Here are the 1910-1911 updates on what happened to some of the more interesting characters we've met in prior years:
| TENNESSEE BILL Of all the drunken hobos who passed through Santa Rosa around the turn of the century, "Tennessee Bill" was clearly the Press Democrat's favorite. He always announced his arrival in town with a window-rattling yell from the courthouse steps and ended his visit with a night or three in jail, where he would sometimes tear off his clothes and set them on fire, all the better for the city to provide him with a new set of duds. |
His real name was Charles Cornelius Tennessee Goforth - apparently he felt the extra syllable in "Tennessee Charlie" was more work than it was worth - and other newspaper editors also thought of him as their pet hobo, so it's not too hard to track his doings over the years. He boasted of having been in every jail in California and claimed he became a vagabond after his mother died, or maybe it was his wife. He sometimes said he had rich relations and was a nephew of famed statesman and politician Walter Q. Gresham, but although his mother was a Grisham she had to be a relation far many times removed, according to family trees.
In truth, he was born in February, 1840 to a Tennessee farmer, one of at least seven children. He first entered the record books in the federal census a decade later under the name, "Tennessee." Ten years after then the census-takers found him as a blacksmith in Bodega, which at the time could have been anywhere between modern Sebastopol and the coast. In 1863 he registered for the draft as a farmer in Bloomfield.
Between the ages of about 25 to 50, he appears to have been a solid citizen. He registered to vote in 1867 as a farmer in San Jose and years later, a man in Ukiah claimed to have known him shortly after the Civil War when he was "a well-to-do and highly respected citizen of San Jose...[and] the husband of an estimable young lady," so maybe there was some truth to the tragic tale he told. Certainly his fortunes turned; we find him next as a laborer in Fresno (1881) and Bakersfield (1890). Apparently sometime along there he was reborn as Tennessee Bill.
The first Tennessee Bill sighting comes from the Sacramento Daily Record Union in 1891, and finds Mr. Goforth already in full flower, infamous for shouting and claiming to have been in every jail. A correspondent from Ventura County wrote:
For the next twenty years, Tennessee Bill pops up everywhere in California. He's said to be making his 43rd tour of the state in 1898, the same year he's in Salinas shouting "Hooray for Admiral Dewey!" to celebrate the Spanish-American War. It was widely reported he died in 1897 and was buried in the Marysville potter's field; shortly thereafter a reporter almost collapsed in shock to find him sitting in an Oakland jail cell. The 1900 census captured him, like a beetle trapped in ambergris, at age sixty in Cloverdale. His job was listed as a day laborer.
Tennessee Bill's last recorded visit to Santa Rosa was in 1910, when the PD reported, "He has got somewhat feeble of late. Wednesday he was very quiet during his stay in town." Still he kept moving: A year later, he was in Ukiah: "Yesterday was bath day for the renowned Charles Cornelius Tennessee Goforth. Tennessee Bill takes a bath every time he has to and after considerable compulsion yesterday was induced to enter the tub and perform the ceremony according to the rules governing such affairs at the Byrnes hotel" (Byrnes was Mendocino County's sheriff).
He finally died January 31, 1912, and a sort-of obituary appeared in the Woodland newspaper: "...nobody who has ever seen him or heard his foghorn voice will forget him. He died a few days ago in the Santa Cruz hospital at the age of 76 [sic]. The wonder of it all is, that, leading such a vagabond life, he did not die many years ago."
He was buried as "Chas. C.T. Goforth" in the Evergreen Cemetery, Santa Cruz.
| "RAMMI" Aside from Tennessee Bill, the only person to earn a nickname from the Press Democrat in this era was Italio Ramacciotti, a traveling salesman better known as "Rammi." The PD loved to quote his tall tales, and in the 1910 item below it's reported that he had received his nomination for the office of "Inspector of Lonesome Places."|
"My duties," he told the paper, "will be to inspect all lonesome places. I shall put up my cards in places where people cannot see them and they will be lonesome, too."
This was Rammi's last visit to Santa Rosa; he died in 1911. On this occasion he was here to liquidate the stock of pianos at a music store on B Street.
| JAKE LUPPOLD
You can bet that no one else in the history of Santa Rosa ever had a "15 minutes of fame" experience that outmatched Jake Luppold's roller coaster ride of 1908. That autumn Luppold, an affable saloon owner who called himself "the mayor of Main street," announced his automobile was cursed and he was planning to set it on fire. As cars were still somewhat a novelty and out of the price range of most people, it caused a nationwide commotion. People wrote to him begging him to donate it to charity or sell it them, denouncing him as a superstitious fool, and asking for his hand in marriage. It's a riotous story told here earlier in "Bonfire of the Hoodoos."|
But only a few months afterwards, Luppold announced he was turning "The Senate" over to his longtime employee. "Mr. Luppold has not been in good health for some time past," reported the Republican paper, and was planning to rest up at Boyes' Hot Springs and travel. Then shortly before Thanksgiving, it was learned he had ended his retirement and purchased a saloon just outside of Santa Rosa at Gwinn's Corners. (According to the 1900 county map, it appears Gwinn's Corners was the modern-day intersection of Old Redwood Highway and Ursuline Road.)
It seemed like gregarious ol' Jake was back in his harness. In 1910 he threw two "bull's head dinners" and around five hundred people attended each. This was quite a big deal; these types of banquets were a great deal of work and never open to the public - usually they were held for members of men's lodges or political parties. He certainly would have engendered great good will among the Santa Rosa citizenry for these swell shindigs.
Then in 1911...nothing. If any mention of Mr. Luppold appeared in either local paper, it was small and easy to overlook. Without giving away too much, we know Luppold again sets up shop in Santa Rosa a couple of years later, giving him a third (fourth?) act in the local drama. But what happened in 1911? Was he away or sick? Even then, there should have been some word of his doings in the social columns.
SO WHAT'S A BULL'S HEAD DINNER? A hundred and more years ago, the Santa Rosa papers would regularly announce a group was planning a "bull's head dinner." But aside from an occasional mention that barbecue was served, there was never a description of the food. It was never clear: Was "bull's head" a little joke that the diners were bullheaded men, or did it mean they were literally eating the head of a cow? It was the latter, as it turns out (but that doesn't mean the former wasn't true as well).
This was a traditional Mexican dish known as barbacoa de cabeza - be forewarned that if you Google for "barbacoa de cabeza" you'll encounter some images not for the squeamish - which requires wrapping the entire head in something and baking it over low heat. It's still popular on Tex-Mex menus, but the modern method of cooking differs greatly from the traditional way it was prepared here a hundred years ago.
Today the objective is to mainly cook in place the fist-sized hunks of meat from the cheeks from a completely cleaned head: horns, eyeballs, brains, skin, tongue, ears and lips are usually removed by the butcher. The head is wrapped in banana leaves or softened cactus, even simple aluminum foil before it is baked in a regular kitchen oven or over coals in an outdoor barbacoa y horno (brick and clay oven).
The traditional version was a fiesta dish from the days of the Californios that involved baking the head in a pit barbecue lined with maguey (century plant) leaves. Little, if anything, was removed from the head aside from the horns - even the skin, complete with hair, was left on. The heads were packed in clay before being placed on the coals and buried for up to 24 hours. The skin would have been pulled off with the clay before serving.
Our modern barbacoa is more Tex than Mex; beef cheek is a lean gourmet meat, similar to brisket. The rest of the edible parts of a cow's head, however, is cartilage and offal, and norteamericanos don't particularly like eating organ meat or textures that might seem "gristly" or "greasy." The old method of cooking would have left a large variety of lean and fatty bits and the result was said to be extremely flavorful. A miner during the Gold Rush described it as " ...the finest thing that mortal [sic] ever put between his teeth...its sweetness can only be dimly guessed at by people who have never eaten it."
| HORACE ROBINSON
One of the great con men to visit Santa Rosa in the early 20th century was Horace Greeley Robinson, who claimed to be a representative of the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company and spent four days here in 1908, lecturing to packed audiences about the futuristic world where telegraph messages soon would zip through the air, sans wires. He sold shares in company stock to several locals at $20 a pop. One did a little followup sleuthing and found the stock was phony. He managed to have Robinson arrested and had his money returned; few, if any of the other |
The Press Democrat ran a 1910 update (transcribed below) that recapped the story with the added detail that despite his lengthy list of pending charges, New York police in 1909 had released him from custody (!) and he promptly disappeared, not to be recaptured for almost a year. That was certainly newsworthy, but the PD overlooked the far bigger story - that federal prosecutors had figured out that Robinson was just a salesman and frontman for the infamous Munroe brothers.
Five years earlier, George and Alexander Munroe had been caught running a "stock washing" scheme. They had made an arrangement with a junior officer at a bank so they could borrow $60,000 in the morning and return the $60k to the bank before closing, with no one the wiser. They used that interest-free money to create a complicated scam where they ultimately bought millions of shares of a particular mining stock at a steep discount, then sold it "on the curb" (meaning literally on the street in front of the stock brokerage) at two or three times their purchase price. The brothers were living like Gilded Age tycoons when the bubble collapsed on them in 1904, forcing their company, Munroe & Munroe, into bankruptcy.
Widespread newspaper coverage of their doings followed. The illustration at right was part of a 1905 wire service story that appeared in many mid-sized papers, and mentioned they had a side business peddling stock in the Marconi Wireless Telegraphy company. No one apparently realized at the time that this was another scam.
With Robinson as their loquacious traveling lecturer and nominal partner, the Munroe brothers made another fortune selling phony Marconi stock. But this time, regulators were somewhat paying attention and they found themselves under investigation for mail fraud in 1907. The brothers fled to their homeland of Canada; Munroe & Munroe suddenly closed and was immediately replaced at the same 80 Wall St. address by Robinson & Robinson (the other Robinson was Horace's dad, Louis, later arrested on the lesser charge of aiding and abetting grand larceny).
The most culpable brother, George, was arrested and brought to trial in the U.S. in 1911. He was found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison, but not for cheating people out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in the Marconi stock scam. He was convicted on charges that he and his brother, now going under the name of Hill, were selling stock in New York for the "United Shoe Shining Company" - they were actually convincing people to give them money because they promised they would soon have a monopoly on shoeshine stands. Their business would succeed, they told investors, because each stand would have a "manicure girl" available.
| S. T. DAKEN
There was considerable buzz in 1909 when a landscape painter announced plans to build an art school in Santa Rosa; the proposed building was even featured in the "Illustrated Portfolio of Santa Rosa and Vicinity," a book put together by the Chamber of Commerce and the Press Democrat to promote the town. Alas, nothing came of it, but the papers didn't seem to hold a grudge against Samuel Tilden Daken for having big dreams. Three articles about his paintings appeared in 1910 and 1911, but these were his last years in Santa Rosa; by 1912 he was |
"TENNESSEE BILL" FAR FROM DEAD, HE SAYS
"Why Bill, everybody thought you were dead and buried long ago."
The Bill addressed was none other than William Cornelius Tennessee Goforth, known to all the peace officers and thousands of people by the familiar name of "Tennessee Bill." He never fails to get a writeup in all the towns through which he passes, and is about as notorious in his meanderings and experiences as the notorious tramp "A No.-1." On and off Bill has been coming to Santa Rosa for a score of years. He has seen the inside of both the city and county jails. He formerly introduced himself to the town by emitting some heart rending shrieks, especially when he had previously intercepted Mr. John Barleycorn. He has got somewhat feeble of late. Wednesday he was very quiet during his stay in town, and left on the evening train for Ukiah, at least he said he was going there.
- Press Democrat, June 2, 1910
"RAMMI" BOUND TO RUN FOR SOMETHING
ttalio Francesco Ramacciotti, the well known piano man, who is closing out the Baldwin piano stock in this city, is a great politician and feels that he must be up and doing something for his country. Yesterday he says he received his nomination for the office of "Inspector of Lonesome Places." Directly upon the arrival of the notification he immediately called at the Press Democrat office to leave an order for cards.
"My duties," said "Rammi," with a chest expansion that was remarkable, "will be to inspect all lonesome places. I shall put up my cards in places where people cannot see them and they will be lonesome, too."
- Press Democrat, September 21, 1910
GREAT CROWDS AT THE LUPPOLD BARBECUE
It is estimated that between four and five hundred persons enjoyed the barbecue given at Gwinn's Corners on Sunday by J. J. Luppold. The meat was done to a turn and pronounced by many of those present as the finest barbecued meat they have ever eaten. Chef George Zuhart was in charge and he was much complimented. He was assisted by Assistant Chef Marble, Walter Farley, Marvin Robinson and J. Kelly. As usual "Mayor" Luppold's hospitality was dispensed with a liberal hand. The feasting began about 11:30 o'clock in the morning and continued until nearly 6 o'clock in the evening, people arriving and departing all the time. The barbecue was served on long tables under the shade trees.
- Press Democrat, June 14, 1910
LUPPOLD GIVES AN ELEGANT SPREAD
Jake Luppold again demonstrated on Sunday that he is a price of entertainers. At his resort at Gwinn's Corners he spread a feast of more than the usual excellence for his friends, the "natives." It was a bull's head dinner, and proved one of the most attractive feasts that have ever been given in this vicinity.
Hundreds from Santa Rosa went out to the spread, making the trip by vehicles of all sorts, automobiles, motor cycles and bicycles. They were extended the utmost hospitality by Mr. Luppold, and bidden to partake of the excellent dinner which he had prepared. Chef Phil Varner had carte blanc orders from Mr. Luppold to give the "natives" the best that could be procured, and the chef exerted himself to carry out these orders and please those who came to partake of the viands.
The menu was one that would tickle the palate of the most exacting and would compare favorably with the dinners of the best hotels of the metropolis. With an abundance of good things to eat and drink, the assemblage at Luppold's had a happy time.
- Santa Rosa Republican, September 19, 1910
"WIRELESS" MAN AGAIN IN TROUBLEHorace Robinson, First Arrested in Santa Rosa on Complaint of J. S. Rhodes, Once More in Captivity
Horace G. Robinson, said to be the king of swindlers, who is alleged to have operated extensively in San Francisco and San Jose, is again in jail in New York, having been arrested there yesterday as a fugitive from this state. A number of Santa Rosans remember this man and his "wireless" very well.
In two years Robinson has seen the interior of many jails on this continent and in Europe. Somehow he has always managed to regain the fresh air and after his last escape a world-wide search was instituted, resulting yesterday in his apprehension in New York.
Robinson's specialty, according to complaints filed against him, is dealing in spurious wireless Marconi stock. He took advantage of the growing importance of the wireless telegraph and it is alleged before detection left a trail of spurious wireless stock extending from coast to coast and over Europe.
He first got into trouble in California with J. S. Rhodes of Santa Rosa, who caused Robinson's arrest and detention in the St. Francis Hotel. About the same time J. L. Glenn sued the promoter for $50,000, alleging that he had alienated the affections of Glenn's wife.
In Santa Rosa it will be remembered Robinson got clear by the skin of his teeth. Rhodes not desiring to prosecute him after he had refunded the money.
Shortly after he was taken to Santa Rosa H. S. Beck of San Jose discovered that Robinson had sold him stock in a wireless telegraph corporation that existed only on paper. The Santa Clara grand jury indicted Robinson. He was arrested in New York July 31, 1909, but pending extradition proceedings was released. He did not return to New York.
Long before his arrest out here Robinson had been in trouble in New York several times. On April 30, 1905, he was arrested in New York after he had attempted to hide in a heap of discarded clothing. Little was heard of him until September, 1908, when he disappeared from Paris.
He cut a wide swath in the French capital. He was known as a man of vast fortune and on the oaken door of his richly furnished apartment hung the brass sign, "Banker, Foreign Securities, Marconi Wireless." He was continually being arrested on charges similar to those filed against him by H. S. Beck of San Jose. The charge has generally been that of obtaining money under false pretenses.
Robinson is said to be the son of a minister. His manner is suave and his hospitality unstinted. He made friends quickly and easily gained confidences.
- Press Democrat, August 25, 1910
DAKEN RETURNS FROM TRIP TO PAINT MINE
S. T. Daken, the artist, has returned from San Diego, where he visited the Premier Investment paint mine. Says Mr. Daken:
"The Premier Investor paint mine is much greater than I expected to see. The work that is done on the mine consists of three cross-cuts on the ledge. There is one cross-out on the claim known as the White Hawk. This cross-cut os very high on the ledge, and was not started from the foot wall, but is run to the hanging wall. This shows up 75 feet of paint ore of several different colors with no waste...
"...Quantity and quality are there. This mine only lacks 80 feet of being one mile long, so I guess that is quantity. This paint ore can be mined for a very small cost, not to exceed 25 cents per ton; the milling is very simple and not expensive. There are a large number of colors which are lime proof which will drive the troubles away from the tinter and frescoer. There has been no end to this trouble of colors burning out, especially in new plastered buildings. I have had seven years experience in the frescoe business and know what these troubles are."
- Press Democrat, October 19, 1910
S. T. DAKEN HAS RETURNEDBrings Back Beautiful Views of Lake Tahoe
Mr. and Mrs. Samuel T. Daken and family returned Tuesday evening from Lake Tahoe where they spent the summer. They have been gone over three months and while away Mr. Daken has combined business with pleasure, and has brought back with him many beautiful views of Lake Tahoe and the various other lakes and scenes about this famous summer resort.
In Mr. Daken's collection of paintings are Donner, Webber, Watson, Cascade and Fallen Leaf lakes, Emerald Bay, Truckee river, Lofty Peak, Idle Wilde, the Walls of Mt. Tallac, Peak of Mt. Tallac, Moonlight on Tahoe, Devil's Peak, The Five Lakes, and Redskin Point. The largest painting is of the walls of Mt. Tallac. Emerald Bay and Tahoe Turned to Gold in the Early Morning are most exquisite, and Mr. Daken prizes these above all the others. The latter was painted at 4 o'clock in the morning and the tints are most beautiful.
Mr. Daken made some thirty pencil sketches about the lakes and there is some excellent scenery shown. One wall of his studio will be devoted to his paintings made at the lake and they will soon be on exhibition. A number of his paintings are left at Tahoe Inn and all his pictures were greatly admired by people at the resorts.
The Walls of Mt. Tallac will be placed in the Flood Building in the Southern Pacific office in San Francisco on exhibition, and Russian River from Guernewood Heights, which is now being displayed here, will be removed to the Oakland office.
- Santa Rosa Republican, September 21, 1910
ARTIST DAKEN DISPOSES OF HANDSOME PAINTINGS
Artist Samuel T. Daken has recently disposed of a number of his splendid paintings. He has sold the one entitled "The Geyser Region" to a Los Angeles resident, and two handsome scenes from the Armstrong redwood grove to Senator Wright of San Diego. These pictures have been delivered to Senator Wright at Sacramento. In the near future Mr. Daken will make an exhibition of his paintings in Pasadena and at Los Angeles.
- Santa Rosa Republican, March 24, 1911
DAKEN RECEIVES TWO GOLD MEDALS AT EXHIBIT
Artist Samuel Daken has returned from San Jose, where he recently made an exhibit of his splendid pictures. These were shown at the San Jose Pure Food and Industrial Exposition and Mr. Daken was awarded two gold medals for his splendid display. One of these medals was for the best general display and the other was for the splendid picture "Russian River From Guernewood Heights." This is the Daken masterpiece and has never failed to attract much attention and win prizes wherever it has been shown.
- Santa Rosa Republican, October 3, 1911
Want to start an argument in 1910? Surefire ways to pick a fight included expressing strong views in favor of socialism, women's suffrage or school vaccinations.
By that year the anti-vaccine movement had been smoldering in the U.S. for a decade, fueled in equal measure by fears about the safety of vaccination and opposition to the principle of the government requiring perfectly healthy children to get the shot. In California, it was a significant political issue; twice the state legislature passed bills repealing the vaccination law and specifying vaccination "shall be practiced only when smallpox exists" but the governors at the time declined to sign it. Even when the state Supreme Court upheld the law in 1904 and the U.S. Supreme Court said the same thing the following year, the naysayers kept forming local chapters of the Anti-Vaccination League, signing petitions to have the laws repealed, and writing letters to the editor, often claiming that vaccines were "superstition" or "fanatic faith" that didn't prevent smallpox. Oh, and this was part of a conspiracy by doctors trying to bamboozle people by using "cooked-up statistics," all in order to perform a large scale experiment on the public and/or make themselves rich on fees from giving injections. (For more on this history, see this excellent study of the anti-vaccination movement.)
The press fanned the flames of distrust by printing all sorts of nonsense; an article in the 1904 San Francisco Call claimed, "Any person who eats a small quantity of lettuce twice a day, morning and evening, is as well protected against smallpox as it is possible for any one to be." Also, the newspaper noted, it would be smart to "avoid contact with people who have smallpox."
The papers were irresponsible in printing stories concerning the most popular conspiracy theory - that the smallpox vaccine could (somehow) cause fatal lockjaw. A vaccinated child who steps on a rusty nail can contract tetanus just as anyone else, but rarely did the papers suggest the cause of dying could be something other than contaminated vaccine. A hallmark of these articles is also to claim doctors were "puzzled" by the death or were insisting they could not be blamed for it, making them sound villainous. In a particularly egregious bit of yellow journalism, the San Francisco Call reported the 1904 lockjaw death of little Myrtle Conklin with a lengthy quote from the doctor who gave her the shot, including "My duty ends after I have applied the virus...I fail to see just how I was responsible for this death." The article was accompanied with a picture of beautiful baby Myrtle - who was actually eight years old when she died.
Some Santa Rosa parents were among those protesting the compulsory vaccinations, as described in the earlier item from 1907. But it was Berkeley that was at the vanguard of the "anti-vaccinationist" movement in the Bay Area, with some type of showdown nearly every year in that decade. One year 249 children were ousted from school for failing to have proof of vaccination when classes began in September, and their parents vowed to raise money for an injunction to force the school board to admit them. Another year they obtained a six month waiver from the district because they insisted the state would repeal the vaccination law by then. Another time the Berkeley parents swore they were gonna start their own private school for all their little special snowflakes to attend, as the law only mentioned vaccinations for public school students.
Whether it was an unintentional loophole or a carve-out in the law, the "private school" exemption made big news in 1910, when a Superior Court judge in Santa Cruz ruled it made the vaccination law unconstitutional because it was discriminatory - and besides, there was no need for enforcement as there was no epidemic at the time, revealing his bias for the anti-vaccinationists.
The judge's decision caused excitement statewide; the Press Democrat printed the story below at the top of the front page, directly below the paper's nameplate. Other papers added local color by interviewing their Superintendent of Schools, which as a group disliked the law because it forced them into the awkward role of being the vaccination police. "Parents have said to me frequently that they would take their children out of the public schools and send them to private schools rather than have them vaccinated," the San Francisco Superintendent told the papers.
Vaccine foes redoubled their efforts, forming new Anti-Vaccination League chapters and collecting thousands of signatures on repeal petitions. There was further buzz when the Alameda County Deputy District Attorney sent a letter to the school board stating vaccinations should be suspended until the state Supreme Court heard the appeal (the board ignored him and ordered vaccinations to proceed).
Nothing came of it all, but the fuss made 1910 the last hurrah of the anti-vaccine movement. There were no further reports in the papers of parental mutinies against the state school systems, nor lurid reports of children dying of vaccine-linked lockjaw. The issue remained settled until chiropractors revived it as a cause about a decade later, as discussed earlier.
HOLD THE VACCINATION LAW VOIDClass Legislation, Which Favors the Wealthy Over the Poor, Declares Judge Smith of Santa Cruz Superior Court in Refusing Mandate
Santa Cruz, March 22 -- Judge L. S. Smith rendered a decision against the State Board of Health here today in an action brought to compel the pupils of the Watsonville schools to be vaccinated. The Watsonville trustees had refused to enforce the law on vaccination and a petition for a writ of mandate to compel them to bar from the schools all children who had not been vaccinated was applied for by the State Board of Health. The action affected about 250 children.
The Court held the law was unconstitutional in that it exempted children attending private schools making it class legislation. The law as framed, he held, particularly favored those who were able to send their children to private schools, while the great majority were unable to do this and would have to suffer the consequence if the law was sound. He declared every one would favor the enforcement of the law if there was a demand for it, but as there was no epidemic there was no reason for its enforcement."
- Press Democrat, March 23, 1910
A century ago Santa Rosa was a far more colorful place. Everything was clean and bright; the town almost glowed. Words on painted metal signs popped out like neon, buildings gleamed and the sky was always electric blue with white fleecy clouds in the distance. Or so it appeared in the colorized Mitchell postcards of 1910.
Of course, every town or picturesque site photographed by Edward H. Mitchell was likewise well-scrubbed and, well, pretty as a postcard. No one would spend a hard-earned penny to buy a souvenir of a grimy factory or a vacant lot. Between about 1898 and 1923, Mitchell produced approximately 8,000 views of the Western United States which are prized today by collectors for their vibrant colors. But although Mitchell always identified where a picture was taken, he almost never revealed the year. Thanks to an item in a Santa Rosa newspaper about Mitchell's release of a new series, we know his 19 views of Santa Rosa were published in 1910.
Burbank figured prominent in this series and rightly so, as he was Santa Rosa's main tourist attraction. Also offered were a few downtown scenes that were interesting because they caught our ancestors unawares as they were waiting for the train and shopping and loafing on street corners. Note the family staring at the photographer as the driver of their auto climbs the steps of the Post Office; note also the horse manure in the street.
We can also date when most of the photos were taken to the spring of 1910 because several of the buildings were brand new - pictured are the recently completed Sonoma County Court House, the Post Office that just opened, and Luther Burbank’s soon-to-open Information Bureau. (The only obvious exception is the postcard of Burbank's cactus, which was a reprint from another photographer and copyrighted 1908). The postcards were also numbered in sequence, from #2419 to #2436 - except for the view of the library, which had the much lower number of 420. And with that, let's step into the wacky world of the Mitchell postcards.
Santa Rosa's Carnegie Library was built in 1902, heavily damaged in the 1906 earthquake, and rebuilt with a few architectural changes - you can see the Mitchell postcards for both incarnations at right. It makes fine sense that Mitchell would replace the old view with the new one and keep the same catalog number. As far as Mitchell mysteries go, this is pretty dry toast; we're just lucky that he didn't tinker with the town. Mr. Mitchell, it seems, liked to retouch his pictures. He liked to retouch them a lot.
Postcard collectors hunt down the variations. Hats appeared and disappeared, as did street lights, flagpoles, signs, chimneys, church steeples, even mountains in the background. Streams became walking paths. Locomotives appeared on previously empty train tracks. Young men turned into old men while still holding the same enormous watermelon. Oranges were shown growing on eucalyptus trees. His all-time most popular card was #2, "Seals on Seal Rocks", showing the tourist attraction near the Cliff House in San Francisco. Over the years Mitchell varied both the number of seals and rocks. And speaking of the Cliff House, which burned to the ground in 1907, Mitchell had a great view of the old place photographed in the background from the crowded beach; when it was rebuilt two years later, he kept the same people on the beach and just pasted in the new building.
Needless to say, all these tweaks were a lot of work in the days before Photoshop, particularly when most modifications were trivial. On an earlier Santa Rosa card (#856) "Field of Burbank's Crimson Poppies", some reprints had houses in the background vanish behind painted shrubbery and a glimpse of his old carriage house blurred out. Why on earth did he bother making these tiny changes? It seems a little nuts, frankly, maybe O.C.D.
Mitchell also republished some images with new numbers and titles, so the retouching was probably intended to keep the line "fresh" in the face of much competition. While other publishers couldn't beat him in quality, they undercut his prices in 1908, leading Mitchell to send the newspapers a statement that emphasized his business ethics:
|We were the first lithographing establishment in the country to give our workmen an eight-hour day and did it of our own accord. We pay our men as much per week as foreigners in the same line receive per month, and further out money is paid to American workmen who spend it at home and keep it in circulation. It was to notify the trade of these facts that we recently added the imprint 'Printed in the United States.' on all our cards."|
This isn't the place to wade deep into the history of Mitchell's postcards; there are collectors who have documented his output and personal life to a remarkable degree (mitchellpostcards.com is a good place to start.) Still, basic information can be tricky to find; when starting research on this article, I wish I knew Mitchell partnered and licensed his work with other publishers, particularly Cardinell-Vincent, which is why his distinctive cards appear under other names and sometimes in lesser quality, including "The Road of a Thousand Wonders" series (which originated as a Southern Pacific Company advertising slogan in the October, 1905 issue of Sunset, the magazine published by the railroad).
As far as I can determine, this is the first time the 1910 Santa Rosa series has been presented together in their original context. Missing are cards 2424, 2425, 2426, and 2434; what they pictured - or even if they existed - is unknown. The Sonoma County theme continued with at least three views of Petaluma, which can be seen here, here and here.
(CLICK or TAP any image to enlarge. Higher resolution images may be available from original source)
|420 - Public Library, Santa Rosa, California|
|2419 - Sonoma County Court House, Santa Rosa, California|
|2420 - Post Office, Santa Rosa, California|
(see related article)
|2421 - Santa Rosa Bank, Santa Rosa, California |
(see related article)
|2422 - Occidental Hotel, Santa Rosa, California|
|2423 - Overton Hotel, Santa Rosa, California|
(see related article)
|2427 - Burbank’s New Residence and Information Bureau, Santa Rosa, California|
|2428 - Bridge and Burbank’s Residence, Santa Rosa, California|
|2429 - Burbank’s New Residence, Santa Rosa, California|
|2430 - Burbank’s Experimental Grounds at Santa Rosa, California|
|2431 - Luther Burbank School, Santa Rosa, California|
(The school was at the current location on Julliard Park, 201 South A St.)
|2432 - Burbank’s Fruitful Spineless Cactus, Santa Rosa, California|
|2433 - Cedar of Lebanon, Santa Rosa, California|
(see related article)
|2435 - Northwestern Pacific Railroad Depot, Santa Rosa, California|
|2436 - Interior Sonoma County Court House, Santa Rosa, California|
(see related article)
POSTAL VIEWS OF SANTA ROSA OUT
A large number of handsome postals have just been turned out by Edward H. Mitchell of San Francisco showing a number of different views of Santa Rosa. They are colored and are to be sold by the local dealers at one cent each. This firm printed 300,000 cards, 20,000 each of fifteen different views. Five views are Burbank postcards and include the bridge and Burbank's residence; the experimental grounds, his new residence, the information bureau and his old residence, and his fruitful spineless cactus. The other views are interior of the court house, exterior of the court house, Occidental hotel, Overton hotel, postoffice, public library, Santa Rosa bank building, Luther Burbank school, Northwestern Pacific railroad depot, Cedar of Lebanon.
- Santa Rosa Republican, April 22, 1910
What's better than a circus coming to town? How about TWO circuses in the same month, with one headed by Buffalo Bill, himself?
Envy anyone who was a kid in 1910 Santa Rosa. There were plenty of things to do downtown, if you had at least a dime and a nickel; there were four movie theaters that screened about two dozen short films every week (sometimes with vaudeville acts as part of the show) and the Pavilion roller skating rink on A street with a bowling alley around the corner on B street - bowling being quite the national fad that year. Adults and children alike were crazy over everything related to aviation in 1910, and we had Fred J. Wiseman as our hometown bird-man; you could bicycle up to Windsor and watch him practice flying over the pastures. And even if smaller girls and boys didn't understand all the particulars in the indictment and trial of Dr. Burke, they must have known from all the grown-ups whispering that something really important was happening at the court house (teens continuing their studies in behind-the-barn sex education must have been stupefied when the testimony turned to the possibilities of astral or immaculate conception).
The Barnum & Bailey circus was first to arrive that September. (Yet another smaller circus had visited Santa Rosa in May: The Campbell Brothers Circus, with twenty "happy jolly funny clowns", a lady in a cage with a bunch of snakes, and The Marvelous Renello, who could flip a complete somersault on a bicycle.) As typically happened, Sonoma County virtually closed down for the two days Barnum & Bailey were here; the County Clerk said not a single marriage license was issued the day of the first performances, which was unprecedented. The papers reported celebrity sightings of a boxing champion and Jack London, and even the Barlow boys marched into town from their Sebastopol work camp. But even though it was a cracking good show, it was only a warmup to Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Pawnee Bill's Far East shows later that month - after all, it would be the last opportunity ever to see the legendary Buffalo Bill.
Col. William F. Cody - AKA Buffalo Bill - was America's first superstar, as Larry McMurtry points out in his enjoyable bio, "The Colonel and Little Missie." Probably every boy and young man (older ones, too) in late 19th century America dreamed of living his rootin' tootin' life in the Wild West, at least as it was portrayed in lurid dime novels. Gordon Lillie - AKA Pawnee Bill - was one of those young men, a schoolteacher with a yen for western adventure. Lillie found work teaching English at the Pawnee Indian Reservation in Indian Territory (Oklahoma) and learned to speak their language fluently. He was hired by Cody's Wild West show in 1883, when an interpreter was needed for the Pawnees performing in his show. (Much of the rest of the frontier exploits claimed in Lillie's backstory - including that he was named "White Chief of the Pawnees" at age 19 - should be viewed as suspect.) Lillie started his own traveling Wild West show in 1888, the same year publication began of a new series of dime novels about the fantastic adventures of a hero named Pawnee Bill.
The "Two Bills'" show was an awkward marriage of necessity. These traveling shows were enormous operations and enormously expensive; Cody employed as many as 500 people who had to work together like cogs in a high-precision machine. With a performance in a different town every night, there was no room in their schedule for even the slightest glitch. At the same time, audiences were declining after 1906 because of competition from motion pictures and vaudeville. A merger of rivals made good business sense, and they unveiled the combined show at Madison Square Garden in 1909 (don't miss the the New York Times review).
When the show arrived in Santa Rosa on September 29, 1910, apparently every child in the vicinity was on hand to greet them: "At least 1000 youngsters volunteered their services as assistants to the men engaged in erecting the twenty-two tents that house the Wild West-Far East," reported the Santa Rosa Republican. As that was a Thursday and thus a school day, a new record for en masse truancy was surely set.
...the sight of Colonel Wm. F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) walking about the grounds, exercising a general supervision over things, and moving at that with a democracy befitting ordinary folks, was too much for them. No strength of will yet developed in adolescent man is sufficient to resist the temptation to drop all other concerns, however grave to gorge vision with such rare intimacy with the living heroes of your best beloved, if contraband literature.
Buffalo Bill bade Santa Rosa farewell that autumn evening, but he continued bidding farewells elsewhere in 1911, 1912 and 1913. The Two Bills show finally came to an end in July 1913, when a sheriff in Denver seized the company's assets for a printing debt. Cody was notoriously bad at handling money and had already mortgaged his ranch and interests in Cody, Wyoming to Gordon Lillie. To cover the costs of launching the 1913 tour he had obtained a loan from a man he considered a friend, but who also co-owned the rival Sells-Floto Circus. When the Two Bills show had to declare bankruptcy, Cody defaulted on the loan. He lost the use of the "Buffalo Bill" name and had to perform with the Sells-Floto tour for 1914-1915. The following year Cody agreed to star in a World War I recruitment show, the "Military Pageant 'Preparedness'" which was part of a new Wild West touring company started by friends of Pawnee Bill. Sick with kidney problems and more than a little addled, Cody only made a few appearances.
Colonel William F. Cody died in 1917, over six years after he said his goodbye in Santa Rosa. The essence of him was captured by Gene Fowler in his book, "Timber Line": "Indiscreet, prodigal, as temperamental as a diva, pompous yet somehow naive, vain but generous, bigger than big today and littler than little tomorrow, Cody lived with the world at his feet and died with it on his shoulders."
CIRCUS IS HERE IN GILDED GLORYBarnum & Bailey Enterprise Pays Regular Visit to Santa Rosa
Santa Rosa gave a royal welcome today to an old-time friend--the Barnum & Bailey greatest show on earth--here in its biennial pilgrimage through this section of the country and both city and country reveled in the delights of the gorgeous parade, the great tented city erected on Santa Rosa avenue, and the charm of the regal performance beneath the acres of gaily-bedecked canvas that never loses its power to lure...
...It is to the Barnum show that one looks for all that is latest and best in the arenic world [sic] and there were no disappointments this afternoon for while it would seem that all the sensational acts and thrillers had been exhausted long ere this, the Barnum show came across with two new heart action quickeners and creep-massagers. The first of these was Jupiter, the balloon horse. The intelligent equine stood on a narrow platform attached to a yellow balloon and ascended to the top of the tent. When the top was reached a pyrotechnic display broke out on all sides of "Jupe." Did he plunge out to the hard earth beneath and dash out not only his own brains, but those of his fair rider? Certainly not. He gave a fine exhibition of a splendidly trained equine, immune to all noises and distractions.
Desperado supplied thrill No. 2. Concerning Desperado: Waiting until the band stopped playing a funeral dirge, Desperado took a header, and those who weren't looking at that exact instant saw him standing on the sod the next. Desperado lit squarely on his indestructible wish-bone and slid to earth. These two acts were the headliners of the bill.
Everything else on the bill was in great profusion. There were three rings and two stages with a quarter mile track. Droves of performers filtered into the big tent from the dressing rooms and circulated about the rings and stages until one got cross-eyed trying to follow the mystic maze of the immense affair.
The management was lavish in its treatment of the guests of the day. With a program of such excellence it might seem unfair to particularize, but mention should be made of the aerial displays. A word as to the menagerie. Nothing more complete, if as much so, has ever been seen here before, and if the Barnum show offered nothing more than its animal display, a visit beneath its canvases would be worth while. The display was varied and exhibited under fine conditions as regards clean and roomy cages. The herd of four giraffes was an especially fine thing and the entire zoo made an especial appeal to the thoughtful.
- Santa Rosa Republican, September 2, 1910
CIRCUS DAY BREAKS RECORDNo Marriage Licenses Issed Late Friday
The clerks in the office of County Clerk Fred L. Wright declare that circus day, Friday, has broken a record in their office. Up to a late hour Friday afternoon, not a single marriage license had been issued and therein lies the broken record.
Each circus day heretofore has brought with it its quota of brides and grooms. Some circus days six and eight couples have come here and launched on the joys of the matrimonial sea. The lack of applicants for the joy permits on Friday cause consternation in the office of the clerk.
Other than in the matter of issuing these permits, it was a dull day in the clerk's domain. "Cupid" Casey Feldmeyer wore an elaborate smile all day long in anticipation of the matrimonial onslaught Dan Cupid would cause to be made on the office, but it never came, and toward late afternoon the smile began to vanish.
- Santa Rosa Republican, September 2, 1910
BOB FITZSIMMONS AND JACK LONDON HERE
Bob Fitzsimmons, erstwhile champion heavyweight of the world, and Jack London, one of the foremost literary lights of his time, drove in to this city shortly before noon Friday. They were accompanied by Mrs. Fitzsimmons and Mrs. London, and came to attend the circus performance given here by Barnum & Bailey's aggregation. Fitz and London are friends of many years' standing, and the former and his wife are making a visit with the Londons at their bungalow, situated near Glen Ellen, in a picturesque nook. The party took dinner at the Campi restaurant, and then attended the afternoon performance at the big tent.
- Santa Rosa Republican, September 2, 1910
BOYS FROM BARLOW BERRY FIELDS HERE
More than one hundred of the boys who are gathering the crop of berries at the Barlow berry fields came over on an electric train Friday morning to enjoy the circus. They were accompanied by Superintendent Frank C. Turner, and enjoyed a splendid day's outing. The lads marched up Sebastopol avenue behind their drum corps and attracted much attention by their manly bearing and military precision.
- Santa Rosa Republican, September 2, 1910
BUFFALO BILL ON THURSDAY, SEPT. 29Great Sport of the "Wild West" Exhibition That Soon Comes to Santa Rosa
Football on horseback bids fair to rival polo as a game for horseback riders in this country. The Buffalo Bill and Wild West and Pawnee Bill Far East is demonstrating the sport this year as one of the features of that popular exhibition. It is played by a group of horsemen, trained to expertness in the new "fad" mounted on the lively Western ponies which are features with the Wild West.
A large ball standing half as high as an ordinary horse is used as the "football." The knees of the ponies are padded and by running into it the ball is thus propelled from goal to goal. Aside from the interest which the game creates, there is a strong element of grotesque comedy in the exhibition. The horses are rigged out after the fashion of the regulation football player, with guards and leads of all sorts, presenting a grotesque appearance. In every way the football horses are interesting, and the diversion is proving a great hit with patrons of the Wild West exhibition. The show comes to Santa Rosa on Thursday, September 29th.
The horses play a star part throughout Buffalo Bill's entire program. Ray Thompson's trained Western range horses are a special feature, and their graceful evolutions are supplemented by the marvelous high school exhibitive feats of Rhoda Royal's twenty thoroughbreds, Bucking horses, Indian ponies and Arabian steeds are numbered among the equine stars of the Wild West, contributing vastly to a program of lively events.
The big Indian battles, the Wild West scenes, and the reproductions of historic events and materially to the distinctive entertainment of which Col. Wm. F. Cody, the original and only Buffalo Bill, is the originator and founder. In all that is presented during the Wild West performance, realism and truth prevails. Everything is real and authentic. There is no sham or subterfuge, and riding at the head of his galaxy of horsemen, directing the entertainment and appearing at every performance, the real, genuine and only Buffalo Bill appears at every performance, rain of shine, for the last time in our city.
- Press Democrat, September 9, 1910
SHERIFF ISSUES A WARNING TO PEOPLE
Sheriff Jack Smith has requested that attention be called to the fact that there are some suspicious characters in town at the present time, who came in the wake of the circus. These people follow the circuses despite the efforts of the management to prevent them and at Sacramento on Wednesday there were three bicycles and two horses and buggies stolen. In this city things will also be missing if care is not taken to guard their property by the individuals. When going out tonight care should be taken that houses are securely locked, and pocketbooks should be stowed away in safe places. In crowds is where the light fingered gentry delight to do their nefarious work.
- Santa Rosa Republican, September 29, 1910
BUFFALO BILL'S BIG SHOW DELIGHTS MANY HUNDREDS
Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Pawnee Bill's Far East shows are here. Wholly superfluous information for the small boy, to be sure. There were about 500 of him on hand this morning to superintend the unloading of the special train of 78 cars, which transports the big organization. He was active and enthusiastic in his work, but no sooner had the cumbersome red wagons, bearing canvas, stakes and poles, reached the show grounds than the small boy rapidly multiplied himself, developed a most remarkable ubiquity, and his enthusiasm enlarged to a fever.
At least 1000 youngsters volunteered their services as assistants to the men engaged in erecting the twenty-two tents that house the Wild West-Far East, its twenty-seven nationalities, its 700 horses and other animals. They even offered the best of their muscular works to the "roughnecks"--men employed on the most arduous tasks upon the grounds. In many ways the lads were an interference and hinderance to the progress of the canvas city's growth, but everywhere they met with good-humored tolerance, for it is a jolly lot of workmen employed by the Buffalo Bill-Pawnee Bill combination and having ample time in which to complete their tasks, they accepted liberally of the "assistance" to the rapturous delight of the juvenile laborers.
There were constant desertions from their elected posts of industry, though. Not that the boys really meant to shirk what they considered solemn duty, but the sight of Colonel Wm. F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) walking about the grounds, exercising a general supervision over things, and moving at that with a democracy befitting ordinary folks, was too much for them. No strength of will yet developed in adolescent man is sufficient to resist the temptation to drop all other concerns, however grave to gorge vision with such rare intimacy with the living heroes of your best beloved, if contraband literature.
Pawnee Bill was adopted by the Pawnee tribe of Indians and that is how he gets that name. He speaks twenty-four tribal dialects and is familiar with the sign language which is universal among the tribes from one boundary to another. He and Buffalo Bill are among the most noted of the Indian scouts and fighters of the early days. The operating expenses of their show is about $6000 per day.
- Santa Rosa Republican, September 29, 1910
SANTA ROSANS WERE "STUNG"Novel Advertising Method Attracted Attention
Several prominent Santa Rosans were "stung" Thursday by an elderly couple who were driving in a dilapidated vehicle, and who were advertising the Buffalo Bill shows. This was unknown to the aforesaid citizens who were "stung" until time for the denouement of the drama.
Outside John Hood's jewelry store a woman sat up an awful shrieking, as if she were having a terrible case of hysteria. An elderly man came running to the vehicle from a refreshment parlor, grabbed the woman in his arms and kissed her, at the same time telling her everything would be all right. He took a large bandana handkerchief and with this repeatedly mopped the woman's brow.
Henry Silvershield, Deputy Sheriff Chris Reynolds and others took hold of the horse to prevent the animal running away while the old gentleman in the vehicle gave attention to the woman with the hysterics. She kept telling the man, "I asked you not to leave me alone," and "I just knew this would happen," and she screamed at the top of her voice.
When Deputy Sheriff Reynolds finally made so bold as to inquire what was the matter, the old gentleman turned to him and said: "Nothing, my friend; but I'll meet you this evening at the Buffalo Bill shows." Then the couple drove off, while the vast crowd that had assembled gave the astonished deputy a merry round of laughter. Reynolds muttered "stung" and dropped back into the crowd. He had seen the disturbance from Judge Thomas C. Denny's court room and hastened to the rescue.
- Santa Rosa Republican, September 30, 1910
To the Press Democrat in the early 20th Century, it was an annual good-news story. Troubled youths from the city spent halcyon summers enjoying fresh country air on a Sebastopol ranch, picking berries for a few hours by day and filling the warm evenings with ballgames and swimming and horseplay. And at the end of all this fun come September, the PD always reported the boys went home from their outing with pockets bulging from their share of the thousands of dollars earned.
The children were from "The Boys' and Girls' Aid Society," a San Francisco institution for boys "not sufficiently wayward to require assignment to the reform school, and too hard to manage to be placed in family homes or orphanage." (In 1907, two Santa Rosa kids were sent there for repeatedly stealing chickens.) Their summer destination was on the Barlow ranch outside of Sebastopol, near the current location of Taft Street Winery off of Occidental Road. Between 100 and 200 boys - and it was always only boys, some as young as seven - had been coming up here since 1902.
Both Santa Rosa newspapers were enthusiastic about the program, and fluffy stories about it were also popular "evergreens" in the Bay Area dailies and regional magazines (see Sunset Magazine: "Berries and Character," 1906). What's not to like about reading that bad boys were being reformed by spending summers in the country? And their days spent here surely were among the happier childhood memories for the boys, who otherwise would be training at the Aid Society for a lifetime of factory or machine shop work. Then why were they always trying to escape?
The Sebastopol newspaper reported there were "only a few attempts to get away" in 1910, which was apparently less than the dozen or so who tried to flee in 1908. Escape was not easy, despite the campground living situation; not only did the boys have their clothes taken away from them at night and locked up, but there was a $10 bounty on runaways - the equivalent of almost a week's wages for the average Santa Rosa household - so the community was always alert for escapees.
When there were serious incidents with escapees, the local press ignored or downplayed it. In 1910 the Santa Rosa papers didn't mention the dramatic story of 15 year-old Albert Sheuger, who escaped from the Barlow camp and made his way back to Oakland, where he committed nine burglaries in two weeks. (In one of the first robberies he discovered a suitcase filled with patent medicine, and thereafter pretended to be a door-to-door salesman if anyone answered his knock.) In 1905, the Press Democrat reported three boys gave an overweight policeman quite a workout as he chased them through the brush on the banks of Santa Rosa Creek. But no mention appeared in the PD that one of them, 14 year-old Ray Riley, escaped again and made it to a relative's home in Santa Clara county. His family members testified in court that he showed up with his back, arms, and legs all bruised purple from allegedly being whipped with a strap following the earlier getaway.
Aside from looking for escapees wearing only nightshirts or ill-fitting garments snatched off a clothesline, "the boys' hands will be found scratched and stained from the berries," the PD helpfully tipped off would-be bounty hunters in 1907. A close look at the photo shown at right indeed reveals their fingers were so stained as to appear dipped in paint. Which brings up a central question: How much berry picking were they doing on the Barlow ranch, anyway?
The Barlow family had 100 acres in loganberries and blackberries (making it the largest blackberry patch in the state) but even that wasn't enough to keep a hundred or more boys busy for a full summer. As mentioned in a previous article, the program kept expanding, with "the Aid" bringing up more and more youths. In 1907, they had worked for the Barlows and two neighbors, picking 125 tons of berries. The following year they were hired out to 22 growers between Sebastopol and Forestville and picked 157 tons, plus "many tons" of peaches and plums. So popular were the child workers that still more farmers were planning to take advantage of the boys and not hire adults. One of the Santa Rosa papers reported, "arrangements are now being made for next year's picking by several who have heretofore depended on Japanese help, or any who came along." Meanwhile, older boys from the Society were sent to work at the canneries. In essence, The Boys' and Girls' Aid Society was operating a temp agency for child labor - and with each passing year, more farmers around Sebastopol were relying upon children for ultra-cheap field work. By 1917, a state report (more about that in a minute) found "this district has come to depend upon the large annual influx from the society."
At the end of the season there were always articles about how much money had been earned. It usually worked out to an average of about $30 per child, or roughly $2.50 per week. Still, quite a nice handful of coin for a young person at the time.
But their paychecks were also docked for quite a large number of deductions. Money was first taken out for their lodging in the Barlow tents, food, transportation to and from Sonoma County plus salaries for supervisors and other adult staff. (We probably don't have to guess who paid the $10 bounty for hauling escapees back to camp in handcuffs.) Once they were back at the Aid Society home in San Francisco, they were expected to use their earnings to pay for their own clothes, shoes and even dentistry.
We get a good look at how the program developed through a 1917 state report on farm labor. When there was a shortage of farm laborers during World War I, the state of California studied how well male and female urbanites would fare as substitutes. It found that adults, coaxed into seasonal farm work via promises of good wages or appeals to wartime patriotism, frequently quit or performed subpar. But although they needed more supervision, children usually did very well and sometimes outperformed experienced adult workers because they worked faster at picking crops and similar piece work. This was a significant finding because the state had just passed a wartime emergency act that could cut the school year to six months so high school kids potentially could be enlisted as farm laborers.
Those 1917 researchers found Sebastopol the ideal place to study because it had more urban youth farm workers than anywhere else, with four hundred young people in the berry fields that summer. In addition to the 158 Aid Society boys then working at the Barlow place, there were two large groups of Boy Scouts from the East Bay and two groups from Bay Area youth ecumenical clubs, presumably working from mostly patriotic motivation.
The state report found the boys from the Aid Society were least productive because "a number of the boys [were] feeble minded or crippled," yet they ended the season with the most cash in their pockets. Part of the reason was because they were in the fields twice as long as the Boy Scouts or the other groups, twelve weeks compared to six or less. Also, the Barlows were less aggressive in making their child workers pay for their own food and lodging; one farmer, Lee Maddox, even charged the Boy Scouts working at his ranch for kitchen utensils and medical supplies. A third of the boys working on the Kinley farm technically ended the season in debt to the farmer, which was hopefully forgiven or billed to the Oakland church group that sent them there.
This 1917 report had several conclusions. The good news was that all of the farmers (except one) thought the boys did good work. But the state also found the food was sometimes "scanty" and the amount of money left to the boys after the living expense deductions was "nil or negligible." Most damning was this conclusion: "This work is justified only as a means of financing an outing for the youngsters."
To be fair, the Barlows and other growers probably would have been horrified if anyone suggested they were exploiting children or abetting the Aid Society to do same. Working outdoors in pleasant weather, even under guard, even being cheated on wages paid on the amount of fruit you pick was character-building and completely different from slaving away in a sweatshop being paid for the number of pieces of cloth you sew...right?
Consider, too, this was the Progressive Era in America, when attitudes about juvenile delinquency were just starting to become less rigid. By 1910 Santa Rosa had created a "Detention Home," so youthful offenders didn't have to be incarcerated in jail cells next to adults. Yet at the same time, San Francisco papers reported a young man named Joe King, who had been in and out of reformatories for 13 of his 20 years, was sentenced to five years in San Quentin for burglary.
The Bay Area poster child for reforming the system in 1910 was Eugene Griffin, 17 and completely illiterate. An Alameda County judge and District Attorney tried to find a way to keep him out of prison, where they were certain he would become a hardened criminal. Griffin had been sent to the Preston School of Industry at Ione (AKA San Quentin for Kids) after several minor burglaries. While attempting to escape Preston he stole a revolver, taking a shot at an instructor trying to capture him. His probation officer issued a moving statement that the juvenile justice system was broken. The retiring superintendent at the Preston School was "cruel in his punishments," and his replacement was proposing shipping all troublemakers to San Quentin. "For my part I would rather have a boy of mine have his neck broken and die at the school than to have him sent to San Quentin. I do not believe those two methods of treatment are the only alternatives...California needs an adult reformatory." Griffin ended up sentenced to two years at San Quentin.
And some in 1910 still believed criminality was a biological problem. Rev. W. H. Scudder, a Congregationalist minister in Petaluma - and who was once the president of a rescue home operation in San Francisco - asked a doctor to consider operating on his son to remove his criminal traits. "In the east and in Europe," reported the San Francisco Call on February 7, "several children, the victims of moral obliquity, have been operated upon very successfully, it being discovered that the trouble lay in their skulls being too small to contain their brains. This defect has been remedied by removing portions of the skull and thus allowing the brain room to develop." Alas, there appears to be no record as to whether Reverend Scudder's incorrigible son had the mind expanding operation.
WITH ONE HUNDRED BOYS ON BARLOW BERRY FARM
Much interest is being taken in the large company of boys from the Boys and Girls Aid Society of San Francisco who are spending the summer and are picking berries on the Laura Barlow ranch in Green Valley. The boys have also contracted to pick the berries on half a dozen other places in the Gold Ridge district. The Analy Standard gives an interesting account of the Barlow place, from which the following extracts will be read with interest:
It is a strenuous life at the Barlow ranch from the last of May to the first of September. At 5:30 in the morning the bugle sounds the reveille, a rush of dressing follows with a refreshing wash up at the spring taps, towels are hung on the individual hooks, and combs, brushes and tooth-brushes fly to duty, for at 6 the breakfast call comes and no youngster under Superintendent Turner is permitted to make the time in his toilet allowed in the free-for-all contest the "Tennessee Shad" described in the story. A good job is expected. ["The Tennessee Shad" was a popular comic novel that year -ed.]
After breakfast the hundred boys gather on the play grounds and stand with uncovered heads for the flag raising. Every day the central flag floats out on the breeze and when the camp is occupied, Saturdays and Sundays, each tent has its flag up. The bugle gives the call for "colors" and the boys stand at attention. After this service they are told off in squads for the day's work, and leave at 6:45...left at the camp is the matron and her three assistants, the bookkeeper and the cook.
At noon the boys have a field lunch of hearty sandwiches, with cakes or cookies, and at night at 6 they have a hot dinner at camp. Their dining tent is a fly with tables to seat the entire company.
The kitchen is a permanent building with two ranges, one with hot water. The office and sewing room are [illegible microfilm] and each boy has his peg or box for clothing, numbered and sacred to his uses.
After dinner they have till 8 o'clock for playtime. Often they will get their day's work done early. It is planned to so divide the squads that they will finish about the same time and this is done by sending a greater or less number of boys to a field.
Saturdays are rest and play days, and Sundays are devoted to godliness and cleanliness, which is next to godliness. The games of Saturday are ninepins, baseball, football and quoits. There are four baseball nines at the camp. The boys go to the "ol' swimmin' hole" often during the week, but it is a part of the regular Sunday forenoon program for the boys to put on their tights and take a swim. "The water is fine," deep, and clears rapidly. In the afternoon, Rev. William Rogers conducts the service and to this gentleman is due the credit of four years' work every summer Sunday afternoon.
At 8 o'clock in the evening comes bed time, and "taps" at 8:15. After "taps" the camp is in charge of the nightwatchman. Boys love an organization of semi-military form. When they cannot have it they will frequently steal away from home to hunt Indians, or buffalos; or to become cowboys, and the great need is recognized in "Sons of Daniel Boone" and similar boys' leagues. It has its place in this Aid Society, and appeals to the boys, as well as enables the officers to keep complete control at all times. The boys, many of them, come to the society through the juvenile courts, more untamed than criminal -- the stuff from which for want of training, criminals are made frequently but from which, with training some men of national fame for ability and unright [sic] character are made, as was a very notable case from Father Vaughn's school in Wisconsin. Father Vaughn spent his life and a fortune, achieved as actor and platform lecturer, in support of the same work among boys from Chicago, that is done for these California boys by the Aid Society.
At the end of the season each boy finds himself with a good fund of money earned and credited from day to day for work in the berry fields of Sebastopol.
- Press Democrat, June 18, 1910
BOYS FROM BARLOW BERRY FIELDS HERE
More than one hundred of the boys who are gathering the crops of berries at the Barlow berry fields came over on an electric train Friday morning to enjoy the circus. They were accompanied by Superintendent Frank C. Turner and enjoyed a splendid day's outing. The lads marched up Sebastopol avenue behind their drum corps and attracted much attention by their manly bearing and military precision.
- Santa Rosa Republican, September 2, 1910
BOYS EARN $3,900 BY PICKING BERRIESSan Francisco Lads Make Good on the Barlow and other Ranches in Green Valley
The hundred boys of the Boys and Girls Aid Society of San Francisco who have been picking berries on the Barlow and other ranches, in Green Valley, came to town yesterday to take in the circus. The kids made a very neat appearance and were much complimented on their deportment. Superintendent George W. Turner was in charge of the delegation.
The boys will return to San Francisco next week, after having spent several months in this county. The Analy Standard has this to say of the boys:
"The Boys and Girls Aid Society boys will break camp next Tuesday morning and go back to San Francisco that afternoon.
"The boys have had a fine season. The weather was pleasant and the work abundant at all times. Superintendent Turner reports that the boys have earned close to $3,900, of which sum over $3,000 was in the berry fields and the rest in other fruit picking and cannery work. The boys have been well contented, with only a few attempts to get away on the part of boys recently sent to the society by the courts. The escapes came early in the season's work, except a case about two weeks ago, when a lad hid for three days in a barn on the Graham place, and finally got to Santa Rosa. Mr. Turner is well pleased with the results of the year's outing and returns to San Francisco feeling that the work has been of material assistance to fruit growers, that it has been fine training for the boys, and that the 100 who have been here for some time during the summer will enter work in the city in better physical condition than they would be in if they had not had the out-of-door life. There have been about 100 at the camp constantly, some coming out as others returned."
- Press Democrat, September 3, 1910
GOOD WORK BEING DONEWhat the Detention Home Is Accomplishing
The Detention Home on Third street, started a little over a year ago, has proven one of the best things of its kind in Sonoma county. Under its protection boys and girls from all over the county have been cared for, and good positions and homes have been found for many...
...Mrs. Newcomb, the matron, is loved by all the children, her motherly ways making her a favorite. Many of the children on leaving write regularly to her and their letters are promptly answered by her. She is always interested in their welfare and keeps in touch with all of them.
This home for boys and girls, although in its infancy, is growing right along, and more and more interest is shown in its undertakings. Up to the time it was established the children who were detained for their conduct or other reasons, were put in the county jail, but under this arrangement they are separated from the criminals and put in much better environment, and it helps them to help themselves.
- Santa Rosa Republican, March 18, 1910
And lo, after six weeks of courtroom drama in Santa Rosa's trial of the century, the jury sayeth thus: Doctor Willard P. Burke was guilty of attempted murder.
The San Francisco Call sent its courtroom reporter to interview Burke in his jail cell. The writer found the doctor melancholy and defiantly declaring his innocence. "...He declared himself sorry for the jurors. He complimented District Attorney Lea on his closing address. He looked forward to seeing him the next democratic congressman and vowed that the forthcoming years would see him voting for Lea. 'A bright boy,' he said, 'a remarkably bright boy...'"
The Press Democrat, which had covered every aspect of the trial in remarkable depth, was caught unawares by its abrupt conclusion. Where they were probably expecting to cover every point of the prosecutor's closing arguments on the final day, the PD described only a single detail before hurrying on with a terse summary: "District Attorney Lea closed his argument for the prosecution with a comprehensive review of the evidence as presented by both sides, and arrayed his facts in telling style. He is an earnest, eloquent and forceful speaker and held the closest attention of the jury throughout...no detail being overlooked that might tend to strengthen the position of the prosecution."
The SF Call mentioned another important point, describing that Lea pointed out it was silly for the defense to claim the original dynamite, wrapped in newspaper, could have been buried in sandy mud for 53 days and emerge with the paper still looking like new. All of the reporters failed to catch the point that was actually most interesting - namely that District Attorney Lea apparently told the jury they should find Burke guilty even if they believed he didn't commit the crime.
We first read about this in the newspapers a week later, when everyone was back in court for sentencing. Defense Attorney Leppo asked for a new trial. The Press Democrat reported: "Dr. Burke was tried for almost everything under the sun," said Attorney Leppo in his argument, "and every attempt was made to prejudice this defendant in the mind of the jury. The effect of the Court's ruling was to strengthen any idea that the jury might have gotten that Dr. Burke should be convicted on 'general principles,' and in reality amounted to a declaration that he should be found guilty even though he did not really commit the crime."
Specifically, Leppo's motion insisted that the judge's final instructions to the jury were prejudicial. Apparently summarizing a point made by prosecutor Lea, Judge Seawell told them it didn't matter whether Burke acted alone or helped someone else commit the deed. This was unfair, Leppo argued, because nothing was said during the trial about Burke being an accessory to the crime. Here is exactly what Judge Seawell told the jury:
| I charge you that all persons concerned in the commission of a crime, whether it be a felony or a misdemeanor, and whether they directly commit the act constituting the offense or aid and abet in its commission, are principals in any crime so committed.|
Therefore, if you are satisfied from the evidence in this case beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty that the crime charged in the indictment was directly committed by the defendant as therein set forth, it would be your duty to find him guilty, so, to, if you should be likewise satisfied from the evidence in the case that the explosive referred to in said indictment was deposited and exploded by some other person that the defendant, whose identity is unknown, and you should also be satisfied from the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was concerned in the commission of such crime, as above explained, and that he did not directly commit the act constituting the offense, but aided and abetted its commission, or not being present, advised and encouraged its commission, you should likewise return a verdict of guilty.
The motion for a new trial was denied and Defense Attorney Leppo appealed the decision, all the way to the state Supreme Court, which agreed with Judge Seawell. It didn't matter whether Burke did it by himself or was an accessory before the fact "...since he can be charged in the indictment as a principal whether he actually committed the offense or aided and abetted or encouraged its commission, he can be justly convicted if the evidence shows that he was connected with the crime in either relation," the high court ruled over a year later.
All of this legal hairsplitting is (somewhat) interesting, but Gentle Reader is probably asking oneself about now, what about the implications of it all? Did someone else actually handle the dynamite? Yes, I believe so - and I also think the judge, jury, and most everyone else in that courtroom similarly believed that Dr. Burke did not act alone in the attempt to murder Lu Etta Smith.
Start with Burke's alibi: The loud explosion marked the exact moment of the crime and he had a reasonable - albeit not perfect - explanation of his whereabouts. Two patients said he briefly visited each of them 5-10 minutes before the explosion was heard. Judging from the 1911 photograph seen at right, the cabin-tents appear to be at least 100 yards from the main building. It is possible, but not likely, that he left the patient's rooms, collected the dynamite from his study, rushed to the tent area, placed the explosive, strung out a lengthy fuse (which would burn about 30 seconds per foot, and let's not forget this was being done in darkness and he had never personally handled dynamite) then sprinted back to the main building before the big bang. Could 59 year-old Willard Burke have done that? Could you?
Burke's behavior, however, strongly suggested he desired the death of the woman who insisted Burke was the father of her child and who was now contacting attorneys, apparently planning to file a lawsuit against him. Shortly before Christmas, 1909, Burke visited his gold mine in the Sierras and returned with six sticks of dynamite. At once he began saying that Lu Etta had told him she wanted to commit suicide by blowing herself up. No one else heard her say such a thing. While she was recuperating from her injuries after the explosion, it was discovered that Burke was treating her wounds with potentially lethal doses of arsenic. He was not indicted for a second attempt at murder, but in later denying the appeal by Burke's defense team, the California Supreme Court agreed that it certainly appeared that Burke "...contemplated that the death of Miss Smith would be the result of the continued application of this 'slow poison.'"
Having now read everything available about the case, thought about it for months and having written in this space ten articles chronicling the crime investigation and trial, I humbly submit that I've come to know Dr. Burke and Miss Lu and the others fairly well. Here is what I believe happened:
Although he was twenty years older, Willard had known Lu for almost her entire life. She was in the same grade as his youngest brother Alfred at their school in Upper Lake, and Willard's sister testified she first met Lu when she was about four. Over the next two decades their paths probably crossed many times after he graduated from medical college; most of his family continued to live on their Lake County farm in Bachelor Valley while Willard practiced medicine mainly in Napa and Sonoma Counties. As mentioned earlier, Burke testified Lu Etta first came to his Sanitarium in 1901 as a patient, then remained there as an employee for several years. The next snapshot of them comes from shortly after the 1906 earthquake. She was living at the time in Yolo County and he wrote a friendly letter letting her know the Sanitarium survived without serious damage. He offered to send money. She testified they had sexual intercourse for the first time a month later.
From that point on, Lu Etta Smith was entirely dependent upon Willard Burke. He sent her money for living expenses at various places around the Bay Area or paid her landlord directly. When she arrived at his sanitarium, eight months pregnant, he put money in her bookkeeping account that paid for her residence there.
When you scrape this tale to its bones, it comes down to one thing: Money. Everything else - their sexual relationship, the eccentric views held by each of them, even, to a degree, the paternity of the child - is a MacGuffin. Lu Etta, a woman in her late 30s with a grade school education and few friends, wanted a nest egg; Willard was a miser who boasted of his great generosity, while not giving her a penny more than he deemed necessary. She overreached, writing a letter promising to disappear before the trial began in exchange for $20,000 (about a half million dollars in today's currency). He went on the cheap even when it was obviously against his best interests; when she did voyage to Japan to hide from the trial lawyers, he ignored her pleas for the allowance that was promised and would have allowed her to stay there.
Her relationship with Willard became arduous once she was at the sanitarium for the birth of her child. She wasn't at ease with either the patients or members of the staff, who viewed her as very eccentric and possibly deranged (the bookkeeper wrote that she was "almost an imbecile"). She repeatedly asked Burke for money so she could go away. Burke refused and gave orders to staff that she was not to be allowed to leave. She threatened to sue. She also created scenes in front of sanitarium guests and staff demanding he admit fatherhood. This was no simple mother's emotional outcry; Burke was a very wealthy man - his gold mine alone was valued at $6 million in modern terms - and he had no descendant heirs. Except for little Willard P. Burke Smith, of course.
We'll never know exactly when he decided that blowing Miss Smith to smithereens was his best option. He may have visited his mine that December of 1909 because he actually wanted to only discuss new machinery; he may have asked the miners for the dynamite on a whim because he remembered they needed to blow up a big rock on the property. But when he returned to Sonoma County with the dynamite, he was given a ride from the train station by Dr. Hitt, who informed him "there had been quite a commotion at the sanitarium on account of Lu Smith having telephoned to San Francisco to an attorney." A few moments later in their conversation, Burke dropped the comment that she and her child would be "better off dead." It was also around this time he stopped making payments into her sanitarium account - for a tightwad like Burke, that was a definite tell.
But if he were planning to kill her with dynamite, why would he broadcast that Lu Etta had supposedly told him she planned to blow herself up? Wouldn't that make him about the stupidest murderer of all time? What he was actually doing, I believe, was advertising for someone else to kill her. He was providing both the means and the expectation that the act would be committed - and anyone working at the sanitarium realized it would be a great boon for Doctor Burke if the problem that was Lu Etta Smith disappeared. All Burke needed was for someone to do him this great service.
That someone, I firmly believe, was Aggie Burke, Dr. Burke's sister-in-law.
No one else in our cast of characters had greater motive to perform Willard such a solid favor. She and her husband Alfred were supposed to be the managers of the sanitarium, but apparently were hangers-on who did little; Dr. Burke had recently commented he would like to jettison them, and if the place were to be sold or leased to someone else they would undoubtedly be first to go. She was also apparently a troublesome drunk; while Burke was at his mine collecting the dynamite, there was outrage at the sanitarium after she slapped or punched Dr. Hitt in the snoot. She (and Alfred) also had the greatest opportunity to commit the crime, as they seem to be living in another of the tent-cabins - they were first on the scene after the explosion. And finally, it was Aggie who elbowed her way into the spotlight as the sanitarium spokesperson as reporters swarmed the scene, loudly defending Dr. Burke while telling them Lu Etta was a lunatic who was likely holding the sizzling stick of dynamite between her teeth until she lost her nerve at the last moment.
Don't believe Burke was hoping to murder Lu Etta by proxy? Look also at the arsenic incident.
(As mentioned before, Burke's use of arsenic was unusual and old-fashioned by 1910, but not improper. Lu Etta's wound developed "proud flesh" while healing and small amounts of arsenic were applied directly to such diseased tissue in 18th and 19th century medicine. Here's a reference in the 1797 Encyclopaedia Britannica and another in a 1871 pharmacology on Chinese medicine.)
In his testimony, Burke told the court he took over as Lu Etta's physician the evening after the explosion. A couple of days later the wound began looking and smelling foul. He treated it with witch hazel (to reduce swelling), boracic acid (a harmless antiseptic) and a one percent solution of arsenic. When there was no improvement by the next day, he increased the arsenic dosage to seven percent solution - well within the range that could cause death, according to a doctor testifying for the prosecutor, particularly when it was applied in the manner used by Burke, as a dressing.
District Attorney Lea led Burke through a damning series of questions: Burke used the seven percent solution only once. He left the arsenic by Lu Etta's bedside. It was in a small white paper box, the same as used for the boracic acid. Arsenic and boracic acid look the same. The box containing the dangerous dosage of arsenic was unlabeled. He did not tell the nurses that he was using arsenic.
The inference in the prosecutor's questioning was clear: Burke hoped a nurse changing Lu Etta's wound dressing would use the arsenic by mistake and kill her.
Burke was not indicted on this second attempt to kill Lu Etta, although he certainly could have been charged with criminal negligence for not labeling the poison, even if there was no iatrogenic injury or death as a result. Nor did prosecutor Lea present the Grand Jury with evidence that Aggie Burke or other persons unknown must have had a hand in setting off the dynamite. Given Dr. Burke's high standing in the community, Lea must have realized he would be lucky to get any sort of conviction at all and it was best to stick to a simple narrative: Burke got the dynamite, Burke used the dynamite, and intended to kill his troublesome mistress.
Burke was sentenced to ten years at San Quentin. "The defendant stood for a moment as one dazed," the Press Democrat reported, "and then made his way back to his chair just inside the railing that separates the court and spectators. As he faced around, a tear-drop glistened in his eye. But he bade no sign, and the tear-drop did not fall."
L'affaire Burke was now yesterday's news, but the Press Democrat couldn't yet say goodbye to its story of the century. The paper sent round its society reporter, the delightfully clueless Dorothy Anne, to interview Lu Etta and true to form, the interview ended up being mostly about Dorothy Anne interviewing. Golly, that woman is sure in touch with her feelings. The PD published two lengthy essays in defense of Burke, both stating he couldn't have possibly been guilty because he is such a nice guy.
(RIGHT: Willard P. Burke, inmate. Photo courtesy Bancroft Library, UC/Berkeley)
While his sentence was on appeal, Burke asked for bail about three months after the verdict, claiming his health was failing in the county lockup. Bail was granted at $50,000, his bond underwritten by Santa Rosa's richest men including Con Shea, John Overton and Frank Grace. In midsummer the PD reported Burke was in town, "looking very well, in fact many of his friends declare better than he has for years."
The sanitarium was sold after the trial to a couple of homeopathic doctors: Dr. Carrie Goss Haskell of San Francisco and Dr. Wellingham B. Coffeen (consistently misnamed as "Coffen" or "Coffin" in the papers, probably because doctor + coffin = funny). It was renamed "Woodland Acres Sanitarium."
The strangest episode in those months after the trial came in July, when the superintendent of Burke's gold mine and a Detective Hurst "retained by several wealthy friends of Dr. Burke" showed up in Lakeport and tried to get Earl Edmunds to confess to the dynamiting; his uncle Dillard, the former bookkeeper of the sanitarium, confronted them on street the next morning and caused quite a row. This little adventure is all the more mysterious because Edmunds, an orderly who was 19 at the time, had the best alibi for that night as he was flirting with a pretty nurse when the explosion was heard.
About fourteen months after the trial, the California Supreme Court finally rejected his appeal. The next day Willard P. Burke began his new life as San Quentin inmate #25602.
What became of the players in our little melodrama?
|MRS. MARIAN DERRIGG The intriguing Mrs. Derrigg (who was probably "Marion Derrig" but also used at least two other aliases) was a long-time friend of Dr. Burke. She was instrumental in efforts to hide Lu Etta in Japan and spin the story that she was suicidal. She was wanted as a witness by both the defense and prosecution, but she successfully hid from detectives in Los Angeles, surfacing the very day the trial ended. "The woman is one of the most mysterious characters I have run across," District Attorney Lea told the San Francisco Call. "As I understand she is a handsome blonde, a little over 30 years of age, and has the faculty of making men do her will. She bobbed into the Burke case with the utmost mystery. We have discovered that following the explosion and the indictment of Burke she went to the sanatorium [sic], took a hurried trip to Los Angeles, and then shot up again in San Francisco, buying a ticket to Japan for Lu Etta Smith. Whatever her relations were with Burke they were rapid, to say the least." In January, 1912, the SF Call reported she was in an Ohio state asylum and "her case is said to be incurable."|
|ALFRED BURKE and AGGIE BURKE Dr. Burke's younger brother died about two months after the verdict. The cause was not mentioned in the papers, but it appeared he was in rapid decline during his brother's trial (feel free to speculate about Dostoevskian guilt over his role in an attempted murder of a childhood friend). The Press Democrat reporter commented, "The marked change that has taken place in the appearance of Alfred Burke since the beginning of his brother's trial has been one of the features of this sensational case. From a strong, robust man, the very picture of health, Alfred Burke has wasted away until he is only a shadow of his former self." Aggie remained at the sanitarium working as a housekeeper at least through 1919.|
|DR. WILLARD P. BURKE Despite his ten year sentence, the doctor spent less than three years in prison. Instead of working in the infirmary as he hoped, he chopped wood in Butte county. He was pardoned by Governor Hiram Johnson in January, 1916, having been on parole for six months before that. Gentle Reader may recall that Johnson was hired as Burke's original defense attorney, but dropped out before the trial began to run for office. The pardon allowed him to practice medicine again and he said he intended to reopen the sanitarium. (I do not know whether or not that happened.) He had a medical office in Healdsburg, according to the 1929 phone directory, and between then and 1935 was also listed in Santa Rosa as operating "baths" at 819 Fourth street. He died January 31, 1941 in Sonoma County.|
|LU ETTA SMITH The day after the verdict, the Call reporter asked Lu Etta what she planned to do. "How am I to know?" She replied. Lu Etta spent the next year in limbo, living in Berkeley with her son at the expense of Sonoma County, who wanted her ready to testify in case the Third District Appeals Court ruled in favor of Dr. Burke. When the Court of Appeals upheld the verdict exactly a year later, it was announced that she was planning to sue Burke for $25,000 damages. Her attorney was Fannie McG. Martin, one of the founders of the suffrage movement in Sonoma County. Nothing came of that, however, and the last we hear of Lu Etta in that period was a little item a few months later, when it was reported she had moved to San Francisco to find work as a nurse, being months behind her Berkeley rent since Sonoma County stopped paying her bills. The 1940 census found her in Oakland living with son Willard, who was an accountant at the WPA office. She died in Alameda County in 1950, age 79.|
A personal note: In writing about the doings at Burke's institution over these ten articles, I fell into the habit of typing "asylum" when I meant to write, "sanitarium." The more I got into the story, the more "Burke's Asylum" sounded right. Don't know why.
BURKE CONVICTED!Verdict Returned Last Night by Jury on the Third BallotVERDICT A SURPRISETurned Over to the Sheriff and Is Now in Jail
"In the Superior Court of the County of Sonoma, State of California: The People of the State of California, plaintiff, against W. P. Burke, defendant. We the jury, find the defendant guilty as charged in the indictment."
The above verdict was returned by the jury at 11:15 last night in the case of Dr. Burke, charged with the attempted murder of Lu Etta Smith, which has been on trial for nearly two months. The end came suddenly and unexpectedly and created a sensation, as no one had anticipated a verdict with such little delay.
The indictment, which was returned by the grand jury on February 25, 1910, charged the defendant with having committed the "crime of maliciously depositing and exploding explosives with intent to injure a human being."
The Jury Retires
District Attorney Clarence F. Lea completed his masterful closing argument about 8 o'clock. Judge Emmet Seawell at once began reading his instructions to the jury and it was 8:40 when he concluded. The jury was provided with blank verdicts, and placed in the custody of Bailiff Don McIntosh filing out of the court room at 8:45 to decide the fate of the defendant.
The general sentiment of those present during the reading of the Court's instructions was that they were favorable to the defendant. While no one expected an immediate verdict there was no tendency to leave the court room except by a few to get into the lobby for fresh air.
Call for Evidence
It was about 9:15 when the bell from the jury room startled those within hearing. In response to the bailiff's prompt answer the jury asked that the dynamite and fuse offered in evidence by the defense be given them to take to their room. This request was complied with and nothing more was heard from the jury room.
At 10 o'clock Judge Seawell instructed the bailiff to lock the jury up for the night, but at the same time informed them that if a verdict was reached before midnight he might be called.
This had the effect of practically clearing the court room as it was then believed there would be no verdict before morning. Dr. Burke, with his wife, Dr. and Mrs. H. F. Dessaud, R. E. Grisby and his daughter, and Frank Golden, who were in the court during the evening, left court room with Attorneys Leppo and Cowan. District Attorney Lea had left for home immediately after the close of his argument completely prostrated.
Verdict is Reached
Just after 11 o'clock the jury bell again rang and the bailiff, who responded, was informed that the jury had reached a verdict and was ready to report to the court.
A hurry summons was immediately sent out for the Court...
..."Read the verdict, Mr. Clerk."
Clerk Burroughs hand trembled slightly as he took the paper and began reading slowly and distinctly the words thereon.
Watches Jury and Court
Dr. Burke, sitting besides his wife behind his attorneys just inside the railing separating the public, had scarcely taken his eyes from the jurors from the moment the first one appeared at the door and entered the room until the paper was passed to the clerk. He then followed it with his eyes and watched the Court closely as if to read his mind as Judge Seawell read the words which meant so much to him.
There was no sign, however, from the Court, and there was a deathly stillness as the clerk read, "Guilty as charged."
How the Jury Stood
Three ballots were taken and on the first two ballots the jury stood 11 for conviction and one blank. On the third ballot there were 12 for conviction. At no time was there a vote recorded for acquittal.
Lea's Telling Argument
District Attorney Lea closed his argument for the prosecution with a comprehensive review of the evidence as presented by both sides, and arrayed his facts in telling style. He is an earnest, eloquent and forceful speaker and held the closest attention of the jury throughout.
Taking up the matter of the buried dynamite, and the marked package afterwards introduced by the defense as being the one brought down by Greenwell from the mine some ten days after the explosion. Lea emphasized the strange character of Attorney Golden's request and reminded the jury had said, "I have foolishly destroyed the evidence needed to keep Dr. Burke from going to the penitentiary"; how Greenwell had at first demurred saying: "You are asking a good deal of a man with a family, to expect him to do something that may land him in State's prison"; how Greenwell had finally consented to procure the four sticks of dynamite and two fuses as per Golden's request; how Greenwell took a fast team, and, under the shield and darkness of the night drove twenty-two miles through the mountains, went down into the deep canyon to the mouth of the mine, and secured the evidence wanted, returning with it to Oroville just as the gray dawn was breaking and bringing it to this city the following day, where it was delivered to Golden in the back room of a second-class hotel at which Greenwell had registered under an assumed name, and after a midnight drive to Burke's Sanitarium, where he expected to see Golden and deliver over the package that same night of his arrival.
"Yes, that much-needed evidence had been destroyed," cried Lea in a dramatic manner as he suddenly turned and faced the aged defendant. "But it was destroyed on the night of February a year ago by this defendant when he applied his match to the fuse beside the tent-cottage in which Lu Smith and her child lay peacefully sleeping."
Following up his argument, District Attorney referred to the haste that had been displayed in procuring the dynamite from the mine, and Golden's claim that he wanted it to use for experimental purposes. "But it was not until after the beginning of this trial, or nearly eleven months after the dynamite came into his possession, that any experiments were made," said Lea. The remainder of the argument was along similar lines, no detail being overlooked that might tend to strengthen the position of the prosecution.
- Press Democrat, January 28, 1911
LU SMITH'S LIFE TRAGEDYAn Interview by Dorothy Anne
When I rang the bell last night at the Mead home on Chinn street, where Lu Etta Smith is at present living, I will confess my heart was down in my boots--and my boots were wet and cold.
That "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread," was a motto plainly in my mind's eye. Reporter after reporter from the San Francisco dailies had plead, argued and threatened, trying to make Lu Etta Smith talk for publication. She was obdurate. She would not. She had nothing to say to them; therefore she said nothing. Would she talk to me? That was the vital question.
I rang the bell. The door was answered by a most polite and agreeable young lady who was armed for an odious male. She gasped when she saw me and smiled a cold smile when I made my errand known.
My quest was quite useless, but would I come in? I did so and quickly, before she could change her mind. She would ask Miss Smith if she would talk to me. She did. Miss Smith said she would not talk. When Miss Smith said she would not, she should not. That was all there was to it. I suppose I should have left, but I did not.
I tried again. I argued what a very harmless reporter I was, how cold the nigh was how far I had come. I told of my sympathy for the unfortunate woman and -- the young lady said she would ask Lu Etta Smith again, but she really didn't think it any use.
Miss Smith then sent word back that she would talk to me if I would come into the dining room.
The dining room in the Mead home is the usual comfortable, well-furnished room of the American home. There were just the heavy oak table and chairs and a small couch. Seated on the couch, as if roused from a recumbent position, was probably the most discussed woman in the town and State, Lu Etta Smith.
She looked worn and tired, and I felt ashamed of myself for inflicted my presence upon her, even briefly. The lines in her face showed genuine sorrow and a nervous smile came and went as I talked.
"Reporters are a nuisance, are they not, Miss Smith," I ventured.
"Yes," she conceded, "today I have been burdened with them. They caught me coming after a walk with my boy and insisted I talk. I ran into my room and shut the door. Don't you think they are very rude?"
Immediately I arose to the defense of the unfortunate reporter who is detailed to get a story at all hazards.
"Why do you not talk to them?" I added. "It would be easier."
"They ask me too many questions and talk to me too long," she almost defiantly answered.
I thought the topic exhausted.
"Have you any plans for the future?" I asked, noticing she held Froebel's book on kindergarten work in her hand. "Do you plan to take up the kindergarten work as your future life work?"
"Only as it affects my baby," she answered. "He is getting to be a big boy now, and is beginning to notice things. I want him to have the right start."
That Miss Smith is more than ordinarily interested in this subject has been evident by the interest she has taken in attending lectures on the subject lately given by Miss Brown. I saw her there myself. So the conversation gently glided into the criticism of Miss Brown's work.
"I thought you might be going to stay in Santa Rosa," I rather insisted, hoping to get an expression of what she had planned for the future.
She shook her head sadly.
"It is too near the Sanitarium, I am afraid."
"But if Dr. Burke is in the hands of the law, he cannot harm you."
Then a most unexpected turn to the conversation took place. Quite unknowingly we discussed prisons and how work in portioned out to the prisoners, and I volunteered some information about the jute mill and the rockpile. I knew a lot. I had just heard it discussed at the Saturday Afternoon Club.
I told her the jute mill was run at a loss of $3,000 per year, even if everybody did work for nothing, and that everybody worked either there or on the rockpile.
Lu Etta Smith involuntarily stiffened, a look of something almost akin to terror crept into her eyes.
She leaned forward nervously and looked straight at me.
"If what you say is true, I hope Dr. Burke never goes to prison," she said.
"Do you mean to tell me after what you say you have suffered at his hands, the disgrace of the trial, the terror and anxiety of waiting for the verdict, that you do not want to see him punished?"
"No, I believe in remedial punishment."
"You mean that you think the punishment his conscience would give him, if he were free, would be sufficient?"
"Yes, that's what I think."
"Well, what state do you think a man's conscience would be in if he had plotted and planned as the jury evidently believe Dr. Burke has? Do you not think it would be somewhat dulled?"
She shook her head and smiled a wan smile. The terrible tragedy of it all came over me, I couldn't stand it. I left.
In my heart of hearts I believe Lu Etta Smith loves Dr. Burke! That all this trial and conviction has been a grief, not a joy to her. She told me frankly the only fear she ever had of him was that he would shut her up in an asylum for the insane.
What will become of Lu Etta Smith now? Who will turn to her the helping hand? Who will help her raise that beautiful little blue and white baby boy she so dearly loves?
These questions surged through my brain as I jumped into the waiting taxicab.
God only knows.
- Press Democrat, January 29, 1911