The would-be crooks and conmen of 1911 Santa Rosa and vicinity weren't as criminally stupid as the 1909 crew (see part I), but good gravy, it's still hard to believe anyone actually expected some of these schemes to work.
Start with the guy who wandered around the rural Todd district begging for handouts and pretending to be "deaf and dumb" (an offensive term today, but commonly used at that time). He approached a farmer named Wilson who thought the man was "drunk as a lord" and refused to give him money. "The residents of Todd district are a sober and energetic people," sermonized the Santa Rosa Republican, "and they do not permit drunkenness to flourish in their midst, or encourage men in making beasts of themselves."
Farmer Wilson watched the man as he stumbled next door to pester Wilson's neighbor, then return to his place. "Wilson locked the door, and when the supposed deaf and dumb individual reached the door and discovered it was locked he remarked in good loud tones, 'They won't open the door,'" the Republican reported. His fraud exposed, Wilson "forcibly ejected the man from his premises."
Apparently Wilson or another neighbor called the sheriff. Meanwhile, the man tried his story on a farmer named Nobles, who believed it and invited him in for dinner. While the guy was eating he overheard Nobles speaking on the phone with a neighbor and deduced the cops were coming. He started to leave and when Nobles tried to detain him, the man pulled out a razor and threatened the farmer. A deputy and policeman soon arrived and arrested him.
Faking deafness was an old scam even then and this fellow was a professional, insomuch as he was handing out printed cards. Less prepared were the three men arrested a few months later in Glen Ellen, who were all likewise passing themselves off as deaf with each carrying only a written note stating, "I present this as an explanation of my condition, having met with an accident caused by a gasoline explosion. This subjects me to epileptic fits and I have lost the use of my left arm." It's nuts for them all to claim to have the same infirmities but the explosion part of the story was a nice touch, as autos were still rare enough for most people to know only about gasoline's volatile reputation.
But here's the other interesting thing about our Todd road rambler: We can't be sure about his name. He was James Mackay according to the Press Democrat and William Murray in the Republican paper. Such indifference to accuracy is a common thread in many of these stories; the papers just didn't care about getting details right about these petty criminals. After all, Mr. Mackay/Murray probably wasn't going to subscribe or take out an ad.
Editors loved to pump sensationalist angles in these little crime stories, however: "When Nobles sought to detain him, Murray drew his razor from his pocket and made a swipe at Nobles' throat," the Republican gasped. Another example is found in a story with the headline, "Hypnotized Woman and she Signed Checks," where the PD reported "Arthur Freeh, a vaudeville actor from San Francisco...is charged that he hypnotized Mrs. Charles Weyhe, a daughter-in-law of the family he was visiting, and had her draw a number of checks..." Articles about Svengali-like masters of hypnosis forcing people to act against their will were staples in the yellow press during that decade, so it wasn't a great surprise for readers to learn a woman in Forestville had been wrongly mesmerized.
When the case came to court, however, the details were anti-climactic. The "hypnotist" was 19 year-old Arthur Freeh (misspelled "Free" in the later article) who stupidly stole a check from his aunt and forged her signature. He was given five years probation, but not before the judge told him that he was a lousy dancer and should find an honest line of work. Lacking the spooky hypnosis angle but still hoping to milk a bit more out of the story, the PD headline this time was, "Told to Avoid Buck and Wing" (a kind of tap dancing sometimes called the "soft shoe").
That story was unusual in that we learned its outcome (and that was probably only because the judge made the funny remark about the young man's lack of talent); most of the crimes described here were misdemeanors, and the papers usually didn't waste the ink. But a serious crime was committed by one of these characters who had a Santa Rosa connection - yet the local newspapers didn't report anything about it.
Readers of the Press Democrat that summer saw a large graphic ad from "Professor" Russell De Sang, "clairvoyant and palmist" (shown at right). Hucksters like him blew into Santa Rosa fairly often, but advertised only in two-line classifieds; the last "psychic" to buy expensive newspaper ads here was a palm reader back in 1908.
From Santa Rosa, De Sang went to Ukiah with his buddy, W. H. Peterson. Within a week, the pair were arrested and charged with rape. A search for a "feeble minded" teenager led to the men's hotel room, where the girl was found "in a half nude condition," according to the Ukiah Democrat. Furthermore, the arresting constable told the paper he believed "the men are emissaries of the white slave traffic, and their sole purpose while here was to lead young girls to ruin."
If statutory rape wasn't newsworthy enough, the "white slave" angle should have captured the attention of the Santa Rosa papers - as discussed here earlier, the U.S. was gripped with "white slavery" hysteria in the 1910s. De Sang had just come from Santa Rosa where he apparently saw many people (the Ukiah paper, which did not run his ad, mentioned there he was "doing a good business with the gullible public"). Considering his recent visit and the sensational nature of the accusations, why didn't either Santa Rosa paper mention anything about De Sang's troubles? This might be another example of the PD censoring negative stories about its advertisers, which was shown most infamously the year before in the situation of the "Great Fer-Don," a medical con man.
De Sang and his pal were released and not charged for lack of evidence, but he was in trouble again a few weeks later. The Ukiah papers kept track of his misdeeds but the Santa Rosa papers continued silence. The nature of his crime is typically fuzzy; in Eureka he robbed "a Finnish domestic" out of $700 (Ukiah Democrat) or "a poor servant girl" out of $800 (Ukiah Republican) or "two girls out of $1,700" (San Francisco Call). He supposedly hired a car to hustle him down to San Francisco, where he stiffed the driver out of his $200 fare. Later he was arrested in Oklahoma and extradited back to Eureka, but there the trail ends - Eureka newspapers from that era are not available.
The other dumb criminals of 1911 were less sensational. A pair of men claimed to be collecting farm information for the upcoming San Francisco exposition and tried to slip a promissory note for $100 among papers a farmer was asked to sign. Then the Press Democrat reprinted an item from a Sacramento paper that W. E. Nichols, a local builder and cement contractor (you can still see his name stamped into many sidewalks around Santa Rosa) was conned out of $500 in a "fake gas-lighting scheme." Given that electricity was pretty widely available by then, it's hard to imagine why he thought any gaslight business could be profitable. But then again, Nichols was the same man who placed an unusual ad in the papers after the Great Earthquake, announcing that he was "open to any kind of legitimate business proposition." No sweeter words has a con artist ever heard.
DREW RAZOR ON W. S. NOBLESMendicant Objects When Alms Were Not Given
A man pretending to be deaf and dumb, and much the worse for liquor, ran amuck in the Todd district Thursday afternoon. He drew a razor on W. S. Nobles there and threatened to do bodily harm to that gentleman. He had just previously been forcibly ejected from the ranch of Frank W. Wilson, and strange to say, even with the rough handling to which he was subject there, he did not draw his weapon or make any threats.
Fortunately, Mr. Wilson was at home when the man called. On his first visit the apparently deaf and dumb man, who was as drunk as a lord, to use the expression of Mr. Wilson. He produced a card asking alms, but his condition did not prepossess Mr. Wilson with the idea that the mendicant was a subject for alms and he refused.
As the mendicant wandered down the road he was seen to enter the residence of Mr. Wilson's neighbor, but he was not permitted to tarry long. The residents of Todd district are a sober and energetic people, and they do not permit drunkenness to flourish in their midst, or encourage men in making beasts of themselves.
After dinner, the mendicant returned to the Wilson residence, and Mr. Wilson, who was at home, saw the fellow wander up the walk. Wilson locked the door, and when the supposed deaf and dumb individual reached the door and discovered it was locked he remarked in good loud tones, "They won't open the door." After he had remained a brief time Mr. Wilson took the fellow and threw him off the premises through the front gate and told him to hike.
The mendicant went to the Nobles place and drew the razor, at the same time threatening violence. The officers here were notified earlier in the day that the man was in Todd district and badly intoxicated and they were requested to come out and take him into custody. No officer appeared for hours, and in the meantime, the belligerent nature of the man asserted itself and he would have used his razor had the opportunity presented itself.
- Santa Rosa Republican, March 11, 1911
MUTE WHO TALKED IS LOCKED UP
James Mackay was arrested in the Todd district Thursday afternoon by Deputy Sheriff Don McIntosh and Constable John W. Pemberton, who were summoned there by telephone. Mackay had been begging as a deaf and dumb man and making himself very much of a nuisance. When he finally threatened to assault W. S. Nobles and displayed a razor and so far forgot his part as a mute as to talk, it was considered time to call the officers. A quick response was made and the man is now in jail awaiting sentence.
- Press Democrat, March 11, 1911
DEAF MUTE WAS A FAKEWilliam Murray Must Answer to Serious Charge
William Murray, the man who acted as a deaf and dumb man recently in Todd district, and later uttered some articulate words and gave evidence of his hearing abilities being unimpaired, will be tried on a serious offense.
Murray frightened some of the residents of Todd district badly when he appeared there last Friday in a drunken condition, made known his wants of alms by passing cards to the residents he could reach, and would up by flourishing a razor at the throat of W. S. Nobles.
Nobles is expected to come in from his ranch and swear to the warrant this afternoon. At the residence of Mr. And Mrs. Frank W. Wilson, the man found the door locked and he remarked, quite plainly: "They won't open the door." After Wilson had forcibly ejected the man from his premises he visited other places, and wound up at the Nobles ranch.
Mr. Nobles was having a meal prepared for the vistor, whom he believed to be an unfortunate bereft of speech and hearing, and in the meantime went to his telephone and talked with some of his neighbors regarding the actions of the man. The officers here had been notified to come and arrest Murray, and Nobles was trying to keep him at the ranch pending the arrival of the officers.
When Murray had listened to Nobles discussing his antics in the neighborhood over the phone he became nervous, and started to leave when his arrest was mentioned by Nobles. When Nobles sought to detain him, Murray drew his razor from his pocket and made a swipe at Nobles' throat.
- Santa Rosa Republican, March 14, 1911
HYPNOTIZED WOMAN AND SHE SIGNED CHECKS
Arthur Freeh, a vaudeville actor from San Francisco, who has been visiting with relatives on the Weyhe ranch in the Forestville section, has been placed under arrest, charged with forgery.
It is charged that he hypnotized Mrs. Charles Weyhe, a daughter-in-law of the family he was visiting, and had her draw a number of checks, one of which he took and forging a signature, passed it in Sebastopol in payment for a suit of clothing and other articles he required.
- Press Democrat, April 6, 1911
TOLD TO AVOID BUCK AND WINGYoung Vaudeville Actor is Told to Behave Himself When Admitted to Probation Monday
"My advice to you is that you cut out this buck and wing dancing. There is nothing to it. It does not appear that you have been able to make a success of it and compete with artists who are naturally gifted. You are going to be given a chance to demonstrate what you can do to make a man of yourself."
Judge Emmet Seawell, in submitting Arthur Free to probation, gave him some good advice on Monday morning. The youth was charged with forging a check for fifty dollars, to which he signed the name of his aunt, Mrs. Weyhe of Forestville. On Monday morning he withdrew his plea of "not guilty" and entered one of "guilty."
District Attorney Lea told the Court that he thought this was a case in which the accused might be placed on probation and that Mrs. Weyhe desired that this course be pursued.
Judge Seawell suspended sentence for five years and admonished Free to avoid evil companionship and seek the paths of rectitude. He will report regularly to County Probation Officer John P. Plover.
- Press Democrat, August 1, 1911
DEFRAUDS W. E. NICHOLS OF $500Former Santa Rosa Contractor Victimized by Snyder in Fake Gaslighting Invention
A dispatch from Sacramento has this to say regarding W. E. Nichols, a former well known Santa Rosa contractor:
"Sacramento, June 8--Governor Johnson today issued a requisition on the governor of Oregon for the return of M. M. Snyder, wanted in San Francisco on a charge of defrauding W. E. Nichols of Santa Rosa out of $500 in a fake gas-lighting scheme."
- Press Democrat, June 10, 1911
VICTIMIZING THE FARMERSSmooth Strangers Working in Rural Sections
Two smooth individuals have recently endeavored to victimize farmers in the vicinity of Healdsburg and residents of the rural sections should take warning by the experience of others. Word from Healdsburg is to the effect that a couple of genteel appearing men have recently been "working" that section of the county.
Their modus operandi is that one of the strangers calls on a farmer, representing that he is securing "data" for the big fair to be held in San Francisco in 1915. He questions the farmer closely regarding the acreage of his property, products of the ranch, family history and other things, and notes replies on paper which he carries. Later the second stranger appears ostensibly seeking to verify the information secured by the first stranger.
On the pretext of confirming the information authoritatively, the unsuspecting farmer is asked to affix his signature.
One cautious farmer, on reading the document he was requested to sign to "confirm the information authoritatively," discovered that the "information" contained a promissory note for one hundred dollars. It is a good rule for everyone to refrain from signing any papers until they are absolutely certain of what they contain.
- Santa Rosa Republican, June 10, 1911
ARRESTED AT GLEN ELLENThree Men Passing Themselves for Deaf and Dumb
Three men, Frank Perry, B. R. Vickers and James Boyde, are now lodged in the county jail, who were arrested at Glen Ellen on Tuesday for passing themselves off as deaf and dumb. Each carried a writing pad, and when they met any one would present this pad with the following. "I present this as an explanation of my condition, having met with an accident caused by a gasoline explosion. This subjects me to epileptic fits and I have lost the use of my left arm." They also carried pieces of slate upon which they wrote.
They are believed to be ex-convicts and they have been photographed and their pictures sent to the the prisons to be identified.
They carry nothing with them in the way of blankets or clothing and were picked up at Glen Ellen. The authorities believe that they are not deaf and dumb, and are well able to earn a living, and have been begging from place to place using this means of gaining money.
- Santa Rosa Republican, July 26, 1911
Congratulations, Attorney Allison Ware, the judge ruled in your favor over Attorney Allison Ware, whose pettifogging argument reveals him to be utterly incompetent.
It's too bad Robert Ripley was still years away from starting his Believe It or Not! column; he would have loved this 1911 situation in his hometown of Santa Rosa, where the same lawyer represented the plaintiff in one case and the defendant in another, with the same legal question pivotal in both cases. No matter how the court ruled, Attorney Ware would probably win one of the cases and lose the other. And this crazy, double-edged sword of a situation didn't happen in different places and different times - Ware was asking for a decision from a judge at the same hearing, simultaneously arguing for and against the same point. This was a man who could obviously walk and chew gum at the same time, and probably whistle as well.
One case involved the late Pincus Levin, who was a partner in the Levin Brothers Tannery, Santa Rosa's largest employer at the time. Levin died in a spectacular Marin county train crash in August, 1910, when twelve were killed as steam locomotives collided head-on. "The two engines reared into the air and locked themselves in deadly embrace," reported The Press Democrat luridly. The Levin family sued the railroad for $25,000, and Ware was their lawyer.
The other case was a suit over the wrongful death of a Chinese-American man named Young Chow, who was struck by an automobile and killed at "Gwynn's Corners", which was the intersection of Old Redwood Highway and Mark West. His family filed suit against the driver of the car for $5,000 and Ware represented the driver.
Here's the legal issue that was being asked: Could a lawsuit on behalf of a "non-resident alien" be filed in California? Young Chow's beneficiaries were to be his wife and two children in China. Pincus Levin, an unmarried 28 year-old Russian-Pole who had emigrated to America ten years earlier, presumably named his parents or other relatives in the old country.
The question was pretty much a Constitution 101 no-brainer: All that mattered was that the wrongful deaths occurred within the United States. The 5th amendment guarantees "no person shall...be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law" and the 14th Amendment further emphasizes due process is not restricted to just U.S. citizens: "Nor shall any State...deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." The Constitution didn't care that neither Pincus Levin and Young Chow were citizens, and didn't care where any award for damages would be going. Even Chinese immigrants, who endured all manner of legal discrimination otherwise, were specifically guaranteed equal protection under the 14th Amendment by a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, Yick Wo v. Hopkins (1886).
Thus Ware and the other lawyers went before a Superior Court judge in San Francisco and were told that no, you can't throw out a case just because the money would be going to China or Poland or wherever. It was a victory for Ware in the railroad lawsuit and a setback for Ware in the automobile lawsuit.
Curiously, no newspaper editorialized about how damned odd it was for Ware to show up at a court hearing wearing two hats. The Press Democrat mentioned it in passing and implied Ware felt the railroad was making a Hail Mary Pass by raising the issue but appended the automobile suit to the motion because it couldn't hurt so why the hell not:
|"Attorney Ware thought at the time there was no merit in the contention and that he could easily defeat such a proposition of law. However, he brought forward the same point in the suit of the Chinese administrator against Charles Patchett of Healdsburg. This was done in order that if the point was sustained in the court by Judge Hunt that it could be taken advantage of in the court here."|
How did these lawsuits end? Nothing more about the Levin case appeared in the papers, so it was presumably settled out of court quickly after the judge's ruling. The railroad had no other defense; the coroner's jury had already decided the railway was guilty of gross negligence. There is a footnote to the story, however. Levin was on the train because he had just obtained $6,000 (about $150,000 today) in "negotiable paper" from a San Francisco bank and the document wasn't among his remains. The newspapers never explained exactly what it was - most likely some sort of bonds - but press coverage invariably mentioned it "could be cashed by anyone." Some historians have since claimed it was never found, but that's not true; a man on the wreck clean-up crew picked it up from the ground but didn't understand what it was, and once he realized it was valuable, promptly turned it over to the bank.
The Young Chow case went to trial, but not before Attorney Ware filed a motion claiming the victim caused the fatal accident by turning his bicycle into the path of the car. (This was not the first auto fatality in the Santa Rosa area; the previous year a nine-year old boy was run over at the corner of Third and B and the coroner's jury found the child was at fault for dashing in front of the car without looking.)
The jury decided in favor of the plaintiff, awarding Young Chow's heirs $2,500. (Did it help that the lawyers for Chow made sure no juror owned an automobile?) The jury also found the driver was negligent in going too fast and lied about tooting his horn as a warning. There's a footnote to this story as well: Young Chow was killed when he was bicycling back to Santa Rosa from the ranch of Harrison Finley, the grandfather of Helen Finley Comstock. Long-time readers of this journal may recall that Mr. Finley had his own dangerous encounter with an auto in 1908, when a driver crashed into a wagon carrying him and most of his family. After this death of his employee, Harrison Finley had another reason to be distrustful of the new horseless contraptions.
The final score for Attorney Allison B. Ware was 1-1, winning the Levin case and losing the Young Chow judgement. These were among his final appearances in court; he was 64 and would live about another three years. His son Wallace later wrote an autobiography titled "The Unforgettables" that recalled his father as a jovial man with a talent for persuasion. He arrived in San Francisco in 1855 and later told his children it was then a "fecund mulching bed of frolicsome fillies and gay Lotharios." His first job, at age 18, was running a school for incorrigible youths. He succeeded by appointing six of the toughest guys to be "captains," ordering them to disarm their fellow hoodlums and keep them in line. In exchange he promised the boys a night off every week that would wrap up with an expenses-paid visit to "a friendly resort, where the ladies are always pliant, gracious, sweet, smiling and co-operative."
Ware eventually became the Sonoma County District Attorney, settling down with his family of six children at 1041 College Avenue, calling their home the "Ware Hatchery." It was one of the few residences seriously damaged in the 1906 earthquake (pictures and a story here) but they rebuilt at the same location. He loved kids, hosting neighborhood spelling bees and awarding jelly bean prizes. In 1904 the family threw a birthday party for daughter Mabel where the highlight was a guessing game with the mesmerizing question, "How old is Mr. Ware?" Only a very persuasive lawyer could pull that off as children's party entertainment.
CHINESE IS KILLED BY AUTOHurled in Air by Impact and Run Over by Machine
A Chinese employed on the Harrison Finley hop ranch, on the Mark West road, just off the main Healdsburg road, was struck by an automobile on Friday afternoon. The accident occurred near Gwynn's Corners, and the Chinese was so badly injured that he passed away in a couple of hours. The dead man was riding a bicycle at the time of the accident, and must have become confused or attempted to cross the road in front of the rapidly approaching automobile.
When the auto struck the man he was hurled some distance in the air, and fell directly in front of the machine. The heavy automobile then ran over the Chinese and mashed him considerably. The injured man was carried into a near-by residence by those in the auto and Dr. R. M. Bonar was summoned to attend him. From the first it was seen that injured man could not survive and Dr. Bonar did all he could to relieve his sufferings.
The name of the driver of the auto which struck the Chinese was not learned. On Saturday morning Undertaker Wilson C. Smith went out to the residence where the Chinese passed away and brought the remains to this city.
- Santa Rosa Republican, April 22, 1911
SMALL ESTATE OF CHINAMANYoung Chow Left Fifty Dollars for Relatives Who Reside in the Chinese Empire
The first petition in a long time in the estate of a deceased Chinaman was filed on Thursday in the matter of the estate of Young Chow. Chow did not die possessed of much of this world's goods. He left some cash and personal property valued at fifty dollars. Young Yup is the petitioner, and the petition sets forth that the next of the kin of the deceased are Joe Shee, his wife, and two children in Pong Woo, China. Attorney R. L. Thompson is the attorney for the estate.
- Press Democrat, June 19, 1911
SUES FOR $5,000 FOR DEATH OF CHINAMAN
The predicted damage suit growing out of the killing by an automobile of Young Chow, a Chinaman, by Charles Patchett, on the Healdsburg road near Gwynn's Corners, some two months ago, was commenced in the Superior Court yesterday by Young Yup, who has been named administrator of the Chow estate. Attorney R. L. Thompson represents the plaintiff. The dead man has a wife and two children in China and the suit in their interest. It is charged in the complaint that Patchett was driving his automobile in a fast and reckless manner at the time he struck Chow, who only loved a short time after the accident. The defendant is charged with carelessness and negligence. At the time of the accident Chow was riding a bicycle.
At the conclusion of the testimony the Court took the matter under advisement and it stands submitted.
- Press Democrat, June 21, 1911
CAN NON-RESIDENT ALIEN PROSECUTE A SUIT HERE?New Point Raised in Court Here on Monday
Can a non-resident alien prosecute an action in the courts of California?
This is a new question urged in Judge Seawell's department of the Superior Court here Monday morning by Attorney Allison R. Ware in the suit for $5,000 damaged brought by Young Lup, a Chinaman as the administrator of the estate of Young Chow, also a Celestial, who was run down and killed while riding a bicycle on the Healdsburg road near Gwynn's Corners. Charles H. Patchett, who was riding in the automobile is the defendant, and negligence is charged against him by the plaintiff.
J. M. Thompson and Rolfe L. Thompson represent the plaintiff and Allison B. Ware is counsel for the defendant. The case came up on argument Monday morning, and Mr. Ware claimed that a non-resident man cannot maintain a suit in the courts in this state. The suit is brought in behalf of Chow's relatives in China. A similar point is being made by the Northwestern Pacific railroad in answering the suit for damages brought by the late Pincus Levin, who was killed in the railroad wreck at Ignacio where a number of persons lost their lives some time since.
Judge Seawell took the matter under advisement and his decision is awaited with considerable interest.
- Press Democrat, June 26, 1911
NON-RESIDENT CAN BRING SUITAttorneys Ware and Berry Win in San Francisco
Attorney Allison B. Ware and Jos. P. Berry won an important legal decision in San Francisco on Friday when they presented an elaborate argument to Judge Hunt of the superior court there, on the question as to whether a non-resident alien can bring and maintain an action in the courts.
The local attorneys represent Nate Levin, who as administrator of the estate of the late Pincus Levin, has sued the Northwestern Pacific railroad for damages. The suit grows out of the collision at Ignacio in which Levin and others were instantly killed.
Judge Hunt made the ruling direct from the bench that a non-resident could maintain an action in the courts and this establishes the standing of Mr. Levin at once.
The point was brought up by the attorneys for the railroad in this suit and Attorney Ware thought at the time there was no merit in the contention and that he could easily defeat such a proposition of law. However, he brought forward the same point in the suit of the Chinese administrator against Charles Patchett of Healdsburg. This was done in order that if the point was sustained in the court by Judge Hunt that it could be taken advantage of in the court here.
Judge Hunt has consented to hear the case of Levin against the railroad in Marin county, but the preliminary argument on the demurrer was made in the court at San Francisco on Friday. Attorneys Ware and Berry feel much elated at this victory.
- Santa Rosa Republican, June 30, 1911
CLAIM CHINAMAN WAS TO BLAME FOR DEATH
In an answer filed in the office of County Clerk William W. Felt, Jr., on Monday, in the suit of Young Yup, administrator of the estate of Young Chow, against Charles Patchett. It is claimed that Young Lup [sic] was responsible for the accident that caused his death. The Chinese was killed in a collision with Patchett's automobile near Gwynn's Corners last summer, and the answer sets up that the negligence of the Chinese in turning to the left side of the road instead of to the right side, was responsible for the collision. Attorneys Allison B. Ware and Phil Ware represent the defendant.
- Santa Rosa Republican, October 10, 1911
AUTOMOBILISTS ARE NOT WANTED ON JURY
Owners of automobiles were not wanted on the jury now trying toe damage suit of Young Lup vs. C. H. Patchett. During the examination of talesmen in Judge Seawell's Department of the Superior Court here yesterday, counsel for the plaintiff queried each man as to whether he was the owner of automobiles were excused. An automobile figures prominently in this case, as the plaintiff appears as representative of the heirs of Young Chow, a Chinese, who was killed by an automobile on the Healdsburg road near Gwynn's Corners.
- Press Democrat, January 10, 1912
$2,500 DAMAGES AWARDED FOR DEATH OF CHINAMANPlaintiff Wins in Trial In Judge Seawell's Court
Charles H. Patchett, the defendant was the last witness called in the suit brought against him by Young Lup, administrator of the estate of Young Chow, claiming $5,000 damages for the death of Chow by alleged carelessness of the defendant while driving his automobile on the Healdsburg road near Gwynn's Corners.
Mr. Patchett testified, as did other witnesses on the previous day, that he was driving carefully at the time, that he sounded his horn a number of times and also shouted to the Chinaman before the accident happened. He claimed that the Chinaman, who was riding a bicycle, turned from the track in which he was riding on the road and swerved in front of the auto. Mr. Patchett claimed the accident was unavoidable. There was some conflict of testimony as to the speed at which the automobile was being driven at the time of the collision, but Patchett maintained that he had slowed down at the time he attempted to pass the Chinaman.
Attorney Allison B. Ware, with whom was associated Phil Ware for the defendant, took the witness through a very careful examination, as did Attorney Rolfe L. Thompson, for the plaintiff, when he took hold of the witness.
Before the noon adjournment Attorney Thompson had made his opening arguments to the jury, claiming that Patchett had been negligent and that the accident could have been avoided. Counsel made a strong speech.
When court resumed in the afternoon Attorney Allison B. Ware argued the case to the jury for the side of the defendant, making a powerful case of the facts and evidence adduced and denying any negligence of carelessness on the part of Mr. Patchett.
Attorney Thompson replied to the argument of counsel for the defense in another strong speech to the jury. Judge Seawell then delivered his charge to the jury.
The jury retired to consider the verdict shortly before five o'clock. At six o'clock they were taken to "Little Pete's" restaurant for supper in charge of Deputy Sheriff Donald McIntosh and returned shortly after seven. It was nine o'clock before they had agreed upon a verdict.
The jury found for the plaintiff in the sum of $2,500 and also answered the following special interrogatories submitted:
Was the defendant riding at a rapid rate of speed at the time of the accident? --Yes.
Did the defendant operate and manage the automobile in a negligent and careless manner at the time of and immediately prior to the said accident? --Yes.
Did the defendant cause the said automobile to slow up and lessen the speed thereof? --Yes.
Did the defendant sound the automobile horn and warn Young Chow in a timely manner? --No.
Did Young Chow, by his own negligence, contribute proximately to the resulting in life death? --No.
Did Young Chow, plaintiff intestate, when the defendant was approaching on the left side of the road in the automobile, carelessly and negligently drive the bicycle on which said young Chow was riding in front of the said automobile on the left hand side of the road? --No.
Counsel for the defense have asked for a stay of execution for thirty days. It is expected that a motion for a new trial will be made.
- Press Democrat, January 12, 1912
The worst case scenario for Santa Rosa after the 1906 earthquake was everything burning down, and that might have happened if the relief train from Petaluma - racing toward the endangered city at a ridiculously unsafe speed with firemen and hundreds of volunteers aboard - had flown off the tracks.
That's just one of the many "lost" tales of the earthquake that are found in the Petaluma Argus newspaper in the month after the disaster. As introduced in the previous article, that daily paper is a goldmine of historical information about what was really happening in the North Bay, and it easily doubles the amount of primary source material about the aftermath of Santa Rosa's 1906 earthquake.
What we knew about events in Santa Rosa was limited for several reasons (see: "WHAT WE KNOW WE DON'T KNOW"), but it was mainly because Santa Rosa only had an interim newspaper called the "Democrat-Republican." It was only the size of a school newsletter and came out irregularly in the first two weeks after the disaster, and when the local papers resumed after that, the next two weeks are missing. In fact, one of the important things we learn from the Argus is proof that both the Press Democrat and Santa Rosa Republican actually were publishing during the May 3-18 blackout dates, as quotes from both papers appeared in the Petaluma daily.
Besides its own reporting, the Argus also reprinted bits about the Santa Rosa disaster from other papers, some of which are also now missing. We find overlooked first-hand descriptions of the earthquake such as the particularly moving account of the death of Chester Trugden (reprinted from the Sonoma newspaper) and the heroics of fireman Ed Faught (this one reprinted from a San Francisco paper).
Most importantly, the Argus supplied important baseline facts that have been otherwise forgotten. For example, we discover for the first time what happened to most of the debris from downtown - it was "used to fill in a big hollow on the Guerneville [railroad] branch near Mirabel Park." The Democrat-Republican hadn't even mentioned when most of the victims were buried; from a letter published in an Iowa paper we were told it happened on Sunday, April 22, but the Argus revealed it happened two days earlier, and even included cemetery details: "On Friday the funerals of 34 victims took place at Santa Rosa, Coroner Blackburn conducting the arrangements with several assistants. Express wagons, trucks and all kinds of vehicles were used to convey the bodies to their last resting places."
(RIGHT: "Waiting for bodies - Occidental Hotel" Image courtesy Sonoma County Library)
In another reprint from the missing issues of the Santa Rosa Republican, it was told for the first time how the word got out about Santa Rosa's great destruction. A supervisor for the Northwestern Pacific Railroad in Santa Rosa sent a foreman south on a handcar, with orders to keep going until he could contact authorities in Tiburon or San Francisco. The message: "Earthquake. Santa Rosa in ruins and burning. Many injured and probably many killed." He was also instructed to stop in Petaluma and ask for help.
A short train was quickly assembled to send doctors to Santa Rosa, followed by another train with members of the fire department, the town's two fire hose carts, Petaluma's National Guard Company C and "hundreds of willing workers and anxious ones seeking local relatives." What happened next may be the most astonishing event anywhere that day: "The relief train with the Petaluma fire department on board made the trip to Santa Rosa in fourteen minutes on Wednesday morning. The firemen on the flat cars and in the box cars clung to each other for safety. The run is the record time for the distance on this road." The distance between Petaluma and Santa Rosa train stations is a little over fifteen miles. According to a 1905 article in Railroad Gazette, it took a "Pacific type" steam locomotive with just a tender car over three minutes to reach 50 MPH - thus the train was briefly highballing towards Santa Rosa at over 70 MPH (by my calculations). Steam locomotives rarely went that fast, and then only on custom-built test tracks. Had the thing derailed the loss of life would have been catastrophic. The experience must have been terrifying, and no wonder they "clung to each other for safety." It is doubtful any of these men would ever again travel so fast the rest their lives.
Here are the top revelations about the 1906 Santa Rosa earthquake from the Argus:
A HIGHER DEATH COUNT
On April 25 - a week after the earthquake - the Argus published an item stating Santa Rosa's mayor put the body count at 70, and it was assumed to be 100 or more: "Mayor Overton has telegraphed W. R. Hearst stating...seventy bodies have been recovered and that thirty additional bodies are believed to be in the ruins or entirely incinerated..." But according to the previous day's edition of Santa Rosa's Democrat-Republican, there were exactly 64 "total known deaths" at that time and there had been no published guesstimates as to how many bodies were still to be found (although more people died, only two more remains were discovered after that date).
Were the mayor's numbers correct? First let's ask whether he was quoted accurately; the Argus stated only Overton had "telegraphed W. R. Hearst," publisher of the San Francisco Examiner. If the Argus was only reprinting what appeared in that notoriously yellow newspaper, then it's possible the Examiner editor exaggerated what Overton wrote or even made up the whole thing. But if it can be confirmed that Mayor Overton actually believed the official mortality was undercounted and they had reason to expect to find 30 additional fatalities, then serious doubt is cast on the entire official narrative.
For the record: There are at least 77 deaths caused by the earthquake and it can be said with high confidence that a minimum count should be 82 (see earthquake FAQ).
GRIM NEWS AS WELL AS THE GOOD
There's no disputing that Ernest L. Finley, editor of the Press Democrat and the short-run Democrat-Republican, tried to downplay bad news about the disaster - a sharp contrast to his usual style of relishing every gruesome detail about some poor wretch's suicide by poison or bullet. But Finley was also the town's indefatigable booster (and soon to be president of the Chamber of Commerce) and precious space in those early, tiny papers was wasted in describing how much worse things were in San Francisco and how really great times were in store for Santa Rosa.
The editor of the Petaluma Argus had no such qualms. In that paper were detailed, eyewitness accounts of people being burned alive along with other unpleasant details.
Two days after the disaster, the Democrat-Republican portrayed an orderly town, where the few remains that were still being recovered were being efficiently handled and most of the injured were "improving nicely." The same day the Argus reported "Coroner Blackburn on Friday told an Argus reporter that the odor of burned flesh can be detected at half a dozen places in the Santa Rosa ruins. He believes that many bodies are yet entombed." Then a few days later, "Some of the ruins emit strong odors of decaying flesh but this is supposed to be due to dead animals."
According to the Democrat-Republican, there was no petty crime in Santa Rosa following the earthquake (although the want ads do suggest some bad guys walked off with other people's stuff). The Argus told a different story: "Looting has been attempted in many places, especially in the residence district. To prevent this a large number of special policemen and deputy sheriffs have been sworn in to guard the residence district, and this has, in great measure, quieted the fears of the people." The Argus told us a man was arrested after being caught in the act of stealing from rooms in the fallen St. Rose Hotel, and another guy was found to have stolen half a sack of second-class mail from the ruins of the old postoffice.
The most despicable crime was probably committed by a man named Ed Lahue, who saw a woman removing diamond earrings, rings and other jewelry from the body of Josephine Ely, who died with her son in the collapse of the Grand Hotel. Lahue told the woman he knew the Ely family, and would see that they received the items. It was a lie and he was arrested a few weeks later in San Francisco, but none of the jewelry was found on him and he denied having received it. In an odd little postscript, the Santa Rosa Republican - which was always less inclined to local censorship - produced an item five weeks after the quake revealing Sheriff Grace had received a package with the jewelry, along with a note that the valuable stuff had been "picked up" on a street in Oakland, with no further explanation.
Many other noteworthy details appeared in the Argus; we learn the name of another possible earthquake victim - a man who was injured doing rescue work the morning of the quake that "undoubtedly hastened his end." We learn that Santa Rosa begged Petaluma to send up all of the crowbars they could find. And while we knew from the Democrat-Republican that "Coroner Frank L. Blackburn brought up a number of coffins from Petaluma," we learn now that many of those coffins were shipped back with bodies inside to Blackburn's funeral parlor in Petaluma for embalming.
From the Argus we also have an odd little Believe-it-or-Not! item: Nearly three weeks after the quake, the Board of Supervisors held a quixotic meeting in their old chambers on the second floor of the court house, despite most of the building having been famously destroyed. "There is no roof over the room and the ceiling is partly gone where the part of the building above went through it, but the rubbish has been cleared out and the courageous county fathers will occupy their accustomed places." As it was still a legal holiday in the state they could do little but "debate questions of importance" and presumably collect their meeting stipend.
It's also interesting what the Argus didn't report. Nothing was mentioned about Captain Bertrand Rockwell, who donated $800 to pay for rescue crews during the crucial first two days after the quake (see " THE LEGENDS OF CAPTAIN ROCKWELL"). As explained in that earlier item, the money came from a Petaluma bank the day of the quake or the morning after. The Democrat-Republican didn't describe Rockwell's dash-for-cash either, but given the circumstances, the unusual event must have generated quite a buzz around Petaluma. Perhaps the Argus editor chose to discreetly ignore the story because the governor had ordered all banks in the state closed, so the transaction was technically illegal. But how did Rockwell - a man from Kansas City who was visiting relatives in Santa Rosa - manage to get a Petaluma bank to cash a whopping personal check? It had to be because Frank Denman, the cashier of the Sonoma County Bank of Petaluma was kind of an in-law (Denman's wife was the sister of James Edwards, who was treasurer of Santa Rosa's Relief Committee and married to Rockwell's daughter). And it's probably not incidental that another tie between Petaluma and the Rockwell-Edwards-Denman clan was demonstrated when Company C pitched its tents on Denman's mother-in-law's huge lawn at 409 Fifth street (corner of A street, now underneath the Santa Rosa plaza).
The Argus did make a mistake, however, in repeatedly stating Santa Rosa was under martial law. Although local National Guard Company E and Petaluma's Company C joined forces to patrol the downtown and set up checkpoints to keep out anyone without a pass, martial law was not declared. This was a mistaken assumption that appeared in all papers describing the situation in Santa Rosa. The Argus further claimed on the first day after the catastrophe "soldiers have been stationed in each store to see that only certain rates are charged." Was there really some price-gouging? Possibly, but it's more likely the citizen soldiers were charged with keeping order as panicked townspeople tried to buy up goods for hoarding.
Selections from the Argus regarding Santa Rosa between April 19 and May 23 are transcribed below. Argus reporting about the earthquake in Petaluma and elsewhere is covered in the previous article.
Santa Rosa is now under martial law.
Among these are Miss Phoebe Green and Mrs. C. E. Manning and child. Their remains will be shipped East.
The two children killed at Tomales will be buried by Mr. Blackburn.
In Santa Rosa in Havens' hardware store powder exploded and lit on the other side of the street, starting a fire which was soon under control.
Dead are being taken out many have not been identified. Relief is being sent from adjacent cities.
The hardware man, George Thomas and wife were stopping at the St. Rose hotel Santa Rosa. There were in the third story and woke up just in time to walk off to the ground and the roof went with them.
At Santa Rosa late on Wednesday night, one man was taken out of the ruins of a hotel alive. Several dead bodies were recovered.
Petaluma sent two trains to the scene of disaster, the first bringing medical assistance. Among the medicos were Drs. Gossage, Urban, Bennett, Peoples, McMullen and Anderson. The second train brought the Petaluma fire department and hundreds of willing workers and anxious ones seeking local relatives. Many former Santa Rosans came up to lend assistance.
After all of the several shocks the streets were full of frightened people.
M. Tobias who with his wife and daughter were rescued from the St. Rose at Sa. Rosa came down Friday. An injured leg was treated here and Mr. Tobias secured funds and food from relatives for himself and for other relatives who are camping in Jefferson square San Francisco.
Services were held at the Christian Church on Thursday by all of the pastors of the city.
On Friday the funerals of 34 victims took place at Santa Rosa, Coroner Blackburn conducting the arrangements with several assistants. Express wagons, trucks and all kinds of vehicles were used to convey the bodies to their last resting places. Nearly all of the coffins were sent up from this city.
Santa Rosa has sufficient food now for a few days. Two bakeries are turning out bread and several meat markets are open.
Fifteen cars hauled by an electric motor, were in use on Tuesday, removing debris from Santa Rosa.
In the window of the Racket store there is on exhibition some views of the ruins at Santa Rosa and Tomales. The view attract much attention.
Those desiring photographs of the havoc made by the earthquake in Petaluma and Santa Rosa may procure them for ten cents each at Towne's drug store.
Hon. T. J. Geary came down from Santa Rosa on Monday and borrowed a typewriter and a few law books. Mr. Geary states that even his house at Inverness was destroyed.
Mayor Overton has telegraphed W. R. Hearst stating that twelve blocks of the business section were destroyed by the earthquake and eight of the blocks burned over after the buildings fell; that seventy bodies have been recovered and that thirty additional bodies are believed to be in the ruins or entirely incinerated. Mayor Overton also stated that several of the injured will probably die.
A prominent county official estimated the number of residences so badly damaged as to make rebuilding necessary at fifteen to twenty per cent.
Sentator Perkins telegraphed Mayor Overton stating that the Secretary of War would see that Santa Rosa receives its share of the government relief fund.
Congressman McKinlay and family are homeward bound. They will arrive in a few days.
An Argus representative dined with Company C Wednesday. The boys are well supplied with food and it is clean and well cooked.
Mr. and Mrs. Leete returned to Santa Rosa Tuesday last night [sic] with the remains of their daughter who was one of the attendants killed at the Agnews asylum by the earthquake.
Three victims of the earthquake have already been laid to rest in Petaluma.
Our loss from the earthquake is small and we suffered not at all from loss by fire.
Having escaped these evils let us not cause a financial flurry when the local banks open by withdrawing deposits or making unjust demands upon Petaluma's financial institutions.
To do so would be to invite trouble for ourselves and our banks that would give Petaluma a set-back from which she would be years in recovering...
After his fate was learned searching parties sought for his body but all that remained was a heap of ashes and the springs of the bed on which he had slept.
MacQuiddy tells a heart rending story of his attempt to help his young chum and says his last words were, "For God's sake don't leave me." MacQuiddy's coat was scorched and smoking when he came out of the doomed building where Trugden lay dead.
Chester Trugden was a handsome young man just twenty-one years of age and his parents have the sympathy of the entire community in the loss of their eldest boy.--Index Tribune
A man was ducked at Santa Rosa the other day for making remarks about the militia.
The work of removing the debris is being carried on expeditiously, with the assistance of the California Northwestern and Petaluma & Santa Rosa railways. The steam railroad constructed a spur track to connect with the electric railroad, and locomotives switch thirty-six foot flat cars to the electric line. One of the motor cars propels these cars and those of the electric road down Fourth street, on either side of which the thoroughfare is strewn with wrecked and fallen buildings for blocks. A small army of men is busily employed getting the debris to the street and loading it on the flat cars, after which they are transferred to the steam road and hauled up to the Guerneville branch of Mirabel Park, where it is thrown over the trestle.
The grand exalted ruler of the Elks arrived here today and placed $500 in gold in the hands of Hiram L. Tripp, one of the trustees of the local lodge, for the benefit of the Elks that have suffered, and more forthcoming at once.
Allen B. Lemmon has taken over his old paper, the Santa Rosa Republican, and when the paper re-appears, his name will be "nailed to the masthead." We congratulate Mr. Lemmon upon his return to journalistic labors. It will seem like old times to have the "old wheel horse" in the fold again.
The work of clearing away the debris continues unabated, and the buildings will be soon started all over the city. Arrangements are being made for opening the banks, temporary quarters being prepared fro them. All that is left of them are five large vaults standing like specters in the debris, each of which contains considerable coin.
[On this day the Petaluma banks reopened, and five immediately send $100 each to Santa Rosa. -ed.]
Company C is camping on the splendid lawn at the Edwards home on Fifth street, Santa Rosa. Mrs. Edwards is mother of Mrs. Frank H. Denman of Petaluma.
Citizens who have looked over the brick-pile scaled by Driver Faught and his team mates declare the feat impossible, but it was accomplished, the balance of the ruined city saved from destruction, and it is safe to say that the horses, although willing enough, did not attempt to return the way the came out. The apparatus is comfortable housed in a temporary wooden building on Fifth street. --Bulletin.
Brainerd Jones and wife were at Santa Rosa on Tuesday. [Brainerd Jones and diverse contractors were also inspecting buildings in Petaluma -ed.]
A. S. Newburgh shipped up to Santa Rosa on Tuesday evening at the order of County Clerk Fred L. Wright, all of the crowbars he could secure here. They are for use on the wrecked buildings.
The news was sent out by Roadmaster J. W. Barrows of the California Northwestern, formerly of Petaluma. In a message to W. J. Hunter and F. K. Zook, in these words, "Earthquake. Santa Rosa in ruins and burning. Many injured and probably many killed."
The message was sent out in care of Foreman B. E. Walton, traveling on a handcar, and he was under instructions to keep traveling south until he succeeded in getting into communication with Tiburon or San Francisco. Walton also bore an appeal to Petaluma for doctors and a special train arrived shortly for that [illegible microfilm, but appears to be only the names of the physicians].
Had it not been for the forethought of Mr. Barrows Santa Rosa's wail would not have been quickly heard and the arrival of relief would have been long deferred.-Republican.
In his full report to his superiors Mr. Barrow compliments the people of Petaluma, her physicians, firemen and militamen for the speedy and splendid response. He also complimented in the highest terms Agent W. J. Cummings, who organized the relief work here and arranged for trains and Conductor Walter Story and Engineer Edwin Reynolds for their splendid work in getting the relief trains to Santa Rosa. Mr. Barrows is very enthusiastic over the work of all.
The Santa Rosa Republican has resumed publishing on its own account.
"I was rooming at the Palm rooming house 404 Fourth street (about the center of the ruined district) and arose at 4:45, dressed and passed down the stairs, stepping to the edge of the sidewalk. The morning was calm and beautiful. Suddenly the building that I had just left began to crackle. I rushed across the street and clung to corner of the St. Rose drug store and there witnessed the falling of the St. Rose Hotel and the surrounding buildings. The one to which I clung remained standing. The noise of the fallen buildings was deafening and the dust from the street and fallen buildings was so dense on could scarcely see four feet ahead. I stared to recross the street but found a network of live wire down. I waited a few moments until the dust cleared away then made my way back to my room, which had fallen within four or five feet of the sidewalk and found my wife unharmed. Fires had started in several places and soon consumed most of the wreckage. All of the business portion of the city was a complete wreck.
Mrs. Moke and daughter were killed and taken from the ruins in the adjoining building and one family taken from the Eureka lodging-house over the Republican newspaper office, the building having been completely demolished.
The insurance men have figured the entire death list at Santa Rosa at sixty-five. In the matter of proving that loss was caused by earthquake and not by fire, the burden of proof is on the insurance companies and not on the insured. This is why the companies are at work getting up statements and [illegible microfilm] to prove their side of the case. The holders of policies had better be prepared to offer their proof in the other direction. -Examiner.
The remains of little Louise Moke were removed from the ruins of a building on Fourth street, Santa Rosa, Saturday. Her mother, Mrs. Herbert Moke, and her aunt, Mrs. Willie Reid, were killed in the same building. Her father is the well known undertaker of Santa Rosa.
The Santa Rosa saloons will be permitted to open on Thursday. The hours will be from 8 a. m. to 6 p. m.
Another man under arrest in the county jail, having been caught in the act of stealing from guests' rooms in the St. Rose Hotel, will also be made to feel the power of the law. He is a youth well known in Santa Rosa and when taken into custody had a quantity of loot on his person. Both prisoners will be tried when the government has ceased to declare legal holidays. - Republican.
"On behalf of the people of Santa Rosa, I thank you for your devotion to our interests...Conditions are fairly good here now. Much work has been done since you were here, in the way of cleaning up and hauling off debris. A good deal of money has been paid out by property owners. We are keeping relief funds and relief supplies in good reserve for future needs, which are sure to rise and will see that there is no waste or graft." - Chronicle.
Thirteen hundred carloads of debris have been hauled from Santa Rosa by the Petaluma & Santa Rosa and California Northwestern railroads. It is believed the work can be completed within a week or ten days at the outside.
Two men were arrested in Santa Rosa on Friday, charged with insanity.
The Santa Rosa Board of Education met Monday night and instructed Architect Stone to prepare plans and specifications for a frame structure for the Burbank school house to replace the brick. The interior will remain the same.