Looking back on it, James Wyatt Oates probably recognized the end of his world began that Christmas night in 1909, when his mother-in-law missed a step and fell. She would soon die as a result, and a few months later his beloved brother was gone. Next his wife’s heart began to falter, leaving her a semi-invalid. By the time five Christmases had passed since the accident, Wyatt found himself with no family at all, except for a nephew in Alabama he didn’t much like.
Until the accident, 1909 had been an uneventful year for Wyatt and Mattie Oates, marked only by his boyish enthusiasm for all things related to automobiles. There were no grand parties at the home that would become known as Comstock House, no anticipated trips away to visit friends in San Francisco or Southern California. When they were mentioned in the papers it was for a small dinner party or family outing, and it was almost always noted they were accompanied by her 75 year-old mother, Mrs. M. S. Solomon.
Maria S. Solomon had been a widow for 46 years and apparently had resided always with Mattie, her only living child. No photos survive and nothing personal is known about her except that she was very well liked. Both Santa Rosa newspapers gave her accident, fading condition and death the sort of coverage one would expect for a civic leader. In her honor the Saturday Afternoon Club canceled a meeting even though she was not a member. The Fork Club likewise postponed a get-together and when the card sharks of the Fork Club pass up a chance to win mismatched cutlery, you must be someone really special.
We know more about her husband, who died in 1863 when daughter Mattie was six. Perrin L. Solomon was a soldier at the very end of the Mexican-American War, serving as a Major in the Third Regiment of Tennessee Volunteers. They were in Mexico for six months and saw no combat. After that he joined the multitudes headed for the California Gold Rush, where he found a new career in law enforcement, taking in 1851 the role of marshal in a “people’s court” vigilante murder trial. A couple of years later, he was the sheriff of Tuolumne County.
Perrin was described as “quiet, low-voiced man of easy and even elegant manners, whose coolness, tact, and desperate courage had proved equal to every emergency, and who had made several hairbreadth escapes” in a 1853 account of his capture of a desperado. Solomon and his posse of twenty men brought the man into the town of Sonora, where they were confronted by “…More than a thousand men, many of them drunk or half drunk…yelling like demons, [who] pressed close upon them.” Through his “coolness and courage” Solomon saved the man from being hanged by the mob. In a similar incident, Solomon stopped a lynching by having a young lawyer distract the crowd with a grandiloquent speech as he and his deputies hustled the suspect away. From 1857 he served as the US Marshall or Vice-Marshall for the Northern District of California until he was removed from office in 1861, presumably because he was a Rebel sympathizer; Solomon was active in Tuolumne’s Democratic party and even on the cusp of the Civil War, there was a contingent calling for compromise with the Confederacy and peaceful separation. He died in 1863 in San Francisco, where he was buried.
James Wyatt Oates never met Perrin Solomon, who passed away while he was still a 13 year-old boy in Alabama. But when his long-widowed mother-in-law died in 1910, the old lawman was probably much on his mind. The family owned a burial plot in the Laurel Hill Cemetery in San Francisco, which presumably was by Perrin’s side. Should she join her husband there, or stay in Santa Rosa, where he and Mattie would eventually be laid to rest?
Oates had Maria Solomon’s coffin placed in the temporary receiving vault at the Rural Cemetery, where it would stay for the next six years. Her daughter’s body would be likewise stored in the crypt in 1914 because no grave was supposedly ready, although Oates owned a large and prominent plot at the cemetery.
What he originally planned to do with them is unknown, but after Wyatt himself died the following year, he left instructions that the entire family – including the long-buried remains of Perrin and Mattie’s siblings who had died in childhood – be cremated together and their ashes scattered. It seems to have been an impetuous decision made just a few months before his death, around the time he amended his will to disinherit that unpleasant nephew in Alabama. The man who had been left with no family must have decided to take as many as he could with him into the winds.
MRS. SOLOMON IS INJUREDFell From Porch and Tore Ligaments Loose
Mrs. M. S. Solomon, mother of Mrs. James W. Oates, met with a bad accident on Christmas night, which will cause her to be confined to her apartments for some time to come. The lady suffered a fall, and struck on her right hip in such a manner as to tear loose many of the ligaments of that member, besides severely bruising and contusing the limb. Mrs. Solomon and Judge and Mrs. James W. Oates were guests at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Blitz W. Paxton at Christmas dinner. During the evening Mrs. Solomon stepped from a slight eminence on the porch of the Paxton home and was precipitated heavily to the ground.
Dr. S. S. Bogle was called and attended to the injuries, and Mrs. Solomon was placed under the care of a trained nurse.– Santa Rosa Republican, December 27, 1909MRS. SOLOMON MEETS WITH ACCIDENT
The many friends of Mrs. M. S. Solomon, who sustained a bad fall while leaving the home of Mr. and Mrs. Blitz W. Paxton on Christmas night, will be very glad to know that she is not as seriously hurt as was at first supposed. She was resting nicely on Monday and hopes in a few days to be able to be out again. At the time of the accident it was feared that there might have been a fracture of the hip bone. Dr. S. S. Bogle was summoned and ascertained that there was no fracture. Mrs. Solomon, who has lived for many years with her son-in-law and daughter, Colonel and Mrs. James W. Oates, is one of Santa Rosa’s most highly esteemed women, and at the Oates residence since the accident the home has been besieged with anxious friends and many messages of inquiry have been received. Naturally Mrs. Solomon suffered very much from the shock caused by the fall.– Press Democrat, December 28, 1909Mrs. Solomon Better
Mrs. M. S. Solomon continues to improve from the effects of the fall she sustained on Christmas night, and her many friends are delighted to hear of the improvement.– Press Democrat, December 30, 1909
Mrs. M. S. Solomon has almost entirely recovered from the effects of her bad fall on Christmas night.– “Society Gossip,” Press Democrat, January 10, 1910
The many friends of Mrs. M. S. Solomon continue solicitous for her welfare. She is still quite ill from her recent fall and a specialist from San Francisco has been required. Hope for speedy recovery is held out for her.– “Many Social Events in City of Roses,” Santa Rosa Republican, December 30, 1909
MRS. M.S. SOLOMON CONDITION CRITICAL
The many friends of Mrs. M. S. Solomon will learn with much regret that her condition is very critical. A change for the worse occurred yesterday.– Press Democrat, January 20, 1910MRS. M.S. SOLOMON ENTERS INTO RESTGreatly Beloved Woman Passes Away at an Early Hour This Morning–Death Universally Regretted
Shortly after two o’clock this morning death came very peacefully to Mrs. M. S. Solomon at the home of her son-in-law and daughter, Colonel and Mrs. James W. Oates on Mendocino avenue.
The news of the passing of this estimable woman will be received with deepest sorrow by a legion of friends in Santa Rosa. To know Mrs. Solomon was to love her.
The esteem in which she was universally held was shown incessantly during his illness in the inquiries of friends and the great solicitation and hope that her life might be spared.
It will be remembered that on Christmas night Mrs. Solomon sustained a bad fall and injured her hip. At first it was hoped that the injuries were of a slight nature but later it developed that they were very severe. Intense pain manifested itself and it was soon realized that Mrs. Solomon’s condition was serious.
Everything that human skill and loving attention could devise was done for her. Several days ago it was apparent that Mrs. Solomon long life was shortly to close. She relapsed into unconsciousness and the slumber that lengthened on into the final sleep which has its awakening in the brighter and better world and the perfect life for which she was so well prepared.
The death of her mother is a terrible blow to Mrs. Oates and Colonel Oates. The ties that bound them together were most affectionate. For twenty nine years Mrs. Solomon’s home had been with her son-in-law and daughter, her husband having preceded her to the grave many years ago…In the hour of bereavement the family is remembered in tenderest sympathy.– Press Democrat, January 21, 1910MRS. M.S. SOLOMON’S FUNERAL ON SUNDAY
The funeral of the late Mrs. M. S. Solomon will take place on Sunday afternoon at 2 o’clock from the residence of Colonel and Mrs. J. W. Oates, on Mendocino Avenue, and it will undoubtedly be very largely attended by her friends.
Temporarily the casket will repose in the vault at the cemetery and there will be no interment on Sunday afternoon.
Seldom has there been a more general expression of regret than that felt at the passing of Mrs. Solomon, and yesterday the Oates residence was besieged by friends desirous of extending their condolence with those bereaved.– Press Democrat, January 22, 1910
The death of Mrs. M. S. Solomon has cast a gloom over everything of a social nature in this city. She was dearly beloved by all who knew her and there exists a general feeling among her hosts of friends that no pleasure can be experienced close upon her death. Owing to the love the officers and members of the Saturday Afternoon Club hold for her, although not a member herself, that club postponed the meeting it had scheduled for today. Mrs. C. C. Belden, for like reason, postponed entertaining the Fork Club from next week to the week following, and other affairs that were expected for next week, the week but one before the beginning of lent, will not occur. Many friends of the deceased and of Mr. and Mrs. James W. Oates have called at the Oates residence and offered their services in any way they may be used in this hour of bereavement, and they are thoroughly appreciated by Mr. and Mrs. Oates.– “Many Social Events in City of Roses,” Santa Rosa Republican, January 22, 1910LOVING TOKENS OF DEEP SYMPATHYLarge Gathering of Friends at the Funeral of the Late Mrs. M. S. Solomon
Scores of magnificent floral tributes, each bearing its message of devotion and loving sympathy, surrounded the casket containing the mortal remains of the late Mrs. M. S. Solomon, as it reposed in the spacious drawing room at the residence of Colonel and Mrs. J. W. Oates on Sunday afternoon, at the time of the impressive funeral services.
There was a very large gathering of old friends of the deceased despite the heavy storm. In the company were those who had known and loved Mrs. Solomon for many years. Then there were those of younger years to whom she had been friend and counselor and always deeply interested in their welfare. It was a very sad afternoon for all.
The funeral service was conducted by the Rev. William Martin, and at its conclusion the beautiful casket was conveyed to the cemetery and there placed in the receiving vault. The active pallbearers were…– Press Democrat, January 25, 1910