Add this to the questions I’d love to ask a 1905 Santa Rosan: “What is a pet?” As a followup, I’d ask, “what do you consider to be animal cruelty?”

There are few mentions of pets in the 1905 newspapers. No pets were sold through classifieds, no notices appealed for help finding missing animals, no merchants advertised sales on feed. Except for the little Newman’s Drug Store ads for “Dent’s Dog Remedies,” you’d hardly know that anyone here had domestic pets at all.

What we can glimpse about pets in that era comes from news stories; we learn that some city residents kept raccoons because one got loose the year before on Cherry Street and a frightened neighbor thought there was a burglar on the roof, and another escapee was shot out of a tree by a policeman. Like today, people were tender-hearted; witness the couple on Fourth Street who tried to nurse back to health a paralyzed chicken.

Also like today, dogs were regarded with special affection. In all the reportage of the Battle of Sebastopol Avenue, the only true “human interest” story described Bum, a dog that became the mascot of the Petaluma & Santa Rosa Railway, catching rides back and forth as workers competed for his/her attention. But at the same time, dog poisoning was one of the most common crimes of the day. Or was it a crime in 1905? I recall no mention that police ever investigated, much less nabbed anyone for the killings.

But 1905 attitudes towards cats were considerably less sympathetic, judging from the final item below. At first I thought it must be a hoax, given both the unspeakable cruelty and the jokey writing style; the unlikely name of the perpetrator seemed like another clue. “John June?” Sure enough, however, a man by that name is listed in the 1905 Cloverdale directory, employed in “restaurant and livery.” Warning, cat-lovers: go read something else instead. Seriously.


“Bum” is the mascot of the electric railroad men and he is well known all over the system between this city and Petaluma. Bum is a dog picked up by one of the train men and duly installed as the canine pet of the road. He travels first on one car then on another, passenger or freight, and does not care what is is as long it is a ride. There are [sic] some good natured rivalry among the men as to which can lay claim to being “Bum’s” favorite, but so far doggie has evinced a rule to have all friends and no favorites. The men have taken up a subscription among themselves and have raised a fund sufficient to buy “Bum” a collar that will be one of the finest in dogdom. Director Frank Brush made “Bum’s” acquaintance the other day and incidentally learned the bit of history connected with the electric’s dog.

– Press Democrat, January 12, 1905
Long Time Without Food

Mr. and Mrs. S. Enders have a chicken at their home on Upper Fourth street which laid on its back, wedged between a fence and woodshed for an entire week, without food or water, and still lives. The night the chicken disappeared the family heard a noise and the barking of the dog, but could not locate the fowl. After a lapse of a week little Ralph Heim discovered the chicken laying with its feet pointed to heaven, and it was rescued. Special attention is being given the chicken at present, to nourish it back to full vigor and health. This is probably the longest instance on record of a fowl going without food and water and surviving. The animal’s limbs are apparently paralyzed.

– Santa Rosa Republican, November 6, 1905
John June a Cloverdale Scientist Slaughters Citrus City Felines

Like the Geyserville dogs the Cloverdale cats are said to be mysteriously disappearing. The night warblings of backyard felines are becoming things of other eves and the bold mouse is pleasuring without fear.

The Citrus City cats are being sacrificed in the cause of science. John June, the owner of a restaurant, a livery stable, a hotel and a teething baby, is said to have been catching the Cloverdale monsters, skinning them while alive for the purpose of securing and applying the electricity in the fur to the jaw of his sick infant. Several physicians in turn called to treat the child but it is said their directions were not followed by the man with the monthly name and more cats failed to return to their home kitchens at dawn.

Finally Mrs. Prescott, representing the Humane Society, investigated the cat pelts lying around the June premises and swore out a warrant against the stable-keeping feline-electro scientist on the ground that he was committing a misdemeanor in not securing medical attendance for his sick child. June concluded to drop the study of electro science and skinning cats and sent for a physician to treat the infant.

– Santa Rosa Republican, October 9, 1905

Read More


No matter how slow the news day, editors could always count on filling a few column inches with a report on the arrest, injury, or death of a local drunk. Often it was like sports reporting today, the incidents written up with flair and flourish intended to entertain the reader more than simply inform. Oh, the amusing tragedy of alcoholism.

The first item below was written with so much elaboration that it may need a couple of reads to figure out the simple events that were reported. Following that is another story played for yuks, reporting that a man fell off a bridge, yet escaped serious harm. “Had the man not been impregnated with preservatives in the shape of booze, he might have been killed,” the Republican paper noted. But weeks later, a smaller followup item revealed that he was actually paralyzed at the waist.

The final piece was also written for laughs but happens to profile a remarkable hobbyist on Barham avenue who was operating a 1905 state-of-the-art distilling, brewing and wine-making operation out of his basement. Today Mr. R. Christ would be winning ribbons at the Harvest Fair, if not bottling something with his name on the label.


A young Sebastopolitan named Pitts Tuesday night made himself intoxicated and then made “rough house” of the streets of his ordinarily quiet and peaceful hamlet. He tried to capsize several brick blocks and sought to drive his horse through the windows instead of the doors and attempted to mount to the roof to come down the chimneys, a la Santa Claus, and acted in every instance in a highly improper and indecorous manner.

When Mr. Pitts found that a brace of big avengers in the persons of Officers Hankel and Boyes were camping on his lurid trail he turned on more speed and broke for home. His time was slow, however, and he was dragged off the track before the quarter pole was reached. In the City Prison during the remainder of the night the visitor from Gold Ridge had ample opportunity to muse over the peculiar chemical effects of beer looked upon when it is brown within the schooner.

– Santa Rosa Republican, November 11, 1905

H.H. Allard Takes a Backward Fall From Davis Street Bridge Into Creek Bed

H.H. Allard, suffering from an acute attack of alcoholism, plunged backwards from the rail of the Davis street bridge this morning, in the bed of Santa Rosa Creek below. The bed of the creek was not so soft as the one in his native heath in Vermont, and his plunge resulted in a badly sprained back and severe contusions about the head and body.

Allard had partaken freely of intoxicants and then seated himself on the rail of the bridge to watch the day grow older, and reflect on the abuses of liquors. While thus engaged he suddenly lost his balance and went over backward. The fall was more than thirty feet, and had the man not been impregnated with preservatives in the shape of booze, he might have been killed.

The ambulance was hurriedly called, and Allard was taken to the County Hospital. County Physician Bogle made an examination here and found no broken bones had been sustained. Allard has been in California about four months. He will be laid up for repairs for a number of days.

– Santa Rosa Republican, October 16, 1905

A Paralytic Found Suffocated in a Barn Near Town of Lakeville

With his head wedged between bales of hay, his pipe which he had been smoking still in his hand, Emil Heinson was found Wednesday dead in a barn on the C. Brown farm near Lakeville. Death from suffocation had taken place, probably some hours before his body was discovered.

The man was a local character of Petaluma and vicinity known around the saloons which he frequented most of his time by the name of “Spike.” Owing to his appetite for intoxicants his wife procured a divorce some time ago and is living in Petaluma supporting herself and little children by her own effort. In fact, he was in the County Jail on some drunken charge when the suit papers were served on him.

From his drinking habits he had become partially paralyzed and because of this disability and his intemperate habits he was unable to do much work, consequently he drifted around. Mr. Brown took him to the ranch and offered him some work. It is supposed that when Heinson slipped and fell between the bales he was unable to extricate himself because of his physical weakness and suffocated in that position.

The Coroner’s Jury at Petaluma found a verdict of accidental death.

– Santa Rosa Republican, October 26, 1905

Man’s Frolic Is Soon Stopped by Police
Excitement On First Street Last Night Results In An Arrest by Policeman Lindley

“Dance,” shouted Harry Maynard at Miss Marvel Watson as she stood on the porch of a house on First street last night. And because she was not quick enough to comply with his coarse demand, she says he whipped out a pistol and sent a bullet between her feet. The piece of lead did no damage and spent itself in the wooden step.

Maynard might have run amuck further but for the timely arrival of Police Officer Lindley. Lindley heard Miss Watson’s story and saw the place where the bullet had hit, took the revolver away from Maynard and marched him off to jail. Maynard was intoxicated, but made no resistance under the sturdy grip of the officer’s muscle.

At the police station Maynard was locked up for the night, and opposite his name on the docket are three charges, namely, “Drunkenness, discharging firearms within the city limits and carrying concealed weapons.”

It is believed that Maynard fired the shot at the young woman’s feet to frighten her. She says that she has known Maynard for a long time, but hass had nothing to do with him lately. He arrived in town yesterday and went out calling on First street with his pistol in his pocket. He is quite well known here, in Petaluman and other places. The incident occasioned considerable excitement on First street last night, but this quieted down when Policeman Lindley came hurriedly on the scene in response to a call.

– Press Democrat, October 5, 1905

Thought It Was an Auto Running In Sleep, But Was a Private Still

Police Officer Boyes, whose territory takes in Barham avenue a few days ago heard a gasoline engine working busily away in the basement of R. Christ’s residence. The officer at first thought it was a horseless wagon stabled for the night which had “got-a-going” somehow and the machine was enjoying itself during its hours of leisure. He investigate and what he saw sent him to hunt up Revenue Collector Walter Price. The government official took a look and stopped that gasoline engine forthwith. Then he put Uncle Sam’s seals on the basement door and told Mr. Christ to keep out of the place.

They had found a small private still complete for making prune brandy, and also that the owner was engaged in the work. He chatted volubly on the practical methods of distilling prune brandy, beer and other beverages, and exhibited his plant with considerable pride. His apparent innocency jarred the officers who are not accustomed to such unsophistication in this day and generation. The case hardened U. S. Treasury man sat down on a fruit box and thought of his childhood days while Boyes let his mind wander among the kindergartens he had visited.

But when they told the distillery owner that he was an illcit moonshiner, a mountain-dew man the jar he got was great indeed. He insisted that he did not know that his occupation had heaved him hard up against the august Government of the United States and that his act smacked of “treason, strategy and of spoils.”

When he had recovered somewhat he protested that he had not know that such private distillations of spirituous liquors were interdicted. However, when the officers had enlightened him he grew indignant.

“Cannot a man distill his own brandies, beers or other drinks?” he asked.

He was told that this would not be permitted unless the distiller complied with certain laws enacted for the taxing and regulation of the manufacture.

“Then I have a very pessimistic view of this country’s laws,” he replied.

The officers found a 10-gallon key and several bottles of beer which he had brewed, also some prune brandy in different states of change from the honest, revenueless prune that needs no surveillance to the alcoholic fluid that must be gauged, bonded, fortified, rectified, stamped, taxed and retaxed every step of the way from the still of the maker to the mouth of the drinker. Christ is considerably of a domestic manufacturer. He makes and drinks tea made from raspberry and strawberry leaves, and coffee from barley. In these productions he shows an intelligence hardly in keeping with his pleas of ignorance of the revenue laws of this country. The seizure has been reported to headquarters and the matter will be investigated.

It is the general belief among the neighbors of Mr. Christ that he was really ignorant of the fact that he was engaged in a lawless occupation and that his private plant was liable to seizure. He is an eccentric person, quite ingenious and original in thought, and was in all probability oblivious to the fact that he was stepping on the toes of Uncle Sam’s treasury department.

– Santa Rosa Republican, June 27, 1905

Read More


One cheer for the 1905 Press Democrat: Racism that year wasn’t nearly as awful as in 1904. But a hiss for the Republican newspaper: What did you have against Japanese-Americans?

News items demeaning Chinese, Black, and Native American local residents appeared repeatedly in the 1904 Press Democrat. Reports of simple events, even weddings, were sometimes expanded into racist vignettes by someone at the paper who mistakenly thought he possessed a talent for writing dialect humor. Race was also just below the surface in writings about the 1904 election, particularly as Finley expressed shock over an African-American child appearing onstage at the Republican Convention, warning it was a portent of dreaded racial integration. But aside from editorial outrage that President Teddy Roosevelt had appointed an African-American to a position of authority, the PD was mostly silent on matters of race in 1905.

Compared here is Press Democrat and Republican coverage of the same event in the Chinese community. Press Democrat coverage is restrained, almost indifferent, except for the two regrettable uses of the old-timey “Celestial” stereotype. Aside for an inappropriate stab at humor (“post mortem spirito-creature”?) the Republican’s offering was superior in every respect, and included details about participation of members of the white community that will likely be interesting to sociologists.

The Shame Award for 1905, however, goes to the Santa Rosa Republican. Their description of a party of drunken Japanese workers was a throwback to the sort of crap the Press Democrat published the year before, filled with racial slurs, fanciful details that the writer could not possibly have known, and told in a manner inviting ridicule.

Even with all its ethnic bashing in 1904, the Press Democrat held back from attacking Japanese-Americans. The Japanese community had deep social roots in the county, and it probably didn’t hurt that Japanese-American businesses, such as the “Japanese Employment Office,” were regular advertisers in the PD. Over at the Republican, racist slurs were never found under previous editor Allen B. Lemmon, and the new owners, transplants from the more cosmopolitan Oakland newspaper scene, appeared to share his progressive views. So why did the Republican trash its ethical standards to crudely insult the Japanese community? I’m puzzled, but can offer a few guesses.

Although unlikely, it’s worth considering that the story, factual or not, was published as some sort of a swipe at Ernest L. Finley and his Press Democrat. When this item appeared, the PD-Republican feud had escalated leagues beyond the “flapdoodle” between Finley and Lemmon the year earlier. Finley had started the fight with the new owners in March 1905, ridiculing them with a series of parody ads (blog post coming) that were probably side-splitting funny when read loudly in a saloon, but now just seem mean. The newsprint jousting turned serious in August, however, when the Republican charged the rival paper with tolerating criminal activities in town on behalf of its cronies (blog post coming about that, too). From then on, the editors took op/ed potshots at the other side nearly every day. The fumes were so toxic that anything that appeared anywhere in either paper at this time should be considered a possible veiled attack on their foe. Most of the tie-ins to their fusty newspaper war are no longer apparent today, of course. Honestly, interpreting these old papers is sometimes like being a Kremlinologist.

Another possibility is that the Republican’s shameful article was motivated by new anti-Japanese racism within the California GOP. Earlier that year, San Francisco labor unions had created the Japanese and Korean Exclusion League, seeking to expand the ban on Chinese “coolie” labor to include other Asian workers. Their champion in Congress was Rep. E. A. Hayes (R-San Jose), whose March 13, 1906 Japanese exclusion speech launched years of discrimination that would cumulate about twenty years later with a ban on virtually all Japanese immigration to America. Neither 1905 Santa Rosa paper mentioned the formation of the discriminatory League (which is odd, considering both took every opportunity to editorialize about other aspects of San Francisco politics), so it’s unknown what, if any, influence the organization had on the editorial position of the Santa Rosa Republican.

A third option is that the story was intended as a strained metaphor to lampoon the Russo-Japanese War, which had ended with Japanese victory just three weeks earlier. After being almost continuously on the front pages since the start of 1904, readers knew well the names of Yamamoto and Ito, both Japanese admirals. Also note the descriptions of the prizes: a statue of the “Emperor of Japan doing Hari-Kari to the Czar” and an oil painting of the Japanese flag flying on the courthouse in downtown Santa Rosa. Don’t think so.

But there’s yet another explanation that’s simplest of all, and thus the most likely: Was this noxious anti-Japanese story in the Republican authored by the same reporter who penned the racist stories in the Press Democrat a year earlier? Articles were never bylined in these papers, but the writing style here is quite similar to the hateful vignettes found in the 1904 PD, and this piece is likewise rich in fantastic details. That the reporter (let’s call him “Racist Ralph”) was hired away by the other paper would also explain the decrease of anti-Black, anti-Indian, and anti-Chinese reporting in the 1905 Press Democrat (again, the PD was hardly bias-free that year; it was just less contemptible). Even if the writing of the detestable stories of 1904 and 1905 all can be blamed on Racist Ralph, however, the disgrace of these articles appearing in the daily papers still falls to the editors.

Deceased Aged Chinese Woman Buried Yesterday

The aged Chinese woman, Kee Haw, who died on Second street last Wednesday, was buried yesterday by her countrymen in the county cemetery. She had lived in this city for some time and her death was from natural causes. The woman was very poor and a number of Chinese with some of the white neighbors provided the burial expenses and several of the white children in the vicinity of her late home placed a few flowers on the cheap coffin. Somewhat different was the Oriental contribution to the dead — a bowl of rice and two chop sticks for her post mortem spirito-creature wants.

On the way to the cemetery a Chinese rode on the hearse with the driver and scattered prayer papers along the way. These were propitiate the unseen attendant devils who play the star part in the Mongolian’s religious belief. After a time, if the deceased has any friends either in this country or in China, her bones will be disinterred, sewed up in a little white sack and shipped home across the wide Pacific. If not, her dust will lie and mingle with those of the occident.

– Santa Rosa Republican, April 21, 1905

Chinese Woman Buried

Mrs. Kee Haw, a Chinese woman, who died on Second street on Wednesday, was buried Thursday morning in the county cemetery. A Celestial rode beside the driver on the hearse and let the customary shower of slips of paper fall en route to the cemetery. On top of the grave the roast pork and chicken was placed in due form and Celestials carried out the other fancies of their burial exercises.

– Press Democrat, April 21, 1905

His Guests Pulled Their Guns and Shot the Three Prizes Into Ruins

Mr. Oki Yamamoto, the proprietor of a Japanese boarding house in Cloverdale, gave a progressive euchre party at his spacious shack Sunday night. He invited all his countrymen from the surrounding vineyards and hop yards and the guests assembled early. Four large boxes helped out the three tables and by 8 o’clock the little brown players were pitching “jokers” and “bowers” at each other fast and furious.

Refreshments were served bountifully in large glasses and this had a tendency to make the games over-interesting. Landlord Yamamoto noticed a spirit of battle breaking out in spots among his growing-noisy guests but with a section of hop-pole he knocked down several of the most truculent of his fellow patriots and kept white-winged peace present through roosting p [sic] on the roof to be out of the storm center below.

Presently Mr. John Kinno, who had gone oftenest to the fountain — said fountain being the host’s demijohn of red, red wine — broke out. He thought he saw Mr. Ito Hikikito lifting two jacks from a cold deck in his jumper pocket. With a frying pan which he grabbed from a near-by stove he soaked [sic] Hikikito over his dark brown head. Ito, bubbling with the war spirit of his great namesake, climbed from the floor where he had laid down and slept for a few moments just subsequent to his meeting with the frying pan, hurled several loud “banzais” and pulled his gun. Other guns appeared and white-wing peace turned in her hat check and left. One Jap got a chunk of lead driven into his muscular brown arm and another son of Nippon had one of his ribs scraped by a Smith & Wesson ball. The lights were shot out in true Caucasian style and the mirror in the proprietor’s sleeping room was put out of commission. Several shot holes in clothing and walls were made.

But the most desperate damage was done the three euchre prizes which were on exhibition in the room. One was a tiny statue group representing the Emperor of Japan doing Hari-Kari to the Czar — a masterpiece of art, the second an oil painting of the Court House in Santa Rosa with the sunburst flag of the Jap flying over the building, a prophesy, and the third prize a small keg of rare old wine from the Fountaingrove winery. When the smoke had cleared away the first two prizes were found ruined, but the keg had disappeared.

The gunners and their guns had disappeared when the Constable’s posse broke in the door and only Mr. Yamamoto was present. He assured the “honorable” American gentleman that no trouble had occurred in his “dishonorable” habitation, in fact he had just awakened from a dream of peace in his “mean” sleeping place. No arrests.

– Santa Rosa Republican, October 17, 1905

Read More