What happens to a town when its business center is wiped out? In 1906 Santa Rosa, most merchants tried to continue doing business at their old locations during the reconstruction, while the less retail/more professional trade either worked from home or operated from a business shantytown that was cobbled together a block away from the old downtown core.

But first: How did James Wyatt and Mattie Oates fare during the 1906 Santa Rosa earthquake? Was their grand home damaged? Did they pitch a tent on their lawn for a few days, as did many others? Alas, we don't know anything about how they coped, but Wyatt kept his office near the center of the action.

Never was the house mentioned in the ad-hoc newspaper published in the weeks after the quake, so the damage, if any, probably wasn't serious. Today, repairs or rebuilding likely would be impossible to spot; the home was scarcely a year old at the time, so any work done in 1906 would be indistinguishable from the original. And if the disaster did reveal any structural flaws, the Oates didn't blame architect Brainerd Jones, whom they soon would work with again in the design of the Saturday Afternoon Club hall.

The quake hit just two days before Mattie Oates was to host her first party of the year, a Friday evening shindig for the Married Ladies Club on her first anniversary of being in the house. The party had been mentioned with anticipation weeks earlier in the society section of both papers and was, of course, postponed for several months. The Oates did host a lunch at the house for the Masonic Grand Master of California on May 18.

Wyatt placed a notice in the interim Democrat-Republican to announce that he was working at home temporarily, which was unusual; he hadn't advertised in the paper before, and also because no other lawyer publicized himself at the time - yes, doctors, dentists, barbers, butchers, and other tradesmen bought classifieds in those hectic days to announce their temporary locations, but Oates was the only attorney to do so. This was likely more for reasons of ego than opportunism; the paper noted the same week that no suits had been filed since the quake.

Although his house has a cozy library/study, it's more likely that Wyatt Oates commandeered the dining room during those weeks. The social convention at the time was that women held sway in the parlor(s), but men had the liberty to smoke and scatter their papers over the dining table outside of mealtimes. The side door leading to the porch also would have spared his family the fragrance of his stogies, Oates being a militant when it came to his rights to smoke anywhere in his house. Perhaps the bent-open letterbox that's still next to that porch door is an artifact from those home office days.

By late May, Oates' had moved his office into the Finlaw building at the northeast corner of Fifth St. and Mendocino (current location of the El Coqui Puerto Rican restaurant) which he was to share with Dr. McLeod. Here Wyatt Oates had a front row seat to watch the political reconstruction of Santa Rosa.

Immediately after the disaster, the intersection of Mendocino and 5th became the de facto emergency command center for Santa Rosa. Two views of it have already appeared in this space - most recently here, which offers a link back to an earlier photograph. At right, men with a wagon of debris state their business at the militia checkpoint on this corner (detail from image courtesy Larry Lapeere).

Dr. Finlaw's former office on the corner was apparently unharmed by earthquake or fire; in that first urgent month, it became the post office and provided the only telephone line to points north - the phone used to reach points south was nailed outside of the Chinese laundry next door. That wash house wrapped around Finlaw's small building, and Press Democrat editor Ernest L. Finley rented it quickly; for the following year and more, the laundry's storefront on Mendocino with the telephone became the temporary home of the PD, and the side facing 5th street became the Santa Rosa Republican. In the crook of the L-shaped lot was the printing plant that the Press Democrat used by night and the Republican by day.

Next up on Mendocino was to be found one of the rarest sites in post-quake Santa Rosa - a large vacant lot. Amid all the rubble and wreckage, here was a spacious parcel which the Native Sons of the Golden West had cleared in preparation of building their new lodge hall. The construction of their magnificent red concrete building (which still stands today) was delayed as the property became the site of Santa Rosa's city hall and the rest of the civic center for the next sixteen months.

No photos survive, but it must have been somewhat of a rat's warren of sheds and shacks (and you probably don't want to think about the lack of toilet facilities). Editor Finley, who later waxed fond over producing a daily newspaper in such hardships, offered a backwards glance as the campground closed. Writing in August 1907 he recalled, "... many small temporary structures [were] hastily erected to house public officials and accommodate private business. The Post Office, City Hall, Police station, numerous attorneys, cigar stands, the Lighting Company, photographers, architects, physicians, and The Press Democrat all found their first temporary homes on these two properties, and around them revolved for a time practically the entire business activity of the city."

As the others packed their tents and left, so did Oates; he moved out of the Finlaw building as the last businesses cleared out of the Native Sons' lot next door. For the rest of his life he would work across from the new courthouse at the Union-Trust Saving Bank Building at 4th and Hinton, now known as the corner of Courthouse Square with the Wolf Coffee shop Rendez-Vous Bistro.

Mrs. James Wyatt Oates to Entertain Married Ladies
Mrs. James Wyatt Oates will entertain the Married Ladies Card Club on Friday evening, March 20 [sic - April 20]. The elegant home of Colonel and Mrs. Oates will be thrown open to the members of the club and a few friends and they will be delightfully entertained. Colonel and Mrs. Oates enjoy a reputation second to none for hospitality, and the members of the club will spend a delightful evening with their hosts. The home of the entertainers on Healdsburg avenue is one of the most beautiful in this city, and is finely appointed for entertaining large parties.

- Santa Rosa Republican, March 26, 1906

So far no suits have been commenced in the Superior Court since the quake. The justice and police courts are likewise bereft of business.
- Democrat-Republican, April 27, 1906

James W. Oates has his law office temporarily at his residence 767 Healdsburg avenue. Will be permanently in the Dr. Finlaw corner after this week.
- Democrat-Republican, April 30, 1906

Temporary Business Quarters Given Up and Work to Begin on Handsome Native Sons' Hall

The next few days will witness the clearing away of the last vestige of what for several months after the great disaster constituted the business center of Santa Rosa. Before the present week is ended the temporary buildings hastily erected on Mendocino avenue, just off of Fifth, will all be tenantless and those occupying the Native Sons' lot will be torn down to make room for the new Native Sons Hall, ground for which will be broken about Tuesday or Wednesday.

The first business established after the shake in the vicinity mentioned was the Telephone Exchange. On the afternoon of April 18 an old-fashioned long-distance transmitter was fastened to the front wall of the Chinese wash-house which then stood on the site that has since been occupied by the Press Democrat office, and outside communication was established with points north. Miss Clara Simmons was in charge of this unique outdoor exchange, and from that little beginning there immediately began to grow up a busy business community. The Finlaw property and the Native Sons' lot were leased by various parties and many small temporary structures hastily erected to house public officials and accommodate private business. The Postoffice, City Hall, Police station, numerous attorneys, cigar stands, the Lighting Company, photographers, architects, physicians, and The Press Democrat all found their first temporary homes on these two properties, and around them revolved for a time practically the entire business activity of the city.

Monday morning the Press Democrat will move into its handsome and commodious new quarters on Fifth street, just off of Mendocino, while the Santa Rosa Lighting Company will leave its present offices at the same time for those now ready in the Union Trust Savings Bank building. Contractor J. O. Kuykendall is also to move Monday into the Eardley building on Fifth street, while W. H. Summers, the cigar dealer, will move into upstairs rooms in the Taylor building on Fifth street and discontinue the retail business for a while, doing manufacturing only until he can secure satisfactory accommodations elsewhere. Summers will be the last to move, as he has to wait for the arrival of permission from the government authorities for the removal of his factory. But he expects to "pull out"not later than Tuesday.

The new Native Sons' Hall, which is to grace the site of the temporary buildings now being vacated, will be a handsome and commodious structure, details of which have already been published. The contract for the steel frame and general construction has been given to the Rickon-Ehrhart company. It is also the intention of Mrs. Finlaw to construct a fine building on the corner adjoining, although no definite plans have as yet been decided upon.

- Press Democrat, August 4, 1907

How many died because of the 1906 Santa Rosa earthquake - and why is this such a tricky question to answer? It should be easy to determine; there were death certificates, and the hybrid Democrat-Republican printed several lists of the dead in the weeks following. The official state report on the earthquake published a couple of years later included a death count, as did a key speech given that year for the dedication of the new courthouse. But none of these sources agree. There were 66 death certificates with cause attributed to "Injuries sustained by earthquake" (or similar); 69 persons listed in the papers; 61 killed according to the state report, and 77 if you believe the number used in the speech. All in all, that's a lousy statistical uncertainty of 12 percent.

Before wading too deeply, here's the executive summary: There were at least 82 deaths caused by the earthquake and it can be said with high confidence that a minimum count should be 85 (see earthquake FAQ). An annotated list is available for download as a spreadsheet or PDF file. I believe, however, that the true toll is probably in the range of 120, and even may be two or three times that many. It all depends how you squint at the data. (edited July 2016)

(By the way: Have you already read the first "Body Counts" article?)

Compare the newspaper lists (PDF) with the official register of deaths.1 Four lists appeared in Santa Rosa newspapers between April 19 and May 11 (the date of the last isn't certain because it is only available as a reprint from another paper), and five names repeatedly appeared which aren't found in the index.2

How can someone die without receiving a death certificate? Simple: No remains, no offical record of death (at least. not without a court order) - perhaps these five unfortunates were all but completely incinerated and their dust scattered, leaving not even the few "burnt bones and ashes" that served to identify four others who were listed as "unknown." Another possibility is that the body didn't make it to the town's ad hoc morgue established in a church Sunday School room. Rev. Monroe Alexander of the 4th Street Methodist Church wrote later that the coroner didn't get to see all the remains that were found, including a "poor Chinaman or an Italian whom nobody seemed to know."3

Of those five unofficial casualties, the newspaper indicated three were "traveling men" (salesmen) which might seem like an unusually high number of visitors, but it's not inconsistent with what we know about the others who were lost that day. Roughly 1 in 4 appears to have been an out-of-towner. And that is why it's so hard to estimate the numbers; we don't know how many people were here at the time. The fire and earthquake destruction in Santa Rosa was almost entirely in the commercial district of 4th and 3rd streets, where multi-story hotels were alongside little rooming houses above the stores. A couple of eyewitnesses wrote that most rooms were believed occupied, but nothing can be known for sure - all hotel registers were reportedly lost in the fires.

Locals certainly expected that the death toll in the hotels would be astronomical; Mrs. John Rhoades, in a letter sent to an Iowa paper five days after the quake, wrote that she had heard that 300-400 were dead. And nearly two years later, Herbert Slater, who was city editor of the Press Democrat at the time of the disaster, mused, "...Perchance there may have been many a poor human, who was a stranger within the gates of Santa Rosa, on the morning of the earthquake, whose life went out and whose remains were obliterated by the flames, of which no earthly record is known."4

Aside from the assumption that there were remains not found, it's reasonable to expect that many who were seriously injured here died elsewhere - wouldn't you head directly home If you were a traveler caught in such a nightmare?

Local historian Terry Oden, who compiled the first comprehensive list of Santa Rosa earthquake deaths for the 2006 centennial, found an example of just such a non-local death reported in one of the local papers more than a year later. On the day of the earthquake, Mrs. Bernice Cook "...was visiting relatives in the Piedmont lodging house, which collapsed, and she was injured in the fall of the building. She never recovered from the effects of the injury." She died in June, 1907 at an Oakland hospital.

Oden found four other collateral deaths besides Mrs. Cook: 5

*Charles W. Palm, a traveling man who died five days after the quake with delirium tremens listed as the cause. A little item in the April 24 Democrat-Republican, however, noted "he was buried in the wreckage of the Grand Hotel, and had several ribs broken, besides sustaining serious internal injuries"

*Mary Crose, proprietor of the Piedmont Hotel where Mrs. Cook was injured, died April 29 with "contusion of right leg" on the death certificate and no mention being harmed in the earthquake.Two days before her death, however, it was mentioned that she was "badly injured but is doing nicely"

*William Tompkins, who died May 3 of tetanus - see earlier post, "Death by Earthquake Lockjaw" for a Press Democrat item that noted "a number of people have also been laid up here" for stepping on rusty nails during the cleanup

*America Lillard Thomas, who died about ten weeks after the quake on July 8, from "general disability following general neurosis caused by shock"

Two other deaths in 1906 Santa Rosa were likely related to the earthquake, but are not included in this list because they are more speculative:

*Thomas B. Hood, a saddler and father-in-law of Judge Burnett, lived near the downtown corner of 3rd and A Street and died April 28 from acute pleuritis. Slater wrote of "dense white and red dust clouds" that were kicked up by the collapse of the many nearby buildings, and there was smoke from the fires that raged for two days - conditions that could easily be fatal for someone with asthma or otherwise damaged lungs

*Elwin Charles Hutchinson, a 15 year-old schoolboy who died Dec. 22 from "partial paralysis and nervous prostration." No obituary appeared for the youth (which in itself is unusual) to explain his disabilty and why his emotional state would prove fatal

All of these people are mirror opposites of the five named only in the newspaper casualty lists. Those people had no death certificates, but the Democrat-Republican (and later, the PD) repeatedly included their names on the list of quake fatalities. By contrast, everyone in this group does have a death certificate, but it doesn't mention a conclusive link to the disaster. Yet they all deserve to be included on the earthquake death toll, albeit with an asterisk; together, they are the "known unknowns," to lift the famous Rumsfeldian solpsism.

Then there are the unknown unknowns. Officially there were four John/Jane Does, listed as found in different locations and "nothing but burnt bones and ashes" on the death certificates. One certainly was the child who was always mentioned in conjunction with Ceile Heath, AKA "Miss Excelsia" (see Body Counts, Part I). But according to the newspaper, three unknown remains were found together on April 23, and the paper a week later mentioned that the coroner had just held inquests that morning over remains that included the Excelsia child and "six unknown persons, whose remains were found in the ruins." All together, that means the coroner actually saw 7 to 14 total unknowns.

(RIGHT: Postcard with caption, "Wreck of Haven Hardware Co., Santa Rosa, Cal. Where powder exploded killing eight rescurers [sic]." No such accident was mentioned in the press or in any letters written by survivors. Image courtesy California Historical Society. Click to enlarge)

Also a mystery are the missing missing. The report of the State Earthquake Investigation Commission, which came out over two years later, cites "61 identified dead, with at least a dozen 'missing,'" which was a bit of a surprise since no missing persons had been mentioned since the weeks immediately after the quake. In those early days, however, telegrams and letters poured in looking for those who were presumed in Santa Rosa and had not been in touch. From the April 24 paper: "hundreds of belated telegrams are being received here daily." April 25: "the amount of mail matter that is being received here is immense." Pleas for information about the whereabouts of different missing people appeared in every edition of the paper. A sample:

A lady named Cline is here from San Francisco making inquiries about her missing son... Anderson, George, from East; Bishop, Edison; Gotloff, Fred; Comley, Miss Annie, Vallejo; Hyde, Mrs; Kruse, J., Vallejo; Kane, K.; Kegee, K.; Lee, Andy; Muller, Mrs.; Muller, sister of above; Thurber, Fred; Valley, Mr. ...A man named Price, who was last seen the night before the earthquake, when he said he was going to spend the night at the Central lodging house, is missing... Inquiries have been received by the Mayor and Chief of Police for the following persons: Miss Johnson of Marfa, Texas, Mr. and Mrs. William T. Robertson... F. V. Hansler wants information of his wife and child who are said to be here...Parties desire to know the whereabouts of of Joseph Bayes, Eliz McClain, Mrs. W. D. Nichels...

Of those 24 - and again, this selection is just a sampling - only the fate of two is known. A traveling man named "Mr. Robertson" (sans spouse) appeared on most of the newspaper lists, and there's a death certificate for Joseph Boyes (not Bayes). Hopefully the rest ended up alive and well elsewhere - but like the quest of hunting those who died at home from their earthquake injuries, that's a marathon race for genealogists to undertake.

Heed the example of San Francisco city archivist Gladys Hansen, who initially compiled a list of 549 fatalities in that city (up from the official tally of 478), then continued to dig deeper. She looked at obscure records, contacted genealogical societies, and particularly sought information on people who actually died outside of San Francisco proper; her list now contains over 3,000 names. The high number of transients that were in Santa Rosa that morning is likewise reason to believe that many later died in places away from here from their injuries suffered on that cool April morning.

...Poor Wayne's bones were found and just filled a little thin pail. Mr. and Mrs. Carters' bones were found. They had no chance for escape. A whole box of bones were found yesterday in the Eureka Lodging House. There are still bodies under some of the buildings and a lot of people were burned up that were transient guests....
- Jessie Loranger letter to her sisters, April 27, 1906

1 Register of Deaths Book 60: City of Santa Rosa 1906-1924
2 A sixth entry, "Fritz Tanner from Eagle Hotel" appeared only on the April 19 list, and is presumably an error. All subsequent casualty lists named "Mr. Murphy" and "A. William Westran," both of whom were tanners staying at the Eagle Hotel.
3 Monroe H. Alexander, "The Earthquake in Santa Rosa," California Christian Advocate December 27, 1906, quoted in Philip L. Fradkin's "The great earthquake and firestorms of 1906" pg 160
4 Herbert Slater remarks on the Santa Rosa fires and earthquake presented at the dedication of the courthouse, April 9, 1908; Lebaron collection, Sonoma State University
5 Terry Oden's list also included Annie M. Leete, a local woman who died in San Jose, and two Indians killed by a falling wall at L. D. Jacks' ranch. They are not included in this list, which is restricted to deaths in Santa Rosa. If it were expanded to all of Sonoma County, the list would also include the three miners crushed to death at the Great Eastern quicksilver mine in Guerneville and the three killed by the collapse of the El Bonita Hotel at Duncan's Mills.

The bodies of three unknown persons were brought to the Morgue late Monday evening, having been found in the stairway to the Princess lodging house. Nothing could be learned of their identity. It is supposed to be a man, woman, and child. With the remains of these three, the total number of persons taken to the Morgue since the catastrophe amounts to an even half hundred. The total known deaths now number 64.

- Democrat-Republican, April 24, 1906


Mrs. Bernice Cook, formerly Miss Bernice Pharris of Bloomfield, who was buried in Petaluma Friday afternoon, was injured in the earthquake here on April 18, 1906. At the time she was visiting relatives in the Piedmont lodging house, which collapsed, and she was injured in the fall of the building. She never recovered from the effects of the injury and of late has suffered great pain as the result. She was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel J. Pharris of Bloomfield. She was a well known girl and her death comes as a shock to many friends in Sonoma county. Her death occurred at the Fabiola Hospital, where she had been taken from her home in Red Bluff.

- Santa Rosa Republican, July 6, 1907

Another strange vignette from the 1906 earthquake finds a letter warning homeowners to shun smooth-talking hobos offering to do cleanup and repair jobs on the cheap. In truth, that was a light year for hobo sightings, so methinks that the letter-writer was one of those "reputable, responsible local contractors" who was not getting homeowners to pay the prices he was asking. Press Democrat editor Ernest L. Finley loved to elaborate on hobo stories, but aside from a brief sighting of "Tennessee Bill" and a couple of brushes with the law, pickin's were slim.

Editor Republican: Refugees, some worthy, some not; hobos from everywhere and nowhere are finding that Santa Rosa is a veritable Mecca. Scarcely do they hit the town till they also hit some brother hobo who has taken the G. M. H. degree, and immediately he is set to work cleaning brick, shoveling debris, sawing, nailing, hammering, or what not, at a price that suits the G. M. H. The G. M. H. degree man very adroitly wormed himself into the confidence of some patriotic, kind hearted, enterprising citizen, securing a contract by smooth talk and underbidding all the reputable, responsible local contractors. Of course Mr. Grand Master Hobo has the best interest of the city at heart, and that is his pocket. He starts out with the full intention of working for the best interest of the city. He knows he cannot do along legitimate lines, so he calls his weaker brother hobo to his relief. Results: If contract is completed at all, a miserable botch job; our own legitimate, taxpaying contractor, journeyman and laborer, temporarily at least, laid on the shelf, the owner buncoed, the business man robbed to the tune of the hobo's wages for he spends his money elsewhere. - CITIZEN

- Santa Rosa Republican, June 6, 1906

Man Upsets Serenity of Healdsburg Avenue Vicinity by Peeping Through Fences

Some little excitement was caused this morning in the vicinity of Healdsburg avenue, and College and Benton streets, by an individual who kept peeping through the fences of rear yards, and acting in a suspicious manner. This was noticed by D. J. Paddock, a resident of that vicinity, who made it his business to keep his eye on the suspicious acting individual. He finally lost sight of the man entirely, and then sought his good friend, Tol T. Overton, and from him borrowed a saddle horse with which to round up the man.

Finally the services of Officer Herman Hankel were called into requisition, and the officer apprehended the man and took him into custody. He gave the name of James Gordon, and said that he had been peering into rear yards to see if there were any wood piles he could get to cut, or any yards he could spade for the residents. He said he saw a man with "whiskers" eyeing him, and decided to get out of the vicinity. It was while escaping that Hankel captured the man, some distance from the section where he had caused such uneasiness by his peering around.

The neighbors breathed easier after Hankel had taken the man into custody. He has probably learned a valuable lesson from his experience, that it is not well to peer through fences into yards and act in a suspicious manner. Gordon is a genuine hobo.

- Santa Rosa Republican, March 29, 1906

"Tennessee Bill" is Glad

Charles Cornelius Tennessee Goforth, one of the best known characters of the state, who was released on Monday by City Recorder Bagley on a charge of drunkenness, was before Justice Atchinson yesterday charged with disturbing the peace. Tennessee is noted for his voice and when he gets a little too much liquor aboard he lets it be heard in a yell which startles the whole city. Yesterday morning he mounted the court house steps and expressed his joy at again being in town after an absence of a year and a half. Justice Atchinson gave him fifteen days in the county jail to entertain him while here. Goforth came to California in 1856 from Tennessee and since 1858 has been a resident of the state.

- Press Democrat, February 28, 1906

Cheery Greeting Given Man From Healdsburg When He Entered Jail Here on Thursday

"Hello, Lapmin, you here again." This was the cheery greeting given an elderly man Thursday afternoon as he passed through the portals of the county jail on Third street, escorted by City Marshal Parker of Healdsburg, by Jailer Serafino Piezzi.

"Yes, I have come to stay with you again for a time," was the rejoinder. Piezzi had recognized in O. Lapmin on sight, a former boarder at the Hotel de Grace.

The man was sent here by Justice Provines for sixty day for vagrancy. On the pretense that he was the owner of a valuable stallion, that he had money in the bank, that he had worked for a Healdsburg citizen and was owed a considerable sum of money, that he had a large ranch in Humboldt county and that his sons there also had ranches--goodness knows how many more reasons--he had fed well and fattened at the residence of a respected old lady in Healdsburg who takes in boarders. Finally it was proved that he was minus all the worldly possessions he claimed. Then for a week past, it is said, he imbibed quite freely and sought the shade of the plaza benches in the northern capital to "sleep it off." He was dozing peacefully more than once when the majesty of the law as represented in the Healdsburg marshal descended upon him and finally he went "up against" Judge Provines, who suggested that sixty days of more enforced rest would be about the thing for him.

- Press Democrat, August 24, 1906

To the usual list of causes of death by earthquake (crushing, burning, etc.) add this surprising contender: Lockjaw.

A little Press Democrat item that appeared ten weeks after the 1906 quake noted that "quite a number of horses" were injured from stepping on rusty nails, and "a number of people have also been laid up here." It makes sense; with the streets coved in debris and cleanup crews working by manual labor, there were constant opportunities for wounds that could introduce lockjaw-causing bacteria. And according to a 1907 medical text, 3 out of 4 people with acute tetanus died in that era.

(Obl. Believe-it-or-not sidebar: Tetanus was also the leading cause of death on Independence Day. So common was lockjaw caused by fireworks or cap pistols that early 20th century medical books referred to cases as "4th of July tetanus." A 1903 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Assoc. found that there were 406 deaths from tetanus linked to that holiday that year, with a mortality rate of 95% for anyone injured in this manner.)


Quite a number of horses have been suffering with lameness here as the result of running rusty nails into their feet and have had to be given medical treatment. So far there has been no case of lockaw among the equines.

In San Francisco between thirty and forty horses have been dying of lockjaw every week since the debris has been scattered about the streets. The Breeder and Sportsman is authority for this statement.

A number of people have also been laid up here on account of their pedals having been pierced by rusty nails, but the poor horses have suffered the most.

- Press Democrat, June 28, 1906

On April 18, 1906, a great tragedy befell Santa Rosa: All saloons closed for about a month. There was also that earthquake thing, too.

This was a hard-drinking town in the early 20th Century, with nearly three dozen saloons packed into its small downtown; you were never more than a few doors away from a glass of beer or a shot of whisky, particularly if you were staggering along 4th Street.

View 1906 Santa Rosa in a larger map
(RIGHT: Approximate locations of saloons in 1906 projected on a map of modern-day Santa Rosa. Data based on list of applications for liquor license renewals that appeared in the Press Democrat, Dec. 13, 1906)

Like every other business in town, the saloon trade was disrupted by the earthquake. Some of Santa Rosa's most famous drinking holes aren't found on this map; the Occidental Bar was gone until its namesake hotel was again standing, and the Oberon wouldn't reopen until the Shea Building was rebuilt. Also not listed here is the infamous "Call No. 2;" that joint wasn't even allowed to apply for a license renewal following a standing-room-only public hearing where complaints were aired about noise and rowdiness. But there are 33 places on this map, and the 1908 city directory lists thirty bars at that time, so although names and locations slightly drift, this is still a fair representation of the Santa Rosa saloon scene in that era.

About a dozen saloons each were clustered around the train station and court house square. The places closer to the court house seemed to appeal to men from the town's business class and gamblers visiting Santa Rosa for the horse races (although the Oberon, Santa Rosa's pre-quake gambling HQ was in limbo, owners Brown & Gnesa had two interim saloons shown on this map). The downtown saloons consistently enjoyed good press; when Jake Luppold reopened his "New" Senate Saloon with a big feed, the Republican gushed that "Luppold's reputation for hospitality is second to none...Luppold's friends are legion, and they called and partook of the viands with a relish."

By contrast, the Call and other places down by the train tracks - which never, ever, advertised in the papers - were never, ever, mentioned kindly in the papers. During the Jan. 2 1907 City Council meeting where saloon license renewals were discussed, two of the three applications being questioned were part of the cluster near the tracks, and the police chief reported that the owner of one saloon was frequently intoxicated and "used vile language [that] had driven ladies from the adjoining restaurant." Besides running a "disorderly house," it was also alleged that he frequently beat his wife. There was no mention at all why the single downtown saloon's license application was denied.

Compare also the way police treated code violations: The proprietor of the downtown Germania was slapped on the wrist when an officer caught him drawing a beer after the earthquake curfew. The same officer Boyce later arrested the proprietor of a restaurant on lower 4th Street who violated the law by serving a plate of crackers as a "meal" to drinking men (read update here).

Saloon hours were restricted in the wake of the quake, but details are unclear. It's presumed that they were ordered closed immediately after the disaster just as they were in San Francisco, but there's no mention in the contemporary newspapers. We likewise don't know when they were allowed to reopen for limited daytime hours after signing an agreement to obey curfews (and probably other rules), but it was presumably about a month later. The thread picks up again in mid-June, as saloonkeepers were bridling under the restrictions that they could only be open from 8AM to 6PM. The City Council was inclined to return their hours to the pre-earthquake 5AM-Midnight, but the mayor forced through a rule that the new hours would be 6AM-8PM.

At the "Call No. 2" hearing, by the way, it came out that one of the witnesses against the place had repeatedly tried to bring a "lady" - quotes theirs, presumably to suggest that she was a prostitute - into the saloon, but wasn't allowed entry. Women were reportedly seen around the saloon (although witnesses couldn't be sure that they weren't seeing the housekeeper, who lived there). Another witness claimed that some time ago "two negroes came out of the saloon and addressed remarks to her." Apparently these vague allegations were serious enough to lose your business, if it happened to be a bar on the wrong side of the tracks.

City Council Meeting


Proprietor Pflugi, of the Germania Hotel, was summoned to appear before the council, it having been charged that he had kept his bar open after 6 o'clock in the evening. He stated that his bar had to do triple duty, bar, office, and sitting room, and that a portion of his boarders had to sit there Thursday night out of the rain, while the others ate their supper. He said he had not sold any liquor. Police officer Boyes said he saw a glass of beer drawn at 8 o'clock and carried out of the room. This glass, the proprietor claimed, was for the cook, who "would not work without his beer." Mr. Pflugi was allowed to go with an admonition. After the storm the bar must close.

Chief of Police Rushmore said other saloon men wanted to make their saloons into "offices." The matter was discussed and it was stated plainly that any liquor selling after 6 o'clock at night will result in the revocation of the license.

In the opinion of councilmen the saloon men ought to feel satisfied that they had been allowed to open their places at all at this time and should be very careful to obey the agreement they had signed.

- Press Democrat, May 26, 1906


The saloon men of Santa Rosa presented a petition to the city council Tuesday evening, asking that they be permitted to return to the opening and closing hours which prevailed before April 18. At present they open at 8 in the morning and close at 6 in the evening, and under the former regime they opened at 5 and closed at midnight.

Councilman Donahue moved that the petition be granted, saying he saw no reason why a return to the old regime should be longer delayed. He stated that most of the money spent in saloons was spent after 6 o'clock in the evening, at which time the saloons were now forced to close...

Mayor Overton declared he believed it a good idea to keep the saloons closed, and give the people an opportunity to save the money instead of spending it for booze. Councilmen Johnston and Reynolds entertained similar views, and voted against the proposed opening until midnight. Councilman Wallace had not arrived at the meeting, and had no chance to vote.

When the motion was about to be declared as carried, it was learned that the opening of the saloons after the hours now prescribed would have to be done by resolution. The matter was dropped for the time being.

- Santa Rosa Republican, June 20, 1906


The saloons of Santa Rosa open at 6 o'clock this morning and will remain open until 8 o'clock tonight. This will be the rule until further notice, a resolution prescribing these hours having been carried at last night's Council meeting. The matter was introduced by the reading of the following communication from Mayor Overton:

Santa Rosa, Cal., July 3--To the City Council of the City of Santa Rosa, Gentlemen:

After careful consideration of the resolution passed by your honorable body at your last meeting allowing the opening and closing of saloons same hours as before April 18th, I have to withhold my approval of the resolution.

I deem it for the best interests of the people of Santa Rosa and for the best interests of men engaged in the liquor business that they close their places of business at reasonable hours as all other business men do. The present hours from 8 to 6 o'clock I regard as being too stringent and would recommend the adoption of the same hours to prevail in San Francisco when the saloons open there, to wit, from 6 o'clock in the morning to 8 o'clock in the evening. Respectfully submitted, J. P. Overton, Mayor of the City of Santa Rosa

When it came to adopting the Mayor's suggestion the vote stood as follows: [ 3 Ayes, 3 Noes ], Mayor Overton gave the casting vote in favor of the amendment.

- Press Democrat, July 4, 1906


Jake Luppold celebrated the opening of the "New Senate Saloon" Sunday in a manner worthy of his past efforts at entertaining his friends. Mr. Luppold's reputation for hospitality is second to none, and on Sunday he exceeded his former substantial menus. The piece de resistance was chicken, and of these sixty-four were roasted. Each was stuffed and those who partook of the feast were served generously. To this were added eight hogs' heads, a number of different salads, relishes and all the concomitants that go to make a magnificent spread. Mr. Luppold's friends are legion, and they called and partook of the viands with a relish. Experienced caterers were on hand to serve the feast, and all had an enjoyable time. Mr. Luppold expects to duplicate the feast on Thanksgiving day, that being an established annual custom with him.

- Santa Rosa Republican, July 23, 1906

Petition to Revoke License of Alleged Disorderly Saloon on West Third Street

The "Standing Room Only" sign could have been out at Supervisor's hall on Thursday afternoon. The seating capacity of the room was taxed to its utmost. The occasion was the hearing of the petition to revoke the liquor license held by George M. Simpson for the "Call No. 2 Saloon," on West Third Street.

It was alleged that Simpson had kept a disorderly house, that unseemly noise and disturbance was created there and there were other charges.

Among the witnesses called were [13 names] and others.

After listening to the testimony, the petition to revoke the license was dismissed. It is only a few more days until all saloon keepers will have to present new petitions, as licenses have to be renewed at the first of the year.

After dismissing the petition, the Supervisors proceeded to hear evidence on the revocation of the license under which the saloon is run, and when all the witnesses were heard the matter was taken under advisement. The reason for the dismissal of the petition was owing to the fact that it was shown that Simpson does not personally hold the license.

One of the ladies called testified that she had once been accosted by intoxicated men outside the saloon. Another testified as to the noise from the place. Other witnesses testified as to the general reputation of the saloon.

Simpson denied that he had kept a disorderly house despite the fact that others had testified that there had been unbecoming conduct. Simpson claimed that one of the principal male witnesses against him had asked to be allowed to entertain a lady friend at his place and when he refused to allow him to do so the witness became angry.

- Press Democrat, December 7, 1906


The Board of Supervisors took the matter of the refusal to grant a liquor license to George Simson, of the Call saloon No. 2 under advisement late Thursday afternoon. The hearing of the matter continued until 5 o'clock, and the board took an immediate adjournment. The hearing brought to light some matters that were unexpected and it was testified that a certain witness had attempted to meet a "lady" there three times, but without the consent of the proprietor. The woman and other persons at divers times, it was shown in the testimony, had been ejected from the saloon. The petitioners declared that Simpson's place was noisy and boisterous, and that it was not properly conducted. All of the allegations were specifically denied by Simpson, who declared that his place was conducted equally well as other similar places. One of the lady witnesses declared that a couple of months since two negroes came out of the saloon and addressed remarks to her as she was passing en route to her home. Some witnesses testified to seeing women about the place, but they were not certain it was not Mr. Simpson's housekeeper, who is there permanently.

- Santa Rosa Republican, December 7, 1906

Elisa Perrotta Charged With Violation of Provision for the New Restaurant License

Elisa Perrotta, the erstwhile former proprietor of the Milano hotel on lower Fourth street, who lost his license for disobeying the city ordinance some time ago, and who since opened a restaurant, is again in trouble.

A complaint was sworn out by Police Officer John M. Boyes on Saturday against Perotta charging him with a violation of the new license ordinance No. 238, particular the section applying to restaurant licenses.

It was stated that three men went into Perotta's restaurant and three drinks were put on a table and at the same time a plate with two or three crackers on it was also placed thereon. The restaurant ordinance provides that liquors can be served with meals only, and the cracker diet is not going to be tolerated and in this instance the arresting officer knew it was only a "blind."

- Press Democrat, April 21, 1907

Following the 1906 Santa Rosa earthquake, the Superior Court decided a pair of cases that bear mentioning, if only for their Believe-it-or-Not qualities.

Nearly the longest running case at the time involved a lawsuit over the ownership of Queen, "a valuable varmint dog." I didn't make note when it started, but the dispute went back at least a year or more, and involved a man named Frese suing to get the dog back from a man named Peterson. The question of ownership also entangled a Mr. Faught and a Mr. Carter and "the Hembree boys" in a knot that I won't even attempt to unravel.

Well, sir, comes the 1906 earthquake and Queen is dead - yet the lawsuit still went on. Over three months later, Judge Seawell rules that Frese was indeed owner of the dead dog, which was worth all of 25 bucks. The lawyer's bill was presumably (much, much,) more. Peterson hopefully consoled himself all those valuable varmints killed by Queen.

The other case involved a husband and wife who were both killed in the collapse of Santa Rosa's Occidental Hotel. The wife's will left her estate to her only child; the husband's will instructed his estate to be split between their daughter and his child from an earlier marriage. Apparently it was settled law at the time that if husband and wife died at the exact same instant it was presumed that the man must have lived a fraction of a second longer because of his sheer manliness - although it was argued unsuccessfully in an earlier case that a woman would probably live longer because any female can endure more pain. Presto: A tired gender cliché becomes legal precedent.

Grewsome Incident of the Late Disaster Recalled by Suit Said to Be Pending

Among the local victims of the great disaster of last April were Mr. and Mrs. William Peacock, who were killed in the Occidental hotel. Peacock was a San Francisco contractor and built both the Carnegie library and the California Northwestern depot in this city. The couple left considerable property, and a suit to determine how it shall be divided is said to be among the possibilities of the near future. If such a suit is brought, it will involve and hinge upon the point of which died first. Both victims were dead when taken out, so the determination of the matter promises to be a delicate one.

The question involved in the case is the same one that was brought out in the contest over the property left by the late Charles L. Fair, a few years ago. Fair and his wife were instantly killed in an automobile accident in France, and a suit followed. Both sides imported witnesses from across the water, but the matter was finally compromised. The California law contemplates that in the absence of any direct evidence to the contrary, the man would in such cases live the longer, being by nature the stronger of the two. Opponents of this theory claim, however, that actual experience has demonstrated the fact that woman can stand more pain than man. During the past few days a San Francisco attorney has been here in an effort to learn something of the condition of the Peacock bodies when taken from the ruins, although which side he represented is not known.

- Press Democrat, April 21, 1907

Contest Over Will of Late Contractor William Peacock in Decided by Superior Judge Coffey

Sometime ago the Press Democrat mentioned the interesting point involved in the contest over the estate of the late Contractor William Peacock, who with his wife was killed in the wreck of the Occidental hotel on April 18th a year ago, as to whether Peacock or his wife died first. It was then said that in the absence of anything in the way of evidence to the contrary, the California law presumed that the woman died first. The matter came up for hearing in Judge Coffey's department of the Superior Court in San Francisco on Wednesday, and the Court decided that Mrs. Peacock died first.

In speaking of the proceedings in Judge Coffey's court, a San Francisco paper says:

The matter came up on the application of Mrs. Ada Baptiste, daughter of William and Mathilde Peacock for the admission of her mother's will to probate. The Peacocks were killed in the ruins of the Occidental hotel at Santa Rosa during the earthquake on April 18, 1906. The estate is valued at about $60,000.

Peacock and his wife made separate wills. That of Mrs. Peacock favored her daughter, Mrs. Baptiste, while that of Peacock divided the estate between Mrs. Baptiste and Mrs. Ida Miller, his daughter by his first wife, and, therefore, the half-sister of Mrs. Baptiste. If Peacock died before his wife, ans Mrs. Baptiste contended, the wife's will would become effective; but if she died first his would prevail. Mrs. Miller contested her stepmother's will on the ground that Mrs. Peacock died before Peacock did.

Testimony was taken before Judge Coffey to support the claim of Mrs. Baptiste, but the case proved a somewhat knotty one. A subsidiary issue was raised by the appearance of the Grand Lodge of United Workmen, in which order Peacock held a life insurance policy for $1000. The Grand Lodge wishes to know to whom to pay the money.

Not the least interesting feature of the case was the fact that Peacock's two wives were sisters. Mrs. Miller's stepmother, therefore, was also her aunt; Mrs. Baptiste and Mrs. Miller are at once cousins and half sisters, and the general mutual relations of the various parties are somewhat complex.

The hearing was in progress nearly all day, but ended with a decision that Mrs. Peacock died before her husband, and the husband's will, therefore, prevailed. By this will the estate is left, share and share alike, to Mrs. Baptiste and Mrs. Miller.

- Press Democrat, May 10, 1907

"Queen," a valuable varmint dog, over which a suit was pending in the superior court, died at the time of the recent earthquake. Grant Peterson claimed the dog, and to maintain possession of the animal during the pendancy of the action, had filed a bond. J. H. Frese, who also claimed the dog, had given the first bond, which was covered by Mr. Peterson. Both gentlemen were attached to the canine friend, whose mastership had never been legally determined.

- Santa Rosa Republican, June 8, 1906


At the request of Attorney Leppo an order was made in the Superior Court Monday dropping the suit of Frese vs. Peterson. The suit was to recover possession of a dog or its value at the time of the earthquake the dog died. Last week Mr. Leppo "suggested" the death of the dog to the court and he stated Monday that he would file a supplemental pleading setting forth in due form the canine's demise.

- Press Democrat, June 12, 1906

Judgement Given for Twenty-Five Dollars in a Bitterly Contested Suit Over a Canine Since Deceased

In the famous suit involving the possession of a dog, since deceased, in which J. H. Frese was plaintiff, and U. G. Peterson was defendant, which has occasioned considerable interest, Superior Court Judge Emmet Seawell handed down an opinion Thursday, giving judgement for the plaintiff in the sum of twenty-five dollars. The opinion is as follows:

"This is an action in claim and delivery for the possession of a hound bitch named 'Queen' or for her value in case delivery cannot be had. 'Queen' had since died, hence a legal delivery cannot be made. The evidence preponderates in support of plaintiff's claim that William Carter, through whom defendant claims, was never the [illegible] owner of 'Queen.' He was merely given conditional possession. Upon an alleged breach of said condition plaintiff took 'Queen' into his possession and held it for a number of years, subsequently she was taken on a hunting trip by the younger Frese and did not return home with him, but was found in defendant's possession thereafter. He, claiming ownership this action was brought. Much of the evidence apparently contradictory can be explained on the theory of mistake or misuse or misapprehension of terms. This is especially true of the conversation between the Hembree boys and the younger Frese. It would not have been remarkably strange for young Frese to have used the word 'trade' under the conditions of the exchange. On the other hand it would not have been strange for the Hembree boys to have gotten the idea that there was a trade from the use of the word 'exchange,' or even from an imperfect or incomplete narrative of the transaction. I am satisfied that the whole difficulty between the parties grows out of a lack of the use of apt terms. Mr. Carter probably regarded the loan or conditional exchange as in effect a 'trade,' and gave little though to a breach which he felt confident would never happen. So, too, the younger Frese may have, in a general way, called the transaction a 'trade.' Such a misunderstanding as the evidence shows here to exist might be expected under the conditions of the exchange. It does not at all strike the Court that the conflicting statements are not reconcilable with honesty. Many of the conflicting statements can be readily reconciled on the theory that there was a misuse of terms. The transaction took place a long while ago, and it is not to expect that one who had no real interest in the controversy would recollect the details of a conversation that took place a long time ago as clearly as one who had. Considering all the evidence and circumstances of the case, together with the logic of human conduct the preponderance is with plaintiff that he did not part with the title in the dog. The value of 'Queen' at the time she was taken into defendant's possession is not easy to fix. Mr. A. Faught, once her owner, placed the value of a dog of her blood and age at anywhere from five to fifty dollars. She was probably of the value of twenty-five dollars. Let judgement go for plaintiff for the sum of twenty-five dollars. It is so ordered." Emmet Seawell, Judge of the Superior Court.

- Press Democrat, July 27, 1907

No doubt about it: The 1906 Santa Rosa earthquake was a "Kodak Moment." At least a hundred different images survive, mostly postcard souvenir views which were apparently sold in vast numbers. Other pictures are the excellent work of local professional photographers and camera hobbyists; at the bottom of the heap are the amateur snapshots, probably taken with the popular new $1.00 "Brownie" cameras sold in local drug stores. That the latter photos weren't thrown away - despite being often out of focus, taken in dim light, or badly composed - shows they were treasured as mementos of the historic event.

(Portrait of pavement with two men waaaay in the distance: A snapshot of the Fourth and A St. intersection looking east, with the remains of the Saint Rose Hotel on the left. Another view of this location can be found in an earlier post)

By comparison, few personal letters are known to exist that describe what was happening in Santa Rosa in those chaotic days. Most valuable are Jessie Loranger Lomont's letters to her sisters, particularly the one written April 19th, describing the first twenty-four hours: "...men worked half the night in the ruins. Every once in a while a cheer announced that they heard someone alive and the worked like crazy men. Oh we have heroes here now...They heard poor people cry and moan but after while it would cease and they of course were dead...It is very warm here and I am afraid the conditions will be very bad if they do not get the bodies out but it seems they can't make much impression. I can hear the axes chopping as I sit here writing..."

The lack of first-hand descriptive accounts makes the article below all the more interesting, and it's good to know that the shaken Santa Rosans were able to make a few jokes about the calamity just a couple of months later.


Some ludicrous incidents occurred the morning of April 18th in the midst of the harrowing scenes of death and injuries. While they did not seem to be mirthful at that particular time, they are rather laughable at this date, two months following the disaster.

One thing that has caused people to laugh wherever the same has been told, was the answer given an attorney when he accosted a maimed and bleeding man early on that eventual morn. His sympathies were aroused when he saw the blood trickling down the dirt begrimed face of the injured man, and he inquired tenderly, "Why my good man, where did you come from?" The reply was entirely unexpected by the attorney, and he was almost floored when he got it. "From Missouri, and I wish I was back there," was the response. The attorney expected to ascertain from which building the man had been rescued.

The idea of a saloon man praying will strike some people as a surprising and laughable incident at first mention. This actually what happened. A saloon man of Santa Rosa on the morning of April 18 believed the world was coming to an end, and he dropped to his knees, clasped his hands reverently before him, and approached the throne of grace. What added to his belief that the world was about to terminate its existence was the Biblical promise he had learned in early youth that when the Lord again destroyed the world it would be with fire. And the fire was raging all around him in fierce order. An apparition appeared to the man, and when he saw a young lady of this city, clad only in her robe gently picking her way over the fallen brick, he believed he beheld an angel tiptoeing over the debris. It was the sigh of what he believed to be the angel that caused him to drop to his prayer bones and ask for mercy. When the young lady had approached close to him and he learned she was not the real angel he had suspected her being, he made his way hurriedly into the crowd, lest his identity should become known.

A former councilman was one of the unfortunate victims who was pinned down by the debris in the Grand hotel. He was dug out by a number of friends, and rarely had any comment to make while he was being removed. He bore his bruises and pains with the stoicism that is believed to belong only to the Indian race. No complaint escaped his lips. One of his friends who was more than solicitous for his welfare undertook to explain what had happened. He started in: "Well, old man, we've had an earthquake." But the former councilman broke in on him unexpectedly, and said: "Who the devil ordered it?"

A Kansas man who found himself in San Francisco at the time of the earthquake was nonplussed, as he ran about the hotel where he chanced to be stopping. He remembered that in his Kansas home provision was made in the residences for cyclones, and he startled others in his immediate vicinity by inquiring in stentorian tones: "Where in the world is the cyclone cellar."

Quite a set-back was given the guests of a San Francisco hotel on that eventful morn, when an eastern lady came down to the dining room at the breakfast hour, dressed as if going out on a pleasure trip. Her demeanor was chic, her complexion perfect, her attire natty, and nothing had occurred to ruffle her superb self-possession. She had been on one of the top floors of that caravansary, and had noticed that it had swayed gently, as with the wind. She saw around her men, women and children, with traces of worry on their faces. They appeared frightened. She asked what in the world had happened to cause the people to be so downcast, and was informed that San Francisco had had a severe earthquake that morning. She responded: "Why, I thought you people had those frequently out here."

Two of the best known ladies in Santa Rosa are being considerably joshed about the actions on the morning of the great fire. One is the mother of a charming little daughter, and she became greatly agitated when the tremblor visited this city, fears for the safety of the child increasing the mental distress she was suffering. Grasping the child, the mother hastened from one room to another, going aimlessly, and all the while she was calling, "Show me the way to heaven! Show me the way to heaven!" Her husband having admirable control of himself, quieted her fears, and when she became calm, ventured to peer through the windows of his residence evidently looking for the coming of the angels himself. He saw on the opposite corner a building which had been badly damaged and hastily robed himself to see if he could be of any assistance. When he appeared to the good woman who owned and occupied the house, she informed him that the water pipes in the house were leaking badly, and implored him to "send quick for a plumber." Now the families call to one another good naturedly from their homes on opposite corners, "Send quickly for the plumber," to which a cheery response comes, "Show me the way to heaven."

- Santa Rosa Republican, June 23, 1906

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