January. Notwithstanding the upper courts had rendered no decision on the matter, at the January meeting of the Board, I was instrumental in procuring the Board of Supervisors to adopt the resolution against issuing any license until proof was made to their satisfaction that the applicant had thirty-five rooms, as required by the ordinance.
The initiative ordinance provided no penalty for its violation and at my suggestion the Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance providing a penalty and making it possible for any citizen to initiate a criminal prosecution for violation of the ordinance.
As since decided by the Supreme court, the initiative ordinance did not limit the power of the Board in issuing licenses to any person, whether hotel-keeper or not, but only made it against the law "to sell" liquor without a license. The ordinance so adopted by the Board made the initiative ordinance operative when without such ordinance and resolution, it was, from a legal standpoint, practically a dead letter.
About the first of the year Mr. Thompson was instrumental in procuring the filing of a suit against the Board of Supervisors, alleging that they threatened to issue licenses regardless of the initiative ordinance, when in truth and in fact he knew exactly the contrary to be the truth. The case was evidently intended purely for the purpose of creating distrust of the Board of Supervisors and myself. When it came to trial he absolutely failed to produce a single witness to sustain his false charge.
Judge Seawell immediately decided that the evidence was all one way and the charge groundless. Consistently with his course of duplicity and chicanery, that he has pursued during the last eight months, Mr. Thompson is again trying to convince the public of a conspiracy and collusion of the district attorney in reference to the Kobler case. This time he thinks he has found a mare’s nest.
The truth in the Kobler case is as follows:
Over a year ago I assisted in prosecuting Kobler before the Board of Supervisors in a proceeding in which his license to sell liquor was taken from him. Complaints have been made of his selling liquor illegally. I caused the evidence to be procured and a complaint was filed against him on that ground on July 23, 1912. The complaint was prepared in this office to which he pleaded guilty and paid a fine of $100.
A few weeks ago complaint was again made to this office in reference to his selling liquor illegally. I employed a detective to visit the Kobler place to procure the evidence against him. I advanced the money out of my own pocket with which to pay the detective and pay his own expenses in procuring the evidence. The detective stayed in that vicinity a few days and procured evidence which thoroughly showed that he was again violating the law.
I prepared a complaint in my office, charging him with selling liquor without a license. I also prepared search warrant papers and caused proper affidavits to be made for searching the premises and confirm the evidence we already had. This was done at my instigation.
The complaint filed in that case was prepared in the usual form, of which we have used many. After Kohler’s arrest I learned from his attorney that he had been advised by an attorney that the so-called “club" system, which he had created, was a defense to our charge. I told the attorney that in my opinion it was no defense whatever. That in my opinion the club was not a bona fide club and that even it it were, under the Sonoma county ordinance, it was a crime for him to sell intoxicating liquor without a license. We stipulated to present the matter to the Superior court on petition for a writ of habeas corpus by the defendant. I prepared another complaint in the same language as the first complaint and further setting forth the character of the so-called club, as set forth in the by-laws thereof, of which we procured a copy.
At the time this stipulation was entered into it was distinctly understood that Kobler was to be prosecuted by me for his illegal sale of liquor, even though the Superior Court should rule against us on the complaint under which the defendant petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus. In other words, my contention was and is that every club, whether bona fide or not, is required to have a license before engaging in the business of selling intoxicating liquor, and in the second place, that the Kobler club was not a bona fide club.
Under these circumstances the Kobler case came up in the Superior Court, where Mr. Thompson appeared and viciously, corruptly and without the slightest foundation of fact to justify his charge, accused me of collusion with the defendant for the purpose of getting a decision to permit the illegal sale of liquor.
Mr, Thompson’s charge was absolutely false. It would be a reflection upon his intelligence to suppose that he did not know that it was false. He did not make the slightest investigation to find out whether it was true or false, because he knew it was false. His action In the matter is entirely due to his inordinate desire for the spotlight and preferment. It Is consistent with his purpose as evinced during eight months of duplicity and deception, to make the road house question a means of serving selfish ends and venting personal spleen instead of acting for the benefit of the community or the public.
The question presented on the hearing was whether or not the complaint drawn by me stated an offense against Kobler assuming that all the facts stated therein were true. That was the sole legal question that was decided or could be decided on the hearing. With that question the Judge agreed with the contention of the district attorney and absolutely sustained the position I had taken in the matter. The fact that the decision was in our favor alone explodes all the furore which Mr. Thompson attempts to create. Mr. Thompson displayed his own duplicity in the matter before he left the court room by specifically admitting that the contentions of the district attorney were correct, as a matter of law. Namely, that the complaint showed that Kobler was guilty of the offense charged.
Any attempt to use the name of Judge Denny to besmirch me about the matter is absolutely vicious and without justification. I am authorized by Judge Denny to state that by no word or act of his in the case did he mean or intend to cast the slightest reflection upon the district attorney, and that he does not question my motive or sincerity in the case.
Both the complaints filed against Kobler recently, on my initiation are still in the Justice Court, and Mr. Kobler will be prosecuted on one of these complaints and the thought of doing otherwise was never suggested to my mind until mentioned In the unscrupulous, scandulous and villianous attack of R. L. Thompson.
During the last year Mr. Thompson’s "zeal for righteousness” has prompted him to inspire more than a score of newspaper articles all aimed at questioning my motive; besmiching [sic] my reputation and creating distrust in the minds of the public. What motive is behind these attacks I will submit to the honest judgment of conscientious and intelligent people. It is sufficient to say that the motive is not honorable nor just nor right. I believe It is the duty of every man to preserve his good name for himself, for his family, for his friends and for society. It Is particularly desirable that those in public positions should preserve their good name. But more important than that, it is necessary that they should deserve it.
I have been district attorney of Sonoma county for more than six years. Regardless of what any shyster, hypocrite or knave may say, I deserve a good name. I have prosecuted alike friend and foe, rich and poor, and have tried to dispose of every case as its merits appeared to me, regardless of what might be the influence of public clamor behind them.
There is not a man on this earth that can state a single specific fact questioning my motive in reference to the initiative law. My motive has been clean and sincere. The door of my office has been open to every person who desired to make a charge and have a case investigated. And those who have questioned my motive have done so in deceived ignorance or maliciously and corruptly, as has R. L. Thompson.
I have long since learned that however sincere we may be, we are not exempt from attacks of calumny and detraction. But I want to say that R. L. Thompson, nor any other man can, on oath, charge me with any immoral collusion without committing the crime of perjury.
- Press Democrat, July 26, 1913
Editor Republican: --
In reply to the personal assault made upon me by the District Attorney, published in the morning Press Democrat, I only wish to say I believe the facts recited do not justify the conclusions of the District Attorney, nor the language in which the article is couched.
The public is perfectly familiar with the road-house litigation, and I shall not weary them by reviewing it from my standpoint. Everybody knows that Attorney Ross Campbell and myself were engaged and acted as counsel in behalf of the ordinance. Everyone knows that in every proceeding in which we appeared our contentions were upheld by the highest courts of the state. This fight was against the road-house, and not against the District Attorney.
So far as answering the personal charges made against me, it seems neither worthy nor necessary.
R. L. THOMPSON
- Santa Rosa Republican, July 26, 1913
Nearly a year ago the people of Sonoma county voted by a large majority to close the saloons outside of incorporated towns and cities. They did this under the initiative law and not under the Wiley iocal option law. Bonafide hotels of the county possessing thirty-five or more rooms were exempt from the operation of the law.
At once a contest was begun to defeat the will of the people. The matter was held up in the courts for months, till finally the State Supreme Court passed down a decision sustaining the validity of the ordinance in every essential particular. No sooner had the law been upheld by the Superior Court of this county than the liquor interests began their work to encompass its defeat. Not fair and open opposition, but by clandestine methods, by technical flaws and by positive evasions of the law. The first evasion was the thirty-five-room hotel clause. In some instances tents were put on the premises, far away from the main building, and counted as “bed-rooms.” In other instances old machine shops, back rooms of furniture stores, were curtained off by cheese cloth and counted as bed rooms. Ihe dog house, the stable and chicken roosts were put in when necessary to make up the thirty-five rooms.
Now, the strange thing to us, is that these things were allowed and no investigation instituted. It is not sufficient for a man to go before the Board of Supervisors and swear that he has a bonafide hotel of thirty-five robms. The officers of the law should investigate thees cases and see if the applicant is telling the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Since the Supreme Court decision, other methods ot evasion have been resorted to. The "Club" system has come into vogue. That club system is nothing more nor less than a system to shield drunkenness and gambling. All the big cities are going after it with hammer and tongs and the next legislature should wipe it out in California.
In the Kobler case now before the courts of this county, about which so much bad blood has been brought to the surface, it is clear to all that the Kobler club is a fake; that it is backed up by wholesale liquor interests in this county; that these wholesale interests are the real offenders of the law. That there was a deep laid scheme to defeat the roadhouse law is plain on its face, whether or not there is any collusion by county officials.
Judge Denny certainly thought there was something wrong... and blocked the game. Judge Denny said from the bench:
“If this pretended social club really existed, it ought not to have been set up in the complaint; that is a matter for the petitioner’s (prisoner’s) defense. There is no question in my mind but this is another way of whipping the devil around the bush; this social club is a subterfuge. If I should discharge this prisoner, I have no doubt all these roadhouses, which the people have just voted out, would be back in a week.”
The people see it as Judge Denny saw it.
As to the bout between R. L. Thompson and District Attorney Lea, that’s to be regretted. They are both good men, but boys, and boys will scrap sometimes. Mr. Lea has made a good district attorney, and Rolfe L. Thompson has been the people’s friend in this entire roadhouse fight, and the people will stand by him, for he justly holds their fullest confidence.
- Healdsburg Tribune, July 31, 1913
At the meeting of the Board of Supervisors yesterday action was taken in the matter of the E. E. LaFranchi liquor license at Monte Rio, a hearing concerning which was given at last month’s session. The evidence was not deemed sufficient on which to take away the license.
The Supervisors have decided to amend the liquor license ordinance so that it will provide that dance halls cannot be located in the same building in which a saloon is conducted. It is believed that this step will put an end to future complaints.
- Press Democrat, August 6, 1913
There were three liquor license hearings before the Board of Supervisors...
...The board then took up the application of Pool & Pool, who run a saloon in Guerneville. The testimony showed that there was but one sleeping apartment in the saloon building; that there was a dining room in the rear of the building, with a summer garden between and that the sleeping apartments were located in different parts of town. One building with fourteen rooms was located across the street from the saloon and dining room; another down the street had fourteen more rooms; still another a little further on had five more rooms and across the railroad track was still another with thirteen more...
...There was no protest filed against the Pool & Pool application...
- Santa Rosa Republican, August 8, 1913
Men, women and children from Freestone crowded Supervisor’s Hall yesterday morning and afternoon, interest centering In the hearing of the application of George W. Stump for a retail license for a saloon in that place. The petition asking the Supervisors to grant the license was offset by a larger protest signed by over one hundred names.
There were a large number of children present, including a number of white-dressed girls. They accompanied their elders ahd same of them had temperance bannerettes. From statements made it seems that the saloon question has been a much discussed one in the Western Sonoma village, and there is apparently a determination to do away with a drink emporium for good.
After the Supervisors had listened to the evidence a vote was taken and the license petitioned for was denied. A suggestion that an election be held in Freestone precinct to determine the matter by vote was made. This was not accepted. It seems there was no objection to the man applying for the license but the protestants did not want a saloon at all.
Practically the entire population of Freestone came to town yesterday to witness and participate in the proceedings, They made the corridors of the county courthouse quite lively. Some time since the Supervisors denied the petition for a license for the Ward hotel, which had the requisite number of rooms required by the ordinance. In that case, as in that of Mr. Stump, there was a large protest against a saloon license being granted.
- Press Democrat, August 9, 1913
...The case of Supervisor Harry Weise, whose recall is how being sought by certain persons residing in that district, offers an instance fairly in point. Mr. Weise was elected last year on the Republican ticket, defeating a man who had been long in office and who had served his district well. The matter of saloon regulation came up, and Supervisor Weise offered a resolution limiting the number of saloons within a given territory. This resolution was adopted by the Board. An ordinance was also submitted to the people and duly adopted at a regular election, providing that summer resorts having not less than thirty-five rooms be allowed to procure licenses. Applications under the new law developed the fact that it and the resolution adopted by the Board were clearly in conflict, whereupon Supervisor Weise moves that the resolution be rescinded, very properly holding that a mandate from the people is more binding than a mere resolution adopted at a meeting of the Board of Supervisors.
And thereupon somebody immediately starts a movement for Supervisor Weise’s recall. Nobody charges that Mr. Welse has not made a good Supervisor, or that he has in any way neglected the duties of his office. On the contrary, it is freely admitted that except in regard to the one matter here noted his course since assuming office has been quite generally acceptable. No moral delinquencies of any kind are charged against Mr. Welse. He has lived his entire life in the district, and is thoroughly familiar with its needs and requirements, while his opponent in the recall election is a new man whose interests are only partially there and who spends most of his time elsewhere. The whole opposition to Mr. Welse is based upon the fact that in one single instance he failed to please certain individuals who have grown into the habit of dictating to everybody with whom they come in contact and who even seem to believe themselves privileged to interpret our laws...
- Press Democrat, August 17, 1913
Tents cannot be included In the “thirty-five separate sleeping apart apartments,” which hotels, outside of incorporated towns, must have in order to operate under a retail liquor license as contemplated in the provisions of the anti-roadhouse ordinance adopted by the people in Sonoma county last November.
Superior Judge Emmet Seawell so decided in an opinion handed down yesterday morning in the suit of the People vs. P. S. Newton. Newton is proprietor of Moscow hotel, on the Russian river. Most of the rooms ot his hotel are tents and when he was granted a license District Attorney Clarence F. Lea brought the action in court to settle the question as to whether a tent could be regarded as one of the hotel rooms mentioned in the ordinance. Judge Seawell's decision yesterday sustains the contention of the district attorney.
In his opinion yesterday, Judge Seawell overruled the demurrer interposed by Newton's attorney and the ruling made forfeits the right of Newton to run a bar in connection with his summer resort.
At first hand the opinion in the Newton case seemed to contain an intimation that Judge Seawell would also construed a “cottage” in the same light as a tent. The report that such was the case caused considerable consternation as such a ruling would have meant the closing of practically all of the prominent summer resorts in Sonoma county, many of them old established and with permanent cottages making up the required quota of rooms and more.
The question of tents was the only one passed upon by Judge Seawell, as he himself stated when interviewed last night. The question of cottages was not passed up to him for judicial determination. Anything said inferentfally in the opinion, the Judge said, must not be taken in the nature of a judicial determination as to cottages. All he passed upon was in relation to tents. The other question, he said, would involve more serious consideration.
For a time, until Judge Seawell followed up his opinion with a statement made in an interview, it appeared as if tents and cottages had been included In the decision of the Court. Judge Seawell’s decision in full is as follows;
- Press Democrat, August 30, 1913
The amended county liquor ordinance prepared for passage by the Board of Supervisors makes a number of important changes.
One change specifies the kind of rooms that come into the reckoning in the "thirty-five separate sleeping apartments" a bona fide hotel, such as is contemplated by the initiative anti-roadhouse ordinance. The new ordinance provides that said rooms must be built of wood or permanent material and must contain 500 cubic feet of air space and 8 feet of window space. The use of tents, as is already known, is forbidden under the recent decision of Judge Seawell, from being included in the thirty-five rooms necessary.
When the new ordinance becomes effective no dance hall or platform can be located within fifty feet of a bar in a bona fide hotel, the only places that can get a retail liquor license under the initiative ordinance.
Under the new ordinance no manufacturer of vinous or malt or other intoxicating liquors, or their agents, can sell less quantities than thirty gallons; and not less than one gallon, when sold to any person who is the holder of a retail license, or to any person who has not been a bona fide householder of less than six months in the locality in which the hotel is located. This will do away with the selling of beer or wine to transients, about which there has been considerable complaint, particularly in five-bottle draughts.
There is also a change in the form of application for a license. Future applications must be signed by eight of the nearest bona fide resident householders who have been such for six months prior thereto.
- Press Democrat, September 6, 1913
The ordinance is a rigid one and was passed with the intention to make it as hard as possible for any one to violate the liquor law of the county, and at the same time to deal fairly with all reputable and respectable summer resorts of the county.
Persons who sell near beer and soft drinks are forbidden to keep a stock of liquor on the premises, or within ten feet of the premises where the soft drinks are sold.
Liquor is not to be sold within 50 feet of any dance hall while a dance is in progress, unless the hall is on another floor at least nine feet above or below that upon which the dance hall is located...
- Santa Rosa Republican, September 6, 1913
The statements to which Supervisor Weise takes exceptions were said to have been uttered by Bigelow at a meeting of the Cotati Ladies' Improvement Club last Monday night, September 8. The complaint consists of three specifications. Two relate to charges which Bigelow is said to have made in which he declared that Supervisor Weise accepted a bribe in the matter of the Fetters Springs liquor license. The complaint quotes the language Bigelow 1s said to have used on that occasion while discussing the question in which he admitted that he did not have the necessary proof to back up his allegations and innuendos.
The third specification charges Bigelow with having said that Supervisor Weise admitted to him that he was boozy, meaning he was drunk, during the sessions of the Board, and that he was thus influenced to vote for the license. The plaintiff asks $25,000 on each of the first two counts and $15,000 on the third.
Supervisor Weise, needless to say, absolutely and unqualifiedly denies every allegation and imputation in the statement as made and says every one should understand that the charges are campaign slanders, designed to blacken his character in the hope of affecting certain votes in the recall election next Tuesday.
Attorney Cowan, after filing the suit, declared that it would be pressed to an issue as early as possible and vigorously prosecuted, as it was the desire to prove that a man’s character could not be assailed without the least cause unless the assailant paid the penalty.
- Press Democrat, September 14, 1913
- Santa Rosa Republican, September 17, 1913
Guernevllle Times: The Pool Brothers, John and Charles, have started out in good earnest in building their new hotel. Bright and early last Monday morning a force of men were put to work clearing the grounds preparatory to building. The hotel is to be on the present site of the Louvre and the hotel will have a fine frontage of sixty feet on Railroad avenue. It is to be a two-story building and to contain thirty-eight rooms. The construction will be in charge of Willard Cole as foreman and the work done by day’s labor. The first carload of lumber arrived on Wednesday morning and all the local men available will be put to work on the job immediately in order to rush the work to completion as early in November as possible.
- Healdsburg Tribune, October 16, 1913
A lively fight is promised when the suit comes to trial. Both sides will have many witnesses and owing to the bitterness of the campaign which eventually returned Supervisor Weise to office, or rather prevented his being ousted, as Bigelow wanted, much interest will be taken. R. L. Thompson is the defendant’s attorney filing the answer to the complaint.
- Press Democrat, October 18, 1913
A number of matters of business were transacted by the Board of Supervisors at an adjourned meeting at the Court House on Saturday. Chairman C. B. Patteson and Supervisors Weise, Hutchinson, Green and King were at their desks. Clerk W. W. Felt Jr., as usual, attended to the clerical work.
There being no opposition to the following applications for renewals of retail liquor licenses for the ensuing year, the same were granted: H. A. Richardson, Stewart’s Point; Morris Levy, Glen Ellen; George. G. Freeman, Geyserville; W. L. McCray, McCray’s; John O. Mclntosh, Penngrove; M. A. Carr, Monte Rio; E. E. Lafranchi, Monte Rio; Theodor Richards, Agua Caliente Springs; Enrico Forni, Vineburg; Ben Meyer, Embarcadero; Harry Wilkins, Glen Ellen; F. E. Haynes, Duncan's Mills; Brooks & Davie, Camp Meeker; Henry Koerner, El Verano; Mosso & Blanchini, Sonoma Grove; O. C. Benjamin, El Verano; Fetters Hot Springs Company, Fetters Springs; Louis Lamotte, El Verano; John Lopus, Cotati; J. D. Connolly, Occidental; F. M. Haley, Agua Caliente; Phil Rossi, El Verano; Boyes Hot Springs, Hot Springs; Tom W. Tull, Kawana Springs. The license for Mark West Springs was transferred to John O. Wickham.
- Press Democrat, December 28, 1913