“Rose trees” were popular in the West during the early 20th century, and every postcard vendor usually has a selection of photos from several cities. Santa Rosa had a couple of rose trees, one climbing to sixty feet, as seen to the right (CLICK on image to enlarge).

Obl Believe-it-or-Not factoid: The world’s oldest rose tree is the 125-year-old Lady Banksia in Tombstone Arizona, which covers almost 9,000 square feet.

Splendid Attraction on Mendocino Avenue

In the yard of the old Claypool residence on Mendocino street, just off Fifth, there is a rose bush which has climbed a massive tree to a height of more than sixty feet. Just at the present time the bush is filled with thousands of white roses and makes an interesting appearance. Hundreds of people pass the scene daily and admire it.

To the north of the rose tree is a two story house, and the rose bush towers fifteen feet above this residence, which is about forty-five feet high. A photo of the rose bush showing its relative height in that of the two story structure would be interesting to use in advertising matter of the City of Roses.

– Santa Rosa Republican, April 16, 1908

Over Sixty Feet in Circumference and Over Fifteen Feet in Height at Home of W. R. Smith

The beauty of the “City of Roses” at the present time with so many flowers in bloom is attracting much attention from visitors. While there are many attractive sights in a floral way to be found in all parts of the city, one of the most unique is a monster bouquet of roses at the home of W. R. Smith, the well known pioneer at E and Second streets.

An old locust tree was cut off about fifteen feet from the ground, and about the trunk ivy has been trained until nothing can be seen of the stump. Several climbing roses have grown into the ivy vines and thrown their branches out in all directions until the top is fully sixty feet in circumference, and this is now a mass of white, red and pink rose blooms. The effect is a perfect bouquet of immense size. A number of photographs have been taken and the pictures will be preserved.

– Press Democrat, May 3, 1907

Photo courtesy Larry Lapeere Collection

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A child alone and hungry, waiting for the train to take him back to the orphanage. Santa Rosa, 1907.

The tiny item in the Republican newspaper that summer provides a glimpse into a time when local businesses used – and even relied upon – child labor in a manner that would be considered exploitation today. But around Santa Rosa, many apparently viewed the forcing of children to work as farm laborers or on cannery assembly lines as entirely different from toil in the infamous urban sweatshops, according to a 1905 Press Democrat editorial. Perhaps they didn’t explain the benefits of labor in Sonoma County to the kids who tried to escape and were returned in shackles to their “summer camp” near Sebastopol by bounty hunters.

These children came from San Francisco orphanages and shelters where they were entrusted. Charles Schuster, the forlorn boy at the train station, was hired out from “Youths’ Directory,” a Catholic charity that was the West Coast offshoot of a New York mission which had 2,000 boys working on the largest farm in that state. There children as young as seven were accepted (although some sources say the minimum was age six); an 1894 New York Times article on the mission explained that religious instruction was paramount: “Education amounted to nothing unless it made men fear and love God” while emphasizing patriotism.

The San Francisco branch was considerably smaller (around 150 children) and the priest in charge of the mission believed orphans were best left in an institution such as his, writing in a shocking 1909 essay that adoptions of children older than infants rarely worked out, despite efforts of do-gooders. A suitable job was the best any child over age 7 could hope for, thus the Youths’ Directory acted more as a kind of temp agency for hiring kids out to employers. As for how swell that sometimes worked out, see below, re: Schuster, Charles.

Like the New York operation, Youths’ Directory had a farm: the “St. Joseph’s Agricultural Institute” near Rutherford. But unlike the self-sufficient enterprise in the East where the boys even cobbled their own shoes, the children over in Napa were set to work making wine for the Catholic church, a tale best told in the recent Wine Country history, “When the Rivers Ran Red.”

St. Joseph’s farm was twinned in the early 20th century with the Beaulieu winery. Georges de Latour, a French entrepreneur who sold California wine growers an imported root stock that resisted the sap-sucking phylloxera bugs, started his own winery in 1904, the same year that the nearby “Agricultural Institute” was founded by Father Crowley, also head of Youths’ Directory. For the next thirty years or so, the orphan’s farm and the winery known familiarly as “BV” were intertwined. Beaulieu sold altar wine (supposedly) made from orphanage grapes, (supposedly) under the personal supervision of the Reverend Crowley. Latour built a guest house for visiting priests, and Crowley – along with the San Francisco archbishop – were the first directors of the Beaulieu Vineyard Company.

The relationship really paid off during Prohibition, when Beaulieu identified itself as “The House of Altar Wines” and became a million-gallon winery, even expanding into the Livermore Valley – which might have been necessary, because the orphanage vineyards were badly neglected, according to a 1926 report. Latour ended up buying much of the St. Joseph’s Agricultural Institute land, while surviving the years of the Volstead Act by making “sacramental” wine ostensibly for church use only.

Ultimately the boy at the Santa Rosa train station and the hundred (or so) others who worked at the Rutherford winery or were hired out from San Francisco faced a destiny little different from Oliver Twist and his mates, instructed by their keepers that only a hopeless future of toil and misery lay before them, and for that they should be some reason grateful. London, 1830.

Woman Leaves Him at Depot In Heartless Manner

Charles Schuster, a boy who was recently brought from San Francisco to work on the Felton ranch near this city, was abandoned Friday morning by the woman who brought him here. The boy is an orphan, and was formerly an inmate of the Youths’ Directory.

Officer John M. Boyes’ attention was called to the youth who told the story of his treatment. The officer ascertained that the boy had not been given any breakfast, and had been compelled to walk in from the ranch to the depot. The officer arranged for the transportation of the youth to the metropolis on the afternoon train, and entertained him while here.

– Santa Rosa Republican, July 17, 1907

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As the first anniversary of the Great Earthquake approached, Santa Rosans rediscovered their passion for elaborate practical jokes. The disaster interrupted the plotting and scheming of local pranksters, whose “jinks” the papers regularly used as page fillers. The stunt might be throwing straw dummies on railroad tracks or otherwise frightening people with phony corpses, slipping exploding cigars to their buddies, or, as told in the previous item, violently shaking the temporary police station so the officers feared another earthquake. Huh-yuk.

In the first item below, Daniel “Doc” Cozad and State Senator Walter Price were pranked on April Fools’ Day, although they really should have expected something; Cozad himself had quite the reputation as a practical joker, with a specialty in prank phone calls. Once a number of men showed up at the Press Democrat dressed in their Sunday best because they’d been told that the newspaper was rushing to put together a photo feature of prominent citizens.

April Fool Deluge for Two Well-Known Santa Rosa “Heroes”

There is a good April fool joke story going the rounds at the expense of Senator Price and “Doc” Cozad, and it is vouched for as an actual fact. These two citizens on April 1 were walking along a street in the northern part of town when the shrieks of a woman from within a nearby house attracted their attention. With “Doc” in the lead, both hearts beating gallantly and breasts afire with enthusiasm to perform a hero’s duty, they dashed up the steps leading to the house and two pairs of hands grasped the doorknob simultaneously. The door opened and before they could demand what bloodcurdling tragedy was being or was about to be enacted they were deluged with a baptism of water, and amid merry peals of laughter were reminded that they were “April fools.” Fire Chief Frank Muther got onto the joke and he has not been doing a thing to his friends, Price and Cozad since.

– Press Democrat, April 4, 1907

Mike McNulty, the genial baggage-master at the Northwestern Pacific depot, who is known far and wide as “Mr. Harriman,” celebrated with the younger patriots in the City of Roses on the Fourth of July. McNulty’s celebration was not a voluntary celebrant and he was greatly chagrined at the appearance of Police Officer John M. Boyes on the scene just at the critical moment. McNulty had been presented with a cigar by Conductor Walter Holloway, the Havana being lightly “loaded” with powder. With a flash that caused McNulty to shout imprecations on the head of Holloway and to leap about seven feet in the air, the cigar exploded. Smoking is touchy subject with the railroad man since the Glorious Fourth.

– Santa Rosa Republican, July 5, 1907

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