It took about 3½ years, but the dust of the 1906 Santa Rosa earthquake finally settled in late 1909, with symbolic milestones and the ending of legal disputes (mostly).

* There was finally victory in the earthquake insurance wars, after Superior Court Judge Seawell denied the Connecticut Fire Insurance Company a new trial. Poor Frank Loomis only wanted a thousand bucks for his losses in the disaster but he was among a handful of Santa Rosa businessmen who had the misfortune to be insured by Connecticut Fire, which refused every claim because of a policy loophole. The Loomis case was the last to be heard by Sonoma County Superior Court, and his was also apparently the very last of the earthquake suits to be settled. The insurance company appealed the judge’s denial of a new trial, and the matter wasn’t finally, finally resolved until June, 1911, five years and two months after the quake. That’s too bad for Mr. Loomis, but the appeal preserved valuable transcripts of the court testimony with first-hand accounts of the immediate aftermath of the quake. For completeness’ sake and to aid future researchers, here are links to decisions and testimony in the Davis case (settled by the State Supreme Court in 1910, with background discussed here); the Fountain case (settled by the Appeals Court in 1910); and the Moodey case (settled by the State Supreme Court in 1911, with background discussed here and the full Appellate Court decision found in the April 21, 1910 Press Democrat).

* Santa Rosa was getting an attaboy from the Southern Pacific railway, publisher of the nationally-read travel magazine “The Sunset.” Within weeks of the disaster, the popular journal had published a special San Francisco issue spinning a revisionist version of events and claiming the scary earthquake did little damage compared to the fires, a PR campaign that successfully kept the trains filled with tourists. Here the local Chamber of Commerce issued a press release a few months after the quake claiming that Santa Rosa was back to normal, which was a pack of lies. Now that the place was truly pretty much put back to right, the magazine wanted a statistic on building permits. And the numbers were indeed impressive: Over 1,000 permits since the quake.

* A beautiful new county courthouse again dominated Santa Rosa and was nearly finished, but not without controversy. The grand jury complained that the final price was about 45 percent over the contract bid, forcing District Attorney Lea to investigate and report that no, there was no graft or fraud behind the cost overruns, and yes, all that marble and scagliola was more expensive than expected. Hey, once they changed the design from ceramic floor tiles to marble mosaic flooring, naturally they just had to change the plain ol’ flat ceiling into a vaulted ceiling that cost about three thousand dollars more – right?

If the new courthouse was a potent symbol of the future, the temporary courthouse was an unpleasant reminder of the post-quake disarray, and the city was eager to have it torn down as soon as everyone was moved out. There are no photographs of the place (that I know of) but it certainly wasn’t much to look at; from the outside it must have resembled a large farm implement shed with its corrugated iron roof. Together, the temporary courthouse and recorder’s office matched the footprint of today’s U.S. Bank building on the 3rd street side of Old Courthouse Square. It was sold for $576 to a man who wanted to build a large barn in Rincon Valley.

* The strange matter of the Peacock inheritance at last was resolved in 1909 (legal discussion here). Briefly, Mr. and Mrs. William Peacock died together in the collapse of a Santa Rosa hotel during the earthquake but they left separate wills, where each made their spouse first heir. Thus even if they died together, it had to be determined which Peacock died last, as that was the will that would prevail. There was not a great fortune involved but the money was split up differently among their children. The state inheritance tax appraiser declared Mr. Peacock died last, but goddess knows how he made that determination.

Without swimming deep into genealogical waters, it’s impossible to determine who got what. In the 1907 reporting there are two children; in the 1909 story below there are three. The earlier Press Democrat article names Mrs. Ada Baptiste as the wife’s daughter by a previous marriage, and here the PD states she is the husband’s prior daughter. That both Peacocks had children from a previous marriage is just part of the confusion; Mrs. Peacock was the sister of the first Mrs. Peacock, which meant that the two (three?) girls were simultaneously cousins, aunts or nieces.

(RIGHT: Postcard of the entrance hall of the palatial Sonoma County Court House. Note the elaborate compass rose inlayed in the marble floor. TAP or CLICK to enlarge)


At the request of the Southern Pacific Company Building Inspector F. E. Cherry has furnished it with figures showing the number of building permits issued since the earthquake of April 18th, 1906. The railroad company intends to use this data for advertising purposes. In Mr. Cherry’s report it shows that during the year 1906 after the April disaster, there were 322 permits issued and aggregated $759,745. In 1907 there were 300 permits and the value of the buildings was $300,000. In the two following years 891 and 200 permits were granted, making in all 1011 permits issued since the earthquake.

– Santa Rosa Republican, November 9, 1909

Do you want to buy a Courthouse? If you do, send in your bid right away to the Board of Supervisors. Tomorrow they are to open bids for the old building, with the natural redwood finish, which has done duty as an administration building sine the disaster of 1906.  There is all kinds of wood in the building. Of course, it will not be vacated right away for in the new building there is quite a little fixing to be done yet.

– Press Democrat, November 3, 1909

Several Bids Received by the Board of Supervisors Wednesday and G. H. Wymore is the Purchaser

The old courthouse, the temporary structure at present occupied by the county officers, was sold by the Board of Supervisors on Wednesday to Geo. H. Wymore for $576. He was the highest bidder.

Bids were opened Wednesday morning and were as follows…

When the old courthouse is vacated for the new Sonoma County Courthouse, Wymore will tear it down. He will have a big pile of lumber. He will use it to build a large barn on the Wymore place in Rincon Valley.

– Press Democrat, November 4, 1909
Ruling In the Case of Contractor and Mrs. William Peacock Who Were Killed Here in April, 1906

Judicially it has been determined that Mrs. Matilda F. Peacock died prior to her husband, William Peacock, a building contractor, both of whom lost their lives in the destruction of the old Occidental hotel in Santa Rosa on April 18, 1906. This determination is reached by the State’s inheritance tax appraiser, who Wednesday filed his report with the county clerk in San Francisco.

On this conclusion of the law Ada Baptist, a daughter of the husband, will receive $4,224.93; Ida Miller, another daughter, $2,793.64, and Margarite Miller, a third daughter, $2,791.64. The relatives of the wife will receive nothing.

Peacock at the time of the disaster was engaged in the construction of a building in Santa Rosa. A few days before the date of their deaths Mrs. Peacock went to Santa Rosa to visit her husband. She was with him in their rooms when the hotel was destroyed.

It has heretofore been a question as to which of the couple died first. Both left wills leaving their estates to one another. The husband left property valued at $21,436 and the wife $8,004.50. If the husband died first then the wife would have inherited his estate and her heirs would come in for their share of the total estate. If the wife died first, then the husband would receive her estate and only his heirs would get the benefits of the joint estates.

The investigation of the appraiser shows that Mrs. Peacock was the first to pass away, and therefore her husband received her estate and his daughters participate in the benefits.

–  Press Democrat, November 19, 1909

Connecticut Fire Insurance Co.’s Motion Denied

Judge Emmet Seawell filed his decision in the case of F. C. Loomis vs. the Connecticut Fire Insurance Company of Hartford, Thursday afternoon in which he denied the defendant’s motion for a new trial.

The case in question is one arising over the payment of a fire insurance policy covering the goods of Frank C. Loomis, and destroyed at the time of the earthquake and fire on April 18, 1906. The policy in question contained a nullifying clase whereby the policy was to become void if the building should fall before the goods caught fire. Under this clause the insurance company refused to pay the fire loss of one thousand dollars, the amount of the policy, claiming the goods were damaged before the fire reached them.

The case was tried in the superior court before a jury which found for the plaintiff. Several other cases have been tried in the courts of this county founded on the same insurance clause and have been appealed to the higher courts of the state which have upheld the decisions of the local Judges.

Following the decisions of the local court in the other cases tried and the decisions of the Appellate courts, which maintain that the burden of proof lies with the defendant to prove that the fire didn’t start simultaneous with the falling of the building or even before. The motion for a new trial was denied.

– Santa Rosa Republican, August 19, 1909

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Almost everything could be printed in turn-of-the-century newspapers except vulgar words, and high on that forbidden wordlist was “abortion.” Search all of the digitized 1909 California papers and you’ll find the a-word only ten times, and then just referring to terminated pregnancy in farm animals. At the same time, editors needed to write about women having abortions because newspapers obsessively covered crime stories, and at the time anyone who performed an abortion was charged with second-degree murder. Thus a vocabulary of euphemisms was born: It was the “criminal operation” or the “malpractice,” sometimes a “treatment.” Thus readers of the Santa Rosa Republican learned that a San Francisco doctor had performed “the operation” that resulted in the death of a local girl, 18 year-old Leora Henderson.

Abortion was far more common in America 100+ years ago than it is today, thanks in great part to the 1873 Comstock Act (no relation to Santa Rosa’s Comstock family), which was a federal law outlawing use of the mails to send contraceptives or information about contraception. Although there are no national surveys for this time period, medical experts have estimated that between one-sixth and one-third of all pregnancies were terminated. While looking through the Register of Deaths for Santa Rosa for possible 1906 earthquake victims, I stumbled across a young woman who died of self-induced abortion just a few weeks after the quake – unusual only because abortions were almost always secretly performed by a physician or midwife. As far is known, none of the local medics performed abortions but it is statistically likely that one or more did.*

Miss Henderson probably found her abortionist through San Francisco newspaper classifieds. The “Medical” column in the SF Call was almost entirely advertisements from “ladies’ specialists” including Dr. West, whose ad read, “Ladies’ specialist and women’s friend for many years. Immediate relief for the most obstinate cases at one visit. No pain, no delay from home. Low fees.” Why she picked him is unknown; others claimed to be cheap or guaranteed “instant relief.” Maybe she liked the promise that there would be “no delay from home,” which sounded like a quick turnaround. Informed of her death, her parents, who had a farm near Santa Rosa, said they didn’t realize she had even gone to San Francisco (or for that matter, was pregnant).

The inquest found Leora complained of pains in her sides and Dr. West referred her to another doctor, with instructions to go to a particular hospital if she worsened. He called a Doctor Boyd and said he should expect to see her at the hospital, “but it was nothing serious.” Boyd was called out of town for the day and forgot, but late that night the head nurse at the hospital contacted him about the case. Dr. Boyd said he would check on her in the morning. By morning she had died of peritonitis.

The coroner’s jury found that yes, “a criminal operation caused death,” yet made no charges against Dr. West. And that was that.

Without knowing more, it’s unclear what conclusions we can draw from the jury’s decision. It appears they narrowly held that she died of medical complications, ignoring that the event leading to her death was considered murder in the eyes of the law. Maybe the jury (all male, as all juries were at the time) viewed death following abortion as a woman’s misfortune, the same as death following childbirth.

From an article in the SF Call the following year, we do know even when “malpractitioners” were prosecuted, just one in four was convicted. Judging by the San Francisco newspapers, it seems that the only time that abortion doctors risked facing jail time is when patients died in their office and they went to great lengths to make sure they weren’t caught with the corpus delicti.

Warning: What follows is not for the squeamish.

A few months after Miss Henderson died, 24 year-old Eva Swan sought an abortion from Dr. James Grant. (In a bizarre coincidence, Grant’s San Francisco office used to belong to Dr. West, who had recently moved his practice to a better location downtown.) In the days that followed, Eva became gravely ill and Grant took care of her at his home. When she fell unconscious Dr. Grant realized she would not live, and after she died ten days later he was prepared to act. He sawed off her legs to fit the body into a trunk, poured gallons of acid over the remains, and hauled it to a house he had rented for the purpose of burying her in the basement. There’s much more to the whole story that you can read here, but as you can imagine, every new revelation in this horrific tale made front page headlines. Such great public outrage was spurred that it was even proposed that abortionists could be prosecuted under the Comstock Act, apparently because they advertised in newspapers which were mailed to distant subscribers. Yet despite the strength of the prosecution’s case, Doctor Grant still got off with a twenty year sentence, of which he served nine.

Incredibly, the Eva Swan case was not unprecedented. Seventeen years before, another San Francisco abortion doctor sawed up the body of a patient who died under his care. And in a Ripley’s Believe-it-or-Not twist, the man charged with that murder was none other than Dr. West.

Dr. West went on trial two years later, in 1895. (Trial coverage in the San Francisco Call was quite good for its day.) His defense was that he had not performed an abortion on Addie Gilmour, but had only been asked to look after her by another doctor (who denied it under oath). She died a week later. While strolling down to the Coroner’s office to report her death, West met with Dr. Tuchler who suggested medical students would pay a good price for a female cadaver. Dr. West testified he agreed and when he returned to his office the body was gone. The judge instructed the jury that they were only to decide on whether Dr. West had performed an abortion on the woman. In less than an hour the jury returned a verdict of not guilty.

It might have gone differently, however, if Dr. Tuchler had testified; afterwards, he told reporters that he had been called out of town on a medical emergency and wanted to tell the court he believed West was innocent, but he was now angry because West had lied about his role in the matter. According to Tuchler, West dismembered the body and packed sections of it in oil cans which the two of them dropped into San Francisco Bay on the ferry to Oakland. Anatomy students did that all the time to dispose of dissected body parts, Tuchler said. For his role in the dumping, Tuchler asked for Gilmour’s head, the skull of which would complete a skeleton he was assembling. Dr. Tuchler wrapped her head in chicken wire and hung it underwater near Sausalito, telling reporters it was also the custom of anatomy students to leave body parts in the Bay like that to reduce them to bones. Unfortunately for him the encaged head was prematurely found, causing understandable commotion.

Today, West and Grant would probably be prosecuted for murder with depraved indifference. Both hid seriously ill women in their backrooms, not consulting with specialists or seeking a higher quality of care as their condition worsened. While waiting for the women to slowly die, they plotted how to chop ’em up and throw away their parts. They were furtive men; Dr. West said at his 1895 trial that he disguised himself sometimes and it came out that Grant’s real name was Robert Thompson. How typical were they of the army of male “ladies’ specialists” that practiced abortion medicine at the time? That history’s unwritten. (An overview of abortion in turn-of-the-century America can be read on-line: “When Abortion Was a Crime“.)

As for Dr. Grant/Thompson, he moved to Boston when he was paroled and started another abortion practice, this time under the alias “Stanton A. Hudson.” In 1911 Dr. West was again in jail because of a botched abortion and yet again escaped charges (that young woman sought help at an emergency hospital and lived).

Leora E. Henderson’s parents buried her in the Rural Cemetery, adding an inscription to her tombstone: “Budded on earth to bloom in her soul.” I’m not sure what that means, but it certainly sounds very nice.

*It is possible that Madam Preston, who made and sold all manner of nostrums, offered an under-the-counter abortifacient. Among the Preston papers is a 1907 letter from the wife of a Sebastopol farmer who wrote, “I’ve heard you have a preparation that is good to cause a miscarriage…” 
Complicated in Death of Miss Leora G. Henderson

Dr. E. S. West and Dr. Winfield Bynres of San Francisco are under arrest in that city for their complicity in the death of the Santa Rosa girl, Miss Leora G. Henderson. They were arrested Friday by the police of San Francisco, who say they have information that Dr. West performed the criminal operation on the young lady that resulted in her death. Dr. S. G. Boyd, who is wanted by the police in this matter, did not show up at his office yesterday. Peritonitis followed the girl’s criminal operation and that was the cause of her death.

John Henderson, the girl’s father, when asked about his daughter in San Francisco, stated that he neither knew of the girl’s condition, nor of her presence in San Francisco.

– Santa Rosa Republican, October 23, 1909
Believed Responsible for Death of Girl

The police of San Francisco are convinced that Dr. E. F. West of 115 McAllister street, performed the operation that resulted in the death of 18 year old Leora Henderson of this city at St. Thomas’ Hospital on Thursday morning. West is in the city prison and will probably be charged with murder after the coroner’s inquest.

West steadfastly denies that he was connected with the case and declares that he never saw the girl, but the  statement to the police of Dr. Winifred Byrne of 894 Eddy street, and Dr. Samuel G. Boyd of 1334 Van Ness avenue contradict his assertions.

Dr. Winifred Byrne, who was questioned by the detectives Friday evening and later placed in custody at the city prison, was released Saturday morning. The police are assured that she was in no way criminally connected with the girl’s death.

In a written statement made by Dr. Byrne Saturday she said that the girl told her a few days after she visited her office on Eddy street that she had been operated on by Dr. West the first day she arrived in San Francisco and that he had advised her to go to Dr. Byrne’s place for care, and if she became worse to go to St. Thomas’ hospital, where Dr. Boyd would attend her.

Dr. Boyd arrived yesterday from Redwood City, where he had been called to perform an operation. He told the police that Dr. West called him up several days before the girl’s death and said he had a patient whom he would sent to St. Thomas’s hospital and wished he, Dr. Boyd, would attend her. Dr. Boyd was busy and forgot about the girl and did not, in fact, at any time see or attend her.

– Santa Rosa Republican, October 25, 1909

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On the train to Santa Rosa a little over a century ago, you might have exchanged a nod of recognition without knowing who he was. His was a sort-of-familiar face, someone who could be spotted going or coming several times a year, maybe with his wife and daughter or the two young men who were his sons. But once the train arrived, the portly middle-aged man vanished; he couldn’t be found at any of the hotels or bending his elbow at any of Santa Rosa’s many saloons. He wasn’t at card parties or lodge hall dances. He didn’t hobnob at all. Probably not a soul on the trains knew they were looking at Thomas Kearns, the millionaire owner of Los Guilicos.

Official Residence Of The Governor Of Utah Postcard

Kearns had one of those incredible 19th century rags-to-riches life stories. In 1883, legend has it, he was farmhand pitching hay; six years later he was one of the owners of the Silver King mine, then the most valuable silver mine in the world. With his boundless wealth he built an extravagant Salt Lake City home for his family in 1902, which today is the Utah Governor’s Mansion (see postcard at right). Three years later he bought the William Hood House and ranch at Los Guilicos.

Unlike the family’s opulent Utah mansion, the farmhouse near Kenwood was nothing special; it’s unclear if it had been updated since its pre-Civil War construction, or even if electricity was available in 1905. Kearns hired architect William Willcox to expand and modernize the place, but he also took a hands-on approach, working with a Santa Rosa cabinetmaker to design and build a massive 14-foot dining room table and sideboard cabinet. (Photo of the table is below, and the cabinet can be viewed in the previous article.)

From mentions in the Press Democrat column on arrivals and departures we know that Kearns and his family spent quite a bit of time here, including the complete summer of 1905, which was before renovations started. There were some years where he or his wife could be found at Los Guilicos nearly half of the time, particularly after the remodeling ended in 1908. It was a true second home and not a vacation getaway; the Kearns’ should properly be considered locals – their sons even went to college at Santa Clara rather than in Utah or out east. In “Sketches of the Inter-Mountain States,” the 1909 history of Utah and neighboring states, his equal residence in California was acknowledged: “Senator Kearns and his family reside in a magnificent home on East Brigham Street, in Salt Lake City, and at one of the finest ranches in California, near Santa Rosa.”

Yet curiously, this side of his life is rarely, if ever, mentioned in modern profiles, including his book-length biography. Because of that, some of the most interesting questions about Kearns are unanswered and even unasked: Why did he want a house in Sonoma County, where the family apparently had no friends, family, political connections or business interests? And once he owned Hood House, why did he spend so much time here, so far from the life he had struggled to make for himself and everyone he knew? The answer to his Rosebud secret probably lies in the late winter of 1905.

Given his wealth and wealth of connections, it would be surprising if Thomas Kearns had not become a politician. He knew three presidents and hosted a dinner for President Teddy Roosevelt at his Salt Lake City mansion. Consider, for ex, the nexus of money and power revealed in just this one deal: Senator William A. Clark of Montana sought help from Kearns in extending his railway line from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City. (Clark was a man so remarkably corrupt that Mark Twain wrote, “He is as rotten a human being as can be found anywhere under the flag,” and also looked just like Conan O’Brien wearing a cheap fake beard, which is conclusive proof that he was a person of low character.) Also involved in the railroad deal was Richard C. Kerens, who was on the National Republican Committee and a personal friend of Kerns. Our very first glimpse of Kerns in Sonoma County comes from a 1906 PD article about Kerns showing off his new place to his pal (misspelled as “Kernes” in the transcription below).


Thomas Kearns was a U.S. Senator from Utah between 1901 and 1905, filling out the four years remaining on an unexpired term. Many in the LDS church would have liked the seat go to a member of their faith, but just two years earlier a Mormon polygamist had been elected to the House, creating such national uproar that he was expelled immediately after being admitted to Congress. Kearns was politically well-connected with the Republican leadership, and that he was an ardent Roman Catholic “gentile” didn’t hurt a bit. The Mormon hierarchy endorsed Kearns, amid allegations there was a quid pro quo deal for Kearns to buy the Salt Lake Tribune and defang its anti-Mormon slant.

His alliance with the church began crumbling within a year as political fortunes rose for Reed Smoot, who had been talked out of running against Kearns in 1901. The next year Smoot was elected the junior Senator from Utah, despite opposition from Senator Kearns and the rest of the Republican establishment, including President Teddy Roosevelt. Republicans feared Smoot would face a Congressional inquisition similar to the hearings over the polygamist. And indeed, once he was seated, the Senate opened investigations into whether he was a secret polygamist or if his extremely high position in church hierarchy placed him in conflict with his oath of office.

With the end of his term approaching in 1904, Kearns was denied another LDS church endorsement. Supporters of Kearns retaliated by forming the anti-Mormon American Party, and criticism of the church resumed in his Salt Lake Tribune. The political career of Thomas Kearns ended when Senator Reed Smoot convinced the Utah state legislature to replace Kearns with a Mormon (Senators were not yet elected by popular vote). Kearns said farewell to the Senate in his “Conditions in Utah” speech, where he bitterly denounced the power of the Mormon church. He charged the LDS “monarchy” lied repeatedly to the U.S. in order to gain statehood in 1896, falsely claiming polygamy was banned and the church did not meddle in politics.

But Kearns had no fervent political loyalties. Earlier he made large contributions to both parties, first to the Democrats in 1896 because he supported candidate William Jennings Bryan’s demand for currency using silver, and then to the Republicans in 1900 when it was clear that the McKinley-Roosevelt ticket would win the White House. He was fond of going to conventions and speechified on behalf of his friend Teddy Roosevelt at every opportunity. That he served in the Senate at all was a bit of a fluke, as discussed in the sidebar.

Kearns’ stint in the Senate was uneventful, perhaps because it was so short. No legislation bears his name, and what bills he introduced were pork barrel giveaways for special interests in Utah. He asked for 20 acres be given to his wife’s aunt for a home for old miners; he wanted to open up part of an Indian reservation for mining. An old military fort received an upgrade. It was all apparently small matters like that. A researcher would need to drill down to the voting records to find what issues he supported or opposed and if not for the passion exhibited in his infamous farewell speech, one might think he didn’t really want the job at all.

When the Mormons declined to support his candidacy for reelection, Kearns felt used and betrayed. He had valid reasons; he had brokered a relationship between the Republican party and LDS church long sought by Mormon leaders (a good paper on this topic can be read here) and found patronage jobs in Washington for Mormons. He had vowed to oppose any proposed constitutional amendment against polygamy. He had purchased the Salt Lake Tribune and quashed its LDS criticism (although there’s no proof church leaders demanded he do so). And probably most bitterly, he had been used as a stalking horse to ease the way for Utah to have two Mormon senators. Kearns’ “Et tu, Brute” moment came when Utah’s junior senator, Reed Smoot, personally led the Utah politicking to oust Kearns and replace him with his friend and fellow Mormon, George Sutherland. Smoot drove the knife in further with his remarks about Kearns’ farewell speech, adding an ethnic slur: “It certainly was a spectacle to see Kearns deliver his speech yesterday. It made the people from Utah ashamed that there was such a person as Tom Kearns claiming to be a citizen of Utah. His speech was written in English and delivered in Irish.”

Thus Hood House might also be nicknamed, “Kearns’ Redoubt.” His four-year ascent into politics had ended with an abrupt and humiliating crash, through no fault of his own. He apparently purchased the Los Guilicos estate shortly thereafter. In the summer that followed he probably saw the roomy home with bucolic views of Sonoma Valley as a fine place to lick wounds and drift in melancholy. Years later Santa Rosa newspapers frequently mentioned he was entertaining friends from Utah, and you can bet their small talk tread lightly around some topics of political gossip, particularly the sore point of his own fall from greatness as the Catholic who lost his Mormon blessings.

In hindsight, we can see everyone lost when Kearns was forced out of the Senate, including the Latter-Day Saints church.

The Senate allowed Reed Smoot to be seated, but opened hearings on his fitness to stay. The Smoot hearings dragged on for three years, and became a trial of the LDS church itself. Women’s groups nationally lined up against Smoot and Mormonism in an anti-polygamy crusade that smothered Washington in petitions and letters. But over those long three years, anti-Mormon sentiments weakened. President Roosevelt originally commented that Smoot was not fit for office, but by end of 1906 he said the women crusaders were guilty of “persecution” and “hysterical sensationalism.” The New York Times also flipped, denouncing in 1907 opposition to Smoot as “mindless and bigoted”. At the end of it all, a majority of Senators did vote to boot Smoot, but he was admitted because a two-thirds vote was required.

The big loser in this draw were the women’s groups, having lost some popular sympathy as well as momentum in their great fight for suffrage. The LDS church lost because Kearns might have been able to shorten the hearings – or lobby other Senators to drop some of the most damaging lines of inquiry – if he had remained as the senior Senator. In Utah, the Kearns affair boosted opponents of the church and the American Party dominated Salt Lake City politics through the rest of the decade.

The drama also had far-reaching impacts on American history. Senator Smoot was co-author of the infamous Smoot-Hawley Tariff, which is considered one of the major causes of economic hardship during the early years of the Great Depression. Kearns’ replacement in the Senate, George Sutherland, was eventually appointed to the Supreme Court, where he became the leader of the “Four Horsemen,” a reactionary bloc that sought to overturn FDR’s New Deal programs for recovery. The four Justices were frequently hung in effigy at political rallies.

Kearns didn’t live to see what would become of Smoot and Sutherland two decades later; he died in 1918, shortly after he sold Hood House. I would like to think his ghost is still rattling chains in those empty rooms of the place he must have thought of as a sanctum. I would like to think his ghost is having a good chuckle over the two men who destroyed his political life becoming two of the most hated politicians in America.

Fourteen-foot dining room table designed and built by Santa Rosa cabinetmaker F. S. Smith in 1909 for Senator and Mrs. Kearns. Other photographs of the sideboard and dining room can be found in the original article on Hood HousePhoto courtesy Mark Parry/Artisan Architecture

Senator and Prominent Chicago Railway Magnate in Party

Former United States Senator and Mrs. Thomas Kearns of Salt Lake City, accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. R. C. Kernes [sic], Miss Kernes and Miss Baney of St. Louis, and Miss Bettinger of St. Joseph, Mo., are at the St. Rose. The party came up to the Senator’s Los Guillicos [sic] ranch yesterday morning and were met at Kenwood by automobiles from Santa Rosa. After a visit to the ranch the party were taken for a ride through the valley and then for a visit to the grounds of Luther Burbank.

Mr. Kernes is a prominent railroad man from St. Louis and the fact that he is visiting through the Sonoma Valley has given rise to the suspicion that he may be inspecting the line of the proposed electric railroad from Sonoma to Santa Rosa, which is believed to be part of a through line to the bay or to connect with the other lines planned to cross the lower end of the county en route from San Francisco to Lake county with a view of investing in the enterprise. It is known that he was given a good opportunity to see all the advantages of the valley while taking the automobile ride.

– Press Democrat, March 28, 1906

F. S. Smith of 1209 Ripley street has just completed at his place and has ready for delivery a handsome natural oak dining room set for Senator and Mrs. Thomas Kearns of Kenwood. The dining table is a massive affair weighing 850 pounds, and is six feet square closed. It can be extended to fourteen feet and is one of the most attractive pieces of furniture ever seen in this city. The buffet, serving table, pedestal and dozen chairs are all made to match. The whole set is handwork by Mr. Smith, and were worked up from designs he drew and submitted to Senator and Mrs. Kearns for approval prior to receiving the order.

– Press Democrat, July 11, 1909
Senator and Mrs. Thomas Kearns Entertain Cardinal Gibbons and Other Catholic Church Dignitaries

Former United States Senator and Mrs. Thomas Kearns and family and Miss Bess Faddies have returned to their beautiful country home in the Los Guilicos Valley, from Salt Lake City. They went to Salt Lake recently to be present at the dedication of the new Roman Catholic Cathedral there, one of the most costly and handsomest edifices in the west.

At their Salt Lake City residence Senator and Mrs. Kearns had the honor of entertaining His Eminence Cardinal Gibbons, who dedicated the cathedral. They had other distinguished guests, including several of the Bishops and other dignitaries of the church.

– Press Democrat, August 28, 1909

The many local friends of Senator and Mrs. Thomas Kearns will be pleased to know that they expect to spend the Christmas holidays at their very hospitable home “Kearns Ranch” in Sonoma Valley. They will have a large house party of relatives and friends to enjoy the holidays with them. Mrs. Kearns is expected back from New York about the first of December.

– “Society Gossip,” Press Democrat, November 21, 1909

The two sons of Senator and Mrs. Thomas Kearns will be here from Santa Clara College to spend the Christmas holidays. Senator Kearns will also join the family for celebration of the holidays at the beautiful Kearns residence at Los Guilocos [sic].

– “Society Gossip,” Press Democrat, December 19, 1909
Party Given by Senator and Mrs. Kearns in Honor of Miss Clara Driscoll

At the picturesque Kearns ranch last night there was a brilliant party at which Senator and Mrs. Thos. Kearns were “at home” to many invited guests. The function was arranged in honor of Miss Clara Driscoll who is visiting the Kearns ranch from her home in Salt Lake City.

Many guests from this city drove out to Los Guillicos to enjoy the delightful hospitality and participate in the many pleasures of the evening. Mrs. Kearns, as usual, entertained with the cordial and lavish hospitality for which the home is known far and wide.

After the hour devoted to the reception during which all the guests had the pleasure of a formal introduction to Miss Driscoll, dancing was enjoyed in the ball room adjoining the mansion. Later an elaborate supper was served.

– Press Democrat, December 29, 1909

Mrs. Thomas Kearns expects to leave for Salt Lake City about January 15. The Hearns have a magnificent home there and it is like ‘Kearns Ranch’ near this city, one of the most hospitable of homes. I overheard Mrs. Kearns telling some friends at the Overton party the other evening how much she and Senator Kearns enjoyed their picturesque county mansion in the Los Guilocos [sic] Valley. Thanks to them many Santa Rosa friends have been afforded much pleasure there, too.

– “Society Gossip,” Press Democrat, January 9, 1910

Former United States Senator Thomas Kearns has arrived here from Salt Lake City, accompanied by Mrs. Kearns, and is spending a few days at his beautiful country home near this city, Kearns Ranch. Since his last visit here Senator Kearns has made several trips East and has been a very busy man. He is delighted with the appearance of things in Sonoma county at the present time.

– Press Democrat, April 7, 1910

The week of festivity will be auspiciously ushered in by the reception and high tea Sunday afternoon, at which Mrs. Thomas Kearns will entertain in honor of her sister, Mrs. Gallivan, a charming woman of Salt Lake City, who is here to spend the summer. The hours of the function are from four to seven o’clock and many Santa Rosans are included in the invitation list. They will drive to Kearns Ranch or will take the afternoon train from this city. Of course, it goes without saying that Mrs. Kearns’ attractive hospitality will be delightfully exerted. The hostess and her guests were wishing Saturday when the threatening raindrops fell that sunshine would abound for the happy hours to be spent at Kearns Ranch.

– “Society Gossip,” Press Democrat, May 1, 1910

KEARNS RANCH, the delightful country seat of Senator and Mrs. Thomas Kearns near this city, was the scene last Sunday afternoon of a reception given by Mrs. Kearns in honor of her sister, Mrs. Gallivan, a charming woman from Salt Lake City.

With its commodious rooms, richly furnished and arranged in luxury and comfort, the Kearns home is an ideal one for entertaining. It was specially so on this occasion as the affair partook of an outdoor party on the beautiful grounds where Nature has aided the landscape gardner in a distribution of majestic oaks, shrubbery and flowers in all their glory.

After meeting Mrs. Gallivan, the motif for the function, and the hostess Mrs. Kearns, who received their guests on the veranda beneath a clustering rose vine, which was a riotous mass of sweet-scented rosebuds, the guests wandered at will among the flowerbeds and amid a wilderness of roses–at Kearns Ranch during the blossoming time it is a continuous rose carnival–rested on the rustic benches or in the hammocks or swing seats in the shade of the overhanging branches of trees. It was an afternoon of sunshine and everything looked its best. Music, sweet and an allurement to pleasure, mingled very effectively with the enjoyment of the rambles through the grounds. It was furnished by a large orchestra stationed in a leafy nook on the lawn. During the hours of the reception and during the serving of high tea the orchestra played, Miss McDermott presided over the punch-bowl, serving the guests with delicious refreshment.

At tea the guests assembled in the large reception rooms, where tasteful bouquets of roses and other blooms gave a delightful finish to the pretty scene. In serving Miss Bess Faddis, Miss Clara Einhorn, Miss Geraldine Grace, Miss Wickson, Miss Elizabeth McDermott and Miss Helen Kearns were among those assisting.

Mrs. Kearns and Miss Wickson ex- [missing line of type] people from Santa Rosa, Kenwood, San Francisco and other places. Many of those invited drove down to the Kearns home in automobiles and others came by train and in vehicles. Mrs. Kearns was a much complimented hostess. She could not have entertained more effectively.

Mr. Kearns and Miss Wickson expect to leave shortly for Salt Lake City where they will spend some time. They will return before the summer is over, however, to pass several months here.

– “Society Gossip,” Press Democrat, May 8, 1910

Mrs. Thomas Kearns returned to her beautiful country home, Kearns Ranch, near this city, on Saturday night after an extended absence in Salt Lake City as well as on a  trip to the East. Mrs. Kearns expects to spend a considerable portion of the summer in Sonoma county. She went to Santa Clara College on Monday to attend the commencement. The Kearns boys are students at Santa Clara. Mrs. Kearns’ many friends are glad to welcome her back.

– Press Democrat, June 21, 1910

The week opened very auspiciously with the dinner party at Kearns Ranch…The scene in the spacious dining room of the Kearns mansion was fascinating in the extreme when the guests entered to the strains of music from an orchestra. They stepped into a lovely bower of flowers and light with the immense round table artistically set with its silver and glass and its clusters of daintily shaded candelabra, occupying the center. The rich old oak ceiling and the oak-panelled sides of the room were set off with bright adornments of flowers and more candelabra. It would be hard to picture a more alluring effect from a decorative standpoint or a greater incentive to appetite as one course followed another during the two hours the guests sat at the table enjoying the delightful menu and the intermingling chit chat, story and orchestral music.

The pretty place cards at each corner were set off with a miniature of an ocean liner, this latter feature particularly complimentary to Miss Wright in view of her coming voyage…

– “Society Gossip,” Press Democrat, July 3, 1910

Former United States Senator Thomas Kearns of Salt Lake City is here for a visit of several weeks at his beautiful country home “Kearns Ranch” near Kenwood. Senator Kearns is a man of much prominence financially as well as politically and is the head of the American party which in Utah has given battle to the Mormon forces. He is a mining man, and owns a large amount of property in Salt Lake, in addition to several newspapers, and other public service enterprises.

– Press Democrat, July 13, 1910

Senator Thomas Kearns has returned from Salt Lake and is now at his country home, the Kearns Ranch near Kenwood. Mrs. Kearns has been spending the past week in San Francisco awaiting the arrival of the Senator and they have both returned. The Senator is a busy man and will only remain here for a few days and then he and Mrs. Kearns will go east to stay until after the holidays.

– Press Democrat, October 10, 1910

Former United States Senator and Mrs. Kearns arrived from Utah on Sunday at their beautiful country home, Kearns Ranch, near this city. Senator Kearns took an active part in the recent elections in Utah, and otherwise has been very busy with the handling of his immense interests. He enjoys a visit to his picturesque estate in the Sonoma Valley, where he is carrying out many improvements. Thomas Kearns is also here and is feeling much better. He recently underwent an operation for appendicitis.

– Press Democrat, November 29, 1910

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