A year and change after the 1906 earthquake, Santa Rosa finally doled out the last of the relief money donated to help the needy, which was mostly spent on anything but – at least, until civic leaders were shamed into providing aid after a vigorous debate in the newspapers.
The remaining funds were used to buy a tombstone and concrete cap for the “Graves of the Unknown Dead,” which still can be seen at the Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery by the Franklin Ave. gate. It’s really nice work, and should be; there was $11,000 remaining in the relief fund when it was last mentioned in the papers four months earlier. Hopefully some of that huge chunk of money (worth at least a quarter-million today) was used for late claims from those seriously injured and it didn’t all end up as a windfall for the the marble and granite works.
The other spending item on the same City Council agenda also raises questions. There the city paid $1,500 for loss of a horse and injuries to the driver from the collapse of a bridge (I don’t have additional details about the incident, sorry). The payout was generous, and the newspapers were profuse in extemporaneous praise of the company awarded damages. Was it because of intimidation or cronyism? The Lee Brothers, whose horses and wagons had a monopoly on local commercial transportation, were a powerful force in town. Their drayage company had sparked Santa Rosa’s first labor crisis in early 1906 by refusing to negotiate with the local union, and had it not been for the earthquake, Santa Rosa would have likely faced a paralyzing general strike.
CITY COUNCIL MAKES AWARDS
Determine to Mark Graves of Unknown Dead
The city council held a meeting on Tuesday evening and disposed of several matters that have been before the council in executive session for some week past. The sum of $1000 was awarded Jack Walters for injuries sustained in the falling of the island bridge. The people will remember the accident there, as Walters was crossing the structure with a heavy oil wagon. He was injured, and since the accident has been unable to work. Walters’ injuries incurred a bill of about three hundred dollars for medical attendance. He has threatened the city with a suit for damages.
The firm of Lee Bros. & Co. was awarded $500 for the death of their horse, which was killed in the accident, the injury to the other animals and the damages to their wagon. The actual loss to this firm through the accident was $800 and the sum allowed them does not compensate for their damage. Lee Bros. & Co. never considered bringing a suit for damages against the city, for they have the interest of Santa Rosa too much at heart to think of such action, and realize that at the proper time the council would do what the members believed was just under the circumstances. This firm has done a great work in the upbuilding of the city and at the time of the great disaster gave their teams and men freely in the cause of relieving distries [sic] and hauling provisions for the stricken people. In doing this they gave the gratuitous work of relief preference over all their orders.
The council has determined to set aside the remainder of the relief fund for providing a monument to be inscribed “Graves of the Unknown Dead” in the local cemetery, and for placing a suitable coping around the graves. They contain the remains of victims of the earthquake who were unidentified. The special relief committee of the council has been discharged.– Santa Rosa Republican, May 29, 1907