SANTA ROSA HIGH SCHOOL VERSION 2.1

Happy 140th birthday, Santa Rosa High School! Or maybe it’s really the 137th, as the high school was discontinued between 1880-1882, but hey, when you’ve got that many candles on the cake, it’s okay to be a little fuzzy on the particulars.

The current high school is the town’s third; the original was the Fourth street public school that taught children of all grades (it was at the current location of Fremont Park to Brookwood Avenue). When that became too crowded in 1895 they built a school just for high school students on Humboldt street, the same location as today’s Santa Rosa Charter School for the Arts. It took Santa Rosa only fifteen years to outgrow that place.

(RIGHT: Santa Rosa High School Annex, 1941. Image courtesy Sonoma County Library)

There was nothing wrong with the Humboldt street high school – it rode out the 1906 earthquake with no reported damage – but it was just too small.

“Visit, if you will, the present High School building and see for yourself the crowded condition of the classrooms,” Probation Officer John Plover was quoted in the Santa Rosa Republican. “You will find there two classes stuffed in one corner of the basement in a place never intended for class rooms, where there would be small chance of escape in case of fire or quake.”

Plover was speaking at a 1911 alumni meeting seeking to drum up support for a municipal bond to buy the land next door to the south and build an annex. Mention “school annex” today and it probably calls to mind temporary buildings, trailers, and similar cheap-but-quick solutions. What Santa Rosa wanted to build was a state-of-the-art education center that would serve all schools in local districts for decades. It would have a gymnasium/auditorium that could seat 1,000, a stage, shower rooms for both boys and girls, even classrooms dedicated to teaching typewriting and “household sciences.” A large playground with a quarter-mile track would lend a campus atmosphere to the grounds. The drawback: All this would cost the eye-popping sum of $80,000, about one-fifth of what was spent on the sprawling and palatial county courthouse a few years earlier. That was a LOT of money to ask voters to approve for a mere annex to an existing school.

Amazingly, the bond measure passed with apparently no squawk. By contrast, the 1923 bond to build our current high school faced a citizen’s lawsuit that threw the town into uproar, and that was to pay for a new school which was urgently needed because the Humboldt street high school had burned down – more about that in a following article.

The Santa Rosa High School Annex was designed by architect W. H. Weeks (William Henry Weeks), who created hundreds of similar nice, sturdy buildings around Northern California, including our beloved Mendocino Ave. high school about a decade later. His drawing, shown below, appeared in both local newspapers in advance of the bond vote, and amusingly shows the building at the intersection of two great boulevards. The actual Humboldt street that we all know and love is so narrow that bicyclists could be imperiled if drivers try to pass (or so say bicyclists).

The Annex remained part of the high school even after the new building was opened at the present location. In 1942 it was christened the Santa Rosa Junior High School, which it remained until it was demolished c. 1970. A neighbor who still lives across the street watched bemused as crews of workmen struggled to tear it down; it was so well built, he says, the demolition contractor lost a bundle on the project. Should the city ever decide “progress” demands we get rid of the current high school – still going strong despite 90 years of continuous use – bring a sturdy lawn chair and a mountain of popcorn. It’s gonna be a loooong show.

DESCRIPTION OF THE NEW ANNEX
Features of Proposed New Structure to Be Added to Santa Rosa’s School Equipment

The plans for the proposed new high school annex to be erected on the lots on Humboldt street adjoining the high school on the south, call for a very artistic structure, which gives promise of providing many of the necessities which the high school has been in need of for some years past.

The new structure is to face west…and will have a basement and two stories. The exterior will be rather plain but the interior will be fittingly for the various purposes for which it is intended.

The basement will have girls’ dressing and sanitary rooms with showers and all other conveniences on the north front and the duplicate for boys on the south front. On the east will be the household science department with dining room, pantry, lockers, sewing room, fitting room, drying room, janitor’s quarters, lumber and storerooms, heaters, motor for circulation, teachers’ room, lockers, etc.

The main floor, or first floor above the basement, will include a commodious gymnasium or auditorium with vaulted ceiling through the second floor surrounded on the second floor with balconies for use in seating spectators during exercises of various kinds and various indoor sports. This will be one of the features of the building and will provide the long-desired quarters for all kinds of gatherings in connection with the schools of the city.

There will also be three commodious class rooms on the first floor with an apparatus room, girls’ and boys’ cloak rooms, corridors, and a suitable stage with all modern conveniences for presenting dramatic plays, etc.

In addition to the balconies on the second floor for the auditorium or gymnasium there will be four class rooms, teacher’s room and typing room, in addition to corridors, cloak rooms, and necessary closets, etc.

The exterior of the building will be of concrete plaster with terra cotta cornice and trimmings for doors and windows. There will be a double entrance in front–one on each end of the building–while other entrances are provided for the north and south sides of the structure.

[..]
– Press Democrat, November 19, 1911

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ELECTION 1910: A NEW WIND IS BLOWING

Forget Democrat and Republican, even liberal and conservative rivalry; the 1910 California elections were all about the Regulars vs. Insurgents.

Sonoma County politics shifted leftward for the first time, marking an end to the era when our ancestors voted as if we were some West Coast outpost of the Solid South, yearning for a return of the good ol’ days of Dixie. But first, some background:

The “insurgents” (and yes, candidates proudly called themselves “insurgents”) were progressives who wanted political reform – more direct participation in government by voters, an end to “bosses” controlling cities and a stop to the state legislature being controlled by the Southern Pacific railroad. They wanted conservation of land and water. They wanted women’s suffrage, better schools and prison reform, and more. Most people with such sympathies were Republicans in the vein of ex-President Teddy Roosevelt and loosely organized around the state into chapters of the Lincoln–Roosevelt League, which promoted candidates wanting to reform the state Republican party. One wee problem: The Republican party liked the status quo and thought themselves to be fine fellows in no need of reform. This difference of opinion led to many quiet discussions, such as the incident (transcribed below) when a Leaguer tried to participate in the Central Committee meeting in Santa Rosa and was invited to choose between leaving or being promptly thrown out.

The “regulars” were…not insurgents. Examples can be found of newspapers using the term to precisely describe “machine” Republicans as those who voted as ordered by party leaders or Southern Pacific’s lobbyist, but other examples can be found where it was used to describe any politicians not in the League, including Democrats. The Press Democrat sometimes appeared to use “regulars” to mean something like “the public at large.”

It’s important to understand that insurgents were not viewed as bomb-throwing radicals or even a new player on the political scene. Some of their ideas had already become state law, such as political parties choosing candidates by open primaries instead of backroom deals (although Santa Rosa probably violated the law in its municipal elections earlier that year). Even the conservative Press Democrat, which had viciously attacked reformers in past years, published no snarky editorials about the insurgents and even taunted an incumbent for voting against reform legislation.

And although Santa Rosa was usually a forlorn rural outpost on the political map, in 1910 it was a crossroads for election year activity. Two controversial “machine” Republicans came from Santa Rosa and the Democratic candidate for governor, Theodore Bell, was treated like the town’s favorite son (although he really hailed from Napa). The Republican opposing Bell was one of the founders of the Lincoln–Roosevelt League, Hiram Johnson, and he had a Santa Rosa link as well; as a top San Francisco criminal lawyer, he was originally expected to defend Dr. Burke at his trial for attempted murder and remained on the defense team even as he campaigned for governor.

Bell is an interesting politician to study: He was a feckless Democrat who always seemed out of step with the parade. We first met him in 1904, for example, when he was running for reelection to the House of Representatives and hoping to appeal to Democratic party reactionaries by touting his endorsement from Morris Estee, who had been associated with some of the most racist legislation in state history. When Bell ran for governor two years later, he was transformed into an ultra-progressive reformer; when he tried again for governor in 1918, he was an anti-Woodrow Wilson independent. He switched to the Republican party after that but died before he could roll the dice under their banner.

The Press Democrat – which always supported Bell, no matter what he was running for (and losing at) – relentlessly promised readers his 1910 victory was assured; one editorial item blurted, “by the time Theodore Bell gets through with Hiram Johnson there will not be enough left of the latter gentleman to make even a political grease spot.” Sonoma County was one of the few counties Bell won in 1910 – although his victory here was by only a couple of hundred votes – and Johnson easily won by six points statewide (the Socialist party candidate captured over 12 percent of the vote).

It was a year when voters favored fresh faces: insurgents good, incumbents bad. And although Bell hadn’t held public office since 1904 and talked like an insurgent himself, he had chaired the Democratic convention in 1908 and his name was so often in the Bay Area newspapers that Average Joe Voter probably believed he was some sort of elected official. He was a sharp contrast to State Senator Walter Price (R-Santa Rosa), who seemed to fade into the woodwork after each election was over.

Price, who was profiled here earlier, was a flunky for Southern Pacific (it was even said by some newspapers that he was spying on his party’s caucus for the company). He was apparently one of Santa Rosa’s real estate wheeler-dealers, which is probably the main reason he kept getting reelected. But in 1910 the Press Democrat ripped Price for his anti-democracy voting pattern, where he opposed more oversight of the railroads, opposed open primary voting for party candidates, opposed the election of United States senators by direct vote of the people, and opposed women’s right to vote. The PD instead endorsed Louis Julliard, a civic leader who was instrumental in forming the local National Guard Company E (and was, incidentally, another attorney who read law under James Wyatt Oates). The PD – which had never seemed to care before about Price’s connections to the railroad and had laughed at the 1908 notions that Santa Rosa had its own cabal of bosses running the show – was suddenly interested in linking him to machine politics. Although Julliard didn’t run as a reform candidate, Price was defeated, 41 to 52 percent.

A word should be said here about Louis Julliard, along with another freshman to the state legislature that year: Herbert Slater, the former City Editor for the Press Democrat, who would serve in  office until his death, 37 years later. Slater was mentioned earlier for his memorable speech on the 1906 Santa Rosa earthquake, which remains the most important first-hand account of what really happened. He and Julliard will probably never be mentioned again in this journal because their years in public service were untainted by corruption or scandal. The next time you pass Herbert Slater Middle School or Julliard Park – which was the old Julliard family homestead and donated to the city by Louis’ brother – salute Herb and Louis for jobs well done and for being remarkably un-newsworthy. You will appreciate their integrity even more after reading the story below.

The insurgents hated Southern Pacific, and not far behind in their scorn was President Taft, whom many believed was undoing the conservation legacy of Teddy Roosevelt. In a series of muckraking articles published in Collier’s Weekly, it was charged that Taft’s administration was about to hand over the vast coal deposits on federally-protected land in the Alaskan Territory – worth an estimated $3.5 billion, or about one-tenth of the entire national GDP for 1910 – to a private syndicate controlled by J. P. Morgan and the Guggenheim brothers. The vision was that with an almost unlimited supply of cheap coal, San Francisco could be transformed into a new Pittsburgh. Take a moment and picture the Bay Area with great iron works shoulder-to-shoulder churning out heavy black smoke from blast furnaces.

With fortunes at stake, even owning a tiny, tiny, piece of the coal field action would make one filthy, filthy rich, and a man named Harry White held several claims. White was also the player with the political connections to make the enormous project happen. He had organized the “Taft Clubs” in California before the president’s election and was rumored to have been responsible for the appointment of the Secretary of the Interior, who was the key to pushing the deal through. White had also sold shares in his syndicate at the giveaway price of $10 to several West Coast politicians, including California Governor Gillett – and three-term Rep. Duncan McKinlay (R-Santa Rosa).

Since his election to Congress in 1904, McKinlay had been known for three things: His hatred for Japanese and Korean immigrants, his allegiance to Taft, and for burying constituents in the district under a mountain of bulletins, newsletters, and government documents mailed from his Congressional office. He became a personal friend of the president when he was part of the delegation that visited Japan in 1905 with Taft (then Secretary of War) and on returning he joined another Congressman in beating the drum for legislation to exclude the Japanese and Koreans – while he didn’t invent the racist slur “yellow peril,” he damn near wore it out. (MORE on the anti-Japanese hysteria.)

Being associated with the biggest scandal of the day just before an election is never a good thing, and McKinlay tried to change the subject; while investigations were underway into the controversy over the Interior Secretary and the Alaskan coal fields, McKinlay was fearmongering that America was threatened by an “Asiatic industrial invasion” in the form of cheap imported cotton. It didn’t work. McKinlay failed to even make it to the general election, losing by 17 percentage points in the Republican primary to William Kent, one of the leaders of the Lincoln–Roosevelt League and a Marin County philanthropist who had recently donated some of his property for the creation of Muir Woods.

McKinlay was one of four Congressmen closely allied to President Taft who lost, and his foes were quick to gloat: The Los Angeles Herald editorialized, “Among the first to fall victims to the insurgent simoon [“poison wind”], Duncan McKinlay proposes to be one of the last to become reconciled. He is bitter in his thoughts of ingrate California, for which he secured so much pork.” Even the Santa Rosa Republican – the paper of record for his own political party – offered a takedown written by Tom Gregory with the subhed,  “Duncan E. McKinlay Clinging to His Fetich–the Discredited Standpatism” (“fetich” here means, “irrational devotion to some activity”).

After his defeat McKinlay proved his party loyalty by campaigning for other Taft allies on the East Coast, ending the summer with several days as Taft’s guest at the summer White House. He was rewarded by being offered the choice of two patronage jobs that paid $5,000/yr for doing nothing: Assistant postmaster general or surveyor of the port of San Francisco. He chose the latter, and spent the remaining four years of his life giving the occasional bitter speech and writing a small book about the Panama Canal. Naturally, he dedicated it to Taft and warned that the Canal will be essential if the Navy ever needs to defend the West Coast from an Asian invasion.

The final political item for 1910 is certainly the oddest, and comes close to “Believe it or Not!” territory. It also shows that although the insurgents beat up the regulars that year, the non-progressives still had spunk.

It seems that one seat in the state assembly was certain to go to the winner of the Republican primary, as no one had stepped forward to run as a Democrat. On the Republican ballot was James Hamilton, an insurgent, and Dr. F. H. Phillips, a dentist from Petaluma. Hamilton won easily but while they were counting votes, county officials discovered a strange thing: There were 25 write-in votes for Phillips – on Democratic ballots.

Phillips seemed genuinely shocked that he had been drafted into the Democratic party, and declined the nomination. In the weeks remaining before the general election, both Santa Rosa papers were peppered with items about the issue: Was his ad hoc nomination legal? Will he serve, if elected? Can his name be prevented from appearing on the ballot? The state Attorney General was asked to rule on the matter and yes, Dr. Phillips was a genuine candidate for office.

Dr. Phillips apparently had a subsequent change of heart, and decided he wouldn’t be so upset at having a “D” after his name as long as it came with “Assemblyman” in front of it. The Press Democrat jumped on board and declared Phillips was “a thoroughly ‘live wire'” and intended to make a “vigorous fight for election.” He told the PD, “I do not consider that I was defeated for the nomination by the Republicans, but by Insurgents– the Lincoln-Roosevelters,” and “Should the people by any unforeseen reason see fit to elect me to act as their representative, I will consider myself in duty bound to accept that office…”

In the end the insurgent won, 51 to 40 percent. But it was no small feat that the reluctant Democrat still pulled in almost 1,800 votes, which surely was every voter who viewed the League with anathema. That makes that race kind of a referendum on political sentiments in 1910 Santa Rosa, and the 51:40 result shows the town was finally joining mainstream America in the progressive era. Barely.

NO LINCOLN-ROOSEVELTERS WANTED BY REPUBLICANS
Rolfe L. Thompson Is Ordered to Leave the Meeting
Representatives of Regular Organization, in Meeting Assembled, Read Supporters of Hiram Johnson Out of the Party–Both Sides Give Their Version of Sensational Incident

Rolfe L. Thompson, chairman of the Lincoln-Roosevelt League organization in Sonoma county, attempted to break in at the meeting of the Republican County Central Committee held in Germania hall in this city yesterday as the holder of a proxy for a member of the committee. He was plainly told that a “Lincoln-Roosevelter is not a Republican,” and therefore had no business at a Republican meeting any more than a member of any other party in direct opposition to Republicanism.

Thompson went to the committee meeting holding the proxy of W. L. Cunningham of Bodega, a member of the Central Committee. He went there seeking a seat in the conference as a Republican, he said, and a lifelong one at tht. He was given to understand that his presence was not desired, and he was given the preference by Chairman S. S. Bogle, either to retire gracefully or else with assistance. He retired quietly from the hall, and left with the words of the chairman ringing in his ears: “This is not a Lincoln-Roosevelt meeting, this is a Republican meeting.”

The news of the throwing down of the gauntlet spread quickly outside the hall and throughout the afternoon and evening the rebuke administered to the Lincoln-Roosevelt committeeman was freely discussed.

When seen after he had left the meeting of the Central Committee at Germania Hall, Mr. Thompson had this to say of what had transpired:

“W. J. Cunningham, Republican County Central Committeeman from Bodega, sent me his proxy, together with a letter, saying: “You represent the Republican principles which this precinct endorses, and I wish you would accept this proxy and vote it for us.” He also added that it seemed queer that the Committee should have asked all who could not attend to make their proxy out in blank and return it for the use of the Committee… [after] I quietly retired, Dr. Bogle immediately proceeded to make a speech endorsing the Southern Pacific in glowing terms, and declaring that Hiram Johnson was not a Republican.

“I construe the manner of enforcing the rule as an exhibition of the strongest antipathy on the part of the chairman and a majority of the committee toward insurgent Republicanism, and an evidence of loyalty to the old machine method of doing politics, with an evident submission on the part of many of the Southern Pacific dominance in politics…”

– Press Democrat, July 2, 1910
“HELP WALTER PRICE OUT”

Under the suggestive heading above quoted, the Analy Standard calls upon all progressive Republicans to rally to the support of the Hon. Walter F. Price, recognized representative of the machine element in this county and paid field captain of the organization at large. “He certainly has a hard fight,” says our Sebastopol exchange, “and Republicans should lay aside personal feelings, if they have any, and see that Price is elected.”

Walter Price will be “helped out” all right, but not in the way the Standard means. He will be helped out of office by the votes of a good many hundred citizens who do not approve of the course he has followed while in office, and who resent his present effort to pose as a reformer, now that he has seen the way the wind is listing.

Walter is a political purist who has merely been “off his feed,” we are assured by the Standard, but he is now all right and can be depended upon to settle down and pull his full share of the load of political enlightenment.

Wouldn’t it jar you?

For years Walter Price has been the man to whom practically all the detail work of the machine in this county has been entrusted. And his vote could always be depended upon when it came to putting a machine measure through. During the last session he fought the direct primary, voted against the removal of the party circle, flatly opposed the election of United States senators by direct vote of the people, fought and voted against the initiative, referendum and recall, was against the Stetson law making the Railroad Commission effective, and dodged the vote on the measure ordering a continuance of the investigation into freight and express charges as now prevailing in this state.

Such a valuable man has been Senator Price to the Republican machine, that for years he has been provided with a steady position, first in the county, then in the district, and next in the state, which would enable him to travel about at public expense and keep track of what was going on, at the same time attending to any little details in the work of the organization that happened to require attention.

He recently went far out of his way to write a fullsome letter to the voters of Alameda county and with tears dripping off his typewriter told them Senator Leavitt was the greatest statesman of his time, and if they failed to re-elect that worthy the county of Alameda would never recover from the effects of its short-sightedness. Senator Leavitt is the recognized head and front of the machine, and Price is his ardent supporter. But the voters of Alameda failed to heed the kindly advice of Sonoma county’s Senator, and repudiated Leavitt at the primaries.

And the voters of Sonoma county will render a similar verdict at the polls regarding Senator Price next month.

They will “help Walter Price out” on or about the 8th prox.

– Press Democrat editorial, October 23, 1910
PHILLIPS NOT DISQUALIFIED AND HE WILL MAKE THE RUN
Lincoln-Roosevelters Try to Have His Name Kept off the Ballot
Candidate for Assemblyman in the Thirteenth District Issues Statement Defining His Position and Says He Was Not Defeated by “Republicans” But by “Insurgents”

The news that Dr. F. H. Phillips of Petaluma had decided to make the race for the Assembly in the Thirteenth District, as first published in yesterday morning’s Press Democrat, stirred the local representatives of the Lincoln-Roosevelt League to prompt activity.

In an effort to find some way to prevent Dr. Phillips from qualifying as a candidate, Rolfe L. Thompson and other held an informal conference yesterday morning, and later in the day called at the office of County Clerk Fred L. Wright and argued the matter of the latter’s right to place the name of Dr. Phillips on the official ballot, peremptorily demanding that the name be taken off.

A display of the certification received from the Secretary of State’s office which practically amounts to an order to print the names of the various nominees for state offices in on the ballot, soon put an end to this discussion, and then the contention was raised that, having filed no expense account, Dr. Phillips would not be eligible to receive a certificate of nomination.

Thompson wanted to know if the Clerk’s Office would take an informal opinion from one of the Superior Judges as authority for leaving the name off the ballot, but the reply was that such an opinion would not be sufficient authority for stopping the printing presses and taking any chances on the ballots not being ready in time. Thompson then reiterated his demand that Phillips’ name be left off the ballot, and the County Clerk appealed to the office of District Attorney Clarence F. Lea for advice. Assistant District Attorney George W. Hoyle ruled that there was nothing in Thompson’s contention, and then communicated with Attorney General U. S. Webb by telephone, who promptly ruled that as Dr. Phillips had not been a candidate for the Democratic nomination, he did not have to file an expense account. The gist of Attorney General Webb’s opinion is as follows:

“The fact that Dr. Phillips did not file an expense account as a Republican candidate cuts no figure, under the existing circumstances, because he was defeated for the nomination and did not become the Republican nominee. He could not receive a certificate of nomination as a Republican, anyway. And as he was not an aspirant for the Democratic nomination, but became the nominee of the Democratic party involuntarily, he could not be required to file an expense account as a Democratic candidate…”

– Press Democrat, October 26, 1910
A STANDPATTER AND HE IS PROUD OF IT
Duncan E. McKinlay Clinging to His Fetich–the Discredited Standpatism

Editor Petaluma Courier: I take my typewriter in hand (both hands) to let you knox–(this machine doesn’t seem to be a good speller) know we are having good weather, and also a number of other things. I assume you have cuts from the same brand of weather, also similar other things, as a difference of sixteen minutes of latitude between Petaluma and Santa Rosa cannon perceptibly vary their two barometer readings. Chief among the “other things” is the lively anticipation of employing a new man for the Second Congressional District’s work in Washington for the next two years. Workman Duncan E. McKinlay during his terms of service there has done–oh, wel-l-l-l, “purty well;” but we fear he has failed to fit himself for and into the changes that have taken place around him. We don’t accuse Mr. McKinlay of Ripvanwinkling our time away–he could not have been profoundly asleep while the momentous  events were thundering by, especially when the Special Interests Overlords were loudly celebrating the passage of the Tariff Bill, and the heretofore fulminating Cannon was beginning to shrink in sound to a popgun and in size to the caliber of a derringer. It must be that Mr. McKinlay stood immutable in his dark little niche hugging his fetich of a pastday standpatism to his breast, and to him–pale devotee of a discredited faith–there came no conception of change. Whatever mighty spell was laid upon Mr. McKinlay, numbing his faculties and leaving him reactionary and dreaming, he has not awakened to a true appreciation of his place in the rear column of the world’s great onward movement. In his speech here Saturday evening he burst out exultingly–“I’m a standpatter and proud of it.” He certainly is still asleep and talking in it.

The standpatter as Mr. McKinlay views him and pictures him forth, also smacks of the somnolent, as Mr. McKinlay makes him beautiful as a dream. As the speaker described the ‘patters and their marches and countermarches through the lobbies and chambers of the capitol during the last session of Congress, a puissant host of Trust defenders, one is reminded of the etheralized squadron of archangels in Dore’s Paradise Lost. In his word delineation of an insurgent Mr. McKinlay does not continue closely along the Miltonic line and give us “a goblin damned,” or “archangel ruined,” but he throws on the canvas a composite creature of treachery, vindictiveness, and selfishness, shading down to ingratitude, presumptiousness and mole-blindness. Blending these elements will produce the standpatter’s ideal insurgent, viz: “A fellow who won’t agree with us, therefore, a fellow accursed.”

He dates the birth of the insurgent. A new thing. Sprung full-armed with weapon of unholy warfare suddenly unto being when Mr. McKinlay, Mr. Aldrich, Mr. Payne and others were busy revising the tariff. Says: “Within the great Republican party thus grew the rebellion that would seek to destroy it.” It is difficult to tell which is less accurate, McKinlay’s conception of the standpatter or his version of an insurgent.

Duncan E. McKinlay’s imagination needs repair. When the great corporate interests protected by the almost limitless power of their almost limitless wealth, and further protected by a protective tariff, banded themselves into trusts for the pirating and the plundering and the destroying of weaker competitors in the heretofore free fields of commerce, insurgency reappeared. That was not the day of its birth. It was born far down the centuries. The hut of the insurgent was always close to the tyrant’s palace. Greece would lay aside her classics, leave her academies to insurge till again she was free…Insurgency is older than Mr. McKinlay.

Mr. Editor, this evening in Petaluma you will hear Mr. McKinlay make the peculiar statements he has been making over this Congressional District. He will read detached sentences from the published utterances of Mr. William Kent, his opponent, and from a false premise will argue to a conclusion utterly foreign to Kent’s meaning. He will continue to say that Kent is a freetrader and is desirous of destroying the tariff, and this in the face of the fact that Kent is saying in his travels over the district, “I desire, as does President Taft, to put on the books a tariff law, that is gotten up for the welfare of the WHOLE NATION by DISINTERESTED and expert men.”

Kent meant, NOT BY A BAND OF TARIFF TINKERS IN THE INTEREST OF SPECIAL INTERESTS. What’s the matter with that? Kent is further saying: “I believe in a heavy tariff on luxuries, wines, liquors and tobacco, and I believe in a tariff that will put new industries on their feet, provided they can ultimately stand on their feet.”

[..]

Mr. McKinlay says Kent is a dreamer. From the foregoing anybody may see that he dreams bully dreams. He also claims that Kent has not been in California long enough to change his shirt. Mr. Kent came to this state from his native Illinois in 1871, and was changing his shirt twelve years in California before Mr. McKinlay left his native Canada. He persists in giving an incorrect version of Mr. Kent’s repeatedly expressed views on Single Tax, Conservation and “log rolling.” He complains of Pinchot coming out to California to make speeches, forgetting how many weeks he himself was absent from his seat in the House of Representatives making speeches in Missouri and other states of the Middle West. He intimates that conservation is not vital in California just now as one-fourth of her forest area is conserved…Speaking in one of his House speeches (franked by mail to this state for campaign uses) of the economical and business methods practiced in the conduct of the postoffice delartment, he does not refer to the 1909 postal deficit of $17,500,000 nor to Wells-Fargo’s net profit that year of $24,800,000 and to the fact that Uncle Sam pays the railroads three times as much rent for a car than does the express company…Mr. McKinlay bitterly complains of the withdrawal of public lands from entry by actual settlers, but he does not explain that this was a measure taken by the government (the Taft government) to block the wholesale grabbing of vast tracts of land by power-site, timber, coal, oil and other corporations through the usual fraudulent methods. He also complains of the government selling the timber in the National forests, but he does not explain that the purchasers generally are private mill owners and are in competition with the great Lumber Trust–and no Trust can abide competition, but surely Mr. McKinlay is not stumping his district for the Lumber Trust. His observations on State management of State Forests are wholly misleading, and do not arise to the merit of notice. Even the chipmunks in the California trees know that William Kent, the man who purchased and presented the notable Muir Woods to the people as theirs forever, will not advocate a measure that will not be for the true conservation of the forests and natural resources of this State….

…Mr. McKinlay points self-congratulatory to the many public buildings and other appropriations he had extracted from a reluctant national treasury. Certainly a servant, be he porter or president, may hope to receive and may receive the gratitude and even a gratuity over and above his regular remuneration, but he is hardly hustified in demanding either or both donations, or holding up to view the gifts from the United States Treasury to the Second Congressional District of California, as the direct result of his overtime labor in the service of said District. Where does a Congressman’s duty absolute end and his volunteer work begin? But Mr. McKinlay’s requisition for ultra-appreciation might be forgiven him if he had not stepped aside to sneer at a fellow citizen whose only offense is exercising the prerogative of seeking election to an office which is desired by Mr. McKinlay. He says Mr. Kent has “lily-white hands,” consequently will not get postoffice buildings and such. Bill Kent’s “lily-white hands” have been soiled in the honorable toil of turning rascals out of high places and turning those places to the possession of the people again. Mr. McKinlay is very unfortunate in his choice of terms. The cry of “party pork barrel” comes from a growing belief that a man in Washington may sidestep Duty and People and then ride home with a suitcase of appropriations–pork-and all will be well. Kent promises faithful service to this district, to the State, and to the Republic, but he is not making his fight on promises of “pork.”

Mr. McKinlay’s sins of omission committed while making speeches are many.

TOM GREGORY

– Santa Rosa Republican, August 11, 1910

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THE HISTORICAL RELIC THAT WASN’T

For a flagpole to merit its own postcard, it had better be a darn special flagpole. And the old pole at the Sonoma plaza – which in 1846 first flew the Bear Flag of the California Republic, then a few months later, the first U.S. flag over the new state – was such an important historical artifact that there were (at least) two postcards of it, one without even any kind of flag waving from the top. For more than sixty years after statehood, every Admission Day (September 9 – mark your calendar!) brought out a grizzled veteran of the Bear Flag Revolt to solemnly raise the stars and stripes once again up that venerated old stick.

Yes sir, the Bear Flag flagpole was really something special – until it fell over and everyone discovered it wasn’t the fabled relic after all.

(RIGHT: 1907 postcard. Image courtesy Sonoma County Library)

The winds that blasted through the Sonoma Valley in the spring of 1910 caused enormous destruction, blowing down barns and tearing off roofs. But most lamented by the Press Democrat was the lost flagpole: “One feature of the damage done that is most regretted perhaps is the demolition of the old flag pole upon which the Bear Flag was raised, familiarly known as the ‘Bear Flag Pole’ so interesting to visitors.” Then a few days later, a letter from William Boggs arrived on the desk of PD editor Finley.

William M. Boggs was one of the most memorable “pioneers” in Sonoma County, and not only because he seemed to know everyone significant in early California; Boggs also liked to write, particularly about historical errors. We met him earlier when he wrote to the Press Democrat and corrected mistaken ideas about the Petaluma Adobe. Now he was clearing up facts about the flagpole – and because he was William Boggs, it was natural that he was also a participant in the story.

The flagpole that fell down, Boggs wrote, was a replacement made by the Americans. The real “Bear Flag Pole” was smaller and stood about fifty feet away from the current location. Nor did anyone regard it as important at the time; “It was finally taken down and cast aside and some boys cut it up for fire wood,” Boggs wrote.

Boggs stated the new pole was erected by George Stoneman, then a lieutenant, while Sonoma was still being used as a U.S. Army presidio. (Stoneman was posted to Sonoma 1849‑1851.) It was near Boggs’ house where Stoneman’s men dressed a redwood log to become the new flagpole, but that’s not why Boggs remembered it so well.

It seems that one day while the log was still lying on blocks he went for a buggy ride with a lady. While they were returning to the plaza, he heard pounding hoofbeats; the soldiers who had been drilling outside of town had decided to race back to their barracks, and in the lead was Major General Philip Kearney holding the bridle reins in his iron hook, his left arm having been amputated during the War with Mexico. “His horse leaped a wide mud-hole in the middle of the street and passed me at a break-neck speed,” Boggs wrote. The mule pulling his buggy panicked and Boggs lost control. It ran into the plaza with Boggs and his lady friend bouncing along behind. The mule headed for the log and jumped over it.

The leap was a high one, carrying the buggy over the top of the big log, the step of the buggy plowing through the bark. The sudden shock broke the top off of the buggy and the lady went over the back of the seat into the top of the buggy.

 
No one was hurt (surprisingly enough) and Boggs concluded, “…and that is why I remember the flag staff.” Well, I should say so.

Boggs was a soldier during the Mexican-American War, so he wasn’t around during the Bear Flag Revolt. But a participant in the uprising shared Boggs’ interest in historical accuracy, and wrote the Press Democrat to clarify another disputed point: When was the Bear Flag actually raised?

It’s well established that the key event was when the Bear Flaggers took prisoners of General Mariano Vallejo and other Mexican officers in Sonoma, and that indisputably happened June 14, 1846. But was the “California Republic” actually flying by the end of that day? Writing in his 1886 History of California series, Hubert Howe Bancroft thought it doubtful:

The balance of testimony is therefore in a sense in favor of the 14th; but the evidence is very slight indeed; and it must be regarded as doubtful whether the insurgents had time on that Sunday afternoon to devise, manufacture, and hoist their new banner; especially if, as some say, the halyards were broken, so that the flag-staff in the plaza had to be lowered and raised again.

The Americans were really, really interested in what was taking place over in Sonoma and the commander of the sloop of war “Portsmouth,” anchored in Sausalito, sent a small party of soldiers to find out what was going on. The report written June 17 had the first mention of the flag: “The insurgent party has hoisted a flag with a white field, with a border or stripe of red on its lower part, and having a star and bear upon it.” So we know the flag went up sometime between June 14-17.

(RIGHT: 1910 postcard. Image courtesy Sonoma County Library)

Bear Flagger Henry Beeson, however, wrote the PD to state the flag was indeed raised the first day. (His letter, transcribed below, only also appeared in a small regional magazine and may be of interest to genealogists and local historians.) Beeson died in 1914, making him the last survivor of the Bear Flag Party. He made his final public appearance in 1908, raising a facsimile of the Bear Flag from the facsimile flag pole, and yes, there was a postcard of the occasion.

The flagpole bonafides and flag-raising date are not the only bits of misinformation about the Bear Flag Revolt. Aside from the 1906 Santa Rosa earthquake, I have not explored another story where every book, article, and web page seems to have so many mistakes. (An accurate, but basic history of the Bear Flag Revolt can be found at the bearflagmuseum.org web site.) For example, the artist who painted the original flag, William L. Todd, is always mentioned as being a relative to Mary Todd (Mrs. Abraham) Lincoln, but he’s identified  as a nephew in some places and others as a cousin (he was a first cousin and her same age). In the semi-official “Story of the Bear Flag” written in 1911 when it was designated as the official state flag, our own hometown historian Tom Gregory went further and claimed Mr. Todd’s middle name was “Lincoln,” which would have shown his parents to be prescient – the future president was only nine years old when little William L. was born.

Gregory’s entire account is enjoyable reading as long as you keep in mind that it is roughly equal parts well-known fact and humorous bullshit. While it’s true later commentators said that Todd’s original flag included a poor silhouette painting of a Grizzly Bear that more resembled a Brown Bear or a pig, Tom Gregory took that many steps further and made up comic dialog he placed during the event: “…the curious town-people who looked, laughed and said it was ‘el porcino’ and an English sailor present voiced in his natal vernacular that idea when he said that it was ‘nothing so like a bloomin’ red ‘og.'”

Boggs also wrote in his letter to the Press Democrat that the original pole additionally served as a “whipping post for those who committed petty offenses,” and thank the lord Tom Gregory didn’t know about that detail; the mind reels to think of the lurid embellishments he could have added to the story.

BEAR FLAG POLE IS DEMOLISHED

Sonoma, May 16–A wind storm, more terrific than has ever been known in the history of this place, swept over the Sonoma Valley from seven o’clock Sunday night until noon today when it subsided, leaving in its path a big amount of damage.

Bear Flag Pole Demolished

One feature of the damage done that is most regretted perhaps is the demolition of the old flag pole upon which the Bear Flag was raised, familiarly known as the “Bear Flag Pole” so interesting to visitors.

[..]

– Press Democrat, May 17, 1910

PIONEER BOGGS WRITES OF OLD “BEAR FLAG POLE”
Memorable Race In the Old Town of Sonoma

Editor Press Democrat–Will you please do me the favor by correcting a historical error that the press and even the citizens of the historic old town of Sonoma are making in perpetuating the old “Bear Flag Pole” on which the original Bear Flag was hoisted.

The flag staff with a cross tree that has stood at the northeast corner of the plaza in Sonoma, and reported as recently blown down, is not the original Bear Flag pole or Mexican Flag staff on which the Bear Flag party hoisted the original Bear Flag. The staff alluded to as having fallen down was built and erected by Lieutenant Stoneman, afterwards General Stoneman, and later Governor of California, was made from a large tree, and hauled from the redwoods in the Sonoma mountains. It was set up near the northeast corner of the plaza of Sonoma town and a moss tree, like a ship’s mast, spliced to it to lengthen it out. The original tree before it was dressed off was mounted on blocks and being from two to three feet in diameter, with the bark on, was near my residence while being prepared by Lieutenant Stoneman’s men, and when finished was raised and set in the ground about fifty feet from where the old Mexican pole or flag staff that the Bear Flag party utilized to hoist the Bear Flag. The latter described pole or original Mexican flag staff stood immediately in front of the quarters or barracks just the width of the street in front of the main entrance to the barracks, whereas the Stoneman flag staff was set up about fifty feet east or nearer the corner of the plaza. The old Bear Flag pole was made of a single small tree and only about from six to eight inches in diameter. It stood in its place for a number of years, and was used by the authorities of the town as a whipping post for those who committed petty offenses. It was finally taken down and cast aside and some boys cut it up for fire wood.

I have a good reason to remember the flag staff erected by Lieutenant Stoneman. While it was mounted on blocks or pins of small pieces of wood prior to being dressed off, and during the headquarters of the army at Sonoma, when Colonel Joe Hooker, Stoneman and many other officers of the regular army were stationed there, Major-General Phil Kearney was there as a guest of the staff of General Persiper Smith. He was better known as “One Armed” Phil Kearney, one of the bravest and best officers in the United States army. A daring and reckless rider, he lost his arm in charging at the gates of the City of Mexico. He wore an iron hook by which he held the reins of his steed. He had taken a company of Dragoons out west of town while at Sonoma, to put them through some cavalry drills, and after the exercise proposed to race back to the barracks. It happened that I was out in that direction with a lady in a single buggy, with a top, driving a fine, large American mule, and as I was returning toward the plaza I heard the rattle of the soldiers in their race back to the barracks, with General Kearney far in the lead. He passed me on his fiery black horse with his iron-hook arm holding the bridle reins and his saber in the other hand. His horse leaped a wide mud-hole in the middle of the street and passed me at a break-neck speed. My mule took fright at the approach of the company and the rattle of the sabers and ran into the plaza, and up the street in front of the barracks, where all the men left in the barracks had turned out to see the race between General Kearney and his men. They scared my mule, already frightened, so that I could not hold it and it left the street and leaped over this large tree that was mounted on blocks, two or three feet off the ground. The leap was a high one, carrying the buggy over the top of the big log, the step of the buggy plowing through the bark. The sudden shock broke the top off of the buggy and the lady went over the back of the seat into the top of the buggy. I ran the mule up against the adobe building nearest to me. The lady escaped unhurt and no damage was done to the buggy, except the bending of the iron step which caught in the bark of the undressed flag staff. The mule’s leap over the top of the log must have been about five feet. And that is why I remember the flag staff that has stood so many years at the northeast corner of the Sonoma plaza, and erroneously called the “Old Bear Flag Pole.”

My wife saw some boys cut up the original Bear Flag pole that had been taken down and thrown on the ground near where it had stood.

I resided in Sonoma about seventeen years, from 1846, and am quite familiar with the early settlement and occupation by our people of that historic old town, and I am sorry to see so many mistakes made in our press about the early events of our Golden State.

Yours truly,
W. M. BOGGS
Napa, May 21, 1910.

– Press Democrat, May 21, 1910
PIONEER BENSON WRITES OF THE BEAR FLAG PARTY

Henry Beeson, an aged survivor of the famous “Bear Flag Party” at Sonoma, has written a short, but intensely interesting sketch of the events of that occasion with a few details of the incidents leading up to the “raising” for the Cloverdale Reveille which is well worth preserving. Mr. Beeson says:

“I wish to correct some erroneous impressions that have been made by some journals and other publications regarding the raising of the “Bear Flag” in old Sonoma, on June 14th, 1846, the month and day being anniversary of the adoption of the American flag by the Continental Congress in 1777. Standard historians have not agreed as to the exact date of that occurrence, one placing it as June 12, and another June 15, but I can clearly recollect the day as being Sunday, June 14. The publications referred to were of the last celebration of Admission Day, September 9, at Santa Rosa. It had been long and universally known that I happened to be one of that once famous party of thirty three who raised the “Bear Flag” and I am now the sole survivor.

“The latter incident was omitted in the celebration proceeding of those publications referred to. We selected Ezekial Merritt, one of the oldest of the party as our captain, and our acquaintance with each other, one and all, became lasting. I have attended many celebrations of Admission Day in Sonoma and several of them in company with two of my life-long friends, the late Ben Duell and Harvey Porterfield, then survivors of the flag-raising, but now long since dead. The last I attended was in 1908. when I raised  the facsimile of the flag we first flung to the breeze on June 14, 1846, the original having been destroyed by the earthquake and fire of San Francisco in 1906. I have preserved as a valued souvenir, a likeness of the last three survivors of the party, together with a list of names of entire thirty-three.

“Another esteemed and old time friend, Jas. McChristian, was one of Fremont’s famous battalion that entered the town of Sonoma next day to that of raising the flag. Mr. McChristian and I had been in close touch with each other during a trip of six months, having in 1845 crossed the plains together in the train of about 100 wagons from Indian Nation to what is now Sacramento, when it fell to my lot to drive an ox team all the way, about 3000 miles, and to travel most of that distance afoot.

“Next year to the close of the Mexican war in 1848 our family circle, consisting of the Anderson and Beeson families, emigrated to Lake county, where we remained until a threatened uprising of the local Indians there, and the death of Andy Kelsey at their hands when we took our hurried departure and journey by slow stages via Cloverdale, until we reached the site of Boonville, in good old Anderson Valley on May 3, 1852. I am now of the age of 82, making my house with my daughter, Mrs. H. Newton Ornbaun of Ornbaun Valley, Anderson township, Mendocino county, surrounded by loving children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. My mother Mrs. Walter Anderson, who was the first white person who died in Anderson Valley from natural causes.”

– Press Democrat, November 4, 1911

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