This survey of the 1905 Santa Rosa newspapers ends with 72 posts, 63 on them on distinct topics, more or less.
This was the year that Santa Rosa made first strides away from its rougher Wild West days. Electricity was almost reliable and telephones were now so ubiquitous that "Hello Books" were needed to lookup all the numbers. Autos became a familiar site around town, and Santa Rosa could now boast of having 21 cars along with a real gas station. Some downtown streets were paved, and the City of the Roses established a speed limit of 8MPH, slower around corners. The electric line -- formally known as the Petaluma and Santa Rosa Railway -- was established, linking central Sonoma County with a modern little interurban trolley system, though the rail link to downtown was connected only after a violent confrontation with the steam railroad in the Battle of Sebastopol Avenue.
Luther Burbank was at or near the pinnacle of his fame in 1905, having been awarded an annual grant from the prestigious Carnegie Institution for scientific research -- but true to character, Burbank was found pitching pseudo-science nonsense to the local horticultural society a couple of weeks later. This was also the happiest year for Jack London, who bought his celebrated ranch outside of Glen Ellen and married his true love, Charmian. Jack drew attention when he rode into Santa Rosa that May on horseback, accompanied by the Alaskan Husky that was his inspiration for his current novel, White Fang.
There was great excitement nationwide about that summer's Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in Portland, and a civic group was formed to "work to advance our Imperial Sonoma" at the fair. But aside from some olive oil sent by the Rincon Heights Olive Co. and chicken hatchers sent from the Petaluma Incubator Company, Sonoma County was conspicuously absent among California communities and regions appearing at the fair.
There were far fewer notices of business trips or other travel by Mr/Mrs. Oates in the papers than in 1904, presumably because they were settling into their new grand house, which was introduced to Santa Rosa via a unique newspaper feature that read like a birth announcement. A housewarming and house full of guests followed, surely occupying the family long into summer. While Oates was one of the lawyers representing the electric railway in its conflict with the steam line, his only other newsworthy lawyerly appearance that year was when he represented a silent consortium that bought the entire Santa Rosa bond issue to the astonishment of other bidders. And finally, something of his human side was shown in a nonsense item about Oates and his neighbor launching a backyard "skyship."
Reviewing the 1905 blog postings, I'm chagrined to find that it has taken me one whole year to write about this one year in Santa Rosa. At this rate, I'll never make it to the era of the Comstock family, for which these early 20th century years are mostly prelude. But it's impossible to read these old newspapers without wanting to retell at least a few of the stories long forgotten in those pages. How everyone met downtown on Saturday summer nights for shopping and a sing-along with the band on the courthouse balcony; how the same downtown turned into a little Las Vegas when the ponies were running at the track, with illegal gambling everywhere -- and how there was a running conspiracy between the newspapers and authorities to keep quiet about this to protect Santa Rosa's "good name abroad."
Some stories are so odd as to defy belief without an original article as supporting evidence; I would have scoffed if told that robin pot pie was considered a tasty dish by many -- but a local man was caught smuggling a box of birds to a San Francisco restaurant. A balloonist visited Santa Rosa and gave an exhibition that included parachuting, but alas, the balloon-jumping aeronaut here was a young woman; until recently, his act had featured a parachuting monkey named "Jocko." (Parachute or no, I imagine there's only so many times that one can hurl a monkey from a terrifying height into a crowd of spectators before some sort of tragedy ensues.) And then there was the local motorist ticketed for speeding who later made a citizen's arrest of the same policeman, forcing the cop to arrest himself for spitting on the sidewalk. I wonder if Robert Ripley, then 14 years old, remembered some of these oddities when he was inspired to start his "Believe it or Not" column of oddities.
Other stories must be written to set the record straight. Chief among these in 1905 was Sonoma County's awful role in the eugenics movement, where thousands of young people were forcibly sterilized at the State Home in Glen Ellen, women for excuses such as being "sexually delinquent" and men for being "passive sodomists." Almost nothing has been written about these horrors by local historians.
But as this blog sails into the Earthquake Year, let's look back on old 1905 and all fake a sneeze as an excuse to get drunk with a grandchild, thus helping the youngster "cultivate the habit" for the "glow of health" (amazingly, this ad was not a one-off; the next year the brewer produced an even grander version showing grandpa looking decidedly more squiffy than sniffly).
And with brew in hand, let's contemplate again my favorite story of the year, the one about the motorist who arrests the cop. Did I mention that the policeman was spitting on the sidewalk at night -- and during a downpour? You couldn't make this stuff up, really.
There were two really good parties in 1905 Santa Rosa, and you weren't invited to either of them.
Not a week passed without the papers describing a party or three. There seemed to be no end to the social clubs that apparently existed for no other reasons than to throw parties. Mattie Oates was a prominent member of "The Bunch," which rented a hall at least a couple of times a year for a big shindig, including one on New Year's Night, 1906. More common were ad-hoc clubs that were an excuse to get together and play cards at a member's home. One such ladies' group was the Fork Club, which awarded the best player a silver fork, and was actually a spinoff from the Cup and Saucer Club, which gave away... wait for it... cups and saucers.
If the house party was thrown by a family, it seems that there was an unwritten rule that there had to be an associated theme, such as the "Dutch Colonial" prizes given out at the housewarming at Comstock House. Cute, but despite the effusive praise always doled out by the society editor, these events sound pretty bland; you sit with your friends around card tables and play "500" (or another variation of Euchre) until someone scores high enough to win the fork. Play you next month for the dishware?
One party stood out far away from the others: The women's Ghost Party on Monroe street. Here the house was tricked out with glow-in-the-dark effects (this is 1905, remember) and guests were expected to dress as ghosts, devils, or demons. None of the guests were allowed to speak or unmask until two games of dominoes were played. No giveaway of trinkets here. The whole affair sounds as if it was quite novel, interesting, and, well, Goth.
But the big social event of 1905 was the coming of Alice Roosevelt, daughter of President Teddy.
Alice Roosevelt was the 20th century's first true celebrity -- someone famous for the sake of being famous. She was the darling of her age, adored and reviled in equal measure. With an annual allowance more than her father's salary as President of the United States (coming from separate trusts established by her late mother's parents), she lived a life of luxury among the super-wealthy Newport set; "I care for nothing except to amuse myself in a charmingly expensive way," she wrote in her diary.
She smoked cigarettes, drove an automobile, stayed out late unescorted, gambled with bookies, and smuggled booze into a formal dinner where alcohol was not served. A family friend remarked that Alice was like a "young wild animal that had been put into good clothes."
Newspapers were always eager to print the latest true-or-no reports of "scandalous" behavior by the First Daughter, and now that Alice was 21, it was decided that she would be sent tagging along with Secretary of War William Howard Taft on a four month junket to Asia. The train caravan loaded with the Roosevelt-Taft entourage arrived in San Francisco July 4, and Alice celebrated Independence Day by shooting at telephone poles with her revolver (!) and slipping away from her chaperones for a visit to the city's notorious Chinatown. But the day before the boat sailed, she was the guest of honor at that all-male bastion of power, Bohemian Grove.
This was not a Sonoma County party or even a San Francisco gala society luncheon, but a West Coast reception for Alice as ambassador to the White House. There were at least 140 guests, including the California Governor, elected officials at the national and state levels, European nobility, Cabinet members, judges, military leaders, noted scholars, and even Mrs. Phoebe Hearst. But the only three invited guests from this area were Rep. McKinlay of Santa Rosa and his wife, plus Luther Burbank.
In her autobiography she mentioned the banquet in passing ("we lunched at the Bohemian Club Grove, where the Bohemian Club, one of the most famous organizations in the country, holds its annual 'jinks,' in the sun-flecked gloom of the great redwood trees...") but as described in the Press Democrat article below, there was more to it than a lunch in the woods: "As the guests alighted from the train they were greeted by music from a male chorus concealed on the mountainside," and apparently it only got more luxe from there.
Alice married a few months later, and newspapers predictably had a field day over her White House wedding, many publishing special supplements with pictures suitable for framing (the PD offered a large front page spread with photographs). Valuable gifts poured in from world governments, as if it were the wedding for President Teddy himself. King Edward VII gave her a gold snuffbox with his portrait in diamonds; the Kaiser sent a bracelet with his portrait in diamonds. The Cuban government had to be talked out of giving her an entire bedroom suite studded with jewels. So many presents were sent that many went directly to storage, and over sixty years later, an inventory found stacks of wedding gifts that were never opened.
After the ceremony was over, Alice embraced her stepmother and thanked her for the wedding. Edith, who had been at loggerheads for a decade or more with the willful daughter of Teddy's first wife, reportedly said, "I want you to know that I'm glad to see you go. You've never been anything but trouble."
(This 1902 photo of Alice gazing into the camera is one of the few to show the full effect of her eyes, which were much commented upon. The Wikipedia entry is quite good for more about her life. All quotes and anecdotes found here, however, come from "Princess Alice: The Life and Times of Alice Roosevelt Longworth," which I highly recommend, and her memoirs, "Crowded Hours," which I do not.)
DELIGHTED WITH GRANDEUR OF FAMED BOHEMIA GROVE
THE ROOSEVELT TAFT PARTY ROYALLY ENTERTAINED
MR. AND MRS. A. W. FOSTER PLAN DELIGHTFUL OUTING IN SONOMA COUNTY FOR PRESIDENT'S CHARMING DAUGHTER AND SECRETARY TAFT
Great Hospitality Shown Distinguished People on Thursday--Elaborate Luncheon Served in Natural Amphitheatre While Sweet Music Steals Over the Woodland--Luther Burbank One of Guests
The special train bearing Secretary of War Taft, Miss Alice Roosevelt, and some two hundred other guests of President and Mrs. A. W. Foster of the California Northwestern railroad, arrived here on its way to Camp Bohemia Thursday morning at 10 o'clock.
A large crowd had gathered at the depot and when the train stopped to take on Luther Burbank, Judge and Mrs. Albert G. Burnett and Congressman and Mrs. D. E. McKinlay of this city, Miss Alice Roosevelt appeared on the rear platform and waved acknowledgement in the greetings extended by townspeople. Secretary Taft appeared at a car window, but did not come out.
All who saw Miss Roosevelt were charmed with her appearance. She was simply, yet elegantly gowned in lavender and white and wore a hat to match. Her intelligent face and winsome smiles reflected the sunny disposition which she is said to possess at all times, and she impresses one with the assurance that she is a hearty, unaffected American girl.
Camp Bohemia is in the redwoods, on the beautiful Russian river, about four miles from Guerneville. It has been made famous as annual meeting place of the Bohemian Club of San Francisco. On every hand forest giants tower to the skies, some being three or four hundred feet in height. As the guests alighted from the train they were greeted by music from a male chorus concealed on the mountainside and this proved to be only one of a series of pleasant surprises planned by the thoughtful host and hostess.
After spending something like an hour wandering through the giant grove enjoying its beauties, the attention of the guests was directed to the elaborate luncheon which had been prepared and which was spread on an immense circular table built beneath the redwoods in what is known as the amphitheatre. A beautiful fountain sprayed in the middle of the space surrounded by the table and ferns and choice California fruits were used for decoration.
The luncheon was served under the direction of the Bohemian Club's famous chef and the orchestra under the direction of Prof. Vogt contributed the feast progressed, several of the selections having been composed especially for the occasion. The photographer accompanying the train took some fine pictures of the party at luncheon.
President Foster opened the speech-making by introducing Judge W. W. Morrow who was followed by Senator George C. Perkins, Governor George C. Pardee, Mr. Cheesebrough of San Francisco and Secretary Taft. The speeches consisted principally of felicitations. Secretary Taft ended his remarks by proposing a toast to "Our Alice." At the table Secretary Taft sat next to Mrs. Foster and Miss Alice Roosevelt on the right of President Foster. Congressman "Nick" Longworth of Ohio sat next to Miss Foster.
After enjoying the elaborate menu, many of the guests rested on the lounging seats provided while others, including Miss Roosevelt, wandered through the grove again enjoying its beauty and grandeur...
...An entire carload of choice fruit was provided and four cars were required to transport the provisions and service. Fifty people were on hand to minister to the comfort and convenience of the guests. The luncheon menu was as follows: Oyster cocktail in grape fruit, consomme royale in cups, pecan nuts, ripe olives, roast squab, roast chicken, new peas, Roman salad, Parisienne potatoes, ice cream in own form with whipped cream, strawberries, fancy cakes, coffee, champagne, cordials, white rock water.
[..]- Press Democrat, July 7, 1905
GHOST PARTY WAS VERY ELABORATE
DELIGHTFUL AFFAIR AT WHICH MRS. MERRITT AND MISS OLSON WERE HOSTESSES
Many Fair Women Masquerade as "Ghosts" and the Party Scheme Was Very Cleverly Carried Out
Mrs. Edson C. Merritt and her sister, Miss Pauline Olson, were the hostesses at a "ghost party" last night at the Merritt residence on Monroe street at which a large number of their lady friends were guests and ghosts. The hostesses made the most elaborate preparations to have everything as realistically ghostly as possible. In face the scheme throughout was very cleverly conceived and carried out.
None but "ghosts" went to the party, as far as their outward appearance betrayed. The fair guests masked in most approved ghostly style, and in the array there were "hob goblins," two or three impersonations of "his Satanic majesty," and all kinds of ghosts.
The decorations of the handsome home were in accord with the general plan of the party. For instance when the guests passed into the house, they had to pass under portals of weeping willow. The creepy sensation that phosphorous in a dark room will produce was not forgotten and conveniently in view were several skulls and cross bones, numerous plicards and pictures, while ghostly colors were arranged so as to give the effect if was intended they should. In addition there were drapings of white sheets, etc.
It is somewhat hard to imagine such a state of affairs, but with all due respect to the ladies, quietness was preserved and in fact no one was allowed to speak during the first two games of dominoes. After that the "ghosts" were permitted to remove their masks and talk. Then they were the merriest of ghosts and a delightful time was passed and all present declared that it was the best planned and sustained party scheme they had ever witnessed. None but the fair sex were present at this party...A dainty supper was enjoyed and after midnight the ghosts "glided" to their own happy homes.- Press Democrat, February 25, 1905
Press Democrat editor Ernest L. Finley hated the rival newspaper so much that he couldn't shut up about it.
From March 1905 until the earthquake the next year, Finley churned out reams of rebuttals, snarky little put-downs, and mean-spirited parodies about the Santa Rosa Republican, as introduced here in "The Newspaper Feud of 1905." Some days it was all he wrote about on the commentary page, and sometimes his jibes were so oblique that readers would have needed to search out weeks-old back issues of the Republican to make any sense of his animosity. Finley emerges the worse for it, coming across as a petty, thin-skinned bully.
The entry below is on par with many other attacks, unique in only that it crystallizes several of Finley's favorite themes: His rival editor is a newcomer from the city who is unfamiliar with "country ways," and thus has no right to express opinions on any local matters. This also reveals Finley's parochial prejudices that make him sound like a bit of a geezer, although he was actually only 34.
Yet Finley was always a talented writer, and this op-ed finds him at his most lyrical with the fine turn of phrase, "he is as full of advice as an ordinary pumpkin is full of seeds." Finley further wins this blog's award for obscurity with his false praise, "not a pipe man...could fool him." I can't find a definition or similarity in any of my vernacular dictionaries, or even in other papers of the era. "Pipe man" may be derived from the French verb piper, which means to dupe or cheat someone.
The new editor of the Republican is worrying considerably for fear that the Mayor and Common Council will not be able to handle the city's affairs to the best advantage, and is very sure, he says, that if he were only in their place he could improve upon things considerably.
He is as full of advice as an ordinary pumpkin is full of seeds, and it is really remarkable what a vast fund of useful and reliable information he possesses regarding every department of the city government.
It might not be a bad idea to turn the management of the city over to him for awhile, just to learn how public affairs should really be conducted. He is fresh from Alameda county, where they always do things right, and has not yet had time to take on country ways. He is still just as smart as anybody, and there is not a pipe man in the business that could fool him on anything. Also, it is very apparent that the conduct of his own business requires very little of his time, so it would not be any imposition to allow him to take up the task alone as it might be with other people.
Such opportunities as this do not present themselves every day.- Press Democrat, June 21, 1905
Another question I'd love to ask someone from 1905: did apples taste different when coated in rat poison?
The little press release excerpted below reveals that it was common practice in that era to apply "Paris Green" - an arsenic compound so named because it was used to kill Paris sewer rats - to apples and other tree fruit because it was an effective insecticide against the Codling (or Codlin) moth. Despite also being known as an effective way to kill people, the Victorians loved its bright emerald color and used it in everything from soap to paint on toys to candy. It was most infamously used in wallpaper, where it proved to be particularly deadly if the walls became damp or moldy; one estimate in the British medical journal Lancet found that an average-sized living room with Paris Green wallpaper had enough arsenic to potentially kill a hundred people.
Paris Green had other problems - until the National Insecticide Law of 1910 finally set quality standards, farmers were urged to test their supply for impurities - yet it continued to be commonly used through the early 20th century (my grandfather had an old box of the stuff that I played with, mixing it up as paint). Many did switch to lead arsenate as the scientist below recommended, but it was discovered in 1919 that none of these arsenic compounds could be completely washed off the fruit using the technology of the day.
Despite that piddling problem, arsenics continued to be used on apples, plums, and other trees until DDT became available after WWII. Worse, all those years of spraying the trees with lead and Paris Green still contaminates orchard topsoil and ground water.
I assume in 1905 they believed that the poison either completely washed off, or was safely removed by peeling away the skin. But I wonder if this reveals a whole new angle on the tradition of schoolkids bringing teacher a nice, juicy apple.
PARIS GREEN IS A FAILURE
Does Not Really Reach the Codling Moth Evil
BERKELEY, April 27 -- Paris green is not the great codling moth destroyer that it has heretofore been believed to be. This is the discovery just announced by the entomologists of the University of California. Instead of Paris green, which has so long been the stand-by of the apple growers, William W. Volck, the college experimenter recommends the use of arsenate of lead as an insecticide, the great superiority of which over Paris green lies in the fact that it is neutral in its effect on vegetation.
[..]- Santa Rosa Republican, April 27, 1905
How interesting that the debate over bicyclists in Santa Rosa has not budged much in a century. In 1905, pedestrians accused "riders of wheels" of being inconsiderate jerks who acted as if they owned the sidewalks; today, motorists accuse bike riders of being inconsiderate jerks in traffic. Sic semper.
The 1905 newspapers almost never ran letters to the editor, so this offering would be unusual for that alone. But pro-bicyclist author "R. A. H." wrote one of the longest commentaries ever to appear in that period, only about one-third of it transcribed here. It concludes with proposals for nine clauses to be added into the sidewalk ordinance, requiring license plates for bikes, a ban on youths under 16 from riding on sidewalks ("children are reckless"), a rule that bicycles must be "propelled solely by muscle power without machinery," and a complete ban on sidewalk riding "in the business part of town," which seems to undermine the author's other argument that the streets are in such lousy shape that a "right to ride" must be granted posthaste.
Editor Republican: I believe that the better judgement of our people is in favor of granting some reasonable use of our sidewalks for riders of wheels...The most common objection to an ordinance permitting the riding on sidewalks is that of those who say it would be all right if complied with but that riders will pay no attention to the limitations of the privilege. There are two replies to this objection. In the first place that reckless and lawless class of riders daily violate the law now in force, and the public is already subjected to the evils of reckless riders. In the second place, the present law is not respected...
...Practically every progressive city in the State permits the riding on sidewalks, subject to reasonable restrictions. The right to ride them in Santa Rosa in winter time is an urgent necessity to many people. We have a city of 10,000 inhabitants, without street car service and with streets that for many weeks in each year cannot be ridden with a wheel with any reasonable convenience. Nine out of every ten miles of our sidewalks are practically vacant every day in the year. Quick and convenient transportation and communication are elementary requisites of progress. Every lot in the outlying portions of the city would be more valuable when made nearer the business center by the constant use of wheels. Property decreases in value from the center of a city simply because its utility is lessened by its remoteness.
It is not right to require a laboring man or a business man to spend twenty minutes in walking a mile to his work over vacant sidewalks while his wheel could take him there in ten minutes. If there are one thousand people in Santa Rosa that would each save ten minutes in one day by the use of the wheel on the sidewalk, that represents a daily saving of seventeen days' labor for one man [sic]. In the course of one rainy season it becomes a matter of great importance.
The sidewalk ordinance is not asked for by those who sport up and down the highways crippling and maiming women and children, as some would have us believe. But the demand comes from the laboring man, the clerk, and the merchant, whose time is his capital...It is true that it might be a little more pleasant for the selfish pedestrian who is not willing divide anything, not to have his serenity in any way disturbed by a silent wheel, but we are all inevitably compelled to submit, occasionally, to the inconvenience of the presence of others...
(Signed) R. A. H.- Santa Rosa Republican, September 23, 1905
Remember the old silent film gag where the steering wheel comes off in the driver's hands? Something like that happened all the time in 1905, as cars went out of control because the steering gear failed; in an article that year in Horseless Age magazine, Dr. L.M. Allen griped, "Up to the present time I do not know of a car on the market that is reasonable in price and strong enough in all its vital parts to be reliable enough for the doctor's use. During the three seasons I have used my car the steering gear has broken twice...when the steering gear is made so light that it cannot hold, and faulty in construction besides, it is criminal, because it places the lives of the occupants in jeopardy..."
Although the Press Democrat story doesn't specify how many people were in the party, it's safe to assume that they had hired a touring car with chauffeur. And since Mr. Lumsden was a wealthy man - owner of the Belvedere as well as several race horses - it was probably similar to the model shown at right. This 1906 Pope-Toledo (the automobile model year began the autumn before) was one of several luxurious 1905 touring cars that were the limousines of their day.
THROWN FROM AUTOMOBILE
William H. Lumsden of This City Hurt Near Yountville
While on a trip to Napa Sunday to look over a vineyard with some friends William H. Lumsden of this city was hurled from an automobile and was quite severely injured. The accident occured just as the party was coming into Yountville and was caused by the steering gear working loose.
The machine was thrown clear over and landed in the ditch wrong side up. All escaped with slight bruises except Mr. Lumsden who had his right thumb broken, both wrists sprained and his right knee cap injured. He was picked up unconcious and taken to the Yountville Home where Dr. F. A. McMahon dressed his injuries and cared for him until the afternoon train arrived which brought him back to this city. He was taken to his home where he is resting easily, although sore and badly bruised.
The auto was hired at Napa by the party. Mr. Lumsden feels grateful that the accident was no worse than it was and it will be sometime before he takes another auto ride. Mr. Lumsden is the well known manager of the California Wine Association' big winery and interests here.- Press Democrat, October 17, 1905
Even if the newspaper ad wasn't offering services from a petty criminal and drug addict, it still would've been unusual.
Taking up a full one-third page in the Press Democrat page on June 18, 1905, the advertisement was essentially a 20-word classified on steroids, with its few lines of type stretched, padded, and boxed to try to fill the empty space. Even larger than the usual weekly ads for children's clothes and ladies' dainties from The White House department store, this display promoted only product: The services of one Joseph N. Forgett, cement contractor.
It's easy to imagine Forgett walking into the Press Democrat office to purchase that prominent advertisement and likely also ordering a large number of flyers as well, confident that a remarkable business opportunity was at hand. The Santa Rosa City Council was ordering property owners to lay concrete sidewalks next to their curbs -- a decree not without controversy -- and there were many absentee landlords, not to mention many locals who were probably clueless on mixing cement from scratch, as you had to do in 1905.
But the unusual ad from the man with the unusual name appeared only once, and less than three months later, Forgett was in the papers again, this time for being under arrest. He was charged with carrying a meat cleaver under his coat and stealing an opium pipe.
This was only the beginning of the Forgett's public disgrace, which would climax two years later in 1907 as he led a sensational escape from the Sonoma County jail. In the accounts that appeared in the PD (transcribed below), Forgett and two other inmates overpowered the jailer and beat him severely before stealing his gun. A mob formed as word spread. Forgett and most of the other fugitives were quickly caught.
At his trial that October, Forgett offered a surprising defense: "I got out to save my wife," he told the court, claiming that the jailor was making moves on Mrs. Forgett, also in jail as a vagrant. Another female prisoner supported the claim by testifying that the jailer "had hugged Mrs. Forgett so violently that her waist was almost black and blue." The District Attorney countered that he had letters from Mrs. Forgett where she vowed to "stand pat" and that she and the other girls "would give old Fred [the jailer] merry hell."
But defending his vagrant wife's waist from "old Fred" wasn't the main defense: He was insane because of opium withdrawal, the court was told. "When he could not get it, he said, he suffered considerably and at times did not know what he was doing," the Press Democrat reported. His brother and mother testified tearfully that Joe was 15 years into his drug habit. The jury found him guilty, but asked the court for mercy.
The details of what happened to Forgett after that isn't yet known to me (UPDATE HERE), but other records show that he lived a long life and stayed around Santa Rosa. The 1910 census finds him as an inmate in the county jail; a 1913 city directory lists him as a contractor, which could be a hopeful sign that he was on the straight-and-narrow. Voter registration records indicate he was a bricklayer in the late 1920s, and a few years later, a mason staying at the Belle Vista Hotel.
Despite his woes, Joseph N. Forgett left his mark on Santa Rosa; on at least one sidewalk (Beaver St. north of College Ave.) you can still see his name stamped into the pavement. A century-old advertisement set into stone. Perhaps Joe Forgett visited these tombstone-like slabs in his old age; maybe these were the links that kept him here past his years of wildness.
FORGETT PLACED UNDER HEAVY BAIL
LANGUISHES IN COUNTY JAIL IN DEFAULT OF NECESSAY BONDS
He Now Faces Charge of Petit Larceny With Prior Which May Mean Term in Prison
Justice Atchinson placed Joseph Forgett under $1,000 bonds Monday to keep the peace for six months. This was the result of the charge made last week by Harry Long that Forgett had made threat against his life and was carrying a concealed weapon. Justice Atchinson suspended sentence on Forgett's promise of good behavior but as he was arrested again Saturday night with a cleaver under his coat the court decided to place him under bonds. Forgett is in the county jail in default of the necessary bond.
The charge of petit larceny for the stealing of the cleaver and opium pipe found on his person when arrested Saturday is being held in suspension as he has been convicted on a similar charge and this time a prior will make the offense a felony, and conviction a term in the penitentiary.
- Press Democrat, September 12, 1905
Opium Pipe Stolen
Joseph Forgett was arrested yesterday afternoon by Constable James H. Boswell, charged with petty larceny. The warrant was sworn out a couple of weeks ago, but was withheld until yesterday. Forgett is charged by Ty San with having stolen an opium pipe and a cleaver while he was visiting at the place of the Chinese on Second street. Ty does not mind the loss of the cleaver, but when his pipe was missing and he was temporarily deprived of his poppy sleep he became wroth and affixed his signature to a complaint alleging its theft by Forgett. The man was released on his own recognizance by Justice Atchinson and his case set for trial next week.
- Santa Rosa Republican, October 12, 1905
DESPERATE JAIL BREAK IN THIS CITY LAST NIGHT
JAILER OVERPOWERED AND TEN PRISONERS ESCAPE
Dragged Into a Cell and Keys and Gun Are Taken
Great Excitement Prevails and Scores of Citizens Surround Jail--Eight Prisoners Recaptured--Two Desperadoes at Large
A jail break, planned with all the cunning of the criminal heart that stops not at the sacrifice of human life if the taking of it is necessary to effect the desired purpose, took place at the Sonoma county jail on Third street about five minutes to six o'clock last night. Ten prisoners, including three women, escaped. Jailer Fred LaPoint was attacked and brutally beaten, dragged into a cell and locked up, and his keys and pistol taken.
These are some of the sensational features of last night's occurrence at the jail. The city was thrown into a state of excitement as the news of the break spread and for hours the grim building was besieged with an eager throng. Up to midnight eight of the ten escapes [sic] had been returned to jail. Two, the most desperate of the gang, were still at large. They were John Anderson, who was yesterday morning convicted of grand larceny in the Superior Court and Tom Williams, awaiting trial on a charge of burglary.
OVERPOWER JAILERWhen locking up time came Jailer LaPoint went to the door of the small cage that leads into the main jail and unlocked the gate to let Trusty Ralph Rogers passed into lock up. Joe Forgett, who has been doing time for several weeks, made a dash at the gate, grasped the jailer around the throat. A moment later Jack Anderson and Tom Williams rushed to Forgett's assistance and after a hard struggle they had the officer down and overpowered, stunned by blows in the face and head. They jumped on him and then dragged him inside and hurled him into a cell, turned the lock and then they and the others made a rush from the building. Trusties Rogers and Ed Clark say they did what they could to assist the jailer, but were driven back by the threats and a flourish of knives and a pistol. Rogers ran around to the police station and gave the alarm and Clark telephone[d] news of the affair to Sheriff Smith from the jail, making no attempt to escape.
J. Capell and W. Kraus, arrested last Sunday for carrying brass knuckles, and believed to be bad characters, were locked in their cells when the break occurred, having refused to go to work that morning. When they saw what was being done, they begged the escaping prisoners to unlock their cell doors and allow them to join them, but no attention was given their entreaties. The nine other prisoners, most of whom could have escaped if they desired, followed Clark's example and made no attempt to leave. Most of these men were up on minor charges.
START IN PURSUITSheriff Jack Smith, who was at his home, and his deputies and the other officers were all quickly on the scene. At the jail a hasty tob [sic] was taken and it was found that the missing ones were Anderson, Williams, Forgett, McGriff, three boys named Foster, Karbaugh and Mazza, and three women, Mrs. Bane and Miss McNeill of Petaluma and Mrs. Joe Forgett. Then the Sheriff and many citizens in vehicles, autos, bicycles and afoot started in pursuit. Then also the crowd began to gather around the jail doors and the excitement grew amain. Dr. Jesse arrived and attended to Jailer LaPoint's injuries, finding in addition to the cuts and bruises that his shoulder had been dislocated.
It was not long before a hack dashed up to the jail and Chief Deputy County Clerk G. W. Libby jumped out followed by Miss McNeill, one of the women who had escaped. Sometime afterwards W. A. Bolton's auto pulled up with a rush at the jail. It contained Police Officer John Boyes and with him were Joe Forgett, Mrs. Forgett and Mrs. Bane. The quartet were found lying in an orchard near the race track by Officer Skaggs.
Later in the evening Chief of Police Rushmore and Police Officer Ed Skaggs came in with Mazza, Karbaugh and Foster. They were captured several miles from town on the Bennett Valley road. They had secured a ride on a wagon and had left it when it turned down a lane. Jeff Cook learned that three lads had passed along the road on a wagon and he and Chief of Police Rushmore drove hurriedly and overtook them. Rushmore and Skaggs took the trio back to jail. The boys had the jailer's keys.
CAPTURED AT MELITTAIt was about 11 o'clock when a telephone message was sent to town by former Deputy Sheriff J. L. Gist that Constable Sam Gilliam had captured McGiff at Melitta.
Mention has already been made of the part played by the two trusties, Clark and Rogers, in their effort to rescue the jailer. They told their stories to the newspapermen and officials. Jailer LaPoint declares that Forgett made the first attack on him. Anderson and Williams are said to have been prime movers with Forgett and they appear to have been the ones who evolved the attack and plan of escape, according to declarations made to District Attorney Lea last night.
Forgett was the first taken into the jail office after his return to make a statement to the District Attorney, which statement was taken down in shorthand by Court Reporter Scott. He stated that the break had been planned for two or three days. He said it was not the intention to hurt the jailer and he said he did not see blows struck when the attack was made. He made a rambling statement.
William Verley, one of the prisoners who did not go with the rest, told the District Attorney that he had refused to yield to the importunings of Forgett and the others to join in the break. He said Forgett and the others had talked up the plan for a couple of days. Forgett's suggestion was that they should saw themselves out. Then the scheme followed out last night was finally determined upon. A weapon that would have come in very handy doubtless was secured in the form of the leg of an iron bedstead. Both Verley and the lad Mazza saw Forgett secrete this in the bosom of his shirt. Later, Mazza says, Forgett carried it into a closet and afterwards threw it down on the floor of the cook room. Verley says he did not see much of the struggle at the time of the attack upon LaPoint. He claims that he ran outside with the idea of summoning aid and says he did tell one man to go for an officer. He then returned to jail.
MAZZA AFRAIDWhen Mazza told District Attorney Lea that he saw Forgett put the iron in his shirt, he (Mazza) stated and almost screamed "Don't tell him that I told you. He will kill me if he knows it."
After describing how Jailer La Point was handled by Forgett, Anderson and Williams the lad burst out, "I tell you I cried, for the man had been good to me. Yes, he had."
At the time of the attack upon La Point, McGriff is said by one of the prisoner spectators to have been standing at the table where the meals are served and some of the prisoners interviewed say he had agreed beforehand to "stick with the boys" if they made the break. Verley's reason for not going is characterized by one of the returned escapes as being an attack of "cold feet"
Jailer La Point's pistol was taken from a drawer in a bureau in his bedroom. One of the prisoners says Anderson was the man who took it. At another time he is said to have been seen by both Verley and Mazza with part of a knife. The offense with which the jailbreakers will be charged is a most serious one. The three women appear to have simply run out with the rest. The Bane and McNeill women would have been liberated today, having served out their sentence.
At the time of the outbreak Under Sheriff Lindsay was at the hospital. When he returned to town he took command at the jail and notified the officers in the adjoining town to be on the lookout.
In addition to the officers named Deputy Sheriffs McIntosh and Reynolds, Police Officer Lindley, and Yeager, Constable Boswell and others assisted in the pursuit of the escapes.
Forgett told a frivolous story in excusing the part he took as leader of the plot.
Little Mildred Treanor, granddaughter of Mrs. H. A. Hahmann, who lives opposite the jail, and another little girl saw the crowd rush from the jail and she at once ran round to the police station to give an alarm. Several persons heard Jailer La Point's lusty cries of "murder," but for the time being took them to be shouts of possibly an insane patient confined in the jail.
PLAN DEAD MARCHYesterday afternoon when Jailer La Point carried a cup of coffee to a man named Ed Miller, detained in the insane cell upstairs in the jail building, Miller said: "Look out! They have planned a dead march on you." Here was a warning which the jailer did not heed. This was natural enough, as it came from a man supposedly mentally deranged and who had in his rambling frequently cursed him. Miller called the turn. They had planned a "dead march" on the old man, sure enough.
- Press Democrat, June 8, 1907
TO BE TRIED ON ANOTHER CHARGE
Preliminary Examination of Joe Forgett on Two Complaints Takes Place of Saturday
The preliminary examination of Joe Forgett on two more charges, jail breaking and burglary, took place in Justice Atchinson's court on Saturday morning. The charges are a sequel to the break last month from the county jail in this city. The alleged burglary consisted of the taking of Jailer La Point's pistol from a bureau drawer in the latter's bedroom. He was held for trial on the breaking jail charge and the burglary matter was taken under advisement. Forgett is already held for assault upon the jailer. At the proceedings on Saturday, District Attorney Lea prosecuted and Attorney William F. Cowan defended.
- Press Democrat, July 7, 1907
SENSATIONAL DAY IN FORGETT TRIAL
Joseph Forgett Faces a Jury in Judge Seawell's Department of Superior Court
"I got out to save my wife." This is the excuse Joseph Forgett offered on the witness stand in Judge Seawell's Department of the Superior Court on Wednesday in explaining his part in the memorable break from the county jail three months ago when some seventeen prisoners escaped.
Before making this statement Forgett had prefaced it with others in which he alleged he had been informed by notes and by two other young women occupying upstairs rooms in the jail that Jailer Fred La Point had been making love to his wife, Jessie Forgett. This information, combined with a sudden reduction of the amount of morphine to which he had been accustomed before his incarceration in the county jail, he alleged had worked him up to such a pitch that he had resolved to take the first chance to break jail. Consequently when on the night of the break Jailer La Point momentarily left both gates leading from the big cage open he jumped for liberty, but denied that he had seriously hurt the jailor. It was his intention, he said, to grab the jailor and lock him up in the cell he (Forgett) had been occupying and then to sit on the steps of the bastille and await the coming of Sheriff Smith, whom he proposed to tell what he had done with La Point.
Mrs. Jessie Forgett testified as to the alleged familiarity on the part of the jailor with herself. At the time she was in the jail on a vagrancy charge with two other young women, who were also witnesses, Mrs. Bains and Viola McNeill, the latter two from Petaluma. Mrs. Forgett stated that La Point had called her into the bathroom at a time when, she alleged, he was ready to take a bath. The other females testified as to other alleged improprieties. One of the wanted it understood that La Point had hugged Mrs. Forgett so violently that her waist was almost black and blue.
District Attorney Lea had some letters, however, in which Mrs. Forgett had written to her husband that she and the other girls would "stand pat" and that they "would give old Fred (Jailer La Point) merry hell." District Attorney Lea contended that the women were making unjust charges against the jailor and intended falsifying their testimony. Another letter from Mrs. Forgett to her husband was referred to in which Mrs. Forgett mentioned the story that she and the girls would testify to when the trial came in which Forgett would be charged with assisting in the jail break. The jury, of course, is the judge of the credibility of the witnesses. Jailer La Point gives the allegations of the women the lie direct.
Witnesses were called Wednesday to show that Forgett had been addicted to the use of morphine for years. He admitted himself that he had used it for fifteen years, and had taken as much as fifteen or sixteen grains a day when he could get it. When he could not get it, he said, he suffered considerably and at times did not know what he was doing.
The witnesses examined during the day were [...]
- Press Democrat, October 10, 1907
JURY'S VERDICT JUSTICE--MERCY
After Brief Deliberation Joseph Forgett is Found Guilty of Assisting in Break at County Jail
After a very short deliberation the jury in the case of the state against Joseph Forgett brought in a verdict of guilty as charged in the information, namely, assisting prisoners to escape from the county jail in this city, and recommended him to the mercy of the Court. The Judge will take cognizance of the recommendation.
Thursday morning was devoted to the arguments by counsel for the state and defense. The District Attorney opened for the prosecution and W. F. Cowan responded. District Attorney Lea made the closing argument. The verdict did not occasion surprise as Forgett himself the night of the jail break, when he was returned to jail, told in a calm deliberate manner how he and other men in the prison had planned the escape. A strong plea was made, however, that at the time he was in a state of insanity by reason of his supply of morphine having been cut short.
Time was when Joe Forgett was a sober and industrious man. Then he began taking morphine and to this can be traced his downfall. His brother and mother did what they could to help him break away from the habit. When Fred Forgett broke down on the witness stand and wept on Wednesday while telling what he had done to aid his brother to reform he told the truth as many in the court room knew. The brother's tears were genuine. They were not shed for effect. Neither was the mostening of that aged mother's eye simply the effervescing of sentiment. She still loves her wayward boy despite he is come to forty years of age.
- Press Democrat, October 11, 1907
A roundup of colorful crimes reported in 1905 -- although what we now know about vice and illegal gambling sanctioned by town, six months for chicken stealing seems extreme. Note that the penalty for attempting to murder your husband is the same as for cussing.
Mrs. Anderson is Fined
Mrs. Annie Anderson who was arrested Saturday night for taking a shot at her husband, Paul Anderson, on Fourth street, was allowed to plead guilty to a charge of discharging firearms within the city Monday before City Recorder Bagley and was fined $15 which was promptly paid. The husband refuses to prosecute her for shooting at him so she has been released.- Press Democrat, October 17, 1905
SIX MONTHS IN JAIL FOR STEALING CHICKS
George Heggerty, an old offender, was brought to the county jail here yesterday by City Marshal Collins of Petaluma. Heggerty entered a plea of guilty before City Recorder Green to a charge of vagrancy. He is said to have a weakness for chickens and that he has helped himself more than once. He will have a chance now to forget his taste for a while.- Press Democrat, February 25, 1905
STAMPING IT OUT
Two More Men Fined for Using Obscene Language
Thomas Larkin and Martin Staley, who were arrested Monday and charged with being drunk and using obscene language, appeared before City Recorder Bagley yesterday and plead guilty to the charge. They were fined $15 each or 7 days in jail. They are serving time. George Murphy, who was arrested with them, entered a plea of "not guilty" and will stand trial.- Press Democrat, November 23, 1905