To the usual list of causes of death by earthquake (crushing, burning, etc.) add this surprising contender: Lockjaw.

A little Press Democrat item that appeared ten weeks after the 1906 quake noted that “quite a number of horses” were injured from stepping on rusty nails, and “a number of people have also been laid up here.” It makes sense; with the streets coved in debris and cleanup crews working by manual labor, there were constant opportunities for wounds that could introduce lockjaw-causing bacteria. And according to a 1907 medical text, 3 out of 4 people with acute tetanus died in that era.

(Obl. Believe-it-or-not sidebar: Tetanus was also the leading cause of death on Independence Day. So common was lockjaw caused by fireworks or cap pistols that early 20th century medical books referred to cases as “4th of July tetanus.” A 1903 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Assoc. found that there were 406 deaths from tetanus linked to that holiday that year, with a mortality rate of 95% for anyone injured in this manner.)


Quite a number of horses have been suffering with lameness here as the result of running rusty nails into their feet and have had to be given medical treatment. So far there has been no case of lockaw among the equines.

In San Francisco between thirty and forty horses have been dying of lockjaw every week since the debris has been scattered about the streets. The Breeder and Sportsman is authority for this statement.

A number of people have also been laid up here on account of their pedals having been pierced by rusty nails, but the poor horses have suffered the most.

– Press Democrat, June 28, 1906

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On April 18, 1906, a great tragedy befell Santa Rosa: All saloons closed for about a month. There was also that earthquake thing, too.

This was a hard-drinking town in the early 20th Century, with nearly three dozen saloons packed into its small downtown; you were never more than a few doors away from a glass of beer or a shot of whisky, particularly if you were staggering along 4th Street.

View 1906 Santa Rosa in a larger map

(RIGHT: Approximate locations of saloons in 1906 projected on a map of modern-day Santa Rosa. Data based on list of applications for liquor license renewals that appeared in the Press Democrat, Dec. 13, 1906)

Like every other business in town, the saloon trade was disrupted by the earthquake. Some of Santa Rosa’s most famous drinking holes aren’t found on this map; the Occidental Bar was gone until its namesake hotel was again standing, and the Oberon wouldn’t reopen until the Shea Building was rebuilt. Also not listed here is the infamous “Call No. 2;” that joint wasn’t even allowed to apply for a license renewal following a standing-room-only public hearing where complaints were aired about noise and rowdiness. But there are 33 places on this map, and the 1908 city directory lists thirty bars at that time, so although names and locations slightly drift, this is still a fair representation of the Santa Rosa saloon scene in that era.

About a dozen saloons each were clustered around the train station and court house square. The places closer to the court house seemed to appeal to men from the town’s business class and gamblers visiting Santa Rosa for the horse races (although the Oberon, Santa Rosa’s pre-quake gambling HQ was in limbo, owners Brown & Gnesa had two interim saloons shown on this map). The downtown saloons consistently enjoyed good press; when Jake Luppold reopened his “New” Senate Saloon with a big feed, the Republican gushed that “Luppold’s reputation for hospitality is second to none…Luppold’s friends are legion, and they called and partook of the viands with a relish.”

By contrast, the Call and other places down by the train tracks – which never, ever, advertised in the papers – were never, ever, mentioned kindly in the papers. During the Jan. 2 1907 City Council meeting where saloon license renewals were discussed, two of the three applications being questioned were part of the cluster near the tracks, and the police chief reported that the owner of one saloon was frequently intoxicated and “used vile language [that] had driven ladies from the adjoining restaurant.” Besides running a “disorderly house,” it was also alleged that he frequently beat his wife. There was no mention at all why the single downtown saloon’s license application was denied.

Compare also the way police treated code violations: The proprietor of the downtown Germania was slapped on the wrist when an officer caught him drawing a beer after the earthquake curfew. The same officer Boyce later arrested the proprietor of a restaurant on lower 4th Street who violated the law by serving a plate of crackers as a “meal” to drinking men (read update here).

Saloon hours were restricted in the wake of the quake, but details are unclear. It’s presumed that they were ordered closed immediately after the disaster just as they were in San Francisco, but there’s no mention in the contemporary newspapers. We likewise don’t know when they were allowed to reopen for limited daytime hours after signing an agreement to obey curfews (and probably other rules), but it was presumably about a month later. The thread picks up again in mid-June, as saloonkeepers were bridling under the restrictions that they could only be open from 8AM to 6PM. The City Council was inclined to return their hours to the pre-earthquake 5AM-Midnight, but the mayor forced through a rule that the new hours would be 6AM-8PM.

At the “Call No. 2” hearing, by the way, it came out that one of the witnesses against the place had repeatedly tried to bring a “lady” – quotes theirs, presumably to suggest that she was a prostitute – into the saloon, but wasn’t allowed entry. Women were reportedly seen around the saloon (although witnesses couldn’t be sure that they weren’t seeing the housekeeper, who lived there). Another witness claimed that some time ago “two negroes came out of the saloon and addressed remarks to her.” Apparently these vague allegations were serious enough to lose your business, if it happened to be a bar on the wrong side of the tracks.

City Council Meeting


Proprietor Pflugi, of the Germania Hotel, was summoned to appear before the council, it having been charged that he had kept his bar open after 6 o’clock in the evening. He stated that his bar had to do triple duty, bar, office, and sitting room, and that a portion of his boarders had to sit there Thursday night out of the rain, while the others ate their supper. He said he had not sold any liquor. Police officer Boyes said he saw a glass of beer drawn at 8 o’clock and carried out of the room. This glass, the proprietor claimed, was for the cook, who “would not work without his beer.” Mr. Pflugi was allowed to go with an admonition. After the storm the bar must close.

Chief of Police Rushmore said other saloon men wanted to make their saloons into “offices.” The matter was discussed and it was stated plainly that any liquor selling after 6 o’clock at night will result in the revocation of the license.

In the opinion of councilmen the saloon men ought to feel satisfied that they had been allowed to open their places at all at this time and should be very careful to obey the agreement they had signed.

– Press Democrat, May 26, 1906


The saloon men of Santa Rosa presented a petition to the city council Tuesday evening, asking that they be permitted to return to the opening and closing hours which prevailed before April 18. At present they open at 8 in the morning and close at 6 in the evening, and under the former regime they opened at 5 and closed at midnight.

Councilman Donahue moved that the petition be granted, saying he saw no reason why a return to the old regime should be longer delayed. He stated that most of the money spent in saloons was spent after 6 o’clock in the evening, at which time the saloons were now forced to close…

Mayor Overton declared he believed it a good idea to keep the saloons closed, and give the people an opportunity to save the money instead of spending it for booze. Councilmen Johnston and Reynolds entertained similar views, and voted against the proposed opening until midnight. Councilman Wallace had not arrived at the meeting, and had no chance to vote.

When the motion was about to be declared as carried, it was learned that the opening of the saloons after the hours now prescribed would have to be done by resolution. The matter was dropped for the time being.

– Santa Rosa Republican, June 20, 1906

The saloons of Santa Rosa open at 6 o’clock this morning and will remain open until 8 o’clock tonight. This will be the rule until further notice, a resolution prescribing these hours having been carried at last night’s Council meeting. The matter was introduced by the reading of the following communication from Mayor Overton:

Santa Rosa, Cal., July 3–To the City Council of the City of Santa Rosa, Gentlemen:

After careful consideration of the resolution passed by your honorable body at your last meeting allowing the opening and closing of saloons same hours as before April 18th, I have to withhold my approval of the resolution.

I deem it for the best interests of the people of Santa Rosa and for the best interests of men engaged in the liquor business that they close their places of business at reasonable hours as all other business men do. The present hours from 8 to 6 o’clock I regard as being too stringent and would recommend the adoption of the same hours to prevail in San Francisco when the saloons open there, to wit, from 6 o’clock in the morning to 8 o’clock in the evening. Respectfully submitted, J. P. Overton, Mayor of the City of Santa Rosa

When it came to adopting the Mayor’s suggestion the vote stood as follows: [ 3 Ayes, 3 Noes ], Mayor Overton gave the casting vote in favor of the amendment.

– Press Democrat, July 4, 1906


Jake Luppold celebrated the opening of the “New Senate Saloon” Sunday in a manner worthy of his past efforts at entertaining his friends. Mr. Luppold’s reputation for hospitality is second to none, and on Sunday he exceeded his former substantial menus. The piece de resistance was chicken, and of these sixty-four were roasted. Each was stuffed and those who partook of the feast were served generously. To this were added eight hogs’ heads, a number of different salads, relishes and all the concomitants that go to make a magnificent spread. Mr. Luppold’s friends are legion, and they called and partook of the viands with a relish. Experienced caterers were on hand to serve the feast, and all had an enjoyable time. Mr. Luppold expects to duplicate the feast on Thanksgiving day, that being an established annual custom with him.

– Santa Rosa Republican, July 23, 1906

Petition to Revoke License of Alleged Disorderly Saloon on West Third Street

The “Standing Room Only” sign could have been out at Supervisor’s hall on Thursday afternoon. The seating capacity of the room was taxed to its utmost. The occasion was the hearing of the petition to revoke the liquor license held by George M. Simpson for the “Call No. 2 Saloon,” on West Third Street.

It was alleged that Simpson had kept a disorderly house, that unseemly noise and disturbance was created there and there were other charges.

Among the witnesses called were [13 names] and others.

After listening to the testimony, the petition to revoke the license was dismissed. It is only a few more days until all saloon keepers will have to present new petitions, as licenses have to be renewed at the first of the year.

After dismissing the petition, the Supervisors proceeded to hear evidence on the revocation of the license under which the saloon is run, and when all the witnesses were heard the matter was taken under advisement. The reason for the dismissal of the petition was owing to the fact that it was shown that Simpson does not personally hold the license.

One of the ladies called testified that she had once been accosted by intoxicated men outside the saloon. Another testified as to the noise from the place. Other witnesses testified as to the general reputation of the saloon.

Simpson denied that he had kept a disorderly house despite the fact that others had testified that there had been unbecoming conduct. Simpson claimed that one of the principal male witnesses against him had asked to be allowed to entertain a lady friend at his place and when he refused to allow him to do so the witness became angry.

– Press Democrat, December 7, 1906


The Board of Supervisors took the matter of the refusal to grant a liquor license to George Simson, of the Call saloon No. 2 under advisement late Thursday afternoon. The hearing of the matter continued until 5 o’clock, and the board took an immediate adjournment. The hearing brought to light some matters that were unexpected and it was testified that a certain witness had attempted to meet a “lady” there three times, but without the consent of the proprietor. The woman and other persons at divers times, it was shown in the testimony, had been ejected from the saloon. The petitioners declared that Simpson’s place was noisy and boisterous, and that it was not properly conducted. All of the allegations were specifically denied by Simpson, who declared that his place was conducted equally well as other similar places. One of the lady witnesses declared that a couple of months since two negroes came out of the saloon and addressed remarks to her as she was passing en route to her home. Some witnesses testified to seeing women about the place, but they were not certain it was not Mr. Simpson’s housekeeper, who is there permanently.

– Santa Rosa Republican, December 7, 1906
Elisa Perrotta Charged With Violation of Provision for the New Restaurant License

Elisa Perrotta, the erstwhile former proprietor of the Milano hotel on lower Fourth street, who lost his license for disobeying the city ordinance some time ago, and who since opened a restaurant, is again in trouble.

A complaint was sworn out by Police Officer John M. Boyes on Saturday against Perotta charging him with a violation of the new license ordinance No. 238, particular the section applying to restaurant licenses.

It was stated that three men went into Perotta’s restaurant and three drinks were put on a table and at the same time a plate with two or three crackers on it was also placed thereon. The restaurant ordinance provides that liquors can be served with meals only, and the cracker diet is not going to be tolerated and in this instance the arresting officer knew it was only a “blind.”

– Press Democrat, April 21, 1907

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Following the 1906 Santa Rosa earthquake, the Superior Court decided a pair of cases that bear mentioning, if only for their Believe-it-or-Not qualities.

Nearly the longest running case at the time involved a lawsuit over the ownership of Queen, “a valuable varmint dog.” I didn’t make note when it started, but the dispute went back at least a year or more, and involved a man named Frese suing to get the dog back from a man named Peterson. The question of ownership also entangled a Mr. Faught and a Mr. Carter and “the Hembree boys” in a knot that I won’t even attempt to unravel.

Well, sir, comes the 1906 earthquake and Queen is dead – yet the lawsuit still went on. Over three months later, Judge Seawell rules that Frese was indeed owner of the dead dog, which was worth all of 25 bucks. The lawyer’s bill was presumably (much, much,) more. Peterson hopefully consoled himself all those valuable varmints killed by Queen.

The other case involved a husband and wife who were both killed in the collapse of Santa Rosa’s Occidental Hotel. The wife’s will left her estate to her only child; the husband’s will instructed his estate to be split between their daughter and his child from an earlier marriage. Apparently it was settled law at the time that if husband and wife died at the exact same instant it was presumed that the man must have lived a fraction of a second longer because of his sheer manliness – although it was argued unsuccessfully in an earlier case that a woman would probably live longer because any female can endure more pain. Presto: A tired gender cliché becomes legal precedent.

Grewsome Incident of the Late Disaster Recalled by Suit Said to Be Pending

Among the local victims of the great disaster of last April were Mr. and Mrs. William Peacock, who were killed in the Occidental hotel. Peacock was a San Francisco contractor and built both the Carnegie library and the California Northwestern depot in this city. The couple left considerable property, and a suit to determine how it shall be divided is said to be among the possibilities of the near future. If such a suit is brought, it will involve and hinge upon the point of which died first. Both victims were dead when taken out, so the determination of the matter promises to be a delicate one.

The question involved in the case is the same one that was brought out in the contest over the property left by the late Charles L. Fair, a few years ago. Fair and his wife were instantly killed in an automobile accident in France, and a suit followed. Both sides imported witnesses from across the water, but the matter was finally compromised. The California law contemplates that in the absence of any direct evidence to the contrary, the man would in such cases live the longer, being by nature the stronger of the two. Opponents of this theory claim, however, that actual experience has demonstrated the fact that woman can stand more pain than man. During the past few days a San Francisco attorney has been here in an effort to learn something of the condition of the Peacock bodies when taken from the ruins, although which side he represented is not known.

– Press Democrat, April 21, 1907

Contest Over Will of Late Contractor William Peacock in Decided by Superior Judge Coffey

Sometime ago the Press Democrat mentioned the interesting point involved in the contest over the estate of the late Contractor William Peacock, who with his wife was killed in the wreck of the Occidental hotel on April 18th a year ago, as to whether Peacock or his wife died first. It was then said that in the absence of anything in the way of evidence to the contrary, the California law presumed that the woman died first. The matter came up for hearing in Judge Coffey’s department of the Superior Court in San Francisco on Wednesday, and the Court decided that Mrs. Peacock died first.

In speaking of the proceedings in Judge Coffey’s court, a San Francisco paper says:

The matter came up on the application of Mrs. Ada Baptiste, daughter of William and Mathilde Peacock for the admission of her mother’s will to probate. The Peacocks were killed in the ruins of the Occidental hotel at Santa Rosa during the earthquake on April 18, 1906. The estate is valued at about $60,000.

Peacock and his wife made separate wills. That of Mrs. Peacock favored her daughter, Mrs. Baptiste, while that of Peacock divided the estate between Mrs. Baptiste and Mrs. Ida Miller, his daughter by his first wife, and, therefore, the half-sister of Mrs. Baptiste. If Peacock died before his wife, ans Mrs. Baptiste contended, the wife’s will would become effective; but if she died first his would prevail. Mrs. Miller contested her stepmother’s will on the ground that Mrs. Peacock died before Peacock did.

Testimony was taken before Judge Coffey to support the claim of Mrs. Baptiste, but the case proved a somewhat knotty one. A subsidiary issue was raised by the appearance of the Grand Lodge of United Workmen, in which order Peacock held a life insurance policy for $1000. The Grand Lodge wishes to know to whom to pay the money.

Not the least interesting feature of the case was the fact that Peacock’s two wives were sisters. Mrs. Miller’s stepmother, therefore, was also her aunt; Mrs. Baptiste and Mrs. Miller are at once cousins and half sisters, and the general mutual relations of the various parties are somewhat complex.

The hearing was in progress nearly all day, but ended with a decision that Mrs. Peacock died before her husband, and the husband’s will, therefore, prevailed. By this will the estate is left, share and share alike, to Mrs. Baptiste and Mrs. Miller.

– Press Democrat, May 10, 1907

“Queen,” a valuable varmint dog, over which a suit was pending in the superior court, died at the time of the recent earthquake. Grant Peterson claimed the dog, and to maintain possession of the animal during the pendancy of the action, had filed a bond. J. H. Frese, who also claimed the dog, had given the first bond, which was covered by Mr. Peterson. Both gentlemen were attached to the canine friend, whose mastership had never been legally determined.

– Santa Rosa Republican, June 8, 1906

At the request of Attorney Leppo an order was made in the Superior Court Monday dropping the suit of Frese vs. Peterson. The suit was to recover possession of a dog or its value at the time of the earthquake the dog died. Last week Mr. Leppo “suggested” the death of the dog to the court and he stated Monday that he would file a supplemental pleading setting forth in due form the canine’s demise.

– Press Democrat, June 12, 1906
Judgement Given for Twenty-Five Dollars in a Bitterly Contested Suit Over a Canine Since Deceased

In the famous suit involving the possession of a dog, since deceased, in which J. H. Frese was plaintiff, and U. G. Peterson was defendant, which has occasioned considerable interest, Superior Court Judge Emmet Seawell handed down an opinion Thursday, giving judgement for the plaintiff in the sum of twenty-five dollars. The opinion is as follows:

“This is an action in claim and delivery for the possession of a hound bitch named ‘Queen’ or for her value in case delivery cannot be had. ‘Queen’ had since died, hence a legal delivery cannot be made. The evidence preponderates in support of plaintiff’s claim that William Carter, through whom defendant claims, was never the [illegible] owner of ‘Queen.’ He was merely given conditional possession. Upon an alleged breach of said condition plaintiff took ‘Queen’ into his possession and held it for a number of years, subsequently she was taken on a hunting trip by the younger Frese and did not return home with him, but was found in defendant’s possession thereafter. He, claiming ownership this action was brought. Much of the evidence apparently contradictory can be explained on the theory of mistake or misuse or misapprehension of terms. This is especially true of the conversation between the Hembree boys and the younger Frese. It would not have been remarkably strange for young Frese to have used the word ‘trade’ under the conditions of the exchange. On the other hand it would not have been strange for the Hembree boys to have gotten the idea that there was a trade from the use of the word ‘exchange,’ or even from an imperfect or incomplete narrative of the transaction. I am satisfied that the whole difficulty between the parties grows out of a lack of the use of apt terms. Mr. Carter probably regarded the loan or conditional exchange as in effect a ‘trade,’ and gave little though to a breach which he felt confident would never happen. So, too, the younger Frese may have, in a general way, called the transaction a ‘trade.’ Such a misunderstanding as the evidence shows here to exist might be expected under the conditions of the exchange. It does not at all strike the Court that the conflicting statements are not reconcilable with honesty. Many of the conflicting statements can be readily reconciled on the theory that there was a misuse of terms. The transaction took place a long while ago, and it is not to expect that one who had no real interest in the controversy would recollect the details of a conversation that took place a long time ago as clearly as one who had. Considering all the evidence and circumstances of the case, together with the logic of human conduct the preponderance is with plaintiff that he did not part with the title in the dog. The value of ‘Queen’ at the time she was taken into defendant’s possession is not easy to fix. Mr. A. Faught, once her owner, placed the value of a dog of her blood and age at anywhere from five to fifty dollars. She was probably of the value of twenty-five dollars. Let judgement go for plaintiff for the sum of twenty-five dollars. It is so ordered.” Emmet Seawell, Judge of the Superior Court.

– Press Democrat, July 27, 1907

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