Another thing we lost in the fire (and quake): Real journalism.
The 1906 disaster usually gets credit for pushing Santa Rosa to grow out of its frontier ways to become a 20th century city, but it also destroyed a future that just might have been remarkable.
In the months before the quake, Santa Rosa appeared ready to allow William H. Willcox, a world-class architect who had recently settled here, a free hand in reshaping the town. As described earlier, a funding drive was almost complete to build his auditorium, which would have been large enough to draw state conventions or even national events. Willcox also wanted to develop the Santa Rosa Creek area into a water park that would have become the centerpiece of the town. Both plans were abandoned in the wake of the disaster. Willcox was a prolific architect who liked to design on a grand scale; doubtless many other projects would have followed, and Santa Rosa could have become something of a jewel.
The other great loss to the town's future was the departure of W.B. Reynolds. Only 18 months had passed since Reynolds and business partner W. H. James took control of the Santa Rosa Republican, and in that short time they had transformed it completely. What once was Santa Rosa's often-chaotic "other paper" had become a smart evening journal in step with other Bay Area newspapers of the day.
Editor of the competing Press Democrat Ernest L. Finley bashed them regularly, both for honest mistakes and for having big city ideas about newspapering, such as adding a women's section that he sneeringly called "Sussiety news" (although a few months later the PD introduced its own "Dorothy Anne" column that was far more gossipy). The Republican paper also had enthusiasm for the new art of muckraking, and kept readers abreast of the latest investigations into San Francisco's corrupt political boss Abe Reuf, even offering its own top-notch analysis of the scandals. Reynolds also cast scrutiny on local politics, and that's where Finley unleashed open contempt upon Reynolds and the Republican; thou shall not question our mayor or other good-old-boy city officials.
After months of sniping, Reynolds and Finley directly faced off during the lead-up to the city elections that were held just a couple of weeks before the earthquake. The Republican had earlier alluded to graft and law-breaking by officials, but a long editorial manifesto (transcribed below) charged city leaders of being in cahoots with a "scheming coterie of gentlemen who manage to protect their private interests by the conduct of the city government through the present administration." The Press Democrat fired back in scattershot editorial page comments intended to ridicule the charges ("Oh, chestnuts!") or rephrase them into something easily refuted. And, along the way, the PD editor tossed out another of his classic Finleyisms which makes no sense whatsoever today, accusing the Republican editor of "talking coconut talk."
Most of the Democratic party incumbents were reelected, but battle lines were drawn; there can be little doubt that Reynolds' Santa Rosa Republican would follow the lead of the San Francisco papers and call for Grand Jury hearings on the town's political elite for graft and corruption.
And then the earthquake struck. A week later, a nondescript notice appeared in the jointly published Democrat-Republican: "The Santa Rosa Republican will in future be published and edited by Allen B. Lemmon." As noted earlier, Lemmon had only leased the paper to Reynolds and James, having published and edited it himself from 1887-1904. But Lemmon, a progressive in the vein of Teddy Roosevelt, was really more of a printer than journalist, and the paper retook its old stance as something like the loyal opposition to the conservative Press Democrat. The promising future for the Santa Rosa Republican quickly faded.
What happened to W.B. Reynolds is unknown. Before coming here he had a position at the Oakland Enquirer, but I've not been able to find his trail after he departed, much less a reason why he left. With the only watchdog over powerful special interests gone, however, there was no one around to ask the questions that needed asking as Santa Rosa launched a century of unprecedented growth.
Will the [Press] Democrat Answer? (Letter to the Republican)
Editor Republican: There are a few laboring men in Santa Rosa who would thank you for looking into a graft in the Street Department. We want to know why it is that the Mayor allows the employment on our streets of so many outside people who don't have families to support. A Santa Rosa laboring man is entitled to the first chance at earning the bond money spent on the streets, but unless he hangs around a certain cigar stand on Main street is turned down for others who will. We men with families to support can not afford to lose our evenings at the card tables, but a stranger can come along and get employment under the Street Superintendent if he will show up at that store once in a while and risk a few dollars at cards. Now is this a fair deal? It is a mean sort of graft, and I can tell you right now that some of us who are posted are going to vote to stop such business if we can. [signed] DEMOCRAT.- Santa Rosa Republican, March 20, 1906
DOES SANTA ROSA WANT TO BE RUN BY A BANKERS' TRUST?
Here are the facts:
John P. Overton, nominee for Mayor and President of Savings Bank.
W. D. Reynolds, Councilman and Vice President of Santa Rosa Bank.
L. W. Burris, nominee for Councilman and Cashier of Santa Rosa Bank.
The bankers trust in New York has the country by the throat.
THE STRANGE SOLICITUDE OF THE MORNING PAPER FOR THE REPUBLICANS WELFARE AND THE REASONS THEREFOR.
It will take the erroneous Republican a long time to recover from the injury it has worked itself during the present campaign. - Press Democrat.
Now wouldn't that make you smile?
Our dearly beloved morning contemporary reveals an astonishing solicitude for the welfare of the Republican. Thanks, awfully, but we really do not need any commiseration. It is really good of the morning paper to point out to us the error of our way and express regret that we should have strayed from the straight and narrow path of the rules of newspaper conduct established for Sonoma county by the deeply interested morning paper.
But really, we fail to see the why and where of the injury of which our contemporary so regretfully speaks.
Is it a crime for a Republican newspaper to support the nominees of the Republican ticket?
Is it a crime for a Republican newspaper to have nerve enough to criticize the official actions and public utterances of a Democratic candidate for the mayorality?
Or possibly, does the terrible injury the Republican has done itself consist in its having made a legitimate fight against the nominees supported by the Democrat, which exhibits such unusual alarm for the future welfare of its competitor?
Perhaps the Democrat would have us understand that we have made an unwarranted expose of the facts in connection with its mayorality candidate's attitude on the subject of enforcing the state law in regard to polluting public water courses.
Then again, it way be newspaper treason to have referred to the history of the electric railway's trouble in getting a franchise in Santa Rosa.
If this be not the occasion for the Democrat's solicitude possibly the Republican should have shut up and said nothing about the public complaints at the non-development of the city water works.
Of course the Republican humbly apologizes to the Democrat for having offered the slightest objection to the Democratic ticket and to the re-election of Mayor Overton, but we really thought that there were a few people in Santa Rosa who believed a change might be advisable.
If we remember right nine-tenths of the recent Republican city convention "turned down" hard the so-called Overton program which included the slating for councilmen of men who never could be elected by a vote of the people in a contest between nominees.
It doubtless would have pleased those 80 delegates and the people they represented if the Republican had, like some people have, sold itself out to the Democratic cause and permitted the Republican nominees to scramble along any old way, not caring a rap whether they won or not so long as Mr. Overton was elected.
In the conduct of its editorial policy during the present campaign the Republican is conscious of having tread on some Democratic corns, for there has been considerable squealing going on in Democratic quarters about this paper's terrible unfairness(?) in laying bare some of the things for which the present city administration is to be criticized. The Republican has studiously avoided "mud slinging" or personal abuse, either of the Democratic candidates or of that Democratic newspaper oracle which sets itself up as a censor of newspaper privileges in Sonoma county. In addition the Republican convention's nominees are at least, just as capable of serving the people of Santa Rosa as are the Democratic nominees, and perhaps able to do so without permitting their private interests to interfere with their public duties.
If these things will work an irreparable injury to the Republican's welfare we are thoroughly content to take our medicine. A candidate for public office expects to be criticized and if Mr. Overton accepted the Democratic nomination expecting that this paper would wear a gag during the campaign he made the mistake of his life.
No, thank you, Mr. Press-Democrat, we are doing Republican politics in support of Republican nominees and we enjoy the American citizen's ancient and inalienable right to criticize public officials.
Incidentally, we notice, Mr. Press-Democrat that you to not ask anybody for the privilege to criticize Congressman McKinlay, against whom you appear to have a personal grudge.
Your political trick to trap the Republicans at the recent convention and would compel a distribution of offices that would leave unmolested the scheming coterie of gentlemen who manage to protect their private interests by the conduct of the city government through the present administration, didn't work out.
And what is more, realizing that this precious outfit of schemers is in danger of losing its hold on affairs a week from tomorrow, it is quite the proper caper for you to prate about "Progress being the watchword," as if none but your own candidates are interested in the progress of Santa Rosa!
Mr. Overton interested in the progress of Santa Rosa when he favors the continuation of foul-smelling conditions in the creek and has private business interests which would not be able longer to break the state law if that creek were beautified and made a pleasure resort for the entire community?
Mr. Overton interested in the progress of Santa Rosa when his administration accomplished absolutely nothing toward the development of municipal watter supply?
Mr. Overton interested in the progress of Santa Rosa, we ask, when his administration keeps nearly half of the city's bond money tied up so that certain banks may have the use of that money and earn interest to the disadvantage of the public.
Mr. Overton interested in Santa Rosa's progress when, to satisfy certain city officials who are interested in a concern that supplies crushed rock, his administration delays through a whole winter the improving of our streets, some of which are positively disgraceful?
Mr. Overton interested in the progress of Santa Rosa when he permits a certain city official to employ outside labor in preference to local labor,
Save the mark!
We repeat again, that we may not be misunderstood, that the Republican platform meant just what it said when it protested against the election to office of men whose private interests conflicted with the public welfare.
Doubtless this bald statement of the situation adds materially, in the estimation of the morning paper, to the Republican's record for recklessness and absurdity, but we cannot help it if the Democrat doesn't forgive us. Unfortunately we are not in business for the health and comfort of the Democrat and mean to say and do what seems right and proper from a Republican standpoint.
In conclusion a thought suggests itself: Can it be possible that the morning paper's remarkable alarm for the welfare of the Republican in the estimation of the community is due to a hope that the Republican, for the next ten days, will be good and let up in its criticism of the present city administration? We feel so flattered that even by inference the Democrat should accord the Republican any weight at all in the community that instead of being induced to quit we are actually encouraged to keep up our end of the campaign for we may be able yet to contribute in some small way to the election of one or two of the nominees who are so unfortunate as to be on a ticket that does not enjoy the powerful support of the Democrat.- Santa Rosa Republican, March 26, 1906
THE REPUBLICAN'S APOLOGY
For the unprecedented course it has pursued during the campaign now drawing to a close--a course characterized throughout by wilful misrepresentations, absurd statements having no foundation, ridiculous charges, that it has been utterly unable to sustain--the Republican now offers the following apology:
Is it a crime for a Republican newspaper to support the nominees of the Republican ticket?
Of course it is not a crime for a political newspaper to support its party nominees, provided it can do so in a legitimate way; but during the present campaign the Republican has not done this. It has put in all its time making silly charges that everybody knows to be untrue, and then when they have been fully refuted--why, just beginning at the start and making them all over again, and with never a fact or figure to back them up, and without even the slightest attempt to controvert the positive proof of their perfidy. Oh, no; the Republican's "support" of its municipal ticket has not been a crime. It has only been a farce. And it is so regarded by the general public.
The Evening Republican's policy in the present city campaign: "To hell with the progress and welfare of this town: what we want is to win out."
Mr. Overton interested in the progress of Santa Rosa when his administration accomplished absolutely nothing toward the development of municipal watter supply? - Republican
Don't you know that everybody in town is thoroughly acquainted with the fact that the present administration has sunk three wells to connect with the present tunnel, let the contract for another to go to bedrock, visited several other cities and investigated the system and plants in operation there, laid four or five miles of new mains, installed something like a thousand meters to suppress unnecessary waste, and in addition to all this let the contract for pumping the water by modern methods, as the result of which, in addition to supplying the city with twenty more street lights than it has a present, the sum of $67,100 will be saved to the taxpayers within the next five years?
The fact of the matter is that the present administration has gone about the work of solving local water problem[s] in a more systematic and thorough manner than has ever before been attempted. The matter has been studied carefully from every conceivable standpoint, eminent engineers from a distance have been called into consultation, and in short, many months of arduous work accomplished which in the event of turning affairs over to new hands will all have to be done over again.
The sage guardian of the interests of the Republican party in this vicinity alleges that a certain city official "employs outside labor in preference to local labor." If we understand the situation correctly, the official probably referred to here is Inspector M. H. Damon of the Sewer Farm. He has had the hiring of most of the men employed in the construction of the new sewers. Mr. Damon is a Republican, and not a Democrat.
But why can't the Republican find out some of these things for itself?
There has been no delay in the matter of improving the streets under the terms of the bond issue, except those occasioned by the weather and a desire to properly protect the interests of the taxpayers. When crushed rock was advertised for outside firms offered to furnish it, but the price was too high. A local firm then offered to put up a plant and supply the material needed at a much cheaper figure than could be bought for elsewhere, and the offer was accepted. The plant is now about completed and as a result of the plan adopted by the administration the rock will not only be procured at a fair figure, but the money for its hauling will all be paid out to local workmen and teamsters. And in addition better rock will be used than could have been procured in any other way.
"We are doing Republican politics." --Evening Apologizer. Talking coconut talk you mean.- Press Democrat, March 27, 1906
More thumbnail portraits of the mucky side of 1906 Santa Rosa, like the problem of streets knee-deep in mud.
VERY FILTHY HABIT
Complaints of Expectoration on Show Windows are Again Heard
Any citizen who chances to observe some dirty individual or individuals, who take apparent delight in expectorating on the show windows of Fourth street stores, will immediately apprehend them and turn the culprits over to the police officers, by so doing they will confer a great favor on several merchants who have been annoyed in this way lately. Another complaint was heard on Wednesday. The police officers are on the lookout and will endeavor to put a stop to the filthy habit. It is also said that attempts have been made to scratch show windows with diamonds. Severe punishment should be meted out to offenders, who have nothing better to do than such mischief. In more than one instance tobacco juice has been squirted on the glass.- Press Democrat, February 15, 1906
Overrun with Vagrant Dogs
The City of Santa Rosa is becoming overrun with vagrant dogs, and it is high time the city authorities are doing something to abate this evil. Since the last poundmaster was relieved of his position something like a year ago, there has been no effort to curb the dogs running loose in the streets, and the consequence is that the city has becom overrun with the vagrant canines.
These dog scratch up lawns, make it almost impossible in some localities to start new lawns owing to the proclivities of the canines to dig holes in the lawns. These dogs also become a nuisance in the business districts where merchants are compelled to place goods in front of their establishments for display. It would seem good judgement to appoint a poundmaster for the city.- Santa Rosa Republican, March 22, 1906
Admit it: There have been times you'd like to chop your car to pieces - although Winnie Davidson clearly has more problems in early 1906 than just his inability to drive.
The euphonious word, "mahout" mentioned in the second story was slang for automobile driver at this time (lifted from India's traditional name for an elephant handler), but maybe the writer was trying to convey that poor, mad Win was imitating the raspy "a-oOOgah" sound of early car horns.
DEPRIVED OF HIS LIBERTY ON A CHARGE OF INSANITY
Winnie Davidson of Occidental Alleged to Have Chopped Auto with Axe to Discover Why It Refused to Run
Winnie Davidson of Occidental, a young man who has recently been spending some time in this city, is being detained at the County Jail on a charge of insanity. He was brought over from Occidental this morning by Constable James O'Brien at the instance of Sheriff Frank P. Grace.
Davidson has been posing as a man of means, and spent his money with a free hand. He seemed plentifully supplied with coin, and among his purchases were an automobile and a piano. The auto was paid for outright, but the instrument was bought on the installment plan. It was the auto that probably led to his downfall and dethronement of his reason.
According to the story told by one of the unfortunate young man's friends he purchased a horse last Sunday in Sebastopol, paying $125 for the animal. He was thrown from the horse, and concluded that electric cars would be safer. When he tendered a check to the conductor of an electric car and it was refused, he declared his independence of that mode of travel and purchased a horseless vehicle.
Last night the young man started for his home in the auto, and had some difficulty in keeping the auto going. He was assisted, it is claimed, to climb one of the hills en route to that place, and in descending another hill is said to have placed his feet over the dashboard, and letting go of the steering gear coasted down the hill. Then when the machine refused to go, it is declared that Davidson borrowed an axe and began chopping away at the sides of the machine to see if he could locate the trouble. According to the story he had chopped one side almost completely away and had begun to chop on the seat when he was restrained. Confirmation of the chopping portion of the story is lacking, but it is declared to be a fact by those who claim to be conversant with the case.
At a late hour this afternoon the young man was reported considerably improved.- Santa Rosa Republican, February 7, 1906
IMAGINES HE IS DRIVING AUTO
Win Davidson Sets Fire To Bedding In Jail at San Rafael
While in the jail in San Rafael on Thursday night, Win Davidson, the San Rafael youth who formerly resided at Occidental in this county and who was arrested near Occidental and on Thursday morning turned over to relatives from the Marin county town, set fire to his bed and when rescued from the flame and smoke he was taking a seeming ride in an automobile. It was stated in this paper the day before yesterday that Davidson had gone insane on the subject of automobiles. A dispatch from San Rafael describe his actions in the jail there:
"San Rafael, February 8. At 6 o'clock this evening the county jail under the court house looked like a volcano in working order. Dense clouds of smoke curled through the doors and windows, and a series of shrieks, toots, and whistles flew outward with the smoke. Win Davidson, an insane patient awaiting the morning train for the Ukiah asylum was responsible for the smoke and the noise. When found by Under Sheriff Liehtenberg, Davidson was sitting on a blazing mattress on top of his cot, where, oblivious to his surroundings, he was enjoying an automobile ride.
"Toot, toot, mahout, mahout," would be followed with "Chug, chug, mahout, mahout," all screamed at the top of the man's voice. The fire raging in the mattress had no [concern] for him. The smoke only added to the realism of the scene. He would spring his body up and down on the mattress which, bellows-like, would pump forth the choking, blinding smoke. Through it all Davidson drove his imaginary devil-car as reckless of life and limb as any real mahout.
"The man was rescued and dragged from the burning mattress to the fresh air. The fire was stamped out and a double guard was established at the cell door. Davidson is a young man well known here, where up to a few weeks ago, he drove a local grocery wagon. About two weeks ago he went to Santa Rosa and Occidental to pay some bills for his mother. While there he was stricken insane and the first intimation his family had of his affliction was when a local contractor received a dispatch from Davidson telling him to bring a few shingles and come to Occidental. After this they heard that the young man had turned automobilist and was "mahouting" around Santa Rosa, where he got an axe and was industriously hacking his automobile to pieces when stopped by the officers. Davidson has always been a sober and industrious young man."- Press Democrat, February 10, 1906
It's an old, old story: boy meets girl, boy loses girl to another boy, boys bicker over whom girl truly loves, both boys separately abduct girl and end up in jail. This either sounds like a demented episode of Archie Comics or a Rossini opera buffa libretto, with mistaken identities, deceptions, pursuits, and completely absurd plot twists. And that's exactly how I have presented it - as a comic opera in three acts.
Aside from my poetic license in the telling, all events herein are true, as reported in the Santa Rosa and San Francisco newspapers. Reconstructing this confusing tale wasn't easy; I had to build a spreadsheet to track what happened exactly when over these two weeks in February, 1906. If gentle reader thinks (s)he can make better sense of the events, please feel free to have a go -- and send me a postcard from the asylum afterward.
After a perky overture, the stage lights reveal a man sitting in a jail cell. We meet Charles Smith, a wanna-be boxing promoter making his living as a restaurant waiter and flag man for the railroad. In his aria ("O Poor-o Me-oh"), he laments that he is in the clink for loving too much and being too honest - specifically, for trying to marry a 16 year-old girl and being afraid to fib about her age to a judge or justice of the peace. After a five-day trek around the Bay Area fruitlessly seeking an official willing to perform an illegal marriage, the pair returned to Santa Rosa where he was promptly arrested for abduction on a warrant sworn out by the girl's mother.
The very next day, a figure appears outside the prison bars. Is it his child fianceé? Alas, no, it is a young man named Frank Russell, who boasts that he married the girl overnight! Charlie weeps hot tears. But soon a friend arrives to tell him that Frank is a liar, and Charlie feels better.
Act one ends with a scene that takes place a few days later in court, where comely 16 year-old Geneva Eagleson makes her appearance on stage. No, your honor, I was not coerced or forced to go away with Charlie, she testifies. On her word that everything's okay, the judge dismisses the charge of abduction and everyone goes home to a nice dinner.
Only ten days have passed since Charlie and Geneva returned from their marriage quest, and the curtain rises on a night street scene in Santa Rosa's Chinese neighborhood on 2nd street. A cop is struggling to restrain four people he has just arrested in an opium den raid. Two are Chinese men, and the other pair are a young man and woman. The officer demands names, and the young man says he is Frank Wilson; the woman claims her name is Blanche Woods. There is a struggle, and the young man escapes. It is revealed that he is actually Frank Russell. His mysterious companion, "Blanche Woods," quietly pays her $10 fine.
A couple of days later, Charles Smith is back in court, and not because of the old charges against him for child abduction. Now he wants a warrant issued for Frank's arrest - and has a helluva story to convince the judge. According to him, Frankie called Geneva and said he'd help her run off again with Charlie, and they should meet to hatch a plot. Charlie showed up and finds Frankie and Geneva already there, and completely untroubled that his sweetie was huddled together with the guy who claimed ten days earlier to have just married her, Charlie left to fetch his suitcase. When he came back, Geneva and Frankie were gone. Obviously, he tells the judge, Frank must have abducted the girl under the false pretenses that they were going somewhere to meet Charlie. The judge believes all this and issues a warrant for Frankie's arrest, on charges of "vagrancy" - maybe not so surprising, given that it was this same judge who ruled earlier that it was legal to snatch a juvenile as long as the kid said she went willingly.
Act two concludes with a rollicking comic ensemble, as Charlie, policemen from Santa Rosa and Petaluma, and Geneva's brother (the lyrically-named Welcome Eagleson), follow a bad tip and almost arrest another couple by mistake.
Scene: A train car. Geneva and Frankie have been missing for two days. As Welcome Eagleson rides southward, he glances out the window as the train pulls in to Wilfred Station (think of the Rohnert Park Wal-Mart location) and sees Frank and his sister boarding the train. As Frank walks down the aisle past her brother, they both pretend not to see the other person. To repeat: I am not making any of this up.
Welcome Eagleson seeks to notify authorities as Geneva and Frankie hop off the train at the Penngrove Station. The couple is soon intercepted by authorities on the outskirts of Petaluma; by afternoon, they are both at the Santa Rosa jail, Frank Russell on charges of being a vagrant, and Geneva Eagleson, simply "detained."
Act three ends with a trio of despair. Frankie, probably sitting behind the same bars that held Charles Smith less than two weeks earlier, sings of his desire to marry the lovely and illegally-aged Geneva. The girl harmonizes that she cannot bear to be apart from Frankie and even wants to be locked in the same cell with him. And finally, Charlie adds his dissonant theme that he is smugly confident that Geneva was tricked into running away with Frankie, and remains true to him alone.
After an orchestral interlude that suggests the passage of time, we find Geneva Eagleson about to surprise her long-suffering mother with news that she has eloped and finally successfully married. It is a little over a year later. Did she choose Charlie Smith? Frankie Russell? She flings open the door to introduce mom to her new husband, a great guy with a great future: Meet Cyrus Fletcher, egg candler.
POSTSCRIPT TO THE EPILOGUE
Geneva died in Vallejo in 1940 at the age of 51, and was married (at least) once more, to a man named Simpson. She is buried in Santa Rosa Memorial Park.
CUPID MAY BE ONE TO BLAME
Miss Geneva Eagleson Believed to Have Eloped With Charles Smith
Mrs. Froma Eagleson appeared in Justice Atchinson's court Wednesday afternoon and swore to a complaint charging Charles Smith with the abduction of her daughter, Miss Geneva Eagleson. The warrant was placed in the hands of Constable S. J. Gilliam who caught the late train to San Francisco, where it is believed the couple will be located.
Mrs. Eagleson states that her daughter is not yet of age. Friends of the couple say she is not much more than 16 years old, and that they have been keeping company for some time. Last week Miss Eagleson went to Guerneville for a short visit and it is said that Smith met here there and they went away Saturday intending to get married.
Mrs. Eagleson was at the afternoon train Monday here looking for the couple as she had been informed that her daughter contemplated slipping away. Failing in her effort to locate the pair Mrs. Eagleson, it is said, made every effort to head them off if they had taken the North Shore line or the California Northwestern at some point south of here, but to no avail.
Smith resided here up to a few months ago and was well known about town. He was formerly a member of the local military company and he has [illegible microfilm] of fistic contests here. He held a number of different positions while here. Some time ago he left Santa Rosa and it is said that until recently he has been flagging on the Southern Pacific out of Sparks, Nev.- Press Democrat, February 1, 1906
CHARGED WITH AN ABDUCTION
Mrs. Froma Eagleson swore to a complaint late Wednesday afternoon against Charles Smith... [same details as the Press Democrat story above]
...Smith is well known in this city, where he has resided for a number of years past. He is sportily inclined, a prize fight promoter on a small scale, and was employed as waiter in local restaurants...- Santa Rosa Republican, February 1, 1906
Says Girl is Faithful
Charles Smith, the young man who is in jail on a charge of having abducted Geneva Eagleson, declares he will yet marry the girl. He believes she will remain true to him, and will not believe otherwise. This afternoon a young man whose mother runs a local lodging house called at the City Prison where Smith is confined unable to produce bonds, and informed the imprisoned youth that he had obtained a license and married the young girl. He said that the ceremony had taken place, and that he was the happy man instead of Smith. Tears came to the young man's eyes, and a friend searched the records and ascertained that a malicious falsehood had been told to Smith. When this information was given him, he said:
"Thank God, I would rather stand up and be shot than to believe the girl has married that man. I could never have believed she would be untrue to me, and am perfectly willing to wait."- Santa Rosa Republican, February 2, 1906
SMITH IS GIVEN LIBERTY AGAINCharles Smith, who is charged with the abduction of Miss Geneva Eagleson, the sixteen year old daughter of Mrs. Froma Eagleson, was taken before Justice A. J. Atchinson yesterday and arraigned. The case was continued to be set. Bail was fixed at $100.
Allowed to Go on Own Recognizance and May Not be Prosecuted
Last evening Smith was allowed to go on his own recognizance pending his hearing. It is possible that there will be no further prosecution of the case.- Press Democrat, February 3, 1906
GIRL SAYS SHE DECIDED TO GO
Geneva Eagleson Says That Charles Smith Did Not Abduct Her
The preliminary examination of Charles Smith, charged by Mrs. Froma Eagleson with having abducted her 16 year old daughter, Geneva Eagleson, was held behind closed doors by Justice Atchinson Saturday morning. After all the testimony was heard the charge was dismissed and the defendant discharged as intimated in these columns Saturday morning. The evidence to substantiate the charge was lacking.
The only evidence produced at the examination was that of the girl herself. She testified that Smith used no coercion or force to induce here to go with him but simply proposed that they go away and get married. She consented and they went away together and that he refused to swear falsely as to her age when they tried to procure the marriage license affidavit, and as they could not get it they decided to return home.- Press Democrat, February 4, 1906
CAPTURES AN OPIUM JOINT
Officer I. N. Lindley made a scoop on an opium joint last night and caught a man and a woman hitting the pipe. He promptly arrested the man and his fair companion, and also took into custody the chinks [sic] who were conducting the den. The latter were Tom Kee and Tom Guen. Each was sentenced to five days imprisonment. The man gave the name of Frank Wilson and the woman that of Blanche Woods. These are believed to be fictitious, and from the fact that the woman had been seen in Petaluma recently, it is believed she is a resident of that place.- Santa Rosa Republican, February 12, 1906
ARRESTED ON A "VAG" CHARGE
Frank Russell May Have to Face More Serious Charge in Near Future
Frank Russell was arrested in Petaluma today on a warrant charging him with vagrancy, sworn out before Justice A. J. Atchinson. Russell is said to be a man who hits the "dope" in Chinatown dens, and the police have evidence that he is the man who managed to escape in the raid Officer I. N. Lindley made on an opium joint there several nights ago. In that raid Officer Lindley made a capture of four parties. One man was charged with "hitting the pipe" and paid a fine of ten dollars. A woman giving the name of Blanche Woods was charged with visiting the den, and she forfeited ten dollars bail. The two Chinese proprietors of the place were arrested, and each was sentenced to imprisonment. One man managed to escape, because the officer had his hands more than full with the other four, and this man has been identified as Russell. It is understood that there are more serious charges that may be urged against him. Russell is the man who recently called on Charles Smith in the City Jail and informed the imprisoned youth that he had just been married to the sweetheart of the man in durance vile. This falsehood was committed without apparent object on the part of Russell.
Constable Boswell went to Petaluma this afternoon to bring Russell back to this city, but had not returned with the man when this paper went to press. Russell was recently fined in Justice Atchinson's court for a battery committed on a man in a local saloon.- Santa Rosa Republican, February 14, 1906
GIRL WILL NOT STAY AT HOME
Miss Geneva Eagleson Departs Again and Smith Says Is Enticed Away
The officers have again been asked by Mrs. Froma Eagleson to assist in locating her daughter, Geneva Eagleson who came into notoriety by eloping with Charles Smith two weeks ago. The mother believes that her daughter is being detained somewhere against her will by Frank Russell.
When it was found that the girl was gone Tuesday evening, Charles Smith, her ardent lover, swore to a complaint against Frank Russell charging him with vagrancy, and the officers have been searching all over for the man and up to last night to no avail. Smith is firm in his belief that the girl is being held a prisoner by Russell and that soon as she is able she will communicate with him. Others believe that she may have eloped again.
Russell is the man, who, when Smith was in jail here on a charge of abducting Geneva came to the cell and informed Smith that he had married the girl. This was untrue, and what he meant has never been understood. Russell's attentions to her daughter are said to have been rather favored by Mrs. Eagleson up to the time of her elopement with Smith. About that time, she was informed as to Russell's character and habits. Since then she has changed her mind and refused to allow him the freedom of her home.
Charles Smith does not believe that Miss Eagleson has eloped again, and does not want people to think so. He claims that she has been enticed away by Russell, whom he claims has been professing the utmost friendship for him (Smith), friendship which is only mythical. Smith says that on Tuesday afternoon Miss Eagleson went to the Nesbit residence in this city in response to a telephone message sent her by Russell, saying that he (Smith) wanted to meet her there and arrange for them to go away again.
Smith says he went to the place and saw Miss Eagleson and Russell. Then Russell proposed that if they wanted to go away again he would advance the finances. Smith left under the pretense of getting his suit case and just after he left the house he says Mrs. Eagleson telephoned to her daughter that she knew of her intentions and that if she went away the officers would be sent after her. Smith says that when he returned to the Nesbitt residence Russell and the girl had flown, whither he knows not. He says that the girl undoubtedly left with Russell under the pretext that he (Smith) would come after them and meet them somewhere.
Smith was busily engaged in searching for the missing girl and her supposed companion Tuesday night and all day Wednesday. He went to Petaluma where the couple were supposed to have gone and Wednesday word was received here that they had been detected there. Consequently Constable Boswell went to Petaluma armed with a warrant for Russell's arrest and Welcome Eagleson went with him to return with his sister. Later it developed that the couple in Petaluma supposed to be Miss Eagleson and Russell were not them at all. The incident caused no little excitement in Petaluma. Boswell and the girl's brother returned home on Wednesday afternoon, their trip having been for nothing.
Tuesday night the police department and others made a search for the couple and it was decided to keep the matter quiet in order that the girl might again escape notoriety. The incidents in Petaluma and elsewhere on Wednesday brought the disappearance of the girl into the public eye again. While the general impression Wednesday was that Miss Eagleson had eloped again, her erstwhile lover, Mr. Smith say, "No," that the girl does not like Russell and that she has been enticed away and may possibly be in restraint somewhere.- Press Democrat, February 15, 1906
RUNAWAY COUPLE ARRESTED IN PETALUMA THIS MORNING
Frank Russell and Geneva Eagleson Have Exciting Experience Trying to Avoid Capture
Frank Russell and Miss Geneva Eagleson were placed under arrest this morning on the outskirts of Petaluma by Constable Jimmy Sullivan and they were detained at the city prison there until the arrival of Constable James H. Boswell on the afternoon train, to bring them back to this city. The girl stoutly protested that she would never go back to Santa Rosa, but the minion of the law was inexorable, and the girl was forced to accompany him to this city. No charge was placed against the girl, she being simply detained. Russell is charged with vagrancy.
To those who tried to talk to her Geneva Eagleson would give replies that contained no information. She refused to tell where she stayed last night or the preceding night, although admitting that she had not been at the home of her mother in this city. She replied that she had just arrived from Vancouver in response to a query as to where she had been Wednesday night.
Miss Eagleson requested the jailor to lock her up in the same cell with Russell, and declared she did not want to be separated from him. Her request was denied and the girl was placed in a front room upstair [sic] in the jail. After having been there for a short time she told the jailor that if she were given a pillow she would answer all questions that her interrogators wished. She was given the pillow, but refused to tell of her whereabouts during her absence from home.
The capture of the couple was brought about by Welcome Eagleson, a brother of the girl who has twice run away, each time with a different man. He had boarded the train here this morning to go over to Sonoma to do some work. At Wilfred Station he chanced to be looking out of the window and saw Russell and his sister there ready to take the train. He resolved to lay low and cause the arrest of the couple at Petaluma, and did not attempt to molest them. Russell's curiously [sic] overcame him and he walked through the car in which Welcome Eagleson was seated and discovered the youth there. Neither spoke and each attempted to conceal his identity from the other.
When the train pulled into Penngrove Welcome Eagleson had arranged with a friend on board to have Deputy Sheriff F. Ralph Starke notified and cause him to arrest the couple there or telephone to Petaluma to have an officer in readiness at the depot. Just as the train began pulling out of the Penngrove depot Russell and Miss Eagleson leaped hurriedly from the train and started to walk in the direction of Petaluma. At this time Deputy Starke was at the telephone communicating with Petaluma and did not realize that his quary [sic] was escaping from him.
The couple sought a ride from a rancher named Evart, who was passing, and obtained the same. Realizing that he could not overtake the couple riding in the buggy, Starke quickly countermanded the order for an officer at the depot and requested that a watch be kept on the road leading into Petaluma for the couple. Constable Jimmy Sullivan jumped into a buggy and at the outskirts of Petaluma caught the couple he was seeking. They reluctantly submitted to arrest and left the buggy of Rancher Evart to take seats in the vehicle occupied by the constable.
The couple had evidently walked from this city to Wilfred early this morning and decided that their chances of escape were good if they managed to board the train without being seen here. In this they reckoned unwisely. Miss Eagleson appeared fatigued and worn out, and wanted to rest and sleep after she had been separated from Russell and placed in the city prison to await the coming of Constable Boswell. She has evidently lost considerable sleep recently and the number of hours that the couple may have spent walking around to avoid possible arrest can only be left to conjecture at this time.
Russell declares that he wanted to marry the girl, and that he is still ready and willing to do so if given the opportunity by the girl's mother. He declares that he is an electrician by trade, and that he is ready and willing and able to undertake the support of a wife, and will use his utmost endeavors to make Miss Eggleson [sic] happy.
Charles Smith, the other suitor for the hand of the girl who has made a record in runaways, is still anxious to marry her, notwithstanding the fact that she left with Russell.
Russell is the man who went to the cell in the jail while Charles Smith was being detained there because he had eloped with Miss Eagleson, and told him that he (Russell) had married the girl and that Smith need not have further concern about making her his wife. Tuesday evening when it was learned that the girl had disappeared, Smith swore to a complaint again[st] Russell on a charge of vagrancy as told in the Republican of Wednesday, and the officers at once set up a search for the man, but have been unable to locate him.
Charles Smith says that he does not believe that his sweetheart has eloped, but rather that she has been enticed away by Russell. He claims that on Tuesday Russell telephoned the girl asking that she go to the Nesbit residence, with the understanding that he (Smith) was there and wanted to see her. Smith claims that he went to the place and saw both Russell and the girl there, and at the time Russell told him that if they wanted to go away again he would advance the money. At this time Mrs. Eagleson telephoned that she was aware of her daughter's intentions and that if she attempted again to leave, the officers would be informed at once. This, however, had no effect upon her, for she shortly afterward left, undoubtedly with Russell, and neither of them have been located since.
Wednesday word was received here to the effect that the couple had been discovered in Petaluma, but when Constable Boswell and the young lady's brother, Welcome Eagleson, went to that city, they found that there was a mistake, and the people were not the ones sought.- Santa Rosa Republican, February 15, 1906
YOUNG MAN IS GIVEN "FLOATER"
Second Romance of Geneva Eagleson Terminated on Thursday
Frank Russell, who disappeared from this city Tuesday evening in the company of Miss Geneva Eagleson, who two weeks ago ran away with Charles Smith, was arrested at Petaluma on Thursday morning and brought back here by Constable Boswell at 2:15 in the afternoon.
Russell and the girl were seen to board the early morning train at Wilfred by her brother, Welcome Eagleson, who was a passenger. He had a friend notify Deputy Sheriff F. Ralph Starke, who sent word to Petaluma to the officers to be on the lookout for the couple. Russell and the girl jumped off the train as it was leaving Penngrove and securing a ride in a farmer's wagon continued their journey to Petaluma. Constable Sullivan, however, intercepted them and took Russell into custody and detained the girl.
Constable Boswell went to Petaluma on the train and brought Russell back. Welcome Eagleson had some difficulty in persuading his sister to return home, but finally won her assent if he would drive back instead of going on the train. He consented, and they arrived here about 4 o'clock. There girl was taken home where she was soon joined by Charles Smith, her most ardent lover, who made an effort to learn her story of the latest escapade.
Russell was taken before Justice Atchinson, where he entered a plea of "not guilty," and in default of $50 cash bail, was remanded to the custody of the Sheriff. Later his stepfather appeared and agreed to provide means to send him to Oregon if the court would suspend sentence and release him. The Court allowed the plea to be changed to guilty and suspended sentence on condition that Russell would leave town at once and not return. Russell promised to leave this (Friday) morning at 6 o'clock.
According to Miss Eagleson's statement to Charles Smith, she went away with Russell because the latter had told her that he (Smith) would meet them in a certain place in town. He failed to come and then she says Russell took her into the country where he said Smith would meet them. As he did not show up, she says, they went to a rancher's residence near Wilfred and there she was introduced as Russell's sister. They spent, she says, two nights at the place. She told Smith that she intended to phone or telegraph to him when an opportunity presented itself.- Press Democrat, February 16, 1906
Just a few weeks before the great earthquake tumbled Santa Rosa head-over-heels into the 20th century, there was a late winter's evening when the town had a chance to forget the confounding modern age and gaze nostalgically backward. It was as if the 19th century dropped in to say goodbye.
The February 1906 event was a performance by the Mahara Brothers' Minstrel Carnival at the old Athenaeum Hall on Fourth street. Today we think of minstrel shows as an ugly, irredeemable display of bigotry: Whites with burnt cork face makeup telling racist jokes in drawling "coon" accents or belting out "Mammy" songs. And that indeed was the type of minstrel show most people saw, particularly after the turn of the century. But there was another type of minstrelsy that had older roots. Both kinds shared the premise that the audience was supposed to watching slaves having after-dark fun on an antebellum plantation, but the other type of show avoided the demeaning racist shtick, and no surprise why: The performers in these troupes were all African-American.
The 1890 census listed almost 1,500 professional "Negro actors and showmen," and most had to be working in all-Black minstrel shows, given the limited venues available to African-American performers in that era. They had their own trade paper, "The Freeman," which tracked touring routes and bill changes, as well as publishing letters about Jim Crow encounters that might serve as precautionary tales to others passing through that area. Among these all-Black companies was the highly regarded Mahara show, which played in Santa Rosa that night.
One of the most famous graduates of the Mahara shows was "St. Louis Blues" composer W. C. Handy, who toured with the company between 1894 and 1903, except for one season. In his autobiography, "Father of the blues," Handy provided a vivid description of what must have happened on Fourth Street that day:
"Life began at 11:45 A.M. in a minstrel company...we were sure to find a swarm of long-legged boys on hand, begging for a chance to carry the banners advertising the show--the same young rabble, perhaps, that invariably swept down upon the circus with the offer to water the elephants in return for free tickets.
"The parade itself was headed by the managers in their four-horse carriages. Doffing silk hats and smiling their jeweled smiles, they acknowledged with easy dignity the small flutter of polite applause their high-stepping horses provoked. After them came the carriage in which the stars rode. The "walking gents" followed, that exciting company which included comedians, singers and acrobats. They in turn were followed by the drum major--not an ordinary drum major beating time for a band, mind you, but a performer out of the books, an artist with the baton. His twirling stick suggested a bicycle wheel revolving in the sun. Occasionally he would give it a toss and then recover the glistening affair with the same flawless skill...
"...[A]t 7:30 we played a program of classical music in front of the opera house. In all probability, we would pull the 'Musician's Strike' out of our bag of tricks. During this well-rehearsed feature each musician would, when his turn came, pretend to quarrel with someone else and quit the band in a huff. When, to the dismay of the innocent yokels, the band had dwindled to almost nothing, a policeman who had been 'fixed' and planted at a convenient spot would come up and ask questions. This would lead to a flght between some of the remaining musicians, and the officer would promptly arrest them.
"The crowd could be depended on to express its disappointment in strong language. 'Just like ni*gers,' they'd groan. 'They break up everything with a fight. Damn it all, they'd break up Heaven.' During these recriminations we would spring the old hokum. The band, having reassembled around the corner, would cut loose with one of the most sizzling tunes of the day, perhaps Creole Belles, Georgia Camp Meeting, or A Hot Time In the Old Town Tonight, and presently the ticket seller would go to work. Our hokum hooked them."
Handy also wrote that company's standards were so high that members thought of the troupe as a "finishing school." By 1906 Handy was no longer with the show, but we know from reviews of their performances in San Francisco earlier that month that the big star of this tour was Bessie LaBelle, who would later become known as a West Coast blues singer with Jelly Roll Morton. That she was the featured performer was another difference between the white minstrel shows, which rarely had any women at all; as many as half the Mahara performers were female, including a renowned trombone player.
It probably goes without saying that the exception to the all-black identity of the Mahara company were the Mahara brothers themselves, who handled the money and managed everything. Founder of the touring group was William Mahara, who had been a manager for other minstrel companies going back to 1875 before starting his own in 1892. When W.C. Handy described "managers in their four-horse carriages" leading the parade, he primarily meant William, with his diamond-buttoned shirt sitting next to his giant St. Bernard, Sport.
According to W. C. Handy, William and his brother Frank, who managed their other touring company, treated performers with complete respect. Performers traveled the country in a private Pullman car with their own cook, waiter, and porter. Their train cars also had a hidden compartment to stash food, weapons, and act as an emergency hideaway, which Handy had cause to use when a Tennessee sheriff and posse sought to arrest him in 1903 for striking a white man. A third Mahara brother, Jack, worked as the advance man and miraculously survived being shot between the eyes during an 1894 train robbery. He was left with a hole about an inch deep and two inches wide in his forehead, which he covered with a silver plate. Talk about your conversation starters.
By 1906 the independent minstrel shows were facing hard times as vaudeville geared up to become an entertainment industry. That the ad in the Santa Rosa papers promised an "olio of pleasing vaudeville novelties" (the "olio" was the middle part of the minstrel show) was a concession that tastes had changed; a purposely old-fashioned show had dwindling appeal.
This was near the end of the Mahara Brothers' Minstrels; William died in 1909, and that same year ads can be found for the "Jack Mahara All White Minstrel Company." Blurbs that proceeded the show promised, "the minstrel show like any other enterprise in this progressive age has evolved; there are many changes from the old days in minstrelry. The Jack Mahara Minstrels have evolved...members that are young and full of comedy...a clean, refined and moral show." A few months later, Jack abandoned his clean, refined all-white troupe in Nevada owing them back pay. And that was the end of the Mahara minstrel empire.
Plantation Life Will Be Well Presented
It was in the evening when the day's work in the cotton field was done and "Massa" had gone to bed, in the darkest days of slavery, that the darky toilers wer wont to gather around their humble huts and there hold high carnival under the pale light of the moon. Though all, or nearly all, of this has passed into history and tradition, there is still a strong semblance of those never to be forgotten days left in "plantation life." A vivid spectacle introduced in Mahara Bros. Big Minstrel Carnival this season, which makes its appearance at the Athanaeum on February 26th. To make the pictures more realistic they introduce ten of the handsomest creole ladies from the Boyou Teche, La., pastimes of the rice and tobacco fields, giving an entertaining exhibition of the tobacco stripping and manipulation. Grand choruses of supereminence song with the rich, true plaintive voices of the southern negro. The ladies of the company are also seen in the second edition of the program, known as "Minstrelsy of Today," showing the evolution of the blacks since emancipation. This amusement, Dusky Beaux & Belles, is spectacular, up-to-date, singing and dancing, dressed in costumes of the club, reception, and the ball room.
- Santa Rosa Republican, February 24, 1906
At the turn-of-the-century, that part of Sonoma County was just a handful of tiny, ad hoc farming communities -- Vine Hill, Trenton, Peachland and Hilton -- clustered in a place outside of Sebastopol long known as "Green Valley." But when the electric railroad came to the neighborhood, almost overnight Green Valley became Santa Rosa's favorite park. It was the place you took your sweetie for a picnic or the family for a Sunday outing.
Everyone's destination was a 40-acre preserve, first known as "Piney Woods," then later, "Handy's Grove." The owners aspired of creating a small zoo; in 1905, according to a Press Democrat promotional blurb, there was "a raccoon, two deers [sic], two monkeys and a brown bear." As late as the mid-1950s, visitors could still visit the old park and see a bear chained to a tree (although presumably not the same one).
The name changed to Graton in January, 1906, not in 1905 as always reported. (Gaye LeBaron wrote that it was also briefly called Newtown, but I didn't find any references to that.) A few months later the town threw itself a party, and thousands of residents from Santa Rosa and Sebastopol, quake-rattled and probably nervous about fireworks burning down what remained of their towns, descended on the Graton park for a grand Fourth of July celebration. It was a nice time for people who were overdue a nice time.
THE COUNTY'S YOUNGEST TOWN
Green Valley, Recently Established on Line of Electric Railway
The town of Green Valley is Sonoma's newest-born. Its cradle is between the hills of Oak Grove school district.
Green Valley, whose name the new town takes, is that fair, far stretch of country from Sebastopol to Guerneville, with Occidental and Forestville on either hand, and includes within its borders the villages of Vine Hill, Trenton, Peachland and Hilton. A shaded land where wild azaleas blow, mingling their fragrance with the pungent smell of pines and the balmy breath of the red-limbed manzanita. A quiet valley where the quail's clear piping greets the dawn, and doves coo in the tree tops at evening.
James H. Gray and J. H. Brush have bought the Hicks and Bower farms, which almost surround the Oak Grove schoolhouse, and it is upon these two splendid orchard ranches that the new town is being built. The electric railway runs almost through its center, giving quick transit to Sebastopol, three miles distant, and to Forestville to the north. Green Valley creek runs through the town's outskirts, and along its banks are several strips of "spouty" land--land that is always damp, and well adapted to the cultivation of such vegetables as require abundant moisture. Most of the townsite land is dry and on one of the several slopes that lead eventually to the creek, the new and promising town is located. A number of the original forest trees have been allowed to stand and around many of the dwellings in the new town there will be a grove of live-oaks, or of pines or madronas. The Excellent school is, of course, a splendid feature; two long-established churches are near by; and of prime consideration is the fact that the region round about is already populated by people of the best class. Population will surely be attracted, and the next few years see a town of a thousand inhabitants or more clustered around the splendid grove of live oaks which gave the name to Oak Grove school.
A winery, a fruit cannery, a hotel, livery stable, two stores and a restaurant are already established in the new town. A movement is on foot to establish a high school. "Piney Woods," a beautiful grove over forty acres in extent, has been kept from the axe, and since the town was founded many excursions have been made to this grove by picnic parties. The proprietor has started a Zoological park there with a raccoon, two deers, two monkeys and a brown bear as nuclei.- Press Democrat Promotional Insert, 1905
The Name Is "Graton"
The postoffice at Green Valley has been changed to "Graton" as the name of Green Valley conflicted with another office in this State, and also with a station on the line of the California Northwestern Railroad. J. H. Brush and J. H. Gray, to whom the matter was referred, made their decision on Saturday, and it would appear that Mr. Gray is destined to have his name perpetuated in the town which he was instrumental in founding.- Santa Rosa Republican, February 2, 1906
GRATON GAVE A GOOD EVENT
Splendid Fourth of July Celebration
The people of Santa Rosa and Sebastopol gathered in large numbers at the park near Graton Wednesday to join with the enterprising people of that little city in the celebration of the nation's birthday. There were several thousand people present, and the entire program, as it had been arranged, proved very interesting, and supplied abundant entertainment for the visitors.
The natal day was ushered in by the firing of twenty-one guns, and early in the morning the crowds began to assemble. It had been announced that the literary program would take place at 10 o'clock, but owing to unavoidable delay in the arrival of a number of those who were to take part, it was nearly an hour later before the exercises began. The music for the occasion was furnished by Parks' band of Santa Rosa, and furnished music for both the exercises in the morning, and also the dancing during the afternoon and evening.
The park where the celebration was held is a splendid place for such an occasion, and under the able management of James Gray, everything had been provided for the comfort and enjoyment of the large crowds that attended. The roadway from the electric depot to the grounds had been well sprinkled and an abundance of water was provided on the grounds. The electric railroad also did splendid service in the carrying of the people back and forth, providing a thirty-minute service during the day and until midnight. The long trains were crowded nearly all day, and everyone expressed pleasure at the manner in which the whole celebration had been arranged.- Santa Rosa Republican, July 5, 1906
Got a time machine? Go back to Santa Rosa in the months before the 1906 earthquake and tell the City Council to put a moratorium on new brick building construction. And while you're there, let them know it would be a swell idea to have a reliable water system should something really bad happen -- such as half the downtown burning to the ground after a major earthquake.
Fire destroyed much of downtown Santa Rosa after the 1906 quake, even though the town had both private and public water systems with separate pipes running down all the main streets. But the city lines already leaked badly, and presumably some of these mains burst in the jolt or were blown apart as the adjacent gas lines exploded; for whatever reason, pressure in hydrants was too low and the desperate firemen resorted to tapping what water they could from Santa Rosa Creek.
The water pipes for the private system belonged to the old Santa Rosa Water Works, better known as the McDonald Water Company, which had been operating since the mid-1870s. The old system had few enthusiasts; besides its wimpy water pressure that made fire hydrants ineffective, an 1891 report confirmed suspicions that its reservoir, Lake Ralphine, was contaminated with hog and human waste. The municipal system came along in 1896 and was also plagued with problems from the start. For a town built smack in the middle of a 250 square mile watershed, Santa Rosa has had remarkable troubles delivering a reliable flow of clean water to town faucets.
We wade into the water wars via the entertaining account of a 1906 City Council meeting transcribed below. Note that no actual point is debated; the meeting is a free-for-all public hand-wringing. The lowlight was the appearance of prominent attorney Thomas J. Geary, here rather obviously acting as a lobbyist for McDonald, urging the city to stop drilling new wells and instead buy water from McDonald's company. Along the way, Geary also told the Council that the rich were entitled to more water than Average Joe because they paid more taxes.
The most interesting comment at the Council meeting came from "pump man" Mr. Fish (!) who "urged a plan which he had suggested for this city many years ago--that instead of pumping water into the reservoir outside the city, it be sent into a mammoth tank in the heart of the city eighty feet high." Had Santa Rosa such a water tower in place before the earthquake, the downtown might have been spared the fire damage. The pumping station, which pushed the well water up to the city's hilltop reservoir above Rincon Valley, never failed during the quake, and water levels in the four city wells even began going up immediately after the tremors and kept rising for weeks.
What irony; the only time city wells were overflowing in that era was when it was unavailable for delivery. Instead of McDonald's contamination problems, simple lack of water was the bane of the municipal system. As soon it began operating in 1896, it was clear that the pumps weren't producing as much water as needed, and yet another well was ordered drilled. The city also enacted conservation measures that became increasingly draconian over the next several years. A city inspector was hired to examine toilets, faucets, and other fixtures for leaks, and had powers to issue a $2.50 fine for each violation; police were ordered to spy for water running overnight, and wake up offenders to shut off the spigot; the city was split into east/west irrigation districts, with one side of town allowed to water lawns from 6 to 8 in the morning and the other from 6 to 8 in the evening, the starting and ending times strictly announced by the blowing of the town's steam whistle. And when the fire alarms went off, all water use had to be stopped immediately.
Even with the addition of a 1903 well that nearly doubled capacity, the town water system was barely able to keep up with demand, and a report the next year explained why: Almost a quarter of the water that left the reservoir was lost somewhere in the city's plumbing -- 270,000 gallons just dribbled away every day.
The city finally began installing meters in 1905, with the promise that a family of five or less still could have 350 gallons of free water a day. But old habits die hard, and the town kept the Water Police around to assess extra charges for nearly everything; watering you lawn cost 1/2 cent per square yard per year, irrigating strawberries and vegetables, 3¢ per square yard. And it'll be 25¢ per month for the pleasure of that bathtub in your house, plus another two bits for the potty, please.
Additional sources: Chapter 10 in the 19th century history by LeBaron, et. al, Ample and Pure Water for Santa Rosa, 1867-1926 by John Cummings,
The California earthquake of April 18, 1906 by Andrew C. Lawson
First Shipment of Water Meters are Now Due Here
City Clerk Clawson has received the bill for fifty of the water meters which were recently ordered by the City Council. The order was for one thousand meters and these will be installed in the near future. Now that the first shipment is about to arrive, it is reasonable to believe that the remainder will follow rapidly. When the meters have been placed the officials in charge of the pumping station feel confident that they will be able to supply all the water needed by the citizens of the City of Roses, because the meters will stop the alleged leakages in the system.- Santa Rosa Republican, September 23, 1905
A LITTLE OVER A MILLION GALLONS OF WATER DAILY
Result of Pumping Test in Known
Visit Paid to the Pumping Station to Receive Engineer Yandle's Report
Mayor J. P. Overton and Councilmen W. D. Reynolds, Fred King and G. S. Brown visited the pumping station...Engineer Yandle informed the Mayor and Councilmen on Thursday that the test showed that 1,087,000 gallons of water was pumped each day...- Press Democrat, December 28, 1905
COUNCIL LISTEN TO FERVID ORATORY ON WATER QUESTION
From Mass of Eigures [sic] and Suggestions Given at Meeting Council Will Evolve Solution of Problem
After listening to much fervid oratory from citizens of Santa Rosa, and pondering over the momentous question of permitting the installation of electric pumping machinery and electric generating machinery at the local pumping station, the Council adjourned without being any nearer a solution of the problem than when the session began...
...[The City Council] had to wait until the citizens had finished offering suggestions, and then returned to their homes confused in mind as to the best course to pursue, and their rest was troubled with nightmares of machinery, long volumes of figures and well-rounded sentences of oratory.
There was not the interest taken in the matter by the citizens that its importance demanded. Hardly a dozen men had congregated to assist the Council in unravelling one of the knottiest problems that has confronted the city government. There is apparently a disposition to let the council act on the matter as it seems best to them, and then those who are not satisfied with the action taken will be able to spend their time on the street corners and "kick" because the action taken did not suit them.
[Danville Decker, "the suave local manager of the Santa Rosa Lighting Company," told the Council that his company drilled two unproductive wells about 80 feet deep. John L. Jordan, "who takes a lively interest in the city's water system," told the Council that he could produce more water than the city needed if they would give him $600 to bore three 50-foot wells. Citizen John H. Fowler admitted no special knowledge on the matter, but urged the city to embrace progress and switch over to electric pumps, giving a little presentation on the history of machines.]
Attorney Thomas J. Geary made an excellent speech on "water" which provoked much merriment during its delivery. He declared he did know a great deal about water, and personally did not care a great deal for it. It looked to the speaker like the city had had ten years of municipal ownership which had proved a failure. Attorney Geary said that municipal ownership seemed to be on trial throughout the country, and while theoretically it should be an advantage, because it eliminated the profit of private corporations, and should be able to furnish commodities such as water at less than private corporations, it did not result favorably in practice. Whether the city could not conduct the water works as economically as private corporations, or what was the matter, he did not pretend to say. He declared that Santa Rosa's experience of ten years was one of the worst cases of failure known, and said the municipality was paying more for the water it obtained than any other municipality. Property owners, he declared, had been deluded by the notion of obtaining "free water, which is a very catchy phrase, and said it was folly to delude the people into believing they were getting something for nothing, when they were not doing so.
The attorney declared that it had cost this city, with the interest being paid on its bonded indebtedness, $21,000 to pump and deliver the small amount of water given last year, about 800,000 gallons per day. In comparison with the water rates of San Francisco Mr. Geary said the same amount of water pumped here in 1905 at a cost of $21,000, could have been secured at a cost of $2009 in San Francisco, according to the report of that city for 1901. He stated that an individual could purchase one million gallons of water a day in San Francisco at a meter rate of $167 per month, while the City of Santa Rosa was pumping only about 800,000 gallons, and paying an expense bill of $909, many times greater in San Francisco.
Getting down to what he thought should be done with the pumping station, Attorney Geary said the city should rapidly install the meters purchased, allow a minimum quantity of water to each family at so many gallons per capita, and then give water to the citizens in accordance with the amount of taxes paid. He argued that the man who paid taxes on a ten thousand dollar home was entitled to more water than one paying one thousand dollars. He suggested conserving the water, and declared that with proper restrictions there was an abundance of water being pumped at present to supply Santa Rosa for the next three years at least. It looked to the speaker like the sensible thing to do with the present works was not to waste any more money on attempting to develop wells, and he declared the present water system was a bad legacy handed down to the present Council by previous boards, who while having done their best to make the works a success, had only resulted in failure. In accepting the proposal of the men to install the pumping machinery, Mr. Geary declared the city would cut down the expense of delivering water to this city, could save five thousand dollars a year, and within the next three years when it became necessary to have a greater supply of water the City Council could look around and obtain other supplies. He advocated the adoption of any plan which would cut down the expense of delivering the water into the city's mains, and said that under no circumstances should it cost the city $11,000 per year to pump 800,000 gallons daily.
Another remedy he offered was that the Council could fix a rate on the McDonald system for the delivery of one million gallons per day to the city, and as long as this rate was a reasonable one, the city could compel the McDonald system to sell and deliver it. This figure, he declared, would be much more inexpensive than the present rate being paid for pumping the water by the city's system. "Out of the economy you effect," he declared, "you can buy water from the McDonald system to supply the city. Another matter that you can do, is to take the water that flows away from the McDonald system back into Santa Rosa Creek, and by using that water you might find you had an abundant supply for years to come."
John Robinson of the Eagle Hotel made a short address, full of stirring words. He turned his batteries on Geary, and said he failed to comprehend the object of the legal gentleman who had addressed the Council. He declared Geary was guilty of "jumbling with figures and his statements were calculated to be misleading." In comparing the cost of water of this city with San Francisco, he asked why Geary had not made a comparison with the deserts of Nevada. He believed Geary's statement was misleading throughout, and said that experts were of the opinion that there was an abundance of water at the city's pumping station, and said that on any question Geary handled, he "fixed it up with a polish that sways the minds of men." Mr. Robinson declared the city had the well on its hands, and should go ahead and develop more water, in order that the deplorable condition of scarcity of that commodity experienced in past summer seasons should not be repeated during the coming summer. He felt that the council should persevere and satisfy themselves absolutely that there was not enough water at their pumping station for the city before abandoning it.
Attorney Geary replied to Mr. Robinson, and showed where these gentlemen were in harmony in all their statements to the Council. He showed that he had not spoken of abandoning the wells, but had urged conservation of water and maintaining the present system, but wanted the expense reduced materially.
Mr. Fish, a pump man, who was present, and spoke briefly to the Council, later answering many questions put to him by various people. He declared there were many ways of handling water cheaper than the city was doing at present. He urged a plan which he had suggested for this city many years ago--that instead of pumping water into the reservoir outside the city, it be sent into a mammoth tank in the heart of the city eighty feet high. This, in his opinion, would give a far better service than could be obtained with the reservoir...
...Chief Engineer Yandle spoke on the subject, saying the figures given by Geary included the salaries of Chief of the Fire Department L. Adams, and other expenses. He had previously advised the Council, and reiterated the statement, that with first class pumps the cost bill could be materially reduced. The engineer stated that the recent test of water being pumped at the station showed a million gallons strong being pumped from the wells.
Manager Danville Decker declared that the first impressions were the most lasting, and he had heard the Councilmen and other speakers talk of two million gallons of water so much he believed they had that figure indelibly impressed on their minds. No one, he declared, has ever said there was more than one million gallons of water at the station. At times when the city had bored a well and struck a magnificent flow of water the Councilmen had become enthused, and he admitted he had also become enthused over the splendid prospects of obtaining an unlimited supply of water. When this flow from the wells ceased, all were mutually depressed. He advised using the meters, and going to look for water elsewhere if it could not be found at the pumping station. The speaker believed there was no reason for expending money where there was a possibility no water could be developed, and said the city was not encouraged to do anything at the pumping station. Manager Decker has had much experience with meters in his business, and declared the meters were the best safeguard of the city's interests, and said the questions was perfectly clear that no more money should be spent at the pumping station for developing water. The water should be pumped cheaply, or something was wrong, he declared, and reiterated the statement made to the Council some years ago, that his company was ready at any time to supply current for pumping water from the city's wells.
Mayor Overton said the city was looking ahead in making its estimates for pumping two million gallons of water, and that it would be folly for a growing city like Santa Rosa to consider installing machinery at this time which would simply handle the supply at present developed. His honor declared he believed the city's water system needed overhauling badly, and if the city was going to continue to do the pumping, they should have some one do considerable overhauling of the plant. He said if it was the sense of the Council to develop more water at the pumping station that it should be acted on at once. The Mayor wishes to do something at once to relieve the anticipated condition of next summer.
"We have a million gallons of water now, and cannot afford to abandon the plant. We should take action at once to decrease the cost of pumping, either by ourselves or by contract with some one else. We should do at once what is for the best interests of the city."
Chief Engineer Yandle declared the million gallons of water at the pumping station would supply seventy gallons per capita to all the residents of Santa Rosa, which would make a total of 700,000 gallons, and allowing 150,000 gallons for street sprinklers, would leave a comfortable balance for the city...- Santa Rosa Republican, January 10, 1906
CITY ORDINANCE FOR WATER RATE
First Step Toward Setting of Cost of City Water Used in Excess
In accordance with the provisions of the new city charter which will go into effect in April, an ordinance has been introduced fixing the amount of water that shall be allowed to each family for domestic purposes free of charge and the rates that shall be charged upon the meter readings for all amounts exceeding the allowance.
The new ordinance provided for 350 gallons of water for each family where there are five or less residing, for every twenty-four hours, and for each additional person residing in the house, 25 gallons per day. The ordinance provides that the term "domestic use," as employed in the ordinance shall not be construed to mean "irrigation" or for the use of business houses or business purposes.
For all water that is to be used above the specified 350 gallons a day, the Council will determine the rate at their next meeting.
Where there is no meter the rates suggested are the same as have been charged heretofore by the Santa Rosa Water Company. These rates include $1 a month for a family of five or less and 10 cents for each additional person; 25 cents for each bath tub and closet; for irrigating flower gardens and lawns, per square yard per year, ¼ cent or ½ cent for six consecutive months; for irrigating strawberries and vegetables, per square yard, 3 cents; for one horse and vehicle, 20 cents; each additional horse or cow, 10 cents. For public uses the prices suggested are $3.50 to $15 for hotels, per month; saloons, $2; stores, 75¢; butcher shops, $1; offices, 50¢; dentists, $1; photographers, $2; restaurants, $2.50; bakeries $2; confectioneries. $1.50; steam laundries, $10; for motors, $3 to $25; building purposes, bricks per thousand, 15¢; plastering per square yard, 60¢; cement, 10¢ per barrel; lawns, gardens, flowers and not used for other purposes by six months, per month, 50¢.- Santa Rosa Republican, February 7, 1906
HOW THE WATER IS BEING USED
Report to City Council Made by Street Commissioner Decker at Tuesday Night's Meeting
...Mr. Decker reported that 290 water consumers used less than 250 gallons per day for the month of July; 230 used less than 500 gallons per day; 75 used less than 1,000 gallons per day; and 33 used over 1,000 gallons gallons per day. The average, he said, for those using less than 500 gallons per day being 260 gallons.- Press Democrat, September 13, 1906
The library section of the Comstock House website has been completely redesigned, which should make it easier for newcomers to understand and more functional for everyone, including us.
Now the library simply presents a topic index. Under each is a catalog of related e-books. Seen on the right for each entry is the "Comments" field, which contains a link to an Internet location where you can read the book on-line or download it. More topics will be added and refined as the number of e-books in the library (rapidly!) expands.
The previous version failed for multiple reasons, primarily because it tried to reinvent too many wheels. It started as a hierarchical index of e-books referenced by blog articles, but it wasn't long before books less directly related, even works of fiction, were added to the mix (trust me: if you knew how hard it is to find a readable facsimile of Dickens' "Little Dorrit," you'd want to share the link, too). That concept also hinged on using a customized e-book reader that required hand-coding a special file for each and every document. Even if the bugs and quirks in the open-source software could be tolerated, tweaking all those initialization files was a significant detriment to adding new entries.
A far better solution began with switching to LibraryThing for the actual database. Almost all of our real library is already cataloged using this remarkable web site; I can now search electronic and paper book records interchangeably, which is increasingly how I view books -- I no longer care if I have a fine-condition early edition of a physical book or an excellent high-resolution scan of same.
The quest for a better e-book reader ended by discovering FFView (Mac only), which is a versatile image viewer that was originally intended for displaying comic books. For the first time, I can now curl up with a mini-laptop and have the same experience reading an electronic book as with the dead-tree kind.* To be clear, for those not familiar with the e-book world: I am reading scanned images from actual old books, displayed about the same size as the original pages. This is NOT the same as using a device such as Amazon's Kindle, which, in my opinion, is comparable to reading a Word document printed on soggy, grey cardboard.
Also now included in our LibraryThing catalog are high-resolution historic maps and photographs in JPEG 2000 or MrSid formats, which usually require a special viewer to display. I highly recommend ExpressView, available for both Mac and PC.
* TECHNICAL NOTE: FFView and similar programs do not display PDF files well, so I split the PDF pages apart into separate JPEGs (using Apple's GraphicConverter program). Once I have created a folder of these page images, I select an appropriate start page; the second line in the comment field is the name I have given to this book directory in the overall FFView index. Using the Image List, I can also randomly jump to pages and create multiple bookmarks, allowing me instant access to the TOC, index, or special pages.