More proof that life in 1906 Santa Rosa was returning to normal, four months after the great earthquake: the police again are busting bicyclists for riding on the sidewalks. Raconteur and soon-to-be historian Tom Gregory even penned a satirical column on the topic, suggesting that sidewalk bicycling should be encouraged because enough $5.00 fines could pay for reconstruction of the civic buildings downtown. The city could even sell coupon books to repeat offenders: “Under this beautiful system a cop could grab a wheelman, tear off a coupon, and let him ride on. No delay, no bother.”

Sidewalk safety was also a concern because the town went roller skating crazy that summer, and, as someone complained in a letter to the Press Democrat, “much of the day that thoroughfare is crowded with roller skaters making it impossible for people afoot to use it.”

Special Officer Samuels Has a Lively Chase to Run to Earth a Violator of Sidewalk Ordinance

Never since the days when bicycle races in Santa Rosa furnished sport for several hundred enthusiastic cyclists, has there been such a sprint witnessed as that which brought people to their front doors and windows and cause vehicular traffic to be pulled to one side of the highway on upper Fourth street and Sonoma road, near this city, on Wednesday afternoon. The scorchers were Special Officer Samuels and a young man, who was violating the bicycle-riding-on-the-sidewalk ordinance near the park.

“Stop,” yelled Samuels to the law violator. The latter just turned his head and caught sight of Samuels. Then he bore down on his pedals and, as the men at the race track say, “They’re off.” For a time the men anxious to keep a five dollar piece from the city treasury, led the pace with Samuels gaining by inches. For half a mile and more they raced until the pursued turned his bike and headed for the creek. Nothing daunted Samuels, [who] followed and effected the capture. The officer brought his man back to town and after the latter had found a friendly storekeeper to lend him the fiver required to appease the majesty of the law, he rode home slowly and thoughtfully, and kept the middle of the road.

– Press Democrat, August 16, 1906

Editor Press Democrat: Chief of Police Rushmore struck the keynote when he asked for an ordinance that would preserve the city sidewalks to pedestrians and not to roller skaters. As it is the practice of using the sidewalks for a rink it is rapidly becoming a nuisance. At first the bicycle riding on sidewalks was harmless, but soon laws had to be enacted to drive those machines out into the street with the other vehicles. I have a new cement walks laid on two streets in front of my corner residence, and much of the day that thoroughfare is crowded with roller skaters making it impossible for people afoot to use it with safety. Not long ago I saw a big boy fall heavily and one of his metal skates struck the cement of the walk, breaking a deep hole therein the diameter of a fifty-cent piece. With the metallic wheels of the skates rolling ever that place the break will be continually enlarging. By all means have this nuisance abated. Property Owner. Santa Rosa, Aug. 30, 1906.

– Press Democrat, August 31, 1906

Tom Gregory Makes a Suggestion to the City Fathers Anent “Fares” for Bicycle Riders on Sidewalks

Editor Press Democrat: Here is a frenzied finance idea for the City Council. During the month of August the sidewalk bicycle riders of Santa Rosa paid in fines $110. Now, would it not be well to systematize this growing, profitable traffic–work this source of “easy money” income for all it is worth. The evident mania of the local bicycle people to utilize the sidewalks should be encouraged.

Think of it–$110 per month is $1,320 a year. There are probably 500 wheels in this city, and if each owner could be induced to mount the sidewalk even once a month (at $5 per ride), $2,500 would be the monthly receipt therefrom, and $30,000 yearly would swell the municipal coffers to bursting. With this noble harvest what improvements could be made. New public buildings arise from the ruins, a never-ending relief fund created and the $200,000 bonded indebtedness be among the things that were.

But it is not necessary to run at this high-water rate. A lower schedule could be adopted. Instead of a uniform price of $5 a ride, make it $4 or even $3. Issue monthly commutation tickets at the last figure. Twelve tickets or coupons in a book at $3 per would amount to $36, and the 500 wheels would bring in $18,000 annually. At this lower rate the riders would use the sidewalks more frequently and increase the sum total. Under this beautiful system a cop could grab a wheelman, tear off a coupon, and let him ride on. No delay, no bother.

Of course “fare” could be collected again next block if the rider were “sporty” and wealthy.

A separate schedule could be arranged for rubber-tire buggies (without horses–whose hoofs would damage the sidewalks), automobiles, and roller skates. The bicycle folks evidently want to ride the sidewalks and want to pay good money for the valued privilege. The spirit that fathers this twin-want should be encouraged–at least till the city is rebuilt. This reinforced concrete idea is not copyrighted, and its splendid plans and specifications are free for the Council to adopt. Tom Gregory, Santa Rosa, Sept 1, 1906

– Press Democrat, September 2, 1906

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These three stories from the summer after the earthquake are as rare as they are disturbing. I don’t recall any other newspaper reports about child molestation during this era; either this crime was unusual, or it usually wasn’t spoken of.

It’s certainly possible (I suppose) that the trauma of the quake might have pushed some with borderline sexual disorders over the edge; it was well studied at the time that the disaster had a positive effect on those inclined to harm themselves, with the suicide rate dropping sharply in San Francisco during this post-quake period. It would be an interesting project for a psych student to see if there was also an effect on anti-social crimes, for better or no.

Yet the final story in this entry suggests that the papers were willing to downplay such crimes when the molester came from a family of “respectable people.” Apparently Mr. Faxon had already done six months in the pokey for exposing himself and grabbing children; as reported in the Republican after his new six month conviction, “Faxon’s conduct has been going on for some time past. Many nights he has occupied a position on the E street bridge and accosted young girls.”

Also notable is the story of the man using his automobile to lure children within grabbing distance. This was 1906, remember, and horseless carriages were still very expensive and rare to see; surely it would have been possible to find the perp if authorities in other towns had been given a description.


Complaints had reached police headquarters of the alleged misconduct of an old man named J. F. Winkinson in the presence of small girls on Second street, and on Monday night he was arrested by Police Officer Hankel, and was put under a severe cross-examination by the officer and Chief of Police Rushmore. At first he denied any impropriety, but afterwards admitted it. He was given a reprimand and agreed that he would leave town Tuesday morning under pain of being arrested. The parents of the children were desirous that he should make his presence scarce and avoid their children being brought into the notoriety in a court investigation.

– Santa Rosa Republican, June 26, 1906
Stranger Invites Two Young Girls to Go Auto Riding With Him and Behaves in Improper Manner

Last night something of a sensation was caused here, but was kept very quiet owing to an expressed desire on the part of the families concerned to avoid notoriety.

A well dressed stranger, driving an automobile, while passing a house in the southern part of the city, stopped his machine and invited two young girls to go for a ride. Believing everything was all right and anxious to have an auto ride they accepted the invitation and clambered into the machine. Their newly found friend soon pulled into a quiet thoroughfare and stopped the machine. It is said that he then attempted to fondle the oldest girl. Both girls screamed, and he started up the auto and hurried on. A few seconds later he stopped and told the girls to get out, and he then drove on at a lively gait. Word was sent to Police Officer I. N. Lindley and a careful watch was kept for the reappearance of the stranger in the automobile, but he came not. He is said to have been seen speeding towards Petaluma. He told one of the girls that his name was “Doctor, and nothing else.” The girls were eight and twelve years old.

– Press Democrat, August 8, 1906
Faxon Gets the Limit of the Law

E. F. Faxon, who entered a plea of guilty Wednesday to indecent exposure and making improper proposals to young girls, was made to feel that there is a law which even he in his depravity must respect when he appeared before Justice A. J. Atchinson Thursday morning. The man with the brutal instincts was given a severe lecture by the justice on the beastly manner in which he had conducted himself in the past and was then handed a sentence of six months in the county jail. The justice gave him no alternative of paying a fine for his offense, and the man will have to spend the time in the county jail meditating on his past conduct.

Faxon’s conduct has been going on for some time past. Many nights he has occupied a position on the E street bridge and accosted young girls. His shocking conduct brought down on him the threats of vengance from many fathers and mothers, and a sigh of relief was heaved in the neighborhood when Officer Lindley appeared on the scene and captured the man. His declarations of innocence were apparently so well founded that for a time he threw the officers and justice off the track, and they took only nominal measures to prevent his leaving town and escaping the punishment he so richly deserves.

Faxon was very anxious that nothing should be known of his nefarious practices, and especially that it should not get to a citizen who had employed him the day before he was caught by the officers. When he was arrested the second time and his bail increased to one hundred dollars, he realized the evidence against him was strong, and he confessed the crime. The main’s parents reside in this city and are respectable people. They are crushed beneath the predicament of their son.

– Santa Rosa Republican, August 16, 1906

E. F. Faxon Sentenced by Justice Atchinson and is Given the Maximum Punishment

Justice A. J. Atchinson meted out punishment to E. F. Faxon on Thursday morning to the tune of six months in the county jail. This was the limit he could give him for the offense charged, and judging from the expressions heard from some fathers in town the defendant got off more luckily than they would have let him.

Faxon is the young man who pleaded guilty of unseemingly and disgraceful conduct on the E street bridge, and also with grabbing and following young girls and making improper suggestions to them. When Police Officer Lindley arrested Faxon he denied that he was the man sought after for having been offensive to girls, but later admitted his guilt.

– Press Democrat, August 17, 1906

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A ladies’ hat in 1906 was a thing of wonder, an elaborate headgear adorned with ribbon and feathers and flowers. The problems of wearing such an architectural monument were also legendary, and the font from which poured a billion cartoons, vaudeville routines, and wheezy jokes, not to mention a few angry letters to the editor.

The other story reminds that chapeau love isn’t only a woman’s province, as Mr. Skaggs must convince a haberdasher to reopen his store late at night because he couldn’t be seen at the ball game without a derby on his noggin.


Editor Republican: Will you assist the long suffering men at public assemblies who desire to see the speaker and help us to get an ordinance to require women to remove the glaring sky scrapers and upturned things now in use? I sat behind one and just as I got a peek of the speaker through the loop of a sinuous twisted thing that crowned the feather head piece, away bobbed the owner’s head and I had to squint alongside the head where the so-called hat rim shoots skyward, holding a bunch of something to prop it up. My limited view of the speaker was interesting, could I have kept it, but a baby at the far end of the room began to rattle a paper and away went the head and spoiled my view.

An ordinance should be passed requiring females to remove their hats at all public assemblies and require the posting of notices in all halls and churches.

At the jubilee concert ladies removed hats on request, but some who came in later sat in their selfish flaring glory (?) the entire evening.

Why will a woman be a lady everywhere else but at a public assembly? Let us have an ordinance and a policeman, if necessary, but have the menace abated at any cost. Has the practice a single defender? [signed,] A SUFFERER.

– Santa Rosa Republican, December 4, 1906

William W. Skaggs was the victim of a peculiar mishap Saturday evening. While seated at the theater on Main street enjoying the performance the seat in which he rested suddenly gave way beneath his weight. Skaggs struck the floor amid the wreckage rather hard, but this is not the part that worried him most. Beneath the seat was his derby hat and when Skaggs had raised his two hundred pounds off the crown of the hat it resembled a pancake more than anything else. He had been planning to go to the ball game at Petaluma Sunday afternoon and when he left the theater after the performance all the stores had closed. He rustled around and after much persuasion succeeded in getting an accommodating hatter to sell him another skypiece. His friends are making the most of the unpleasant predicament at Skaggs’ expense.

– Santa Rosa Republican, November 26, 1906

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