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.

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

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R.I.P. Mrs. Cnopius, victim #77 (at least) of the 1906 Santa Rosa Earthquake. She died two years and two months after the disaster, but it was not completely unexpected. In the very first report after the quake, the April 18 Santa Rosa Republican noted that she was “believed to be fatally hurt.” Three days later, the Democrat-Republican gave her a slight upgrade: “Mrs. L. C. Cnopius, believed to have been fatally injured, is improving nicely.” Well, she wasn’t; she never recovered from her unknown injuries and shock, dying in a well-respected San Francisco hospital, “Adler’s Sanitarium.”

The 1906 earthquake “body count” overview has been updated to include her, as have the spreadsheet and PDF files.

Passing of Mrs. Lewis C. Cnopius Deeply Regretted By a Very Large Circle of Friends

After many, weary months of invalidism, hopeful till the last that there would be a return of the depleted strength, Mrs. Lewis C. Cnopius passed to her eternal rest at two o’clock on Sunday morning. Her death has occasioned general regret among a very large circle of friends in this city, and throughout the state who knew her and esteemed her for her many kindly traits of character and the genuineness of her friendship. Mrs. Cnopius never really rallied her full strength after the terrible shock of the earthquake disaster in this city. Change of climate combined with the best medical attention were given her in the hope that thay would prove beneficial. She improved and right up to the time of her death she was apparently getting better. Towards the end she took a sudden change for the worse and sank… Mrs. Cnopius died in Adler’s Sanitarium in San Francisco, where she had been undergoing treatment.


– Press Democrat, June 23, 1908

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Spitters beware: A new state law made spitting on the sidewalk – or anywhere else – a misdemeanor in 1907. Press Democrat editor Ernest L. Finley, quite the stickler to the law when it came to clean sidewalks, made sure readers were fully informed immediately about California penal code ยง372a.

Any item about expectoration is another welcome opportunity to plug my all-time favorite story, about the 1905 Santa Rosa motorist who was given a speeding ticket, then a few days later forced the selfsame cop to arrest himself for spitting on the sidewalk. At night. And during a downpour.

It might be just as well for some people to remember that it is now a state prison offense, punishable by both fine and imprisonment, to discharge mucus from the nose or mouth or spit upon any sidewalk of any public street or highway, or upon any part of any public building or railroad train, streetcar, stage, ferryboat, steamboat, or other vessel or vehicle used for the transportation of the public.

This is a law that should be rigidly enforced, for expectoration in public places is not only unhealthful but also disgusting in the extreme.

One of the most nauseating thing in the world is to have a man come into a street car or public office and spit slimy rings all around himself on the floor. No man of any culture or refinement would do such a thing, of course, and some of those who do would doubtless be considerably surprised if told they do not possess even the first instincts of a gentleman. Yet the following is as true today as it was when it was first written:

“The man who expectorates on the floor need never expect to rate as a gentleman.”

– Press Democrat editorial, April 2, 1907

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