On the eve of the great 1906 earthquake, it’s remarkable how completely unremarkable that week otherwise was in Santa Rosa. From the April 18th Press Democrat (which, of course, was written and printed in the hours before the earthquake struck):

* Mrs. T. B. Hickley broke her leg while helping her son fly a kite

* “The Girls Behind the Guns,” De Rossett and Excela, were appearing at the Novelty Theatre: “Sensational Gun Jugglers and Fencers” promised the ads

* August Sanders, a 60 year-old rancher near Sebastopol dropped dead while repairing a water pipe

* A snippet from an Oakland Enquirer editorial was reprinted that called Santa Rosa an “enterprising city” for planning to build a major convention hall. PD editor Finley opined at the end, “Yes, and right away”

* Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Thomas Magee were given a surprise party by the Ladies of the G. A. R. in appreciation of her good work as president of the Ladies’ Circle. “About fifty pieces were played by the phonograph”

* The youngest Warboys girl fell while skating on the sidewalk and broke her arm

* The newly elected City Council held its first business session, and most of the meeting was ceremonial. Mayor Overton called for all city officials to have an office in the City Hall, a horse and buggy be purchased for use by the street commissioner and committee members inspecting city work, and that the fire house on Fifth street be made more comfortable for the firemen

* That evening the Linnaean Society would hear T. L. Vance deliver a paper on “Cosmic Forces”

But when it seemed that nothing at all interesting was to be found, I noticed that there was handwriting at the top of the April 18 front page. it was too faint to read directly from the scratched microfilm; I made a digital copy, and with image processing, I was finally able to decipher the message. It was a personal epitaph, probably written months afterward by a librarian:

“The boy who delivered this paper was killed in the quake.”

(ABOVE: Fourth Street looking west, with the courthouse on the left and Mendocino St. intersection on the right. This is probably the last scenic view of Santa Rosa before the Great Earthquake. Detail of Cardinell-Vincent Co. postcard image courtesy California Historical Society)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *