This survey of the 1904 Santa Rosa newspapers ends with 45 posts, 39 on them on distinct topics.
Two types of stories will never be included here unexpurgated: Suicides (at least, the successful ones) and bouts of insanity, although both were mainstays of the old papers. Sorry, but no one casually searching the web for their family surname deserves to stumble upon the horrific description of an ancestor writhing in pain after swallowing carbolic acid. That said, there were two stories from 1904 that lingered on my desk and deserve semi-anonymous mention, both for the poignancy of the tale and the writer’s talent in the telling.
The first appeared in the Press Democrat Feb. 16, with the irresistible headline, “BRIDE OF WEEK A RAVING MANIAC.” The poor woman really hadn’t gone Freddy-Kruger, of course, but had become delusional. “…The attending physician could see no hope for her but to remove her to a place where she could be given the attention given persons who mental faculties have become shadowed…her friends are extremely sorry.”
The March 6 PD sketched a story that intrigues: Only a few days after an Alexander Valley man committed suicide, a wealthy son from one of the earliest and most well-known white families in the county stood on his front porch and pressed the barrel of a rifle against his chest. He died instantly, even as his unsuspecting wife and a woman guest were inside the home. “…He was undoubtedly temporarily insane, as was the case with the other tragic death,” opined the Press Democrat writer. “These seem to be days of suicides, days fraught with unbalancing of mentality.”
There were at least 21 references of Mr/Mrs. Oates in the Press Democrat’s “Personal Mention” column. Most were business trips by Wyatt to San Francisco, Healdsburg, or Sebastopol, but on Feb. 6 he was a “party patron” and on Nov. 1 he was “seriously indisposed with stomach troubles.” The last mention of Comstock House in 1904 was Sept. 15, when the PD reported “good progress is being made with the foundation.”
Some notes for future reference: Santa Rosa’s 1904 population was about 9,000, with 725 telephones. 39 of 40 potential jurors listed their profession as farmer. A December vote for a $75,000 bond for the overcrowded Santa Rosa schools failed to pass.