Despite Santa Rosa’s dreams of a post-1906 earthquake renaissance, it remained a modest farm town until after WWII. While the first 25 years of the century saw booming growth in other towns such as San Jose, Vallejo and Oakland, the official population numbers for Santa Rosa stayed stubbornly under ten thousand.

Even though Santa Rosa was a Bay Area backwater, it had two daily newspapers with pages to fill, and the little squibs that padded the space between serious news and the ads still provide much of the fun in reading those old pages. Here were described the local ripples from the life mundane, usually squibs about the doings of the neighbors you sort-of knew who lived in a little house halfway up on the next block.

Among the samples below, it’s described that someone (“the buggy man of Healdsburg”) grew a large turnip, a kid had a pet possum and squirrels – which were sent all the way from Texas, no less – and a family had a clock that only needed winding once a year. Also, there were new water troughs for horses downtown, which became the (un)inspiration for what surely has to be among the most boring sentences ever composed: “[The] horses were, it is said, some small and some large, some short and some tall, and those who witnessed the test say that they all drank and that the trough was not too high.”

Hundreds of vignettes like these, sometimes bizarre, sometimes quaint, appeared every year, and most probably inspired idle talk at the barbershop, were mentioned over supper, or chatted about during a hand of cards. As entertaining as they may be, the items are also a galling reminder that there was meaty news that the papers could have written about but chose to ignore, such as the long-running illegal gambling scene in the downtown saloons during horse racing season. Safer and easier, though, to write about that monster of a turnip that a guy lugged down to the newspaper office.

A Big Turnip

Contractor Frank Sullivan brought to this office on Monday morning an immense turnip presented to him by his friend, James Brown, the buggy man of Healdsburg. The turnip is on exhibition.

– Press Democrat, September 17, 1907


Master Thomas B. Miller has a possum at his home on Tenth street, which was sent him from Morgan, Texas, by L. M. Smith, who formerly resided here. The possum and three Texas squirrels made the trip to this city nicely, and are being cared for at the Miller home. Master Miller is proud of his new possessions.

– Santa Rosa Republican, April 30, 1908

Yesterday some twenty horses drank at the new water trough outside of the Mission on Mendocino avenue by the Woman’s Improvement Club. The trough is one of a number in different parts of town. In the score of horses were, it is said, some small and some large, some short and some tall, and those who witnessed the test say that they all drank and that the trough was not too high. Among those seeing the horses quench their thirst were Mayor James H. Hray and Mrs. L. W. Burris, President of the Woman’s Improvement Club.


The idea of having the troughs so high has been carried out in a number of places, including San Francisco, where the troughs were put up by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The troughs in San Francisco are not as deep as the ones in this city. Here, it was stated Wednesday, the ground about the troughs will be raised a little with a layer of crushed rock. There has been considerable comment that the watering troughs are too high.

– Press Democrat, May 21, 1908
Time Piece in the Coulter Family which is One of Six

“There’s a clock that will run a whole year without winding.”

Don’t believe it.

So they went into Glickman’s store to have the question settled. The clock is one that belongs to the Coulter family. It had been sent to Glickman’s for cleaning, and its distinction became known.

“That’s not quite right,” said the watchmaker. “That clock, or any other clock has to be wound but it will run a year with only one winding. That’s where it differs from most time pieces.”

“Well, that’s what I meant,” said the man who had called attention to the clock. During the life of the late Squire Coulter, the annual winding of the clock was a part of the Christmas observances, and it is most probable that the custom will be perpetuated although the Squire is among the departed. There are, it is said, only six clocks in the world like this one.

– Press Democrat, August 2, 1907

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