About a century ago, the waters of Santa Rosa Creek were where great promises – and often, fish – went to die. Some examples:

* A water park was designed in early 1906 that would have created a centerpiece for the town. Instead of building that, a few months later Santa Rosa was dumping tons of earthquake debris into the creek for new approaches to the E street bridge.

* The candidate for mayor in 1908 made a voting day promise to clean up the creek area and create a park, then a year later cast the deciding vote allowing the tannery to continue polluting the water in violation of city law.

* In 1909 the Fish and Game Commissioner seeded the creek with 40,000 trout fingerlings near the headwaters (probably somewhere around the base of Hood Mountain) – even though just a couple of years before, he had found that trout and other fish quickly died in the “filthy” waters downstream from the power plant near Main street.

(RIGHT: Postcard c. 1910)

The pendulum swing between Great Expectations and Awful Reality continued in 1909 with an editorial in the Republican newspaper, hopeful that some sort of creek beautification project would start during their lifetimes. Then a few weeks later, three men were caught in the act of throwing trash on the creek bank – and you can be certain that for each of the men brought before the judge, there were dozens, probably scores, of other illegal dumpers who escaped the policeman’s eye.

The most curious incident involved an employee who told the court that he had been ordered to dump the garbage at the creek. His boss readily admitted this was true, then protested when fined $5 by the court. According to the paper, he “insisted that the fine was unjust, as there was no other place to make deposit of the garbage.” Um, well.


Warrants of arrest were sworn out on Friday morning by Officer John Boyes for two expressmen, both charged with dumping garbage on the banks of Santa Rosa Creek. Both later appeared before City Recorder Bagley and pleading guilty, were fined five dollars each.

– Santa Rosa Republican, September 4, 1909


Joseph Ferari was given his hearing before Police Judge Bagley Thursday afternoon on the charge of dumping garbage on the banks of Santa Rosa Creek. He confessed to dumping the same, but asserted that he had done it upon the request of the owner of the property, Joseph Mallerari, and with the permission of the street commissioner. Mr. Mallerari corroborated the other’s story, and said that he wanted the stuff dumped there and that he wanted to suffer the penalty, as Ferari was his servant and he had ordered him to bring the garbage there. Ferari was fined five dollars. Mallerari, however, insisted that the fine was unjust, as there was no other place to make deposit of the garbage.

– Santa Rosa Republican, October 1, 1909

Judge Seawell and Deputy A. F. Lea Re-stock Stream With Fish Secured from Hatchery

Superior Judge Emmet Seawell and Deputy State Fish Commissioner A. F. Lea on Tuesday placed 40,000 small trout in the water of Santa Rosa creek.

The fish were secured by Judge Seawell to stock the creek from Colonel La Motte of the Northwestern Railroad Company’s hatchery near Ukiah. They arrived here in big cans. The judge and commissioner hauled the fish in an express wagon to the headwaters of the creek and from there distributed them along the stream. It was strenuous exercise for the jurist, and on Wednesday he felt the effects of the lifting of the heavy cans and the scrambling down the creek bank.

Judge Seawell, Mr. Lea and Colonel La Motte deserve the hearty thanks of the anglers who hope to enjoy much good fishing in the seasons to come as the result of the re-stocking of the stream.

— Press Democrat, July 8, 1909

On a number of occasions this paper has urged the beautification of the bed of Santa Rosa creek. We have urged that this work begin between Main and E streets, and that in time it continue entirely across the city from east to west. We may not live to witness the completion of this work, but we hope to live long enough to witness its beginning, to say the least. If economically managed the proposition would not be very expensive and the returns from the same would be highly gratifying.

Santa Rosa is not the only California city thinking of converting an unsightly river bed into a beautiful park and a number of beautiful lakes. The same matter is now under consideration in other places. Los Angeles has an unused river bed. It is an unsightly washout that decreases the value of all neighboring property. The people there have started discussion of an appropriation of a million dollars for the improvement of this stream, and when the people of the southern city begins talking about what should be done in any matter. It is likely to be done without particular delay.

If a few cement dams were put across Santa Rosa creek within out city limits and the banks on either side of the creek properly improved and protected, what a change this would soon make in things. The expense of this work would be trifling in comparison with its value. It is to be hoped that talk will result in action in this matter.

– Santa Rosa Republican editorial, August 17, 1909

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *