Great Scott! There was a summer camp in Alexander Valley where kids were brainwashed with Commie propaganda! Under a banner front page headline the Press Democrat reported July 20, 1929, "...boys and girls of tender years are taught the principles of communism and hatred of the American government."

There were 36 kids there, ages from 8 to 17, and after morning exercises and swearing allegiance "to the Soviet flag, red with a symbolic sledge and sickle, the children paraded behind their flag and sang the Internationale," the PD continued. Then came "weird ceremonials and class instructions on the river beach," including an exercise where an instructor took rocks which "he pounded in his hands until one crumpled, [showing] how the 'workers' should crush the 'capitalist' government of the United States." On a bulletin board was a poster reading, "Down with the Boy Scouts."

"Bay Cities' Pioneer Camp #1" was near the Alexander Valley Bridge and just one of many summer camps on the river.1 According to the PD story, there was "a near-riot" when women and girls from another one nearby "paraded behind the youngsters of 'Pioneer Camp,' waving the American flag and singing The Star-Spangled Banner."

The PD story was picked up by both the AP and UP newswires and proved quite popular, appearing in papers nationwide and usually on page one. While the item was sometimes cut down to a paragraph or two, the editors always mentioned the camp was on the Russian River. (Oscar Wilde: "The public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing.")

Hearst's San Francisco Examiner lied to readers (no surprise, there) by claiming "authorities immediately raided the place and seized propaganda pamphlets and other evidence," but what the District Attorney actually said was he could do nothing under state law. He passed the matter to the U. S. District Attorney in San Francisco while sending County Detective John W. Pemberton to investigate. A Press Democrat reporter tagged along and the piece that appeared the next day revealed that much of the original article was either made up or grossly exaggerated. That story apparently relied only upon hearsay from Arthur H. Meese, commander of Healdsburg's American Legion Post.

The rest of this article can be read at the SantaRosaHistory.com website. Because of recurring problems with the Blogger platform, I am no longer wasting my time formatting and posting complete articles here. I will continue to create stubs for the sake of continuity, but will be publishing full articles only at SantaRosaHistory.com.

- Jeff Elliott

When the history of Prohibition in Sonoma County is written, one name will appear more than any other: John W. Pemberton, County Detective - the nemesis of bootleggers and rum-runners and the scourge of anyone with a blind pig or backroom speakeasy.

Technically the County Detective was the investigator for the District Attorney but "Jock" Pemberton was like our resident G-man, on hand whenever federal Prohibition Agents conducted local raids (in the photo above Pemberton is the man on the right next to the feds). He also was often alongside the sheriff or Santa Rosa police chief during harrowing moments while they were trying to apprehend the most dangerous criminals.

Yet the most important moment of his career happened after his retirement, when he gave crucial testimony showing the California Attorney General was so corrupt he was running a protection racket out of his office.

In 1926, the peak year of Prohibition here, Pemberton was appointed County Detective although he seemed an unlikely prospect for the job. He was 49 when he took the position, with no background in investigating crime; his only experience in law enforcement being a dozen years as Santa Rosa constable, ending in 1923. He had the gregarious personality of a salesman, which is what he was before and after being constable (real estate, then autos). Jock held high rank in both the Elks and Eagles; he and wife Maude were constantly mentioned in the society columns for attending or hosting parties and whatnot.

Not long after being hired, though, he showed his worth. A 27 year-old man named Jasper Parkins was found dead in his bedroom with a bullet wound to his right temple. The sheriff pegged it as an obvious suicide, even though the dead guy didn't seem troubled and was about to take a walk along the railroad tracks with his brother and niece. Pemberton argued Parkins had his little target pistol in hand when he bent over to pick something up from the floor and bumped his elbow against the edge of the bed. The coroner's jury ruled it an accidental death.

A few weeks later came the bust of the most famous bootlegging operation in county history. In March 1927 Pemberton led a raid on the old Kawana Springs resort where he and the sheriff's department found the long-closed hotel had been retrofitted for a three-story copper still that produced 1,400 gallons of pure alcohol/day. The booze was then trucked to San Francisco and LA where it was processed and bottled as "genuine Gordon gin."

The rest of this article can be read at the SantaRosaHistory.com website. Because of recurring problems with the Blogger platform, I am no longer wasting my time formatting and posting complete articles here. I will continue to create stubs for the sake of continuity, but will be publishing full articles only at SantaRosaHistory.com.

- Jeff Elliott

Any progress on saving the Carrillo Adobe? Nope; as of this writing (2022) what walls still exist continue to melt like very slowly thawing snow. The last restoration effort remains the shed roof put over the place thirty years ago, paid for by the Carrillo family and other donors. We should also be thankful the chainlink fence was finally repaired in 2012 after a homeless camp was found to be stealing original timbers from the building to use for firewood and tent poles.

Although it's destined to be a city park someday (yes?) its future rests with the San Jose developer who owns the land and intends to build 162 condos next to it. That project is now called the "Creekside Village Townhomes" and a development plan was filed in 2020 (PDF) complete with blueprints, architectural sections, landscaping, elevation setbacks, chosen paint colors, streetlight designs and all the other trimmings a city would expect for a major housing development. The site plans only specify an outline for a "Future Carrillo Adobe Park" next door.

Devil's advocate: Why should we even care if those ruins are preserved? We've been telling ourselves the same tale about the place for 150 years and frankly, it's not all that interesting. The widow Carrillo arrives with her many children and they build the adobe. After the family moves out, a group of Americans use it for a store. Before long those fellows dash off to establish Santa Rosa and the adobe becomes a barn, a warehouse, a prune drying shed and other uninteresting things. A joke plaque could read: "On this spot nothing happened."

It's tragic we have allowed the adobe to fall into shambles, but it's just as bad (or worse, in my opinion) that we have allowed its history to be scraped down to those bare bones, shorn of anything having to do with the lives of the Carrillos or the cultural importance of the place while they were there. Why has this happened?

The rest of this article can be read at the SantaRosaHistory.com website. Because of recurring problems with the Blogger platform, I am no longer wasting my time formatting and posting complete articles here. I will continue to create stubs for the sake of continuity, but will be publishing full articles only at SantaRosaHistory.com.

- Jeff Elliott

Guess which of these men is fake. Hint: It's the one whose smile actually seems genuine.

Between 1971 and 1998, Santa Rosa had a Ripley museum near downtown. No, it wasn't one of the amusement halls as can be visited down on Fisherman's Wharf, with its shrunken heads and other curiosities. This was a museum dedicated to the memory of Robert Ripley, whose popular "Believe it or Not!" syndicated cartoons made him a celebrity. He was also a Santa Rosa native and is buried in the Odd Fellows cemetery.

Despite his fame, it's a bit of a puzzle why anyone would want to create a museum in his honor. A biography was published a few years ago which I reviewed here; Ripley, I wrote, was "a creepy, manipulative jerk that seemed to fundamentally dislike people, probably himself most of all." He had few (if any) friends and when he died in 1949 he passed mostly unmourned, with hardly anyone turning out for his funeral other than immediate family.

Still, his was a household name even after death and Santa Rosa enthusiastically endorsed the idea of the museum. No surprise; after all, if this city is known for anything it's for leeching off the names of famous people who lived here, so Robert Ripley slips in neatly post-Luther Burbank and pre-Charles Schulz.

A Ripley museum had been proposed twice while he was still alive, both times by Ripley himself. And he specified it had to be in a particular building - the Church From One Tree.

Even before Ripley was born in 1890, the church was a local landmark and a West Coast tourist attraction (see sidebar below). It was actually the First Baptist Church, located at the corner of Ross and B streets, and the Ripley family were members - well, his mother, at least. His father Isaac was among those who helped build it in 1873. The church gained much wider recognition when Ripley included it in one of his cartoons that appeared in newspapers everywhere.

Ripley's first bid for the church came in 1940, when he wrote to the pastor and political leaders that he wished to buy it "to house the relics, records and mementoes of early California days" alongside his own "exhibits sufficient to make a complete and interesting museum." (Decades later, Hugh Codding tried the same feint by claiming he planned to donate a museum to the Historical Society while just a “remainder would be devoted" to his taxidermy collection, which ended up glomming most of the building.)

The rest of this article can be read at the SantaRosaHistory.com website. Because of recurring problems with the Blogger platform, I am no longer wasting my time formatting and posting complete articles here. I will continue to create stubs for the sake of continuity, but will be publishing full articles only at SantaRosaHistory.com. - Jeff Elliott

Santa Rosa schoolkids in the 1960s-70s may remember field trips to the museum. No, not to the place on Seventh street with its neoclassical architecture - that didn't open as a museum until 1985. Before that the schoolbus drove to a nondescript industrial building on Summerfield Road which was the “Codding Museum," although in truth it was mostly Hugh Codding's hunting trophy room.

Codding, it seems, had been blasting away on all continents (except Antarctica) since the late 1940s. "I don't say hunting is good," he told a biographer, "it's just the way I am. I don't play golf. Hunting and fishing I like because you get a little reward at the end. It's like a stick with a wienie on it."

Inside the “Codding Foundation Museum of Natural History” (as it was formally known) there were some four hundred stuffed animals or parts thereof. There were bears of all kinds in scary poses, a Bengal tiger and a leopard along with other animals that had menacing claws or antlers. There were entire walls of mounted heads and sometimes the big game wasn't so big; there was a South African dik-dik which was about the size of a cocker spaniel when Hugh killed it. There were glass eyes staring back at you from all directions. There were dioramas where the animals were arranged in something like their natural settings, except the animals never moved or blinked. It was like visiting a dead zoo.

That museum at 557 Summerfield Road was shared with the Sonoma County Historical Society, which rented the front lobby from Codding for $1/year. What was displayed in their room was mostly random old bric-a-brac better suited for an antique (or junk) store, as described in the previous article. But Codding was using the Historical Society's participation to lend his taxidermical souvenirs a measure of legitimacy. That motive was clearly on display in early 1963 when he went sought permission for a 5,000 sq. ft. building at the NW corner of Hoen and Farmers Lane. He told the Santa Rosa Planning Commission it was to be charitably offered to the Society while the "remainder would be devoted to items of natural history interest." That plan was scrapped later that year when Codding's tenant at the Summerfield Road address moved out, making a space of the same size immediately available. The Historical Society and Hugh's stuffed things moved in there and opened a few months later.

The rest of this article can be read at the SantaRosaHistory.com website. Because of recurring problems with the Blogger platform, I am no longer wasting my time formatting and posting complete articles here. I will continue to create stubs for the sake of continuity, but will be publishing full articles only at SantaRosaHistory.com.

- Jeff Elliott

When did we lose "old Santa Rosa"? When did we first glance into the rearview mirror and suddenly realize we could no longer see anything on the road behind us? Some of it happened in the mid 1960s, when the Carnegie library was torn down and Courthouse Square lost its actual courthouse. More was lost in the late 1970s, when the Redevelopment Agency's bulldozers plowed about 40 acres of old buildings - some beautiful and more than a few historic - to make way for that damned mall. But I'd argue a large part disappeared precisely on Saturday, May 4 1985, starting at 10 o'clock in the morning. That was when we sold off artifacts and treasures, some dating back before the Gold Rush. Or rather, the Freemasons sold it off for their own profit - all without the county or city's knowledge or permission.

This is the story of Santa Rosa's lost attic. All of those things were kept for a half-century in an actual attic - the top floor of the Masonic Scottish Rite Temple at 441 B street, which is where Macy's parking garage is now.

To the untutored eye it appeared to be the sort of junky space you might have found at a grandparent's house: There were boxes of faded photographs, souvenirs only recognizable to old-timers, objects which were precious to people very long dead but useless to anyone now. It was both a mausoleum and a loving shrine in remembrance of all things past, and there was no contradiction in that.

The keeper of these treasures was Sid Kurlander. By trade he was a tobacconist like his father before him. He was born above the family tobacco shop/cigar factory on Fourth street in 1879, and by all accounts began collecting interesting things before he could shave. Sometime during the 1930s the collection became too big for his garage (or wherever he had been keeping it) so everything was moved to the roomy Masonic attic. It's no surprise that his collection was welcomed there; Sid was about as tangled up with everything Masonic as anyone could.1

Sid was also a Reserve Deputy, which gave him a badge with his name engraved on the back. As such he had no real duties; it was a nod to him being considered an honorary member of the law enforcement fraternity. Which brings us to the guns.

There were lots and lots and lots of guns up there in the attic and many were given to him by the sheriff or local police. There was Al Chamberlain's gun that killed Police Chief Charlie O'Neal in 1935 and a revolver supposedly used by Black Bart. There were weapons collected by Sid or donated from people who didn't want to have to have dangerous antiques around. There was an elephant gun, muzzle loaders, a tiny .41 caliber Spanish single-shot with a pearl handle as well as swords and machetes. All were tagged as to where they came from and their part in history.

Among other police-related artifacts: The cabinet displaying nooses from the 1920 lynchings along with the photo of the dangling gangsters. A thick book of wanted posters given to Sid by the SRPD in 1938. A pair of the county sheriff's handcuffs from 1900. There was "beautifully made oriental opium smoking equipment" taken from a raid of Santa Rosa's Chinese quarter and donated by Sheriff Mike Flohr. There was an engraved invitation from Sheriff Dinwiddie to the hanging of H. E. Brown on May 4, 1882. (The Governor commuted his sentence to life imprisonment.)

Nearly all of what we know about the contents of Sid's collection comes from just two 1949 and 1976 feature stories in the Press Democrat - and those were mainly photo spreads, with little space for the writer to describe those "mementos of times that were luxurious for some and hard for others," as Susan Swartz lyrically wrote in the latter piece.

And there were thousands and thousands of stories there begging to be told. Why did the Straub family hang on to a pair of lacy white hand-knitted hosiery from the Civil War era? On the shelves were police arrest books next to hotel registers from the Occidental and Grand hotels; Swartz was told "you'd be surprised at the names that turn up in one or the other of these." Aaargh, so tell us!

One wonderful story which did thankfully survive concerned a little silver spoon given to Jennie Shattuck on her twelfth birthday in 1852. She and her family had sailed around the Horn and were now headed to California on a steamer, so the ship's captain thought it would be nice to hold a party for her. It must have been a pretty swell birthday shindig, because the ship ran aground off the coast of Mexico during it.

Sometimes the PD referred to the Masonic attic as the "Kurlander Museum," which made Sid none too happy. He was adamant he was only preserving artifacts until the city or county created a proper history museum. In the 1949 interview he said he had turned down offers from a Los Angeles museum and the San Francisco chapter of the Native Sons (NSGW) because he wanted to make sure everything stayed locally.

Also in 1949 the Sonoma County Historical Society was formed.2 That fall there were many meetings planning for an "all-out campaign" to build a history/art museum across from the fairgrounds on Bennett Valley Road. Breaking news: It ain't there and never was.

Sid died in 1958. His Press Democrat obit mentioned he "maintained an extensive collection of historical photographs, documents, and momentoes of Santa Rosa's early days." But since he had never opened it to the public, people walking past the building next to the Sears & Roebuck had no idea what all was in that attic.

The collection was in limbo. A man named Spencer had the keys for awhile before Raford Leggett took over. Leggett had a very successful real estate office in Santa Rosa during the 1940s-1950s and was now in his seventies. Naming him curator seemed a perfect fit; not only did he have an interest in local history, but he was entwined with the Masonic world as much as Sid had been - perhaps more so. For better and worse, the fate of the Kurlander Collection would be in the hands of Raford Leggett for the next 25 years.

There is much to be admired in what he did during his time. He created an inventory of the collection (now lost) and gave private tours to interested clubs and school groups.

His weakness was a failure to grasp that a museum was not just an indiscriminate bunch of old stuff. Leggett donated the license plate from his family's 1912 Rambler, an elaborate toy his father made, his mother's wedding dress and household items such as a hand pump vacuum cleaner. There was a toolbox from a Model T ("You didn't really need any tools, just baling wire and a pair of pliers," Raford told the Press Democrat).

People cleaning out their attics gave him similar "heirlooms," which he dutifully added to the Kurlander Collection. He did not see a difference in importance between Sid's shelf of old bibles - which may contain the only surviving vital data on otherwise forgotten branches of a local family tree - with that row of butter churns he now had lining a wall.

The rest of this article can be read at the SantaRosaHistory.com website. Because of recurring problems with the Blogger platform, I am no longer wasting my time formatting and posting complete articles here. I will continue to create stubs for the sake of continuity, but will be publishing full articles only at SantaRosaHistory.com. - Jeff Elliott

Last week, the North Bay Bohemian published an essay that tried hard to trash Gaye LeBaron. The popular weekly tabloid trashed only its own reputation instead.

The article by Peter Byrne, "The Shame of Santa Rosa: Whiteness, and the Culture of Lynching" (March 16, 2022) insinuated LeBaron is a passive racist and a cheerleader for murderous cops and vigilantes. Extraordinary accusations must be backed up with extraordinary evidence you'd think, but apparently the Bohemian does not agree.

In response I wrote a letter-to-the-editor which the paper did not publish online or in print, so I'm making it available below as an open letter to the Bohemian. I am not allowing comments on this posting because SantaRosaHistory.com shouldn't be a forum for "atta boy" or "you suck" remarks or flame wars. If you want to comment on my opinions, please do so on FaceBook, Twitter or elsewhere on unsociable media.

This incident leaves me personally saddened. Thirty-odd years ago I wrote often for the Bohemian's predecessors, The Paper and the Independent, as well as writing a column about the early internet for the current publisher's flagship weekly the San Jose Metro. Despite this article I have great respect for the Bohemian; Will Carruthers' recent series on the eye-popping shenanigans by directors of the SMART rail line represents some of the best investigative reporting you'll find anywhere.

Some of the things in my letter may not make much sense without reading the original Bohemian article, so read it if you must. But do so with a warning that whiplash injuries may result; the essay careens wildly through all sorts of unrelated points, past and modern, all to deliver a message which seems damning only to its author.

 

 

 The rest of this article can be read at the SantaRosaHistory.com website. Because of recurring problems with the Blogger platform, I am no longer wasting my time formatting and posting complete articles here. I will continue to create stubs for the sake of continuity, but will be publishing full articles only at SantaRosaHistory.com.

- Jeff Elliott

It took Santa Rosa awhile to realize it was under attack, but a no-holds-barred war was being waged against it by the man in the mansion on the grand boulevard.

You could say the conflict began in May 1893, when voters approved a bond to build a water plant. At the time Santa Rosa was getting its water from a private company owned by Mark L. McDonald; the water came from Lake Ralphine, which the Board of Health said was so fetid that his company was “criminally negligent and indifferent to our welfare as a city.” McDonald offered to sell his waterworks to the city at such a ridiculously inflated price it would be cheaper to start from scratch, even though it meant laying another set of water mains beneath every street. All of those doings were covered in "THE McDONALDS vs SANTA ROSA."

Stepping up to buy Santa Rosa's bonds was Robert Effey, a modest investor who happened to be mayor of Santa Cruz. While deciding whether to put the water bond on the ballot, Santa Rosa's mayor and city attorney had visited that town's very successful municipal water plant and met him. He offered to buy our bond for $161,000, being the lowest of only two bidders.

A few days later, a lawsuit seeking to block Santa Rosa from making a deal with Effey was filed by a retired farmer named John D. Cooper. Most unusual about the case was that besides the city, he also sued the City Council as individuals plus the city clerk.

Another suit to stop the city's deal with Effey followed a couple of weeks later. This time a retired rancher named John M. Jones was upset because construction plans had been updated since the bond measure passed. Mr. Jones likewise sued the city and Council members personally.

That was hardly the end of the anti-waterworks lawyering. Less than a month later, William Guisbert Skinner went after the city, the Council, the assessor, treasurer and tax collector along with Robert Effey. His gripe was the terms of the bond had been slightly changed, and the city was increasing property taxes by 25¢ per $100 to pay for the bonds - although they hadn't actually been yet sold. (As further explained below, the bond sale was delayed by both these lawsuits and the nation's economic problems.)

Three different lawsuits over about six weeks is a lot of suin' for little Santa Rosa. Who were these guys who were so upset about construction of a water plant they wanted to drag everyone into court? It appeared they must be well off, as their attorneys were some of the top legal talent in the county: A.B. Ware, Calvin S. Farquar and the infamous Gil P. Hall.

But Cooper, Jones and Skinner were hardly wealthy Sonoma County movers and shakers; one has to scour the old newspapers to find any mention of them at all, and then it was almost always for some small scale real estate transaction. There can be little doubt, however, they were acting as part of a coordinated attack on building the waterworks by the "Tax Payers’ Protective Union."

The supposed grassroots organization was formed at the time of the Cooper suit and few members were ever named (just A. P. Overton, H. W. Byington and A. B. Ware). The Democrat wrote only it was "composed of well-known and reputable citizens of Santa Rosa" and "members comprise many of the heaviest taxpayers in this city." Judging from signatures on a later petition, my guess is there were about three dozen members, split between the investor class and elderly anti-tax cranks like our litigious trio. Skinner, by the way, didn't even own property in Santa Rosa, although his suit was the one to complain about the increase in property taxes.

The Taxpayers’ placed an ad in the Democrat to trumpet their manifesto, which is a Thing to Read. It painted the City Council as recklessly draining the city treasury on "official extravagance" such as testing the safety of well water and buying a rock-crusher for street gravel, the Council meanwhile conspiring with Effey to screw over taxpayers because there was no intention to actually sell bonds or build the waterworks. Nice to know (I guess) a faction of our ancestors could be as paranoid and irrational as some wacky loudmouths today.

A later item in the Democrat reprinted a Taxpayers’ resolution revealing the group's single real objective - demanding the city buy McDonald's water company. Among their points was that "a water system supplied by gravitation" (meaning a source of surface water such as Lake Ralphine) is always better than using water pumped from the ground. Also, the city was to be blamed for "factional strife and expensive litigation" because they hadn't made a deal with McDonald to take over his service and pay for long overdue upgrades and maintenance. Some brain-busting logic, there.

At this point Gentle Reader might be pondering whether Mark McDonald had something to do with the Taxpayers’ Union - and could he also be paying the lawyers in those many lawsuits?

The rest of this article can be read at the SantaRosaHistory.com website. Because of recurring problems with the Blogger platform, I am no longer wasting my time formatting and posting complete articles here. I will continue to create stubs for the sake of continuity, but will be publishing full articles only at SantaRosaHistory.com.

- Jeff Elliott

The McDonalds were the best known people we knew almost nothing about.

Readership of the previous article, "THE McDONALDS vs SANTA ROSA," was unusually high and the reaction on social media trended to expressions of shock. I likewise confess to being astonished as I began looking closely at the legendary figure of Mark L. McDonald; after all, historians have told us for over a century about his boundless generosity toward Santa Rosa and everyone here.

But as introduced in that piece, quite the opposite was true. He fought against all efforts to improve Santa Rosa unless it would put a dollar in his pocket and he was given credit for projects he had little or nothing to do with. Modern historians have further burnished his reputation because they haven't realized how badly it was actually tarnished.

Commenters on social media seemed particularly surprised to learn about the family's support of the Confederate cause, so more details about that are provided below.

 

 The rest of this article can be read at the SantaRosaHistory.com website. Because of recurring problems with the Blogger platform, I am no longer wasting my time formatting and posting complete articles here. I will continue to create stubs for the sake of continuity, but will be publishing full articles only at SantaRosaHistory.com.

- Jeff Elliott

Santa Rosa could not believe its great good luck in the mid-1870s: A money man of the San Francisco Stock Exchange had taken interest in our little farmtown, quickly launching public works projects and buying 130 acres for an addition to the city. Nearly every issue of the local newspapers had shoutouts to our benefactor or the mansions being built on the grand avenue bearing his name.

Now shift forward twenty years and he's viewed as less the benevolent tycoon and more like a penny-ante robber baron. He seems bent on suing the city into bankruptcy and is using the courts to bully elected officials and anyone he views as rivals. He's accused of bribery, coercion and conspiracy as well as being criminally negligent. Ladies and gentlemen, please meet Mark L. McDonald.

The rest of this article can be read at the SantaRosaHistory.com website. Because of recurring problems with the Blogger platform, I am no longer wasting my time formatting and posting complete articles here. I will continue to create stubs for the sake of continuity, but will be publishing full articles only at SantaRosaHistory.com.

- Jeff Elliott

When the only daughter of the richest family in town gets married you expect a fuss. The engagement will be announced in the press, often with a portrait. The big church wedding would be the social event of the season; the newspapers would describe the bride's trousseau in loving detail, the bridesmaids and others in the party would be named, followed by a long list of family members and VIPs attending the ceremony.

Thus many in 1891 Santa Rosa were likely surprised to read a small item in the Democrat stating Jessie Overton and Ed Livernash were married one Monday morning. "The wedding was very private, only the members of both families being present," the Democrat paper reported.

Perhaps they wanted to avoid a showy wedding because of Jessie's deep piety; not long before that her father, ex-Judge A. P. Overton, had convinced her to leave the convent she had joined as a novitiate. Or maybe they wanted it kept quiet because she was three months pregnant.

The Overtons probably approved of Ed as their son-in-law, despite his role in creating the family's awkward situation. He was ambitious, whip-smart, and seemed headed towards Democratic party politics, which would have certainly pleased the old judge. They might have felt differently if they had a crystal ball, however - by the end of the year Ed would be charged with attempted murder as well as being arrested for impersonating an African-American woman. 

 

 

The rest of this article can be read at the SantaRosaHistory.com website. Because of recurring problems with the Blogger platform, I am no longer wasting my time formatting and posting complete articles here. I will continue to create stubs for the sake of continuity, but will be publishing full articles only at SantaRosaHistory.com.

- Jeff Elliott

Pity any ancestor who went to Santa Rosa grade schools around the turn of the century. Besides readin' writin' and 'rithmetic, there was also plenty of squintin' and crowdin' and freezin' by the kids. Classrooms were heated by a single potbelly stove; there often weren't enough desks and lighting was poor (no electricity, apparently). One school didn't even have indoor plumbing.

Those were some of the shocking details found in a 1904 expose of conditions in Santa Rosa's three elementary schools. Or perhaps we should say there were six, because each was so overcrowded some students were taught in outbuildings not intended for human occupancy.

The flagship of the town's public school system was the Fourth street school, currently the location known as Fremont Park. (It was renamed Fremont school in early 1906, following a popular trend to rename schools after people rather than a location.)

Built in 1874 and meant to hold 600 students, it was soon packed to the brim; in 1878 - when it was first used as a combined grammar and high school - there were over a thousand. That number dropped by about half after the high school was built on Humboldt street (1895), but the Board of Education was still regularly told the place was overcrowded. Classrooms were intended to hold about forty desks, and a particular class could be smaller or far larger. One year they had to split seventh and eighth grades into morning and afternoon sessions to accommodate all the students.

The 1904 expose found school children still enduring mid-Victorian era conditions. Lighting in the rooms was described as "very dark," "very bad," "little short of criminal," and "vile." Half of the second graders - fifty kids - were being taught in a "temporary one story building with a low thin roof." (The reporter probably meant "tin roof," as the article also says there was no ceiling.)

The rest of this article can be read at the SantaRosaHistory.com website. Because of recurring problems with the Blogger platform, I am no longer wasting my time formatting and posting complete articles here. I will continue to create stubs for the sake of continuity, but will be publishing full articles only at SantaRosaHistory.com.

- Jeff Elliott

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