The most enjoyable part of writing this journal is finding stories in the old papers that reveal (mostly) forgotten bits of our mutual past. Sometimes these are entertaining glimpses of great-grandpa’s life, such as the bottom of the barrel vaudeville acts that played in Santa Rosa during the earliest part of the 20th century; othertimes, these stories in the local papers cast light on important – and sometimes shocking – chapters of American history. And “shocking” best describes the newspaper’s accounts of the angry 1907 City Council confrontations between anti-liquor advocates and their “wet” opponents, which found both sides hinting they would destroy the town via boycotts or blacklists if they did not get their way.

In early 20th c. Santa Rosa, the temperance movement was little noticed until this showdown over the future of downtown Santa Rosa. Before the 1906 earthquake, bar room doors opened at five in the morning and closed at midnight. Saloons were ordered closed for about a month after the disaster, and then allowed to reopen between 8AM to 6PM. By midsummer those times were stretched two hours in each direction, and now in March, 1907, the Council was debating a new liquor ordinance that would keep the bars open until ten at night. The forces of temperance wanted to keep the 8PM closing time plus adding complete shutdown on Sundays. And although it’s not stated in the articles transcribed below, another grave concern of the teetotalers had to be the speedy return of the saloon scene in post-quake Santa Rosa; while most merchants and public services were struggling to regain footholds at the end of 1906, there were about three dozen saloons downtown, most of them along Fourth St. between Railroad Square and Courthouse Square.

The showdown began cordially at a late February 1907 Council meeting that had the audience packed with temperance advocates. Local brewer Joseph Grace and Rev. William Martin debated the Sunday closing issue, shook hands at the end, and everyone went home well pleased.

The next City Council meeting again had a big audience because of suspicion there might be “something doing” on the saloon matter. A church elder told a reporter they had to “watch as well as pray.” A W. C. T. U. petition was also presented “…on behalf of the 2,000 boys and girls of this city, who are now exposed to the vile language often heard in front of the saloons.”

At the following Council meeting, the tone turned darker. Rumors had been floating that week that the ministers were keeping a list of people who didn’t want to sign their latest petition. The Brewers’ Association now told the Council that there would be a boycott of Sonoma county’s entire hop industry if a Sunday closing law passed. Former Judge Barham presented a counter-petition asking for extended saloon hours, and noted that restrictions were “a step towards prohibition and that prohibition hurts towns.” At the same meeting, a PD reporter spotted two of the ministers were making a list of everyone present, but the paper was told it was “merely a question of getting statistics…to keep a record of the names of the people we saw” and not to create a blacklist.

In the four days until the next meeting, tempers must have been roiling in Santa Rosa; when the Council met again, even the aisles were filled and the faces of latecomers pressed against the windows.

The May 12 meeting began with yet another petition presented urging saloon restrictions. As to the threat by the hop industry, the speaker insisted limiting saloon hours would most benefit “the boys and girls of Santa Rosa” and the town must “put children above money.”

Two other ministers spoke against the saloons, as did two church leaders. The dramatic moment came when the Congregational Church pastor rose to speak. “It is a fight to the death!” he cried. “The saloon must die! State after State has prohibition, and others will vote for it!” He continued with an attack on Judge Barham, who had presented that counter-petition at the previous meeting. Barham’s son, the preacher sneered, “…was now in an insane asylum, sent there by drink.” The Press Democrat reported:

As the last words were uttered, one could have heard a pin drop, so tense was the feeling. The silvered head of courteous, kindly Judge Barham dropped as from a sudden blow, his bowed frame shook with suppressed emotion, and after a moment he quietly arose and with tears in his eyes slowly and hesitatingly passed from the room and out into the night.

The anti-temperance PD – which gave the story unusual front page treatment, complete with sidebar on the attack, transcribed below – added that the minister later “expressed his regret at having indulged in any personalities during the course of his remarks, explaining that in the intensity of his feelings he had forgotten himself and been carried further than he had intended to go.”

Whether it was the attack on Barham or the influence of business interests (or both) we don’t know, but at the following Council meeting, the saloonkeepers were given everything they wanted: No Sunday closing, longer hours.

(RIGHT: Liquor ad from the 1907 Press Democrat)

I confess that the virulence of the anti-liquor forces surprised me; ax-wielding Carrie Nation tactics aside, I had presumed that the temperance movement hugged the rational, moral superiority of sobriety. Not so at all, according to the excellent book on the pre-20th century temperance movement, “The Alcoholic Republic” (and which I cannot recommend highly enough). The anti-liquor war was an often hysterically-emotional crusade by 19th century American evangelicals, some of whom thought booze a greater evil than even slavery. “Temperance advocates did not comprehend their own arrogance in attempting to impose their views upon segments of the populace that were hostile…the cry of abstinence was an attempt to cement the broken fragments of American society, but the leaders of the temperance movement could never gain the kind of unanimous consent that would have been necessary for the success of the cause,” the author explains.

And foreshadowing the “Noble Experiment” of Prohibition that would begin a little more than a decade later, the movement was ultimately fanatical, and ready – even eager – to burn every single bridge behind itself: “Anti-liquor crusaders never understood these contradictions. Instead, they emerged from each bitter clash with their enemies determined to escalate the war against alcohol in order to achieve final success.”

Speeches For and Against Closing of Saloons Here On Sunday

The city council played to a crowded house at its adjourned meeting on Wednesday evening. Standing room was at a premium and there were probably more than a hundred people crowded into the little basement room which is being used as a council chamber. There was plenty of interest in the matters to come before the council, the consideration of the proposed liquor ordinance [sic]. Speeches were made for and against the Sunday closing of the saloons, the bright particular speech being made by Rev. William Martin. His remarks provoked the entire assemblage to laughter at the witty manner in which he turned the tide of the previous speaker and the mayor and councilmen laughed heartily at his witty sallies.


Joseph T. Grace took up the cudgels for the saloon and said that he was not aware what had caused the people to believe Santa Rosa was such a wicked city. He said he disliked to see a drunken man as much as anyone and remarked that it was not the use of liquor that did the harm, but the abuse of it. He declared the saloons were being blamed for something if which they were not guilty, and asked that some speaker point out a single occurrence within five years that could be traced directly to the fault of the saloon. The speaker concluded by saying that anything which [illegible microfilm] the saloons would have the opposite to the desired effect and cause a greater demand for liquor than now existed.

Rev. William Martin took up Mr. Grace’s thought, and cleverly turned the statements of Mr. Grace. He referred to the restrictions causing a greater desire for liquor, as stated by Mr. Grace, and said that from that standpoint he thought evidently that Mr. Grace would join the petitioners in asking for Sunday closing, as according to the previous speaker, it would create a greater demand for his manufactures. The speaker continued by calling attention to a recent occurrence in which there was a fight on Saturday evening in which the entire police force was called to quell a disturbance and dryly remarked that the parties who had caused the disturbance were not attending a meeting being held that evening at the Christian church but had been visiting the saloons. He called attention to the fact that while the saloons paid more than any other business to the government, it also cost the government more to deal with the saloons and handle them.

At the conclusion of the meeting Mr. Grace and Rev. Martin shook hands and had a merry little chat over their forensic passage. The best of feeling prevailed throughout the meeting among the contending forces, and there was nothing acrimonious in the entire debate.

The council went into executive session to consider the matter and the large audience slowly filed out into the night.

– Santa Rosa Republican, February 28, 1907


License Matter Not Considered on Wednesday Night–Two Resolutions Are Read

Again anticipating that there might be “something doing” in the matter of the saloon license there was a “full house” at the Council meeting Wednesday night, representing both sides of the controversy, but the consideration of the ordinance went over to Friday night and this particular ordinance may not be brought up then as there are many others.

Among those present were the Revs. William Martin, M. H. Alexander and Leander Turney. Prayer meetings were adjourned earlier than usual and the pastors and some of their flocks were present. One church elder stated they had deemed it necessary to “watch as well as pray.”

The W. C. T. U. resolution was read and filed as follows:

“On behalf of the 2,000 boys and girls of this city, who are now exposed to the vile language often heard in front of the saloons, we earnestly and prayerfully petition your honorable body to close all saloons at 8 o’clock p. m. on week days, and all day on Sundays so that some of the temptations of youth may be moved.

“Yours for the children, Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, by Mrs. J. W. Warboys, president.”


– Press Democrat, March 7, 1907


Sunday Closing Will Not Prevail In Santa Rosa
Several Petitions Presented and Addresses Made Followed by an Executive Session at Which Vote is Taken

Oratory, mingling repartee with matter of more serious vein, entertained a large audience at the meeting of the City Council last night, at which time the Sunday closing of saloons formed the chief topic. Several petitions dealing with the question pro and con were first disposed of, and then the oratory began. The audience included people of all classes. The ministerial union was represented by the Revs. Lelander Turney, M. H. Alexander, Peter Colvin, and Arthur B. Patten.

After the transaction of the preliminary business Mayor Overton called for the reading of petitions and communications. Clerk C. D. Clawson read a communication from the Brewers’ Association of San Francisco, threatening to place a boycott on Sonoma county hops if the proposed Sunday closing law was adopted. This communication will be found in another column.

The use of the term “boycott” aroused many of those present. Mayor Overton did not like the term at all…


Mayor Overton invited anybody who desired to do so to speak and Frank W. Brown, representing the saloon-keepers, arose and stated that all they asked was to be allowed the same conditions in their business existing before the earthquake, leaving the matter of the license fee optional with the City Council. He referred to the fact that they had suffered losses at the time of the earthquake like everybody else.

The Hon. John A. Barham was the next speaker. He said he spoke for the heavy property owners who represented three million dollars worth of property and who were doing their best to build up the city. He handed to the clerk the following communication from them: “To the Honorable Mayor and City Council of Santa Rosa: We, the undersigned taxpayers and property owners of Santa Rosa, are in favor of granting the saloons the privilege of resuming business under the same conditions as were in force previous to April 18th, 1906, or at time of the earthquake.”

After the reading of the communication Mr. Barham said he wished to impress upon the minds of the councilmen that prior to the earthquake of last April Santa Rosa was equal as regards peace, quiet, and sobriety to any city of its size anywhere. He called attention to the fact that that night in the jail of Sonoma county, from all the cities and towns and hamlets, there were just seven men charged with crimes. He asked why at this time, when the city was being rebuilt, and things were going along well, a pattern to all the world in the energy being displayed, and agitation such as this should be started.

Referring to the communication of the Brewers’ Association Judge Barham said it was an unfortunate thing hat the word “boycott” had been used and people did not like the word. He asserted that the Association meant what it said and he instanced the boycott put upon Lake county hops, where local option had been brought about by the imposition of an exorbitant license.

Judge Barham called attention to the importance of the hop and grape industry in Sonoma county, each of which yielded over a million dollars of revenue and a vast proportion of it being paid out for labor. A plan suggested by the speaker for the proper policing of the saloons was to have each saloon man, so to speak, a policeman, and hold him personally responsible for the conduct and orderliness of his place of business. Let saloon men know that the saloons must obey the laws and let the officers know also that the strict letter of the law must be obeyed all the time, he said. He suggested further that the license must be raised to $240 a year.

The speaker said the Sunday closing suggested was a step towards prohibition and that prohibition hurts towns. He asked the council to consider the interests of the owners of three million dollars worth of property and also the immense hop and grape industries of the county before they took a definite stand. After some more argument along the same lines Judge Barham referred to the ease with which signatures to petitions were often secured.

Mayor Overton smilingly asked Judge Barham if his petition was included in the coterie of petitions mentioned. This was followed by some good natured repartee and an exchange of laughter in which all joined.

Rolfe L. Thompson stepped into the arena and said that he was prompted to speak by some of the remarks of Judge Barham. He said he felt and the people generally felt that in their representatives on the council they had men in whom they had every confidence and who would do what they considered best for the community. He realized that they represented the liquor interests as well as the church element. He then proceeded to analyse some of the statements of the speaker who had preceeded him. He alluded to the petition signed by the 134 residents and business men and said it was certainly worthy of full and careful consideration. Mr. Thompson called attention to the club held over the head of the council by the Brewer’s Association, and said that he did not think anything would come of it. San Francisco should not be allowed to dictate the policy of Santa Rosa’s government, he contended. Comparing the hop and grape industry with the poultry industry, he instanced the great revenues now being derived from the latter, and said that in view of the unlimited possibilities he did not thing much need be feared even if the hop and grape industry should be attacked. He also called attention to the fact that our hops are sold largely in the east and in Europe, and not in San Francisco. Mr. Thompson concluded with an earnest plea for carrying out the wishes of the 134 citizens and business men who had signed the petition in favor of the Sunday closing law. He said they must certainly have thought hat Sunday closing was a good thing. It was a question of prohibition, he said, but simply the reasonable suggestion of men who thought the course asked for was the best for the city.


There had been rumors afloat for several days that the ministers and others circulating the petitions favoring Sunday closing were keeping a list of those who refused to sign the same and considerable feeling had been expressed in consequence. A Press Democrat representative interviewed the Revs. Leander Turney and A. B. Patten after the meeting last night and learned from them that nothing in the nature of a “blacklist” had been kept. It was true, they said, that a list had been kept of all persons they had seen, but there was no particular reason for so doing–at least they knew of none. “It was merely a question of getting statistics,” said the Rev. Mr. Patton, “and we all started out to keep a record of the names of the people we saw.”

– Press Democrat, March 9, 1907


Petition Signed by 906 Women Is Presented
Intense Feeling Aroused by Remarks of the Rev. A. B. Patten During Course of His Speech on Sunday Closing

The Rev. Arthur B. Patten, pastor of the First Congregational Church, brought his address to a highly dramatic close when he said:

“I was certainly surprised the other night when Judge Barham, the tall, courty old gentleman with the silvery locks, stood before this Council asking for an open town and to have the saloons kept open on Sundays, when his son, part of his own life, is now in an insane asylum, sent there by drink. I could scarcely believe my senses.” Then, with greater force, he added, “And I see he is her again tonight!”

As the last words were uttered, one could have heard a pin drop, so tense was the feeling.

The silvered head of courteous, kindly Judge Barham dropped as from a sudden blow, his bowed frame shook with suppressed emotion, and after a moment he quietly arose and with tears in his eyes slowly and hesitatingly passed from the room and out into the night.

As he made his way out through the crowd that pressed about him, eager to shake his hand and anxious to extend a word of sympathy, he sobbed brokenly again and again, “It is not true, it is not true.”

When the hearing had come to a close and the petitioners and spectators took their departure, Mr. Patten went to his home. Later he returned to the council chambers, where the Council was still in session, and expressed his regret at having indulged in any personalities during the course of his remarks, explaining that in the intensity of his feelings he had forgotten himself and been carried further than he had intended to go.

But save for the Mayor, the members of the Council, a few of the other city officials and the newspaper men, at that late hour the council hall was well-nigh deserted.

And dignified, courteous, kindly John A. Barham was not there to hear.

A petition signed by 906 women was presented to the City Council last night when a further hearing was given the promoters of Sunday closing in Santa Rosa…Mrs. George J. Reading arose and addressed the meeting.

Mrs. Reading in the course of a well worded and earnest appeal in behalf of Sunday closing and closing of saloons at eight o’clock at night, iudged the Council to act in the interest of the boys and girls of Santa Rosa and heed the petition of the mothers. In referring to the assertion put forth that Sunday closing would be harmful to the hop industry she said, almost dramatically:

“Put children above money.”

She called attention to the temptations put in the path of the youth by the saloon, and after mentioning cities such as Redlands, that had flourished under prohibition, then handed the petition to Acting Clerk Mobley with a request that he read it, and the names of the women subscribing to it.


The Rev. Leander Turney, pastor of the Baptist Church. then spoke at some length…Mrs. M. H. Reeves, president of the district Christian Endeavor organization, and an earnest Christian worker, made a few telling remarks in behalf of the boys and girls…Miss Kate Kinley, clerk of Mr. Patten’s church, spoke as the sister of four brothers, and of the women and girls opposed to liquor…A brief but telling address was that by the Rev. Peter Colvin…

The Rev. Arthur B. Patten began by excusing himself for speaking at all, saying that he had not intended to address the council. He explained that they had come there that night to add just a little more persuasion to what had already been done. He said he wanted the Council to realize the power of Christian conscience. “It is a fight to the death!” he cried. “The saloon must die! State after State has prohibition, and others will vote for it!”

The minister then reiterated his statement of last Sunday relative to the course taken while circulating the petition for Sunday closing among the local business men, and denied that anything like a “blacklist” had been kept by the Ministerial Union. They were simply out for the facts and statistics, he said, It might be mentioned here that the statement referred to was that when a business man had declined to sign upon the ground that it might cost him some trade, he (the speaker) had only made the local reply, which was to ask him if he did not also think that he might lose some trade if he did not sign.

Mr. Patten’s speech was an earnest, well worded, strong presentation up to the time when he indulged in a very unfortunate personality [attack] against Judge Barham, who it will be remembered appeared at a previous meeting of the City Council as the attorney for a number of property owners, and asked that in view of the rebuilding of the city that things as affecting the saloons be allowed to remain as they were prior to the earthquake. To this personality, which aroused much strong comment and feeling, reference is made elsewhere in this report.

When he went to leave the building the minister faced a crowd of men who protested against what he had said to Judge Barham. On being taken to task and questioned as to his informant, the minister mentioned the name of a well known professional man. Mr. Patten said if what he had said was not true he would be one of the first to apologize to Judge Barham.

Later, after the Council had taken up the consideration of other matters, Mr. Patten appeared and apologized, excusing himself on the ground that he was spurred on to say what he had by his feelings at the time, and said he hoped the council would not allow what he had said to effect their action in the saloon matter or to weigh against the cause, but would let it go against him personally. With this the incident closed.

The city hall was crowded to its utmost capacity. Many ladies were present. The entrance to the hall was blocked, and at all the windows on the outside were faces peering from without. Great interest was manifested in the proceedings.

– Press Democrat, March 13, 1907


Some of the New Provisions of the Law
Saloons Open at 6 a. m. and Close at 10 p. m. – No Card Playing in Cigar Stores – License is Increased in Most Instances

The City Council last night finally passed the new license ordinance which includes among other things the increase of the saloon license to sixty dollars per quarter, and allows saloons to remain open daily from six o’clock in the morning until ten o’clock at night.


Prior to the adoption of the ordinance Councilman Reynolds called attention to the fact that the new ordinance provided for the hearing of remonstrances against the opening of saloons on Sundays, etc, and asked that the petitions, one signed by business men, and the other by property owners, the former asking for Sunday closing, and the latter, whom Mr. Reynolds addressed as “millionaires,” asking that the saloons be allowed to run with similar restrictions as before the earthquake, he read. Under the law laid down in the ordinance he said he thought the petitions should be considered. He also mentioned that the Council were asked to submit the question of Sunday closing of saloons to a vote of the people. The petitions were read. Its was suggested that the matter had been pretty well threshed out heretofore, and the question was finally called for and the vote recorded as stated. At the conclusion of the meeting the ordinance was signed by Mayor Overton and will be officially published in the Press Democrat tomorrow morning.

One of the provisions of the new ordinance relates to the powers of remonstrance regarding the opening of saloons in locations where they are not desired, the setting of a time and place of hearing remonstrances, etc., and of complaints regarding infractions of the laws, in conducting saloons.

The ordinance also abolishes all card playing and other games heretofore conducted in some cigar stores. Gambling is also prohibited.

The restaurant license, allowing the serving of wine or beer at meals is increased by the new ordinance of twenty dollars per quarter. Slot machines are licensed five dollars per quarter.

The license for all circuses will be fifty dollars. Skating rinks will be twenty-five dollars a quarter. Drug stores where liquors are sold will be twenty dollars a quarter. Traveling merchants or peddlers must pay a license of ten dollars a month, or two dollars per day when they peddle for loss than a month, and two dollars a day additional if they have a horse and vehicle. This excepts the peddling of fruit or vegetables, products raised by the person offering the same for sale.


– Press Democrat, March 23, 1907

Leave a Reply

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