Sounds of summer night, Santa Rosa 1907: Crickets, someone's barking dog, lowing of cattle in the stockyard, a freight train whistle, the blamma-blamma of two guys shooting away at each other at close range outside a popular downtown restaurant. Note to the next Broadway producer who revives "The Music Man:" Clue us in that most of the respectable citizens in those cute little nostalgic towns usually carried loaded pistols.

In one of the most sensational events of the year, 31 year-old barber Andy Carrillo was out late Friday night and discovered his wife drunk, apparently flirting with another man. Carrillo socked him in the face and drew blood; the man stumbled back into the restaurant. A friend of the bleeding man charged outside and hit Carrillo who drew his pistol, shooting this man in the chest. Carrillo fired a second shot that broke a window and grazed the cheek of Frank Miller, yet another man inside the restaurant. Miller charged outside with his own gun drawn. He and Carrillo fired at each other at point blank range, but mirabile dictu, neither of them were wounded, and the man shot in the chest was not seriously injured. Carrillo fled with Miller still firing away. Police arrived and began searching for Carrillo, who they found hiding in his bed as if nothing were amiss.

Carrillo was out the next day on $1,000 bail, which was paid in part by saloon man Jake Luppold. It was decided he would appear in Superior Court on charges of assault with a deadly weapon. His wife Jennie, meanwhile, was sentenced to 30 days in jail "as a result of being drunk the night in question."

When the case came to trial, no details were disputed except that the man allegedly hit in the face by Carrillo testified "he was not certain who had struck him." But after three ballots the jury could not decide on guilt, although the votes always leaned heavily towards acquittal.

Why Carrillo was able to shoot someone in the chest yet even not be found guilty of assault is a mystery. Also odd is that his wife served a month in jail for drunkenness, while the usual sentence at the time was 10-14 days. Another woman arrested for public drunkenness paid $5.00 and no jail time, according to the October 29 Republican, and a man arrested the same day was sentenced to five days in jail because he could not pay the $5 fine.

Andy Carrillo Engages in Desperate Battle
W. N. Hall Shot in Breast and Frank Miller in Face During Melee Resulting From Attack on Charles Majors

Andy Carrillo who had just shot W. N. Hall fought a pistol duel in front of the Campi restaurant [on Third street, near the corner of B -ed.] shortly before one o'clock this morning with Frank Miller. Both men marvelously escaped injury and although Carrillo escaped from the scene quickly and hid at home he was captured by Officers Yeager and Lindley and locked up in the county jail within half an hour.

There had been a banquet in progress at the Campi, which about 45 members of the Bricklayers and Plasterers' Union were attending. Mrs. Jennie Carrillo, who was under the influence of liquor, had been hanging about the place trying to interest some of the men without result. Finally Charles Majors went out to go home, but discovered that his wheel had been stolen. He reported the loss to the men inside and returned to the walk. Mrs. Carrillo was talking to him when her husband came around the corner and seeing them together walked up and struck Majors a brutal blow in the face, laying open a great gash in his cheek.

Majors rushed back into the restaurant with blood streaming from his face, and when his companions were told of the assault they rushed out with W. N. Hall in the lead. When Hall reached the sidewalk he was met by Carrillo who he struck for assaulting Majors. Carrillo jumped back, drew his revolver and fired at Hall, the bullet striking him just over and dangerously near the heart [then] crashed through the window in the restaurant, imbedding itself in the wall. Hall jumped behind a tree and the others not being armed rushed back. Carrillo fired another shot which passed through the window grazing Frank Miller's cheek.

Miller, who was back in the restaurant, was forcing his way to the door and in an instant was face to face with Carrillo. Seeing him with a weapon Miller pulled his and the two fired almost instantaneously. That one or both were not hit seems marvelous, as they were right upon one another. Carrillo turned and ran up Third street and Miller again fired at him without effect.

Officer Yeager was standing in front of Germania Hall at the time and rushed to the scene of the shooting at once. Officer Lindley and Skaggs were eating supper in the Boston restaurant and were on the scene within a few moments. Their first effort was to capture Carrillo, and taking the direction of his disappearance a hurried run was made up through First, Second, and Third streets as far as E and back. Then Yeager proposed that Carrillo's home be examined. He and Officer Lindley went to the house, where after some delay the door was opened. Carrillo was found and placed under arrest and taken to the county jail where he was locked up.

Dr. Jesse was called and arrived on the scene in his auto within a few minutes. He took Majors and Hall to his office where he dressed their wounds. Neither are dangerously injured, but it was a close call for Hall. The bullet struck him a glancing blow which saved his life. He remained at the restaurant for some time after the affair discussing it with other members of the union. Miller's face was cut by the bullet which narrowly missed ending his life before he left the restaurant.

- Press Democrat, July 28, 1907

Charged With Assault With a Deadly Weapon

Andy Carrillo, charged with assault with a deadly weapon, was brought to trial Wednesday before Judge Emmet Seawell and a jury. The jury is composed of...

...The first witness was Charles W. Majors, who narrated how he had been banged in the face when he started out of the restaurant where the shooting occurred on the night of the alleged offense. Majors declares he was not certain who had struck him. He returned to the restaurant with blood streaming from his face, and this sight broke up the banquet which was being enjoyed there.

Fred Forget, the second witness, testified to being at the banquet. He saw Majors come in covered with blood, and with other rushed out to the front door of the restaurant. Outside the witness saw Andy Carrillo standing with his hands in his pockets. Walter Hall forged ahead of witness and Carrillo raised his hand containing weapon, and with a string of oaths began firing. Hall need no air breaks [sic] to stop the speed at which he was traveling toward Carrillo. He reversed himself quickly and sped into the restaurant. He had walked right out, turned right around and run back in again.

Hall followed Forget in the narrative being give the jury, and his version of the affair tallied exactly with that of Forget.

Officer I. N. Lindley and Chief of Police Fred J. Rushmore testified to the arrest of Carrillo and the finding of the weapon with which the shooting had been done. Rushmore testified the weapon was still warm when he picked it up in Carrillo's room on First street.

- Santa Rosa Republican, December 11, 1907

Discharged by Judge Seawell Thursday Night--Stood 10 for Acquittal, 2 for Conviction

The jury in the case of the state against Andy Carrillo failed to reach a unanimous verdict in Judge Seawell's department of the Superior Court and was discharged by the court in the evening when the jurors had announced that it would be impossible for them to agree.

The first ballot taken by the jurors after they had retired was eight for acquittal and four for conviction. Then it was nine for acquittal and three for conviction. Then it went to ten for acquittal and two for conviction, and this is how the jury hung.

The case went to the jury after arguments by District Attorney Clarence Lea and Attorney T. J. Butts, and the instructions of the court, about half past three. The jurors asked to have certain portions of the testimony read to them, and for this purpose were brought into court twice. When supper time came they were taken to the California Oyster Market for supper, accompanied by Deputy Sheriff Don McIntosh. After supper they returned to court and remained in their room until discharged.

- Press Democrat, December 13, 1907

In the summer of 1908, the farmers along Mark West Creek watched in horror as a barn burned with horses and mules inside. As awful as that was, the community was spooked because it was nearly identical to another fire a week before. The farmers believed these were acts of terrorism - and they were probably right.

The second barn to be lost belonged the family of Harrison Finley, grandfather of Helen Finley Comstock, the wife of Judge Hilliard Comstock. She was nine when the fires occurred at the end of August, just as the hop picking season was to begin. Destroyed in the flames was all the harvesting equipment, the family wagons, even "Old Johnny," the horse that was pulling the buggy when Helen's father courted her mother. Whodunnit? According to the Press Democrat story, "some believe it is the work of a crank, who opposes the Japanese, as the farmers used Japs to string their hops."

In an autobiographical sketch jotted down around 1970, Helen Comstock wrote that the family thought IWW organizers were to blame:

We hired Japanese workers to plant and "string-up" the hops...American workers could not or would not do this work but the budding IWW were constantly making trouble. One year Grandpa succumbed to their demands and hired workers through the organization. It was a terrible failure - The plants were not properly planted, the string trellises were not tied properly - the wires not hooked in place on the poles and many acres of hops fell to the ground - It was a miserable harvest. The next year [we resumed using] Japanese workers. In late August or early September, just before harvest, our barn and the barns of two neighbor hop farmers were set on fire...

When she videotaped an oral history about ten years later, Helen seemed even more certain that the IWW burned their barns, "...because [we] were hiring Japanese instead of white people for the hops. The... IWW was a powerful union at the time, and they had gone to my grandfather and threatened him for hiring Japanese to work the hop fields." Although nothing could be proven, Mrs. Comstock said law enforcement "suspected these IWW because they had been threatening."

But according to the report in the Press Democrat, the Sheriff actually said he "hardly agrees with the Jap theory." Nothing is mentioned in any newspaper accounts about threats made to Finley by the IWW or anyone else.

While the Finleys may have blamed the Industrial Workers of the World (also known as the "Wobblies"), the union was undoubtedly innocent of the crime. The first red flag (pun intended) was the threat over hiring Japanese workers; one of the hallmarks of the IWW that made the organization so radical for the day was that it so inclusive, welcoming unskilled Chinese, Mexicans, Filipinos - "every wage-worker, no matter what his religion, fatherland, or trade." The IWW particularly admired the Japanese workers because they would not tolerate working conditions they considered demeaning or wages they thought unfair.

The other major evidence of Wobbly innocence was that the IWW was barely functioning at the time the barns were burned. There were probably no more than 6,000 members nationwide in the summer of 1908, most of them coal miners. The bank panic of 1907 nearly destroyed the organization as locals folded nationwide, and the Chicago HQ even had to suspend publication of its newsletter. It wasn't until the September convention in Chicago, when a thuggish contingent of loggers from the Northwest called the "Overalls Brigade," who rode freight trains and "beat their way" to the convention, took control of the IWW, leading to a new focus on strikes, boycotts, and (yes) sabotage. The growing wave of violent direct action led to the bloody confrontation in 1913 at Wheatland, where 2,000 striking hop pickers, mostly Hispanic, fought a heavily-armed posse that left four dead. Two IWW leaders were convicted of murder, and in the following years Wobblies embarked on a sabotage campaign that was said to destroy $10 million in California property per annum to extort a pardon from the governor.

But if it wasn't the Wobblies, who done the deed in 1908? There's wide leeway for interpreting critical facts here; it makes a great difference whether Harrison Finley was threatened about the Japanese workers months or a year earlier, or if it happened just hours/days before the barn was engulfed. Or maybe the threat had no connection at all (as the Sheriff seemed to suspect) and it was just an outburst by some racist busybody passing on the road skirting the Finley farm.

Here are five theories, ranked along increasing odds of likelihood:

* James Bond's Grandfather In December of 1907, a new trade group was formed in Sacramento: "The Pacific Coast Hop Growers' Union." It really should have been called the "Hop Growers' Trust" because it was almost certainly in violation of the Sherman Act. About two months before the fire, Lord Addington made a speech in Parliament where he declared the Growers' Union "wish to ruin the English hop industry" and presented an incriminating letter written by the head of the group that threatened to sell the West Coast crop below cost. One of the directors of the Growers' Union was Harrison Finley, so the Europeans and East Coast hop growers had somewhat of a motive to disrupt the 1908 harvest and specifically target Finley. It would be interesting to research whether any of the other directors had a similar mishap that season (James Near, the neighbor whose barn burned earlier, was not a director, but almost certainly a member). My guesstimate on the odds of an international (or intercontinental) "hit" ordered on a prominent Sonoma County hop grower: Less than 1 percent.

* The AFL Where the IWW reached out to minorities and unskilled workers, Samuel Gompers' American Federation of Labor was anything but inclusive. Gompers - an immigrant himself - called for stiff immigration limits to maintain "racial purity and strength" and charged that immigrants "could not be Americanized and could not be taught to render the same intelligent service as was supplied by American workers." AFL racism particularly targeted Latin and Asian workers, even blocking minority unions from joining the all-important local labor councils. Although the hire-American-workers threat made to Finley sounds very much like the 1908 AFL (who particularly hated the Japanese), the union didn't try to organize the unskilled workforce, such as seasonal hop pickers. My odds on this possibility: Barely 1 percent, and only because the AFL of that era always should be suspected in any labor agitation involving racism.

* Wobbly Impersonators With the national organization under death-watch that summer, anyone could claim to be an organizer for the IWW and probably no one would dispute it (or care). Rarely was the IWW mentioned in any California paper during 1908 except for little updates about the ongoing cage-match fight between the IWW, AFL, and Miners' Union in Goldfield, Nevada, which was then in its second year. The only paper in the state with news about IWW activity was the Imperial Valley Press, which ran articles about "the plug-ugly tactics and vicious stirring up of strife" in El Centro. According to the newspaper, the "loafing delegates of the IWW" tried to interrupt the cantaloupe harvest that June by trying to drive Japanese field workers away. Local whites were incited to pelt the Japanese with stones, and a wagon carrying workers was attacked and overturned. The Japanese embassy in San Francisco telegraphed the Imperial County sheriff demanding action, but the "IWW" organizers had disappeared. (The following year, however, several actual IWW locals were established in the Imperial Valley.) Did they drift to Sonoma County and torch a few barns two months later? It's doubtful; although there was anti-Japanese racism and use of violence in El Centro, there were no reports of union recruitment in this area. Odds that these were the same characters are again very low, maybe 3 percent.

* A Kid With a Match What if the racial threat - and even the advent of the hop picking season - were unrelated to the fire? That two, maybe three, barns in the neighborhood went up in flames might suggest the acts of an arsonist. And at that time of year, there were 130 "incorrigible" boys from "The Boys' and Girls' Aid Society" of San Francisco working a few miles away at the Barlow berry ranch. The place was hardly a carefree summer camp; the papers frequently reported that kids escaped, only to have the police drag them back in handcuffs to collect a bounty. That summer the papers reported several boys fled and were recaptured, most notably one George Springer, "a friendless orphan who was discharged from an orphan asylum because of his bad temper," and Raymond Onion, who had stolen a large sum from his father on the East Coast and traveled to San Francisco. Together, they were "the instigators of most of the trouble which the management of the camp has had during the past three weeks." That the barns were destroyed with horses and cows inside might seem to work against the theory that children might be responsible, but several studies have linked juvenile firesetting with cruelty to animals. Odds: 45 percent. This is the Occam's razor option; there's no simpler explanation than anti-social behavior by a disturbed kid confined to a work camp.

* The Pitner Ranch Strikers Even without union representation, there were major Northern California wage strikes by hop pickers in six of the ten years between 1899-1909, sometimes more than one a year. No labor problems were reported in Sonoma County, but the strikes elsewhere often involved racial tension. In 1905, "about a hundred men, mostly tramps," who were picking hops near Wheatland demanded more money and attacked Japanese workers at the ranch when the grower refused their demands; in an ugly 1909 incident near Sacramento, 12 deputies were called to supress a strike by a thousand angry white workers who charged that Japanese hop pickers were better paid and given easier jobs. In this possible scenario, a group of disgruntled hop pickers burned the barns. My odds: 50 percent. Here's why:

The same week the barns burned, there was a wave of small hop picker strikes in the lower Ukiah Valley. Three out of four strikes were settled quickly, but one group of 200 workers, "nearly all from San Francisco," according to the Sept. 1, 1908 Ukiah paper, demanded a 25 percent raise or they would allow no hops to be picked by the non-striking majority of workers. These mid-harvest strike showdowns invariably fizzled - without union muscle to back up the strikers, the foreman would have the sheriff scare the malcontents away and find new unskilled manual laborers, which were never in short supply. (In fact, the PD reported that a "special train of eleven coaches...bound for the hop fiends of Mendocino county, and bearing nearly a thousand San Franciscans" passed through Santa Rosa on Aug. 24.)

The Ukiah Dispatch-Democrat, which covered all hop picking news in Northern California, noted that ten John Doe warrants were issued for leaders of this strike "on the Pitner place" (which was just a couple of miles north of Ukiah) commenting that the rest of the crew were then expected to return to work: "This action will doubtless solve the situation as the majority of the pickers are anxious to return to their labors." The article also gave clues that this strike was more worrisome than usual. The foreman sought legal advice about how to deal with the strikers from a Ukiah lawyer. The newspaper reported that the leaders of the strike "have been the cause of a great deal of complaint by the farmers who live near their camps. Garden truck, poultry, fruit, etc., has been disappearing at an alarming rate since the beginning of the hop picking season." Although the Ukiah paper otherwise ended reports of any labor conflict with news that the workers were back in the fields and all were happy, the Pitner strike was apparently left without closure; did the pickers go back to work? Were the ringleaders found and arrested? The newspaper is silent.

My likely-case scenario is that the arsonist(s) were pickers who walked away from the hop fields near Ukiah and were heading back to San Francisco. It was most likely the Pitner ranch strikers (particularly their ten leaders, who had reason to flee because of the warrants), but it could also have been a loose confederation of malcontents from several of the strikes in the area. They might have targeted the Finley ranch because it appeared to be the largest to someone passing on the road, although it was overall a mid-sized farm with a long, rectangular shape because it was squeezed between the roadway and Mark West Creek.

This interpretation presumes motive - that the person/group disparaging the Japanese workers wanted to take over their jobs immediately. That's supported by Helen Finley Comstock's remark that the stranger was unhappy "because they were hiring Japanese instead of white people," as well as the speed at which the Finleys and neighbors apparently linked the anti-Japanese comment to the arson. Like the Imperial Valley impostors, they might have expected to intimidate Harrison Finley by saying they're "from the IWW" and demanded he fire his Japanese workers and hire them at once. When Finley refused, they torched his barn in revenge and to terrorize other farmers.

Evidence is circumstantial, I'll grant. But thinking about it over several months, I kept coming back to the report about the Pitner ranch strikers being chicken thieves. The bank panic of 1907 nearly destroyed the U.S. economy; unemployment among skilled trade union workers reached 9.5% in the month the barns were burned, more than double the year before. In some parts of the country, the situation was beyond grim; unemployment in New York state reached 36 percent, with 200,000 estimated to be out of work in New York City alone. Charities were overwhelmed with appeals for help; crime skyrocketed; a vast number of men, probably millions, became unemployed drifters. Among those who came up from San Francisco for field labor in the late summer Mendocino heat might have been New England woolen mill workers, once-soft-handed Philadelphia shopkeepers, or an entire family from Ohio, all near destitute. Drawn by newspaper ads promising weeks of steady work, they found the prevailing wage in 1908 to be 80¢ per hundred pounds of cleaned hops, which meant that a picker was lucky to make $1.50 a day, about half the prevailing wage for manual labor. And on top of that, some growers demanded the workers rent tents from them and pay for food. It's unknown what conditions were like for workers on the Pitner ranch, but with an epidemic of food being stolen from nearby gardens and backyards, we can guess that the situation was not good.

Growers like Harrison Finley treated workers well, many returning every year with their families for the harvest. But other growers had conditions that could have been the despicable inspiration for The Grapes of Wrath. It's not hard to understand that workers on those farms would have become bitter and resentful and crazy angry, even willing to, say, torch the barns of blameless farmers who simply asked them to go away (read update here).

It's also not hard to understand how people could have been radicalized by these experiences. None may have carried the “red card” of the IWW in 1908, but you can bet that many were card-carrying Wobblies in years to come, and who can blame them.

James Near's Property Destroyed Friday Night

The large barn of James Near, adjoining this city, was totally destroyed by fire Friday night. With the building were twenty-five tons of hay, harness and other property. A buggy shed and harness shop were also destroyed. There were eleven horses in the barn, but with the exception of one they were removed without injury. The animal caught in the flames is Mr. Near's fine driving mare and it is hoped her injuries are not serious. Some fencing and grass in the pasture caught fire but was extinguished. The flames so near the city attracted many people to the scene...

- Santa Rosa Republican, August 15, 1908

Disasterous Fire on Harrison Finley Place

The large barn on the Harrison Finley place, north of town on the Mark West Springs road, was totally destroyed by the fire shortly before midnight Saturday night together with fifteen tons of hay, two horses, two mules, eight sets of double harness, a heavy truck and a spring wagon. The only insurances as far as could be learned was on the mules.

The origin of the fire is a mystery. It was first seen by Charles Maddux as he drove home from Santa Rosa. Mr. Maddux rushed to the Finley residence, roused the family, and gave the alarm. Joseph Brandt, a neighbor, got his large touring car and gathered up all the neighbors for miles and a bucket brigade was soon formed to fight the flames, but all to no avail.

The barn was enveloped in flames when first discovered and at no time was there any chance to rescue the animals or property after Mr. Maddux arrived. The flames were seen for miles in all directions, and created considerable excitement. Messages of inquiry were received by the Press Democrat regarding the fire while it was in progress. The barn was a large structure, being 25x60 feet, and two stories. The hay was stored in the loft. The loss will be quite heavy on Mr. Finley.

- Press Democrat, August 23, 1908


The destruction of the barns of James Near and Harrison Finley on the Mark West road, near the junction of the Healdsburg road, within a week of one another, has caused considerable uneasiness in the neighborhood. Speculation is rife as to the cause of the fires. All are firm in the opinion that they were set by some one intent on getting even for some imagined injury. Some believe it is the work of a crank, who opposes the Japanese, as the farmers used Japs to string their hops. They say they were unable to get other help. Sheriff J. K. Smith returned Monday evening after a two days investigation as much in the dark as ever. He found some tracks, but was unable to follow them to any tangible results. He hardly agrees with the Jap theory.

- Press Democrat, August 25, 1908

In the upside-down legal views of 1907 Santa Rosa, some acts considered child abuse weren't, and acts not viewed as abuse of children were truly criminal. (Got that?)

In the first story below, a warrant was issued for a man who whipped a horse - but his crime was cussing within earshot of women and children, not the horsewhipping. As mentioned here before, "using profane and vulgar language in the presence of children" was even considered a more serious crime than child neglect.

The other item finds a child molester held for trial on charges of lascivious conduct. That the case reached Superior Court was unusual; in 1906, another offender was told to get out of town by the police, and a Justice of the Peace gave a "hugger" just six months in county jail for "indecent exposure and making improper proposals to young girls" (MORE).

As a side note, the editors of the Press Democrat and Santa Rosa Republican should be commended for publishing these stories, and particularly for naming the offenders. Some newspapers in that era had a policy of ignoring sexual abuse crimes against children; a few years before, The New York World - probably the most sensationalist newspaper in the history of America - pointedly refused to print a story about the molestation of a 6 year-old girl that appeared on front pages of other papers. In a 1903 speech, NY World publisher Joseph Pulitzer said that the press should not "offend the good taste or lower the moral tone" and that "frankness should be linked with decency" - yet in the very next breath defended his paper's "long and dramatic accounts of murders, railroad wrecks, fires, lynchings, political corruption, embezzlements, frauds, graft, divorces, what you will."


A warrant has been issued against Tom Samuels, charging him with having used vulgar and profane language in the presence of women and children. Officer I. N. Lindley swore to the complaint, and an additional one of cruelty to animals may be placed against the young man.

It is alleged that while Samuels was driving along Fifth street Saturday evening the horse became unruly and he began to beat it with a whip. A protest from those who witnessed the action is declared to have brought forth an avalanche of profanity and a language which was decidedly more expressive than elegant. Samuels has so far evaded capture.

- Santa Rosa Republican, July 6, 1907


At a preliminary examination held in Justice Atchinson's court on Saturday morning [after] an elderly man, named Joseph Dunlap, confessed that he was guilty of lascivious conduct towards a little girl. He was held for trial in the Superior Court, and he has announced his willingness to enter a plea of guilty when he comes up before the higher tribunal.

The man could not give bail and was returned to jail. While he only admits that he acted improperly towards one little girl it is alleged that this is not true.

- Press Democrat, April 21, 1907

Here's an exercise in journalism ethics: Take a small farm town (say, Santa Rosa in 1907, with a population of about 10,000 people) and imagine there was a serious incident of food poisoning. At least ten people were sick enough that a doctor was called, one so seriously ill that "a hypodermic injection was necessary to restore life." The source of the "Ptomaine poisoning" was immediately determined to be the shrimp salad sold by a popular downtown market.

So here's the problem: Does a newspaper have a responsibility to identify the place that sold the contaminated food? If that shop was an exclusive advertiser in your newspaper, should the editor avoid mentioning the name of the business when reporting the story?

(RIGHT: Portion of Press Democrat advertising section, March 16, 1907)

Numbers of Persons Rendered Seriously Ill

Shrimp salad from Apostolides' California Grill and Oyster Market was responsible for wholesale ptomaine poisoning in this city Friday night. Calls for doctors came from several directions and some of the poisoned persons writhed in agony all night long. Saturday afternoon they are all reported out of danger, thanks to prompt medical attendance, but are still suffering from the effects of the salad.

Mrs. M. E. Carithers was probably one of the most seriously poisoned, and anxious watchers remained with her all night long. When William R. Carithers was called to the bedside of his mother he found her almost pulseless and she was as cold as she will ever be in death. Medical attendance was hastily summoned and a hypodermic injection was necessary to restore life to Mrs. Carithers.

Mrs. Henry C. Cline also partook of the salad and was rendered violently ill. She suffered all through the night and was in intense agony. Her sister, Miss Mattie Stewart, was likewise afflicted from having partaken of the salad, and her suffering did not begin until after she had left the home of Mrs. Cline to go to her own home on Mendocino avenue. She had gone to drive to the depot to meet her parents who were returning from the Geysers, but the sudden illness prevented her moving at all.

Miss Hyer, the well known artist, was another of the residents who partook of the salad and suffered the baneful consequences. She was ill all night, but like the rest is now resting comfortably. She was treated my Mrs. Cummings, who reports that the patient had an awful bad night.

All of those who partook of the salad were seized with retchings and vomiting and suffered excruciating pains.

- Santa Rosa Republican, August 3, 1907

Physicians Are Kept Busy Night and Day With Sudden and Serious Cases of Poisoning

About a dozen cases of ptomaine poisoning set the doctors' telephones a jingle with emergency calls Friday evening, and kept about a dozen doctors busy all night long. There were more on Saturday. Shrimp and crab salads were the mediums of the poison. Among the sufferers were Mrs. M. E. Carithers, Mrs. Henry C. Cline and her sister, Miss Mattie Stewart, Miss Hyer the artist, Miss Cecile C. Septrion, William S. Hunter, and Jack Matthews. Mr. Matthews was the last one to suffer. He ate crab salad Saturday afternoon and his illness soon followed.

Mrs. Carithers was one of those most painfully and most dangerously affected...most heroic treatment was necessary to restore her to animation. Mrs. Cline and Miss Stewart suffered all night, as did Miss Hyer.

Miss Septrion and Mr. Hunter were also seriously affected. It was not until Saturday noon that their physicians declared them out of danger. Both are deaf mutes. Miss Septrion is supervisor and Mr. Hunter a teacher in the school for the deaf at Vancouver, and are here visiting Miss Septrion's brother-in-law and sister, Prof. and Mrs. J. D. Martin.

- Press Democrat, August 4, 1907

A policeman's lot is not a happy one, particularly when a skulker tries to conk him with a bottle, or a pair of drunks engage in tag-team wrestling with the officer to prevent themselves from being dragged off to the pokey. And then there was the young chicken rancher who required four strong men to restrain him, crazed from his addiction to "fifty cigarettes a day, smoking day and night, with a little morphine thrown in."

Officer Yeager Arrests Obstreperous Prisoners

Monday night was a night of fights for Officer N. G. Yeager. Every person he attempted to arrest put up a stiff fight and he was compelled to use force to land them in the jail, where they became sadder and wiser people.

The first fight occurred when Officer Yeager attempted to arrest Stella Dixon, a woman of the under world. She had been drinking and was roaming about aimlessly. When the officer took her into custody her friend, Jim Campion, attempted to prevent her being arrested. He took a strenuous hand in the affair and as a result he was placed under arrest also, charged with drunkenness. Officer Yeager was game, but he had the time of his life landing his prisoners, because both offered such stubborn resistance. The Dixon woman came here on a hop picking special during the summer and has since remained.

Later in the night Officer Yeager undertook to arrest George Woods, who was on a rampage from drink. Woods, who is considered somewhat of a scrapper, put up a fight the minute Yeager undertook to arrest him. It was a merry time the officer had in attempting to get the handcuffs on the prisoner. He finally landed his man, however. The patrol wagon was needed for the Dixon-Campion pair.

Officer Yeager believes it was the dampness of the weather that caused the fighting spirit to be aroused in these persons.

- Santa Rosa Republican, December 10, 1907

Fifty Cigarettes Daily and Morphine Part of Diet That Drove Henry Anderson Insane

In lucid moments, after he had almost torn his cell in the county jail to pieces and made his escape by wrenching boards and tin from the walls. Henry Concord Anderson, a young chicken rancher from down Sonoma way, told a Press Democrat reporter that fifty cigarettes a day, smoking day and night, with a little morphine thrown in, were responsible for his condition.

Anderson for a time on Wednesday was one of the most wildly insane men that has ever occupied the padded cell in the grim building on Third street. It took Sheriff Smith and Deputies McIntosh, Reynolds and La Point to handle him, and finally strap him hand and foot to a stretcher. Then he became tranquil for a time. In order to secure him without using much force a little strategy was used. He was induced to thrust his hand through the peephole in the door and did so, and then the wicket was opened and the straps were put on him. Judge Denny and the Lunacy Commission convened at the county jail in the afternoon and Anderson was adjudged a fit subject for the asylum at Ukiah.

- Press Democrat, May 2, 1907

Coward Under Cover Hurls Bottles at Policeman Who is Patrolling a Tenderloin Beat at Night

Shortly after nine o'clock on Wednesday night a dastardly attempted assault was made upon Police Officer P. L. Wilson while he was patrolling his beat on First street, between D and E streets. Four beer bottles were hurled with considerable force at him by unknown cowards hiding in the darkness. Two of the bottles fell at his feet and smashed. One of them almost grazed his helmet. If it had hit him on the head the chances are it would have killed him.

The officer was walking along the center of the street. The first he knew that something was happening was when one of the missiles whizzed by his head. The next moment a bottle smashed at his feet and the splinters of glass showered over him. Two more bottles were thrown. He pulled his gun and speaking in the direction from which the bottles were thrown, said: "Whoever you are you can't run fast enough for me." There was no move. If there had been the officer was ready. An investigation was immediately made, but the bottle thrower were not to be found, undoubtedly having sneaked away down the creek bank under shelter of the darkness. The officer has two of the empty bottles that were not broken and the necks of the two that were broken.

The bottles were not hurled at Policeman Wilson in jest. He says they were thrown with too much vehemence for that. The aim was deliberate. The bottles were not thrown from any house. The throwers were in hiding near a big tree. The policeman has no idea as to their identity. Inquiry was made at houses on the street, and the people denied that they kept the brand of beer the labels indicated.

- Press Democrat, September 12, 1907

Before the Internet got the blame, it was Sears & Roebuck that was accused of destroying our local economy. Even though downtown was still a dangerous construction zone, don't you feel perfectly lousy for ordering those washrags from a mail-order catalog instead of risking your neck to buy them from The White House Department Store?

This is the first in a series of public service "booster" ads that appeared in the Santa Rosa Republican between 1907-1909. (CLICK to enlarge image.)

Proposes Some Things for Improvement of Santa Rosa


The matter of the relaying of the streets in places where trenches have been dug for sewer and water pipe work was considered and the council was requested to enforce the ordinance compelling the repair of the same. Also the secretary was requested to call the attention of the city governing body to the habit of displaying of buggies, wagons, and farming implements on the sidewalks in front of sale places, stores, or blacksmith shops.

The hiding of unsightly piles of brick or rubbish was discussed and the building of high board fences was suggested. It was also suggested that parties might be secured to erect the same if allowed to use them for billboards.


- Press Democrat, December 21, 1907

For Mattie and James Wyatt Oates, 1907 was filled with truly halcyon days, both of them busy in the swirl of things they loved best - even though they were now at ages when most of their generation began slowing down. Mattie turned 48, and her husband was roughly ten years north of that.

Hardly a week went by that without a mention of one or both Oates' in the Santa Rosa newspapers They took auto trips around the county (a few uneventful ones not mentioned below), and Wyatt apparently learned to drive; he also took the train to visit his old haunts in Arizona. He again played the broker in a big financial deal, and she entertained friends and Santa Rosa's society swells in a grand manner; besides the party with a string orchestra in May, there were at least three other notable shindigs at their home that year.

The most significant event will be discussed at length in a future post, and that was the role of both Oates in the creation of the Saturday Afternoon Club clubhouse. In 1907 the women's group was incorporated (attorney Oates doing the paperwork, natch) and they purchased land on 10th street where their meeting hall would be built the following year, to a custom design by Mattie's architect, Brainerd Jones.

There was also a 1907 item that mentioned a young woman "who in years past visited frequently at the home of Colonel and Mrs. J. W. Oates," suggesting that the couple may have had a mentoring relationship with a debutante before Anna May Bell, who was treated like the Oates' godchild. The other woman was Adelaide Murphy, daughter of Samuel Murphy, president of the First National Bank in San Francisco. A society item from 1899 noted Mrs. Oates was the guest of Mrs. Murphy at their posh digs in Pacific Heights, just as Mattie occasionally visited Mrs. Bell in southern California. (Several newspaper stories about Adelaide can be found in the San Francisco papers. In 1902, the millionaire's daughter married John Breckenridge, the sickly and idle scion of another San Francisco banking dynasty. Her father disowned her for three years and the couple fled to Paris.)

(RIGHT: Adelaide Murphy Breckenridge. SF Call, July 18, 1902)

Most interesting to the history of Comstock House, though, is a transcript of a speech by Mattie Oates to the Saturday Afternoon Club. As we have few artifacts about her except for a scrawled name in a cookbook and a fuzzy picture, the speech gives us a tiny bit of insight to her personality.

Her presentation was on "The Laws of California as related to Women and Children," and is roughly in two sections, the first being a school book rehash of marital rights under old English law, and the latter part bearing the legalistic thumbprints of her lawyer husband ("...the reciprocal rights, duties, and privileges of women and children have been receiving more and more attention from lawmakers"). Most interesting is that she speaks approvingly of outlawing child labor and sweatshops but doesn't mention sufferage or temperance, the two legal issues concerning women that were most discussed at that time. The transcript isn't provided here because it's somewhat of a struggle to read, both because of mundane prose and the lack of proofreading by the newspaper, which leaves many a sentence bereft of subject, object, or worse (you can find the whole thing in the Oct. 13, 1907 Press Democrat "Society Gossip" section). Still, there are a few passages that reveal flashes of character and wit:

* [In olden times the husband] might chastise her if he used a rod 'no longer than a thumb.' Whether this led to preferring a husband with small hands we do not know, as there is no recorded instance on the point.

* [The husband] is the head of the family today, even as in the long ago in the eyes of the law, at least, but how much so in fact is frequently debatable. It always strikes me [he] has much the worst of it in spite of his 'lordship.' He may choose the place of abode, but if he does not like it and stays away and seeks a divorce and he forgets it, everyone says of him, 'The mean thing.'

* In California the wife has much the best of it, in face of the law. She is [no] longer what they dubbed her two hundred years ago, 'the weaker vessel.' She is now the 'Ocean Greyhound,' [yet] as compared to her husband is but a 'Tramp Freighter.'


Judge James W. Oates has planned a trip to the southern part of the state and will also visit Arizona, where he resided at one time. Judge Oates has been suffering from a severe cold recently and will take the trip to recuperate. Some time will be spent by the talented Santa Rosan at Santa Barbara by the sea and Los Angeles and San Diego will also divide his time. Many friends expect him to return in robust health after his outing.

- Santa Rosa Republican, February 11, 1907


Judge and Mrs. James W. Oates took an automobile trip to the historic city of Sonoma Monday afternoon and enjoyed their outing greatly. They found the sport exhilarating and the roads in pretty fair condition for the trip. Shirley D. Burris handled the throttle and steering gear and the trip afforded the party much pleasure.

- Santa Rosa Republican, April 9, 1907

Colonel Oates and C. A. Wright "Catch the Limit" in Porter creek

Last week Colonel James W. Oates and C. A. Wright, following an annual custom of eighteen years past, enjoyed a day's fishing. They fished in Porter creek and they caught "the limit." Before the gray streaks of light hearalded the dawn of day the bold fishermen left town for the scene of operations with a plentiful supply of bait and lunch. Both lunch and bait were disposed of and in the evening the gentlemen returned to town well pleased with their eighteenth yearly pilgrimage to Izaak Walton's shrine.

- Press Democrat, May 7, 1907

Mr. and Mrs. James Wyatt Oates entertained the Married Ladies' Card Club and a number of invited guests in a pleasing manner at their beautiful home on Mendocino avenue Tuesday evening. Choice blossoms and dainty greenery were blended together most artistically in decorating the spacious rooms for the occasion; and they certainly presented a brilliant scene, when brightly lighted and filled with a large crowd of our society folks. The dainty, pretty gounds worn by the ladies, added a touch of beauty to the whole effect of the affair. Progressive euchre was the game of the evening and was played with keen interest for several hours. At its close delicious refreshments were served and another hour spent in general sociability are [sic] the guests took leave of the charming hostess and jovial host and turned their steps homeward, delighted with the pleasures of the evening and the generous hospitality extended to them...Mrs. Oates was assisted in entertaining her guests by Mrs. Soloman [sic] and Mrs. Blitz W. Paxton.

- Santa Rosa Republican, June 22, 1907

The beautiful home of Col. and Mrs. James Wyatt Oates was the scene of a brilliant party Friday night, upon which occasion they entertained the Married Ladies' Card Club and few invited guests. The large hall shone resplendent in bright canvas, pink roses cast their soft radiance over the living room, while in the dining room red geraniums constituted the decorative feature...

- Press Democrat, June 23, 1907

Will be Late
Attorney J. W. Oates has been called to San Jose by a subpoena requiring his appearance as a witness in a civil suit before the Superior Court. Ten o'clock this forenoon is the hour set for Colonel Oates' presence in the court room, and he has not yet ascertained whether it will be possible for him to reach there in time. At eleven o'clock last night he quit studying the time tables, and began working upon a plea of mitigation of sentence for contempt of court.

- Press Democrat, July 26, 1907

The Insider of the Call says: Mrs. Adelaide Breckenridge, who has written a pantomime, which, the dispatches tell us, will have a London production, was never suspected possess a desire to hine as a dramatic writer in the old days when she was one of the most popular of our society girls. She was always known to be clever. Since Addie Murphey Breckenridge took up her permanent residence in Paris I hear that she has become so French that her old friends would not know her. She has a near approach to a "salon," which so many of our clever women have tried to esablish here with disasterous results. Mrs. Breckenridge's salon is said to be alomst Recamier-like in its scope. Nobody is permitted to speak anything but the Parisian tongue within the confines of her drawing rom, and that must be rather a hard ordeal for San Francisco girls who call upon their one-time chum in her French home." Mrs. Breckenridge will be remembered well in our social circles as Miss Adelaide Murphey, daughter of Banker Murphey of San Francisco, and who in years past visited frequently at the home of Colonel and Mrs. J. W. Oates.

- Press Democrat, August 4, 1907

Col. and Mrs. James W. Oates, accompanied by Miss Anna May Bell, visited the Paxton ranch, this side of Healdsburg, Monday. The trip was made by automobile.

- Press Democrat, September 4, 1907

Mrs. David C. Farnham and Miss Myrtle Harell were the guests of honor at a most brilliant luncheon given Wednesday afternoon by Mrs. James Wyatt Oates. The beautiful Oates home had been artistically decorated for the occasion with great bunches of pink and white chrysanthemums intermingled wwith autumn foliage. Covers were laid for eighteen around a table that sparkled and flashed with its beautiful glass and silver conventionally placed under a huge bunch of white chrysanthemums that graced the center of the table. Mrs. Oates' guests were:

- Press Democrat, October 27, 1907

Altogether informal, but none the less entertaining and enjoyable, was the afternoon given by Mrs. James Wyatt Oates in honor of Miss Katherine Rockwell of Kansas City, Thursday. Social conversation, interspersed with music, passed the afternoon delightfully after which a dainty collation was served. Mrs. Oates was assisted during the afternoon by Mrs. James R. Edwards and by her mother, Mrs. M. S. Solomon.

- Press Democrat, December 22, 1907

In 1907 Santa Rosa, the Twentieth Century was finally roaring in like thunder. Like other places in California, Sonoma County went car crazy; that year, locals were also experiencing a kind of future shock over the rapid deployment of telephones, a technology that many were still uneasy about. Missing from this picture of modernity was one crucial component: Dependable electricity.

A reliable power supply was the bane of both North Bay and East Bay, which shared a single line from a hydroelectric dam in the Sierra foothills. Invariably during winter storms, a tree would fall somewhere against the line or a pole would be washed out and the "juice" would be off, sometimes for days. Thus there was excitement in Sonoma County when it was learned that the Snow Mountain Water & Power Company planned to build a hydroelectric plant on the south fork of the Eel River near Potter Valley in Mendocino County. It took about a year to complete and had disasterous environmental consequences (to be discussed in a later post) but the project still generates power and diverts water to the Sonoma County Water Agency via Lake Mendocino. The reservoir behind the dam is Lake Van Arsdale, named for the man who built the system, W.W. Van Arsdale.

Another electrical proposal came before the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors that year, seeking to string transmission lines from Mendocino throughout Sonoma County. Yet the backers of this project claimed they had "nothing to do with the big Eel river enterprise in any manner." Wink, wink. Permission was granted. Unknown is whether Van Arsdale gave his approval to the setup, or whether this group was rushing to have the lines approved before the Snow Mountain Water & Power Company made an application to bring their own lines into the county. But what we do know for certain is that the broker in this deal was none other than our anti-hero, Mr. James Wyatt Oates.

This is the second time we've seen Oates act as the power broker in a high stakes game. In 1905, he had walked into a City Council meeting with an offer of $200,000 to purchase the entire Santa Rosa municipal bond as the consigliere of a consortium of secret investors. This time, he was upfront about representing Frank M. Burris, president of the Sonoma Valley Bank. Who else was involved is unknown - Van Arsdale may well have been a silent partner - but the involvement of a well-established local banker like Burris ensured the project was well capitalized, probably with the investments of Sonoma's wealthy elite, almost certainly including the savvy Oates. (Burris was the son of the bank's founder, and the old Burris homestead in the town of Sonoma is currently the MacArthur Place Inn & Spa).

Application For a Franchise For Distribution of Current Made to the Supervisors Here Monday

A matter likely to prove of great importance in the future development of Sonoma county was made public on Monday when Colonel James W. Oates appeared in behalf of Frank M. Burris and applied to the Supervisors for a franchise for distributing electric current for lights, power, and other purposes in all directions throughout the county.

The franchise is for a trunk line from Mendocino county through Cloverdale, Healdsburg and all the intermediate towns to Santa Rosa, thence through the Sonoma Valley and Sonoma to the Napa county line; also from Santa Rosa to Petaluma and intermediate towns.

While those interested say that this application has nothing to do with the big Eel river enterprise in any manner yet those familiar with conditions are satisfied that power from the plant will be handled, when it is available.

- Press Democrat, May 7, 1907

Progress Made on the Big System on Eel River Through Mendocino and Sonoma Counties

The construction of the power line from Eel river through Mendocino county into Sonoma is progressing nicely. Wire is being strung on the poles from the power house to Cold Creek and a force of men are now at work placing poles south from Pieta. The power line wire is "No. 9" aluminum. The pipe line to connect the tunnel with the power house is being riveted and the machinery is being rapidly put together while work is being rushed on the power house building. It is expected that power will be available for use as far as Ukiah by the first of the year.

- Press Democrat, September 28, 1907

Eighty Thousand Dollars Cost of Wire Line for Eel River Concern--Will Ask for More Franchises

The Snow Mountain Water & Power Company is rapidly completing the electric power line from its source of supply near Eel river southerly to Sonoma county, all of the necessary material being on hand and most of the line constructed.

It will be remembered that a short time ago a franchise was granted for bringing the concern into and across Sonoma county, entry the county north of Preston and continuing down to this city, thence to Petaluma and the Marin county line, south of that city, and also from this city by Sonoma to the Napa county line. Already the material for erecting the entire line through this county is on hand, as is also the case in Napa county, where the company have a similar franchise.


It is understood that the policy of the company is to procure a large consumption and to do this, say they intend to keep rated down to living prices. They consider that such a policy is not only necessary in order to acquire a large consumption but as they are looking to a long investment with a fair income, they realize that to get that they must have a large patronage. This is one of the most momentous things that has happened in this section of the county. Electricity is the power and light of the future, and the advent of this enterprise cannot fail to add greatly, not only to the convenience of people, but to the value of property in all the country touched by it.

It is understood that the company will ask for other franchises in order to distribute the "juice" in different sections of the county.

- Press Democrat, October 1, 1907

Here's my new example of why this research is such fun: You discover a silly editorial about the "teddy bear fad," and a few moments later, your jaw drops while learning that Hitler was a big fan of Theodore Roosevelt.

The 1907 Press Democrat editorial was a reaction to the absurd idea that little girls had to play with dolls that looked like people or they would lose all desire for motherhood. Such was the claim of a Michigan priest that had appeared in scores of newspapers nationwide as a July 8 AP wire item :

A dispatch to the tribune from St. Joseph, Mich., says:

The "Teddy Bear" fad was denounced by the Rev. Michael G. Esper from the pulpit of St. Joseph's Catholic church yesterday.

The priest held that the toy beast in the hands of little girls was destroying all instincts of motherhood and that in the future it would be realized as one of the most powerful factors in the race suicide danger.

Father Esper asked all parents to replace the doll in the affections of children and discard the "Teddy Bear" forever.

PD editor Ernest L. Finley ridiculed the notion, but the story was often printed without commentary on the front pages (my favorite headline was from the Salt Lake Tribune: "Teddy Bear Dooms Race"). In newspapers with a strong Catholic identity, the item was expanded to explain the importance of preventing "race suicide."

As it turns out, preventing "race suicide" was quite a favorite cause of Teddy Roosevelt, whose hunting adventures had inspired the creation of the "Teddy Bear" five years before. That a toy named after the president was now being accused of causing "race suicide" is one of those bizarreries of White House history, such as John Wilkes Booth being in the VIP section directly behind Lincoln during his second inauguration (Booth scored a ticket because he was engaged to a Senator's daughter).

(RIGHT: A search for "race suicide postcard" on eBay or the collectible postcard web sites will turn up many examples c. 1905-1910. Most common were humorous cartoons with baby-delivering storks, but also found frequently are postcards with racist themes, such as the one shown at center. After Esper's anti-teddy bear appeal, a new wave of "race suicide" postcards depicted little caucasian girls cuddling dolls. The bottom postcard was the exception that seemed to poke fun at the priest's alarm. CLICK any image to enlarge)

Roosevelt's interest in the topic began in the early 1890s, and let's be clear that the primary "race" in Teddy's concerns wasn't a race at all, but "old-stock" white Americans, particularly those with ancestors from New England. Roosevelt thought the declining birthrates of that group was threatened by the higher birthrates found among the immigrants whom he called "inferior races." By 1898, his views had become even more radicalized, writing that "evil forces" were causing "the diminishing birthrate among the old native American stock," and any who chose to not to have children were "race criminals."

Roosevelt's solution was that Americans should "Work-fight-breed," a message that melded into his overall promotion of a healthy "strenuous life." But his glorification of motherhood cloaked uglier underlying views of women as breeders, and that eugenics was a good thing if it ensured "the wrong people could be prevented entirely from breeding."

While this all sounds rather Nazi-ish, it must be emphasized that Roosevelt never suggested that "old Colonial stock" Americans were a kind of √úbermensch. Speaking at Oxford in 1910, he noted that he was an eighth-generation American with ancestors from many different "European races." It was the "common heirship in the things of the spirit," he said, that "makes a closer bond than common heirship in the things of the body." He made that same point in other speeches, defining Americans as those who fully assimilated and embraced Uncle Sam's culture and customs, not just those who had Plymouth Rock bloodlines. In other words, he was expressing a fundamental view of American exceptionalism.

At the same time, there's no way to reconcile Theodore Roosevelt's contradictory views on racial issues that swing wildly between extremes.

Good-Teddy encouraged France, Germany, and England to take interest in "race suicide" birthrates in their countries, further showing that he didn't believe in a particular flavor of racial superiority; that's offset by Awful-Teddy denouncing the people in southern Italy as the "most fecund and the least desirable" race in all of Europe. While Good-Teddy vigorously opposed discrimination against African Americans, Awful-Teddy called genocide against the Indians "as ultimately beneficial as it was inevitable," and said that "I don't go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of ten are, and I shouldn't inquire too closely into the case of the tenth."


And now they say the "Teddy bear" craze is a bad thing, because the fuzzy little animals have largely displaced the dollies of our fathers--or mothers, rather--and while the fondling of dolls tended to develop the maternal instinct, play with "Teddy bears" awakens no such sentiment and consequently tends to produce race suicide.

What nonsense!

The "Teddy bear" is only a fad, and is said to be already fast losing its popularity. But if current reports are to be relied upon, Santa Claus is laying in a larger stock of dolls for the coming Christmas than ever before.

- Press Democrat editorial , August 30, 1907

Press Democrat editor Ernest Finley loved drunks, and if the tippler was also a hobo, so much the better.

Finley could write prose worthy of Mark Twain when the spirit moved him, and could sketch a memorable little portrait from just a routine court appearance (while likely inventing all the dialog in the scene). But Finley's favorite muse was "Tennessee Bill," a hobo with a window-rattling yell who also had a penchant for tearing off his clothes and setting fire to them. More of Finley's poetics over the skunk-drunk can be found in the 1906 papers.


"Look here, Judge," You let me go this time and I promise you I will not take a single drink. If I do and am brought before you again, you just give me the limit, six months, and I will not blame anybody but myself."

So said Joe Fenton, an old offender to Judge Bagley on Tuesday morning shortly after his release from jail, where he had been doing time for over indulgence in liquor, when he was again presented before the magistrate.

"Very well," said the magistrate. "Now, remember, you have made a bargain."

Wednesday morning Fenton was picked up again, drunk and incapable. He was hauled before the police judge again, having been brought to court in the patrol wagon. Asked to explain the why and the wherefore, he said:

"Judge, I just took one drink."

"That's one more than you said you would. You told me to give you the limit. But sixty days."

"All right sir."

And Joe was taken over once more.

- Press Democrat, September 5, 1907

"Tennessee Bill" Jailed in a Northern Calaboose, Burns His Clothes--Widely Known Specimen of Genus Hobo

William Cornelius Tennessee Goforth, familiarly known to all the officers of California from San Diego to Siskiyou and from the Sierras to the sea as "Tennessee Bill," will probably drop into town in a day or two.

This noted specie of the genus hobo has been spending a few days of enforced retirement in the jail at Ukiah. The other day the people of that quiet Mendocino town were terrified by a series of most ungodly yells, and when the town marshal and the available police force investigated they found that the possessor of the powerful lung blast was none other than "Tennessee Bill."

Bill was quickly gathered in and when taken before the magistrate was given a term in jail. It was necessary to prescribe a bath for Bill at Bastille soon after his arrival there. Then he tried on the same old joke he worked when he was last a guest at the county jail on Third street in this city. He watched an opportunity while the bath was being prepared and shoved all the old clothes he was wearing through the [illegible microfilm] as the flames preyed upon them. He reckoned without a realization that two can play a joke. Consequently instead of being passed out a brand new suit of overalls he was ordered at the conclusion of his ablutions to proceed to his cell and remain there wrapped in the folds of a blanket. Bill had to submit with all the grace he could commit under the circumstances in the long run, however he will win only when he is liberated he will get the clothes all right.

- Press Democrat, September 7, 1907

Hop Pickers Indulge Too Freely-- "Tennessee Bill" Once More an Inhabitant of County Jail

There was something doing in police circles yesterday afternoon and Fourth street was kept alive with the jingle of the bell of the patrol wagon.

Half a dozen men, from the hop yards, celebrating the fact that they had been paid off, took a little too much hop brew aboard, and were overcome. Three of them required the assistance of the patrol wagon to reach a cool spot in the police station. Three of them were walked there. Police Officer Lindley was the arresting officer in each case.

Some time during the afternoon there was a lusty use of lung power and in response Constable Sam Gilliam hurried to Third street. Some how or other, the shouts seemed sort of familiar to the officer. It was none other than William Cornelius Tennessee Goforth, more familiarly known as "Tennessee Bill." Bill went over to the county jail for fifteen days and thanked Justice Atchinson for the rest given. Bill finds the jails throughout the state the best homes he knows. He has been there often enough.

- Press Democrat, September 21, 1907

Santa Rosa was a modern town in 1907, by standards of the day; many homes had telephones, so if trouble arose one could call the police station and have an officer dispatched on a bicycle. Or, you could grab your gun and join a mob prowling the streets, looking for suspects.

Below are two stories about women being assaulted that year, and in both cases their screams drew men from the neighborhood seeking to find the assailant. In the September incident, at least two of the men are armed.

Contrast these reports to the article from a year earlier, where a woman whose claim to have been attacked was dismissed as an "attempt to gain notoriety."

Assails Girl In Presence of Two Companions

Three ladies were stopped by a bold man Tuesday evening as they were approaching their home near Ninth and Washington streets. The impudent man asked one of the young ladies if he might accompany her home and was told to mind his business. He then grabbed the young woman and threw her to the ground. The trio set up a fearful yelling and the assailant of the young woman fled. The officers have been given a good description of the man and expect to land him in jail. There were two young ladies in the party and they were being escorted by the mother of one of them. They had been attending the theater and were unaware that the man was following them. A thorough search was made of the vicinity, but no trace of the man could be discovered. Had he been found his punishment would have been inflicted at the hands of irate men who participated in the search.

- Santa Rosa Republican, June 12, 1907

Jumps from the Dark and Grabs Them Last Night

There was considerable excitement shortly before eleven o'clock Saturday night in the vicinity of Spencer avenue and Nason street. Mrs. O'Brien and her niece, who reside on the avenue were returning to their home when a man suddenly jumped out of the darkness beside the path and grabbed them. They gave some lusty screams and the fellow released his grasp and ran off into the darkness again.

Police Officer I. N. Lindley responded with alacrity to a telephone call and when he arrived on the scene he found several men had assembled to assist in the search for the man. One of the party the officer found was armed [illegible microfilm] and another with a rifle. The neighborhoods was searched but the man had evidently made good his escape. Neither Mrs. O'Brien nor her niece could give a description of the assailant owing to the darkness and the suddenness of the assault.

Earlier in the evening Policeman Wilson was called to north Humboldt street where it was reported a man was hanging around dark corners and was following women. Some time after this a man whose identity was not learned was noticed on the same street almost dragging a woman, presumably his wife, and was beating a little child, who was with them. So that altogether this neighborhood had its exciting time Saturday night.

Not long ago it will be remembered a man attempted to grab two young ladies in the vicinity of Seventh and A streets.

- Press Democrat, September 8, 1907

In the summer of 1907, Luther Burbank was a man with many Boswells trailing his steps, hoping to pry secrets from his encyclopedic mind. Each biographer desired to author the magnum opus on Burbank and his plant-breeding methods, and Burbank cooperated with them all equally, which is to say that he barely cooperated with anyone at all.

(This is the third part of a series on Burbank's troubled relationship with the Carnegie Institution. The previous part discusses George Shull and the Carnegie Institution. The introduction to this series, "Burbank's Follies," provides more background on these topics and offers a critical overview of Burbank's work. The series concludes here.)

Besides Shull, another habitue was a writer named W.S. Harwood, preparing a second edition of "New Creations in Plant Life." Harwood had written a 1904 magazine article on Burbank and expanded that into a book-length profile with descriptions of his work methods a year later. That book sold well even though it was slammed by knowledgeable critics, suffering a particularly harsh review in the Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society: "[Harwood] traces the course of his hero's life and work with all the ardour of the true hero-worshipper...The book does not help at all, as we had hoped it would, to enable us to sift the truth from the obviously exaggerated accounts."

In the published fragments of Shull's correspondence with the Carnegie Institution, the sycophant Harwood is only mentioned once, and in passing; aside from being another person demanding Burbank's attention, Shull didn't consider him a competitor. But Shull didn't know what to make of a new visitor to Burbank's farm: Dr. William Martin, an editor from the Cree Publishing Company of Minneapolis, who was now living in Burbank's old house and studying all of Burbank's scrapbooks. The publisher had been negotiating with Burbank for over a year to prepare a ten-volume set that would document Burbank's methods - an arrangement that seemed in direct conflict with the Burbank's $10,000/year grant from Carnegie. Shull wrote to the Committee in February, 1907:1

Mr. Burbank informed me that the Cree books can not be in the least conflict with our work. He says that the 10 volumes will not contain as much 'meat' as ten pages of the Carnegie work. It is to be made up mostly of illustrations, on thick paper, with very brief statements in large type:--to be sold by subscription.

Shull's supervisor urged him to "find out all you can" about the Cree project, and Shull replied the next month:2

I do not believe that it will be possible for me to learn much more intimately of the contents of Cree books than I have already reported. I do not think that they will be in very direct conflict, however, with the work we are planning, though without doubt, a large part of the public will draw a comparison between that work and ours, which will not be as favorable to the Carnegie work as we might hope, since the Cree work is being planned specifically to please the popular mind...

Dr. Martin was the Rev. William Mayo Martin, D. D. from Minneapolis, who the Santa Rosa Republican described as "a prominent author and man of letters." (Martin was replaced a few months later by H. B. Humphrey, a plant pathologist from Washington State College, but Martin's qualifications for the project are a mystery. I've been unable to find anything about him professionally, academically, or even personally through census records. It's as if he never existed. UPDATE: Martin was Cree's brother-in-law.) Besides Martin, the Cree faction also included Martin's stenographer and a junior professor from Stanford University, botanist Dr. Leroy Abrams, who had been hired to work with Martin, and was expected to be there for a year. Shull wrote to the president of the Carnegie Institution that it was getting crowded at Burbank's place.3

Yesterday Mr. Harwood was here revising his book on 'New Creations.' Dr. Martin is here getting material for the ten volumes of the Cree Co., and a representative of Collier's [Magazine] was also securing data for articles, so you can see none of us will be able to receive much attention. Mr. Burbank is trying to treat us all alike and has assigned different hours to each of these various interests.

Shull's 1907 stint with Burbank was cut short by the death of his wife and infant at their Santa Rosa home. With the Carnegie Institution work on hiatus while he was in mourning back east, Shull hoped that Burbank would spend more time with the Cree team, all the better to concentrate on the scientific questions Shull would pose when he returned. Alas, Burbank sent him a letter stating that he had been very busy, "and so have not dictated to the other company at all since you left, but when you come back will try to give both parties a short time each day as usual."4 Back in Santa Rosa, Shull wrote to the Committee in February, 1908 that he was no longer sure that the Cree project would be as lightweight as Burbank had claimed:5

It should also be noted that the management of the Cree Publishing Company's projected work, is fully aware of the wave of adverse criticism which has been directed against Harwood's book because of its unbridled praise of Mr. Burbank's achievements, and is obviously taking steps to lessen this tendency in their publication. The employment of a trained botanist by that company, to stand sponsor for the scientific bearings of the work who will have been a longer time in actual contact with Mr. Burbank than I will have been, opens the question as to the relative merits of that work and ours, and also as to whether one or the other of these two works will not be superfluous in the presence of the other.

There was no need for Shull to worry. Sometime during 1908, plans fell apart for Cree to publish that ten-volume set. Reasons are unknown; it could be that Prof. Abrams withdrew because of the frustrations working with the uncommunicative Burbank, or that the publisher ran out of money or patience. Although that work was abandoned, partners in the Cree venture would continue to develop money-making schemes with Burbank, which will be the subject of following installments in the "Burbank Follies."

Now a century past, the story of Burbank's conflicted doings with the Carnegie Institution, Cree Publishing and other would-be suitors is well-documented in books and journal articles. At the time, however, the Santa Rosa newspapers only reported approvingly of Dr. Shull's comings and goings and the "splendid work" turned out by Cree; to the public, all apparently were having a merry time hanging out with the plant wizard, according to the papers. But there is one significant event from 1907 that was newsworthy, yet is not mentioned in any literature about Burbank: The thwarted plans to create a "Burbank Institute."

in late October, Petaluma's George P. McNear, possibly the most financially important man in the county, announced that "premature publicity" had derailed plans to create a Burbank Institute. As this was the first mention in the newspapers of any plans to create an international plant-breeding school, one has to wonder what publicity he meant - and why that should squelch the deal. There were other mysteries in McNear's single-paragraph non-announcement: Who were the "wealthy men interested in results of experiments" that were expected to fund a "permanent endowment" for the institution? If truly "Burbank's consent [had] not been secured," as McNear wrote, how could any group presume to found a school centered upon Burbank's methods?

The Press Democrat and Santa Rosa Republican articles that followed McNear's statement filled in some details. Yes, the editors knew about the plans and had indeed vowed secrecy. The PD reported Stanford President David Starr Jordan, a well-known Burbank booster, was said to be the author of the press release signed by McNear. Whether that's true or not, it's clear something actually was afoot.

It's difficult to know what to make of this episode. One reason to be skeptical is because plans for a potential Burbank Institute were not mentioned by any of his biographers, and this period is well-documented, thanks to Shull's correspondence with the Carnegie Institution. It also appears that the newspaper articles about the thwarted plans for the school were written nearly verbatim from Burbank's dictation. His fingerprints can be found in his customary overstated claims that "the Carnegie Institution has already set aside the sum of $100,000" for his support and "its perpetuation would appear only reasonable," that he would "teach the higher science of plant breeding," and that "University professors...were greatly interested in the project."

There are two possible scenarios that I can imagine - and in both cases, Burbank is my pick as the probable source of the newsleak, inadvertently or no:

*There might have been "cigar talk" among some of Burbank's more well-heeled supporters about the possibility of creating a Burbank school. Unable to restrain his need for self-aggrandizement, Burbank boasted to someone that wealthy and famous people were soon to build an institute in his honor. Word got back to McNear and the others, who became alarmed that Burbank was pushing them into commitment, so they shot down the idea, fast.

*Serious plans really might have been underway to create and endow a Burbank Institute. But the bank panic of 1907 - which occurred the same week as McNear's declaration - caused potential investors/donors to hunker down. With the intent of pushing them into commitment, Burbank whispered to the papers that the secret deal was still in the works, which led McNear and the others to send out the statement to the press.

Some combination of the two scenarios is also possible. Yes, the nation was suddenly facing the total collapse of the U.S. economy, and investors would be foolish to give Luther Burbank a bunch of post-dated blank checks during the crisis. At the same time, many believed that Burbank's new spineless cactus was as important a discovery as the Russet potato, and speculators were indeed "interested in results of [Burbank's] experiments," hoping to get in on the ground floor. As for Burbank's role, the only thing he loved more than being idolized was having a reliable income, and a Burbank Institute had enormous potential for both. One can imagine his anguish at seeing such a project suddenly dissolve, and one can imagine he might risk a long-shot bid to snatch it from defeat.

 1pg. 138, Bentley Glass, The strange encounter of Luther Burbank and George Harrison Shull (American Philosophical Society) 1980
2pg. 139, ibid
3pg. 171, Peter Dreyer, A Gardener Touched With Genius (Luther Burbank Home & Gardens, Santa Rosa, CA) 1985
4pg. 140, Glass
5pg. 139, Glass


Rev. William Mayse [sic] Martin of Minneapolis, a prominent author and man of letters, arrived here Friday morning, and will make his home here for the coming year. He comes to edit a work of ten volumes, to be entitled "New Creations." This will explain in detail the marvelous work of Luther Burbank, the well known local scientist, in his propagation of new plants and flowers. This work is to be published by the Cree Publishing Company, which is having the large colored panels and colored postals made of Mr. Burbank's creations. Rev. Mr. Martin is accompanied by his private stenographer and will have his office in the former Burbank home. His family have remained to spend some time in Los Angeles, but later will come here to make their home while Mr. Martin is doing the great work he has undertaken.

- Santa Rosa Republican, February 2, 1907


Donald [sic] Cree, President of the Cree Publishing Company of Minneapolis, Minn., who is engaged in getting out a ten-volume work entitled, "Burbank's Creation," is on the coast making arrangements to place the work with subscription agencies. While in this city Monday Mr. Cree made the Press Democrat a pleasant call and permitted an inspection of the prospectus of the sets of volumes.

The work gives promise of being the most elaborate of its kind ever attempted. The paper is all especially made with the "Luther Burbank" watermark in the margin, and the plates are all colored to life, from handpainted samples prepared here by specialists.The binding represents the finest the art can produce and are in several styles from the luxurious $1000 to the $500 and $250 per set down to a popular edition.

Mr. Burbank has been dictating for several months for the text of the work and the "copy" is being sent out as fast as prepared and placed in the hands of the printer. The first volume is expected to be ready for delivery within a short time and the rest will follow as rapidly as they can be handled. The work is sold by subscription only.

- Press Democrat, May 28, 1907

Cree Publishing Company Plans Burbank Cards

Dr. William Mays [sic] Martin, who has been here for several months past as editor of the Cree publishing company's works on Luther Burbank and his work, has been given another line of work by his firm, and the editorship has been placed in the hands of H. B. Humphrey, who will continue the work on the set of books under course of publication.

The Cree company has determined to issue a series of postal cards, setting forth various views of the Burbank home, Mr. Burbank's photograph, some of his flowers and fruits and views from the experimental grounds. This department of the work has been placed in charge of Mr. Martin and already thousands of the cards have been ordered from all parts of this state, and dealers as far east as Chicago have placed large orders for the cards. It is expected that this line of the of the work will be in great demand, and the cards will be made from the superb views recently made by the company from oil paintings of the real views, such as are being used in the publication of the illustrations in the books.

- Santa Rosa Republican, October 28, 1907

Complete Scientific History of Eminent Scientist's Work in Realm of Nature

President Dugal Cree of the Cree Publishing Company, of Minneapolis, accompanied by Rev. William Mayes Martin, D. D., has been spending several days in this city. This is Mr. Cree's second visit to Santa Rosa, he having been here last September, at which time he entered into negotiations with Luther Burbank for the rights to publish a set of books covering the scientist's life work. During the present visit the details have been completed and a contract entered into between Mr. Burbank and the publishing house for the latter to bring out a set of ten volumes of "New Creations," an edition authorized by Luther Burbank giving a history of the facts, methods, principles, and a description of the new creations brought out by the famous scientist during his thirty-five years work among fruit, flowers, and foliage.

Dr. Marin will remain here to look after the Publisher's interests and forward the copy as rapidly as the stenographer, who will take the subject matter from Mr. Burbank's personal dictation, completes it, assist in gathering data, and see that nothing is left undone to hurry forward the preparation of the completed work.

The desire of the publishers and hopes of Mr. Burbank are to in this manner answer the thousands of questions which are constantly pouring in on Mr. Burbank, and also save the valuable time and labor which it requires to answer such requests by letter. Mr. Burbank has had most insistant demands from publishers all over the United States as well as Europe for the publication of such a work while the reading public and horticulturists desire it as a permanent monument to his memory as well as to preserve the methods and plans of the noted scientist for future reference.

The work will be profusely illustrated with full page colored plates made natural to life of all Mr. Burbank's star creations with scenes and views of his home and experimental grounds, both here and at Sebastopol. The work will be as the name implies, a complete review of the actual methods of work carried on by Mr. Burbank in accomplishing the results which has made his name famous the world over.

"For years," Mr. Burbank said today, while discussing the publication, "I have been importuned and urged to write a complete work which would stand as an authority of my work among fruits and flowers, but I have felt my time and attention belonged to the work in hand and that others might write the story of it. I have refused all offers up to the present time and Mr. Cree is the only many who has been able to bring me to consider the subject seriously much less enter into a contract or agreement to prepare a complete work."

- Press Democrat, January 10, 1907

Bruce is Canvassing State For Burbank Books

R. A. Bruce, representing the Cree publishing company, is in the City of Roses for a visit. He spent Christmas day with relatives here. He is a partner with John J. Newbegin of San Francisco, the agents for this state of the splendid work being published by the Cree Company on Burbank's New Creations. Regarding a story that appeared in the Republican a few days ago, the substance of which was taken from a Marysville paper, Mr. Bruce claims he never pretended to represent Mr. Burbank, and it is a well-known fact that Mr. Burbank has no agents of an kind in the field for the sale of his new creations. Mr. Bruce is traveling over the state securing subscribers to the work being published by the Cree Company, and is meeting with good success. We have reasons to believe from the credentials he has presented that he is doing a legitimate and fair business in every respect.

- Santa Rosa Republican, December 26, 1907

Promoters of Plan to Establish Institute Say Discussion of Matter at This Time is Premature

Admitting that the facts as published are correct, and yet fearful that undue publicity at this time may geopardise [sic] the final outcome, certain of the projectors of the proposed Burbank institution for the perpetuation of expert plant-breeding have undertaken to discourage further discussion of the matter, and the following statement ssaid to have been prepared by President David Starr Jordan of Stanford University and signed by George P. McNear of Petaluma, chairman of the committee having the project in charge, has been given to the press:

Petaluma, Oct. 26--Several persons have met to devise plans for permanent endowment and perpetuation of a laboratory of plant-breeding through the aid of wealthy men interested in results of experiments. No satisfactory plan has been yet devised. Premature publicity makes it necessary to abandon the matter. Mr. Burbank's consent has not been secured.
George P. McNear, Chairman,

The Press Democrat believes it is in a position to state, however, that the abandonment of the project is only temporary; and that the institution will be established in due time. The idea has been suggested on numerous occasions, and when President R. S. Woodward of the Carnegie Institution was in Santa Rosa some two or three years ago he intimated that such a project was even then under consideration [illegible microfilm] the Carnegie Institution has already set aside the sum of $100,000 to assist Mr. Burbank in his work, and under the circumstances some arrangements for its perpetuation would appear only reasonable and proper. Such an arrangement as the one proposed would certainly have the hearty support of all Santa Rosans as well as of the entire scientific world.

- Press Democrat, October 27, 1907

Premature Publication Will Thwart Plans

The premature publication of the proposed plan of establishing a school of international character and importance in Sonoma county has caused the abandonment of the plans which were in process of formation. The publication has done an untold and irreparable injury to Sonoma county, and was done without authorization and after the parties to the conference had been pledged to secrecy, and after a request had been made of the newspapers that it should not be published because of the fact that it [would] cause the matter to be dropped. In the face of this request, which was made wholy with the idea of benefiting Sonoma county, the giving of publicity in the matters was unwarranted and injurious.

The REPUBLICAN was requested at the time to refrain from any mention of this matter regarding the establishment of the great international school until it was ready for publication, at which time the same was to be given out officially by Mayor John P. Overton. For the reason that it was for the benefit of the county, this paper withheld mention of the same, desiring to throw no obstacle in the way of the accomplishment of anything that would be in any manner injurious to the best interests of the county. The matter has been abandoned and the unwise action of the paper which published the matter when requested not to do so may prevent its ever being taken up again.

Luther Burbank, who had been approached to become the head of this great school, which was to teach the higher science of plant breeding along the lines of Mr. Burbank's work was to have taken the matter up with his confreres after arranging his affairs with the Carnegie Institution, and the publicity given may prevent this being accomplished.

- Santa Rosa Republican, November 2, 1907

Another Important Announcement Will Be Made Later In Connection With the Burbank Laboratory

Plans for the establishment of a laboratory or college for the imparting of special instruction in Luther Burbank's great work in the creation of new fruits and flowers are going along very nicely.

It is expected that before long another important announcement will be made in connection with this matter. The Republican will get this news later.

The University professors here the past week were greatly interested in the project and both at Berkeley and Stanford it is occasioning much discussion.

- Press Democrat, November 3, 1907

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