For a town with so many bordellos, early 20th c. Santa Rosa had little crime associated with prostitution – or so you’d assume by reading the old papers.
As discussed here earlier, there was a sizable redlight district centered around the intersection of First and D streets, with no fewer than eleven brothels on the 1904 map. But except for a small item in 1906 that revealed this neighborhood was commonly known as Santa Rosa’s “tenderloin,” the newspapers were silent about the roaring scene just two blocks from Courthouse Square.
This self-censorship eased in 1907 as the Santa Rosa Republican began publishing more items from the police blotter, although the paper still couldn’t bear admitting in print that there were prostitutes in town; the women were instead described euphemistically as vagrants, a “tenderloin habitue,” or a “member of the demi-monde.” Even the staid Press Democrat loosened up by reporting that police were ordered to crackdown on after-hour liquor sales at the whorehouses.
Would that the newspapers had offered more items about this underworld than doings at the Elks Club, or who won the cutlery at that month’s meeting of the Fork Club. It was a constantly shifting subculture where intentions and names were uncertain. May Ahren was alias May Raymond, and M. Rinse “set up a terrible wail” when May and another woman were arrested, the result being himself brought into court for “using language likely to provoke a quarrel.” And what of the lovelorn Joe Peck, who caused a scene one spring afternoon, claiming his cocotte was leaving on the afternoon train with a diamond? There’s a story there that deserved a full telling.
WOMEN MADE NIGHT HIDEOUS
Arrested and Charged With Vagrancy Saturday
Police Judge Bagley had a variety of sentences to pronounce Monday morning. May Ahren, alias May Raymond, and a Mrs. Chambers, who were arrested for vagrancy Saturday evening by Officer Skaggs, were fined ten dollars each. They were released on their own recognizance and promised to return Saturday with the amount of their fines.
M. Rinse, a companion of the women, was greatly incensed at the arrest of his consorts and set up a terrible wail. He was arrested on the charge of using language likely to provoke a quarrel and was released on fifteen dollars cash bail.
Ed Mc.Reynolds was sent to jail for ten days for becoming intoxicated. The man had been taken into custody some time previously, and given his liberty to raise money to pay a fine. He raised the coin, all right, but instead of handing it over to Police Judge Bagley, collected another jag, and was again taken into custody.– Santa Rosa Republican, January 28, 1907
A MAN ARRESTED FOR MOLESTING A WOMAN
A man giving the name of Joe Peck, believed to be fictitious, and who is said to be a resident of Fort Bragg, was arrested Wednesday afternoon by Officer C. Edward Skaggs. The man was taken from the afternoon train, where he was attempting to prevent a woman leaving town. The woman is a tenderloin habitue with whom the man had become enamored, and he swore that she should not leave him. When the woman arrived at the depot she found the man there and appealed to Officer Skaggs for protection, at the same time making charges against her tormentor. Peck claimed that the woman owed him money for a diamond ring but the woman denied this. Peck was released on ten dollars cash bail, and departed on the evening train for the north, taking the opposite direction to his inamorata.– Santa Rosa Republican, March 7, 1907
HOUSES TO SELL NO MORE LIQUOR
Ordinance Will be Strictly Enforced and Will include Places at First and D Streets
In a day or two stringent orders will be issued to the Chief of Police to suppress the unlawful sale of liquors in the tenderloin district of First and D Streets. This has been determined by the Mayor and members of the City Council, and it will likewise do away with the arrest and fining of the proprietors of the houses concerned for disobeying the ordinance and selling liquors after saloons, who have to live up to the letter of the law have closed their business for the night.
There is a determination on the part of the City Council, expressed by themselves to have the ordinance in future enforced very strictly and there will be no evading any of its provisions in the future. For some time complaints have been made regarding the sale of liquors in the section mentioned. Mayor Overton was interviewed on Saturday morning and he confirmed the information mentioned above.– Press Democrat, March 10, 1907
FINED FOR BATTERY
A woman of First street, who created a disturbance Wednesday night and was arrested and charged with battery, was fined $20 by Judge Bagley Thursday morning. He warned her that if there were any more complaining, that it would cost her $50, or fifty days.– Santa Rosa Republican, April 11, 1907
FORFEITED TEN DOLLAR BAIL
Ruth Stanley, a member of the demi-monde, forfeited ten dollars bail in Police Judge Bagley’s court on Monday. She had been arrested for disturbing the peace. The woman had an altercation with another of her class.– Santa Rosa Republican, June 4, 1907