Here are a few followups to posts based on articles from the 1905 and 1906 Santa Rosa newspapers:

* One of the oddest stories I’ve encountered was about a local man caught shipping a crate of dead robins to San Francisco. Robins, I learned, were considered a delicacy in 19th century America, and some still had a taste for robin pot-pie, even though trafficking in wild birds became a federal crime in 1900. In this update, the songbird smuggler tells the judge he was misled about the contents of the box, believing that it was only dried fruit.

* Healdsburg Dr. H. P. Crocker didn’t even have a driver’s chauffeur’s license when the auto he was driving hit a buggy carrying a family of five, seriously injuring a passenger. The good doctor appealed the fine given to him for causing the accident, using a novel defense that speed limits and laws requiring him to share the road with horse-drawn vehicles were unfair. After twenty months of appeals, Crocker finally paid his $250 fine.

* Archeologists would have a field day digging up the intersection of Sebastopol Road and the railway tracks. Here was a La Brea-like mud hole that famously sank vehicles up to their axles during the winter of 1904, the winter of 1905, and soon, the winter of 1906. God knows what manner of treasures fell into the muck as the autos and buggies were dragged out; there may even be a classic car down there. Maybe a fleet of ’em.

Why they couldn’t fix the Pothole From Hell is unclear. Apparently it was right at the railroad crossing and the land was owned by California Northwestern, which had a standing court order blocking the city from any work on their property (which was somewhat understandable in the wake of “The Battle of Sebastopol Avenue“). At the same time, the railroad was also demanding that Santa Rosa fix the hazard in the street. This report of a late 1906 city council meeting finds the mayor griping that not enough city business gets done at these meetings because city leaders spend an hour or more of each session wringing hands over the mud hole crisis.

* We last encountered Petaluma dentist Walter Hall in the summer of 1905, after he was arrested for beating up a vaudeville hypnotist. A few months later, we learn why Walter was so irritable: His wife of less than two years was about to ask for a divorce. Surprising details appear in the early 1906 stories about their split up, namely that she charged him with desertion (was she counting his night in jail?) and that he vowed to fight for his marriage. When they finally did divorce in 1908, the grounds were reversed; the dentist charged her with desertion. Painful though the divorce was, Dr. Hall still got off lucky; her previous husband committed suicide by shooting himself twice — both in his heart and head — before leaving her a considerable estate.
Shipped Birds For Japanese

D. Casassa, who is charged with having shipped a box of birds to San Francisco from Sebastopol marked “dried fruit,” was in Justice Atchinson’s court Thursday. He claimed that he shipped the birds for a Japanese who told him it was dried fruit, which he intended to send to his parents in Japan. The box was addressed to a poultry and game commission firm, and Casassa was instructed to get the Japanese to appear in Court next week to which time the case was postponed.

– Press Democrat, January 19, 1906

Dr. Crocker of Healdsburg Enriches County Treasury to the Extend of Fine Imposed Months Ago

Dr. H. B. Crocker, the well known owner of the sanitarium at Healdsburg, who was some time ago fined $250 for a violation of the ordinance regulating the speed of automobiles on the county road, on last Friday paid the coin into Justice Hugh N. Latimer’s court in Windsor, and the incident is ended.

Dr. Crocker took the suit to the higher court and there the decision of the lower court was affirmed. Dr. Crocker thought of applying for a writ of review but evidently decided not to carry the litigation any further, and from Justice Latimer it was learned by a reported that the money had been paid.

– Press Democrat, August 13, 1906

At the meeting of the council Tuesday evening the matter of fixing up the mud hole at Sebastopol avenue and the railroad tracks was again discussed. The council is tied by an injuction and cannot proceed and it was reported that the property owners intended to force them to make repairs there if they were not done at once. The members of the council do not see how they can be forced to violate an order of the court and are awaiting developments.

Chairman Press Hall, who has tired at attempts to fix the street, declared that W. L. Call should be sent down to the mud hole to drive some piling and that a bridge be built across the disputed spot.

Mayor Overton declared that every time the council met an hour or more was spent discussing that particular mud hole and he would prefer to discuss something that could be done for the city’s interest than this location, where an injunction prevented needed street work being done…If the order of the court could be modified the council would willingly put the street in proper condition and it should be done before the winter rains set in.

– Santa Rosa Republican, November 28, 1906

Mrs. Abbie M. Hall Sues Dr. Walter C. Hall of Petaluma for Divorce

Some surprise was occasioned here yesterday, and when the news is known in Petaluma it will result in a sensation there also by the commencement of a suit for divorce in the Superior Court by Mrs. Abbie M. Hall against her husband, Dr. Walter C. Hall, the young dentist of Petaluma. The couple are prominent in social circles in the southern town and both are members of well known and old families of southern Sonoma.

Prior to her marriage to Dr. Hall about two years ago, Mrs. Hall was Mrs. James Treadwell, a scion of the wealthy Treadwell family and a man possessed of great wealth. The marriage savored of the romantic and came as a great surprise. While there had been hints that some dissensions had arisen in the Hall household, nevertheless the filing of divorce papers here yesterday occasioned a surprise. Frank A. Meyer is the attorney for the fair plaintiff. Her marriage to Dr. Hall was her third matrimonial venture.

– Press Democrat, February 14, 1906

Says He Did Not Willfully Desert His Wife as She Is Claiming

Dr. Walter C. Hall, the young Petaluma dentist, whose wife recently sued him for divorce in the Superior Court of this county, will contest his wife’s suit. She alleges that he, without cause, deserted her last year, and on the grounds of wilful [sic] desertion she asks the court to grant her a legal separation and a severing of the martial ties.

On Monday Dr. Hall’s demurrer to his wife’s complaint was argued in Judge Seawell’s department of the Superior Court. The ground urged most was that the complaint did not state a cause of action. Dr. Hall was represented by Attorney Thomas Denny, Attorney Frank A. Meyer representing Mrs. Hall, the plaintiff, resisted the demurrer.

Judge Seawell overruled the demurrer and gave the defendant ten days to answer. It is understood that Dr. Hall will fight his wife’s suit on the ground that he did not wilfully desert her as alleged. At the present time it looks as if there will be a lively contest over the granting of the divorce.

Mrs. Hall, as is well known, was formerly Mrs. Abbie Treadwell, the wife of James Treadwell, the young millionaire, who shot himself sometime prior to her marriage with Dr. Hall in Los Angeles. Prior to becoming Mrs. Treadwell she was Mrs. Leon Drive, wife of Professor Driver, a well known instructor in music. She obtained a divorce from him in the Superior Court of this county and Attorney Meyer, who represents her now, also represented her then.

– Press Democrat, March 13, 1906

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There were very few African-Americans in 1906 Santa Rosa, and none have been mentioned yet in this journal because they were almost never mentioned in either local newspaper (more about that in a later post). But when a local bricklaying contractor misled Black workers from Los Angeles into coming here to break a strike, they were no longer quite as invisible.

Another incident that same week reveals even more about race relations in 1906 Santa Rosa. Newspaper coverage of a 10AM fight in a Fourth street saloon agreed on little else except Paul Anderson, a Black man, beat up a White man.

According to the Press Democrat, Anderson elbowed his way into a conversation at the bar before punching one of the guys in the face, with no reason given. In this version, Anderson was arrested and paid a $30 fine. Later that night, according to the PD, “Anderson again started out looking for trouble” and threatened a man who chased him into a drug store before others intervened.

The Republican printed Anderson’s account of events, which were quite different. Here Anderson, who apparently had recently moved here from San Francisco, was mistaken for one of the out-of-town bricklayers and the men in the bar demanded to know “whether he was going to stay here or not.” When Anderson said he wasn’t leaving town, one of the group took a swing at him and ended up bruised and bleeding after Anderson fought back. According to the Republican, a crowd of bricklayers stalked Anderson along Fourth street for the rest of the morning, the Black man carrying a length of pipe for self-defense in case they attacked. In this telling, Anderson swears out a warrant the next day against local bricklayer Fred Forgett, accusing him of being part of a group threatening him later that evening.

The scenario presented by the Republican is more detailed and plausible, even though their first article also reported that Anderson went to jail rather than pay the $30, which had to be an error. The Press Democrat’s short article reveals plenty of bias both in language (Anderson “ran amuck” and threatened a “small man”) and failure to mention any connection to tensions over the labor conflict. Anderson is a troublemaker. Period.

Yet the PD version gains some credibility by naming the cop who ordered Anderson to go home after the drug store confrontation, making it clear something else happened that evening — although we’ll never know exactly what. (My personal guess: Anderson probably sought refuge in the store after being chased again by a mob, which likely included Fred Forgett’s drug-crazed, cleaver-wielding brother.)

Paul Anderson and William Rodger Have Encounter–Former Goes to Jail

The first trouble of a physical nature in the local labor controversy occurred this morning, when Paul Anderson, a gentleman of color, and a white bricklayer named William Rodger, had an altercation in a saloon on lower Fourth street. The white man got much the worse of the engagement, receiving a bad lick in the eye, which cut the flesh under that member, and another blow alongside the ear which nearly knocked the organ of hearing from the side of his head. Later Rodger appeared before Justice Atchinson and swore to a complaint charging Anderson with battery.

As usual, there are two sides to the story. Rodger declares he went into the saloon, and there heard Anderson making remarks that were disparaging to union men, and that some things were said to which he took exception. It was then that Anderson struck him, he claims, and his condition showed it to be true that something had collided with his features.

Anderson’s side of the story this morning was that the man, who was a stranger to him, being a San Franciscan, had accosted him, believing he was one of the quartet of colored men who came here from Los Angeles to work for Contractor Nagel, and takes the work that the union men had formerly been doing. Anderson declares that in answer to a question as to whether he was going to stay here or not, he replied in the affirmative, and that the white man made a pass at him. He acknowledges that he struck the man, but declares it was in response to an attempt by the white man to strike him.

Later Anderson appeared on the streets armed with a piece of pipe, with which he declared he proposed to protect himself. A crowd of the bricklayers were in the vicinity of where Anderson was all during the forenoon, and when the colored man wandered down Fourth street they moved in that direction also.

Chief of Police Severson, Officer Donald McIntosh and Constable Boswell were kept on the lookout during the morning and just before the noon hour told the union men to go away and let Anderson alone.

Justice Atchinson heard the testimony against Anderson, and sentenced him to pay a fine of thirty dollars or spend thirty days in jail. Owing to the low condition of his finances, Anderson elected to take his board at the county hotel.

The union bricklayers are much incensed at the treatment one of their number received at the hands of a colored man. It is probable that other troubles may ensue as the result of the importation of these colored men.

– Santa Rosa Republican, March 22, 1906
Anderson in Trouble Again

Paul Anderson, a well-known colored man who has often been in trouble with the police, ran amuck again Thursday. Entering a saloon on lower Fourth street about ten o’clock he injected himself into a conversation that was going on and ended up by striking William Rogers in the face. Anderson was arrested and taken before Justice Atchinson, who gave him “thirty days or thirty dollars.” The prisoner paid the fine and was released.

Thursday evening, Anderson again started out looking for trouble. One of the men he ran into was David Lynch, to whom he boasted of what he was going to do and made personal threats. Lynch, who is a small man, took after Anderson and ran him into Dignan’s drug store, “soaking” him with a bar of soap he picked up at the door. Friends interceded, and no arrests were made. Anderson finally going home upon being ordered to do so by Officer Hankle.

– Press Democrat, March 23, 1906

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Had the 1906 earthquake not hit Santa Rosa, another crisis was likely to shake the town later that year — a paralyzing general strike.

Troubles started early in January. Lee Brothers, the largest drayage (hauling) company in Santa Rosa, was the linchpin of the construction industry in town, their drivers responsible for everything from carting away debris and garbage to handling raw and finished materials to and from the lumber yards. It was also a non-union “open shop,” meaning that that the company supposedly granted both union and non-union workers the same benefits and working conditions. To pressure Lee Brothers, the local Labor Council voted that all union workers were to take no new jobs until the lumber yards were completely unionized, including the drivers.

Property development — then, as now, Santa Rosa’s true primary industry — screeched to a halt. As the Republican newspaper editorialized, while carpenters were still busy on projects elsewhere around the county, “…inside of Santa Rosa [real estate] sales have been practically nil.” A stream of skilled craftsmen were also reportedly leaving the city seeking work elsewhere. After a week of negotiations, a deal was struck in January that maintained the open-shop status quo while giving the unions six months to organize the entire labor force. But while the Press Democrat crowed that labor troubles were settled, the Republican more accurately observed that the showdown was merely postponed until somewhere around August.

As the clock was ticking, tensions rose higher as another employer antagonized union workers by bringing in scab labor.

In brief: During construction of the Burbank School on Ellis Street (which is now the stretch of Sonoma Avenue west of Santa Rosa Ave), union bricklayers walked off the job in a wildcat strike because the contractor refused to hire union hodcarriers. Out-of-town bricklayers were brought in. Local tempers ran hot, and after a few days the scabs quietly left Santa Rosa without laying a single brick.

It was a tense three days in Santa Rosa, and the blame lies entirely with local contractor W. L. Nagel, who misled the out-of-towners that Santa Rosa was a tiny country town with no union presence. When scourged for hiring them, Nagel’s defense was that he couldn’t hire locals because there was only a single bricklayer in town, which was easily refuted as another lie. And, of course, along the way he blamed the problems he caused upon unnamed “outsiders.”

But what made this confrontation so potentially explosive was that all of the non-union, out-of-town workers were African-American.

To the Press Democrat, which always represented the town’s Southern Democrat old guard, the race of the men was the predominant issue, followed closely by the urgency for these Black men to get out of town ASAP. The rival Republican newspaper took the PD to task for hypocrisy, suggesting that the paper didn’t object to other scab laborers who apparently were White: “…the morning paper exploded yesterday over the presence in Santa Rosa of the four negroes, why does it not urge the employment of union men in a certain establishment in which the aforesaid establishment is operated, raised a great howl about imported negro labor in order to divert attention from the main issue and pose–pose, we say–as a dear friend of the union man[?]”

If the situation wasn’t already sticky enough, a scuffle between a local Black man and a group of Whites threatened to expand the conflict beyond a labor dispute. What exactly happened at ten o’clock that morning in a Fourth St. saloon and the hours that followed is uncertain; accounts in the two Santa Rosa newspapers are too different to be reconciled. Details continue in the following post.

Colored Contractor With Six Assistants Arrives Here From Los Angeles

Seven colored brick layers have arrived here from Los Angeles prepared to go to work on the new school building being erected on Ellis street, and their arrival has occasioned a great deal of discussion among the representatives of the local labor unions, as well as among a good many other people.

According to F. D. Grant, the colored contractor who brought the men here, representations were made to him that Santa Rosa was a small town and that there were no labor unions here. These representations, he says, were made by a man named Calimene, acting for Contractor W. L. Nagle, who has the contract to do the brick work on the new building. Grant is said to have expressed himself as being considerably surprised to learn the conditions of affairs here, but says he is ready to go to work whenever the weather permits.

Fred Forgett, a well-known local union brick layer, says that he offered to procure all the union men needed, but that Contractor Nagle said he did not want them. He says that the negro bricklayers have agreed to work for $5 pr day, while the union schedule is $6. The union bricklayers employed on the job walked out a short time ago because the hod-carriers were non-union men. There is no local bricklayer’s union here, but the men are affiliated with the San Francisco union, and also with the hodcarriers.

All the colored bricklayers imported from Los Angeles are non-union men, and it is believed by many that their employment will mean trouble, as they claim local men will not be apt to stand by and see the negro bricklayers doing the work without making some effort to prevent it. It is also not unlikely that allowing non-union men to lay the brick may result in a further tying up of the job when it comes time to do the carpenter and plumbing work, as union men will probably refuse to take hold of it when the brick work is finished.

Considerable indignation was expressed on the streets yesterday regarding the matter, and this was voiced by non-union men as well as by union men. The matter appears to be entirely out of the hands of the school board, as that body has let the contract for the constriction of the building and accepted a bond for its completion. Entirely aside from the question of unionism or color, it is pointed out that the work is of a public nature and if it is done by men living here the money paid out in the form of wages will remain in Santa Rosa, while if it is paid to outsiders it will be carried away with them when they return to their homes, and a good many people have expressed themselves as being of the opinion that for these reasons if for no other some way should be found to adjust the situation without having to call in the assistance of the outsiders.

– Press Democrat, March 21, 1906
Will Continue to Work as Long as Contractor Nagel Is Satisfied

The four colored men who were imported from Los Angeles to this city by Contractor W. L. Nagel were reported today to have consented to return to their homes, providing their fares were paid by the local members of the Bricklayers Union…[who] have been raising money today for that purpose.

It is understood that some of the contractors believe that Contractor Nagel displayed poor judgment in importing colored men here when he had white men, for the negro issue further complicates the labor situation, and makes it even more difficult of solution.

Contractor Nagel paid a visit to the Republican office this afternoon and ashed that space be given him for the following statement: “There are not seven colored men; there are only four; these men thoroughly understood the local conditions before coming here. I have worked my men for the past two years paying $6 a day and allowing them union hours, and when I accepted the work on the school building I undertook to employ union men, and gave them the first chance; they saw fit fo quit after a day and a half of work. I gave them two other opportunities and waited two weeks but they still refused. There are no resident bricklayers here except Fred Forgett. The outsiders on the ice plant are creating this trouble. I had six other bricklayers here ten days ago. They were intimidated so they left. On the second day two were turned out of a local hotel without breakfast. These colored men are mechanics and will work for me on this building and on other work. I have seven other white bricklayers here besides who will also work for me. Three of the four colored men have families.”

– Santa Rosa Republican, March 21, 1906
Fred Forgett, Contractor Nagle and Foreman Grant Discuss Bricklayers’ Trouble

Several conferences took place yesterday between the colored bricklayers recently imported from Los Angeles to work on the new Ellis street school and representatives of the local union bricklayers relative to quiet arranging for the return of the former to their homes, but nothing came of it.

The negroes appeared willing to go if their fares were paid, and the sum of $85 was finally agreed upon as a proper sum, but before the time agreed on for the second meeting word reached here that four more non-union bricklayers were on the way from Sacramento, so the local men decided that to send the colored men away would be an unnecessary waste of money.

The above information was furnished a Press Democrat representative last night by Fred Forgett of this city, who also took issue with a statement made by Contractor W. L. Nagel to the effect that he (Forgett) is the only local resident bricklayer in town. Forgett stated that Ed Pow, Joe Griffin, Obe Snow, Harry Snow, Ed Bennett and Harry Bennett, in addition to himself, all of whom live in Sonoma County, had been working for Nagel for the past year or more, some of them for a number of years. Forgett also stated that the only action he had taken in connection with the present difficulty had been in response to orders from union headquarters in San Francisco, and exhibited several telegrams to back up his claims. “We are not trying to make trouble,” said Forgett, “and we do not want to see any trouble here; but we belong to the union, and as long as we do we have to live up to the rules.”

F. D. Grant, foreman of the colored crew, stated yesterday afternoon that he and his men were here to work and expected to remain as long as Contractor Nagel wanted them to. “When he says go, we will start,” said Grant. It appears that Nagel paid the men’s fare to Santa Rosa. Grant also said that as far as he knew no misrepresentations had been made to his men regarding union conditions in this city. He said they had been told that there was no bricklayer’s union here, which is the case, although the local bricklayers are affiliated with the San Francisco union. He claimed that his men were to receive $6 per day and not $5 as has been reported, and also stated that while they did not belong to any union they had worked on some of the best buildings in Los Angeles alongside of union men without having any trouble.

Contractor Nagel called at this office last night and made the following statement: “It is not true that I have brought in seven colored bricklayers. There are only four of them. They are going to remain here and do my work, because it has to be finished. I held off some two weeks trying to get my old men to come back to work, and gave them several chances, but they [illegible microfilm] half a dozen non-union men, all white. They were intimidated and in other ways [illegible microfilm] working only a day or so. Then I got another white crew and the same thing happened again. No misrepresentations were made to get these colored bricklayers to come here. They will be paid the regular scale of $6 a day, and do not come to cut down prices. Fred Forgett never offered to ‘get all the non-union men I wanted.’ What he did was to call my men off, and then help get the others to quit. I am under contract and have given bonds to complete my buildings and must do it. These colored bricklayers are good workmen and with other men I have got are going to go ahead and do my work. The report that they agreed to return home if their fare was paid is not correct.”

– Press Democrat, March 22, 1906


The importation of the four colored bricklayers to assist in the work upon the Ellis street school house has caused a great deal of stir in union circles, for it has served to accentuate the efforts being made to break down labor unionism in Santa Rosa.


In the present conflict our contemporary grows red in the face over “black men” being imported and orders them to pack their kits and go. Yes, but if it were true to its pretended faith, why didn’t it say that to all imported men?

Why doesn’t the mayor’s organ urge the cause of union men generally, instead of lambasting a quartet of good-natured negroes brought here under apparent misrepresentation?

For instance, and speaking politically, for it was certainly in that sense that the morning paper exploded yesterday over the presence in Santa Rosa of the four negroes, why does it not urge the employment of union men in a certain establishment in which the aforesaid establishment is operated, raised a great howl about imported negro labor in order to divert attention from the main issue and pose–pose, we say–as a dear friend of the union man.

Unless we are greatly mistaken, people will see through this campaign bluff in the shape of a roast on the four negroes who don’t amount to a drop in the bucket compared with the other situation alluded to…

– Santa Rosa Republican, March 22, 1906

Return to Their Homes in Los Angeles Without Having Done Any Workin This City

The quartette of colored men who were imported to this city from Los Angeles by Contractor Nagel, to work on the Ellis street school building, departed for their homes on the Southern Pacific train this morning. They purchased tickets straight through to Los Angeles, and will probably remain there indefinitely. Two days ago it was reported they had agreed to leave, but this was denied by the men at that time, they declaring they had come here at the expense of Mr. Nagel, and expected to got to work for him just as soon as the weather would permit.

Before leaving the city the men declared to city officials who called upon them that they were brought here through misrepresentations, that they had no idea they were coming to take work that any others had been engaged on or had refused to do. Contractor Grant made these statements for himself and his men to a city official who had absolutely no interest in the controversy between Nagel and his men who had left his employ, Grant further stated that he was informed that Santa Rosa was a little country town, not exceeding a couple of thousand in population, that the work he was to do was absolutely “fair” from a union standpoint, and that there were no unions in the city. Grant felt that he and his men had been imposed upon, and they were greatly surprised when they arrived here and learned the true conditions.

Grant was chagrined that it should have been reported that he and his men intended to work for five dollars per day while here. They were hired, he said, at a wage of six dollars per day. They are not cheap laborers, but insist on getting the highest wages paid to men in their calling.

The fact that these men have returned to their homes is a source of gratification to others who do not concern themselves with affairs of labor difficulties. It is believed to have been an unfortunate episode that these colored men were brought here for the purpose of taking work that should have been done by mechanics of this city and vicinity, men who pay taxes here regularly every year.

Four men have arrived here fom Los Angeles to work for Contractor Nagel, and they are declared by the union men to be “unfair,” and some are said to be notorious strike breakers. Efforts will be made by the union men to have them leave Santa Rosa in preference to going to work on the building, and in this they may or may not be successful. [This paragraph was obviously part of a rejected draft from the first story written two days earlier, and was included here by mistake. Of interest is that the labor-friendly Republican paper was first preparing to label the Black workers as “notorious strike breakers.” – je]

As the result of an altercation which occurred Thursday night, Paul Anderson swore to a warrant charging Fred Forgett, a local bricklayer, with making threats. Anderson had trouble with another man, recently from San Francisco, and alleged that Forgett assisted the other man in an attempt to batter him. Forgett has a number of witnesses to prove that he was trying to hold the man with whom Anderson was having trouble, and prevent if possible a personal encounter. Forgett is striving hard to maintain the most harmonious and peaceable relations between the men, and it was while thus engaged that Anderson believed he was assisting the other man, whose name is unknown.

– Santa Rosa Republican, March 23, 1906

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