A century ago there were scores of tiny communities in Sonoma County that appeared on no map, yet everyone knew where they were. Explored here earlier was Hinton, which was large enough to have its own post office for a time; nearby was Vine Hill, Trenton and Peachland. And then there was a string of farms south of Santa Rosa known as Bellevue.

You've passed the ghost of Bellevue countless times without knowing it. (See map.) When driving south on Highway 101, the Hearn Ave. exit leads to "auto row" along Corby Ave. After the last car dealership, the road takes a sharp turn to the west. That's Bellevue Avenue, a desolate mix of gritty homes and industrial buildings near the highway, but nicer a few blocks further down the street where Elsie Allen High School can be found. On the east side of the freeway there's the other part of Bellevue Ave. off of Santa Rosa Avenue; this spur is part of a modern subdivision, with landscaped streets, a park, and a grade school, a world apart from its poor relation on the other side of the freeway.

It was the construction of the highway that split Bellevue, the state of California seizing land for the road under eminent domain. The last we hear of Bellevue is in a 1957 Press Democrat article about a jury trial where an 84-year-old Bellevue farmer and the state fought over the fair market value for his place. The state's attorney argued it wasn't worth much because it was only good for truck-farm agriculture; witnesses for the farmer said it had potential for an industrial and/or subdivision site, and, of course, that's exactly what the two wings of Bellevue became.

The 1908 item below jokes that residents of the "lively settlement" of Bellevue were having so many children that they might rename the community after President Theodore Roosevelt, who held nutty concerns about "race suicide" unless "old Colonial stock" white Americans kept their birthrates up. As discussed in an earlier essay, Teddy's views weren't really Nazi-ish, but awkwardly expressed encouragement of American exceptionalism.


Bellevue, the lively settlement just south of Santa Rosa, is establishing new records with alarming frequency. They not only raise splendid fruit, large poultry and many fine eggs from the flocks there, but in other lines they also excel. Wednesday night Mrs. Harry J. Barnett presented her husband with twins--two handsome baby girls, and the proud father is receiving congratulations on the momentous event in a dignified manner. Eleven children have been born in that vicinity within less than a year and the residents declare there is nothing resembling race suicide in that section. It is in serious contemplation to change the name of Bellevue to "Roosevelt Corners," in honor of Teddy and his race suicide theories. The mother and daughters are doing nicely, and Mr. Barnett is certainly the happiest man in seventeen states over the important event.

- Santa Rosa Republican, October 15, 1908

Sounds of a spring evening, downtown Santa Rosa, 1908: Crickets chirping, horses clopping, men blasting guns skywards into trees, blindly, with no light for aiming except for flickering candles and lanterns. It was probably a good idea to stay safely indoors that night.

The quarry was a formerly pet raccoon, who had escaped and developed a taste for caged chicken. As it wasn't mentioned that this 'coon was minus a leg, it presumably was another animal than the one shot out of a tree by a cop back in 1905.

The story ended with a boy selling the dead raccoon in Santa Rosa's little Chinatown, but given that many old-timers from the Southern U.S. were quite fond of raccoon recipes, the enterprising young man might have made more by selling the carcass to a cook along McDonald Avenue.

Animal Treed and Killed in the Grounds of the Hahman Residence on Third Street

There was a coon hunt right in the heart of Santa Rosa at a late hour on Friday night and the game was treed and finally dropped into earth.

For some time the tell tale nightly slaughter in chicken roosts, particularly on Second and Third streets, and the knowledge that the animal was abroad in the land, having escaped from a pen were it had been kept as a pet, has kept householders on the qui vive and officers and civilians have been on the lookout for Mr. Coon.

About 10:30 o'clock Friday night a commotion in the chicken house in the grounds of the residence of Mrs. Henrietta A. Hahmann on Third street--a place previously visited by the animal--warned members of the family that the four-footed prowler was around making a another call. The fine Plymouth Rock hens, tasted once before, had called back an appetite for more.

A telephone message to police headquarters for Chief of Police Fred Rushmore and Police Officer I. N. Lindley to the scene. There was an exciting chase and the animal took to a tree. It was some time before the hiding place of the chicken thief could be located and then Chief Rushmore took a shot into the leafy bower and missed in the uncertain light afforded by candles and lanterns. Policemen Lindley joined in the fusillade. C. Louis Kolf who lives a little way further down the street, and is a great hunter, was attracted to the place and he brought his rifle with him. The rifle proved Mr. Coon's undoing. Rushmore took aim and this time the bullet found a billet in the animal's anatomy, and it fell with a dull thud to the ground. Another bullet from Kolf and all was over.

A lad with an eye to business and a recollection that Chinese make mysterious dishes with just such pot luck, came along. He shouldered the chicken-fed coon and wended his way to Chinatown. There was much rejoicing in Mongolian quarters. He found a willing purchaser and before long the aroma of cooking with doubtless a coon-chicken flavor, came floating out of the shack in which the feast was in course of preparation.

- Press Democrat, May 10, 1908

His story sounded like something made up on the spot: Honest, officer, I was hired by Lord Rothschild to kill these birds. The Lake County game warden must have thought the poacher before him was a clumsy liar or maybe daft; why would one of the world's richest men send some guy to Lakeport to illegally shoot birds?

Incredibly, the story was true. The man was Dr. Charles M. Harris, a renowned taxidermist who could skin fifty birds in a day. For more than a decade, he had indeed worked for Walter Rothschild, the eldest son of fabulously wealthy London banker Baron Rothschild. While other powerful bankers in the late 19th century loaned money to giants of industry, the House of Rothschild funded nations, having built the largest fortune in modern world history. Walter, however, wanted to spend money as fast as possible. He was an amateur zoologist, and a collector on a scale that made William Randolph Hearst look like a piker. He seemingly wanted one specimen of everything that flies, walks, crawls, swims or slithers, alive or dead. He was an eccentric but fascinating man, often so obsessed with his collections that his sanity was in doubt.

Before charging down the trail that led Dr. Harris to Lake County in 1908, indulge me a paragraph of rant. The story of Walter Rothschild is now my quintessential example of how unreliable the Internet can be for research. Except for a bare-bones Wikipedia page offering random facts, there are only a handful of online resources (biblio below in addition to article links) that tell even a part of his remarkable tale, and sometimes the facts are cockeyed or the rough patches are sanded flat. In a couple of my research dead-ends, Google Books blocked critical pages in "preview view" or hinted in "snippet view" that intriguing information may (or may not) be found in a book. Look, I would happily buy a digital copy of the book (or even just that essential page!) on the spot, since a scanned copy is obviously on their hard disks. But that's not an option, even though these are books long out of print and usually can't be obtained through inter-library loan. If I hadn't lucked across a copy of "Dear Lord Rothschild" - a biography written by his niece and difficult to find in the U.S. - I wouldn't have even known how to properly research his life. The takeaway lesson is threefold: Even in 2011, loads of critical information is still not available online; Internet articles - including this one - have no standing next to a real book that took years (decades?) to research and write; also, a Google Book search is no substitute for a good book index and bibliography. End of rant.

The first anecdote usually told about Walter Rothschild (1868-1937) has him announcing at seven years old that he was going to build a little museum of insect specimens in a garden shed. But an incident from age five was even more revealing. He brought a dead butterfly to his mother, which she told him was a "nice Tortoiseshell." The little boy disagreed: "No, it's not. It's different." And he was right - that butterfly really was from another, rarer species.

The next vignette from Walter's youth finds him at 13, when he met Albert Günther, head of the zoology department at the Natural History Museum in London. Walter quickly attached himself to Günther and made him a mentor, writing through his teenage years hundreds of letters to the man ten years older than his father. Günther was cautious in encouraging the boy, aware that the powerful family was expecting Walter to become a financial Napoleon instead of a hunter of bugs.

Walter had no formal childhood education, but attended colleges in Germany and at Cambridge for three years (at the latter, he brought along a flock of brown kiwis, which can grow as large as a big chicken). When he turned twenty-one in 1889, Walter and his father came to an understanding; he would join the bank to learn the trade, and his father would give him a plot of land on the outskirts of "Tring Park," the family's six square-mile country estate where he could build a museum to house his collections. In truth, his father probably wanted the museum to be built as much as Walter; the manor house, sheds and rented buildings were overflowing with boxes stuffed with hundreds of thousands of mounted beetles, butterflies, moths, and things larger.

If Baron Rothschild hoped his son's interest in zoology would wane as he grew older, he was quite wrong. From his banker's chair over the next twenty years, Walter would fund over 300 collecting expeditions, including Dr. Harris' bird-hunting trip to Northern California. If anything, his collecting mania grew out of control, and some thought he was mad. When Walter ordered Dr. Harris to the Galápagos islands with the mission to capture every single giant tortoise they could find, Harris first secretly told Albert Günther about the planned trip, giving him the opportunity to intervene (he didn't).

The Galápagos expedition is well-documented, and shows that these trips came with considerable risks. Four men died and Harris was nearly killed by yellow fever. Walter found his expedition budgets swelling with payments to doctors, widows, morticians, and collectors seriously injured - on another trip, a man had his arm ripped off by a leopard. But Dr. Harris managed to bring sixty live giant tortoise to England. (Capturing a giant tortoise is the easy part, as it turned out. When Harris and the others would find one, they turned it onto the back of its shell and weighted it down with a rock before going off to search for more. But when they returned, they would sometimes find the animals had shaken the rocks off and flipped themselves back over. Thus the mission became not the hunt for rare tortoise, but the search for nice heavy rocks.)

(Images courtesy of Natural History Museum at Tring)

Walter's herd of giant tortoises became the signature part of his menagerie; one of the most famous photographs of him is the one at right, wearing a proper Edwardian morning coat and top hat while riding on the back of a tortoise being coaxed along with a leaf of lettuce on a stick. The other best-known picture has Walter driving a four-in-hand carriage pulled by zebras, a stunt he performed in a courtyard of Buckingham Palace to demonstrate they could be tamed - although he later admitted he was terrified of what might happen when a young girl in the royal family tried to pet one of them. Also roaming the grounds of his museum were kangaroos, ostriches. wild horses, emus, deer, turkeys, cassowaries, a tame wolf, a monkey, an anteater, and an opossum, which slept under his desk during the day. And when these pets died, he had them skinned and stuffed for his museum, which became known by local children as the “Dead Zoo.” (His 'evolution of the dog' exhibit is particularly creepy.)

Although there was a trench separating the museum grounds from the rest of the estate, escapes likely added to the tensions between Walter and his father. The kangaroos would regularly tear up the flower beds surrounding the manor house, causing the Baron's staff of gardeners to often have to replant daily. One of the cassowaries - a flightless bird that can grow taller than an adult human - attacked the Baron's horse when he was on a morning ride, and a dingo bit several horses in the stables.

The crisis came in 1907-1908, when it became clear that Walter's spending had gone off the rails. Most of the property he owned had been mortgaged, and the museum was deeply in debt. The Baron disinherited his son, and Walter resigned from the bank. The estate would go to his younger brother Charles, who remained in banking. (Charles, by the way, was also a lifelong entomology buff, building the world's top collection of fleas and discovering the identity of the plague flea.) Walter would inherit the title (becoming the Second Lord Rothschild) and £1,000,000, more than enough for him to continue expanding his museum and funding new expeditions.

The one thing that Walter desired most he could not buy: Membership into the scientific community. He had pissed off everyone at the Natural History Museum except Günther with his fits of pique; once he threatened to break his promises of specimen donation when the curator named one of "his" giant tortoises without Walter's permission. Rarely would a scientific journal publish his letters or studies, and when his work was questioned or rejected, he responded with tirades insulting the editor. And despite having amassed the most significant collection of bugs on the entire planet, he wasn't even allowed to join the Royal Society until 1911. Stymied in gaining any foothold in this fraternity, he gave up and launched his own scientific journal, with himself as editor.

In many ways, Walter Rothschild was like Luther Burbank. Both expected (demanded, really) due respect as scientists even though they ignored the basic precepts of the scientific method, such as keeping good notes on your research. More than once, Walter mistakenly claimed to have discovered a new species when the creature was actually still a juvenile or only had individual variations in color or markings. And of the millions of butterflies in his collection, he liked to boast, "I have no duplicates," a claim that defies belief.

Walter also had a career as a Member of Parliament, and played a key role in the movement to establish modern-day Israel, a topic explored in depth on many other web pages. He continued to expand his museum, set back only by the 1931 purchase of his entire stuffed bird collection by the American Museum of Natural History. That Walter sold anything - particularly one of the crown jewels of his life's work - seems antithetical to his nature, and it was. But he needed to raise $225,000 because he was being blackmailed by a former mistress, said to be a peeress and her husband. While he could have tapped the family coffers for the sum, he couldn't bear the thought of his elderly mother learning of his indiscretion.

In the end his collection included 300,000 bird skins, 2,000 stuffed birds (presumably stuffed after the blackmail sale) and over 2 million butterflies and moths. He left it all to the UK Natural History Museum, and exhibits are still on display in his museums. If you visit, skip gallery six with the creepy dogs, all of them with glass-marble eyes sadly looking at you as if they want someone to explain why their old companion did this to them. (UPDATE: There was a dog cemetery at Tring, so few, if any, of these animals were actually pets of the family.)

Whatever his failings and foibles, what Walter Rothschild created was simply incredible, never attempted before by an individual and rarely by nations. A member of the Rothschild Archive summed it up well:

It is hard to absorb the scale of these numbers, but the logistics of collection which lie behind them is, to me, still more staggering. Walter was employing collectors and arranging expeditions, as we have seen, from the time he was up at Cambridge. He continued throughout his life. The journey for each one of his specimens, ending in a drawer in Tring, begins in some remote part of the globe and involves, in each case, a collector, a packer, a sequence of transporters, in some cases a dealer, a taxidermist or setter in the case of insects and, finally, one of the Tring trio to identify, label, record, file and perhaps publish. All of this repeated millions of times. And at the heart of this, one man’s drive, organizational ability and finance.... It was equally significant that, perhaps for the first time, the man with resources could conceive a scheme on a global scale and actually have a chance of pulling it off. As a Rothschild, Walter would have been used to hearing his relatives in business talking in such global terms: their day-to-day business involved resources and finance for virtually every corner of the globe. And as a Rothschild, he had access - or so it seemed - to unlimited resources.

But wind the clock back to 1908, the crucial year that Dr. Harris found himself under arrest in Lake County. What a loss that neither Press Democrat editor Ernest Finley nor other local newspapermen knew who he was, or his link to one of the most eccentric and interesting persons in the world. What a story it would have made to sit down with him and ask, "tell me about your boss. Tell me what it was like to sail a ship with a cargo of sixty giant tortoises around Cape Horn. Tell me about all your other adventures hunting for the great Dead Zoo."


Something in the Genes: Walter Rothschild, Zoological Collector Extraordinaire
A sheltered life: the unexpected history of the giant tortoise
The Aurelian legacy: British butterflies and their collectors
Introducing Walter Rothschild (interesting but whitewashed video from The Natural History Museum at Tring)

Deputy Lea Lands a Man Who Claims He is Securing a Collection for the Rothschilds

In order to provide the Rothschilds, the wealthy London bankers, with a collection of California birds of all descriptions, Charles N. Harris says he went gunning in Lake County. When arrested he already killed about 140 birds. Deputy Game Commissioner A. F. Lea made the arrest in Lakeport the day before yesterday, and Harris is awaiting trial.

Deputy Lea stated yesterday that Harris was in the habit of killing the birds and then take them back to San Francisco where they were stuffed and mounted. The Rothschilds are to pay a big sum for the collection when it is completed, according to Harris' story. Some of the birds he secured in Lake County are said to have been Mountain Quail.

- Press Democrat, March 25, 1908

Case is Unique in Annals of Prosecution of Violations of the Game Laws

Mention was made in the Press Democrat Wednesday morning of the arrest in Lakeport of Charles N. Harris, who is securing an exhibit of stuffed birds for the Rothschilds of England, on a charge of killing birds out of season. The Lakeport Press adds these additional details of the case:

"Game Warden Alonzo Lea and A. M.. Fairfield dropped into town Thursday and yesterday arrested Charles M. Harris, a cousin of Jack Wilson, who has been in the county about five weeks. The charge against the man was that of killing quail out of season. He appeared before Justice Bruton, pleaded guilty and was released on $150 cash bail, and April 4th was set as the date for pronouncing sentence. Seventeen charges are held pending against him but will probably not be prosecuted.

"The case is an interesting one and unique in the annals of the prosecution of violations of game laws. Harris is an expert taxidermist and has traveled over much of the world in his business, and is said to have been in the employ of the Rothschilds, the millionaire bankers of Europe, preparing specimens for their private collection. The Sunday Examiner a short time ago had a page account and pictures of some of his work. Here he has been making a collection of the native birds of this county, and the Wardens seized 148 specimens of various bird skins, particularly prepared for mounting. The killing of protected birds is permitted by law when they are taken for public institutions of science on a regularly authorized permit but Harris admitted that he was collecting for private sale and had no permits.

The collection was a revelation of the wealth and beauty of bird life in this county. The confiscated skins will probably be presented by the Game Commission to the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, which lost all his collection in the big fire."

- Press Democrat, March 26, 1908

You have to wonder which came first: The marriage proposal or the suggestion that she should also become an embalmer. But here's Mrs. Moke in 1908, a newly minted graduate of the United States College of Embalming, only the second woman in the state to be certified.

Moke's first wife, Lottie, died along with a daughter in the great earthquake, and he married again about a year later.

In July, the Mokes welcomed another undertaker into their business: W. B. Ward of Ft. Bragg. The funeral parlor was renamed Moke & Ward.

Takes Degree From School on Embalming

Last Thursday evening Mr. and Mrs. H. H. Moke return from San Francisco, where they have been attending the United States College of Embalming. Mrs. Moke passed the examinations and received a diploma and is now an embalmer and undertaker. She has the distinction of being one of the only two lady graduates of an embalming school in the state of California. Mrs. Moke put in some hard hours studying during the four weeks they were away and she is glad to be back home again. Mr. Moke also took the examinations again, as his diploma was destroyed in the earthquake and fire, and he took this means of getting it renewed. Mr. and Mrs. Moke attended a banquet Wednesday evening at the Jefferson Hotel, which was given by the class of which they were members. There were 13 in the class and a jolly time was had. Mr. and Mrs. Moke came home by way of Sacramento to spend a day with Mrs. Moke's mother, who resides in the capital city.

- Santa Rosa Republican, March 23, 1908

Santa Rosa's 1908 leaders faced a dilemma: They wanted to close the redlight district, yet still keep the prostitutes around - somewhere.

Following the city elections that year, the mayor and City Council were expected to crack down on prostitution (see the previous entry for more background). Trouble was, many of the most powerful men in town profited from the trade, either directly or indirectly. Some, like Con Shea, actually collected rent from the brothels; others made a buck because vice in the downtown area was a driving factor in Santa Rosa's economy. There were never fewer than 30-40 saloons where gambling was common, particularly in horse-racing season. Before the earthquake Santa Rosa had the reputation of being a wide open town after dark, and little had changed; pre-quake Santa Rosa had eleven brothels, now slightly chipped down to eight. (For those curious how these numbers are known with certainty: The Sanborn Co. fire insurance maps in this period identified brothels as "Female Boarding," or just "F. B.")

It was decided - exactly by whom, it is not clear - that the brothels would have to close, or at least move away from the area of First and D streets, by August 1. Yet a debate over what to do about the redlight district stumbled on through the summer, and past the deadline. There were three possibilities being hashed out:

* THROW OUT THE CHINESE AND JAPANESE AS WELL It was proposed immediately that if Santa Rosa was to rid itself of its tenderloin, then the nearby Chinese and Japanese community also should be evicted. Most of the City Council and several prominent men quickly chimed in agreement, but it was a senseless display of pure racism; that tiny neighborhood - mostly the half-block of Second St. nearest D Street - was accused of no crime. And while all kinds of anti-Chinese rhetoric was common in that era (particularly in the Press Democrat), it's surprising to find the Japanese were now lumped in as part of the "objectionable element." The Santa Rosa papers usually portrayed the Japanese community with respect - a marked contrast to most Bay Area dailies. Just a few months earlier, the Santa Rosa Republican had reported a warm-and-fuzzy tale of a Japanese woman from Geyserville who nearly died before reluctantly seeking medical help in Santa Rosa, and a followup article expressed the family's deepest gratitude to her caregivers; now the same paper was offering a letter headlined "Proposition to Clear Away Filth." (The letter's author was John Robinson, the former proprietor of the quake-destroyed Eagle hotel that was on the corner of Main and 2nd, at the end of the same block as Chinatown.)

* BUILD THE MAYOR'S PARK The final dirty trick of the election of 1908 was the last-minute announcement by the "Good Ol' Boy" candidate for mayor that he was making deals to buy up the properties in the tenderloin district, level the buildings, and transform the area into a park (Santa Rosa's first). Little had apparently happened since the election, except for rumors that a Catholic order might be interested in building a hospital in the area, and an offer from Luther Burbank to donate an adjoining parcel for the creation of a "Burbank Conservatory" where some of his plants could be put on display. Although the PD gushed that the "project is now assuming definite shape," it was all just big talk. The area remained mixed residential/commercial/junkyard until after WWI, when this section of town became the local "gasoline alley" for the repair of cars and trucks.

* RELOCATE THE REDLIGHT DISTRICT TO THE ITALIAN NEIGHBORHOOD The craziest idea emerged less than a month before the deadline for the prostitutes to leave: Create a new tenderloin on West Sixth Street, in the Italian section of town. Something like that was apparently discussed a few weeks earlier: "T. C. Johnson offered it to purchase a tract and erect the necessary buildings for the occupants. This would leave them within the city limits and thus under police control, and yet they would be away from practically everybody." Nothing came of this idea for a planned community (or theme park?) and the next we heard of a plan to relocate the ladies was a denial that the City Council wanted them moved to West Sixth. Then on August 3 - after the deadline for them to leave their current digs - the Republican reported, "Arrangements have been underway during the day to lease a piece of ground on lower Sixth street from Max Reutersham, where all of the houses of this character will in future be assembled, if the proposition now being worked out is carried." Probably needless to say, the Italian community had a fit. In two days, they collected 293 names on a petition and presented it to the City Council. Nothing came of this plan, either.

The plan to dump the prostitutes on the Italian neighborhood showed there was no plan whatsoever, and no city leadership. It was one thing to posture and make fine speeches about cleaning up the town, but not so easy in practice. Apparently several madams owned their houses of ill-repute, and were not about to evict themselves. Even Sadie McLean, the infamous madam whose brothel was closed after being sued by a neighbor, only moved a couple of doors down to 710 First street, which was an even larger building. A year later, the newsletter from the prohibitionists decried, "We would like to ask with all due respect for Mr. Gray, what has been done while in office? He was going to clean up the notorious 'red light district.' He has not done anything in that line. The town is going on in the same old way."

Mayor and Councilmen Declare Against Redlight District

An effort is in progress to get rid of the "red light" district in the city. Mayor Gray and the Councilmen have the matter in charge and they are hopeful of success.

Councilman Forgett stated that he was in favor of the plan, provided that they would take the Chinese and Japanese houses along with the sporting houses and this seemed to meet with the favor of all, and so the plans have been worked out.

Councilman Barham when seen about the matters stated: "They should go. That's all there is about it. I have always said that. Is one of the finest parts of Santa Rosa and the removal will improve the property there. It's a duty we owe to the people of Santa Rosa to remove that blot."

Councilman Bronson was also interviewed and he remarked, "Well, I am in favor of removing them when the time comes and that time is pretty soon. And then force them to stop the selling of liquor. I believe that could be a little beauty spot along the creek instead of the present eyesore."

T. C. Johnson offered it to purchase a tract and erect the necessary buildings for the occupants. This would leave them within the city limits and thus under police control, and yet they would be away from practically everybody.

It was also found that a number of the parties who are interested in the properties which are now occupied by the sporting women are in favor of the change and they would encourage the same by helping financially. Mayor Gray, in speaking of the movement Thursday, stated that while everything is not yet completed and no official action has yet been taken, it is so arranged that the plans can be carried out and that the council will doubtless make an order for the cleanup. There is also some talk of taking the liquor away from the sporting houses and allowing nothing of the kind to be carried out there.

The removal of the undesirable section from the vicinity of First and D streets and also along Second street between D and Main streets, will open to the public one of the most desirable locations for a residence section, and it is expected that the banks of the creek will then be available for a park, and with a dam in the creek below the new steel bridge, will afford one of the most beautiful natural pleasure spots to be found anywhere.

Mr. Gray has also interviewed Mr. Burbank regarding the project and it is understood that the latter has looked favorably upon a plan for the erecting of a conservatory on the rear of his property and near the proposed park, and in this will be kept a fine collection of his creations. This is to be open to the public and will be in charge of the city gardener. Thus the people coming here will have a chance to see the best of Mr. Burbank's works, and yet not call at his home and bother him.

There is another move that may result from the plan proposed, and that is the probable location of the new Sisters' Hospital in that section and it is stated that a large donation for a site can be obtained there after the other houses have been taken away. This will tend to enhance the value of all property in the vicinity, and the property owners will be anxious to have the hospital located there.

Con Shea, one of the property owners of the section, was seen about the matter and at first was not inclined to say anything about the movement, but when urgent exclaimed: "The sooner the better!" He then continued and stated that if the movement was to be a success he thought the Chinese and Japanese should be taken along too, and then he would be heartily in favor of the same. The presence of the foreign element there would leave the place in as bad shape as ever, even though the women were ordered out, and if there is to be a general cleanup there should be nothing left of the objectionable feature. That can be made a splendid section of the city if all will lend a hand.

- Santa Rosa Republican, June 4, 1908

Indorses Proposition to Clear Away Filth

Your issue of the fourth contained very cheering news in relation to the removal of the "red light" district from First street. Mayor Gray and the council will certainly deserve and receive great credit for inaugurating and carryout such a desirable move. The councilmen who have so far expressed themselves in relation to the matter are certainly right and I heartily agree with the statements Councilman Forgett and Mr. Shea, that the Chinese and Japanese should also go; otherwise the good work would only be half done. After being in business close to that locality for more than 15 years I know of the surprise expressed by many that such condition should exist so close to the center of our beautiful Santa Rosa. If arrangements could be made to extend the park north along Main street to Second, and east to D street, it would be a good thing and very desirable and finally pay every laudable interest in Santa Rosa. Of course all know that Mr. Burbank will do everything in his power to make the move a grand success, and his aid, counsel and advice will be of great value. Mayor Gray and the council, assisted by those whose interests are directly involved, have a fine opportunity to do a great and lasting benefit to their city, our Santa Rosa, and at the same time do what will reflect credit on themselves for generations to come.

Let all give them encouragement.

J. Robinson.
Santa Rosa, June 5, 1908.

- Santa Rosa Republican, June 5, 1908

Plan Includes Clean-up of First Street Section--Chinatown and Japanese Quarter to Go--Lake for Boating and Burbank Conservatory

Mayor Gray's plan for the removal of the red light district together with Chinatown and the Japanese quarter, and the transforming of that part of town into a choice residence section, with a park and boulevard along the creek bank, and a lake with boating facilities adjoining, mention of which was made in these columns sometime since, appears to be rapidly assuming shape.

The members of the City Council, as well as many of the citizens most interested, have publicly announced themselves as being heartily in accord with the idea, property required for the change has been bonded, surveys have been made, plans for financing the undertaking have been discussed at length, and all that now seems necessary to ensure the successful fruition of the plan is for the public to do its part and get out and help push the project through.

A ten-acre tract inside the city limits, and therefore within the police zone, and at the same time so situated as to minimize most of the objectionable features, is under bond and available for the location of the interests that are to be abated at their present location. Luther Burbank has given his approval of a plan for the erection of a conservatory on one corner of his property, or in the park itself, where his creations can be shown. The location of the proposed Sister's Hospital in that vicinity is also planned as part of the great work of transforming that part of the city into a thing of beauty and the home off refinement and peace.

As at present contemplated, the plan calls for the transformation of everything south of First street to the water's edge into a park, together with certain properties on the south side, the construction of a dam and footbridge, and the abolition of both Chinatown and the Japanese quarter to the north. Where the most opposition is expected--from people owning property in that part of town rented or under lease to the Chinese, Japanese and other interests effected--very little has been encountered, most of those seen being quick to realize that their property would greatly increase in value by reason of the change, and soon become about the most desirable in the city.

Several plans have been suggested for financing the proposition. Private parties are said to be ready to look out for the initial necessities, which include the providing of new locations for the people who will have to move. The general opinion seems to be that the residents of that part of town would jump at the chance to subscribe a sufficient sum to start the project going, after which the Woman's Improvement Club, or the Park Commission recently authorized by the Chamber of Commerce, or both working in conjunction, could carry it along until such time as the funds necessary for the completion of the work could be provided by bond issue. It is freely conceded that the bonds would carry by practically a unanimous vote as soon as the project is sufficiently well under way for people to see what a splendid improvement is contemplated, and help perfectly feasible is the plan for transforming what is now a disgrace and an eyesore into a beautiful park and pleasure ground, with handsome residence surrounding it on all sides.

- Press Democrat, June 5, 1908

The rumor that the tenderloin district would be located on West Sixth street has evaporated. A councilman stated Monday that while the redlight must go from its present location it will not go to West Sixth street or that part of the city. The city council is not interested in the future location, but that those women must move from First and D streets. A number of the women in that locality are preparing to move out, but several others who own their own property will remain and in a lawsuit will oppose any measures to remove them from their homes.

- Santa Rosa Republican, July 10, 1908

Plan to Rendezvous Women on Sixth Street

The women of the tenderloin have been given until this evening to vacate their places of residence on First street under the notices recently served on them to change their location.

Arrangements have been underway during the day to lease a piece of ground on lower Sixth street from Max Reutersham, where all of the houses of this character will in future be assembled, if the proposition now being worked out is carried.

- Santa Rosa Republican, August 3, 1908

Determination that Present Location Must Be Changed--Mayor Gray Makes Statement

Last night was the time set for the closing of the redlight district in accordance with the instructions given by the city council sometime since. It is understood that no drastic measures will be taken for a few days as some of the residents of the houses in the district have not been able to complete their arrangements for a place to locate, either here or elsewhere.

Mayor Gray stated emphatically last night that the city council has nothing to do, nor will have, with any proposed change location of the tenderloin. He said, moreover, that it had been fully determined that the present location of the district would have to be abandoned.

- Press Democrat, August 4, 1908

Do Not Want the Redlight District

A remonstrance bearing 293 names signed generally by citizens living west of the Northwestern Pacific railroad was presented to the city council on Tuesday evening protesting against the removal of the redlight district to that locality. It contain the following statement:

"We desire to call your attention to the fact that those residing within this district believe themselves to be as good as any within our city, and although not favored as a rule, with the wealth of other districts in our community, are entitled to a just and fair discrimination by those whom we have assisted in placing in charge of our city government. The depreciation of property values, in the event of the carrying out of the proposed action, would be as great to us as any other district within the limits of the city."

Mayor Gray stated that he could not understand why the remonstrance was sent to the council as the city was not selecting a place for the redlight people or that any member of the city government was interested in choice of locality. The nuisance was to moved from the present location and if those women had any idea of occupying any other locality in the city the matter was up to those residents to object in proper form. Nothing was done with the remonstrance and the matter was laid on the table.

- Santa Rosa Republican, August 5, 1908

Once Santa Rosa's municipal elections of 1908 were over, it came time to make good on the big campaign pledge: To shutter the town's infamous red light district. The new government was soon to find this was far easier said than done.

Santa Rosa voters that year had to choose between two radically different slates. On one side was a "fusion" ticket created jointly by the Democratic and Republican parties that represented the old guard that had long held a political grip over the town. Running against them was a new grassroots coalition of progressives and prohibitionists, led in part by Luther Burbank. To steal the election, the powers-that-be pulled dirty political tricks; polling places were moved a few days before the election; out-of-towners were allegedly registered as city voters; and on the very morning of election day, it was announced that the fusion candidate for mayor had a trick up his sleeve to transform the blighted tenderloin into Santa Rosa's first public park. (Election results and final analysis can be found here.)

Prostitution was the bellweather issue for that election because the outgoing City Council had legalized full Nevada-style prostitution the year before, and although the large tenderloin district centered on First and D streets had existed since the 1870s, church groups erupted in outrage. A few months later, Miss Lou Farmer - who actually lived a block away from the red light district - won a suit against the nearest brothel on the judge's decision that the city ordinance did not explicitly authorize "the occupation of prostitution."

With that court ruling and the continuing angry winds howling from the pulpits, it was only a matter of time before the law was changed and the red lights were ordered extinguished. And that became yet another cynical trick of the election of 1908; the lame duck City Council, with no member facing voters that year, had the chance to revoke the controversial ordinance - but chose not to. Outlawing prostitution before the election would have undermined the primary campaign plank from the Good Ol' Boy fusion ticket. "After the voting had been completed," reported one newspaper, an outgoing councilman remarked, "he would not take from the incoming council the pleasure of repealing the ordinance for anything. This caused a smile to again animate the features of the councilmen and spectators."

As expected, the fusion candidates swept the election, and the new City Council repealed the prostitution ordinance at their first meeting. Points for courage go to dissenting Councilman Luther Burris, one of two members who had not been up for reelection, and the only member who voted nay. "In his opinion it was a impossible to eradicate the 'social evil' and the best thing was to regulate it," according to the newspaper. Burris was referring to a provision in the now-voided law that was little mentioned; besides licensing the bordellos and their liquor sales, the ordinance had required that the prostitutes submit to regular medical exams for venereal disease.

The Council declared that the brothels would lose their liquor licenses at the end of June, and arrests for illegally selling hootch began just a few days later. Through newspaper items on these arrests we glimpse something of the colorful denizens of the tenderloin; fined $30 was the dramatically-named May Tempest, and the next day, the same fine was given to Kittie Gallagher, alias Kittie Hermann, alias Kittie Hatcher. Then there was Fred Yoder, "a flashy barber [who] practically made his home at one of the houses of prostitution." Yoder and his consort celebrated with a champagne supper when one of the policemen was relieved from duty, and loudly boasted that night he would see to it that the entire police force would be replaced. After being arrested on vagrancy, Yoder apparently was run out of town - and I'll wager he left the jail with more than a few fresh scrapes and bruises.

With prostitution again unregulated and unlicensed and a steady income coming from liquor violations, Santa Rosa turned its attention to closing the red light district itself. This plan failed for a variety of reasons (mostly, the lack of any plan whatsoever), but along the way, racism surfaced that was rarely exposed in public. The story of this effort continues in the following essay.

"Boarding Houses" May Still Flourish Here

Councilman Robert L Johnson, chairman of the ordinance committee, introduced a resolution Tuesday evening providing for the repeal of the "boarding house" ordinance of the council, passed about one year ago. The resolution was promptly laid on the table by the vote of four members. Mayor Overton casting the deciding ballot on the question.

The reading of the resolution handed to Clerk Clawson by Councilman Johnston caused many smiles to pass around the council chambers. It came as a distinct surprise and was almost the last thing to be presented to the council.

At the conclusion of the reading, Councilman Burris moved that the resolution be laid on the table. The motion was seconded by Councilman Donahue. Councilman Wallace moved that resolution be adopted and his motion was seconded by Councilman Reynolds. The motion to lay the matter on the table, having been made and seconded first, it was voted on.

Councilman Burris, Donahue and Hall, the first three members to vote, cast their votes in the affirmative, to lay the resolution on the table. Councilman Johnston, Reynolds and Wallace voted against the tabling of the resolution and this passed the matter up to Mayor Overton. The latter voted "aye" on the proposition.

After the voting had been completed, Councilman Hall remarked that he would not take from the incoming council the pleasure of repealing the ordinance for anything. This caused a smile to again animate the features of the councilmen and spectators.

- Santa Rosa Republican, March 4, 1908

Action Taken by the New City Council Last Night

True to the obligation of the platforms of the Democratic and Republican conventions, which stood for the repeal of the "boarding house resolution" licensing the sale of liquor in the red light district, the above resolution was introduced at the first meeting of the new city council last night by Councilman Fred Forgett and was passed. On June 30 the license for the current quarter will expire.

After Councilman Forgett had offered though rescinding motion Councilman L. W. Burris mentioned that the resolution had been passed by the former council after much deliberation and investigation of existing conditions, believing that it was the best way to handle the matter. In his opinion it was a impossible to eradicate the "social evil" and the best thing was to regulate it. He instanced the old custom of arresting and fining the landladies and urged that the requirements of the "boarding house resolution" were far ahead of such a course. If Mr. Forgett or anyone else had a better solution the problem to offer then he was willing to vote for a rescinding of the resolution. If not then he would not vote for it. He went fully into the situation as it presented itself to him.

Councilman Forgett said his reason for offering his motion was because both the platforms of the Democratic and Republican parties upon which he and the other councilmen had been elected were pledged to repeal the license as many people were opposed to it. He said he desired to do what the people wanted.

After a little more discussion the question was called for and when City Clerk Clawson called the roll the resolution stood: For repealing--Councilman Forgett, Johnston, Barham, Bronson and Steiner. Against--Councilman Burris.

Councilman Forgett said the future handling of the matter was a problem that the mayor and council would have to deal with.

- Press Democrat, April 22, 1908


The licenses for the sale of intoxicating liquor in the redlight district expired at midnight Tuesday night and they will not be renewed. The people in that locality have been notified that on their premises they cannot sell or give away liquor. They also have been notified that they must vacate that part of the city by August 1. Chief of police Rushmore states that the ordinance will be strictly enforced.

- Santa Rosa Republican, July 1, 1908


Two women of the redlight district were arrested by Officer I. N. Lindley a few days ago and the same are held to appear before Judge Bagley Wednesday for violation of the city ordinances. The order for stopping the dispensing of the liquor in that district went into effect on July 1st.

- Santa Rosa Republican, July 6, 1908


May Tempest, a woman of the redlight section, who was arrested by Policeman John Boyes, charged with selling liquor without a license entered a plea of guilty before City Recorder Bagley yesterday evening and was fined $30. She was informed that a second offense meant a fine of $150, and was told to notify all the women of the street that it was the intention to strictly enforce the laws regarding the sale of liquor in that district.

- Press Democrat, August 19, 1908

Officers Determined to Have Law Enforced

The police officers of this city are determined that they will break up the practice of women of the tenderloin of selling liquor without a license. Wednesday May Tempest was find $30 for the offense, but other landladies of that section of the city do not seem to have profited by the experience of this woman.

Last night officer boys caught Kittie Gallagher, alias Kittie Hermann, alias Kittie Hatcher, selling liquor. He promptly filed a complaint against her and $30 bail money was deposited with Recorder William P. Bagley to insure that much surnamed Kittie's appearance when she is wanted.

In police circles, where the evidence against Kittie is best known, it is not believed she will appear for trial, but will forfeit the bail. The trial is set for Friday afternoon.

- Santa Rosa Republican, August 20, 1908


Officer John Boyes caught Kitty Gallagher of No. 1 D street selling liquor at an early hour Thursday morning. A complaint was filed against the woman and she put up $30 cash bail in the afternoon with City Recorder Bagley. She announced that she will not appear for trial at 2 o'clock Friday, and the bill will be forfeited. This is the fourth case from the neighborhood, and all have paid similar fines.

- Press Democrat, August 21, 1908

Flashy Barber Changes His Plea to Charge

Fred Yoder, a flashy barber, has left town. Before leaving he was arrested on a charge of vagrancy by Officer Lindley, the specific charges against him being that he practically made his home at one of the houses of prostitution. This he indignantly denied when taken before Justice A. J. Atchinson. Later, through his attorney, he changed his original plea of not guilty to one of guilty.

Yoder and the woman with whom he consorted celebrated the departure of Officer Ed Skaggs with a champagne supper the night the officer was relieved from duty. They did not like the strict enforcement of the law which Officer Skaggs compelled in the district, and his removal was gladsome news to the denizens and habitues of that section. No better evidence could be obtained that the officer was doing his duty than the fact that he was unpopular there.

Following the champagne supper in the tenderloin, Yoder and the woman went about town the same night bragging that one of the "bulls" had lost his job. Yoder loudly proclaimed that he would see that the other policemen lost their positions also and that he would secure an entirely new force in Santa Rosa before he ceased his activities.

Justice Atchinson find Yoder $25 of the bail bond he put up to secure his liberty after his arrest.

- Santa Rosa Republican, August 5, 1908

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