A year and change after the 1906 earthquake, Santa Rosa finally doled out the last of the relief money donated to help the needy, which was mostly spent on anything but - at least, until civic leaders were shamed into providing aid after a vigorous debate in the newspapers.

The remaining funds were used to buy a tombstone and concrete cap for the "Graves of the Unknown Dead," which still can be seen at the Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery by the Franklin Ave. gate. It's really nice work, and should be; there was $11,000 remaining in the relief fund when it was last mentioned in the papers four months earlier. Hopefully some of that huge chunk of money (worth at least a quarter-million today) was used for late claims from those seriously injured and it didn't all end up as a windfall for the the marble and granite works.

The other spending item on the same City Council agenda also raises questions. There the city paid $1,500 for loss of a horse and injuries to the driver from the collapse of a bridge (I don't have additional details about the incident, sorry). The payout was generous, and the newspapers were profuse in extemporaneous praise of the company awarded damages. Was it because of intimidation or cronyism? The Lee Brothers, whose horses and wagons had a monopoly on local commercial transportation, were a powerful force in town. Their drayage company had sparked Santa Rosa's first labor crisis in early 1906 by refusing to negotiate with the local union, and had it not been for the earthquake, Santa Rosa would have likely faced a paralyzing general strike.

Determine to Mark Graves of Unknown Dead

The city council held a meeting on Tuesday evening and disposed of several matters that have been before the council in executive session for some week past. The sum of $1000 was awarded Jack Walters for injuries sustained in the falling of the island bridge. The people will remember the accident there, as Walters was crossing the structure with a heavy oil wagon. He was injured, and since the accident has been unable to work. Walters' injuries incurred a bill of about three hundred dollars for medical attendance. He has threatened the city with a suit for damages.

The firm of Lee Bros. & Co. was awarded $500 for the death of their horse, which was killed in the accident, the injury to the other animals and the damages to their wagon. The actual loss to this firm through the accident was $800 and the sum allowed them does not compensate for their damage. Lee Bros. & Co. never considered bringing a suit for damages against the city, for they have the interest of Santa Rosa too much at heart to think of such action, and realize that at the proper time the council would do what the members believed was just under the circumstances. This firm has done a great work in the upbuilding of the city and at the time of the great disaster gave their teams and men freely in the cause of relieving distries [sic] and hauling provisions for the stricken people. In doing this they gave the gratuitous work of relief preference over all their orders.

The council has determined to set aside the remainder of the relief fund for providing a monument to be inscribed "Graves of the Unknown Dead" in the local cemetery, and for placing a suitable coping around the graves. They contain the remains of victims of the earthquake who were unidentified. The special relief committee of the council has been discharged.

- Santa Rosa Republican, May 29, 1907

R.I.P. Mrs. Cnopius, victim #77 (at least) of the 1906 Santa Rosa Earthquake. She died two years and two months after the disaster, but it was not completely unexpected. In the very first report after the quake, the April 18 Santa Rosa Republican noted that she was "believed to be fatally hurt." Three days later, the Democrat-Republican gave her a slight upgrade: "Mrs. L. C. Cnopius, believed to have been fatally injured, is improving nicely." Well, she wasn't; she never recovered from her unknown injuries and shock, dying in a well-respected San Francisco hospital, "Adler's Sanitarium."

The 1906 earthquake "body count" overview has been updated to include her, as have the spreadsheet and PDF files.

Passing of Mrs. Lewis C. Cnopius Deeply Regretted By a Very Large Circle of Friends

After many, weary months of invalidism, hopeful till the last that there would be a return of the depleted strength, Mrs. Lewis C. Cnopius passed to her eternal rest at two o'clock on Sunday morning. Her death has occasioned general regret among a very large circle of friends in this city, and throughout the state who knew her and esteemed her for her many kindly traits of character and the genuineness of her friendship. Mrs. Cnopius never really rallied her full strength after the terrible shock of the earthquake disaster in this city. Change of climate combined with the best medical attention were given her in the hope that thay would prove beneficial. She improved and right up to the time of her death she was apparently getting better. Towards the end she took a sudden change for the worse and sank... Mrs. Cnopius died in Adler's Sanitarium in San Francisco, where she had been undergoing treatment.


- Press Democrat, June 23, 1908

Spitters beware: A new state law made spitting on the sidewalk - or anywhere else - a misdemeanor in 1907. Press Democrat editor Ernest L. Finley, quite the stickler to the law when it came to clean sidewalks, made sure readers were fully informed immediately about California penal code §372a.

Any item about expectoration is another welcome opportunity to plug my all-time favorite story, about the 1905 Santa Rosa motorist who was given a speeding ticket, then a few days later forced the selfsame cop to arrest himself for spitting on the sidewalk. At night. And during a downpour.

It might be just as well for some people to remember that it is now a state prison offense, punishable by both fine and imprisonment, to discharge mucus from the nose or mouth or spit upon any sidewalk of any public street or highway, or upon any part of any public building or railroad train, streetcar, stage, ferryboat, steamboat, or other vessel or vehicle used for the transportation of the public.

This is a law that should be rigidly enforced, for expectoration in public places is not only unhealthful but also disgusting in the extreme.

One of the most nauseating thing in the world is to have a man come into a street car or public office and spit slimy rings all around himself on the floor. No man of any culture or refinement would do such a thing, of course, and some of those who do would doubtless be considerably surprised if told they do not possess even the first instincts of a gentleman. Yet the following is as true today as it was when it was first written:

"The man who expectorates on the floor need never expect to rate as a gentleman."

- Press Democrat editorial, April 2, 1907

Good news, everybody: Less than a year after the 1906 earthquake, downtown Santa Rosa was in great shape. The Press Democrat reported shoppers were filling the streets on Saturday night, just like the "good old times" before the disaster.

Bad news, everybody: downtown Santa Rosa was still a wreck, with piles of building materials blocking the streets - which were also in shameful condition, having no repairs since the earthquake. This dismal item appeared in the Press Democrat two months after that jolly portrait above.

It seems hard to reconcile these descriptions being from the same town, much less the same few short blocks of Fourth Street. A thesis could be written just about these little items; was the optimistic article intended for distribution to tourists and business investors? Was there a political reason to finally mention the lousy street conditions in print? Is there anything truly contradictory between the two stories? Such a good example of how even a simple historical picture slips in and out of focus.

Fourth Street Presented a Busy Scene on Saturday as in the Days Before the Great Disaster

Fourth street took on its old time hustle and activity Saturday, and all day the sidewalks were thronged with pedestrians, while vehicles were constantly going here and there up and down the street.

Saturday night the main business thoroughfare presented an animated scene. It was the first really fine night for many weeks, at least since many of the firms moved back into their handsome new stores. The well lighted windows and stores, with their splendid stocks of goods, attracted everybody.

From several of the business men a reporter learned on Saturday night that the day had been a record breaker for business. At the present time and ever since trade revived immediately following the disaster almost a year ago, business in Santa Rosa has been on the increase. Outside business is being attracted here, too.

- Press Democrat, March 31, 1907

The time has come when Fourth street should be repaired without further delay. Almost a year and a half has elapsed since the earthquake and fire, and yet practically nothing has been done to remove the evidences of the disaster manifested by the condition of the roadway along the city's principal thoroughfare. It is not necessary to wait until all the business [illegible microfilm] fronting on Fourth street have been rebuilt before taking up this [illegible]. There is plenty of [illegible] on hand, and as the building material is removed from in front of the new structures the street should be put in proper condition at once. The municipality should keep fully [illegible] with the great work of rebuilding in this respect, and every day that Fourth street is allowed to remain in its present condition is just one more day lost.

- Press Democrat editorial, July 2, 1907

Santa Rosa had in 1907 a nice Carnegie public library, a popular skating rink and swimming pool (in winter, a floor was placed over the pool and it became a dance hall), and a couple of small theatres. But it didn't have a single public park.

The closest thing they had was Grace Brother's park at the corner of Fourth St. and McDonald Ave, a place where Santa Rosa had celebrated since before the Civil War. But it was privately owned so it wasn't always open, and by 1907, it was looking seedy; "buildings vacant, old, and dilapidated" was the note on the fire map produced the following year. Santa Rosa also had a ball field or two, including "Recreation Park" (location unknown to me) which appears to have been just a vacant lot; the Rose Parade that year marched around the field because the downtown streets were still clogged with post-quake building materials. Both were far short of what the town wanted.

In February of that year, PD gossip columnist Dorothy Anne took a break from her usual format (announcing weddings, reporting on ladies' club tea parties, and settling personal scores) to ask eighteen prominent women what they'd like to see in a town park. The answers were thoughtful and offer rare descriptions of what Santa Rosa really looked like in 1907.

Several proposed a park focused on Santa Rosa Creek, similar to the design that architect William H. Willcox had sketched out a year earlier, with a little dam that would allow swimming and boating. Alas, the Creek was apparently quite a mess in 1907, described below as a dumping ground that would require a great deal of cleanup. Later in the year, the local power company would be charged with releasing some sort of fish-killing effluent.

Another idea mentioned often was doing something with the old campus of the Pacific Methodist College, now the site of Santa Rosa Middle School, between E Street and Brookwood Avenue. It might have made a nice, park, albeit flat and square-ish. One woman suggested that an ersatz stream could be added (perhaps by not fixing a few of the town's perpetually leaking water mains).

Among the surprises were a couple of suggestions to use the old Ridgway property, which would later become the Santa Rosa High School grounds. Two women also thought outside the box and wanted the new courthouse to be built somewhere else, so the center of downtown could become the park.

Of great personal interest was the comment from Mattie Oates that she wanted roses and Virginia creeper to "run in profusion over the trees." The Virginia creeper vine still climbs the trees around her old home, and turns a brilliant scarlet in the autumn, as shown here on the great oak behind Comstock House. We didn't know that this was a heritage plant dating back to her garden.

Most fun of all the responses were the snippy remarks of Mrs. T. J. Geary, wife of the city attorney who had told the City Council that the rich were entitled to more water because they paid more taxes). Mrs. Geary snorted, "Don't I think Santa Rosa ought to have a park? Don't I think we all ought to have diamond earrings? While fully appreciating their beauty and desirability, I think our needs should be well supplied before indulging in luxuries, When our streets, water supply, and sewers are all improved it will be time enough to talk park." Cripes, lady, sorry to have asked.

A selection of the replies from that February 24, 1907 Press Democrat:

* Mrs. William Martin: "It seems to me that nature has pointed out the most appropriate spot for a city park. Cleanse and dam up the naturally pretty stream running through the town, lay out the banks tastefully, and tract on either side and you will have one of the most beautiful and central places of recreation possible. It seems a pity that a stream which might be made so attractive should be used as a dumping place for rubbish."

* Mrs. C. D. Barnett: "In my opinion the best location for a park would be along the Santa Rosa creek, if it were not too mammoth an undertaking to remove the objectionable features. With these taken away the place could be transformed into an ideal park with all the natural beauty which it affords. However, there would be so much to undo before anything positive could be accomplished that it seems hardly practical for Santa Rosa to undertake in the near future. My second choice would be the old College ground, affording as it would seem the best natural facilities for transformation into a park. The grand old trees, the creek bed, where an artificial stream could be directed, the broad stretch of grass, and other natural advantages present wonderful opportunities for a city park which would fulfill all the needs and requirements of such a public improvement."

* Mrs. Judge Seawell: "My ideas are so extravagant I am afraid to give them to you. I would like to see the Ridgway tract north of town bordering on Healdsburg avenue, made into a park. With drivers through broad lawns, bordered by varicolored flower beds, with fountains and statuary, I think we would have the ideal park of the state."

* Mrs. E. F. Woodward: "I should like to see two parks, one on each side of the town. The College grounds at the east side is most preferable, and the block bordering Seventh, between A and Washington street at the west side."

* Mrs. W. D. Reynolds: "I would prefer several small parks scattered [illegible microfilm] the triangle formed by Mendocino avenue, tenth, and Joe Davis streets would be a desirable location for one; the triangle at the corner of College avenue and Fourth street, another. I would like to see the new court house put on the Grand hotel site and utilize the court house square for park purposes."

* Miss Adelaide Elliott: "Our beautiful new Santa Rosa needs a beautiful new park. We can have it by adopting the fine plan of Mr. Willcox to improve Santa Rosa creek from E street to Main. I agree with him that this is decidedly our most desirable location. Nature has done wonders for us there. Trees, vines, a winding stream that could easily be dammed to hold water enough to make boating ideal on summer evenings...All visitors to Santa Rosa wish to see the home and grounds of our eminent and esteemed friend and townsman, Mr. Luther Burbank. It would be greatly to our credit and satisfaction if we were able to take these strangers through a part of town of which we could be proud instead of being ashamed..."

* Mrs. John S. Taylor: "...[G]ive us back our plaza. No other place can combine utility and convenience with beautiful effect, as could the plaza, used as originally intended as a public park. All large cities have their breathing spaces, lungs, so to speak, in the crowded business sections. We can never aspire to metropolitan effects without city parks."

* Mrs. T. A. Proctor: "...[T]he only place to my idea is Mr. Ridgway's field of lively oak trees on the Healdsburg road, already a natural park. But, oh! I am afraid I am like the boy who asked for the man in the moon to play with."

* Mrs. James W. Oates: "Make parks of the banks of all the creeks near the city; letting roses and Virginia creeper run in profusion over the trees; placing seats beneath the shade of the latter; and keeping the streams of water free from refuse."

The Santa Rosa that emerged after the 1906 earthquake was certainly a more modern-looking place, but in those new downtown buildings were businesses with old Victorian-era attitudes; if you were a woman, there were fully three dozen places that you could not enter.

Saloons and cigar shops were off-limits to women, who could be arrested for entering a bar for any reason. The barkeep could also lose his license for admitting a woman, or even on hearsay that he had done such a terrible thing, as happened in the "Call No. 2 Saloon," on West Third Street, mentioned in the Saloon Town article. In one of the incidents described below, a roadhouse on the road to Sonoma was closed after a complaint that a party of 4-5 men and women were allowed to drink together and cuss.


Wednesday night about half-past 10 o'clock Police Officer Lindley arrested a woman whom he noticed leaving McKee & Morrison's saloon on Fifth street. Under the ordinance no woman or minors are allowed to frequent a saloon. The woman was taken to the police station and put up twenty dollars bail for her appearance before Police Judge Bagley. She claims to have been in the saloon for the purpose of getting some washing.

- Press Democrat, June 20, 1907

Lively Time Following Auto Trip to Resort at Melitta

On the evening of May 18 last, there must have been a taste of "high life" out at M. F. Wilson's saloon on the Sonoma road to Melitta according to the complaint made to the Board of Supervisors and filed in the office of the County Clerk on Monday morning.

Among other things on that memorable night an automobile drove up to the saloon and it contained two or three women and two men. The language used was not parlor talk or credible to persons having any regard for personal decency, according to the allegations made in the complaint. More than this the women were lifted onto the shoulders of their male companions and were carried into the saloon. Inside the saloon it is alleged the obscenity was kept up.

Other lewd conduct is set forth in the complaint...accompanying the complaint is a largely signed petition asking the Supervisors to revoke the liquor license held by Wilson.

- Press Democrat, July 2, 1907

Supervisors Hear Much Evidence on Both Sides of Case and After Argument Take Unanimous Action

The Supervisors spent all of Wednesday in hearing evidence on the question of the revocation of the liquor license of M. F. Wilson, who operates a roadhouse near Melitta station. After the evidence was all in and arguments had been made the board by unanimous vote revoked the license.


...The allegations of the petitioners charged the roadhouse with being noisy, boisterous, disorderly and disreputable place was strenuously denied by all the witnesses for the defendant. The allegation made against the place charged that women were carried into the place on July 4 by men and that decent people in the neighborhood were subjected to insulting scenes and language by the patrons of the house.

- Press Democrat, July 11, 1907

Santa Rosa was quite the saloon town in the early 20th century, with 30 bars (or so) downtown, mostly on Fourth St. between Railroad Square and Courthouse Square. It was also a smoker's paradise, with about a half dozen tobacco stores along the same route. And in each bar, each smoke shop, were slot machines where a guy could plunk in a nickel and gamble for cigars.

Discussed here earlier was a loopy 1906 court ruling that declared a slot machine was a "banking device" as long as the payout was in cigars, beer, gum, or anything but cash. The item transcribed below provides details of the "house rules" that prevailed in Santa Rosa, showing clearly that the barkeep or smoke shop owner had an active hands-on role similar to a casino dealer, allowing a gambler to ask the proprietor for double-down bets. That's a big difference from passively having a machine on the side of the counter.

Card gambling in the cigar shops was also common, judging from a long debate in 1907 about whether tables should be banned in Healdsburg, but nothing specific about poker games appeared in the papers about Santa Rosa. But after the quake rebuilding settled down, it was likely still somewhat a "wide-open town," as earlier revealed by a 1905 exposé in the Santa Rosa Republican.

After Today Local Cigar Dealers Will No Longer Pay on Queens, or Allow Drawing to Straights or Flushes--The Reason Why

In anticipation of the proposed license on slot machines, a new schedule goes into effect at the cigar stores tomorrow. No more will two Queens be good for a rope [cigar], and after today drawing to straights and flushes will be a thing of the past. It is the same old story--the "consumer pays the tax." The city has decided to license the slot machines, and the odds are to be changed so that the dear public will pay the license fee.

Although the printed schedule on the face of the machines only calls for payment when a pair of Kings or better appears, it has been the local custom to pay on the appearance of Queens. At one time, before the shake, the local dealers even paid on Jacks. It has also been the vogue here to allow customers who had made a play and secured all but one of a straight or flush to "draw" to the same upon payment of an extra nickel. Thus, if a customer who had four clubs and wanted a fifth should elect to pay for the privilege he was allowed to try again, the appearance of a club in the designated spot on the second turn being held to complete the flush and being regarded as equivalent to having drawn all five clubs on the first play. But the dealers say they are "too much loser" to keep this up, now that each machine is to be taxed $5 per quarter by the municipality. The regular printed schedule is to apply from now on.

- Press Democrat, March 10, 1907

Everything old is new again: there was doubt that Santa Rosa would have a 2010 Rose Parade until volunteers stepped up with funding, and the Grand Marshal is 10-year-old Zoe Valrey, who became a symbol of fund-raising efforts with her save-the-parade lemonade stand. There was also doubt that Santa Rosa would have a 1907 Rose Carnival, given that the town was barely recovered from the Great Earthquake; but it was decided that it would be a special juvenile parade and celebration that year, led by 6 year-old Geraldine Grace. A nice symbol of renewal, both.

"Queen Geraldine" didn't hustle lemonade, and besides being cute as a bug in her royal getup, was probably selected because she was the daughter of beer baron Joseph T. Grace, who owned the Grace Brothers Park where the festivities were held. (The old Grace Brothers Park - AKA City Gardens, AKA Kroncke's Park, AKA Civil War-era Hewitt's Grove - is now the Creekside Park apartment complex at 1130 4th Street.) Geraldine Grace Benoist died in 2005 at the age of 103.

Alas, no pictures of the actual parade survive, but it must have been a delightful affair. There was a boy's marching band from San Francisco, a handful of floats, and three automobiles festooned in roses. But the main attractions were the kids pushing doll buggies, kids riding in pony carts adorned with roses or poinsettias or poppies or pink hawthorn. Some highlights from the May 19 Press Democrat:

Little Miss Helen Kearns, daughter of Senator and Mrs. Kearns, drove her Shetland pony in a gaily decorated cart. Besides her on the seat was her favorite white Spitz dog, bearing up under the name of "Snowball." Snowball seemed to enjoy the drive equally as much as his fair owner... Little Jack Hood led the children's features. He trundled a wheelbarrow loaded with freshly cut green grass, making an ideal "Hayseed" ...Marian Belden drove her favorite Cocker Spaniel hitched up to a little cart. Lorraine Johnson had a pink floral tricycle beautifully adorned...

Queen Geraldine was crowned that afternoon "with all the pomp and ceremony of juvenile royalty" to the cheers of "thousands of loyal subjects assembled" as the 155 member children's chorus sang her Coronation Ode. Other entertainment included a tambourine dance by Miss Charmion Butts, eight girls dancing a minuet, more numbers by the chorus and a couple of girls warbling through "Jockey Hat and Feather," a mid-19th century parlor song.

It was a modest affair but grand, thanks to the Woman's Improvement Club, who pulled it off by creating no fewer than eleven committees. All praise to the Committee on Popcorn and Peanuts, the Committee on Lunch for Band, and the Committee on Decorated Baby Buggies, Velocipedes, Go-Carts, Express Wagons, Coasters and Doll Buggies. Maybe Zoe Valrey has a great-great-great ancestor who guided the Committee on Lemonade.

LEFT: Queen Geraldine official portrait. RIGHT: Lining up for the parade, probably on modern-day Brookwood Avenue, then North street. Both photos courtesy the Sonoma County Library

There seems to be an impression that people have to be invited in order to take part in the coming Juvenile Rose Carnival floral parade. This is not the case as everybody is invited and expected to furnish some feature for the parade. If you cannot put in a float, put in your baby buggy, put your small boy in on his coaster. The bigger that floral parade is the better it will suit the Improvement Club, and the better it will advertise our city and wipe out unpleasant recollections relative to last year's dissipation on the part of Terra Firma. The Woman's Improvement Club invites you one and all to help them in making the carnival a success.

- "Society Gossip by Dorothy Anne," Press Democrat, May 5, 1907

1907 was the year California fell in love with the automobile, and you can probably even pinpoint the exact moment: 7PM on February 18, when 254 automobiles began their parade down Van Ness avenue to promote the first San Francisco Automobile Show. "Sirens screeched, whistles resounded and the odor of gasoline was wafted over the city," the SF Call newspaper reported the next day. Led by a band playing "My Merry Oldsmobile," it was a fine parade - that is, until the drivers came in sight of the exhibition hall and went nuts. "When the Coliseum loomed into view the ten-mile an hour limit was forgotten and a general race followed, in which the band wagon was left in the rear."

(RIGHT: San Francisco Call illustration of the 1907 procession on Van Ness avenue - CLICK to enlarge)

Nothing since the 1906 earthquake had shaken San Francisco more than that exhibition. Society swells turned out in furs and diamonds (yes, they dressed for an auto show) among the 5,000 that crowded the hall to see cars like the 40 horsepower Winton that "eats up the hills," and the Heine-Velox, "The Car With No Superfluous Parts and Everything Get-at-able." By 1907 San Francisco had one car for every 133 residents, far more than Chicago or New York City, and four times the national average per capita.

Car culture in Santa Rosa and Sonoma County reflected the rest of the San Francisco Bay Area, judging by the 1907 newspapers. Auto brokers ran the first display ads of the latest models for sale, and someone buying a car was newsworthy only if it was an exotic model, such as Attorney Leppo's remarkable White Steamer (if you don't mind watching a short commercial, there's quite a good video by Jay Leno about this exact car). But horseless carriages were mostly in the papers because of the ever-increasing number of accidents and mostly fruitless efforts to curb speeding.

Santa Rosa's speed limits in 1907 were 10 MPH on streets and 4 MPH when turning corners, but the laws were unenforceable; there were no radar guns in that era, and many (all?) cars even lacked speedometers. Unless someone was blatantly driving like a lunatic, all they could do was post speed limit signs and fine "chauffeurs" - still the name in 1907 for anyone behind a steering wheel - for other violations, such as not using lights after dark, or obviously racing. One speedster nabbed was Joe Sharp of Petaluma, who was taken to jail and fined $25, apparently more for insulting the arresting police officer than driving like the reckless drunk he was.

Today the little Russian River village of Hilton is forgotten, and even its precise location is difficult to pin down. It was somewhere near the intersection of modern-day River Road (which follows the old train tracks) and Westside Road (which was the old River Road). Hilton doesn't appear in the 1897 atlas or 1900 county map, and the usually-reliable official post office latitude and longitude coordinates are wildly off mark for Hilton, placing it in the middle of a remote Petaluma hayfield. The new owners of the Hilton Park Campground at 10750 River Road believe the village was at their site. The community was named for Hilton Ridenhour whose family owned the large ranch that sprawled across both sides of the river at that location. The Hilton post office was created in 1894, and closed in 1953.

Although autos were now a common sight on the roads, spooked horses remained problem. The year before, someone speeding on the road to Sebastopol caused a horse to bolt and dump a family out of its buggy. And a year before that, a local doctor's car hit a wagon carrying a family of five, the physician's lawyer unsuccessfully arguing that auto regulations were unfair. Now in 1907, a man threatened to sue another doctor because his auto caused the farmer's skittish horse to run away near the little village of Hilton.

Despite the slow speeds of these old cars in normal operation, drivers chauffeurs seemed to be flung out of their vehicles with alarming regularity, such as Mrs. Craig, who tumbled to the street while rounding the corner of Fifth street and Mendocino. I couldn't understand why they had such trouble staying inside their cars until I read that Rose Wilder Lane said that her father, Almanzo, of "Little House on the Prairie" fame, never got the knack of driving a car, and even into the 1930s was sometimes thrown out when he tried to stop quickly. Like others from his generation, he retained the instincts of someone driving a buggy: If you want the horse to stop short, you pull back on the reins while bracing your feet hard against the floorboard. Unfortunately, steering wheels did not respond when yanked backwards, and jamming down with your feet would floor the accelerator and/or brake pedal. Shouting "whoa!" didn't help either, I'll wager.

No review of old auto news would be complete without an update on the doings of local speed devil Fred J. Wiseman, who was involved in a terrible accident that year. While taking a young woman on a spin through Golden Gate park one Sunday afternoon, the steering gear fell off - not an unusual problem, back then - and the car tipped over, pinning the woman beneath. Confusion followed as to whether she was from Santa Rosa or a girl who lived in the earthquake refugee camp and known as the "Princess."


Attorney James R. Leppo of this city is the proud possessor of one of the finest automobiles that has been brought to this city. It is a 1907 White Steamer costing $3000 and equipped with a twenty horse power steam engine, top, baggage rack on the back and in fact all the latest improvements and conveniences for comfort and travel...The machines are very fast, having made the trip from San Rafael to Petaluma last night in forty minutes.

- Santa Rosa Republican, June 10, 1907


Dr. J. W. Jesse has purchased a handsome new automobile, a Dragon, and is justly proud of his car. It is the auto which was exhibited by the handlers at the San Francisco Automobile Show, and was the same machine which was voted the most popular car of the great show of autos. Dr. Jesse's car is a four cylinder of thirty horse power, and he will keep it principally for long distance calls, His present car is only eighteen horsepower and with the higher speed car the doctor will be able to get over the ground more rapidly than at present. It was a Dragon car which took up the duties of "pilot" for the endurance run to Lakeport Friday, after the Moon car, the official pilot, had broken down. The Dragon was also the second car to pass through this city in the run. The body of the car is blue and the upholstering is of black leather. The machine was secured through George C. Schelling.

- Santa Rosa Republican, August 3, 1907


The skidding of an auto as it turned the corner of Fifth street and Mendocino avenue Thursday afternoon resulted in an injury to Mrs. Craig, who was running the machine. She was thrown out and severely bruised, and one ankle sprained. She was assisted to Dr. J. W. Jesse's office and her injuries treated, after which she again took the machine and drove off as unconcerned as if nothing had happened.

- Press Democrat, September 20, 1907


The reckless driving of automobiles through the streets of Santa Rosa is to be stopped. Chief of Police Rushmore intends to ask the city council to cause signs to be placed at the various roads entering the city, calling attention to the fact that slow speed must be observed. While the warning is said to be for the information and guidance of out of town chauffeurs, a number of whom are known to exceed the speed limits permitted by the ordinance. Those in town are expected to obey the regulations.

- Santa Rosa Republican, June 18, 1907

Sign Boards Will Be Erected at All the Entrances to the City Limits of Santa Rosa

There have been a number of complaints as to the rate of speed maintained by chauffeurs in driving through the streets of Santa Rosa. This refers particularly to out of town chauffeurs.

Chief of Police Fred Rushmore said Monday that it was his intention to ask the City Council for their sanction to have signboards warning chauffeurs that they must not exceed the speed limit provided in the city's ordinance. These signboards, which are directed by the State law, will be erected at the entrance to the city limits in each direction. The warning should induce the drivers of machines to come through town on "slow speed."

- Press Democrat, June 18, 1907

Great Day for Autos--Sunday was a great day for autos. Scores of outside machines, each bearing a merry party, passed through town.

- Press Democrat, June 18, 1907

Fred Wiseman in an Auto Accident on Sunday

The San Francisco Call has this story about an automobile accident in which Fred J. Wiseman, formerly of this city, participated:

"Alice Ferguson, a pretty 18 year old girl of Seventh and Harrison streets, who is known in the refugee camp in which she lives as 'Princess of the Camp" was the victim of an automobile accident yesterday afternoon in Golden Gate park. She was pinned under the body of the automobile in which she had been riding when a break in the steering gear caused the heavy machine to leave the road and turn completely over. It was at first believed that her skull had been fractured. It was found later that this was not the case and she recovered sufficiently to be taken to her home.

"Miss Ferguson was riding into the city along the south drive in Golden Gate park when the accident occurred. She was in a car belonging to J. W. Leavitt and driven by F. J. Wiseman, a chauffeur. When Mrs. Catherine Ferguson received word of her daughter's mishap she was on the point of writing to Alice urging her not to ride in automobiles. Mrs. Ferguson supposed her daughter to be in Santa Rosa, where she has been visiting Wisemans mother for some weeks."

A telephone message was received at the Press Democrat office on Monday from Mr. Wiseman in which he stated that the Call had made a serious mistake as regards the identity of the young lady. Mr. Wiseman stated that Miss Alice Ferguson, who was with him at the time of the accident, is the daughter of a well to do real estate man in San Francisco and is far from being the "princess of a refugee camp." There is a girl, Mr. Wiseman stated, by the same name who has the distinction of being the "princess." Mr. Wiseman stated that Miss Ferguson is quite well known here, and has visited Santa Rosa on several occasions, hence the desire to have the mistake corrected. The reports of the accident in the other morning papers did not dub Miss Ferguson as the "princess of the refugee camp."

- Press Democrat, September 10, 1907


Officer Skaggs drifting along the dark streets Sunday night heard a loud "honk" in the distance. There was no illumination on the scene and such being contrary to the statutes made and provided, Skaggs bot [sic] "busy." When he had stopped the lampless auto he learned that it was driven by a prominent citizen of this municipality. The gentleman insisted that the lamp was out of order, but the officer with a match quickly had it aflame.

The lampless run through the dark streets of Santa Rosa will cost the auto man five dollars. Recorder Bagley says that a second offense will cost the unlighted gas wagon man fifty golden dollars.

- Santa Rosa Republican, October 28, 1907

Must Show Lights and Not Drive Too Fast

...[T]he State automobile law...is being violated by a number of chauffeurs and the police have received instructions to rigidly enforce it and also the law regarding the speed limit, which it was learned last night is ten miles an hour straight driving and four miles an hour when rounding corners. A number of warnings have been given, both as regards the speed limit and the lights and one complaint has already been filed and others will be if there is any further disobedience of the law.

Several chauffeurs have run their machines with only one lamp lighted and one or two drivers of the chug chug machines have gone without any lamp displayed. They also exceed the speed limit. The law is going to be enforced here so chauffeurs had better govern themselves accordingly or suffer arrest and fine.

- Press Democrat, October 24, 1907

Attempted to Make Race Track of Third Street

Joe Sharp, a well known young man of Petaluma, attempted to make a race course out of Third street Monday afternoon. He was in playful mood and did not take kindly to the remonstrance of Police Officer John Boyes when that minion of the law requested a little less recklessness on the part of the driver. He used a lot of language that would be very rude coming from a Sunday school scholar, and told the officer in no uncertain tones what he thought of everything in general and people who wore the blue in particular.

Sharp's language became such that Boyes finally decided to put him in the steel tanks to cool off, and the officer stood more foul language from Sharp than he was justified in taking. Because a man misbehaves, does not give him the privilege of abusing a police officer when he takes him into custody.

When landed at the police station Sharp wanted to be released on bail, and he was thrown into the tanks to await the arrival of Police Judge Bagley.

Sharp had declared his intention of resigning as a member of Officer Boyes' driving club because of the limit to the speed insisted on by the officer.

Later in the afternoon Sharp was admitted to bail in the sum of twenty-five dollars. He had been drinking heavily.

- Santa Rosa Republican, November 11, 1907

Dr. Bonar Held Up by Angry Rancher on Saturday

Dr. R. M. Bonar was held up by an irate farmer Saturday as he was returning from a professional visit to Hilton in his auto. Deputy County Clerk Ben F. Ballard was with him on the outgoing trip, and they noticed a man chasing a runaway horse. The farmer stopped Dr. Bonar on his return and demanded that he pay $15 damages for scaring the animal and causing it to run away. The physician refused to part with his good money and forced the man to let him pass, [and the farmer told the doctor] that he might take the number of the car and bring suit if he felt he could make out a case.

- Press Democrat, May 5, 1907

Two months after the 1906 earthquake, Mrs. August Herbst was strolling in Oakland with her husband and 11-year-old daughter. She was distracted for a moment and the next thing she knew, her husband and child had vanished. Days passed, weeks passed, with no sign of them. She moved to Santa Rosa to live with friends. And finally, four months later, she decided it was time to report their disappearance to authorities.

Her daughter was found months later and had a remarkable tale to tell. She had been taken to Arizona where her father ordered her to say her name was Miller, not Herbst. She was told that her mother would be joining them "soon." It sounds like a classic parental abduction except that dad began distancing himself from the girl, taking a job where he was seldom home. When she received a letter that he was now living in another state, she asked strangers for help. Mom was eventually located in Santa Rosa, and she was reunited with her daughter about seven months after the child had been spirited away.

Just as she had been remarkably patient waiting four months for her hubby to return with her daughter, she now was uncommonly generous excusing his behavior: "Mrs. Herbst believes that the earthquake and fire have affected her husband's mind and that he is hardly responsible for the things that have transpired and the anguish he has caused her to suffer."

Yes, there were undoubtedly many who suffered severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from the earthquake, and some even likely died later as a result - see the cases mentioned in casualty wrap-up for a few examples - and Mr. Herbst's wandering ways certainly make him seem like a candidate. Still, there's a "dog that didn't bark in the night" mystery to this story; why did she wait so long to report her child missing, particularly if she feared that her husband had become unhinged?

Asks Police to Aid Her in Locating Husband and Little Daughter

OAKLAND, Oct. 23--Mrs. A. E. Herbst, whose home is in Santa Rosa, today sought the aid of the local police in locating her husband, August E. Herbst, and her 11-year-old daughter, Gladys Herbst, who have been missing for the last five months. Mrs. Herbst fears that she has been deserted by her husband, and that he has taken his daughter with him.

Shortly after the San Francisco fire Herbst, who until that time had resided in San Francisco, removed to this side of the bay, and up to the time of his disappearance resided with his family on Redwood road, in Fruitvale. On June 28, Herbst, with his wife and family, were walking on Broadway, and in some way the wife became separated from her husband and daughter. Since that time no trace of the missing father and daughter has been found. Some time after the disappearance of the husband Mrs. Herbst went to Santa Rosa to live with friends.


- San Francisco Call, October 24, 1906

Mystery of Father is Deep as Ever

Gladys Herbst, the girl whose father took her away just after the April earthquake and fire, and whose mother has been almost heartbroken over the continued absence of the father and daughter, arrived at her home here on Monday morning. She is now safe with her mother and both are happy in being reunited.

The mystery concerning the disappearance of the father, and the causes which impelled him to desert his wife and take the daughter with him to Bisbee, Arizona, are not cleared up in any manner by the return of the daughter. The girl is between eleven and twelve years old and the father's actions caused here to be frightened. He refused to talk to her concerning the matter and refused to permit her to talk to any one else. He forced her to tell people her name was Gladys Miller and compelled her to assume that name from the time they left San Francisco together. When the heartless father finally deserted the child in Bisbee, she was fearful of his wrath if she divulged her true name of Gladys Herbst.

The time since the separation from her mother has been as a hideous nightmare to the little girl. Living among strangers, seldom seeing her father, and being refused permission to talk, and fearful of his wrath, the days have seemed like years to the child.

When the mother and other members of the family came here according to arrangements, Herbst pretended he wanted to get Gladys a dress and some things. After separating from his wife, the father left Gladys at a residence in Oakland, where she was not acquainted. He went to San Francisco to straighten out some affairs pertaining to a lodge, and returned for the girl that evening. Together they crossed the bay to San Francisco and took the coast route toward Los Angeles. They went straight to Bisbee, where the father, unter the name of Gus Miller, secured a position superintending some timbering in the tunnel being driven by the owners of the spray mine. He seldom saw his daughter, because the mine was a couple of miles from Bisbee. He gave the girl to understand that they were soon going to her mother, and the child was happy in this thought.

When her father left her stranded in Bisbee, among strangers, the child's plight was desperate. Letters were received from Herbst, or Miller, as he was known, saying he had gone to El Paso. Friends whom the girl had bade undertook to find her father for her, and finally she told them her name was Herbst, not Miller. Attorney Ross, an influential member of the legal fraternity at Bisbee, took the child to his own home and through his influence and kindness, assisted by the ladies of the Episcopal church in Bisbee, the mother's whereabouts were found and the child returned.

En route to this city the protection of the Episcopal ladies was around the little girl. She came to Oakland with a couple of ladies of that denomination and remained in an Episcopal home until she started for Santa Rosa.

There were tears of joy as mother and daughter met in a long embrace Monday morning, and they will not be separated again soon.

Mrs. Herbst believes that the earthquake and fire have affected her husband's mind and that he is hardly responsible for the things that have transpired and the anguish he has caused her to suffer.

- Santa Rosa Republican, January 14, 1907

For a town with so many bordellos, early 20th c. Santa Rosa had little crime associated with prostitution - or so you'd assume by reading the old papers.

As discussed here earlier, there was a sizable redlight district centered around the intersection of First and D streets, with no fewer than eleven brothels on the 1904 map. But except for a small item in 1906 that revealed this neighborhood was commonly known as Santa Rosa's "tenderloin," the newspapers were silent about the roaring scene just two blocks from Courthouse Square.

This self-censorship eased in 1907 as the Santa Rosa Republican began publishing more items from the police blotter, although the paper still couldn't bear admitting in print that there were prostitutes in town; the women were instead described euphemistically as vagrants, a "tenderloin habitue," or a "member of the demi-monde." Even the staid Press Democrat loosened up by reporting that police were ordered to crackdown on after-hour liquor sales at the whorehouses.

Would that the newspapers had offered more items about this underworld than doings at the Elks Club, or who won the cutlery at that month's meeting of the Fork Club. It was a constantly shifting subculture where intentions and names were uncertain. May Ahren was alias May Raymond, and M. Rinse "set up a terrible wail" when May and another woman were arrested, the result being himself brought into court for "using language likely to provoke a quarrel." And what of the lovelorn Joe Peck, who caused a scene one spring afternoon, claiming his cocotte was leaving on the afternoon train with a diamond? There's a story there that deserved a full telling.

Arrested and Charged With Vagrancy Saturday

Police Judge Bagley had a variety of sentences to pronounce Monday morning. May Ahren, alias May Raymond, and a Mrs. Chambers, who were arrested for vagrancy Saturday evening by Officer Skaggs, were fined ten dollars each. They were released on their own recognizance and promised to return Saturday with the amount of their fines.

M. Rinse, a companion of the women, was greatly incensed at the arrest of his consorts and set up a terrible wail. He was arrested on the charge of using language likely to provoke a quarrel and was released on fifteen dollars cash bail.

Ed Mc.Reynolds was sent to jail for ten days for becoming intoxicated. The man had been taken into custody some time previously, and given his liberty to raise money to pay a fine. He raised the coin, all right, but instead of handing it over to Police Judge Bagley, collected another jag, and was again taken into custody.

- Santa Rosa Republican, January 28, 1907


A man giving the name of Joe Peck, believed to be fictitious, and who is said to be a resident of Fort Bragg, was arrested Wednesday afternoon by Officer C. Edward Skaggs. The man was taken from the afternoon train, where he was attempting to prevent a woman leaving town. The woman is a tenderloin habitue with whom the man had become enamored, and he swore that she should not leave him. When the woman arrived at the depot she found the man there and appealed to Officer Skaggs for protection, at the same time making charges against her tormentor. Peck claimed that the woman owed him money for a diamond ring but the woman denied this. Peck was released on ten dollars cash bail, and departed on the evening train for the north, taking the opposite direction to his inamorata.

- Santa Rosa Republican, March 7, 1907

Ordinance Will be Strictly Enforced and Will include Places at First and D Streets

In a day or two stringent orders will be issued to the Chief of Police to suppress the unlawful sale of liquors in the tenderloin district of First and D Streets. This has been determined by the Mayor and members of the City Council, and it will likewise do away with the arrest and fining of the proprietors of the houses concerned for disobeying the ordinance and selling liquors after saloons, who have to live up to the letter of the law have closed their business for the night.

There is a determination on the part of the City Council, expressed by themselves to have the ordinance in future enforced very strictly and there will be no evading any of its provisions in the future. For some time complaints have been made regarding the sale of liquors in the section mentioned. Mayor Overton was interviewed on Saturday morning and he confirmed the information mentioned above.

- Press Democrat, March 10, 1907


A woman of First street, who created a disturbance Wednesday night and was arrested and charged with battery, was fined $20 by Judge Bagley Thursday morning. He warned her that if there were any more complaining, that it would cost her $50, or fifty days.

- Santa Rosa Republican, April 11, 1907


Ruth Stanley, a member of the demi-monde, forfeited ten dollars bail in Police Judge Bagley's court on Monday. She had been arrested for disturbing the peace. The woman had an altercation with another of her class.

- Santa Rosa Republican, June 4, 1907

Santa Rosa's streets were in terrible shape in the years before the 1906 earthquake, and they didn't improve afterward, as noted in the Press Democrat editorial below. There still were still "chuckholes" everywhere, and at least one famous crater that could sink a buggy up to its axle.

It was the many bicyclists in town that mainly suffered from the abysmal conditions of the streets, and a couple of years earlier, an advocate had published a bicyclist's manifesto in the paper, declaring the "laboring man" at least had a right to ride on sidewalks to get to work. Unswayed, the police continued writing hefty $5.00 tickets to riders of the "silent wheel" caught on sidewalks.

Following a convention of the Retail Bicycle Dealers' Association in Fresno where a "good roads" resolution was adopted, locals asked the City Council to construct "cinder paths or other suitable tracks" on the streets for cyclists. And if that can't be done, at least let us legally ride on the sidewalks, they requested. Nothing came of it, of course; as the PD noted, "the petition was placed on file."


The weather has now cleared, and people expect to see some move made to put the city's streets in order--not all dug up and entirely rebuilt, necessarily, but at least put in such shape that human life here will be reasonably safe. [illegible microfilm] with the plans then under way, and a hard winter followed, but the time has now come when something must be done. With very few exceptions, Santa Rosa's streets are in a frightening condition. On almost every street in town dangerous "chuckholes" exist, and while there may perhaps have been some excuse for not filling them up while it was raining, the clouds have now rolled away--so far away, in fact, that people have begun to ask why the street-sprinkling wagons are not at work--and it is time to be up and doing. A few loads of crushed rock or gravel would in many instances make a street presentable, and in dozens of cases a few shovelfuls would make a crossing safe. But no shovel puts in an appearance, and the gravel and crushed rock refuses to budge. Our winter snooze is o'er. Spring "has come." Wake up, everybody! Arise ye, and "get busy!"

- Press Democrat, March 31, 1907

Petition Presented to the City Council at the Meeting Held Here on Tuesday Night

Devotees of the silent steed who must not ride the sidewalks and desirous that cinder paths be constructed so that the streets can be used all the year round by cyclists, presented the following petition to the City Council last night.

"We, the undersigned, your petitioners, desire to call attention to the following facts:

"First, the bicycles are among the most used vehicles in this city, and that the aggregate number of miles traveled by riders of bicycles in good weather is probably greater on our streets than that covered by pedestrians, or by wagons and buggies. Most of our business and professional people depend to some extent on the bicycle for means of travel in the ordinary routine of their duties.

"Second, that for several months of the year most of our streets are impassable to a bicycle, and under the present law that means of conveyance cannot be used. This condition works a hardship upon many of our citizens.

"Therefore, we desire, request and petition that your honorable body make some provision by which bicycles can be ridden at all times upon the streets of Santa Rosa, and we respectfully ask your attention to the following suggestions:

"First, that cinder paths or other suitable tracks for bicycles be provided in the streets.

"Second, in the event that this is deemed too large an expense for the present time that some plan were enacted into law which will, with proper safeguards to life and limb, permit riding of bicycles upon the sidewalks.

Among the signers of the petition were...

...The Rev. L. A. Turney addressed the Council in support of the petition and suggested that possibly a small tax might be imposed and a number provided for each license so issued, and with proper regulations cyclists might be allowed to ride on sidewalks. The revenue might be applied to the construction of cinder paths, etc. The petition was placed on file.

- Press Democrat, January 16, 1907

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