Yes, he’s a thief who posed as a doctor during the 1906 Santa Rosa earthquake, but he’s also soooo charming that he had local penpals while he was serving a year in San Quentin. I wonder how his admirers felt when they learned in 1908 that he was swindling his merry way through Tacoma, Wash. shortly after his release from prison.

“Dr. C. C. Crandall” popped up at the Santa Rosa Hospital after the quake, where he apparently stole hearts – along with cash and other valuables. When dragged back from Oregon by our sheriff, it was reported that his name was actually Hugh W. Dunn, but he really did have medical training in the Philippines. Nabbed nearly two years later for forging checks in Washington state, he now posed as the son of an army paymaster in the Philippines and a government lawyer. He claimed to be a member of the Elks, and had used that connection to “borrow” money from the local lodge for a cross-country trip. He also married a local woman whom he used as a dupe in his banking fraud.

While in custody, he confessed about his colorful life of crime: After graduating from Columbia University in 1900, he fell in with Edward Mason, the rogue son of a New York millionaire. The pair first lived off handouts from their parents, then began passing forged checks for money and thrills. A “sensational scandal” with some chorus girls led them to drift around the Philippines and Europe for a time.

Alas, nothing in this exciting confabulation is probably true (except the check forgeries). Columbia University happens to keep very good records, and no one who could have been Crandall/Dunn graduated around the turn of the century. Military records do show there was a man named Hugh W. Dunn around the same 30-ish age who had hospital experience, but he spent his entire adult life in the Army. (There was a John W. Dunn of the same age convicted in 1933 for counterfeiting in Los Angeles, so maybe that was our fake doctor’s real name.) But no trail at all can be found for his supposed wealthy and scandalous partner in crime – quite a juicy detail that surely would have been mentioned in more papers, if true.

Crandall probably went to the clink again for this, but no followup in any newspapers can be found. Presumably the Santa Rosa papers continued to report on the doings of the town’s adopted scoundrel when he again went prowling.

Created Flurry Here Among Hearts of Feminines

“Dr.” Clarence Collier Crandall, who posed as a physician here following the earthquake, played havoc with the hearts of some of the local girls, and finally went to the penitentiary from this city, is in trouble again at Tacoma, Washington. He gained his liberty some time since and lost no time in practicing his wiles on femininity. It will be remembered here that he “borrowed” the watch, money and some surgical instruments of a pretty nurse, and finally sold them to obtain money. When he was arrested, some of the articles were found in his possession, and these were returned to the owner. For the crime he was tried and convicted and sent to the penitentiary.

A telegram from Tacoma has the following concerning the dashing “medico”:

“Divorce proceedings begun this morning by Mrs. Clarence Collier Crandall, nee Sybil Anderson, a pretty woman 25 years of age, brought to light the work of an expert bunco artist, who duped and married the girl and worked prominent Tacomans and Elks for car fare to New York and part of the distance across the Atlantic.

“Crandall is 26 years old, handsome, genteel and educated. This won the heart of Miss Anderson, cashier of a Seattle restaurant. Crandall represented himself to be the son of an army paymaster in the Philippines, and also posed as a government attorney and a member of the San Francisco lodge of Elks. On January 20th he and Miss Anderson were married here by Rev. J. P. Marlatt, pastor of the First Methodist Church. He left with the Donnely Hotel clerk a package said to contain $1,700, told his wife he was transferring $10,000 from a San Francisco bank to a local bank, had her expenses and had the hotel cash his check for $134.

“By February 10th the hotel books showed he owed $165. His checks came back unpaid. He was missing. Mrs. Crandall returned $70 of the $100 she drew from the hotel and returned to Seattle.

– Santa Rosa Republican, February 18, 1908

Tacoma Rejoices Over Arrest of “Dr.” Crandall

“Dr.” Clarence Collier Crandall, the alleged medico who cut quite a swath in local society following the strenuous days of the earthquake here, and who was arrested recently in San Francisco, is to be taken back to Tacoma, to answer to numerous offenses. While here “Dr.” Crandall ingratiated himself into the good graces of many people, and was a decided favorite with the fair sex. For “borrowing” a watch and purse from a lady friend here he was sentenced to the penitentiary and when released sought new pastures to perform his old tricks.

The following telegram from Tacoma will be read with interest by those who knew “Dr.” Crandall here:

“Several hotels and numerous Elks are glad of the arrest at San Francisco of Clarence Collier Crandall, alias Dr. Charles Hudson, alias Hugh Duffy, ex-convict, embezzler, forger and the man who married Miss Sybil Anderson, a beautiful Seattle young woman, in this city January 29th, deserting her a week later. Detective Smith, now in San Francisco, sent Crandall’s photo, obtained from the rogue’s gallery of the San Francisco department to Chief Maloney here. Today it was identified by John Donnelly; by the stenographer who wrote “bunko” letters for the smooth Crandall, and by “Pop” Sawyer, Carl D. Eshelman and other Elks, who “fell” for the fake brother Elk’s smooth talk.

“A warrant has been issued by the county attorney’s office and an officer of the police department went to Olympia to ask Governor Meade to issue requisition papers. These papers will be forwarded to Detectives Smith and Raymond at San Francisco, and a strong effort made to bring Crandall back for trial. The complaint was sworn to by Manager Berkshire, who lost $165 on Crandall’s bad checks.

Mrs. Sybil Anderson Crandall sued Crandall for divorce, alleging that since his desertion she has learned he is a forger; that he is not an underwriter’s agent and not a son of the paymaster general of the Philippines, as he claimed.”

In Tacoma Crandall posed as a government official.

– Santa Rosa Republican, March 9, 1908
Tells Some Chapters of His Past Life

“Dr.” Clarence Collier Crandall, who was arrested in San Francisco and taken back to Tacoma on the charge of forgery, has confessed his guilt. He lays the blame to great extend on Edward Mason, son of a New York millionaire, and declares he began his career of crime just after he graduated from Columbia University in 1900.

The man declares that after meeting Mason they led a life of ease until they became entangled with some chorus girls, and following a sensational scandal they went to the Philippines and then to Europe.

Whenever they needed money they wrote home. But there was not enough excitement and Mason, being a clever penman, began forging checks, and they divided the proceeds, Crandall says.

While Crandall was living at the Donnelly Hotel in Tacoma with his bride, Mason was living at the Tacoma Hotel under an assumed name, writing checks that Crandall cashed, the prisoner declares. Leaving Tacoma the pair went to Denver and then to San Francisco to collect a debt of $3000 from a bookmaker at the Oakland race track.

Crandall said he wanted to send back home for money to square his debts and enough for his bride to live on, but Mason influenced him not to. Crandall has written to his father for money to defend his case. He will be arraigned next week and desires to have a speedy trial.

– Santa Rosa Republican, March 16, 1908

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In 1908, they thought mail-order catalogs would kill off downtown; little did they know that doom awaited via parking meters a full century later.

Here’s another in a series of public service “booster” ads that appeared in the Santa Rosa Republican between 1907 and 1909. (CLICK to enlarge image.) This gem appeared April 21, 1908, a few days after the second anniversary of the Great Earthquake, when a Press Democrat editorial called on Santa Rosans to shout down critics: “Now as never before the croaker, if he insists upon croaking, and the knocker, if he persists in knocking, must be shoved to the rear…”

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We know far less about the 1906 Santa Rosa Earthquake than the simultaneous shake in San Francisco, for reasons discussed at depth in an earlier essay. Several of the problems touch on contemporary newspaper coverage – or more accurately, the lack thereof.

Both the Press Democrat and Santa Rosa Republican wanted to tell the world that the city was roaring back from the earthquake’s blow. Even in the days immediately following the disaster, the seriously injured were reported to be recovering “nicely,” and great progress was to be found everywhere. This relentless boosterism continued in the following years, even when there were opportunities to reflect.

On the first anniversary of the quake, the PD offered two pages describing all the construction finished or underway; on the second anniversary, the PD was beating the same drum: “Two years of effort, the like of which has seldom before been seen, have come and gone, and today the newer and greater Santa Rosa is here to greet the eye of the visitor and raise the hopes and aspirations of our own people. No better city of its size is to be found today anywhere in the west…” Did anyone find this interesting reading even in 1908?

The only point of note in Ernest Finley’s editorial was the admission that “many more are believed to have gone to their death” than were officially known. Curiously, Finley claimed the old death toll of 69, although PD city editor Herb Slater had used the up-to-date count of 77 in a speech delivered a few days earlier.


Two years ago today Santa Rosa suffered one of the worst calamities that has befallen any city in modern times. Just as the dawn was breaking a mighty earthquake occurred, as a result of which not a brick or stone building was left intact. Fire immediately broke out and swept over the stricken area, burning what the earthquake had not destroyed. Many of Santa Rosa’s best known residents lost their lives in the disaster, the official death list numbering sixty-nine, besides which many more are believed to have gone to their death. The entire business section of the city was wiped completely out of existence, the work of fifty years being destroyed almost instantly and without warning of any kind.

Such an experience as befell Santa Rosa Two years ago today would have broken the spirit and taken the heart completely out of many a community, but not so with the energetic and splendidly-situated city that has risen so proudly and so quickly from its own ashes. Scarcely had the dead been buried and the living provided with the necessary comforts of life before the work of rehabilitation began. Two years of effort, the like of which has seldom before been seen, have come and gone, and today the newer and greater Santa Rosa is here to greet the eye of the visitor and raise the hopes and aspirations of our own people. No better city of its size is to be found today anywhere in the west. In fact, it is doubtful if its equal exists in the entire country. It is a noble monument to the enterprise and dauntless spirit of our people and one of which all are rightfully and naturally proud.

Two things have contributed to the making of the New and Greater Santa Rosa. The first is the commendable spirit of enterprise and progressiveness that permeates our people, and the second is the splendid manner in which they have all stood together for the accomplishment of the Herculean task which confronted them. But while the work is well under way, it is not yet completed. Much more remains to be done. Let the spirit that has dominated here and the co-operation that has meant so much continue! Now as never before the croaker, if he insists upon croaking, and the knocker, if he persists in knocking, must be shoved to the rear, and his discordant note drowned in the chorus of progress that shall be sung. Every citizen, no matter what his walk of life, owes it to himself and to the community at large to do his full share in making the results of the coming two years equal and if possible surpass the two years that have just passed, and which are now gone forever. Let us all stand together, and work shoulder to shoulder for two years more of advancement, progress and prosperity!

– Press Democrat editorial, April 18, 1908

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