TENDERLOIN CRACKDOWN

And so it came to pass: After 30-odd years, Santa Rosa’s infamous tenderloin district was closed. Kinda, sort of. Maybe.

The April, 1909 eviction notice from the District Attorney was years overdue in the eyes of many citizens, yet there were probably more than a few skeptics that doubted the town would actually close the whorehouses. After all, similar promises were made the previous year after the prostitution ordinance was repealed, and the year before that when Superior Court Judge Seawell ruled that the ordinance was illegal to begin with. But this time, Santa Rosa meant it: In 90 days, the red light district would be no more.

(Here’s a quick recap for those just tuning in: Beginning around 1880, a commercial sex district was established around the intersection of First and D streets. By the turn of the century about a dozen bordellos were operating in houses just a couple of blocks from the courthouse and police station. In 1905, a pair of muckrakers exposed Santa Rosa’s dirty little secrets in a series of articles that appeared in the Republican newspaper. A grassroots movement called for politicians to clean up the town, which became more polarized in 1907 after the City Council legalized Nevada-style prostitution with no public notice or citizen debate. Also that year Nancy Lou Farmer, who lived near the red light district, won a lawsuit against one of the landlords with the judge finding Santa Rosa couldn’t license and regulate something that was illegal under state law. As that decision was moving through the appeals courts, the 1908 city elections offered a reformer running for mayor against the president of the Chamber of Commerce, with both political factions vowing to repeal the ordinance if elected. The reformers lost, and while the status-quo mayor and Council did repeal the ordinance, no action was taken to crackdown on the prostitution trade for over a year.)

Santa Rosa delayed taking action until the last possible moment in hopes that a higher court would overrule the decision in the case of Lou Farmer vs. Dan Behmer. Truth was, the Old Guard clique that ran the town wanted to keep the red light district around at all costs, and if the tenderloin had to close, there was even talk about building a prostitution mall in the Italian neighborhood, perhaps something along the lines of Storyville. Prostitution brought outside money into town, and fines for illegal liquor sales boosted the city treasury. Some of Santa Rosa’s most prominent men also profited directly through ownership of the properties, leasing the houses under the pretense that they had no responsibility – or even any awareness – of how their tenants were using them. The upheld Farmer decision said this was “fraud and a subterfuge;” Mr. Behmer, who also owned a gun shop downtown, indisputably knew what was going on at 720 First street, as he personally collected the rent every month, and had even custom built the house to abet prostitution.

Long story short: Santa Rosa’s red light district was finally closing only because the court ruled that brothel property owners – rich white men – could be prosecuted.

District Attorney Lea sent the brothels “get out” notices in April, after the state Supreme Court upheld the Appellate decision on the Farmer-Behmer case. As the July 1 deadline approached, Lea filed a warrant against an unnamed property owner for leasing a house to a madam, followed by another complaint a few days later against the same landlord over a different house. It looked as if Santa Rosa was actually serious about cleaning up its act. “Complaints will be sworn out against other property owners and they will be compelled to come into court,” the Press Democrat reported. “Following their removal from First and D streets the women will not be allowed to locate in uptown apartment houses, Chief Rushmore says.”

The prostitutes were not taking this lying down (sorry). “The women all agreed to go on the date set,” the Republican explained, “but recently they have been fortifying their position to remain in their present locations. They have been signing up contracts for the purchase of the properties they are occupying. They hope to defeat the recent rulings of the Appellate and Supreme Courts that the premises could not be leased or rented for purposes of prostitution, by claiming to own the premises.”

A few weeks after the eviction date passed, just such a case came to trial. Pearl Webber and Eva Lowell were arrested and charged with “maintaining and living in immoral resorts” at 5 D street. It came out at trial that Eva’s mother, Abbie Lowell, had signed a lease-to-purchase contract for the house with Fred J. Bertolani, who testified for the prosecution. He was the son-in-law of Con Shea, one of the wealthiest men in Santa Rosa, and apparently acted as Shea’s property manager (a few months earlier, he was complaining about city water hookups in the many Shea buildings downtown). Bertolani told the court that there was an understanding with the Lowell women that the house couldn’t be used as a brothel, but he didn’t get it in writing, darn it.

After 6 hours of deliberation, the Lowell jury couldn’t decide on a verdict. A few weeks later, charges were dropped against Lowell as well as the charges against the landlord with the two properties.

And that was that. No prosecution of Con Shea or any property owners as accessories to crime; no dragnet for harlots working elsewhere in town; no one run out of town on a rail. But how much did the situation actually change?

There’s evidence that Santa Rosa’s prostitutes and madams were still around, but considerably more discreet in their trade. In his July 6 state of the town address to City Council, Mayor Gray stated “The denizens of the red light district do not parade the street and the public would hardly know of their existence except for the notoriety given them by a certain publication.” That “certain publication” was “The Citizen,” the monthly newsletter published by the Santa Rosa Ministerial Union, and which endlessly shamed the town for tolerating its red light district, incurring the dismay and anger from city officials and Press Democrat editor Ernest Finley. In its September issue, The Citizen mentioned, “The convenience of a definite location no longer exists. The scarlet women have, to quite an extent, left our city, and those who do remain are not readily accessible…”

(RIGHT: 1908 Sanborn map of Santa Rosa commercial sex district, brothels outlined in red)

To figure out what really happened, we can compare two primary sources: The 1908 Sanborn map (pre-crackdown) and the 1910 census (post-crackdown). In 1908, the map shows there were nine brothels in Santa Rosa’s tenderloin. According to the census two years later, 7 D street was now occupied by a Japanese family. Three other houses – 711, 718, and 720 First street – weren’t mentioned in the census at all, so we don’t know if they were vacant, torn down, or the census taker didn’t bother to knock on the door (number 720 was the address of the infamous brothel owned by Dan Behmer).

But Sadie McLean, the madam at the heart of the Farmer-Behmer case, could now be found at number 710 First street and her employment is listed as “own income.” Eva Lowell, who went on trial for prostitution a few months before, is at 5 D street, the same building her mother was buying from Con Shea. The census listed mother Abbie Lowell as boarding house keeper, Eva as a music teacher, and a woman named Ruby Smith as a servant.

The three remaining houses shown as brothels on the 1908 map fall into question-mark territory. The map lists #1 D street as a brothel, and the city directory for that same year has one Lottie Crocker living there at the time. She’s still at the same address in the 1910 census. Across the street at 2 D street the census taker found Virginia Watson, a 25-year old proprietor of a rooming house that apparently had only one tenant – Charlotte Crocker, 24, a hair dresser who worked at home. And at 8 D street was Jessie Hobart, 31, the keeper of a rooming house with no tenants at all. Ms. Hobart was one of two women arrested for prostitution in the days immediately after the July deadline.

The Ministerial Union newsletter from September also mentioned “It is also said that some of the former denizens of the suppressed district have taken up their abodes in other places in Santa Rosa,” which implies that some of the ladies were freelancing. If there was such a scattering, it’s likely that there was also a Santa Rosa “blue book” sold under the counter at saloons and cigar stores that advertised where to find their services; these tiny booklets, small enough to discreetly tuck into a vest pocket, were commonly found in both large and small cities in that era.

Thus with a few minor tweaks, it was quite possible that the main industry in Santa Rosa’s underground economy stayed around. My guess is that at least five of the nine houses in the tenderloin still were operating, albeit no longer waving their red lanterns in the faces of church folk. Maybe they took a lesson from the denizens of the nearby business district: More was necessary than just making the right people happy, financially or otherwise – it was also important to keep up appearances. It wasn’t the Wild West anymore, after all.

       

SEALS FATE OF RED LIGHT
Highest Courts Decided Against the District

The Supreme Court has handed down an opinion in the case of Lou Farmer against Dan Behmer, denying defendant’s petition for a rehearing, and sustaining Judge Seawell and the Appellate Court in their decisions in this case in every particular. Some important questions of law have been finally determined in this case, and the fate of the red light district is settled. Every court has now passed upon the questions involved, and all courts agree that the Legislature cannot authorize by charter, or otherwise, the licensing of prostitution. That the charter is always subject to general laws regulating crime. That a property owner may not injure his neighbor by permitting his premises to be used for prostitution purposes without answering in damages. That he cannot defend himself against injunction or damages by leasing or transferring his property to another. And that it is the policy of our law and government to wipe out these bawdy houses by whatever means are necessary.

In September 1897 [sic – it was 1907] Lou Farmer through her attorneys, Judge Crawford and R. L. Thompson brought an action against Dan Behmer for an injunction and damages for leasing and permitting his premises in the red light district of Santa Rosa to be used as a bawdy house to the injury of Miss Farmer’s adjoining property. A long hard fight ensued. Every defense knows to the genius of defendant’s counsel has been pursued, every available court resorted to, but in each instance he met with crushing defeat. And now the matter is finally settled. Nominal damages only were insisted upon by plaintiff’s counsel, but the law is now settled, and in the subsequent cases that will surely follow, every remedy to which the plaintiffs are entitled will be insisted upon.

We are assured that the fight against the red light district has just commenced. Unless the owners in that district should take warning from the result should take warning from the result of this litigation and put an immediate stop to such use of their property.

– Santa Rosa Republican, April 2, 1909
WILL END A MUCH DISCUSSED TOPIC
District Attorney Lea Will Order Denizens of the Redlight District to Move–Serving Notices Today

District Attorney Clarence F. Lea will today serve notice upon the denizens of what is know as the “redlight district,” notifying them that they must vacate the houses at present used for improper purposes. Within ten days they will be expected to let the District Attorney know whether or not they intend to comply with his notice. If they give an assurance that they will, then they are to be given until July 1 to get out. If they refuse to vacate the District Attorney will proceed at once to oust them.

District Attorney Lea does not intend to wage any spectacular crusade against the so-called social evil. He hopes to quietly clean up that part of town in which the houses complained of are located. When this has been accomplished, he says, he believe the work should be extended so as to include the removal of the Chinese quarters on Second street. This latter matter, however, is one which must be left to the property owners themselves. Regarding the matter first above mentioned, he intends that as little he said about it as possible, holding that too much publicity has been given such topics in the community already.

– Press Democrat, April 5, 1909

WILL ABOLISH TENDERLOIN
District Attorney Lea Begins Proceedings

District Attorney Clarence F. Lea some time since gave the denizens of the tenderloin until July 1st to vamoose from the City of Roses, upon their promise that they would have no further legal proceedings to lengthen their stay in the vicinity of First and D streets. At that time they were informed that if they did not wish to accept the ultimatum to go on the date set, that proceedings would be brought against them at once to terminate their careers in this city.

The women all agreed to go on the date set, but recently they have been fortifying their position to remain in their present locations. They have been signing up contracts for the purchase of the properties they are occupying. They hope to defeat the recent rulings of the Appellate and Supreme Courts that the premises could not be leased or rented for purposes of prostitution, by claiming to own the premises. This claim could easily be made under the pretense of purchasing them by contract.

District Attorney Lea will not stand for any further interference from these scarlet women and will proceed at once against them.

Chief of Police Rushmore is standing with District Attorney Lea in the matter and has ordered that the women shall not be permitted to make their homes in the lodging houses of this city as they once did. He has given orders to his men to arrest every one of the women who secures a location in a lodging house.

Late this afternoon District Attorney Lea had a complaint sworn to against one of the prominent property owners of the vicinity. Others will also be filed and this is the opening of the battle to rid that section of the women.

– Santa Rosa Republican, June 28, 1909
RED LIGHTS MUST GO OUT TONIGHT
Complaint Sworn Out Against Property Owner Yesterday Will Be Followed by Others

District Attorney Clarence Lea stated yesterday afternoon that there be no let up until the redlight district is moved from its present location at First and D streets. This is the last day of grace for the denizens of the district to remain there under the notification he had served on them sometime since. They promised him then that they would move out by July 1, and Mr. Lea says they must do so, despite the fact that word has come to his ears that some of them have made contracts, or say they have, to purchase their houses.

Yesterday afternoon District Attorney Lea swore to a complaint against a large property owner in the district, charging him with letting a house for improper purposes. Complaints will be sworn out against other property owners and they will be compelled to come into court. Following their removal from First and D streets the women will not be allowed to locate in uptown apartment houses, Chief Rushmore says.

– Press Democrat, June 30, 1909

FURTHER ACTION TAKEN IN REGARD TO TENDERLOIN

The property owner against whom a warrant was sworn out for renting a house for immoral purposes a few days ago had another warrant of arrest sworn out against him by the district attorney’s office on the charge of leasing another house in that district for the same purpose. Attorney T. J. Butts is representing the defendant and filed a demurrer in the case which was overruled by Justice Atchinson. A plea of not guilty was entered.

– Santa Rosa Republican, July 3, 1909

INJUNCTIONS ARE SECURED
Judge Denny Makes Temporary Order Saturday

On Saturday Judge Thomas C. Denny made temporary orders for injunctions against Jessie Hobart and Dollie Smith, women of the tenderloin, to prevent them conducting their houses there.

District Attorney Clarence F. Lea secured the orders of the court, and when the suit comes to trial will seek to make the injunction permanent. Recently these women were arrested for having returned to their homes in the tenderloin district, after having been ordered to vacate.

If they should return now while the temporary injunction is pending they would be guilty of contempt or court and would be prosecuted. District Attorney Lea has announced that he will prevent the women returning to these places and he proposes to make good in this.

– Press Democrat, July 3, 1909

OFFICERS RAID A DISORDERLY HOUSE
Two Women Are Landed in Jail in Default of Bail at an Early Hour Sunday Morning

Officers made a raid on a house on First street at an early hour Sunday morning and arrested two women. One was charged with keeping a house of ill-fame and the other was living in and about the house. They were both locked up in the county jail in default of $1000 bail fixed by Justice Atchinson. A man caught in the house will be used as a witness against the women. He will be punished, too.

– Press Democrat, July 25, 1909

TENDERLOIN CASES UP FOR FRIDAY MORNING

At the instance of the district attorney’s office the case of the people against Pearl Webber and Eva Lowell, charged with maintaining and living in immoral resorts, has been set for Friday morning…The other cases in this regard will be proceeded with as soon as these are out of the way.

– Santa Rosa Republican, July 29, 1909

THE JURORS ARE SCARCE
Not Disposed to Try the Tenderloin Case

The first of the prosecutions by the district attorney’s office against the women of the Santa Rosa tenderloin was begun in Justice of the Peace A. J. Atchinson’s court on Friday morning. It was the case of the people against Eva Lowell and the complaint charged the defendant with maintaining and abiding in an immoral resort on D street. The prosecution was conducted by District Attorney Clarence F. Lea and the defense represented by Attorney Thomas J. Butts.

All the seats in the court room had been pre-empted long before the hour set for the trial and standing room seemed to be accepted cheerfully by the less fortunate spectators.

The morning was spent in examining veniremen summoned into court… [Five jurors were seated]…

Owing to the scarcity of available veniremen out of which to secure jurymen enough to fill up the seven vacancies yet remaining in the jury box, the case of the people versus Eva Lowell was continued by Justice Atchinson until Tuesday morning at 10 o’clock. During the two hours intervening between the time the court adjourned at noon on Friday and its being called to order at 2 o’clock, Constables Boswell and Gilliam, scouring the town, were able to secure two more veniremen only. Either business had suddenly begun to brighten up for these talesmen, [sic] or the lure of nature as she is met with out of town had suddenly commenced to exert a fascination over them. Anyway they were not to be found nor in a position to make an appearance in court.

– Santa Rosa Republican, July 30, 1909
JURY IS SECURED
Evidence Being Taken in Tenderloin Case

The case of the people vs. Eva Lowell, on the charge of  maintaining and residing in an immoral resort, was resumed in the justice court Tuesday morning and the task of completing the jury panel taken up…[The remaining seven jurors were seated]…

Just one witness was called before the noon recess. He was F. J. Bertolani and took the stand at the instance of the prosecution. He testified to seeing the defendant at No. 5 D street and to the fact that the place bore the reputation up until the first of July of being a house of ill fame. He also stated that he had entered into a contract with Abbie Lowell, the defendant’s mother, by which she was to lease the property with the purpose of buying it. That the defendant was present during the transaction he could not state positively. The understanding was, he said, that the house was not under the terms of the new contract to be used for immoral purposes, though this stipulation was not reduced to writing.

During the questioning of the witness by the district attorney, counsel for the defense interposed objections at every step. These were overruled and the rulings of the court taken exception to.

The first witness called by the prosecution Tuesday afternoon in the Lowell case was G. D. Douglas, the man found in the resort at the time the place was raided over a week ago. He stated that both he and the inmates were in a drunken condition.

Special Police Officer Ramsey, one of those participating in the raid, was on the stand a considerable part of the afternoon. He testified to seeing the house in question resorted to by men at different hours of the night during the past six weeks, and had been in the house and heard money pass between the inmates and visitors.

– Santa Rosa Republican, August 3, 1909
JURY DISAGREED AFTER BEING OUT SIX HOURS

After being out for six hours the jury in the case of the People vs. Eva Lowell was discharged without having come to an agreement. About a dozen ballots were taken and the jury stood nine for conviction and three for acquittal. The result was disappointing and unlooked for by people who kept a close run on the progress of the trial, as it was considered a clear case against the defendant. The charge against her was that of keeping and residing in a house of illfame.

– Santa Rosa Republican, August 5, 1909

TENDERLOIN CASE DROPPED FROM COURT CALENDAR

The cases against one of the owners of D street property charged with leasing houses and lots there for immoral purposes, which were set for last Friday and then continued to be set, were dismissed by Justice Atchinson Tuesday. The action began against two of the resort keepers in the early part of July has also been dropped from the calendar of the justice court.

– Santa Rosa Republican, August 24, 1909

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THE MANY WARS OF ERNEST FINLEY

You can say this about Press Democrat editor Ernest L. Finley: He didn’t shy from making enemies and picking fights. At best, he was the tireless champion of anything that might bring prosperity to Sonoma County; at worst he was a relentless bully and yellow journalist who kept Santa Rosa bound to its 19th century ways.

(RIGHT: Ernest L. Finley, 1909)

Today his name is remembered for the generosity of the Ernest L. and Ruth W. Finley Foundation (although that wasn’t founded until decades after his death) and his determination in the 1930s to build the Golden Gate Bridge, despite efforts by railroad interests to organize a boycott of his newspaper – “Damn the circulation! The bridge must be built!” remains his most famous (and likely apocryphal) quote.

The usual hagiography paints him as a humble small town newspaper editor who preferred to jaw with farmers over the price of hops and hogs, but he was much more complex than that. In the first four decades of the Twentieth Century, no man or woman cast a longer shadow on Santa Rosa history than Ernest Latimer Finley; favorite son Luther Burbank might have been the town celebrity, but Finley was the kingmaker, the media baron of print (and later, airwaves), the superarbiter of almost everything that happened north of the Golden Gate. Finley blazed a trail that directly continued into the era of Codding before arriving at the place we live today, better or worse.

In the handful of years between 1904 and 1909 Finley would deny he was the most divisive person in town, although he declared all-out war five times, usually resorting to ad hominem attacks against his antagonist as well as the politician or group he opposed. Even in the knockdown world of turn-of-the-century newspapering, this was playing rough.

His longest running feud was with Allen B. Lemmon, editor of the rival Santa Rosa Republican. During the run up to the 1904 elections, Finley and Lemmon were both throwing sharp elbows as they championed their party’s candidate for Congress. Finley, however, played foul by publishing a dialogue between Lemmon and the Republican nominee where the editor supposedly denounced his own candidate as a liar and a coward. The Press Democrat named no source for the quote or gave any indication of how they could have been privy to know about such an argument, much less the exact words said.    

Shortly after that election, Lemmon stepped away from the Republican newspaper for a time and leased it to a pair of experienced newsmen from out of town. Finley (un)welcomed them with a pair of snide parody ads that cast them as snooty city slickers, “having just passed under control of people from the big town, who never saw a pumpkin in their lives, will henceforth be devoted to the pleasant, though arduous task, of teaching metropolitan ways to hayseeds, and introducing city culture to the backwoods” Finley also wrote snarky little editorials when the newcomers dared criticize the City Council. After the Republican’s new editors became muckrakers and broke Santa Rosa’s omertà to reveal that the town thrived upon an underground economy of prostitution and illegal gaming, Finley tossed out a red herring that the “real issue” was the Republican paper printing short market crop prices, thus somehow undermining local hop growers. And when the Republican raised questions about graft and corruption before the 1906 city election, the Press Democrat charged them with playing cheap partisan politics.

If Ernest Finley festered perpetual grudges against his newspaper rivals, he reserved his unbridled contempt for the citizen reformers who wanted to clean up their town. To Finley, reform came with the risk of negative publicity that would damage Santa Rosa’s “good name abroad.” Unmentioned was that should a reform movement gain traction, they could follow contemporary San Francisco in calling for Grand Jury hearings, which in Santa Rosa might risk indictments of the downtown property owners and businessmen who profited from the town being the Sin City of the North Bay.

Finley first took aim at the Good Government League, a short-lived group formed in 1905 to “secure the nomination and election of competent and trustworthy men for office” and encourage “honest and vigorous investigation of civic affairs.” It was hardly Occupy Wall Street activism, but Finley wasted no time in comparing them to vigilantes and violent hate groups. Finley’s wild charges quelled only after it was revealed that the League vice president was none other than Santa Rosa’s lionized Luther Burbank.

Now calling themselves the “Municipal League,” reformers mounted a serious effort at winning city political offices in the 1908 election. The Press Democrat immediately accused them of being a stalking horse of “the church element,” although it was apparent that the new League was an alliance of prohibitionists, anti-corruption progressives, and voters angered over the City Council’s legalization of Nevada-style prostitution. Finley called them liars with a secret agenda to turn Santa Rosa “dry” and who were agitators stirring up “hard feelings” in town using “cowardly and un-American” tactics. (At least this time Finley had the good sense to delay mentioning the reformers had Burbank’s endorsement until the last possible moment.) After weeks of mud-slinging and dissembling and having pissed off a goodly portion of the town, there were grumblings about a boycott of the Press Democrat. In response, Finley had the gall to claim the PD “never intentionally misrepresents things.”

Finley’s keep-the-status-quo ticket won the election, and he was elected president of the Chamber of Commerce, following the man who was now the mayor. Nothing more was heard from the Municipal League, which presumably dissolved after losing at the ballot box. It was time to let tempers cool and animus fade. But that wasn’t how things were done at the Press Democrat; Ernest L. Finley always kept slugging away until no opponent was left standing.

(RIGHT: The April, 1909 edition of The Citizen, one of two copies of the newsletter known to survive. Copy courtesy Sonoma County Public Library)

His main target was now the Santa Rosa Ministerial Union, which was “the church element” that had supported the Municipal League. In a rambling editorial that clocks in at almost 3,000 words, Finley rehashed issues from the election half a year earlier to defend the city leaders he endorsed and continue bashing the Ministerial Union along with their monthly newsletter, “The Citizen” (UPDATE HERE).

The Press Democrat editor told readers that the Ministerial Union represented a “radical element” whose “fanaticism, vicious and uncalled-for attacks” on Santa Rosa administrators was responsible for dividing the town. Finley declared  “more ill-feeling was engendered here during the last city campaign than during any other similar period in all the town’s history. The most bitter and uncalled for personalities were indulged in, and unfounded charges were hurled right and left with no thought of responsibility and apparently without regard to their truth or lack of it.”

So who were these malcontents that Finley portrayed as the enemy of the town? Of the 12 churches in town, eight apparently belonged to the Ministerial Union, according to a directory that appeared in The Citizen. Members included all three flavors of Methodist (Southern, Episcopal, and German), the Baptists, and four kinds of Protestants. The congregations that didn’t belong were the Catholic church, the Unitarian church, and the two Lutheran churches.

Much of Finley’s harangue centered on the issue of prostitution. Both the reformers and the status-quo “fusion” ticket vowed to repeal it in the 1908 election. Finley’s fusion boys won, quickly repealed the prostitution ordinance – and then did nothing to enforce it for more than a year, aside from arresting a few women for illegally selling booze. But what could they do? lamented Finley. “All the history of the world goes to show that when ‘driven out’ this form of vice invariably returns in another and far worse guise, distributing itself through the residence districts, establishing itself in hotels and lodging houses.” What Finley disingenuously neglected to mention was that Santa Rosa was unique in the region for turning prostitution into a major industry, with no fewer than 8 or 9 bordellos operating here at the time – nearly one whorehouse for each church. That’s a statistic that probably didn’t make the Chamber of Commerce tourist handouts.

Finley was also muchly troubled by the churches in the Ministerial Union shining light on Santa Rosa’s underworld. Because of the ministers there was “a general topic of discussion almost everywhere.” And what of our poor children? While patting his own back for avoiding “using language that is either unpleasant or suggestive,” Finley complained The Citizen had shamefully printed “open, bare-faced and disgusting references to this unpleasant topic. As a result, the children have become almost as well posted on such things as their parents…what was once tabooed or mentioned only in undertones is now regarded lightly.” Finley was particularly upset that the Union had “worked irreparable injury” to Santa Rosa’s reputation by “forever trying to make the outside world believe that this is one of the worst cities in the land, governed by some of the country’s most disreputable men.” Take a moment to reflect upon his remarkable positions: The editor and publisher of the Press Democrat – and not incidentally, also president of the Chamber of Commerce – was clearly stating that criticism of public officials should be muted, and the cover-up of some types of criminal activity was a matter of civic duty.

Also on Finley’s enemy list were unnamed “interested parties” who had blocked the mayor’s proposed solution to the prostitution problem. “Unofficially the administration had quietly been given to understand that quarters would be provided for them elsewhere in a less public part of the city,” wrote Finley. Alas, in his view, the plan was killed because “petitions were gotten out and industriously circulated.” What Finley didn’t mention was that the grand scheme was to dump the red light district on the Italian neighborhood. In other words, town officials intended to keep the bordellos around, just not on such valuable real estate.

Since Finley had earlier decried brothels in “the residence districts,” he apparently viewed the Italian community as something lesser. But that didn’t stop the Press Democrat from publishing an overwrought defense of Italian honor when it presented a new opportunity to attack the Ministerial Union.

Judging from the two copies that have survived, The Citizen newsletter used most of its ink reporting on developments in the temperance movement, so it’s no surprise that the August, 1909 edition noted that there had been 18 arrests in Cloverdale for public drunkenness that year. “[T]he number of Whites arrested for drunkenness was 10; Italians, 8,” the item stated. Rev. Cassin of St. Rose fired off a letter to the PD that it was an “undeserved insult to the Italian population by excluding them from the list of white people.” A spokesman for the Union replied that they intended no offense and regretted the “verbal inaccuracy.” Cassin was not placated, and charged the “insult was given with malice aforethought” by the Ministerial Union. The Catholic church, recall, was not part of the Union, and its priest apparently shared Finley’s animosities. Finley did not editorialize this time, but gave the letters prominent coverage with large type headlines.

There were two snarky footnotes to Ernest Finley’s wars of 1909. The Citizen ceased publication a couple of months after the Italian-White hubbub, and was followed by the “Sonoma County Advance and County Home Weekly,” about which nothing is known. Noting that the journal would be published in Sebastopol, Finley sneered, “it will not be the first time outsiders have been good enough to come in to a town just previous to an election for the purpose of telling the people how to vote.”

The Press Democrat also ran a gossip item that Allen Lemmon’s partner was trying to find investors to buy the Santa Rosa Republican from the 61 year-old Lemmon. “Inability to work together harmoniously is given as the cause,” the PD added unnecessarily. Even for Finley, that was a low bit of work.

THE UNDESIRABLE “CITIZEN”

Another issue of “The Citizen,” published under the auspices of the Santa Rosa Ministerial Union, has made its appearance. And as usual, the little paper devotes most of its attention and space to The Press Democrat.

Under the direction of three or four ministers with whose radical views we have been unable to agree, The Citizen has been hammering The Press Democrat for a long time. It never loses an opportunity of telling its readers what a bad paper this is, and how wicked its proprietors are. According to that authority, The Press Democrat is “the saloon organ,” and “protector of vice,” and it “stands for immorality.” Needless to say, these things are not true, and The Press Democrat stands for nothing of the sort. In their narrowness and mistaken zeal the gentlemen dominating the so-called local Ministerial Union even went so far on one occasion as to attempt to institute a boycott against The Press Democrat upon the grounds that this paper was an enemy to society and a menace to the welfare and progress of the community. No criticism is too harsh for The Citizen to employ in its condemnation of this paper, and such has been its policy from the start.

And in the meantime the people only laugh, because they know for themselves that the things charged against The Press Democrat by The Citizen are not true. The public does not have to be assured through these columns or in any other way that The Press Democrat has only the best interests of this town and community at heart. Its consistent record for more than fifty years as an exponent and advocate of the right is all the answer necessary to the mouthings of the men now working so hard to keep themselves in the limelight and who appear to be so very desirous of gaining control of public affairs here.

During the last municipal campaign, the Ministerial Union was particularly active. Through its little “official organ” it kept things stirred to fever heat. It is no exaggeration to say that more ill-feeling was engendered here during the last city campaign than during any other similar period in all the town’s history. The most bitter and uncalled for personalities were indulged in, and unfounded charges were hurled right and left with no thought of responsibility and apparently without regard to their truth or lack of it.

In an excess of zeal that gave the movement the unmistakable stamp of fanaticism, vicious and uncalled-for attacks were made upon the out-going administration almost daily–although none of the men connected with that administration were candidates for reelection, while they had just successfully carried through a great work that should have and did earn them the grateful thanks of the community, and in spite of the fact that they represented our very highest types of mental and business ability, and our best citizenship.

The effect of the irrational work carried on here during the last municipal campaign is still apparent in many ways. Feelings have been engendered that it will take years to allay, a good portion of the town is solidly arrayed against some of the things it ought to be and otherwise would be for, and valuable co-operation and support has been alienated which might just as well have been retained.

The Citizen is now busy casting stones at Mayor Gray and the present administration with the same bitterness and lack of reason previously displayed toward the old council.

One of its charges is that the officials now in authority have not reduced the number of saloons here.

Mayor Gray and the members of the present city council did not run on the Ministerial Union platform, nor were they elected to carry out its policies. We only know of one new license that has been granted, and when the matter was passed up to Mayor Gray in open council he said he would do whatever the people living in that immediate part of town wished. Upon investigation, he found that only one person living or doing business within two blocks of that point was opposed in the license being granted, and that person was a man engaged in the same line of business. Without exception the others favored the granting of the license. Having given his word on the matter, there was only one thing left for Mayor Gray to do, and he did it.

Attempting to dismiss this matter in its last issue, The Citizen displays its usual disregard for facts, and after gravely assuring its readers that it knows what it is talking about this time, anyhow, says:

On the 26th of January the City Council passed a resolution favoring the reduction of the number of saloons in Santa Rosa and immediately afterwards, at the same meeting, granted an application for a license.

Yet the truth is that the application was granted first, and the resolution passed afterwards, which, of course, gives the situation a somewhat different aspect. And not only does The Citizen mis-state the facts regarding this phase of the matter, but it is also incorrect as to the date of the meeting to which it refers.

Of course it would have been no more trouble for The Citizen to verify these facts than it has been for The Press Democrat to do so, but The Citizen appears to regard facts as of no consequence. “Make your facts agree with your arguments,” is The Citizen’s motto, and always has been.

In many respects conditions have been materially improved here since the present administration went into office, although no one would ever surmise it from reading The Citizen. There is little if any disorder, the poolrooms have been abolished, the town is carefully policed, and one of the first acts of the incoming administration was to rescind the ordinance previously enacted for the legal regulation of the redlight district–a law that appears to have been a little ahead of the times here, but which has the strongest approval of practically every important European community and many of the larger cities in our own county.

 And this brings us to a discussion of another charge being made against the administration of the Ministerial Union, through its “official organ.” We refer to the existence of the district above mentioned, in its present location.

 Before Mayor Gray went into office–before he even thought of becoming a candidate, for that matter–he had a plan under way for moving the denizens of that part of town, and for transforming that valuable section into a public park. This was no particular secret, and after his election he proceeded with renewed vigor to try to carry the plan to a successful conclusion. Matters progressed to a point where considerable of the property was bonded, and notes was finally given certain objectionable tenants living in that part of time that they must leave. Unofficially the administration had quietly been given to understand that quarters would be provided for them elsewhere in a less public part of the city. But this information coming to the ears of interested parties in advance, petitions were gotten out and industriously circulated protesting against any action likely to result in the establishment of any similar quarter in any other part of the city.

 And strange as it may seem, this petition was signed by a number of these [people] who, previous to the election, had stated that they were in favor of doing just what the plan had in contemplation.

 The result of the petition was to leave the administration powerless in the matter, for it did not care to assume the responsibility of taking all restriction off of such traffic, which would have been and always has been, in any town where it has ever been attempted, the result of “driving them out.” All the history of the world goes to show that when “driven out” this form of vice invariably returns in another and far worse guise, distributing itself through the residence districts, establishing itself in hotels and lodging houses, here, there and anywhere it can gain a foothold, and conducting itself in such a way that, except in rare instances only, is it possible to combat it under the law.
 
 We will have to confess that we much dislike to thus openly discuss a problem of this nature in these columns. The time has come, however, when this study should be understood. The world is not called upon to meet conditions as they might or as they should be, but as they actually are. The plain facts of the matter are that these things have always existed, ever since the days of Mary Magdalene, and before. No community ever organized has yet been able to stamp out the social evil. No community ever will. For this reason men who have really made a study of public questions and understand the world and its ways, are agreed that it is better to recognize the existence of certain omnipresent evils and do what can be done to restrict and regulate them, thus minimizing as far as possible their bad effects, rather than pretend not to see them and force the public later to reap the inevitable results of such mistaken policy.

 Contrasted to this, is the plan now in operation here and with certain modifications practically throughout the entire world–a plan which has for its basic principles the restriction of the area within which such people may reside; strict police surveillance at all times, and (where the plan is carried to its logical development) certain other features of a precautionary nature to which it is perhaps unnecessary here to refer.
 
In penning these lines we have endeavored, as far as possible, to refrain from using language that is either unpleasant or suggestive. It will have to be admitted, however, that any adequate discussion of such a subject is difficult when one is thus restricted in his use of words.

Unfortunately The Citizen appears to feel no such restriction upon its editorial utterances. For months its columns have been filled with the most open, bare-faced and disgusting references to this unpleasant topic. As a result, the children have become almost as well posted on such things as their parents. This handling and regulation of the evil has become a general topic of discussion almost everywhere, and what was once tabooed or mentioned only in understones [sic] is now regarded lightly. Under the circumstances, it is of course but natural that a certain looseness along social lines should have resulted. No other result was to have been expected.

Yet the Ministerial Union doubtless imagines that it has accomplished a vast amount of good by its open, constant and flagrant discussion of these and kindred topics. Let there be no misunderstanding regarding this matter. We mean exactly what we say when we state that the discussion of these matters carried on by the Ministerial Union has been open and flagrant. Not only has the topic been discussed barefacedly in every issue of its official organ for months, but the policy of the organization as manifested in its mass meetings is open to the same criticism. “Women and young people are particularly invited,” is the way a certain minister once closed his announcement regarding such a gathering, from his pulpit. It has remained for certain of Santa Rosa’s ministers to inaugurate the custom of openly discussing such topics before and in the presence of innocent girls and respectable women.

There an be no question whatever that this policy is all wrong. In our opinion it has worked irreparable injury not only to the rising generation here at home, but also to the reputation of the community abroad.
 
Nobody will dispute the fact that the section complained of should be removed to another and less public part of town, for Santa Rosa has grown some during the past thirty years, and what was once an area of no particular importance is now surrounded with homes and residences. This is the idea entertained by the administration, and this is exactly what the administration tried to do. The question is, how can such a result be brought about? A public petition blocked it once. What will block it next time? Public sentiment would scarcely stand for the authorities taking the initiative in such a matter, even if they cared to do so. As officials and consequently as the guardians of the interest of all equally, what right have they to say that one part of town is any better than another. These suggestions give only a little idea of the difficulties that beset the administration in its attempt to handle this difficult and trying problem–a problem that has troubled public authorities ever since the world began, and to which the past and present political administrations of Sanata Rosa have probably devoted more study and thought than all the migratory gentlemen of the cloth who ever resided within the corporate limits.
 
  When the question was once up for discussion, it was seriously proposed that the entire matter be turned over to a commission, and that this commission consist of the Santa Rosa Ministerial Union. Perhaps this suggestion is still good. The gentlemen making up that organization would at least discover that the problem before them was more difficult than it looks and they might even be willing by going through the motions of “driving them out” to take the responsibility of removing all restrictions from the traffic. This is a responsibility that the municipal authorities refuse to take, flatly and absolutely.
 
  If the Ministerial Union will not consent to act as such a commission, perhaps it will come forward with some suggestion that might be of value. If it could give the name and location of any city or town in Christiandom where the social evil has ever been abolished, except perhaps a few days or a few weeks at a time, while some public agitation has been going on, it would be helping some. Up to the present time they have never done anything more helpful than to stand off and throw stones.
 
  But whatever course is pursued, let its final disposition be made quietly and as the judgement of the men entrusted with the problem may decide is for the best. The time has come when the open discussion of the subject must be stopped. The public is sick of it, and is beginning to resent it, as it should.
   
 The Press Democrat has never been the advocate of the saloon, or any of its allied interests. We have fought the so-called Ministerial Union in its attempt to secure control of public affairs here, just as we should fight a similar attempt upon the part of any other radical element, because we believe that to turn government in any form over to impractical men or theorists is unwise–yes, dangerous. As a matter of fact, Santa Rosa would be better off with half the number of saloons she has today, and with each one paying three times the present license. Aside from the fact that this is a great wine and hop producing section, in which to talk of prohibition would be inconsistent as well as unreasonable, there is a narrowness and provincialism about the very idea of a “dry” town that is displeasing to any man with experience and breadth of vision. Careful supervision and close restriction is a good thing, but there is no good reason why prohibition should ever be seriously talked of in a county like this.
   
 The Citizen reflects little if any of that broad Christianity or kindness of spirit that one would naturally expect to see manifested by a publication issued by ministers of the gospel. Harsh and uncalled-for criticisms, constant fault-findings, never-ending objections, make up the burden of its utterances. If the men responsible for the things appearing in its columns have ever been to any of the present municipal authorities to talk over the betterment of conditions here, or if they have ever proposed any likely solution for the difficulties complained of, we have never heard of it. The lash rather than the helping hand is The Citizen’s way, and apparently the way of the so-called Santa Rosa Ministerial Union. We say so-called, because it is well know that the organization does not represent anything like the unanimous sentiment of the ministers of the city. Several refuse to have anything to do with the organization, and others who belong make no secret of the fact that they do not endorse the policies that have marked its course during the past two or three years.
    
 If the so-called Santa Rosa Ministerial Union really cared as much for the welfare of this community as it professes to, it would not be forever trying to make the outside world believe that this is one of the worst cities in the land, governed by some of the country’s most disreputable men.

— Press Democrat editorial, May 4, 1909
“THE WHITES VS. ITALIANS” FATHER CASSIN’S REBUKE

St. Rose’s Church, August 7, 1909–Editor of the Press Democrat:

My attention has been called to an article in the “Citizen” of August, 1909. In that article, page 7, speaking of the arrests in Cloverdale for drunkenness, it says: “The docket of Cloverdale precinct from January to June 1909, shows that the number of Whites arrested for drunkenness was 10; Italians, 8; Indians,0. When it is borne in mind that the White population in larger than the Italian and that the Indians have prohibition, etc.”

Precluding altogether the question of intemperance, it does seem strange that the write of the above should offer a bitter, intentional and undeserved insult to the Italian population by excluding them from the list of white people. Swarthy their faces may be from the honest and hard toil necessary to make Sonoma county the garden spot of California, while the writer with a face blanched with hatred was in his closet penning this insult to a hard-working people. Better to have referred to them the words of our great American poet:

“His hair is crisp and black and long;
His face is like the tan;
His Brow is wet with honest sweat–
He earns whate’er he can.
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man.”

Italy was civilized and was the mistress of the world as it is today, the center of art, when, I venture to say, the country of the writer of the article in the “Citizen” was unknown or its people yet to be civilized. While the writer condemns so vehemently intemperance in drink, he should remember there is a greater intemperance he is guilty of–hatred for those who do not follow his opinion. “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but what cometh out of a man this defileth a man.”–St. Matthew xv:11.

I sympathize with the Italian population for the undeserved insult offered to them in the “Citizen,” and I sympathize with the cause of Temperance that has such intemperate supporters.

J. M. Cassin.

— Press Democrat, August 8, 1909

MINISTERIAL UNION SAYS NO INSULT WAS INTENDED

Editor Press Democrat: In the paragraph on page seven of the Citizen for August in which those arrested for drunkenness at Cloverdale were classified as “Whites,” Italians and Indians, there was no intention of casting any sort of reflection on the Italians or in anywise insinuating that they do not belong to the “White” race. The word  “White”  was used in a very loose sense and was meant to include all  “Whites” other than Italians. It was an inadvertence, a verbal inaccuracy which we regret and we disclaim even the remotest purpose of offering the least insult to our Italian citizens. We are somewhat familiar with the ancient and honorable Roman and the long line of heroes, which “the Eternal City” justly boasts from the mythical Romulus to the patriot Mazzini and we would not, if we could, dim the radiance of one star that shines in the galaxy of Italy’s immortals nor detract one iota from the glory of her race.

Francis A. Downs, Secretary.

Done by order of the Ministerial Union of Santa Rosa, Aug. 9, 1909. Pastor’s Study, Methodist Episcopal Church, South.

— Press Democrat, August 10, 1909
FATHER CASSIN SAYS AN APOLOGY IS DUE ITALIANS

St. Rose’s Church, Santa Rosa. Editor of the Press Democrat:

The paragraph in the August number of the “Citizen” was generally as a bitter insult to the Italians. An apology plain and humble was due to them, and this was looked for. What do the insulted Italians get? Only an explanation which repeats the insult. The Ministerial Union, while denying that they wished to differentiate between Whites and Italians, yet admit they wished to hold up Italian drunkards as apart from what they call “White” drunkards. They pled inadvertence, and verbal inaccuracy. This might be admitted in the case of one minister writing under the influence of hatred for the Italians, but a ministerial union should be able to correct the mistake of an individual minister. The idea of inadvertence and verbal inaccuracy cannot be admitted. The insult was given with malice aforethought … [three lines of illegible microfilm]… They plead looseness of language. This plea cannot be admitted as they are aided by legal skill that should secure them from this pretended looseness of language. Now, as to the figures they give of cases of drunkenness in Cloverdale–“Whites” 10; Italians 8. It is said that figures do not lie, but some times they do not tell the truth. We may rest assured that the 8 cases of Italians represent the whole. There is no consideration for them. But what about the “Whites”? Do the ten cases represent the whole? Are they not sometimes taken home in a hack and their name and their number omitted from the list? I think this may be so in Cloverdale, and I know that it is so in a place much nearer to me than Cloverdale.

In fine, the insult to the Italians by the Ministerial Union still stands. They have not and will not apologize as is duty bound. Their explanation does not explain, but repeats the offense. I again offer my sympathy to the Italians for the insult given to them by the Ministerial Union and for the repetition of it under the guise of an explanation.

J. M. Cassin.

— Press Democrat, August 11, 1909

“The Citizen,” formerly put out by the Santa Rosa Ministerial Union, is now a thing of the past, its publication having been discontinued. In an attempt to fill the void, Marcus L. Waltz, a Sebastopol real estate dealer and printer, has launched the “Sonoma County Advance and County Home Weekly,” the place of publication being Sebastopol. Mr. Waltz says that in a few months he will move his plant to Santa Rosa and issue the paper from here. This is understood to mean that the change will be made election time. If so, it will not be the first time outsiders have been good enough to come in to a town just previous to an election for the purpose of telling the people how to vote.

— Press Democrat editorial, November 16, 1909

Impending Newspaper Change

A report in circulation yesterday was to the effect that there would soon be a change at the Republican office, either A. B. Lemmon or J. E. Mobley being about to retire. Inability to work together harmoniously is given as the cause. Mobley is said to be trying to induce a number of Republican politicians to go in with him and buy Lemmon out.

— Press Democrat, September 15, 1909

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