In Sonoma county, the most important outcome of election day 1912 wasn't who would become president; it was whether voters would kill the roadhouses.
Before launching into this topic, I need to offer a mea culpa; a few articles here regarding the year 1912 are being updated. Accuracy is important (or should be) to anyone who cares about history, and events that happened around New Year 1913 shine a different light on some earlier stories. My small consolation is those late developments even caught local newspapers by surprise, as you'll read below.
In June 1912, voters in the unincorporated parts of the second district elected to go “dry” (the second district was then a north-south strip west of the Laguna, from the Russian River to Petaluma). Saloons were still allowed in the towns of Sebastopol and Petaluma but country roadhouses were forced to close, or at least stop serving alcohol. While the temperance movement was locally gathering steam in 1912 and 1913, both Santa Rosa newspapers expected the law to pass because roadhouses were harming property values and reducing productivity of farmworkers.
There were only about a dozen places in rural West County impacted by the closures, but the roadhouse scene was expanding closer to the county's more urban areas. It's not hard to understand why; more people had cars to escape the city, roads were being improved for autos, and towns (particularly Petaluma) were discouraging - and even banning - dancing to popular music. At the country roadhouse, anything goes.
Churches loudly condemned the roadhouses but community leaders only wrung hands. The Press Democrat lamented, "The number of saloons and road-houses in the Sonoma valley is out of all reason. No self-respecting community could be expected to continue forever to put up with conditions such as exist there." As a speaker in a series of talks called "What's the Matter with Santa Rosa?," attorney Thomas J. Butts complained the town was not growing as fast as it could "because of our surrounding roadhouses."
But as 1912 rolled on, nearly every week brought stories in the Bay Area papers about serious accidents, even deaths, because of roadhouse drunks "joy riding." Women were found to be drinking in public (horrors!) and some were prostitutes who were arrested. And on July 1, the governor of Oregon declared martial law as a platoon of cops laid siege to a pair of particularly notorious roadhouses outside Portland. Increasingly counties around the state were banning roadhouses.
Thus it was no great surprise to read the announcement of an "Anti-Roadhouse League" being formed here to get an item on the November ballot calling for prohibition throughout all parts of the unincorporated county. "The league is formed solely for the purpose of eliminating the road houses from the county," read the statement in the Santa Rosa Republican, "and is not dominated by any religious sect or temperance organization, and does not propose to interfere with licenses now held by hotels or summer resorts now in business or which may hereafter desire a retail license." This was the text of the proposed ordinance:
|No person, corporation, firm or association shall sell, or engage in the business of selling, offering for sale or giving away distilled, fermented, malt, vinous or other spiritous or intoxicating liquors or wines or beers in any portion of Sonoma county lying without the corporate limits of any city or town of said Sonoma county, except such person, corporation, firm or association engaged in the business of conducting a bona fide hotel, having at least thirty-five separate sleeping apartments properly furnished for the accommodation of guests, and having dining room at which meals are served at regular hours to boarders and the traveling public.|
That was at the end of August. Over the next two months before the vote, I can't find a single op/ed in either Santa Rosa paper concerning the proposal, pro or con. Make of that what you will; my interpretation is that they didn't think it had a chance in hell of passage. Unlike the earlier second district vote where ballots were cast only by those who lived within the affected rural areas, this was to be decided at a high-profile, November election where every voter in the county could have a say. And the city folk liked saloons (or at least the menfolk, who were allowed to drink inside, did).
Surprise! The ordinance passed easily - thirteen points, 56 to 43. All of the towns voted for it by a comfortable margin including Santa Rosa.
But actually that was only the first surprise; no one knew how to implement the new law, or whether it was really legal. A few days later, the Press Democrat offered an article headlined, "ANTI-ROAD HOUSE ELECTION NOW HELD TO BE INVALID." The Presiding Justice of the Appeals Court said it violated the "local option" law, where only a community could choose to make itself "wet" or "dry," as happened in the earlier second district vote. Towns had no say on the matter; Petaluma voters, for example, couldn't set the rules for distant Geyserville.
"The anti-roadhouse ordinance, carried at the election held in Sonoma county a week ago last Tuesday, is null and void," the PD declared, "there is no doubt whatever but that the election in this county on the matter is invalid." There were still no op/eds on the matter in either Santa Rosa paper, which is why I was lulled into presuming this really was not a Big Deal.
District Attorney Clarence Lea filed two complaints to test the ordinance in Superior Court. One was against Everett N. Ellsworth, who had a commonplace roadhouse just two blocks north of Santa Rosa city limits at the corner of Mendocino and Carr avenues, right across from today's SRJC. (Obl. Comstock House connection: A few years later, John A. Comstock, the divorced husband of Nellie and father of Hilliard Comstock et. al. would live in this house as a border with the Fisk family.)
The other suit was against John D’Arcy Connolly, an Irishman who had been on the Board of Supervisors in the 1880s and served as U.S. Consul in Auckland for eight years in the 1890s. Connolly owned the Hotel Altamont in Occidental, which was the nexus of West County social life.
(RIGHT: Hotel Altamont in Occidental, c. 1914. J. D. Connolly is to the right of man in white shirt and vest. Photo courtesy Sonoma County Library)
The Hotel Altamont was a challenge to a very particular part of the ordinance, requiring a place to be a "bona fide hotel, having at least thirty-five separate sleeping apartments properly furnished for the accommodation of guests, and having dining room at which meals are served at regular hours." The Altamont qualified in every way - except it did not quite have the 35 guest rooms required. One has to believe the Anti-Roadhouse League chose that very precise, arbitrary number because they knew no place had that many beds.
A week before Christmas, the Connolly case was presented to Superior Court Judge Denny in a courtroom packed with an audience representing both sides. Denny ruled in favor of the ordinance immediately after arguments in order to expedite it proceeding to the California Supreme Court.
Confusion reigned. Most (all?) liquor licenses were to expire in just a few days, on January 1. The Board of Supervisors had stated no licenses would be issued "until the courts have passed upon the validity" of the ordinance. Since the matter was still headed to the State Supreme Court, was the law in effect or not?
District Attorney Clarence F. Lea declared on Dec. 28 that the ordinance would be followed. No new liquor licenses for roadhouses. No alcohol to be served after midnight on New Year's Eve anywhere outside of a handful of towns in the central part of the county. D.A. Lea would have been reckless if he didn't request a police guard that night.
All of this is prelude to the fallout in the following year, which will unfold in the following item. It's the wildest political story I've encountered for Sonoma county - emotions ran high on both sides. I'll close with this teaser: Six days into the new year, the Board met to consider the "injury being done to the legitimate business in the county." This was followed by a motion granting liquor licenses to fourteen country saloons who had filed affidavits with the county clerk swearing their hotels indeed have the required 35 rooms. One of the licenses went to J. D. Connolly - apparently he somehow discovered over the Christmas holidays the Altamont had enough rooms after all, and the Supervisors were more than happy to take his word for it.
Candidate for best headline ever in the Press Democrat: "The Town OK, People Wrong". That was how the paper described one of the talks given as part of a 1913 lecture series titled, "What Is the Matter with Santa Rosa?" Some of the complaints were quite serious (corruption, unsafe schools) and some were personal gripes (our kids "are allowed too much of a certain kind of liberty") but they all offered a unique window into life here a century ago.
Leading off the series was Rev. G. W. Henning, pastor of the Unitarian church at the corner of Third and D streets. His charges were broad and explosive: Our elected officials ignore the will of the people and we need a new city charter, "one under which ‘bad’ men can do no mischief."
Most eye-opening was his complaint about "our partnership in the saloon and 'red-light' district," going into some detail that we must rehabilitate the prostitutes "whereby they can earn an honest and decent living." Santa Rosa's tenderloin was supposedly abolished in 1909, although there were hints in subsequent years that most of the ladies were still working at several houses around the intersection of First and D streets. This is the first confirmation it was still an ongoing problem.
(RIGHT: Scene from "An Unseen Enemy" with Dorothy and Lillian Gish. This short silent film played at the Theaterette in Santa Rosa October 4, 1912)
It was also surprising to find the reverend insisting the charter must be rewritten to keep "bad" men from harming the town. That sounds like the accusations made shortly before the 1906 earthquake in the Santa Rosa Republican, when that paper was briefly operated by a pair of muckraking journalists. They charged city leaders were in cahoots with a "scheming coterie of gentlemen who manage to protect their private interests by the conduct of the city government through the present administration." Nothing more about their detailed allegations of graft and corruption was discussed in the Republican after editorial control returned to the publisher after the quake.
The next speaker was City Health Officer Jackson Temple who complained he was underpaid and overworked, his department lacked funding, the water supply would likely be contaminated because the city was too cheap to improve it and someone's gonna die because important public health decisions were being made by know-nothings like the mayor and police chief. Dr. Temple was probably lots of fun at parties.
The lecture with the winning "The Town OK, People Wrong" headline was presented by Attorney Frances McG. Martin, an eloquent suffragist in the 1911 fight to grant women the right to vote in California.
Press Democrat coverage of her remarks was slim, but the Republican newspaper reprinted all (or nearly all) of what she said. And some of it was pretty wild, telling the audience you can't legislate morality, but you can criminalize immoral conduct and drive it into the shadows. ("...Even if immoral men and women are only forced to be secretly immoral, it is far preferable to flaunting their indecencies in the faces of young and old.") Then she went on a rant against the lousy way Santa Rosa parents were raising their kids:
|Young people of Santa Rosa are allowed too much of a certain kind of liberty. Children, disobedient to parents and teachers, bid fair to make very poor citizens. Young girls and boys are permitted to frequent our streets and public places of amusement at night, unaccompanied by parent or guardian, thereby incurring the gravest risks. High school girls, in many cases, attend school dressed as though for a social function, sometimes roughed and powdered and crowned with a wealth of rats and false hair. Elaborate dancing parties, given in club house or hall, are here considered necessary for pupils attending school, instead of simple home parties; and no 'coming out' will be possible for these young people when their school days are over, for a 'bud' once unfolded, can never again be a bud.|
The PD didn't cover the following talk at all, but Attorney Thomas J. Butts was the most cheery and optimistic speaker of the bunch. Our schools were good, churches plentiful, courthouse the best and "our city government is as good as we deserve" The following year Butts ran for mayor and lost by a considerable margin.
"The one great trouble with Santa Rosa is lack of co-operation," said Butts. "We don't work together. Take the matter of parks. The energy and zeal which it called forth is commendable, but there was no co-operation. Every section wanted a park. Every property owner want a park in his back yard. Consequently, we have no spot to which we may point with pride, much less where a person may rest." The town's lack of a single park was obviously a cause for Butts, who wrote an essay on the same theme a year before. As I commented then, you should read it and decide for yourself whether it’s the work of someone a little unhinged.
Butts also wanted the citizens of Santa Rosa to get serious about gardening. "We have Luther Burbank in our midst...All our gardens should be emulation of Burbank's but we seem to prefer to raise cabbage."
The final speaker was Margaret Stanislawsky, a parent and activist for better schools. She singled out the Fremont school (corner of Fourth and North streets) and Lincoln school (Eighth and Davis) as being "fire-traps," invoking the tragedy of the 1908 Collinwood school fire, where 172 children were trapped and burned to death at an elementary school on the outskirts of Cleveland. Frances McG. Martin earlier had also commented on school conditions: "The Fremont school house has been the lurking place of contagious diseases for more than 20 years, and should fire break out on the lower floor, the faulty construction of this relic of the dark ages would surely cause the loss of many precious lives."
These comments echo muckraking stories on the poor conditions of Santa Rosa schools which appeared in the Republican during Dec. 1904. The reporter found the elementary schools overcrowded and in poor condition, with only natural lighting so classrooms were sometimes dark. The South Park school didn't even have a sewer hookup, with toilets draining into an open ditch in front of the building. Like the investigative series on political corruption, there was no followup concerning school issues by either Santa Rosa paper after the muckraking duo departed.
Martin and Stanislawsky were also in agreement that the town treated people from outside the town like second-class citizens, even though Santa Rosa was "dependent on the farmers of the surrounding territory for an existence," as Martin said. She chided the city for "refusing to supply them with hitching places for their horses," a complaint which first aired in 1910 because hitching posts were yielding to parking spots. Martin also dropped the interesting statistic that there was then (in 1913) three hundred automobiles owned in Santa Rosa.
Stanislawsky further slapped the town for not allowing farmers to use its public library. "You people in town depend upon these neighbors as much as they depend upon you. If it were not for their support, there would not be much business in Santa Rosa-—not much business property to bear taxes for the sake of the library or for anything else. It is well worth your while to have the goodwill of the country people," she said.
"WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH SANTA ROSA?"
Reproducing in part the lecture of the previous Sunday evening, the Rev. G. W. Henning continued last Sunday evening to point out some of the things that are the matter with the city of his adoption. He said:
"We are not satisfied with out streets, our lights, our schools, our partnership in the saloon and 'red-light' district, and want these conditions changed. We have elected 'good' men—-the very best available to administer our municipal affairs, and yet are not satisfied—-in fact, we repudiate their sober propositions 15 to 1. We are sure we have neither efficiency, economy nor progress in our municipal management-—and will not be satisfied with anything else, nor less.
"But, I want it understood," said Mr. Henning, touching the ’red light proposition, "that I will take no part in a campaign to drive out these unfortunate and sinful women, not to disturb them in any way until provision is made whereby they can earn an honest and decent living. They are driven for the most into vice by economic conditions our making—-and we-—the social body-—must bear the blame and the shame until we provide the remedy.
"In diagnosing the case of Santa Rosa, I have decided that it calls for constitutional treatment. Our charter is antiquated and unfit for a modern city. We must have a new one, adapted to changed conditions, one under which ‘bad’ men can do no mischief. We must have the latest and the best—-a city government after the pattern of Houston, Des Moines, Sioux City-—efficient, economical, progresslve."
Mr. Henning announced the would be assisted in the case of Santa Rosa by Dr. Jackson Temple, Rolfe Thompson, Dr. I. H. Wyland and District Attorney Clarence F. Lea, whose several topics and dates would be advertised.
- Press Democrat, March 4, 1913
"WHAT’S THE MATTER HERE?" "NOTHING!" SAYS DR.TEMPLE
"You and I, and the rest of us—-we are Santa Rosa!" City Health Officer Jackson Temple told an audience of about 250 persons at Unitarian church Sunday evening. "There Is nothing the matter with us--that is, nothing that we ourselves may not remedy," he went on.
The occasion was the first of a series of five lectures to be delivered by prominent citizens upon invitation of the Rev. G. W. Henning, on the subject "What's the Matter With Santa Rosa?" Dr. Temple, as health officer, devoted his speech mainly to matters of sanitation. He favors a "commission" form of government, and would have the health department reconstructed, with a physician and a sanitary plumber as its working officers, rather than the present body, which consists of the Mayor, the Chief of Police, the City Engineer, one member of the City Council, and a physician, who is also health officer. Their duties are to enforce municipal ordinances and State and national laws affecting sanitation; enforcement of quarantine regulations, and recording the city’s vital statistics. The health department is handicapped by lack of equipment and by lack of funds,
"When I assumed my duties as health officer," said the speaker, "I did so for the munificent recompense of ten dollars a month. I had to pay out of my own pocket more than that amount just for the filing of necessary records alone. This fault has since been partially obviated by increasing my salary to twenty-five dollars a month: but still I use that much or more for absolutely necessary expenses of the work, and I do the work for nothing. The same may be said of the other members with whom I serve. We have made periodic inspections of stores and restaurants: we have had backyards cleaned when they needed it, and have enforced the provision of fly-proof containers for such garbage as cannot be frequently removed. We have enforced the State law requiring all food to be screened from flies, and we have helped the State Dairy Bureau in improving your milk supply. Without expense to the city we have made bacteriological and microscopic examinations in contagious and infectious diseases-—there having been more than 250 of these in four months for diphtheria alone. The State board can do this work, but we can always do it 24 hours earlier than they can; and if the gain in time has saved only one life, it was certainly worth while to have the work done by the local board...
..."Our streets and their drainage present a trying problem. Our city has been laid out in disjointed sections, complicating the problems of the sewer system. The city's water supply needs additional protection from contamination. Improvement has been made in this respect, but there Is more to be done. A concrete wall to keep surface water from the wells would cost approximately $2,000, and it is badly needed.
"Our present form of city government lacks the essential element of fixed responsibility. A commission form of government would change this. The people of Santa Rosa—-you and I and all of us-—should study these questions and solve them ourselves." The Rev. Mr. Henning called upon those who endorsed Dr. Temple’s views to signify their approval by raised hands, and virtually all those present did so. Also the audience gave the health officer a vote of thanks for his discourse.
- Press Democrat, April 1, 1913
THE TOWN O. K. PEOPLE WRONGAttorney Frances McG. Martin Has Something to Say on "What Is the Matter with Santa Rosa?"
The question "What is the matter with Santa Rosa?" which is being discussed by various speakers at the Unitarian church, was ably handled Sunday night by Attorney Frances McG. Martin. A large audience greeted the speaker and her remarks were cordially received.
Mrs. Martin held that nothing was wrong with Santa Rosa, but that several things were wrong with the citizens of the community. She dwelt on the fact that although dependent on the farmers of the surrounding territory for an existence, the city treated the farmers in a most selfish manner, refusing to supply them with hitching places for their horses or a park in which they might spend a part of their long trying shopping days.
The speaker said that the question of cost had been raised, but pointed out that there were three hundred automobiles owned in Santa Rosa and that if the cost of each machine averaged $1,000 it would mean that $300,000 was spent for machines to take people out of town, while the cry was being raised that there was not money enough to provide accommodations for the people coming into town.
Mrs. Martin touched on many other points, and her argument was logical, clear and forceful. She was heartily applauded by her hearers at the close of her remarks.
- Press Democrat, April 8, 1913
"OUR SCHOOLS FIRE-TRAPS" SAYS WOMAN IN LECTURE
"No community has the right to compel children to attend school in buildings wherein any precaution for their health and safety has been neglected. Attendance upon our grade schools in Santa Rosa is made compulsory by law. Can we say that sucn precautions are not neglected here? If catastrophe should come, with what horror-stricken eyes and aching hearts should we look back upon what might have been done!
"Does Santa Rosa need the lesson of Cleveland brought to her own doors? May God avert it! To my mind, remedy of this neglect is Santa Rosa’s most urgent duty."
The speaker was Mrs. Henry Stanislawsky. Sunday evening at First Unitarian church, in one of a series of lectures by well known residents ot this city, upon the same topic—-" What Is the Matter with Santa Rosa?" Mrs. Stanislawsky has not lived in Santa Rosa so long as have others who had given lectures upon the same subject in the same church, but she is evidently a close observer and a thoughtful student. Withal she is a pleasing and forceful speaker, with an earnest delivery and a lucid diction that make her meanings clear. Improvement of the school buildings was her first and strongest demand.
"In the town where I lived before I came to Santa Rosa," she said, "there was at the time of the terrible Cleveland fire a nearly new brick schoolhouse—-large, commodious, comfortable. The shocking disaster at Cleveland made every school district in the country at least momentarily alert to precaution for safety in case of fire. Then it was seen that our new schoolhouse was utterly and criminally unsafe. Fire drills had been frequent, but the exits from the upper stories were only two flights of stairs leading Into the central hall—-exits like to those that had murdered so many little ones at Cleveland-—exits quite similar to those of the Fremont school and the Lincoln school in Santa Rosa. It was seen that, if fire broke out, the large probability—-almost certainty-—was that the draft in those stairs and halls would make them the main pathway of the flame; exit there would be blocked, and the fire-drills would have proved worse than useless. A panic would be inevitable...
...If you cannot afford new buildings, can you not at least make, the old ones safe?"
Extend Library Privileges
"Another recommendation I wish to urge is, that Santa Rosa should make her public library free to her rural neighbors. True, the townspeople maintain the library, but to permit people from the nearby country to borrow books would involve no initial cost, and but a slight additional cost for upkeep. That courtesy to your neighbors would be appreciated. You people in town depend upon these neighbors as much as they depend upon you. If it were not for their support, there would not be much business in Santa Rosa-—not much business property to bear taxes for the sake of the library or for anything else. It is well worth your while to have the goodwill of the country people. It is a good business proposition...
- Press Democrat, April 29, 1913
As the presidential election approaches, the Santa Rosa paper is relentlessly attacking the Republican candidate. Readers are told he lies about his past to impress voters and he won't listen to others because he foolishly believes he's always right. His own party wants nothing to do with him. His proposals are simplistic as well as unworkable and unconstitutional (a document he's obviously never read) and he will destroy the country if he gets within a mile of the White House. Plus, he looks funny.
The newspaper is the Sonoma Democrat. The Republican is Abraham Lincoln. The year is 1860.
The Sonoma Democrat was the direct ancestor of the Press Democrat and before, during and after the Civil War was relentlessly pro-Confederate. Most of Sonoma County shared those sentiments to some degree - this was the only place in the state which did not vote for Lincoln either time. But editor Thomas L. Thompson shaped the Santa Rosa newspaper into the sort of rag that might have been published in the Deep South at that time, not only pro-slavery but astonishingly racist. Now that the Democrat is online we can search it and find there were at least 330 uses of the "n-word" between 1857 and 1886. To squeeze that many hateful slurs into a four-page weekly reveals Thompson to be an awful person and probably a little crazy. There's no question he was certifiably nuts when he committed suicide in 1898; the coroner's jury ruled he was "mentally deranged" after ranting that the Odd Fellows' Lodge was out to get him.
(RIGHT: Abraham Lincoln May 20, 1860, two days after winning the Republican party nomination)
In the run-up to the election, sample items from the paper transcribed below show Thompson fed his readers a steady diet of anti-Lincoln, anti-abolitionist bile. To make sense of some of these articles it's important to know this was an odd four-way election with both Northern and Southern Democrats in the running. Besides Lincoln, the official Democratic Party candidate was Stephen A. Douglas, who thought he could somehow forge a grand compromise to keep the United States patched together; Southern Democrat Breckinridge, who wanted to uphold slavery as an absolute Constitutional right; and third-party candidate Bell, who wanted to appease the South by ignoring the slavery issue altogether.
The Sonoma Democrat introduced readers to Lincoln that summer with ad hominem attacks. Lincoln had "neither firmness in his countenance nor fire in his eye" and lied about being a rail-splitter in his youth, as people in that part of Illinois made their fences from pieces of wood picked up in swamps (having grown up near there, I can attest there are no prairie swamps). During his service in the Black Hawk war, the paper claimed he forgot to untether his horse and fell with the animal when he tried to ride away; believing his horse had been brought down by an ambush, "Old Abe" tried to surrender to the non-existant Indians.
Sonoma county readers were told that some delegates at the Republican convention were "mad as March hares, and swear they would as soon go for Jeff. Davis, Douglas or any other minion of slavery, as for this third rate, rail-spliting Lincoln." Items reprinted from like-minded journals insisted he was a dead weight on the ballot and could not possibly win - although his inevitable loss in New York state would cause chaos, as the outcome would then be decided by the House of Representatives (he won New York by nearly eight points).
But more than anything else, Thompson kept hammering that Lincoln was a "Black Republican." In Thompson's argot, this was the worst thing he could call someone because it meant they believed African-Americans were human beings with legal rights. Whatever lip service Thompson and his ilk gave to state's rights and the constitutionality of slave-holding, its rotten core was always racist hatred.
On election day Lincoln got 1,236 votes in Sonoma county, behind Breckinridge's 1,466. Petaluma was the only town Lincoln won, with 375 voting for him. Santa Rosa cast 91 ballots for Lincoln and 205 for Breckinridge.
Thompson hunkered down in the final weeks of 1860, bitterly spinning a story of gloom and doom. Stock markets were in a "panic" and banks in two southern states were expecting to be closed. The "free negroes, their aiders and abettors" were plotting to avenge John Brown's death with help from the Republicans. There was a recurrent theme in the dispatches from the pro-southern papers that the South was keeping a steady keel while the North was falling apart. Charleston supposedly would not allow steerage passengers on steamboats coming from the North to disembark unless there was a guarantee they would not become vagrants.
Thompson also launched a trope that the North was trying to nullify the Constitution and forcing the Southern states to secede against their wishes. Failing to return runaway slaves was nothing short of treason, according to Thompson, who hoped that Congress would mete out punishment "if the present disunion cloud should blow over." There is the Confederacy mindset neatly summed: 1) we're the victims; 2) we have the only true understanding of the Constitution; 3) we will never, ever, compromise on slavery. For these reasons and more, one dispatch from Alabama concluded: "Revolution is inevitable."
DOUGLAS AND LINCOLN. -- The men are entirely dissimilar. Douglas is a thick set, finely built man, with an air of self confidence. Lincoln is a tall (six feet four), lank man, awkward, apparently diffident, and when not speaking has neither firmness in his countenance nor fire in his eye.
- Sonoma Democrat, June 21, 1860
News from the Atlantic states.The Overland stage with the St. Louis mails of the 21st ult. arrived at San Francisco on Monday last. On Friday, the 18th May, the Chicago Convention nominated Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois, for President, on the third ballot, and Hannibal Hamlin, of Maine, for Vice President, on the second ballot. The nomination of Lincoln struck the Republicans of the Middle and Eastern States cold. A forced enthusiasm, however, was got up in some cities...The New Yorkers are as mad as March hares, and swear they would as soon go for Jeff. Davis, Douglas or any other minion of slavery, as for this third rate, rail-spliting Lincoln. They say they can’t begin to carry New York with Lincoln, and the dead weight of their abominable Legislature added. Bets are made that Lincoln will lose N. Y. by 20,000...
- Sonoma Democrat, June 14 1860
...Abe Lincoln has declared, that if he were in the halls of Congress, and the question of the abolition of slavery were to come up, ho would vote for it in spite of the Dred Scott decision. In other words he declared that the highest Tribunal of the land was no authority for him, that he would disregard all principles of law, justice and order, and would by the mere force of physical superiority compel nearly one half of the states of this Confederacy to change their social and domestic institutions, at the beck and nod of a tyranous majority; and this is the candidate of the party who with emulous ostentation denounce the South as disunionists and traitors. This is the party who daily shout and swagger about union and nationality, who complaining of intolerance on the part of the South, deny to her all toleration, all equality, all justice, all rights under the Constitution, and insult her with threats of coercion if she dares resist their sovereign will...
- Sonoma Democrat editorial, July 12 1860
The Pittsburg Post says: An old citizen who traveled in Illinois thirty years ago, and was especially familiar with the district of country where Abe Lincoln resided, says that Abe never split a rail in his life. In those days, he says, the people never thought of such a thing as splitting rails. They went into the swamps and cut hoop-poles and saplings for fences, and used them, round, as nature made them.
- Sonoma Democrat, July 19 1860
At the time of the Black Hawk war, ‘Abe’ enlisted. The company numbered about eight mounted men. They started off in fine spirits to engage in the deadly fray. Arriving at a point on the prairies, about two hundred miles from the Indian lines, the party bivouacked for the night, picketed their horses, and slept on their arms...During the night, the sentinel, whoso mental caliber was in no measure proportioned to his patriotism, imagined he saw the Indians! and immediately discharged his old fusee. The camp was aroused in an instant, and each sprang to his saddle. ‘Old Abe' shot out in the darkness on his charger like lightning, until the ropes 'hove taut,' when over he went, horse and himself, headlong! Thinking himself caught in an Indian ambush, he gathered up, mounted, putting spurs to his horse, took the opposite shute, but soon brought up as before, horse and rider tumbling headlong. ‘Old Abe’ got up, thinking he was surrounded! and shouted, 'Gentlemen Indians! I surrender without a word. I have not a word to offer. All I want is quarter!’ There ‘Old Abe’s'' first campaign ended!’
- Sonoma Democrat, September 13 1860
The conservative and Union loving men of the North are making every effort to defeat Lincoln. All parties concede that should Lincoln lose New York his defeat inevitable.
By reference to our Eastern news today, it will be seen that there has been a complete fusion between all the elements of opposition to the Black Republicans in New York-—the vote of that State to be cast for Douglas, Breckinridge or Bell, as they shall receive the highest popular vote. This will undoubtedly throw the election into the House of Representatives, and secures beyond question the defeat of Lincoln.
- Sonoma Democrat, September 27 1860
...On one side stands Lincoln, proclaiming the social, moral and political superiority of the North over the South, and calling upon men to enter into an "irrepressibly conflict" for the complete and entire destruction of the Southern States. On the other hand we have Breckinridge proclaiming the equality of the States, the harmony of commerce and industry, the sacred and constitutional right of self-government.--N.Y. Herald.
- Sonoma Democrat, October 11 1860
REPUBLICAN MEETING.-- Hand-bills have been staring us in the face upon every corner for the last week, announcing that James Churchman, Esquire, of Nevada, would address the irrepressibles of this place yesterday. Well, the eventful evening arrived and so repaired to the Court House expecting to hear the Democracy entirely demolished. We found assembled exactly seven Republicans, most of whom were from abroad; there may have been as many as twelve, since there were three or four persons there whom we did not know. There were besides these some fifteen or twenty snuff-colored gentlemen, and about seventy-five Breckinridge and Bell men. The irrepressible gentleman had already commenced when we arrived, so that we did not hear the first part of his harangue. We listened to him, however, about three quarters of an hour, and we must say, we heard the most pithless, pointless batch of misrepresentations we have ever listened to. Mr, Churchman’s address is pleasing, and his manner well calculated to attract tho attention of a promiscuous assemblage; but he did not make a single point during the time we listened to him, that deserves the space it would take to refute it.
- Sonoma Democrat, October 18 1860
KEEP IT BEFORE THE PEOPLE, that Abraham Lincoln opposed the war with Mexico and declared it unnecessary and unjust.
Keep it before the people, that the Republicans are in favor of placing negroes on an equality with the whites, and in many of the free States sanction amalgamation.
Keep it before the people, that in Massachusetts the Republicans proscribed foreign-born citizens and attempted to deprive them of the right of suffrage, and would have succeeded had the Democrats not opposed it.
Keep it before the people, that in the same State negroes were elected delegates to conventions and assisted in nominating Republican candidates for Congress.
Keep it before the people, that the infidel Garrison, a leading Black Republican, unblushingly declares, that the Constitution of the United Slates "it a covenant with death and an agreement with hell!"
Keep it before the the people, that this same Republican leader Garrison, blasphemously asserts, that if “God had the power to abolish slavery and would not, he wae a very great scoundrel!"
- Sonoma Democrat, November 1 1860
The contest is over, and from the partial returns so far received, it is doubtful if the State has not gone againat us. In this County the Democracy have scarcely deserved anything else. At a time when every element of opposition was combining against them, when every energy was needed to secure success, they have remained passive and indifferent until they have actually allowed the election to go by default...
- Sonoma Democrat, November 8 1860
San Francisco, Nov. 13th, 1860. Editors Sonoma County Democrat: The great battle is over, and although it has resulted in partial defeat, let not Democrats be disheartened, but rather let them organize and prepare themselves better for the next struggle, when the now prevailing party will have been "played out," as were their immediate successors. Although six days have passed since the election, little is yet known of the result. According to latest accounts Lincoln is about 1100 ahead, but this seems doubtful, as it is strongly suspected that the despatches are not much to be relied on, having been gotten up more for betting purposes than for the diffusion of reliable statistical information. The news from the East will be sent with the greatest despatch by the Pony, and will be received here the fore part of next week. The telegraphing facilities of the Eastern States will be tested to their utmost, but it is generally expected that the general result will be known by that time. How annoying it is that the knowledge of a great event must be kept from us for days when a few hundred miles of telegraphic wire would put us in immediate possession of the all-desired information.
- Sonoma Democrat, November 15 1860
The news by the Pony confirms the unwelcome intelligence of Lincoln's election as the next President of the United States. At the same time it brings the news of movements in several of the Southern States, which indicate a fixed determination on their part to remain no longer in the Union. Their perfect and sovereign right to secede, if they desire to do so, must be conceded from the very nature and formation of our government. There are but two means by which any Union of States can be maintained or preserved; one is a community of interests, the other a preponderance of force. The former is the only means which was ever contemplated, in the formation of our Constitution, for the very objects of its formation, viz: "To establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty," utterly preclude the idea of using force for its preservation, for this use of force would at once defeat every object for which the Union was formed. If these States, therefore, in their sovereign capacity, see proper to secede from the Union, there is no power under the Constitution to prevent them; and any attempt to coerce them would be as unconstitutional as it would be unholy, unjust and futile. This movement may be one pregnant with mighty consequences. There has never been a period in the history of our government when there was so much necessity for wise, deliberate and cautious procedure, and it is well that the people should weigh and consider the causes which have led to these untoward results, and prepare to meet the mighty events which loom up so portentiously in the future, for, as has been well said, it is for them to decide what course they will sustain the administration in pursuing toward those states which may secede.
- Sonoma Democrat, November 29 1860
The excitement in the South continues, accompanied with general depression in the markets and trade, amounting to a panic. There has been a general decline in stocks at New York, and a great increase in rates of exchange at Chicago. There is a tightness at St. Louis, and perfect derangement in monetary affairs South. The South Carolina and Georgia Legislatures have prepared for a suspension of their banks. No suspensions have yet taken place. The Mayor of Charleston has notified the agents of Northern steamers that he would not permit the landing of steerage passengers, unless the companies guaranteed their maintenance, if they became vagrants. Merchants have now goods on hand, but no new orders will be given to the North, except such as are indispensable.
- Sonoma Democrat, December 6 1860
Negro Lincoln Clubs. — We copy the following advertisement from the Pittsburg Dispatch, of October 16th, an influential Black Republican organ: "Colored Men of Pittsburg and Vicinity!--You are requested to meet and form yourselves into Wide Awake Clubs immediately, for the purpose of farthering the interest of the friend of the human race, Abraham Lincoln. Already New York has spoken in favor of universal suffrage. And if colored men would have their rights, they should move for the success of their friends. John Brown, the hero of Harper's Ferry, is yet to be avenged."
Is it strange that the South should bo excited und alarmed in the face of such proceedings, sanctioned and encouraged by the Black Republicans of the free States? Does not prudence dictate that they should be prepared to meet and repel a second John Brown raid? Do not the free negroes, their aiders and abettors, contemplate a second foray into the Southern States? Do the negroes not hope to avenge the death of John Brown, and have they not reason to anticipate assistance and protection from the Republicans?
- Sonoma Democrat, December 13 1860
WHO ARE THE DISUNIONISTS?-- The New York Herald, of the 10th ult., says: We publish below an account of the Northern Slates which prohibit their officials and citizens from aiding in the execution of the Federal Fugitive Slave Law, and which by their action, have boldly nullified the Constitution of the United States...It will be seen from the above that the Northern States are nearly all in a position of practical disunion--that is, they have refused to sustain the constitution which their fathers adopted.
LEGISLATING FOR TREASON.--If the present disunion cloud should blow over, as all lovers of their country sincerely trust that it may, we hope Congress will make a point of re-enacting, at an early day, some law defining treason, and providing sufficient means for its prevention or punishment...
- Sonoma Democrat, December 27 1860
For everyone interested in Sonoma County history and genealogy, it's a frabjous day: The historic Santa Rosa and Petaluma newspapers are now online and searchable. This includes the Press Democrat (up to 1916), the Sonoma Democrat, The Argus-Courier and many Argus' (Argussess?) before that paper emerged. Together with the Healdsburg archive that's been available for awhile we finally have a pretty good picture of local doings all over the county.
To make it easy for you (and myself!) to search the Santa Rosa and Healdsburg archives I've created an Internet resources web page where queries can be entered for each paper. There are also links to the Petaluma papers - available through a newspapers.com subscription - as well as other county journals. The web page additionally includes sections with every online Sonoma county history, local maps, searchable books on state history, Luther Burbank, the 1906 earthquake and more.
That resource page is part of SantaRosaHistory.com which I've been developing over the last several months. It's a spinoff from the Comstock House web site with several important differences.
The house web site was designed 'way back in 2007 and integrates four blogs on house restoration, architecture, gardening and local history plus a few pages with precise layouts. It all looks fine on a desktop computer but today most people are using smartphones or tablets, and not being 100 percent "mobile friendly" is the kiss of death when it comes to the search engines. Non m.f. pages may rank lower in the display of search results or not be shown at all, which means the material effectively has disappeared from the Internet. That Google et. al. are putting thumbs on the scale to favor pages deemed to have a high quality "user experience" over high quality of content should concern you.
There are also technical issues with the "I See by the Papers…" blog, which started with modest ambitions to discuss newspaper items about the Oates and Comstock families. Now it has almost 600 articles containing a million words. The Blogger service (owned by Google) was state-of-the-art a decade ago but has been plagued with problems; as just one example, I can't correct a typo in an older item without being prepared for the Blogger editor to mess up parts of my page layout by "fixing" it without warning or asking permission. I have spent untold hours in the archives undoing these and other monkey-wrench changes made by Blogger.
Rather than redesign all the sections of the house web site and continuing to workaround Blogger's bugs and quirks, the easiest solution was to port "I See by the Papers…" to a more stable platform that was mobile-friendly from the start - hence SantaRosaHistory.com. I will continue to mirror the blog at both sites, with the difference that I'm no longer going to make major repairs to the original site the next time Blogger blows up.
Thanks to the WordPress platform, SantaRosaHistory.com is not only more stable but easier to customize; I was able to add those newspaper search fields with ease and am contemplating several improvements that could make it easier to find stuff. And it's all being done in a context that Google considers m.f. and worthy of being shown on a tiny screen.
In the meantime, rip into those newspaper archives; today I found answers to six impossible questions before breakfast, to borrow from Lewis Carroll. If you're looking for nothing in particular, call up a paper from a century ago today or 150 years ago. Browse; prowl our past. A couple of pages after the breakfast quote in "Through the Looking-glass," Alice walks into a shop and is asked if she knew what she wanted there. "I don't quite know yet," Alice said very gently. "I should like to look all around me, if I might."
Finally, after years of determined work trying to undermine social media by personally ignoring it, I have finally created an "OldSantaRosa" account on Facebook and Twitter. I shall never be productive again.
It was like clockwork: In June the Barlow boys arrived, then a few weeks later came reports of runaways. But after the 1911 season, it appeared the escape attempts stopped. What happened? Boys were still trying to get away, all right - but the Santa Rosa newspapers just stopped reporting about it.
(For those just tuning in: In the early Twentieth Century, California courts usually sentenced boys who committed minor crimes or were deemed incorrigible to spend the rest of their youth at institutions not unlike a modern prison halfway house. One of these places, the Boys’ and Girls’ Aid Society of San Francisco, struck a deal with the Barlow family of Sebastopol; during summers the boys would camp on the ranch and pick berries and fruit for low pay. Soon other farmers were asking for orphans and it wasn’t long before the Aid Society and similar institutions were sending up hundreds of boys – some as young as seven – to work in West County fields and canneries every year. For more background, see "SEBASTOPOL'S CHILD LABOR CAMPS".)
We know the escapes continued thanks to the archives of the Petaluma Argus-Courier, which just came online this week via newspapers.com. It's a huuuuge deal that this trove is simply available, but that it's also searchable with great accuracy is enough to make genealogists and historians purr and mew.
There are a few possible reasons why the Petaluma paper informed their readers about the runaways while the Santa Rosa papers blacked out the news. Rarely were escapees nabbed around Santa Rosa; usually they were caught in the countryside or en route to San Francisco, so it was more likely the boys would be seen close to Petaluma or Marin. There also might have been editorial bias in keeping quiet about bad news; the use of child labor was a fast-growing part of the West County economy - in 1912 the boys picked 407 tons of berries and fruit, up from 125 tons just five years earlier, showing farmers were lining up to get in on this sweet deal for ultra-cheap juvenile labor. And to be fair, it must be noted that in 1913 the Press Democrat did offer a paragraph on seven runaways being captured and even mentioned the Barlow ranch by name.
(RIGHT: Mess tent for boys working on the Barlow ranch, date unknown. Photograph courtesy Western Sonoma County Historical Society)
But there was one related story which the local press couldn't ignore because it made all the Bay Area papers: The 1913 theft of summer earnings by the boys of the Armitage Orphanage - and that the robber was the orphanage's superintendent.
While it was was rarely mentioned which orphanages and charities were shoving their kids down the Sebastopol berry picking pipeline every June, it comes as a shock to find this outfit was among them. The [Episcopal] Bishop Armitage Orphanage was a pet charity of the San Francisco swells who funded it via lawn parties, balls, country club polo matches and other high society soirees ("Tableaux Vivants to Show Masterpieces - Famous Art Works Will be Staged by Members of the Board" - San Francisco Chronicle, March 16, 1910).
That orphanage certainly didn't need any income from the boys; the stolen $3,000 was petty change to its society matron directors and to their credit, they promised to reimburse the children. Well-funded does not mean well-run, however. While the 150 boys were working in the orchards and fields, the orphanage was being closed and their buildings sold, so at the end of summer the Armitage inmates were split up other institutions. The superintendent who disappeared with their money was known as Robert Ellis, although that was not his real name for some reason - and the directors were aware of that. He had been superintendent for a couple of years, the board having raced through four managers in six months before him. There seems to be a quite the scandal unreported there, although the society sections did not speak of such unpleasantries.
On related news, the Press Democrat recently presented a couple of items about the orphanage at Lytton Springs operated by the Salvation Army. The property near Healdsburg is now on the market with an asking price of $24 million.
One of the PD article nostalgically waxes about Lytton success stories - a pair of brothers who built a successful contracting business and a man who became an important Santa Rosa lawyer. Healdsburg High School welcomed the Lytton kids, according to the PD writer, because the Salvation Army encouraged them to play band instruments and the boys were strong and scrappy from all their farm work.
That's a very rosy view. The situation may have changed later but in their earlier days Lytton youths were allowed to attend Healdsburg High only if supervisors ruled the child had "capacity for high school training;" per a 1909 article about Lytton, only about 5 percent of their residents were permitted to continue schooling beyond 8th grade. Otherwise, the kid had no choice but to work on the Salvation Army's commercial farm. As I wrote earlier in "THE CHILDREN OF LYTTON:" The cruelest aspect of the “orphanages” was that wards of the system lost nearly all chance of an education beyond readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic. While Santa Rosa High School was then offering typewriting classes and teaching other office skills which were in growing demand, Lytton and other Aid Homes were preparing kids for a 19th century future.
While the institutions could have done more to keep their kids in classrooms, a century ago state law didn't require it. The Jones-Hughes Act of 1903 made it compulsory for every child in California to attend school between ages 8 and 15, but offered a grabbag of loopholes allowing families to opt out of schooling altogether - children who lived over two miles by road from the nearest school could be claimed as exempt, for example. Those exemptions were removed in 1919 and the compulsory age raised to 16, but that still didn't mean a child would make it to high school. According to a report that year from the state's Dept. of Education, most of the students who were to be added to the attendance rosters hadn't yet finished elementary school by age sixteen.
There were many institutions far, far worse than Lytton, but it wasn't free of controversy. In November, 1913 the Oakland Enquirer published a series of investigative articles "berating the management of the institution for alleged cruel treatment of children at the institution," according to a mention of the articles in the Santa Rosa Republican. Unfortunately, not much more can be said about that reporting because the paper is not online and the only known surviving editions from that year are at UC/Berkeley. The Republican added the main incident was "punishment meted out to two boys who stole horses and got away from the institution."
Sonoma County District Attorney Clarence Lea thought the charges were credible enough to have the grand jury investigate. Oakland Enquirer reporter Fred Williams was summoned, and the mother of the boys also testified, which suggests the pair were at Lytton not for being orphans but having been sentenced there by a court for delinquency.
Jurors visited Lytton and found it was overcrowded, but the children were well cared for and no "unmerited punishments were inflicted." The grand jury report concluded with praise for the institution, which deserved "support and commendation." The jury foreman wrote, "in view of the splendid work that is being accomplished at the institution we feel that minor criticisms which might be made would be uncalled for."
Not so fast, there, mee bucko. Their report did not mention the jury interviewed the boys making the charges although it's implied ("we investigated all cases called to our attention"). Nor did it explain what the Oakland Enquirer reporter had to say; that was a significant newspaper with a reputation for muckraking - it's doubtful they would run a series based only on wild yarns from a pair of malcontent kids who apparently had been in trouble with the law.
More interesting is a mention at the end of the jury report that the superintendent and his wife together earned only $14 a week, and no one there was paid more than $400 a year. Those earnings are on the low side for unskilled labor at the time, but not unreasonable. But from a Press Democrat article the previous year, we know that Lytton annually spent about $3,400 on salaries. Now project the numbers: Lytton must have operated with only eight paid staffers, twelve max - to run a 400+ acre commercial farm AND care for about 250 kids full time.
"Mother Bourne," the beloved figurehead of Lytton may indeed have been worthy of sainthood, but the institution was clearly dependent upon the children to keep the wheels turning. And barely supervising so many kids - most there because they were deemed to be "unmanageable" - is surely an invitation to bullying or even worse forms of abuse.
But as the Santa Rosa papers seemed wanting to tell readers only good news about the Barlow boys, the grand jury wanted to see Lytton as a shining example of noble work. Look how well we are treating these troubled and troublesome youths, our ancestors seemed determined to boast. We have plucked them from nothing and given them something.
TWO BOYS MADE ESCAPE
Two boys whose names are given as Butts and Landingan by Superintendent Turner, escaped from the Barlow berry fields above Sebastopol on Monday afternoon at an early hour and later Deputy Sheriff R. L. Rasmussen was notified.
He kept a close watch on all departing trains and the steamer Petaluma but the youngsters have not yet come to this city.
A watchman was in this city on Monday evening investigating. Both the lads are wearing blue overalls. They are from the Boys and Girls Aid Society which is now at Barlow's picking berries.
They have only been there two days and during that time the two boys have been trying to get away. They are thought to be in this county yet.
- Petaluma Argus-Courier, June 18, 1912
TWO MORE BOYS MAKE ESCAPE
The local police were notified on Wednesday night that two boys had escaped from the berry pickers' camp at the Barlow ranch near Sebastopol and the officers are keeping a watch for them and examined the outgoing trains and steamers Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
The boys are Harry Herman, aged 18, and Chas. Sargent, age 17, both of San Francisco. The former is 5 feet four inches in height and the latter slightly shorter. Both wore straw hats, blue overalls and dark coats. The former wore a yellow khaki shirt and the latter a light colored soft shirt. Herman is slightly stooped and walks with swinging gait and has dark brown hair and dark eyes.
Sargent is of dark complexion with light brown hair. Both wore heavy shoes. For some reason the custodians of the boys, are unusually anxious to capture these escapes, so it is probably that they are detained fore [sic] more than the ordinary wrong doing.
- Petaluma Argus-Courier, July 11, 1912
THREE BOYS RAN AWAY
Several officers of the Boys and Girls Aid Society were in this city on Sunday morning looking for three runaway boys who made their escape on Saturday evening from Barlow's station where the girls and boys were picking berries. The officers remained here for a short time and then went to Sausalito where they captured the three runaways who were taken to Barlow's on the next train.
- Petaluma Argus-Courier, June 23, 1913
HERE AFTER RUNAWAYS
Special Police Officer T. Connolly of San Francisco who is connected with the Boys and Girls Aid Society was in this city on Wednesday seeking Allen Luhra, Joe Fahey, Abe Bernard, Sam Telaxney and Charles Griffin, who escaped from Barlow's station during the present week. The last four named left on Tuesday afternoon, while younger Luhra left on Monday.
Chief of Police Flohr has been notified of the disappearance of the boys and has been given a good description of them so if they are in this city they are likely to be captured in a short time.
- Petaluma Argus-Courier, July 16, 1913
MANY OF THE BERRY BOYS ARE FOUND AND RETURNED
The Sheriff's office received word on Thursday that four of the boys who escaped from the berry picking camp on the Barlow ranch had been captured by the Aid Society's officers, and had been returned to camp. Four boys were found in Forestville, and three in Green Valley. Thursday Mrs. Dick Isaacs telephoned the Sheriff's office that four of the boys were on a place back of their ranch. Superintendent Turner was notified and went after the boys.
- Press Democrat, July 18, 1913
DECAMPS WITH COIN OF BERRY PICKERS
Thirteen days before the Armitage Orphanage was to pass out of existence and his term of office expire, the superintendent, known in San Mateo as Robert Ellis, disappeared, and is accused of having taken with him about $3,000 belonging to the boys in the institution. Detectives are searching for the former superintendent, but have found no substantial clews.
The orphanage will pass out of existence on October 23, when the property will be taken over by Antoine Borel and Ellis' employment would have expired on that date. He disappeared last Friday, but the loss of the money was not discovered until yesterday by Mrs. William G. Hitchcock, treasurer of the orphanage.
The money represents the earnings of 114 boys who picked berries at Sebastopol last summer, and was given to the superintendent for keeping. It is said that the boys will not lose by the theft, as the directors will make good the deficit.
Ellis has been superintendent of the orphanage for two years. He went to San Mateo well recommended, and although it was known that Robert Ellis was not his true name the directors made no objection to the masquerading. He is the son of an Episcopal minister in Philadelphia and is married, but separated from his wife.
- Santa Rosa Republican, October 16, 1913