Without doubt, both the farmer and the orphanage had the best of intentions. Giving disadvantaged kids a summer in the Sonoma County countryside? What's not to like?

"The Boys and Girls Aid Society" of San Francisco, described as a home 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," had a deal with a Sebastopol berry grower to operate a "summer camp" for the boys. There, according to a 1911 profile of the farmer, the boys enjoyed "a pleasant outing in the country as well as an opportunity to earn money." Living in tents set up in a eucalyptus grove, the kids and their supervisors earned up to $5,000 for the summer's work. A 1915 survey of the child welfare societies put the organization's annual expenses at about $37K, so we can safely assume that the money from this farm labor represented a sizable chunk of income for both the Aid Society and the youths.

RIGHT: According to "Child Welfare Work in California" (William Henry Slingerland, Russell Sage Foundation, New York Dept. of Child-Helping, 1915), at the Sebastopol farms "boys pick berries and other fruits for pay, each one retaining his own wages and priding himself on amount earned." Other pictures in the book portray the boys under their camp tent and at Sunday religious services

But the 1905 Press Democrat story below suggests a less idyllic interpretation. Here boys desperately try to escape, with local police acting as low-rent bounty hunters, earning ten bucks for each child they drag back to the fields in handcuffs. And say, here's an interesting question: Do you think that the $10 reward came from the kid's meager earnings, or the Aid Society's take?


They Are Strays From the Band of Juvenile Berry Pickers on the Barlow Ranch

Two runaway boys, one calling himself Riley and the other Roddick, gave Police Officer Boyes his run of the summer Wednesday afternoon. Boyes is no colt with a crack speed record but the street commissioner's gravel flies when John M. gets action on his 200 pounds avoirdupois.

They boys are part of a delegation of the San Francisco Boys & Girls Aid Society lads who are picking fruit on Mrs. Barlow's ranch near Sebastopol. The people in charge of the youngsters have enjoyed themselves for several weeks standing guard and the officers of the surrounding towns have made considerable pin money rounding up the young mavericks at $10 per head.

Riley, Roddick, and a third lad made a jump last week and were overhauled near Petaluma. When they were returned to the Barlow camp handcuffs were slipped on their wrists, probably as a means of future identification. [illegible] the lively trio got underway Tuesday night and fetched up in this city.

One got his slim hands out of the iron [illegible] and another borrowed a file at the merry-go-round with which he skillfully filed off his metal ornaments, Boyes caught sight of his prey and the chase was on. They ran well together at first and the big officer grabbed the two R's, the other runaway escaping. His captives wiggled convulsively in his grasp and Riley tore loose, disappearing over the creek bank. Boyes hurried Roddick to the lock-up and after a hot rush through the creek brush found the boy stowed away in a thicket like a coon. The third lad was seen hanging around a Southern Pacific freight train but got out of sight before being caged.

The Roddick lad hails from Guerneville, and he has been in trouble before. They boys will be returned to the officers of the Society. If they still persist in misbehaving they will get themselves into very serious trouble.

- Press Democrat, August 31, 1905

Although Prohibition was still about fifteen years on the horizon, the drums of temperance were heard louder in the 1905 Santa Rosa newspapers. Reports of W.C.T.U. meetings began appearing regularly; news stories about restrictive alcohol laws elsewhere in the state and nation were reported with greater frequency.

Press Democrat editor Ernest L. Finley, with his terrible track record on matters of race, politics, and other basic Twentieth Centuryisms, produced a remarkably prescient editorial boldly stating that outright prohibition would never work: "Few have been 'snatched from the depths' in comparison to the immense amount of energy [temperance] organizations have expended." The Press Democrat likely received some grief for that commentary, as well as its regular advertisements promoting whiskey and beer.


A statement has just been issued by the Bureau of Statistics to the effect that the drinking habit is increasing in the United States, and the figures accompanying the statement appear to bear it out. But while this may be the case, it cannot be denied that drunkenness is decreasing. Men are learning by experience and also by example that they can no longer hope to maintain their standing either in the social or business world if they allow themselves to indulge in liquors to excess. The employer has no use for such men; he demands that those to whom he entrusts the details of his business be men with clear heads and men upon whom he can depend. The same thing can be said as to the social side of life -- nobody nowadays has much use for the man who cannot be depended upon to keep straight, when out with his friends. The agitation carried on by the various temperance organizations during recent years has contributed to the results here noted, of course, but students of sociology are pretty well agreed that their influence is indirect rather than direct; while they have helped to create a sentiment against excessive drinking, few have been "snatched from the depths" in comparison to the immense amount of energy such organizations have expended. It is sober, every-day common sense rather than enthusiasm and hysteria that is contributing most to the abolition of the habit of drinking to excess, which, speaking in the broader sense, now appears to be well under way.

- Press Democrat editorial, May 5, 1905

Yolo County Supervisors Pass Stringent Regulating Ordinance

Woodland, May 5 - The Supervisors have passed a stringent liquor ordinance which materially affects the saloon business in Yolo county outside the incorporated towns of Woodland and Winters. The new ordinance limits saloons in the county to 34, but does not deprive any now in business of license. The Stringent provisions require saloons to close from Sunday at 6 p. m. till Monday at 5 a. m. and every night at 12. They are prohibited from selling liquor to minors, to any person unfit to attend to ordinary busines affairs on account of drink and to any female. Gambling in saloons is also prohibited.

- Press Democrat, May 6, 1905

An 8 year-old runaway, child laborer, or early media cynic? We'll never know the truth about this virtual cousin of Huck Finn.


"I ain't got no name," said an eight year old lad who fell almost to his death from a schooner into Petaluma creek on Monday and who was rescued from a watery grave by a brave young fellow who dived in after him. When asked his name the rescued boy, after a reminder from an older brother that "you don't want no newspaper notoriety," replied, "I aint got no name." And he stuck to it too.

- Press Democrat, August 23, 1905

1905 was about the time that the automobile tipped from being a novelty to becoming a familiar sight -- and sometime nuisance -- on the streets and roads of Sonoma County. That year Santa Rosa imposed its first speed limit (8MPH, slower at street corners) on the 21 autos registered in the city. Sonoma County overall had at least 41 "antomobiles" (yes, the typo is in the original headline below), and nearly as many licensed drivers. Except for two vehicles owned by different Petaluma poultry businesses, all belonged to individuals. Santa Rosa also had two women drivers; licensed Shirley D. Burris had her own car, and Gertrude Savage was likely the driver of the C. W. Savage vehicle.

In Santa Rosa, you were far more likely to have an auto than a license to "chauffeur" a car:


Luther Burbank owned a car, but had no license


Dr. J.W. Jesse had two automobiles, but no legal ability to drive either


Three of the twelve licensed drivers apparently owned no car (at least, under their family name) : J. D. Gemmill, Henry R. Jenkins, and speed-crazy Fred J. Wiseman.

There were also scofflaws with unregistered cars. Healdsburg Dr. H. P. Crocker is unlisted as either having a car or a license, although he was involved in a nasty accident earlier that year, running into a horse-drawn wagon carrying a family of five. The wagon was destroyed and at least one passenger was seriously injured. Crocker was fined $250, but appealed -- not because he denied being at fault for the accident, but because he claimed that auto regulations were unfair. The law allowing someone with a horse or buggy to signal an approaching driver to "stop and remain stationary" gave that person "arbitrary power to control and direct the conduct" of the car's driver, his lawyer, J. Rollo Leppo argued. The law didn't specify how far away the auto had to be from the horse(s) before it could be ordered to stop, or even that it was applied only to public roads; in theory, Leppo suggested, a horse rider could order cars on a private property race track to screech to a halt. The appeals stretched through the year. (Story update available here.)

But at the same time, autos still were rare enough that a tire stuck in the mud could be newsworthy. In the final story below, note that the road of hopelessly muddy ooze wasn't somewhere deep in the sticks, but between downtown Santa Rosa and the scene of " The Battle of Sebastopol Avenue." Also appreciate the sardonic subhed about the "horseless vehicle" being spooked.

Registered Antomobiles

July 1, 1905, there were 2475 automobiles and 1413 chauffeurs in this State registered at the office of Secretary Curry, Sacramento, as such are required by law to do. Sonoma County sends up a list of forty-one machines, the property of the following owners: [Santa Rosa 21, Petaluma 12, Healdsburg 6, Cloverdale and Geyserville, one each].

Thirty chauffeurs have registered, which in some cases are also listed as owners. They are as follows: [Santa Rosa 12, Petaluma 12, Healdsburg 6].

- Santa Rosa Republican, July 1, 1905

Dr. Crocker of Healdsburg Is Charged With Violating the County Automobile Ordinance

Tomorrow a complaint will be filed against Dr. H. P. Crocker, a prominent citizen of Healdsburg, and he will be haled before the court of Justice H. N. Latimer at Windsor. He will be charged with running an automobile on the county road and not stopping when notified, which is contrary to the ordinances of the county.

Behind this statement lies an accident which took place on the first day of the present year, in which Dr. and Mrs. Crocker ran into a vehicle containing five persons, and demolished the vehicle. Mr. and Mrs. C. M. Phillips, and their son and brother-in-law and the latter's wife were in the vehicle at the time of the collision. Mr. Phillips' brother-in-law, whose name could not be learned today, was seriously injured. He was thrown from the vehicle and rendered unconscious, and was taken to Burke's sanitarium for treatment. At that place he remained in a comatose condition for a number of hours. The ladies of the party were thrown out into the mud and water alongside the road, and were badly bruised and their nervous system demoralized by the accident. They have not entirely recovered their usual state of health as yet.

The accident occurred near Fulton, and Mr. Phillips, who was driving, declares that when he saw the automobile coming down the road he endeavored to control his horse, which was unused to the motor vehicles. He alleges that he held up his hand and shouted a warning to the automobilists, but that the chauffeur did not slacken his sped [sic] at all. Mr. Phillips declares that the chauffeur had his head down, and did not pay any attention to the warning.

Mr. Phillips declares that Dr. Crocker gave him no satisfaction after running him down and demolishing his vehicle. He further declares that Mrs. Crocker informed the ladies of his party that in the spring there would be six more automobiles in Healdsburg, and that if the horses could not get used to them the drivers had better keep off the county roads.


- Santa Rosa Republican, January 17, 1905

Dr. Jesse's Horseless Vehicle Takes Fright at Electric Car -- It Threw Water in Air

Dr. J.W. Jesse had an unpleasant experience this morning on Railroad street with his automobile, and to release him from his predicament several men of brawn and a stout iron rod were requisitioned.

While in his automobile this morning on that thoroughfare, near where the electric car "Woodworth" stands, his horseless vehicle took fright at the electric car, and sidestepped into a large mud hole alongside the track. The auto sank into the ooze and mud up to the axles on one side, while the other was apparently free. The engine came to a standstill when the machine struck the bed of mud.

The medico repeatedly started the engine, and one side of the horseless vehicle churned the mud and threw great streams of water and mud high into the air from the revolving wheels. The other side remained motionless imbedded in the mud. Persons in the vicinity thought some hydraulic mining was going on in their midst from the clouds of vapor that settled over the vicinity and hastened to the scene of difficulty to make investigations. The machine refused to respond to its engines, and Dr. Jesse stepped out and place his broad shoulders against the back of the vehicle to move it from its place of lodgement. In this he was likewise unsuccessful, and the fact that several by-standers grunted for him did not give the required assistance.

Finally a long iron rod was secured and a number of men took hold of the same and pulled the machine from its muddy position. The medico and auto each received a generous mud bath.

- Santa Rosa Republican, January 20, 1905

Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, and politicians, even retired ones, gotta hear themselves talk, even when they know nothing more than Average Joe. And thus an editor at the Santa Rosa Republican found himself recording for posterity what General William C. Oates thought about foreign trade.

The general and his family were in town visiting his baby brother James Wyatt, who held a party in William's honor as the formal housewarming at his home, which later would become known as Comstock House.

William C. Oates served seven terms in the House and was a one-term governor of Alabama. He was a "general" indeed, although he actually never ranked above lieutenant colonel on active duty, and even that wasn't official; technically he was a captain, at best. As the Spanish-American War appeared on the horizon in 1898, W.C. Oates petitioned President McKinley to appoint him a Brigadier General. The White House approved the commission for the 64 year-old Oates, as it did requests from several other ex-Confederate officers (and even more Union vets). But the old man did little but bivouac and march in a few parades, and authorities in Washington must have thought him a crank for insisting that he was entitled to lead troops into battle.

In the Civil War, Oates lost an arm. He also lost his brother John, which would haunt him the rest of his life. He also lost a battle that just might have changed the course of history.

Captain Oates was commander of the 15th Alabama regiment. With the rest of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, Oates and his men invaded Pennsylvania in July 1863. Outside a town called Gettysburg and on a rocky hill called Little Round Top, it is not hyperbole to say that they all met their destinies.

During the second day of combat at Gettysburg, Oates was given a direct order to position his troops for a coordinated attack with other units. En route to that specified location, Union snipers began firing at Oates' regiment. Oates ordered his troops to turn around and fight the sharpshooters, chasing them up a steep and heavily wooded hillside. At a top ledge, Oates and his men rested, but were soon confronted by an officer who galloped up the hill on horseback, and demanded to know why Oates had disobeyed orders. William argued that this was the highest spot in the valley, and if Confederate cannons could somehow be hoisted up to the top, they could command the battlefield. As author Glenn LaFantasie wrote in the definitive biography, Gettysburg Requiem, his idea "revealed his lack of artillery training, his poor assumption that high ground necessarily meant superior ground, and his wishful thinking."

Ordered to follow orders, Oates and his troops trekked down and off to positions at the base of the smaller, adjacent hill, Little Round Top. But his pursuit of the snipers (who had melted away into the woods) and musings about having a Civil War equivalent to The Guns of Navarone had meant a critical delay in their arrival; by then, Union troops were already entrenched at the top. Oates and the men of the 15th Alabama would be in the unenviable combat position of charging the enemy uphill.

The fighting between Oates' Alabama troops and the 20th Maine volunteers, commanded by Col. Joshua Chamberlain, was fierce and close. For over an hour the battle went back and forth with many dead, particularly among the Confederates. Both commanders wrote books about the experience with memorable quotes: "The blood stood in puddles in some places on the rocks" (Oates) and "At times I saw around me more of the enemy than of my own men" (Chamberlain). The battle is the dramatic climax of the first half of the movie, "Gettysburg."

As the sun was going down and as Oates saw his troops were exhausted, out of water and low on ammunition, he ordered a retreat. But as they were starting to pull back, Chamberlain did something completely unexpected: He ordered his men to lock bayonets and charge screaming down the hill. The Southerners panicked and fled ("we ran like a herd of wild cattle," Oates later wrote), leaving their wounded behind, among them Oates' brother, John. Although William C. Oates is not portrayed or mentioned in the film, those are supposed to be his men that mustachioed actor Jeff Daniels (Chamberlain) is chasing.

The importance of the battle of Little Round Top became the sort of topic that Civil War buffs love to debate. In another book, Twilight at Little Round Top, Glenn LaFantasie argues that it was the key part of the battle of Gettysburg, and with it, hinged the War Between the States. Perhaps if Oates had not exhausted his men with the fruitless chase up that other hillside, or had arrived at Little Round Top just a few minutes earlier and thus before the Union forces had settled in, the outcome could have gone the other way, and General Lee might have had a wider range of options available on the final day of fighting. (Obl. Believe-it-or-Not sidebar: It was also the battle of the governors-to-be, as Oates became governor of Alabama, and Chamberlain became governor of Maine.)

In Santa Rosa forty-two years after that terrible battle, William was a mess of conflictions. To W. C. Oates and his ilk, race and slavery still had nothing to do with the Civil War, and the South had not "lost," but merely had been "overwhelmed" by Yankees. To him, the core Confederacy "principles" -- namely that blacks deserved to be enslaved because they were somehow lesser humans and that the Constitution granted absolute superiority to state's rights -- were never defeated, and someday, someway, the romantic ideal of Dixie would rise up again.

"He firmly believed in Southern institutions and ideas, such as white supremacy and black inferiority. Like many other white southerners, he seemed untroubled about keeping African Americans in subservient roles while exploiting them for personal gain and even sexual pleasure [Wm. Oates had a child with a house slave]...his heart was constricted by his hard attitudes toward blacks, immigrants, Northerners, Republicans, Populists, and practically anyone who was unlike him. He was, as one Alabama historian describes him, 'a conservative among conservatives.' In many respects, that's putting it mildly," LaFantasie wrote in the forward to Gettysburg Requiem.

His claim in the interview below that he "immediately advocated the gradual emancipation of the negroes" when Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation is not exactly true. In his first foray into national politics, Oates went to the Confederacy's capitol a few weeks after Lincoln signed the Proclamation and lobbied that the Confederate army's shortage of soldiers would be solved if slaves were allowed to enlist, with a promise that they would be given their freedom after the war. "Oates journey to Richmond produced shock, disbelief, and impolite sneers," noted author LaFantasie.

As for Oates' optimistic views on contemporary race relations in the South, ("we are getting along pretty smoothly"), on the same day that William met with the Santa Rosa newspaper, Edward Lewis and "Kid" George were lynched in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, just two of the 57 blacks known to have been lynched that year. One week later, a black man named Tom Williams was burned alive "before an immense crowd of excited citizens" in Texas, according to a New York Times item. Doubtless the families of these murdered men did not share Oates' cheery outlook.

The Exclusion Act comments refer to an announcement made earlier in 1905 that China intended to boycott American-made products because of the U.S. law that mandated openly racist discrimination. In response, President Teddy Roosevelt clarified that the ban only applied to "Chinese of the coolie, or laboring class" and not to businessmen, diplomats, or students. The boycott ended a few months later.

Interesting talk with Gen. W. C. Oates, of Alabama, who is visiting in Santa Rosa

One of the most distinguished men of the New South, General W. C. Oates of Alabama, is being entertained by his brother, Colonel James W. Oates. He is accompanied by his wife and son, W. C. Oates, Jr. They like Santa Rosa very much and are meeting many friends with whom they became acquainted on a former visit. General Oates is a former Governor of Alabama and ex-Congressman, having represented his district with distinction at Washington and is a leading member of the legal profession of his State. During the Spanish-American War he was a brigader-general, serving with the same fearless loyalty with which he fought for the South in 1861-1865. He is the author of "The War between the Union and the Confederacy and its Lost Opportunities," a work in which the subject is discussed in a way possible only to one possessing complete and intimate knowledge of the same.

General Oates is tall and soldierly in bearing, has the southerner's easy grace of manner and is very entertaining in conversation. He was interviewed yesterday afternoon by the Republican in regard to the labor conditions in the South, as concerned with Oriental exclusion, and said:

"If there is anything this country is sensitive about it is its trade interests, and all this talk about modification of the Chinese exclusion Act is the result of an apprehension that its rigid enforcement, perhaps unreasonably rigid, may result in harm to American commerce.

"I think the proposed modification of the Exclusion Act will amount to very little. It will probably soften the rigidity of it, but very little, and will not increase the immigration of that people to this country to any very great extent. The statements to that effect and all the talk have grown out of the declaration of the President in response to the expressed apprehension that China would boycott trade, and my opinion is that the President only intends such modification as to meet the excessive rigidity, in some places, of the exclusion.

"Now, in the Southern States, the cotton States prosper, there is no particular demand for Chinese and Japanese laborers. Owing to the lately inflated prices and disturbance, or scarcity of labor in those States, there has been and is now going on considerable agitation in favor of the installation of white labor from European countries. The negroes, who constitute the chief laborers in the cotton States, are becoming less satisfactory -- I think largely for the reason that it is so easy for them to get an abundance of money for their support by a limited amount of labor. They are not as a rule provident people who want to lay by something for a rainy day, but usually expend their earning as soon as obtained.

"From life-long experience and observation my opinion is that negro labor is the best adapted to the climatic and other conditions of the cotton States of any that is obtainable.

"The political agitation of the last three years, urging the negro to seek fields of industry in other countries, has had a very disturbing effect upon labor in many localities, but I think agitation in most of the States where there is a large negro population has resulted in the respective rights of the races becoming well defined. As these conditions become more settled and acquiesced in my each race, their relations will be more harmonious than now."

As an indication of the very strong religious sentiment of the colored race in the South the General related a story of a planter friend of his, who managed the free negroes on his three plantations with very noticable success. When asked about it he said:

"If I am any more successful than my neighbors in dealing with negroes it is because when I hired them I found out what denomination they belonged to, built them a little church and provided them with a preacher."

While many negroes go North to work in the large cities the larger wages they receive are really no better in the end. General Oates says, than those paid in the South, where house servants, especially, are exceptionally well treated, always receiving their board and room free. It is quite evident that General Oates has a strong liking for the colored people, and his desire that they should be given justice in every regard is apparent from the fact that, he is willing and anxious to see the race improve, and that he sees no reason why the intelligent negro should not have business and even political ambition. In Alabama the negroes have practically the same advantages as the whites, as the constitution which requires that there be a large sum used for educational purposes provides that the same amount per capita be used for colored schools and white.

It certainly might be said that General Oates was ahead of his time in his manner of thinking when the war began, because when Lincoln's emancipation proclamation was made he immediately advocated the gradual emancipation of the negroes.

"I was only a young fellow then," said the General, "'and nobody paid any attention to me, but if they had, there would have been none of the horrors of reconstruction."

After all the dismal newspaper and magazine articles about the race problem in the South, General Oates' optimistic view of condidtions there is a welcome change.

"Race problem? Just let it alone," he said, "we are getting along pretty smoothly and it will take care of itself."

- Santa Rosa Republican, August 5, 1905

Showbiz was tough in 1905; sometimes there would be hecklers in the audience, sometimes a rotten tomato thrown. And when it was really, really bad, sometimes there would be a dentist waiting to beat you up outside the stage door.

Not much is known about "Professor Faits" (or "Fates," or "Fait"), except that he had a hypnotism act similar to that of "The Great McEwen," who played Santa Rosa in 1904. Both McEwen and Faits appeared to be following guidelines from a 1901 how-to book, Stage Hypnotism, which not only tutored would-be Mesmerists on trances and the like, but taught them how to promote themselves. McEwen chose to publicize himself with the trick of driving a buggy around town blindfolded; Faits used the simpler stunt of having supposedly hypnotized subjects asleep in the display window of a local store. And by appearing in Sonoma County, both hypnotists were following the book's suggestion of targeting small towns because pickin's were easier than in the cities.

There the similarities between McEwen and Faits ended. McEwen's visit was a smashing success, probably due to equal parts to skill and personal charisma; it didn't hurt either that the Press Democrat's editor appeared to be an enthusiastic (and rather gullible) fan. By contrast, newspaper coverage of Faits' "window sleeper" promo was perfunctory, and there was tepid enthusiasm for his shows ("the program is entertaining, instructive and at times very amusing"). By the last night, poor Faits, who had made the further mistake of booking himself into the largest theatre in town, was reduced to giving away tickets to fill seats.

Bad luck also plagued Faits' visit to Santa Rosa. During one performance there was an accident with a photographer's flash lamp that "burned two of the fingers of his hand so that the flesh dropped away from the bones," the Santa Rosa Republican reported. By the end of the week, it's safe to bet that Faits-the-Great was looking forward to leaving the City of The Roses and heading south to his next engagement at that nice little egg town to the south, Petaluma.

Oh, if only he knew.

During his last Petaluma show, two men in the audience began heckling. An experienced showman like Faits surely would have known how to deal with such disturbances; but maybe because it was the final night in town, or maybe because he was short-tempered because his burned fingers ached, he didn't cope well. There were words and he ordered the men from the theatre. They left -- as far as the front door.

When Faits and his two assistants exited the theatre at the end of the night, they were jumped by Walter Hall and two other men. Hall punched Faits in the mouth and likewise bloodied up Faits' male assistant. Afterwards, police were called and charges were filed against Hall. He was arrested, made bail, and the next morning paid his fine of $25 (!) for three counts of battery.

The story could end here and be titled something like, "Professor Faits Worst Week Ever." But there's more: Who was this Petaluma guy named Walter Hall, who seemed so determined to cause trouble? Was he a local ruffian, a drunk looking for someone to pummel? Not at all; Doctor Walter C. Hall was a prominent 23 year-old dentist. He was also a man with a broken heart -- and therein lies the other half of this tale.

Hall was married to his childhood Petaluma sweetheart, Abbie Nay. Years later, when her obituary appeared in newspapers the length of the state, it was noted that she was once known as "the most beautiful girl in Sonoma County." No pictures can be found in the papers of the day, but she was described as small, with golden blonde hair, and an aristocratic bearing. The marriage to Hall was her third. She married her music teacher while still in her teens, and had two children. They divorced, and less than a year later, in June, 1902, she married James P. Treadwell.

Abbie's second husband, "Jimmy" Treadwell, had inherited part of a fortune. Papers of the day commonly erred both by stating that he was worth "millions" (he wasn't) and that the family money came from the famous Treadwell mine in Alaska (it didn't), but he really did have a trust fund income of $1,000/month (worth over $100,000 today) and was worth somewhat short of a half-million. He also had the reputation as a playboy with an eye for actresses -- one threatened him with a breach of promise suit and horsewhipped him in 1897 -- and as a sometimes violent drunk.

A little over three months into their marriage, in early October, 1902, Abbie and Jimmy were vacationing at the famed Rubio Pavilion near Pasadena. They began arguing and Jimmy drew a gun. They struggled. He struck her on the head with the revolver and she ran away, bleeding. Then Jimmy supposedly shot himself. Twice. There were no witnesses.

Although he was shot both in the chest and in the center of his forehead, the jury ruled it a suicide. "No one for a moment would doubt the statement of this lady," the coroner said. In the days that followed, other details were revealed: Jimmy had written his Last Will and Testament just a few days before his death, leaving Abbie his entire estate.

Abbie returned home to Petaluma as a widowed, divorced, mother of two, and a very, very, wealthy woman. There she reconnected with old flame Walter Hall, and they married at the end of 1904. Later accounts of her life say that their relationship was tempestuous, and they separated a few months later. This would bring us right to the time that young Dr. Walter C. Hall, having lost the girl of his dreams and her fortune, found himself in the alley behind the American hotel in Petaluma, waiting to beat the crap out of a poor magician who had only asked him to behave.

Walter and Abbie divorced in 1908, the dentist charging her with desertion. She did not contest the complaint. Abbie married again in 1912, this time to a man named Georgesterff. Like all of her other marriages, this one didn't last long; she died about six months later of TB.

Fait/Faits toured as a magician at least until 1910, and probably endured much razzing over the incident, particularly since accounts found in the Santa Rosa Republican and elsewhere claim that he was knocked unconcious by the dentist's punch. An item can be found in a paper in far away Amador County, where it was also noted that he had performed in the town many times. Doubtless every place he had ever appeared picked up the story; it would've been hard for editors to resist a tale with such jokey potential. Faits died in San Diego in 1940. The San Diego Historical Society appears to have archive materials donated by his daughter.

Almost immediately after his divorce was final, Dr. Hall married another local woman, "credited with being one of the most beautiful girls in her section of the country," the Press Democrat reported. "She is a pronounced blonde."

(Story update available here)


Professor Faits, the hypnotist, who appears at the Athenaeum tomorrow night, is said to be very clever in his art and press notices in other cities where he has appeared speak very highly of him and the performance. The San Luiz Obispo Tribune says among other things:

"Last evening Prof. Faits gave another and an entirely different exhibition from the previous evening. To say that the performance is wonderfully clever and entertaining would be slight praise in view of the wonderful things he does. The cabinet work was decidedly the best that has ever come under our notice, and the Resto Capio was simply marvelous.

"This evening there will be an entire change of program. Mind reading will be the principal feature. The professor will do many wonderful things blindfolded. He will devine the thoughts of members of the audience, and locate hidden articles, and select a couple whom any person thinks of as being engaged to marry. We heartily recommend Prof. Fait's exhibitions as being worthy of the best turnout that San Luiz Obispo is capable of. Go tonight and be edified."

- Press Democrat, July 16, 1905


Professor C. W. Faits who is giving a week of interesting demonstrations of the wonders of hypnotism, psychic phenomena, thought reading and modern spiritualism. At the Athenaeum will [sic] give a public exhibition this afternoon at 2:30 o'clock in the window of Mailer's hardware store. On Monday he placed a young lady in a peaceful hypnotic sleep and she remained motionless until awakened in the theatre in the evening. Today he will place a man in a "restless" sleep for the same period, and prior to his awakening in the theatre he says he will make him so restless that it will require several strong men to keep him in bed. The program is entertaining, instructive and at times very amusing.

- Press Democrat, July 19, 1905


Much attention was centered Wednesday afternoon on the work of Prof. C. W. Fates in placing a young man in a "troubled" sleep, in the show window of Mailer's hardware store. The subject showed all the signs of nightmare and late in the evening was taken to the Athenaeum and awakened after unsuccessful efforts to get from his watchers [sic]. Before he was awakened he broke away from the grasp of four men.

A large and deeply interested audience witnesses the Professor's work Wednesday night. This evening he will give the cabinet work among his other demonstrations. The attendance is increasing nightly.

- Press Democrat, July 20, 1905


This will be the last night of Prof. C. W. Faits entertainments at the Athenaeum. No one who has seen him has anything but words of praise for his work. The program tonight will be especially interesting. The coupon published in another column, if presented at the box office tonight, will entitle any lady to a reserved seat for the performance.

- Press Democrat, July 23, 1905


Dr. Walter Hall went into Judge King's court on Monday morning and paid a fine of $25 imposed by the court on three charges of battery. The doctor entered a plea of guilty and paid the coin.

Two of the complaints were sworn to by Prof. Fait. One charged battery upon the professor and the other charged battery upon the person of Miss Effie Jensen, who assists Prof. Fait in his performances. The third complaint was sworn to by George Satterwhite, who also assists Prof. Fait in his exhibitions.

It appears that at the Unique theater on Sunday night, during the performance of Prof. Fait, Dr. Hall and Sam Swartz occupied seats and created a disturbance. Prof. Fait approached them and asked them to desist and some words passed.

After the performance, as Prof. Fait and his assistants, Miss Jensen and Mr. Satterwhite were approaching the rear entrance to the American hotel on Kentucky street, they were assaulted by Dr. Hall who struck Prof. Fait in the mouth with his fist, cutting his lips open and spattering blood all over the professor's dress shirt and coat. Mr. Satterwhite also received a blow on the face that caused blood to flow. In the melee Miss Jensen was so roughly handled that a charge of battery was sworn to in her case also. She was not struck by anyone, however.

Prof. Kenney, who says he feared trouble, accompanied Prof. Fait and his party. He interfered and finally succeeded in putting a stop to the struggle.

Sam Swartz and Roy Hooper were with Dr. Hall at the time of the assault but did not, it is said, participate in the scrap.

Dr. Hall was arrested Sunday night and gave bail for the sum of $100 for his appearance in court Monday morning.

Prof. Fait and party left Monday morning for Sonoma where they will give entertainments.

It was reported Monday that Prof. Kenney, who is determined to stamp out rowdyism at the Unique, will cause the arrest of Dr. Hall and Mr. Swartz on a charge of disturbing the peace of the people who were present at the theater Sunday evening.

Another disturbing element at the theater Sunday evening was a local character known as "White Horse." That individual, who was drunk, let out a series of whoops the moment he stepped inside the door. He was quickly ejected, however.

- Petaluma Argus, July 31, 1905

Disturbance at the Unique

During Professor Fait's hypnotism performance Sunday evening a disturbance arose. It was caused by Samuel Swartz and Dr. Walter Hall as stated by several eye witnesses, who sat on one of the front seats. Professor Fait remonstrated with Swartz who was the first to offend and then the disturbance was increased by Dr. Hall. They were induced to leave the theatre, but, with Roy Hooper, waited beside the American stables where Professor Fait and Miss Griffith, his assistaint, were taking advange of the passage that leads to the back entrance of the American hotel from Kentucky street. Dr. Hall struck Professor Fait but Professor Kenney who had suspected trouble followed and intervened, thus preventing further attack on Professor Fait. A man named Wells belonging to the Fait party was also beaten by Dr. Hall because he was starting out to find a policeman.

Dr. Hall states that he was not the only one to blame for the disturbance but is game enough to take the punishment.

Samuel Swartz says that he never opened his mouth during the whole evening. He says the man on the stage pointed out the wrong man when he indicated that Swartz was the guilty party. Samuel says that Dr. Hall and himself were on the way home when they met Professor Fait, and that Dr. Hall claimed that the professor owed an apology for what he had said in the theater. Wells interfered and the doctor hit him. Then Professor Fait picked up the woman and swung her between himself and Hall with such force that if Hall had not caught her she would have fallen to the ground. After this he called Dr. Hall away and they left.

Dr. Hall appeared before Judge Kig [sic] this morning. He pleaded guilty and was fined twenty five dollars for battery.

- Petaluma Courier, July 31, 1905

Dr. Walter Hall of Petaluma Knocks Out Professor Fait and His Troupe

Dr. Walter C. Hall, a prominent dentist of Petaluma, was fined $25 for battery in Justice King's Court in that city last Monday. It appears that Dr. Hall and a companion named Sam Swartz attended the Sunday night performance of Professor Fait, the hypnotist. The two men created a disturbance and had some words with the Professor. After the performance the men followed Fait and his two assistants, Miss Jensen and Mr. Satterwhite, into the street. The Petalumans assaulted three of the show people, the hypnotist getting a severe blow in the mouth. Hall showed himself to be scrapper and cleaned out the whole troupe.

He was arrested Sunday night on three charges of battery sworn out by the show man and his assistants. Dr. Hall gave bonds in the sum of $100 for his appearance and Monday morning paid his fine of $25. The Professor's long, stagy clothes were ruined by the dental hypnotist.

- Santa Rosa Republican, August 1, 1905

Believe it or not, here's (apparently) the first newspaper item on one of Santa Rosa's favorite sons, Robert Ripley:

Roy Ripley of This City is With The Bulletin

Roy Ripley, the well known Santa Rosa boy, has accepted a position with the San Francisco Bulletin as cartoonist for that paper. Mr. Ripley's ability as a drawer of cartoons is well known by many people of this city. For some time he was the staff artist of the Porcupine, the high school magazine, and it was there his drawings first became known to the public. Recently the young man sent several of his drawings to the bulletin, and the managers of that paper were so pleased with the work that they offered him a position that he has accepted. His drawings to the Bulletin, and the man- [line missing] paper for some time.

Besides being a good cartoonist he is well known among the baseball people and he has appeared in uniform in many teams.

- Santa Rosa Republican, March 1, 1909

The midsummer weeks of late July and early August, 1905 could have been the happiest time for Mattie and Wyatt Oates in the house, with every room filled with their near and dear. The 28 year-old Anna May Bell, virtually a daughter to the family, continued her summer visit. But both papers mentioned with excitement the imminent visit by Wyatt's distinguished older brother, former congressman and governor, General W. C. Oates.

Anna May had not one, but two more big parties before the end of summer, the last with nearly 300 (!) guests. The first was organized by the same-age Zana Taylor, who lived about four blocks down the street at her family's "city" home. Gaye LeBaron tells the story of the Taylor family, their mountain, and the White Sulphur Springs resort in an August 28, 2005 column available in the Press Democrat archive (no permanent link). The September sendoff, held two doors down at the magnificent Paxton house, was hosted by the creme de la Santa Rosa creme.

Before big brother William and his family left for the Portland exhibition, Wyatt gave them an auto tour of the area, with none other than speedster Fred J. Wiseman behind the wheel. "Returning to this city, Colonel Oates gave orders to turn the auto loose, and Wiseman complied in a manner which shook the party up."

Distinguished Alabaman Will Visit City of Roses

Judge and Mrs. James Wyatt Oates are looking forward with great pleasure to a visit from General W. C. Oates of Alabama. The local attorney recently received a letter from his brother, stating that he expected to come to the City of Roses and spend the summer with his relative. While not [sic] date has been set for his coming, Judge Oates would not be surprised to have him walk in upon him at any time. The visitor from Alabama is one of the best known men of the southland, and has previously visited here, where he has many warm friends. He was Governor of his State, served fifteen years in Congress as its representative, was a Colonel in the Confederate Army and a General in the Spanish-American War. Few men have such a record of public honor and service as General Bell. [sic]

- Santa Rosa Republican, June 27, 1905

Ballroom Handsomely Adorned With Flowers and Greenery -- Party a Success in Every Way

Miss Zana Taylor's dancing party last night at Woodmen's hall in honor of Miss Anna May Bell of Visalia who is here spending the summer with Colonel and Mrs. Oates was a decidedly pretty and successful function.

The hall was transformed into an ideal ballroom. It was brilliant with floral embellishments and color effects which gave it a fascinating appearance. Baskets of pink roses and greenery were used here and there in the decoration scheme with much taste. Overhead streamers of pink and white radiated from the centre chandelier and were caught up gracefully at each end of the room.

The fair young hostess was assisted in receiving her guests by her mother Mrs. John S. Taylor, Mrs. James Wyatt Oates, Mrs. Blitz W. Paxton and Mrs. M. S. Solomon. The music for the dancing was furnished by Parks' orchestra. The musicians were stationed behind a bamboo hedge, a pretty creation.

The dance program will be kept as dainty souvenirs of the party. They were "bell" shaped. Supper was served shortly before twelve o'clock and dancing was resumed afterwards. The party was a delightful affair in every way and guests entered fully into the spirit of the occasion.

- Press Democrat, July 28, 1905


Colonel and Mrs. J. W. Oates will hold a reception at their residence on Healdsburg avenue this evening in honor of their guests, General and Mrs. W. C. Oates of Alabama. A large number of invitations have been issued.

- Press Democrat, August 8, 1905

As a usual thing there are not many social happenings at this time of the year, but the week just passed was marked by two events of importance -- the reception in honor of General and Mrs. W. C. Oates of Alabama and the dance in Miss Anna May Bell's honor. General and Mrs. W. C. Oates, and their son, W. C. Oates, Jr., and Miss Bell are guests of Colonel and Mrs. J. W. Oates.

Except for the card party giving in Miss Bell's honor a few weeks ago, where only young people were present, the reception was the first formal event to be given in the handsome new Oates home -- and indeed the place was bewilderingly lovely. It was as much a treat to see the elegant reception rooms in their artistic furnishings as it was to see the handsome gowns that graced the occasion. Although the affair was a reception given an ex-Governor and a General of two wars, and formal in its nature, it was anything but formal as far as the clothes worn by the men were concerned. Having come west, with no idea of doing society, General Oates left his dress suit at home, so the gentlemen invited to meet him did the same.

The arrival of Miss Bell from Visalia is always the occasion for functions in her honor, not the least pleasant of which was the dancing party Thursday evening in Woodmen's Hall. This enjoyable affair was attended by all of the members of the younger set who were in town and a number of young married couples. The party was arranged by a number of Miss Bell's friends and admirers and was a success in every way.

- Press Democrat Society column, August 13, 1905

General Oates Seeing Beauties of Sonoma

Colonel James W. Oates and General W. C. Oates and W. C. Oates, Jr., took a trip to San Francisco today and spent the time enjoyably in sight seeing. Yesterday Colonel Oates took his brother through the pretty Gold Ridge section, where the Alabaman had visited twenty tears ago. He was agreeably surprised to note the improvement and prosperity which had come to the people there since his last visit. Twenty years ago, General Oates saw but a sparsely settled country at Sebastopol and today he finds it thickly settled, with every evidence of the abundant prosperity which had come to it in these years. Another enjoyable trip which was taken by the brothers was to Cloverdale, where General Oates was delighted with the beautiful country. A stop was made at Asti to see the wonderful sights at that place, all of which proved enjoyable. The trip was made in an auto, with Chauffeur Fred Wiseman at the throttle. This was the general's first ride in an auto, and he is now partial to that mode of travel. Returning to this city, Colonel Oates gave orders to turn the auto loose, and Wiseman complied in a manner which shook the party up en route to this city. General Oates occupied a front seat on the machine and remarked when he reached the City of Roses that he had traveled about as fast as he wished to on the trip.

- Santa Rosa Republican, August 18, 1905

General and Mrs. Oates Have Departed for Home

General and Mrs. W. C. Oates and W. C. Oates, Jr., departed this morning en route to their Alabama home, going by way of Portland and the Yellowstone Park. At Portland they will make an extended visit at the Lewis and Clark Exposition. Colonel and Mrs. James Wyatt Oates went to San Francisco to see them off on the northern trip, but were unable to accompany them as they had planned owing to important business which demanded the presence of Colonel Oates here. Colonel and Mrs. Oates had expected to have the pleasure of visiting at the fair with their relatives, but have had to forego the journey.


- Santa Rosa Republican, August 19, 1905


Elegant Paxton Home on Healdsburg Avenue Transformed Into a Veritable Bower of Beauty

The elegant Paxton home on Healdsburg Avenue was the scene of a brilliant reception Thursday afternoon in honor of Miss Anna May Bell of Visalia. Almost three hundred guests called between three and six o'clock to meet the popular girl in whose honor the affair was given.

Miss Bell is a relative of Col. and Mrs. James W. Oates of this city. She has spent much of the present summer here, where she has many friends. She is a charming girl with friendly, cordial manners that make her a great favorite wherever she goes and the reception of Thursday afternoon was one of the most successful of a large number of functions that have been planned in her honor this summer.

The house was a veritable bower of beauty. The decorations were entirely pink. The reception hall and parlors were decorated with La France and Duchesse roses and amaryllis blossoms. The dining room was fragrant with great clusters of beautiful pink carnations attractively arranged and placed where they showed to advantage. Master Marshall Paxton stood in the doorway and ushered the guests into the reception hall, where they were received by Mrs. Blitz Wright Paxton, the hostess, assisted by Mrs. J. W. Oates, Mrs. T. J. Geary, Mrs. M. H. Dignan, Mrs. Wm Martin, Mrs. Mark McDonald, Mrs. Frank Doyle, and Mrs. James Edwards. Mrs. Paxton looked charming in a handsome silk gown trimmed with heavy pearl lace. Miss Bess Riley, Miss Jessie Robertson, Miss Zana Taylor, and Miss Bessie Porter served ices and cakes in the beautifully decorated dining room. Music was furnished during the afternoon by C. Mortimer Chapin and Mrs. Berry.

- Press Democrat, September 15, 1905

It was a grand housewarming for the grandest new house in Santa Rosa, as Wyatt and Mattie Oates threw the first of many parties at the home that would later become known as Comstock House. Not so grand was the weather that July 7th; it was the peak of a murderous heat wave, with the temperature that day reaching 109 degrees, just shy of Santa Rosa's all-time high of 110 that would be recorded in 1972.

Newspaper descriptions of house parties at the time often mentioned card games with prizes awarded to best players, and Mr. Oates was frequently reported as a winner. Thus it's no surprise that visitors to the first event at his home were greeted by no fewer than 18 card tables. Played here is Euchre, a very popular team-against-team game like Bridge, and specifically Railroad Euchre, a faster-paced version that was popular among train passengers.


The Misses Anna May Bell and Margaret Harrell the Guests of Honor - Cards and Music

The handsome new Colonial home of Colonel and Mrs. James Wyatt Oates on Healdsburg avenue last night was ablaze with light and daintily decorated for the large party given by them in honor of their guests, Miss Anna May Bell of Visalia and Miss Margaret Harrell of Fresno.

Additional significance was lent the function inasmuch as it was the first social gathering given in the new home and might also have been termed the housewarming.

The elaborate furnishings and the finishings architecturally of the interior left practically little for the decorators to do to enhance the appearance of things and there was nothing lacking to make the party a delightful success. From the nature of the decorations, the dainty prizes awarded, at cards and other features it was a Dutch Colonial party given in a Colonial home.

The guests were mostly young people invited to meet Miss Bell and Miss Harrell. Railroad euchre was played during a portion of the evening and the prizes were won by John Tyler Campbell, gentlemen's first prize; Mrs. H. G. Hahman, ladies' first prize and Mrs. Ralph Belden, lone hand. The remainder of the evening was devoted to social converse and music. Miss Frances Woolsey gave a whistling solo, Miss Blanche Hoffer a piano number and the Misses Bell and Harrell a duet. The last named young ladies were awarded prizes as guests of honor. There were eighteen tables for cards and some of them were placed on the spacious verandah which was transformed into a pretty bower. Refreshments were served. Mrs. Oates was assisted in receiving by her mother, Mrs. M. S. Solomon.

- Press Democrat, July 8, 1905

The Oates' Card Party An Enjoyable Affair

Miss Anna May Bell of Visalia and Miss Margaret Harrell of Fresno were guests of honor at a charming party given last evening by Colonel and Mrs. James Wyatt Oates, with whom they are spending the summer. Southern hospitality was manifest in the cordial welcome Colonel and Mrs. Oates gave their guests, who enjoyed the evening thoroughly. The handsome new colonial home was thrown open for entertaining last evening for the first time and its spacious rooms, arranged in such artistic fashion, were very much admired.

Euchre was played in the drawing room and on the wide veranda which was enclosed with canvas. The scorecards were decorated with tiny Dutch Colonial figures and the prizes were also in quaint Dutch design. These were won by Judge John Tyler Campbell, Mrs. A. G. Hahman and Mrs. Ralph Belden.

Mrs. Oates' mother, Mrs. M. S. Solomon, assisted her in receiving and also assisting were Miss Blanche Hoffer, Miss Bell and Miss Harrell, who gave piano selections and Miss Frances Woolsey, whose whistling solos with piano accompaniment were exquisite. Supper was daintily served at the card tables.

- Santa Rosa Republican, July 8, 1905

This item is absolutely stuff 'n' nonsense, which raises the question of why it even appeared in the Press Democrat. Certainly stories sometimes had tongue-in-cheek slants; just a few weeks later, for example, W. S. Davis again was in the news, this time as a great fisherman who landed his prize catch at a grocery on the way home. But in my readings, such a completely fantastic yarn is unprecedented in either Santa Rosa paper of this era.

Today we likely can't unravel all the inside jokes and cultural references here; "Aer Fervens" is elementary Latin for "hot air," and the general ridicule of aviation may relate to editor Finley's belief that nothing would ever become of these flying machines, as shown in his op/ed discussed in the following post. Oates is, of course, the first owner of Comstock House, and Davis was his next-door neighbor. Ads in other California newspapers for St. Louis-brewed Budweiser began appearing after the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, so perhaps the beer was viewed as an exotic import around Santa Rosa at this time.

Santa Rosa Skyship Sails

Last night at 9 o'clock the new skyship "Aer Fervens" mounted to the clouds from the grounds of the residence of its inventor and builder, W. S. Davis; and after steering a zigzag course for a few minutes, just as a carrier pigeon does in geting its bearings, the new craft turned its nose to the southwest and followed a straight course over the hills and toward Bennett Valley.

A "message" was sent to President Roosevelt apprising him of the airship's flight; and the President responded with congratulations, and the announcement that he had appointed the inventor to the rank and station of "Rarest Admiral" in the navy, and assigned him to the command of the aerial fleet. For many months "Rarest Admiral" Davis had burned the midnight oil in working upon his invention. Last night his efforts were crowned, and he was a proud man as he watched the product of his hands and brain soar among the clouds, and disappear over the hills.

The launching of the skyship was attended by appropriate ceremony. Colonel J. W. Oates, who is financially interested in the enterprise, sang "Up in a Balloon," and the inventor broke an empty Budweiser bottle over the prow as the vessel mounted skyward. The "Aer Fervens" is equipped with wireless telegraph apparatus, by means of which the following message was sent to those who were waiting:

"Bennett Valley Grange Hall, 10 p. m. -- Landed 9:45, good condition. Only ten pages of speech used as fuel. Will present remainder to Judge Barham. As passed over Taylor mountain, saw plainly Jim Hallihan at back door putting out cat, prepariory [sic] for retiring. Goodnight."

- Press Democrat, July 4, 1905

Newer Posts Older Posts Home