More followups with details found in 1909 Santa Rosa newspapers. This year it’s mostly news about the criminal and crazy:

* THE MAN WHO WOULD BE SIDEWALK KING     Remember Joseph Forgett? In 1907 he led nine prisoners in a daring escape from the county jail, which the Press Democrat reported in screaming banner headlines – the same 120 pt. boldface type normally reserved for earth-shattering news, such as major wars or any Democratic party election wins. Forgett and the others were quickly captured, and at trial he told the court that he had to break out of jail to protect his wife, who was also behind bars, charged along with two other women for “vagrancy” (ahem). He told the court Mrs. Forgett’s honor was at stake because jailor “Old Fred” was getting a little too busy with his hands, and he also begged the judge for leniency, as he was insane at the time because of his 15 year opium addiction. Found guilty, Forgett apparently spent the next year and a half in the slammer, and we next heard of him when a little item appeared in the 1909 Santa Rosa Republican, noting his return to Santa Rosa “after an absence of many months.” It may seem odd for the paper to welcome home a felon, but the item noted that his brother was Councilman Fred Forgett, a Democrat, so the purpose may have been a political poke in his brother’s eye. Or maybe it was to subtly alert Joseph’s “many friends in this city and vicinity” that he was again loose; Forgett had once threatened to kill a guy and was arrested shortly thereafter with a meat cleaver under his coat.

* ARMED, CRAZY, AND FORECLOSED UPON   Another character to compete in the armed, dangerous and likely-crazy trifecta was Eduardo Bosco, who had been remarkably declared sane by two doctors in 1908. Bosco energetically fought efforts to evict him from his little farm near Healdsburg, leading to his being hauled to the county jail “bound by ropes by deputy sheriffs, divested of hat, coat and vest.” Several months later, Bosco was illegally back on the foreclosed farm, where he had now harvested the fruit crop and sold it to a cannery. When deputies arrived to evict him for the second time he began shooting at them. The officers fled. Bosco was next spotted a couple of months later on a road near Calistoga, where he was harassing strangers. A constable investigated and Bosco attacked him, pressing a handgun against the policeman’s chest and pulling the trigger three times. The gun either was empty or the bullets misfired. Bosco was arrested, and returned to Sonoma county for prosecution of his earlier shootings. Now about a year later in 1909, Bosco was being sent from the county lockup to Napa to face trial in the attempted murder on the Calistoga road. True to form, he refused to cooperate with police: “Bosco put up a strong objection to going and the two men had all they could do in getting him from the cell.”

* THE YEAR OF BURNING SANTAS   After five years had passed without a single Santa Claus catching fire from a Christmas tree candle, two men were seriously burned in a 1909 incident at a Guerneville school. Having lighted candles hanging on the branches of a dead evergreen seems dangerous enough, but adding to the picture a fellow with a highly flammable cotton beard seems downright reckless. Still, it’s amazing Claus combustion didn’t happen more often; to a flame, a fat bewhiskered Santa must look like tallow and wick. Obl. Believe-it-or-Not factoids: The familiar string of colored electric lights didn’t become common until the 1930s (interesting history web site here) and today all our tangled and discarded strings of Christmas lights are shipped to the Chinese town of Shijiao – renowned for both cheap labor and low environmental standards – where ten factories recycle 20 million pounds of lights annually.

* WHEN “BUSINESS FRIENDLY” SANTA ROSA NEARLY CLOSED DOWNTOWN   Santa Rosa’s 1909 water war against downtown businesses ended in a truce, as reported in an article that was unfortunately overlooked when the original essay on the topic was written. Briefly: The city’s dysfunctional water rates and billing system drove most stores to stop paying their water bills, which led to shutoff of most water connections downtown. After nine dry days, the Erwin Brothers grocery turned the water back on themselves and filed a lawsuit against the city. With tensions already high, the clueless mayor met with the grocers and suggested they switch over to the privately-owned McDonald Water Company. Mayor Gray later denied he said that or even had spoken to the Erwins at all, a claim the Erwins easily refuted in a detailed letter to the Republican paper.

* THE ALTERNATIVE HISTORY OF SANTA ROSA    Someday, hopefully, a book will be written about the importance of the alternative press in American history. Besides providing a voice to ethnic communities (“Freedom’s Journal” was the first newspaper published by and for African-Americans way back in 1827, for example), these newspapers presented fresh ideas and reported important news that the mainstream press censoriously ignored. Alas, hardly any of these papers from the underground press survive, conceding much of the historical record to what appeared in the “important” newspapers – which is to say, usually the news and views held by those with privilege and power. In early 20th century Santa Rosa, the alternative paper was “The Citizen,” which was published until 1909. The Sonoma County Library Annex has two issues from late in its run when it was being published by the Santa Rosa Ministerial Union, a loose coalition of churches that endorsed temperance and women’s suffrage (to some degree). The publication was deeply hated by Press Democrat editor Ernest L. Finley, who resisted any efforts to disturb the status quo. To him, the little monthly paper was the work of troublemakers and fanatics, as he denounced them in a lengthy 1909 editorial screed. But also thanks to his intense dislike, we have another little item that described some of The Citizen’s history, particularly that it had started publication prior to 1906. It is particularly tragic not to have any immediately post-earthquake editions which might fill in some of the many gaps in the story, such as why Santa Rosa senselessly locked up tons of donated food less than three weeks after the disaster. I’ll bet the ministers had a few opinions on that topic.

* THE IMPORTANCE OF QUALITY THEFT     Two crooks, but only one would’ve been able to pass the Criminal College entrance exam. But what W. H. Goodrich lacked in brains, he made up in chutzpah; in 1908 he borrowed an automobile in Oakland and drove it to Sebastopol, where he had a minor accident. Professing his disgust with the car, he sold it on the spot for about one-tenth of its retail value – the buyer being a Sebastopol police officer. Goodrich also got a horse and buggy in the deal (which he promptly sold) and also made off with some cash sent by the owner to repair the damage. Goodrich was captured some months later and sentenced to ten years at San Quentin. H. G. Robinson was as adroit as the other man was inept. Robinson claimed to be a representative of the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of England, visiting Santa Rosa in 1908 to demonstrate wireless messaging and to sell Marconi stock at $20 a share. It was all a con, of course, and before he was caught in 1909, it was believed that he had swindled suckers out of $1.5 million worldwide. District Attorneys in Sonoma and Santa Clara counties both tried to extradite him from New York, but they screwed up the paperwork. Too bad; the trial of such a high-profile crook would have put a national spotlight on Santa Rosa’s beautiful and newly-completed courthouse.

* BONFIRE OF THE HOODOOS    Well, that was quick. Not five months after gaining nationwide celebrity as the man who set fire to his “hoodoo car,” Jake Luppold leased out the Senate saloon, presumably with the charred remains of the car still hanging from the ceiling. Luppold was a gregarious man who dubbed himself the “mayor of Main street,” and the Senate was apparently the joint of choice for Santa Rosa’s movers and shakers. So why was he throwing in his bar towel? Maybe it was a health scare, maybe he was offered a deal that he couldn’t refuse; He told the Republican he “wishes to get clear away from business cares” and take a long vacation. His retirement was short; before the end of 1909 he would be running a place at Gwinn’s Corners (also spelled, “Gwynn’s Corners”), which was about three miles outside of town on the road to Healdsburg – probably the intersection of Old Redwood Highway and Mark West.


The Petaluma Courier says that at the union meeting at the Methodist Episcopal Church in that city held on Sunday evening. Dr. Whitaker announced that the Santa Rosa Ministerial Union is asking the county ministry to co-operate for the publication of a weekly paper to be established here, and which will be run “in the interests of reform.”

It has long been the ambition of the Santa Rosa Ministerial Union to have some such mouthpiece. The unfortunate experience of the original and ill-starred “Citizen” was the result of this desire. Under promise of support that failed to materialize, two young men were induced to invest their money here in such a venture several years ago. They lasted less than a year.

After that, the Ministerial Union took up the publication of the paper direct. It appeared and still appears occasionally, sometimes at intervals of several months. Ever since the fire it has been printed in San Francisco. When it came time to take up the collection at Sunday night’s opening meeting of the week of prayer, the Rev. M. H. Alexander announced that all money contributed would be devoted to paying off the debt entailed by the Ministerial Union in putting out the publication. Urgent calls for special contributions were made, but only a small portion of the sum asked for was forthcoming.

The Santa Rosa Ministerial Union comprises a majority of the ministers of the city, but not all. The Episcopal and Catholic churches are not represented. The Revs. M. H. Alexander, A. B. Patton, Wm. Martin and Leander Turney are the most active in the work of the organization, and of these the Revs. Alexander and Turney are generally credited with being the most anxious to find a place in the newspaper field.

– Press Democrat, January 5, 1909
Erwin Brothers Have Dismissal Entered in the Superior Court Here Yesterday

The injunction suit commenced in the Superior Court several days ago by Erwin Brothers, to restrain the city of Santa Rosa, its mayor, council and officials from turning off the municipal water from the grocery, has been dismissed. Yesterday afternoon, Attorney J. M. Thompson, of counsel for the plaintiffs, called at the  office of County Clerk Fred Wright and filed a request for a dismissal of the suit against the city. The judgement of dismissal was at once entered.

The dismissal of the suit followed, among other things, an agreement on the part of the landlord of the building, which the Erwin grocery and another tenant occupies, to pay the water bills. So the accounts were squared.

On the same day upon which the Erwin Brothers commenced their injunction suit S. P. Erwin, who had violated the city ordinance by turning on the water after it had been turned off by the street commissioner, was arrested upon a complaint sworn out in Police Judge Bagley’s court. Yesterday afternoon this misdemeanor charge was also dismissed. So that the incident may now be said to have been closed.

With but a few exceptions, possibly a dozen, all the patrons of the municipal water system, whose water supply was cut off two weeks ago on account of the non-payment of water bills, or who were unfortunately located in buildings with other tenants who had not paid their bills, have the water turned on again. Others are settling up and things look bright once more. Hereafter monthly settlements will be made.

– Press Democrat, March 12, 1909
Xmas Festivities at Guerneville Are Marred by Accident

Two men were seriously burned at Guerneville early Friday afternoon. One of them essayed the role of Santa Claus, and the cotton with which he had regaled his clothing for the time honored custom, caught fire from the candles on the Christmas tree.

This man was Mr. Dunn, who has been employed at the cigar factory of David Hetzel for some time past. While reaching for presents on the tree he came in contact with a lighted candle. He was badly burned about the face and hands, and may have breathed some of the flame into his lungs.

Mr. Frost, who was the first to witness the danger in which Mr. Dunn had been placed, was badly burned about the hands, while trying to tear the clothing from the body of Mr. Dunn. He likewise sustained some severe burns.

The festivities were being held at the close of the school term for the Christmas holidays. It was determined that a Christmas tree would be held to delight the children of three of the school rooms and Dunn was to be good old St. Nicholas, who would be lavish in the handing out of suitable gifts.


– Santa Rosa Republican, December 17, 1909


Joseph Forgett has returned to his home in this city after an absence of many months, and intends to remain here and possible will go into business again. He is a cement and brick mason and a man of experience in these lines. He is a brother of Councilman C. Fred Forgett, and has many friends in this city and vicinity.

– Santa Rosa Republican, April 14, 1909
Man Who Sold Dr. Gray’s Automobile to City Marshal Matthews is Sentenced

Judge J. Q. White, sitting for Superior Judge Emmet Seawell, sentenced W. H. Goodrich to serve ten years in San Quentin prison for obtaining money under false pretenses in the sale of an automobile to City Marshal Fred R. Matthews of Sebastopol, which was not his property.

The old man heard his sentence without manifesting any surprise. It was the minimum sentence the court could impose, as Goodrich had been previously sent to the State prison for [illegible microfilm]. It is believed that the old man had seen a long career of crime, and [illegible microfilm] transactions. He is well known in Oakland, San Francisco, Stockton, and Los Angeles, where he did queer work according to the reports made to the officers.

Sheriff J. K. Smith took Goodrich to San Quentin yesterday afternoon, where he began serving what will no doubt be his life sentence.

– Press Democrat, May 1, 1909

H. G. Robinson, who was arrested in New York City early in the week charged with embezzlement in connection with the disposal of stock of the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of England, a corporation, on complaint of persons in Santa Clara county, will have to answer numerous charges when he is brought back to the state for trial, according to all reports.

A complaint was sworn to before Justice A. J. Atchinson yesterday by Mrs. Emma A. Haskell of Petaluma, charging the man with mis-appropriation and embezzlement of $200, which he secured from her for the purchase of ten shares of the capital stock of the concern. According to the complaint Robinson represented himself to the plaintiff as an agent of the company and secured from her the money which was to be used in paying for ten shares of stock, but instead, it is charged, used the money for his private use.

Mrs. Haskell claims that Robinson is not an agent of the company as he represented, and that he obtained her money by false misrepresentations and fraud. It is not probable that any steps will be taken by the local authorities to secure Robinson until he has been brought back to California and has a hearing on the charges pending against him in San Jose, but when he has answered to those warrants the he will be brought back here to answer to this latest action.

Sheriff Langford of San Jose arrested Robinson in New York soon after the latter’s return from a trip abroad. It was found that there was some defect in the papers sent there from Santa Clara and the District Attorney of that county communicated with District Attorney Clarence Lea, and at the former official’s request Mrs. Haskell swore to the complaint here. Word of the issuance of the warrant in Santa Rosa and the requisition papers that are to follow was wired to the Inspector of Detectives in New York to head off Robinson’s attempt at freedom on a writ of habeas corpus.

The District Attorney of San Diego county also wants to take a whack at Robinson when he comes back to California. He sold considerable in Santa Rosa, Petaluma, and a score of other places.

It will be remembered that Robinson was arrested in San Francisco about one year ago and brought back here on complaint of J. Rhodes, who had bought $400 of his stock. He settled with Rhodes by paying back his coin and the costs, and went away.

– Press Democrat, May 15, 1909
Will Not Requisition Papers on Sonoma County Warrant–Additional Affidavits from San Jose

Sheriff Jack Smith received a telegram from New York yesterday announcing that requisition papers for the return to this county of Horace Greeley Robinson, the Marconi Wireless stock man, had been refused on the ground that the warrant was not accompanied by affidavits supporting the claim that Robinson was not an agent of the company as he represented. It will be remembered that Mrs. Haskell of Petaluma swore out a complaint in Justice A. J. Atchinson’s court here, charging Robinson with having obtained $200 from her on a purchase of some of his stock under false pretenses.

When the warrant was sent to New York from here it was at the request of the District Attorney of Santa Clara county, where Robinson sold much stock in view of the fact that there was a defect in the papers sent from that county to New York where Robinson had been arrested. District Attorney Clarence Lea naturally thought that the District Attorney of Santa Clara had secured all the necessary affidavits and evidence to support the contentions of the complaint as to Robinson’s professed official agency with the concern.

Yesterday District Attorney Lea also received word from the prosecuting attorney of Santa Clara stating that he had been apprised by wire that the San Jose hearing in New York had been postponed until May 31, and that he had already forwarded additional papers required, and hoped that Mr. Robinson would be given into the custody of Sheriff Langford and brought back to San Jose. So for the present as far as Sonoma county is concerned there will be nothing doing. Attorney Lea hopes that he will be brought back to California and placed on his trial. There are other district attorneys who wish as he does.

– Press Democrat, May 26, 1909


Eduardo Bosco of Healdsburg, who has been serving a term in the county jail here since last November, was taken to Napa Wednesday for trial on a charge of an attempt upon the life of Constable Powers of Calistoga. Bosco has repeatedly been in trouble at Healdsburg over property matters, and finally, after shooting at Constable Haigh of Healdsburg and posse, took to the hills. The next heard of him was near Calistoga, where he had stopped several travelers on the county road. When Constable Powers went to arrest him he made an attempt to shoot, but the gun only snapped. It is for this offense that he is now being taken to Napa to stand trial.

Jailer Meyers and Deputy C. A. Reynolds had to carry Bosco from his cell, as he refused to leave. Bosco put up a strong objection to going and the two men had all they could do in getting him from the cell to turn him over to Constable Powers, who came over after him.

– Press Democrat, October 7, 1909


Another business change is the leasing of “The Senate” on Main street by J. J. Luppold to J. Sarrahl, of this city. Mr. Luppold will take a rest for sometime and has not decided upon his future plans. As the man who “burned the hoodoo automobile” Luppold gained notoriety for himself all over the United States, accounts of the cremation of the car appearing in the newspapers all over the country. He also received many offers for the machine. He has run the Senate for a number of years.

– Press Democrat, April 2, 1909


Jake Luppold, the well known business man of this city, has leased the “Senate” saloon on Main street for the coming two years. Jack Sarraihl, who has been with Mr. Luppold for some time past, will take the lease and have charge of the business. Mr. Luppold has not been in good health for some time past, and wishes to get clear away from business cares. He intends going to Boyes’ Hot Springs for the coming month and will take a good rest there. Later he intends going to Missouri, the land of his birth, of which state he declares he is “exceedingly proud.” He was born at Warrenton in the “Show Me” state, and will make an extended visit with relatives and friends there.

– Santa Rosa Republican, April 1, 1909

Rejected Two Saloon Licenses and Did Other Business


The applications for saloon licenses made by Jake Luppold and Charles Miranda were rejected. The former had made application for a license for a saloon on the Petaluma road four miles south of Santa Rosa. The board had received petition from the neighborhood of the locality where the license was asked for, opposing the granting of the license. The petition opposing the granting was three or four times as large as that of the applicant, so the license was denied. Attorney Rolfe L. Thompson was employed by the petitioners opposing the granting of the license, and he appeared before the board.


– Santa Rosa Republican, August 5, 1909
J. J. Luppold is Victim of Another Man’s Alleged Dishonesty–Man Arrested

A. Burtress was arrested in Healdsburg Saturday by Constable J. H. Boswell on a charge of embezzlement, made by J. J. Luppold, and will have a hearing later. According to Luppold’s story he loaned Burtress $100 on three horses and three mules, and took a bill of sale on the animals for his security. Later Burtress is said to have sold the animals to another and failed to settle his account with Luppold. This constitutes felony embezzlement under the law.

The charge of obtaining money under false pretenses preferred against John Rose by J. J. Luppold was settled in Justice Atchinson’s court on Saturday and the case dismissed. Rose was arrested some time ago in Eureka and put up $100 cash bail. When he appeared here Saturday the $42.50, the sum he was accused of securing from Luppold, was taken from the bail, together with the costs and the case dismissed for lack of prosecution.

Despite it all the “Mayor” of Main street, where “no nickel splitters” dwell, says he is not an “E. Z. Mark.”

– Press Democrat, September 26, 1909

A deal has been consummated, whereby J. J. Luppold, former proprietor of The Senate on Main street, has purchased the saloon at Gwinn’s Corners, from Mr. Speedling. He will take possession at once. The “Mayor of Main Street” has many friends and he expects to do a big business. Mr. and Mrs. Speedling has not fully determined their future plans.

– Press Democrat, November 13, 1909

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