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HAVING A GOOD TIME P.S. WAR IS HELL

Dear Folks, France is just like in the movies and the French people very hospitable but their customs are strange. I am well and enjoying it over here. “Beaucoup” love, your son.

Those are the basic bones of most letters WWI soldiers sent to their Sonoma county loved ones and friends – and we know that because the Press Democrat printed hundreds of them during the war. Sometimes they were condensed down or summarized, but others were allowed to flood an entire page with small print. That was very unusual; even in rural towns, newspapers at the time provided only sketchy details of news from locals serving in the war. (Jack Cline has received a letter from Jack True in which he states that he lost his left leg in the battle at the front – Petaluma Courier, Sept. 26 1918.)

The PD printed enough letters to fill a book (which wouldn’t be a bad idea) and a sample of the ones written from France can be found transcribed below, following the roster of those who died. The paper also ran letters from England and stateside training camps.

Rarely did they write about their combat experiences in much detail (“I am now busy and happy doing my bit at the battle front”) which is understandable, as they didn’t want to worry friends and loved ones. But sometimes there are hints of the harrowing war: “We have lots of cannonading and shelling, both from our front and from the Germans, and we have gas attacks quite often. I had to wear my gas mask for four hours one day, and I have to carry it with me all the time, and also the helmet.”

As they were billeted in French villages near the front lines, their interactions with the villagers were frequent topics. “…It’s surprising how we can get along with these people and make them understand us. Not a one that speaks a word of English, but we talk by using a mixture of English. French, Spanish, German, hands, feet, ears and eyebrows.” They were gobsmacked by the amount of wine being consumed (“the equivalent of 26 cents American money would purchase the finest bottle of Port Wine or Claret ever made”) and that their pastoral country life seemed untouched by modern times (“a person here never needs an alarm clock to wake him up. There is always someone going down the street with wooden shoes and you can hear them for four blocks”).

(RIGHT: Hilliard Comstock c. 1918)

There are many other anecdotes about village life I could excerpt here, but I’d rather you scroll down and read the actual letters which are genuine and heartfelt, revealing how the old world culture and the Americans were mutually astonished that the other existed. Okay, one more – don’t miss the story about the Frenchman who learned how to blow Taps on a bugle to impress his girlfriend, causing a wild scramble as the soldiers rushed back to camp.

But don’t presume the PD was just offering up lightweight fare about locals having a good time behind the lines. The paper also printed letters from two correspondents which contained details so raw that editors might hesitate publishing them today.

One of the letter writers was Major Hilliard Comstock, an unabashed hero of this journal. He last appeared here in 1916 as Captain of Santa Rosa’s National Guard Company E when they were sent to the Mexican border to protect the United States from Pancho Villa. Company E and other units of California’s National Guard were ordered into service  in 1917 and became part of the regular U. S. Army.

Comstock caught the Spanish flu once he was overseas and spent the war behind the lines in France training machine gunners, but he kept in touch with his National Guard comrades and others from the North Bay; most of his letters are composed of their war stories.

He wrote a lengthy account of a hospital visit to a soldier who narrowly escaped dying because the bullet was slowed by squarely hitting a button of his uniform; it passed through a lung and exited his side, missing all bones and arteries. Comstock (or perhaps a PD editor) only identifies the man as “Bill H.” but from the details of his injury we can positively ID him as William Herbert. If that name’s familiar, it may be because he was recently mentioned here as a well-known Santa Rosa architect and early partner of Cal Caulkins. The amazing story below does not appear in any biographical material on him (at least, that I can find). Comstock wrote:


…He described the German machine gun fire as very intense after the Americans had lost their artillery barrage. His battalion had advanced quite a bit more rapidly than those on its flanks, so that the Germans made it awfully hot from the flanks for awhile. His plattoon was badly shot up at one stage and had broken loose and run. A big shell burst near him and be found himself whimpering and crying from the shock and excitement. He was in cover in a shell hole, but realized that if he stayed there his nerve was gone, so he forced himself out into the fight again. During the fight he twice traveled back forth with information. But here was the best thing he did. His platoon had advanced right up by the side of a machine gun position. There the boche was in the act of swinging his gun to open fire on the flank of his platoon. With a lucky aim from his pistol he shot the gunner straight through the neck, killing him instantly.

Comstock wraps up the story by writing that the Army would recognize Herbert’s valor and give him a promotion (he was made a lieutenant) but the British commanding officer of his battalion would not recommend him for the Distinguished Service Order because “bravery is only an officer’s duty.”

(Although Comstock was never in combat or wounded, a rumor spread in France that he had been killed. He learned of the gossip and on November 14 wrote to his wife, Helen, to disregard anything she might hear about it: “By the way, if any one has written home that story of my death, I want to say, like Mark Twain, that ‘the report of my death was grossly exaggerated.'” Unfortunately, Helen didn’t receive his letter until December 16. By then two other soldiers had written home and mentioned Hilliard’s supposed death, causing his family anguish and Santa Rosa to lower flags to half staff. Another tragic mail delay involved sisters Ruth and Viola Lundholm, Red Cross nurses from Petaluma, who died of the Spanish flu a few weeks after reaching England. A cheery letter from them about their ocean crossing arrived shortly before a cable informing the family of their deaths.)

The other correspondent whose frank descriptions of the war appeared in the Press Democrat was Constance Cooke, a Red Cross nurse from Healdsburg. From her there were no coy descriptions of the war.

After a few days in Paris she was dispatched to a large military hospital in Beauvais, on the Somme front. Her first letter described the grim scene as she drew nearer the battle zone: “As we passed through the various villages I got my first real glimpse of the meaning of the war. Saw many trainloads of soldiers, French, English, American and Algerian, many wounded returning from the front, and many fresh companies going towards the scene of action. We hear the booming of the distant cannons daily…”

From the hospital she wrote candidly about her patients, both those recovering from surgeries and those with shattered minds from PTSD: “[There] is a dear boy named Blossom — Karl Blossom — who seems to have fallen back on his nerves. I find him wide-awake at any hour I make rounds, so have taken to sitting beside his bed for an hour or two at a time in the wee small hours.” Another: “He suffers from shell shock, and it is pitiful to see him — he is delirious half of the time — living over again those hours of the battle.”

Connie became inured to the sights and sounds of the nearby war, and would go outside when she heard German reconnaissance airplanes, which were sometimes involved in dogfights with French aviators. “These day air battles are exciting to watch. As a rule the machines are too high to see but we can hear their guns plainly and see the smoke from them – like small, fluffy white clouds.”

A crisis came on the night of May 29-30, as a heavy German air raid dropped bombs which landed close to the hospital and shattered windows. A French nurse and her family were killed in their home a short distance away. Cooke was among the five American nurses who moved patients to the basement and lower floors, with some patients apparently sedated by ether. For this she and the others were awarded France’s highest medal for courage, the Croix de Guerre.

(Another of those heroic nurses was Natalie Scott, who crawled across rubble in darkness during the bombing to reach patients in an annex building. After the war she returned to New Orleans, where she led the restoration of the French Quarter in the 1920s and transformed it into an artist’s and writer’s colony. When WWII began she was recruited by the Red Cross, making her one of only three Red Cross workers who served in both wars. And then, after serving in both the Europe and Pacific theatres, she stuck around Asia for three years after the war to work in Korea. Can we please get this woman a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom?)

Press dispatches about the hospital bombing and later the Croix de Guerre made Constance Cooke a household name in the Bay Area, claimed both by San Francisco and Sonoma county. (Nor did it hurt that she was pretty; there were three wire service photos of her in circulation.) Julius Myron Alexander wrote a really awful poem about her which appeared in the Healdsburg Tribune June 6 and was reprinted in the PD the next day: “She came from the land where poppies blow/ From the land of Western sunset glow/ Where murmuring brook and song of bird/ So soft o’er the land all day were heard/ ’Twas there the maiden grew from her youth/ Nourished in love and God’s own truth…”

When she returned home in early 1919 the Oakland Tribune interviewed her about the bombing. Although the newspaper’s article seems to have some heavy-handed editorial additions, it’s still interesting to read:


…The night of May 29 was terrible. The corridors and courtyards of our hospital were filled with wounded men, operation cases, waiting for treatment. The buildings adjoining us were struck, thirty losing their lives. I thought it was our end, but we worked on. The bombing finally became too terrible and we were forced to move our patients to Paris. Air raids were going through every night for five weeks. The brilliantly illuminated red crosses designating the hospitals were used as targets by the Germans. The people of the city slept on the hillsides to escape the foe…the valor of the American girls quickly won the hearts of the French, who at first were skeptical. Many times our nurses worked for three days and nights without sleep, caring for the wounded. The American boys were always regretful during raids that they had no means of fighting back, and declared their preference to the front lines.

Asked if she fell in love with anyone over there, she replied, “yes, I fell in love, but with the whole Yankee army.” I know that sounds cheesey, but I believe she actually said that; read her letters below and you’ll find her tenderly describing patients as “my children.” In truth, she married San Francisco attorney Robert Wisecarver in 1920. During the 1960s she was state chairman for the USO and died at age 101 in 1989. She’s buried in the Oak Mound Cemetery, Healdsburg; stop by next November 11 and say thanks.

 

Eighty Sonoma county residents died in WWI (five of them women). Roster from the Press Democrat, November 11, 1919

 

LIEUTENANT DUHRING NOW ON DUTY ON FRENCH FRONT
Writes Parents of Experiences and Duties Under Shell Fire of Germans—-Dal Peggetto Tells of Delay in Getting Away From Camp.

The many friends of First Lieutenant Frederick S. Duhring of Sonoma, son of Mr. and Mrs. F. T. Duhring of that city, will be interested in a letter dated in France December 6 to his parents, in which he says:

“Today I received two letters from you and a Christmas card from Mr. and Mrs. C. E. Johnson. Was sure glad to get them – the first news from home for six weeks. They were postmarked December 15th, so you can see my mail travels far before it reaches me. I am anxious to know how you spent Christmas.

“I received a letter from Don Campbell today. He was quite sick for awhile in Nice, but from his letter I judge he found that city a wonderful place in which to convalesce, and he stayed there until he was about O. K. He is now back with the old Section, now 586.

“I am about 60 kilometers down the line with my new Section, again listening to the melodious Boche shells (most odious I assure you) and superintending the work of 33 young speed maniacs hauling sick and wounded Frenchmen under shell fire. I am responsible for about ten kilometers of the front and must see that all sick and wounded are transported from the trenches to the hospitals and evacuation posts farther back from the lines. It is quite a job and when there is much activity I am kept busy. There is a fine, eager spirit amongst the crowd, the majority being old hands at this business and well understand what is expected. They were among the very first Americans who came to the aid of France three years ago.

– Press Democrat, March 8 1918

 

MISS CONSTANCE COOKE WRITES HOME FROM FRANCE

The following letter from the war zone was received Wednesday from Miss Constance Cooke, daughter of Editor Frank W. Cooke, of Healdsburg, who was recently reported by the press dispatcher as one of the nurses in a large hospital that was bombarded by the Huns:

At the Front, May 8th, 1918 — Please forgive me for waiting so long. It is because I’ve been “going it” as hard as ever I could for the past three weeks. All I’ve done since coming to is work, sleep and eat. I make it a point to go to bed early (10 p. m. until 6:45), so you see I have a lot of rest. Our food is served in plenty, but is not such well-balanced diet as we are accustomed to i. e., meat, is served In abundance, also cheese, jam, wine, lentils and “war bread” without butter. We’ve scarcely seen butter. green vegetables, milk or desserts since leaving New York, except for the four days at the hotel in Paris where we had butter once a day and also a green vegetable, and occasionally lettuce.

We were quite busy for a few days after arriving in Paris, getting our papers filed and accredited, and securing certain other necessary papers. One evening five of us ventured out to a moving picture show. After sundown there isn’t much light on the streets to guide one. Very few of the street lamps are lighted and those few are made dim by means of being painted with dark paint. We paid the extravagant price of 3 francs 80 centimes (72 cents) apiece for our seats. Were surprised to see a picture produced in Los Angeles – quite American. During the evening a picture of President Wilson was flashed on the screen. We clapped loudly, and as a result became the center of attraction for a few minutes. When the main picture was about finished the curtain descended and the ushers quietly informed the people that an air raid was “on.” Everyone calmly left the theater. When we got outside we heard the awful whirring of aeroplanes and the bang! bang! bang! of the bombs, and looking down the wide drive of the German Elysees we could see the glare of an immense fire caused by the bombing. At first we thought we could walk home in time but as the bombing was continued we fled with others into a nearby “abri” (shelter in a deep basement). We were too interested to stay long so [we] stood in the doorway of the building watching the flames of the bombs.

When an alien plane gets into French territory, wireless messages are signaled and a siren (“alert”) warns the people of the danger, whereupon they seek shelter in the “abris.” When the enemy has been driven away another siren sounds and bells are rung to give the signal for safety.

We have as headquarters when in Paris a splendid hotel with all accommodations and excellent food.

After four days I was sent by Miss Ashe to the Grenelle Dispensary, Paris, to do the same type of work for about a week as that in which I was once engaged at the Petrero in San Francisco. Then came an emergency call for a relief nurse to replace one who was ill, so I was hurried off on the evening train, April 20th, to ———, two hours north of Paris, and 30 miles from the front. I was accompanied by Dr. Pearson of Massachusetts, a brother-in-law of Dr. Harry B. Sherman’s wife, (whose little girl I nursed when she had measles). When we were nearing this historic town the Doctor informed me that we might be bombarded, so not to be afraid. I told him I would be quite frank to admit I that I would be afraid, but that I would endeavor to conduct myself in a quiet and orderly manner, nevertheless.

As we passed through the various villages I got my first real glimpse of the meaning of the war. Saw many trainloads of soldiers, French, English, American and Algerian, many wounded returning from the front, and many fresh companies going towards the scene of action. We hear the booming of the distant cannons daily, and the streets of the town are almost a constant stream of huge camions [sic] going in either direction.

Have had charge of a small hospital for the sickest of the refugees who pass through, on their way south. Two English girls, one a nurse and the other an aide, and an M. D., have completed the staff of the hospital. We have had lots of work organizing things, but have grown to love the little place. Sometime will send you pictures of the building and also of the town.

Expect to be transferred to a military hospital for the care of French and American soldiers tomorrow, as the refugee question in this particular district is about settled. I am glad to go, however, as now that we are “over here” we feel the American boys should be our first consideration.

Received my first letter from America. from Grace, dated April 6th. My, I was glad to get it, I assure you.

Please let all of the family read this, as I don’t know when I’ll have another chance to write. Lots and lots of love, Connie. Do write soon.

– Press Democrat, June 13 1918

 

MISS COOKE TELLS OF THE BOMBING OF HOSPITALS
Daughter of Healdsburg Editor Sends Another Fine Letter From “Over There” in Which She Describes Many Interesting Happenings—Red Cross Nurse Has to Be Most Versatile in Her Accomplishments for the Entertaining and the Nursing of the Sick and Wounded Soldiers.

MISS CONSTANCE COOKE has written her father. Editor Frank W. Cooke, of the Healdsburg “Tribune,” another very interesting letter from France, which will read with much interest by her many friends. Among other things Miss Cooke says:

My undertaking, as you call it, is only a drop in the ocean compared with this ghastly war. You know our ideas have changed by degrees since leaving the United States, and have come to the wonder why we did not start for France long ago. Everyone over here feels as one that no sacrifice can be too great in assisting to win the war for humanity and a higher type of “Kultur.”

I’ve come to believe a lot in “fellowship” since leaving the United States. My! how I crave companions all of the time. Of course, under so many precautions and in the war zone wo have almost no social life, and it is a mighty nice thing to have a few other nurses, Red Cross official and soldiers to chat with during the day’s work.

Have received two lovely letters from Florence Keene; also Grace, Edna H. and Lily have written, and then I hear often from several of the girls who came over in the unit, and from a very dear sailor aviator, whom I met on the Rochambeau.

I think I have written you since coming to Beauvais. I had the novel experience of organizing a hospital for refugees, with the very able assistance of an English nurse and an aide. After three weeks was transferred to the French Military Service, as the need is great for military nurses. You know I found, after arriving in France, that pediatrics should come second to serving our American boys, and I felt very happy to enter into the greater service. Am in a hospital where “gassed” cases are cared for, both French and American. Have been in duty for several weeks, and just love to care for the boys. Most of them havn’t seen American girls from two to ten months, and they appreciate just looking at one of their own kind again.

Mr. Censor probably wouldn’t like me to go into much detail. I wish I could tell you many things of interest. For the past few nights I have been on night duty. I just try to do everything under the sun to “coddle” the men, because It means so much to them after their experiences at the front.

We are near enough to the front to hear the cannons roar daily and nightly, and are always reminded of the proximity of the aeroplanes by their whirr overhead. The other night Mr. Fritz dropped a dozen bombs in our vicinity. As I had experienced the same thing in Paris I was not so frightened this time. Was surprised to find the patients very nervous as a result of the affair, but realized they have shattered nerves after a few weeks’ relaxation, away from the front and flat on their backs in a hospital. Six bombs dropped in the courtyard of the refugee hospital I was in formerly, crashing windows, etc. No one was killed in that particular place, but elsewhere in town. We picked up a few pieces of the shrapnel to stow away in our trunks.

The Red Cross and the Smith College Relief Unit give much comfort to the soldiers in a thousand ways, and give the nurses many things to distribute. In fact, we get just about all we ask for, i. e., cigarettes, chocolate, cocoa, canned milk, jam, tooth brushes ond powder, soap, washclothes, shaving sets, toilet paper, towels, extra pillows (you know a small pillow tucked here and there makes a world of difference. sometimes), writing material, dally papers, matches, lemons, and oranges, and even money for boys who haven’t received pay for several months. Well, all of these things gladden the hearts of our “blessees,” and all of our efforts are used to do just that, aside from nursing.

You know what a clown I can be without trying very hard. Well, I even perform at times. (Wish I had Lily here to sing). Since I have been on night duty I do all sorts of things to keep our patients comfortable and cheerful, and we have just real nice times, even when some are in throes over their various pains. Some of the men have trouble from sleeplessness, and at such limes I make chocolate or orangeade (material given by the Red Cross of Smith College unit) for them.

The other night, after distributing chocolate, various pills, rubbing the aching members of a number of patients in one ward, stuffing in a pillow here, tightening one there, etc., I found dressings over, loosening a bandage here tightening one there, etc., I found a sleepless family on my hands. So I played poker (horror of horrors!) with one of them by the light of the smoky lantern until 1:30 a. m. with the others vastly interested in the outcome of the game. We used cough lozenges for chips. Then I informed them that they just had to go to sleep, but if there was anything else they wanted before I left to say so. One sang out, “Well, if you’ll just stay here and let us look at you, that’s all we ask.” You see it’s just the idea of someone of their own kind fussing around which “hits the spot” as it were, after trench life.

So I left my children and made rounds in the three other wards. In one of them is a dear boy named Blossom — Karl Blossom — who seems to have fallen back on his nerves. I find him wide-awake at any hour I make rounds, so have taken to sitting beside his bed for an hour or two at a time in the wee small hours. Of course, I enjoy every bit of the work and am glad I finally got “onto” myself to do my bit.

We have a comfortable room at the hotel and good food. So you see I’m really quite well looked after. Our unit has been scattered all over France. I never saw Dr. Lucas to speak to, as he left France for America right after our arrival.

“Beaucoup” love, Connie.

– Press Democrat, June 27 1918

 

OLD FRENCH WINE CELLAR IS HAVEN FROM BOMBS
Letter From Healdsburg Man Tells of Exciting Experiences “Over There,” as Well as the More Pleasant Forms of Life.

Ancil Walker, son of Mr. and Mrs. D. B. Walker of Dry Creek Valley, near Healdsburg, has sent his folks a nice greeting from France, where he has been with the American army for over three months now. “I am safe and happy,” is his message.

These brief words were contained in a letter sent by a friend of Ole Johnson of Healdsburg. The latter happened to be writing to Johnson from France when Ancil Walker came along and wrote the note to his parents. The letter from the other writer had this to say among other things:

“I am now busy and happy doing my bit at the battle front. I am down in an old French wine cellar, since our hut was bombarded on the 20th of Aprll. I have been walking and standing around in my rubber boots most of the time, as it is muddy here. I serve the boys as they go and come from the trenches. I make coffee and cocoa, and they claim it is the best they have tasted since they came to France. We give it to them free. We sell at cost candy, nuts, figs and such things and have tables for reading and writing. We have services and entertainments for them and they sure appreciate it.

“We have lots of cannonading and shelling, both from our front and from the Germans, and we have gas attacks quite often. I had to wear my gas mask for four hours one day, and I have to carry it with me all the time, and also the helmet. We have a great opportunity here to do good.”

– Press Democrat, July 12 1918

 

SERGT. WILLIAMS IN FRANCE WRITES JNO. T. CÄMPBELL
Interesting Letter Sent Santa Rosa’s Well Known Citizen by Brave Soldier Fighting the Battle of Freedom ‘Over There.”

A letter from Harvey G. Williams, sergeant in the 66th Aero Squadron of the army in France, to the Honorable John Tyler Campbell is of much interest. Among other things he says:

I received your letter and sure was glad to get it. We always want to hear from home and in my case from California where I hope to spend my days after this “cruel war” is over. I have seen a few of the places you advised me to look up…What a great people are the French. And what a history they have. I turn now to the present. I wish you could see the big dally papers, over here, compared with the dally papers of American cities, they are but toys, I know something about papers, for you know I served an apprenticeship on the Los Angeles Times. That is a great paper.

Mark Twain did not overlook the barber when he visited over in Europe. His account of the barber and the barber shop is good. He gave a funny experience as the readers of Innocents Abroad will attest. I will tell you my experience. Entering the shop I was conducted to a chair — I mean a barber’s chair by a highly uniformed porter. 1 thought He was a major-general. The shaving seems to be a family affair. A kid of twelve or fourteen years lathers your face and he does not skip any part, not even the eyes or mouth. Another kid rubs the lather well in, then comes Agamemnon, the barber himself, razor in hand and he does the work. You sit flat in the chair, feet hanging down to the floor at a right angle from the knees. No lounging with feet elevated and resting on a soft vervet cushion as in America.

I must tell you something about the war – the censor may strike it out, but I will try it. Listen, Germany will be beaten to a frazzle inside of a year. I have talked to too many prisoners not to know what I am talking about. They were always hungry and wanted peace. You would hardly believe your eyes if you could see our boys almost fighting to get on to the front line. They want a lick at the Huns, let me tell you, and let me say to you, don’t talk peace. I don’t want peace until our boys nail the American flag on the door of the Hun capital and they will do it and don’t you forget it.

– Press Democrat, July 16 1918

 

MANY BREEZY NOTES TAKEN FROM ‘THE SPIDER’ IN FRANCE

From Paul Stevens, a Sonoma county boy with the Engineers in France, The Press Democrat has received another issue of “The Spider,” a monthly paper published by the Engineers and which is full of interesting and breezy notes of the life of the soldier “over there.”

Readers of The Press Democrat will be interested in a few of the excerpts taken from “The Spider.” Here is a writeup of a dance:

Chic French Girls “Rag” at E Company’s Dance

American ragtime, Southern melodies by the colored boys, French comedy and American comedy, solos and quartettes. Jugglers and fireaters. jig dancers and ballet dancers, marked the entertainment April 17, near E Company headquarters, under auspices of the Jazz Orchestra. And afterward everyone danced.

E Company was out for an orderly good time. The air vibrated music from the lightest passing two step to “The Rosary.” In front of the hall a line of autos, coupled with brilliant lighting effect, reminded one of a miniature Broadway, while the courtyard, overhung with decorated lanterns and springtime decorations, was a “petite promenade.”

At the dance some were dancing American steps and others French. “But the overseas steps prevailed, for what is a French maiden to do when all pieces are ragtime, and her partner is a burly railroader intent on putting over his schedule of “Bunny Hug” and “Boston Dip?” At that everyone enjoyed it. Including the small Yvonnes and Jeans who, with the older Messieurs and Mesdames, had only come as onlookers. The whole village turned out, and the French folks outnumbered the Americans.

While the floor was cleared for the dance, sandwiches and coffee were served in an arbor.

Here’s some more:

Breakfast In France

The American idea of breakfast is something new to the French. They don’t have “breakfast” in France; they have “dejeuners.” But they don’t have dejeuners until 11 o’clock. Until recently it was a familiar sight in most any French town to see Americans, early in the morning, roaming around desperately looking for a place to eat.

Then some enterprising French restaurant keepers found out the Yankees eat as much at 7 a. m. as they do at 7 p. m. Catering to the new allles’ sun-up appetites they displayed stiffly formal cards: ” Breakfast Served.” And then, ” Eggs and Ham.”

[..]

It Was Too Bad

In a village near which a portion of A Company is located, three Frenchmen went forth to serenade their lady loves not many nights ago. One had an accordeon, another a bass drum, and the third a bugle. They rendered several selections under the windows of each of the three “maisons” which they hope some day to win, while the appreciate demoiselle, in each case threw down a bouquet to her favored lover.

Rumor has it that some sort of an American game was going on not far from the place where the concert took place. The exact nature of this game has not been determined, but it is said that little cubes, speckled with round dots were shaken up in a box and tossed upon a table, while copper and silver discs were exchanged by the players from time to time with such exclamations as “Come on, you seven!” and Here’s where I have to walk home!”

It was 8:15 by the clock, but the players had lost all track of time.

Suddenly the first notes of taps came floating upon the evening air. There was a wild scramble, the five American soldiers broke the half mile record back to camp. They burst into their Company hut, only to find the lights burning. The usual evening activities were in full swing, and there was no sign of preparations to retire.

And then from somewhere in the village was borne the oft-cursed sound of reveille. This was followed in rapid succession by “recall,” “call to quarters,” “overcoats,” “payday,” ”retreat” and “fatigue.” The French trumpeter was serenading his lady love with American bugle calls…

– Press Democrat, July 17 1918

 

MISS CONSTANCE COOKE WRITES OF AIRMEN RAIDS

An interesting letter has been received from Miss Constance Cooke from the war in France. Speaking of the reports of her devotion to duty during the raids on the hospital by German airmen, Miss Cooke says:

“I was very sorry such newspaper reports got into San Francisco papers. It seems the correspondents are keen on exciting the home folks. Many instances, however, come to our notice which are certainly worthy of being known by the public.

“Of course, those successive nights of bombing were rather hard on one’s nerves, but it is ‘c’est la guerre,’ as the French say, and everyone in the war zone expects these things. We deserve no credit. We just happened to be on duty, and stuck to our job, as 99 out of a hundred would do anywhere – 100 out of 100 here; for all of the Americans over here have the one purpose, to stop at nothing which will help win this war,

“The French are glad and proud to have the Americans in the trenches with them, and our boys are certainly doing big things at present. I am proud of them.

“On the Fourth of July there were celebrations all over France to honor the Independence Day of America. You know the French are great for ‘frills’ and fetes. Their preparations in the various hospitals for the benefit of the American nurses and patients were really touching. Decorations were made from the wild red poppy, bachelor buttons anf marguerites.

“There was quite a celebration in the town square. French and American flags were flying everywhere the eye turned. Captain J—- was a little worried that the boche might give us another raid and break up the party, and we expected an offensive at the front. But there was no raid and our boys gained more of the enemy’s lines that day.

“The fete of July 14th is at hand and we plan to return the cordiality of the French as far as possible.

“You would smile If you could see me now with a tiny night lamp, shaded very carefully, straining my eyes to write.

“I think I wrote you about being changed from my ward of American boys, after their departure, to a newly opened ward with twenty Frenchmen. As soon as they were evacuated, I was put on special day duty for one week with a pneumonia case (a boy fron Oklahoma) in a French hospital. As soon as the boy was well enough to get along with an aid, I returned to our Red Cross hospital and took back my original ward. There were only seven patients, but within a day or so there were twenty-seven.

“On the 3d of July, Dr.——-, who has charge of those of us who first came to B——, took Miss Joaquim and me in his machine out to C——, a little village about six miles from the Somme front. Beyond this town a short distance, is located a French hospital for gassed cases. There are seven or eight American nurses and aids on duty there. Dr. C. and Chaplain L. had been invited to a dinner and Miss Joaquim and I had dinner with the nurses. Later we were shown through the entire hospital. It was a tent hospital, i. e. some ten or twelve long tents and two brick buildings – accommodating about three or four hundred patients. It was all extremely interesting to me after the work I had done in B, with the same sort of cases.

“On July 4th, Dr. ——- obtained special permission for fifteen nurses and aids from several different villages to go to C—–, close to the front, where the 1st Engineers are stationed. The officers had planned a barbecue and had sent us earnest invitations to be present. At the work was not so heavy at the time, we were mighty glad of the opportunity to out so close to the trenches. We did not go into the trenches, but were very near to the reserve trenches. On the way out we saw many instances of the use of camouflage and also miles and miles of barbed wire defenses.

“It was quiet in that particular sector so we heard only one or two cannon blasts. Just beyond Field Hospital No. —— we came to a stretch of woods and going around to the rear of them we came upon extensive fields, where the 1st Engineers were stationed. There were hundreds of men in uniform. We arrived in the midst of a boxing and wrestling matches and a vaudeville show by some of the men, also orchestra numbers. At 5:15 all faced the flag floating above and sang our national hymn. Then folowed mess call and retreat.

“They had arranged a long table out under an old apple tree, where we fifteen American women together with fifteen of the luckiest (?) among the officers sat down to ’slum.’ I had heard of ‘slum’ many times from the presented with a huge plate of it – (something like our Irish stew) meat potatoes, vegetables and gravy. We were served on a various assortment of plates, salvaged from evacuated homes. After the dinner we danced for two hours in a tent with a board and canvas floor fixed for the occasion. The men certainly enjoyed having us — said it was their only social in a year. Of course we were glad to be there, too, and enjoyed it immensely.

“As the ward has again been evacuated of 26 patients. I have been put on night duty for three nights at a French hospital. Have only seven patients. Pneumonia, lung and other bronchial affections.

“Miss Gilbert, one of my roommates and I are to return to Paris Thursday a. m. Of course  I am rather loth [sic] to leave but feel the new experience may be worth while. Expect a return to children’s service or to be transferred to the military service.

– Press Democrat, August 16 1918

 

ENGLISH FOOD NOT GOOD AS FURNISHED BY THE U. S.
French Wines Do Not Appeal to One Youth
Santa Rosan Tells Interesting Story of Trip and Describes Scenes Älong Route — Has First Taste of Wine and the French Hospitality — Language and Customs Strange, Yet All Are Enjoying Life and Good Health While Preparing for Active Work of War.

A letter from Corporal Ernest L. Richards of Co. E, 316th Am. Train, A E. F., to a former schoolmate, gives a most graphic account of the trials and joys of the trip from camp to France. It will he read with interest by his friends as well as others…

…Through all the country that we had traveled, we saw many old-fashioned contrivances and buildings, and the people, and the machinery and methods of all kinds of living and working. The people dressed very old fashioned, wore wooden shoes, lived in very peculiar shaped houses, built of stone, which were mortared up with clay or dirt. Some of the American boys could talk the lingo, but most of us had to listed to the peculiar noises and be satisfied. Good water was plentiful in most places, but most prevalent of all was the historic French wine.

A quart bottle of wine was cheaper than a quart bottle of water. The price of a quart bottle of wine varied in the different parts of the country through which we passed, but the equivalent of 26 cents American money would purchase the finest bottle of Port Wine or Claret ever made. This is the point at which I fell, and although I never thought I would indulge in liquor, I took my first drink of liquor from a French wine bottle. There is indeed a very peculiar taste to the stuff and although most of the boys would make a quart bottle bubble almost all of its entire contents away, I could in no way see the enjoyment. Many bottles of wine were drunk on the train before our journey was completed, but it was owing to the fact that any other kind of refreshments were impossible to get. Fruit, bread and candy, and in fact any other kind of luxuries were unseen. All this time we were living on hard tack and canned corned beef (horse). Could you blame us refined fellows from the west for bold indulgence of accepting a drink of French wine?

Upon our arrival here we were billeted to different parts of the village wherever accommodations permitted, and at least we had a good, hard floor to stretch out on, and plenty of good, home made American coffee, white bread, cheese, etc., and such like. The first meal we had in our own quarters and you can just bet it was greatly appreciated and enjoyed by all. Our teeth were as yet mighty sore from eating the hard tack, and it seemed mighty good to get something more tasty to chew on for a while.

This village is almost directly south of Paris, and if anything, a little east. This village is about 600 years old — as quaint and old as many of the other little villages that we saw during our travels. We are about 14 miles from a fair sized town by the name of Clare – a fair sized town. The French people are indeed very intelligent and interesting in every way. They are indeed very anxious to learn English as well as to teach the American soldier boys French. I have been out to several French homes to learn French and lots of fun we had, and certainly see some very new and peculiar things.

Every home is well supplied with wine, which the people consider a great treat and courtesy to offer to their visitors when they come to see them. I was not in any way fond of the different shades of the red liquid that was offered me, nor could I understand what they were speaking of, but it was given with such hearty good will that one could not help but accept it. None of the boys will ever forget the hearty welcome we received from these innocent, old fashioned people. Although we cannot converse, we feel the hearty welcome by their customs and actions and courteous manner of treatment toward us, and they try so hard to explain things to us. Many of the boys have been taken into private homes and given real honest to God feeds, but as yet such has not been my pleasure….

– Press Democrat, August 27 1918

 

CENSORED LETTER FROM ARTILLERYMAN ED KOFORD
Former Santa Rosan Now in France Writes Entertainingly of Life in That Country and Some of the Ancient Cities, But Information Is Cut Out as of Military Value to the Enemy.

Edward Koford, a graduate of the Santa Rosa high school and well-known resident of this city, who enlisted in the regulars shortly after the outbreak of the war, is now in France…

…“After a few days in England we crossed over to France – the battlefield of the nations. We are at present billeted in a very antique village. Its early history dates back to the time of the Romans and Saracens. The height of glory for this place was in the days of chivalry. There still exist many ancient gates and sentry lookouts along with a very intricate system of underground caverns. The boys are learning French rapidly, for we are living in actual contact with the people. (At first the oui, oui, Monsieur, sounded more like wee, wee, manure.)

“The American army abroad is no longer petite. In nearly every city, town and hamlet are to be found American soldiers on duty. Wherever American troops are quartered there may also be found a Y. M. C. A. hut. The Y. M. C. A. is rendering an inestimable service to the boys abroad. We have found the French people very hospitable. Their charming manners, politeness, generosity and cheerfulness have won the hearts of American soldiers. These people are and have been sacrificing such as you people at home will probably never have to do. Vive, Vive la France!

[..]

Yours in arms, “Edw. Koford.”

– Press Democrat, August 28 1918

 

LIEUTENANT E. E. CAMPBELL WRITES OF EXPERIENCES
Son of Mr. and Mrs. Geo. R. Campbell, of Santa Rosa, Now in France With 364th Regiment of Infantry, Tells of His Arrival and the Sights and Scenes He Is Enjoying Overseas.

July 28, 1918
Dearest Mother: -Here at last is a Sunday with plenty of time to myself, so I guess you’re in for a long letter… It was two o’clock in the morning before we finally arrived, and then after that it didn’t take very long to be assigned to our billets. Lieut Tooze and I are together in a room with the deputy mayor. It’s certainly a wonderful room too. Typically French – marble fire place, marble topped hand carved table, and one of those funny French beds. You know, mother, that a Frenchman has peculiar ideas of what a bed should be like. He builds it far too narrow for two people, about four feet high, and a person is supposed to lie on one feather bed and cover up with another one. I most suffocated the first night I slept in one, so I put up my own cot in the room and let Tooze have the bed. My cot is only 16 inches high, and poor Madame le Deputie couldn’t understand how in the world I could sleep on such a thing. When I came in last night I found that she had put a chair under each leg so that it would be high enough, according to her ideas of a bed.

From our room we get a wonderful view of Monsieur’s garden. It’s just like the French gardens that we used to see in the movies – white stone wall with red tile tops on them, roses and all kinds of flowers, and beautiful climbing vines everywhere. It really doesn’t seem true.

We are in a wonderful little village. Before the war it had a population of 117, but out of that 25 have been killed, and all of the other young men are at the front, and all of the young women are away working in the munition factories, so there are only a few old people and children left here. All of the houses are of white stone with either red tile or shale rock roofs. There is a little stream of water running through the village where the men can swim and wash their clothes. Ordinarily water is scarce in this country.

I nearly forgot to tell you about the town crier. In this place a newspaper is practically unknown, and whenever anything happens a funny little old gent goes along the streets beating an old drum and shouting out the news. It Is the funniest thing I ever saw, but at that we have got to be careful and not crack a smile for it is an old, old time-honored custom, and we must respect it, too…

…It’s surprising how we can get along with these people and make them understand us. Not a one that speaks a word of English, but we talk by using a mixture of English. French, Spanish, German, hands, feet, ears and eyebrows. But really I’ve picked up more French here in three days than I did in two months at Camp Lewis…

– Press Democrat, August 31 1918

 

WONDERFUL PRIVILEGE TO HELP IN THE HOSPITALS
Miss Constance Cooke, Daughter of F. W. Cooke of Healdsburg, a Red Cross Nurse in France, Declares Her Part Nothing Compared to the Work of the Soldiers.

Miss Marguerite Snook received an interesting letter from Miss Constance Cooke, Red Cross nurse in France, a few days ago, and from which the following extracts are taken:

I am writing on the date of the fourth anniversary of this awful war. I can remember very well when it was declared. I was in Berkeley for the summer session of 1914. Suddenly one day extras came out with entire pages filled with the beginning of the struggle. The news was dreadful and unbelievable. For the past few weeks now our papers here have had good reports. It does begin to look as though peace were not far distant. We were so happy yesterday to learn of Soissons being regained.

My! you should see some of those towns which have been subjected to bombardments and later been invaded by wanton troops. I can’t imagine a sadder picture, except, perhaps, the ruins of the fine old cathedrals, some of which have been standing for centuries.

The big observation balloons are’almost constantly over us nights and in the daytime we have often watched the maneuvers of the French planes doing all sorts of acrobatic stunts on high. Also, we have seen the Boche planes, which came over us on clear days to get pictures, being chased by the French aviators. These day air battles are exciting to watch. As a rule the machines are too high to see but we can hear their guns plainly and see the smoke from them – like small, fluffy white clouds.

The men in the First Division, which arrived in France on June 26th, last year, are almost entirely easterners and southerners. So far they have done most of the fighting and we have cared for very few wounded out of the more recent divisions. I don’t believe I have met a dozen Californians since coming over.

I was sorry to hear of Fred Cummings’ death. Too bad! He was so young, and had so much to live for yet.

Goodness! I was provoked about those reporters sending news of the bombing raids. I wrote Julius Alexander and told him the sentiments were beautiful in the poem dedicated to me, and that I would try to do something worthy of them before leaving France.

It’s very nice to have people proud of you, but it’s really uncalled for in my case. I am only one of thousands of Americans in the service abroad, and we realize fully that those at home are all sacrificing and doing everything in their power to help Uncle Sam. Why, we who are over here are enjoying the work, day by day, and feel it a wonderful privilege to be helping in the hospitals. It is our thousands of American boys in the trenches and under shell fire daily that we should be proud of. They are the heroes of the day.

You should hear some of their experiences. When I read the encouraging letters they write home, my heart just aches for the boy and his family as well. I’m quite content that some mothers aren’t conscious of what their sons are going through, for it wouldn’t help matters any.

I have only five patients tonight, the others having been evacuated. One is a gas case and another has T. B. Both will have to be returned to the United States, as they are unfit for further active service. Another boy of twenty is from Ohio. He has a shrapnel wound in his back. Although operated upon, they were unable to extract one piece, which lodged in a vertebra. He also has two other shrapnel wounds and a machine gun bullet whizzed through his blouse without even touching him.

He gave me a Boche ring, and when I asked ”Was he dead?” he answered: “Dead?—-Well, I had to put on a gas mask to go near him.”

This boy is in the marines, but has been over the top three times – at Catingy, Belleau Woods and Soissons. He assures me that next time he will get a German Iron Cross to send me.

My fourth son is from Florida – a very attractive boy of nineteen, who graduated from high school last year. He has a hole through his left hand, made by a machine gun bullet, several of the bones being fractured also. We keep the wound irrigated constantly by means of a rubber Dakin tube and solution. He suffers from shell shock, and it is pitiful to see him — he is delirious half of the time — living over again those hours of the battle. I have written to his mother, who has two other sons over here in the First Division.

When men are wounded or gassed, official notice is sent to their nearest relatives. I often write to the mothers, sisters or sweethearts of the patients, because it naturally makes the home folks feel easier to get word directly from the hospital wards. Often the boys do not feel one bit like writing even if they are able. Patient No. 5 is a Canadian man.

Last night Fritz paid us a short visit. No bombs were dropped. This was the first night air raid in seven weeks.

Tonight they came at 11 and stayed until 12:30. It sounded pretty exciting –  bombs were dropped somewhere within close range. We were reminded at once of old times.

It is perfectly amazing to see what a big part the American Red Cross organization is playing in France. It seems there isn’t a thing done in which they don’t lend a hand. I have had a good chance to see how much is done by them for the wounded and hospital patients and also I know how much the boys appreciate it all. It seems their resources are unlimited. I often think of the millions of dollars it must cost to keep up this huge business of theirs – and then simultaneously somes the thought of the campaigns, driven and parades in America — of the knitting and surgical dressing circles — and then I realize that there can be scarcely an individual of mature age who is not giving until it hurts – as they say.

If there are no other benefits from the war – this I am sure of – it will have drawn individuals of nations closer together on account of necessity of sacrifice and giving common to all.

It is rather nice to have my present small ward of patients, for I have more of a chance to “baby” them. All of the nurses feel the same way, and you would, too. No matter how “mangy” they are – and some of them are pretty much so  – we love them.

– Press Democrat, September 6 1918

 

BRUCE BAILEY TELLS OF WAR EXPERIENCE IN FRANCE

BRUCE BAILEY has written Jas. W. Ramage a very interesting letter from France in which he tells of a number of thrilling experiences and of meeting a number of Santa Rosa boys. His many friends here will be glad to read this letter, which is as follows:

Oct. 3, 1918…

…We left our position at the front some ten or twelve days ago and marched to this sector. Our marching was done at night, averaging about twenty-five miles each night, and as this was kept up for five nights it was very tiring. Not to let us get stale on the job, the last two days they marched us from noon till the next morning, and it was on these hikes that we did cover some ground.

I was a mounted man, but just before starting on this trip my horse went lame and I was forced to lead her for four nights. We passed a French horse hospital and I turned her in to this place, and I am glad that I did, for a horse leads a very hard life. It is hard enough on a man, but a horse fares far worse than a man. During this operation the red tape connected with getting rid of my horse was left way behind the column. While trying to catch up with the regiment I passed an aviation camp and found that Harold Bruner was there, so stopped and found him. The pleasure of seeing one another was equally, mutual as it had been a long time since I saw anyone from home and to see such a close friend I can assure you I was entirely compensated for the delay it caused me and the fact that I missed any rest that night.

Harold is a sergeant in the wireless detail of this aero squadron. In endeavoring to catch up with my regiment, I jumped a truck. I never saw saw so much traffic on a road or street in all my life. Artillery, cavalry, trucks, troops, ambulances, etc., going and coming. Finally the truck I was riding on managed to worm its way through and we arrived up where they were having a lot of excitement. Shells of all descriptions. From a currier [sic] I found out that my outfit had turned into the woods some four kilometers back, so believe me, when I tell you it did not take me long to find an empty truck running to the rear. I found the regiment near morning and We have been here ever since.

Two days after we received orders to pack and be able to move in two hours, and we have been waiting ever since for further orders. As things are moving along very nicely for the Allies on this sector, we are being held in reserve about eight kilometers from the front, this about five miles. The guns have been pounding away. It is getting late in the year and we are experiencing wane very very disagreeable weather. It is cold and rainy, and it is nothlg to sleep in wet clothes and wet blankets. Of course, cleanliness is a thing of the past, as water is very scarce to wash or drink. I haven’t had my clothes off in about fifteen days at night. During our march we stopped in an old French billet, and here I picked up some sort of vermin. They were not “cooties” but I had to burn my clothes, and fortunately I had some more to put on. It is rather an exception to have any extra clothes. The fellows leave them behind as it is so inconvenient to wash them, but I foresaw this, and have held on to all the clothes that I could. I do not think it is necessary to state when the men bathe, but you have heard of all those stories about the farmers who are so unacquainted with water; something on that order.

We are being fed very well, considering the conditions under which we exist. Of course we consume great quantities of corned “Willie,” but if a man gets hungry enough he will eat most anything. During the march we ate corned beef and hard tack all the trip and it became very tiresome. Sweets are the things we miss most, but it can’t be overcome. Canteens are very scarce and I had a hard time getting this paper to write to you on. I might explain how I have the use of this typewriter. It was wrapped up in one of my blankets on the end of one of our wagons, so I borrowed it. One runs out of everything here but patience…

…As you understand there is no one from home of California with me in this outfit and as I have charge of or rather am the top sergeant of this detachment of seventy men, I am about as popular as a Hun in Paris. I have a difficult job, hut I am making the best I can out of it.

This is our third trip to the front and I have had many interesting and dangerous experiences to relate, but I will not take up your time with them now…All of us are having the experience of a lifetime, but dodging shrapnel, high explosive shells, wearing gas masks and all those things are experiences one can get along very well without…

Very sincerely, F. Bruce Bailey, American Ex. Forces, A. P. O. No. 742.

– Press Democrat, November 7 1918

 

COMSTOCK TELLS OF SANTA ROSANS
Interesting Letter From Major, Who Left Here as Captain of Co. E, Now an Instructor in France, Giving an Account of Many Boys From Here.

A stirring letter has been received from Major Hilliard Comstock of Santa Rosa. who is in training in France. The letter is as follows;

France, Oct. 14. 1918.

Dear H.:— I told you in a previous letter that I lost my trip to the front by being ill in bed with Spanish influenza, did I not? Yesterday I had a most interesting trip. A lieutenant, formerly of my battalion, and an officer of our old National Guard, who had been transferred among the many others to a front-line battalion, telephoned over to a friend at one division headquarters that he had been wounded and was in the hospital not many kilometers from us and wouid like to see some of us if we could get over to visit him. Many officers of our regiment have made the supreme sacrifice already. Some killed — many more wounded. You understand that my present job is the training of troops for the front line divisions and I am not at the front myself, but the largest part of our outfit has been sent to the front. Both officers and men have been in many severe actions already. Well, to return to my story, — it is wonderful how one’s heart goes out to a comrade, who has “been in” and “made good. I would rather have made this trip over to see Bill H—. than to have done anything I know of.

Right here and now, dear H—, I am going to say. I shall never again judge a man by his personal habits and completely condemn him for having a few bad ones. At the same time I do not wish to sanction them. I hold my ideals about personal cleanliness as high as ever, but I will hereafter and through my life be able to love the good qualities in even those men with whom I would not wish to associate while they do some things that they sometimes do. This lieutenant was a rather unprepossessing looking fellow and could be called somewhat wild. He drank some and smoked a lot — liked to “see life” and all that, but I can love him from now on for what he did in the battle line at Verdon, in our recent drive on that sector. We — myself and another — got on a train which took us to a rather large city not far from here, and quite near to the hospital where Bill was. The train moved so slowly, as all French trains do now (any old time they feel like, and never run on, schedule) that we didn’t get to the city until evening — so we decided to go out in the morning to the enormous new hospital where Bill was. We stayed all night at a hotel and in the morning, just as we were about to go for our breakfast, who should we run plump into on the street but Bill himself, looking quite pale, but feeling fine and cheerful. His wound was from a rifle bullet (German sniper). He was shot squarely through the top button of his uniform, the bullet entering the top of his right lung and ranging down and out under his right arm. It fell inside his clothes, where it came out. He has both the button and the bullet, as well as the trench map of the sector on which his battalion attacked. The map is all covered with blood. As extreme good luck would have it, he had no bones broken and no arteries severed. The wound was a clean one and healed quickly, so he is well and walking around now, though suffering some inconvenience from the wound. His story is very interesting. He described the German machine gun fire as very intense after the Americans had lost their artillery barrage. His battalion had advanced quite a bit more rapidly than those on its flanks, so that the Germans made it awfully hot from the flanks for awhile. His platoon was badly shot up at one stage and had broken loose and run. A big shell burst near him and be found himself whimpering and crying from the shock and excitement. He was in cover in a shell hole, but realized that if he stayed there his nerve was gone, so he forced himself out into the fight again. During the fight he twice traveled back forth with information. But here was the best thing he did. His platoon had advanced right up by the side of a machine gun position. There the boche was in the act of swinging his gun to open fire on the flank of his platoon. With a lucky aim from his pistol he shot the gunner straight through the neck, killing him instantly. For this he was mentioned in orders for bravery in action. This will give him a promotion. It is maintained by the colonel that bravery is only an officer’s duty — thus be does not receive the distinguished service order.

C. P. has been up on the line for quite a while. He is in a division from which I get no news. I pray God that nothing has happened to him. He is a good officer and a fine fellow. Gee! but it would hurt if anything were to happen to him.

F. C. was ordered up to the line on our return. He left this morning. There is another fine boy! I hope he comes through all right. Your letters come regularly now — I hope you get all mine.

FURTHER DETAILS GIVEN

Another letter from Major Comstock. reciting some of the facts, has been received by Dr. D. H. Leppo of this city, and parts of it not in repetition of the letter previously given, are reproduced herewith:

“I know you will be interested to hear the news of some of the boys. Don Geary is here with our regiment, still and so is Burton Cochrane. Both have excellent records as officers. We are a training unit and every little while we send a large number of officers and men to the line. Over half of our old officers and men have gone most of them in the San Mihiel or Verdun sectors. Our officers have made wonderful records. In fact, all of the men who were in the old original regiment have made good in action. Reports have come to us repeatedly of the good state of training that both officers and men from our organization were in.

“It is remarkable what escapes some men have. Lieut. Wm. Hayes Hammond. a nephew of John Hayes Hammond, and an officer formerly in my battalion in a Fresno company, went through the most thrilling engagement last week, when we took the Montfaucan vicinity. He was wounded in a place where, if the bullet had been an eighth of an inch to one side or the other, he would have been killed. As it is, he is already out of the hospital and feeling finely.

“At one stage, with his platoon, he attacked a whole company of Germans, scattered them and delivered a whole platoon of American prisoners whom the Germans were making off with. When he was wounded and had gotten first aid from one of his corporals, two stretcher bearers started to carry him to the rear and a machine gun opened fire on them; the bearers dropped him and ran; he rolled from the stretcher to cover, but before he get out of range several bullets had passed completely through his gas mask, which was hanging on his chest. Isn’t this a thrilling tale? He was mentioned in orders and a promotion for it, with possibly a distinguished service cross.

“Out of three officers who went up from my battalion to the line, all three have been wounded; this one whom I have told you about by a rifle bullet, another with H. E. shell fragments, and the third gassed. A sad case was that of Lieut. Carleton Adams of San Rafael, who has been reported killed. He was married in San Diego the day I was, a week before we left. He was a corporal in the San Rafael company at the Mexican border and won his commission last spring at the same time as Chauncey Peterson and Bill Bagley  got theirs. Chauncey Peterson has been up in the line for some time, but I have not heard from him. Frank. Churchill left this morning to go up.

“Nearly every member of old E Company who was anywhere near officer material and who had the border experience has won his commission. Most of them have made fine officers. The National Guard divisions have the best reputation over here. The old regular army was all broken up by so many of its officers being promoted to high commands and so many non-coms getting commissions. The National Army has shown inexperience in many cases. The fact that a National Ouard division at Chateau Thierry ‘showed up’ a regular division is said to be responsible for us all being classified as U. S. Army now without distinction.”

– Press Democrat, November 13 1918

 

MAJOR HILLIARD COMSTOCK WRITES FROM WAR THEATRE

From Major Hilliard Comstock who commands a machine gun battalion, Judge Thomas C. Denny has received a very interesting letter, telling of some of his experiences in the great battle that has been fought overseas. The letter from the Santa Rosa officer follows:

On Active Service with the American Expeditionary Force, Nov. 3 1918

Dear Judge: I often think of you and I can hardly realize that it has been nearly two years since I have had anything to do in your court. I do not regret it, however, for this war is the greatest cause men ever fought in, and the most wonderful experience any one could ever have.

I have had the bad luck to be kept in the rear areas most of the time as an instructor. It seems too bad that they have put this onto most of us who have had the greatest amount of experience. It has been also the lot of Major Dickson of Petaluma, and many others who have followed the military game longer than most of those who are now in it. We have sent thousands of men into the line, and a great many officers, and they have made a wonderful record. The officers of our old California, organizations, particularly, have won great reputations. They have had some awfully tough fighting. Some of them were with Major Whittlesley in the tough scrap in the Argonne Forest, and lots of them have been in the St. Mihiel and Verdun sectors. They have paid dearly for it, though. Out of seven officers whom I sent from my battalion I got news of five, and two of these five were killed and the other three wounded within one month of the time they went up.

We are now at last in a forward area and have a chance to get into the line soon, if the Boche doesn’t lay down his arms too quickly. I have the word of one who can do it that he will send me into the line the first they have need for a major, so I have hopes.

Have not seen anything of Finlaw Geary since he came to France. The Grizzlies are not near us, and I do not know where they are.

I have seen a lot of Donald Geary. He is doing finely and is much liked by all of his brother officers. The last I saw of him was when he was leaving for a school of instruction a month ago. The regiment has changed stations since then, and I heard he had been ordered up to the line, and that he will not return to our organization, but I don’t know how true it is. Nearly all of the boys from Santa Rosa who were in my old company and who have since been commissioned, have either been transfered to some other regiment behind the lines or have been sent up to the front. I hear very little of them.

We are near a large city on what was a short time ago the front. Imagine a city the size of Oakland simply shot to pieces? That is this city. It gives one a strange feeling to see a city like this destroyed and deserted, but now the population is streaming back and business is started again, despite the fact “Jerry” can fly over and drop a few tons of bombs when he wants.

Best regards to you, Judge. It may not be long now before we are home again.
Hilliard Comstock. Major 159th Infantry. American E. F., France.

– Press Democrat, December 3 1918

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THE ART OF THE UNDERTAKER

Had LinkedIn existed a century ago, his profile would have been the thinnest. POSITION: Assistant undertaker, Santa Rosa CA. EXPERIENCE: 33 years. It would seem like the profile of an inconsequential (and probably boring) fellow, yet he was close friends with some of the best artists in America. Curators from top museums were regularly visiting his modest homes, first on Chinn street in Santa Rosa and then on Vine street in Sebastopol. His name was John Pearson Stanley and he was one of the most interesting people living here around the turn of the century.

Today he’s mentioned only by local cemetery buffs because a teardrop-shaped corner of the Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery bears his name. Back then he was known as the kindly middle-aged – and then elderly – man who arranged the funeral and burial of hundreds and hundreds of local people between 1883 and 1918. He was also popular because he had a knack for growing chrysanthemums and in the 1890s our ancestors were chrysanthemum crazy, with a chrysanthemum festival every year or so. It’s a wonder Santa Rosa wasn’t renamed Santa Crisantemo.

But the reason he had a measure of nationwide fame was because he was such a connoisseur of fine art. His homes were galleries of paintings by William Keith, Lorenzo Latimer, Grace Hudson and others, some whom he encouraged and befriended before their careers took off. Mostly, however, he was renowned as having a remarkable collection of Indian baskets.

Over the years he had hundreds of baskets and appears to have bought them directly from local Pomo weavers. From the 1898 PD:


On Thursday when a Press Democrat reporter passed the undertaking parlors of M. S. Davis on Fourth street, Mr. Stanley was sitting amidst a group of the dark gentlemen examining some of their handiwork in the shape of baskets. One of the little baskets which the Indians had, upon which probably work had been put on and off for three months or so, could have been bought for about ten dollars.

Art collectors and museums were just starting to recognize the incredible artistry of these baskets and word spread about Stanley’s collection. He sold everything he had to the de Young Museum, rebuilt his holdings, and then the Hearst Museum again bought everything he had. He started anew and buyers kept queuing up at his door – two visited on the same day once, and a purchasing agent for “several of the large eastern museums” came to him on a buying trip.

How could an assistant undertaker afford to build collections such as these? The PD reported Mrs. Hearst’s curator “made him a good offer for it” so his occasional forays as a basket art dealer were likely quite profitable. His obituary suggests some of the paintings were gifts, and some may have been bartered; it’s known he gave Grace Hudson and her husband valuable antiques, including a bronze Roman candlestick, a Russian samovar from Fort Ross, a fine Turkish rug and a 49er gold miner’s pan.1 Plus aside from his undertaking salary, Stanley also had an income stream from his side business – selling graves.

Current map of Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery with Stanley section highlighted (see PDF of full color map)

(RIGHT: The full Stanley Addition of 1884)

From the same family that originally owned the Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery land, Stanley bought 5.3 adjacent acres at $250 per. This was the property between the cemetery and Poppy Creek; he also acquired the use of water lines across the entire place.2 He added roads to his addition to the cemetery, made other improvements and began selling lots, starting with a low, low sale price of $10 a grave (see advertisement below). That may not seem like much today, but in 1884 most workers were lucky to earn that much in a week.

Even back then, everything involved with caring for the dead was obscenely expensive. In 1883 the Daily Democrat ran a summary of a New York World muckraking article titled, “Undertakers’ Enormous Profits,” which revealed there was a markup of 100 percent or more on coffins and related funeral goods. Stanley knew this before he came to Santa Rosa because he had just spent a decade in Salinas running a combo furniture and undertaking business, a frequent mix in the Old West – Pedersen’s in Santa Rosa sold “undertaking supplies” up to 1906, although they didn’t do embalming and such.

When he arrived in Santa Rosa in 1883, Stanley opened a store here but it didn’t last long; by that September he was advertising a going-out-of-business furniture sale. The ad stated he had decided “to change his business,” and presumably that meant shifting to just the undertaking trade.

From a county history we learn he was an assistant to Milo S. Davis, Santa Rosa’s established mortician: “…Mr. J. P. Stanley, who has active charge of much of his business, possesses rare qualifications, both by nature and training, for performing the last sad rites for the dead and comforting the bereaved hearts of the living.”3

(RIGHT: Ad from the June 20, 1885 Sonoma Democrat)

We also know about his early years in Santa Rosa because he made and collected beautiful things. Before he veered into the furniture and undertaking game he had worked as a jeweler in the Gold Country for a while and became quite a rock hound; the very first mentions of him in the local papers were about his remarkable collection of minerals, some of which he had highly polished. He sent about a ton of them to an exhibit in San Francisco, and the main Santa Rosa drugstore had a display case with over two thousand specimens.

He also created an exhibit of dried flowers that was compared to an oil painting, and which became part of the Sonoma County exhibit sent to the 1887 Great Mechanics’ Fair in Boston (sort of a mini world’s fair). Aside from that we didn’t read much about him in the papers in the years after he opened his cemetery; presumably he quietly went about his unusual double life.

But from 1896 on, he was mentioned in the papers almost every year. Personal items appeared: His son, James, became the sole owner of the art store a few doors down on Fourth street from the funeral parlor where he worked; it was the go-to place for picture frames, lamp shade, and whatnot. And in a Believe-it-or-Not! coincidence, that year his wife here and his mother in Massachusetts died at nearly the same time.

(Years later, James would follow his dad and become a casket maker, which really isn’t surprising – dealing with the dead is one of those trades that often gets passed down through families. When Milo Davis eventually retired he transferred the funeral parlor to Herbert Moke, who was Mrs. Davis’ nephew and grew up in the Davis household. Stanley stayed on and worked for Moke, and still continued after Moke quit and sold the business to Frank Welti.)

Mostly, though, the years around the turn of the century were busy with his chrysanthemums and that parade of visits from artists and art collectors and curators – even the governor came by to see his collection. He opened his home for an art exhibit to benefit his church in 1898; the nattering nabobs over at the Press Democrat seemed gobsmacked to discover there was a major art collection in town and it wasn’t owned by the McDonald’s, Overtons, or other of the town’s wheeler-dealers – but by a lowly assistant to an undertaker.

Stanley built and sold two substantial collections of Indian baskets as already noted, but he apparently never parted with any of his beloved paintings – which made the 1906 earthquake all the more tragic for him. From his eulogy, transcribed below:


When the earthquake destroyed the business portion of our little city, he walked out of his rooms over a shattered pile of bricks and timbers, leaving behind him $20,000 worth of canvases to be consumed by the fury of the flames that swept the district. He loved his pictures, and the loss was a sad blow to him. But he soon accumulated – not so large or valuable – but a rare collection indeed.

Today that $20,000 would be worth over a half million, but the fame of some of those artists would put the modern value of what was destroyed at many times that figure.

He moved to Sebastopol and continued working even as he passed seventy, commuting to Santa Rosa every day via the electric train. In 1907 he sold all interests in his cemetery to his boss, Moke. He died at age 83 in 1918.

There’s a final Believe-it-or-Not! epilogue often mentioned by Rural Cemetery tour guides: John Stanley is not in fact buried in the Stanley cemetery – he’s in Colma’s Mt. Olivet Cemetery. His wife Emily is supposedly next to him, but she had been buried in her husband’s cemetery when she died in 1896, and a couple of years later he erected some sort of elaborate monument for her. Why John would later have her disinterred and them both buried in San Francisco is another mystery of that old graveyard.

1 Days of Grace: California Artist Grace Hudson in Hawaii; Karen Holmes and Sherrie Smith-Ferri, 2014; pg 105

2 Santa Rosa Rural cemetery 1853-1997: a listing of burials in Fulkerson, Moke, Rural and Stanley cemeteries, now known collectively as Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery; Sonoma County Genealogical Society, 1997; appendix pg vi

3 https://books.google.com/books?id=NKI9QAAACAAJ&pg=463

RIP John Preston Stanley, June 16, 1834 – January 11, 1918

J. P. Stanley has boxed up 2,000 specimens of minerals, his own collection, and will ship them to the Mining Bureau 212, Sutter street San Francisco, for exhibition during the conclave. The five cases weigh about a ton, and forms one of the finest private collections in the State.

– Sonoma Democrat, July 28 1883

J. P. Stanley of this city is an enthusiastic geologist and mineralogist, and on Saturday morning showed us a number of beautiful specimens of agate and cornelians that he has gathered in this county. A number of them have been polished to some extent,and are really beautiful and beautifully veined. This is one feature of old Sonoma that has hitherto been neglected.

– Sonoma Democrat, August 4 1883

Cheap Furniture.

J. P. Stanley has concluded to change his business, and is selling off his entire stock of furniture at cost. Parties desirous of good bargains will do well to call on him during the next ten days.

– Daily Democrat, September 20 1883

Jacob Harris to J. P. Stanley, 5-33.100 acres near Santa Rosa; $1,332.50.

– Sonoma Democrat, August 2 1884

A Rare Cabinet.

J. P. Stanley has had an elegant case put in J. W. Warboys’ drug store, in which are tastely arranged over a thousand specimens of minerals, from all parts of the world. Mr. Stanley is an enthusiastic mineralogist, and has over two thousand specimens, collected daring the past sixteen years, from all parts of the earth. A portion of this collection has been on exhibition at the rooms of the State Mineralogist, and Mr. Stanley has a letter from him referring to them in the highest terms. Among the samples on exhibition are numerous rare and beautiful stones from this county, among which are actinolite, chalcedony, jasper, agates and silenite. Some of these are highly polished and present a beautiful appearance. Many are not aware of the fact, that, as beautiful samples of these classes of stones can be found here as in any other part of the world.

– Sonoma Democrat, October 4 1884

C. De Lange to J. P. Stanley, lot 6, block 1, J. Davis’ addition to Santa Rosa; $1,700 [editor’s note: This property sold by Conradus DeLange is a typical residential lot on College avenue.]

– Sonoma Democrat, November 15 1884

J. P. Stanley has purchased five and one half acres adjoining the Rural Cemetery on the east, which he proposes to improve and subdivide into burial lots. The ground selected is very suitable for the purpose, and he proposes to afford all an opportunity to obtain plots at low prices. The intervening fence will be removed shortly, roads graded, etc.

– Sonoma Democrat, December 27 1884

John P. Stanley to Patrick Gleason, a portion of Stanley’s addition to Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery ; $l.

– Sonoma Democrat, February 21 1885

We would call the attention of our readers to the advertisment of J. P. Stanley in relation to his addition to Rural Cemetery. All the fences have been removed, and lanes and drives laid out so as to make this a part of the original cemetery. For a few days lots can be obtained at reduced rates, and persons will do well to call and make their selections early.

– Sonoma Democrat, June 20 1885

A Work of Art.

J. P. Stanley has displayed not a little ingenuity and exquisite taste in the arrangement of a boquet of pressed flowers, composed of varieties commonly in bloom in Santa Rosa gardens during the winter months. The boquet is of pyramidal form, on a dark ground work, and surrounded bv a handsome and costly gilt frame. So perfect and vividly lifelike are the flowers, that at first glance they would be taken for a painting in oil, but upon closer examination the true and delicate tint, so often exaggerated by the brush but seldom imitated, discovers the deception which has been practiced on art. The tastely piece of workmanship is to be sent to Boston with the Sonoma County exhibit, and will be invaluable as an illustration of the mild and balmy climate of the land of the setting sun.

– Sonoma Democrat, September 24 1887

J. P. Stanley is making a number of improvements in the grounds of his addition to the Rural Cemetery.

– Sonoma Democrat, October 22 1887

J. P. Stanley is making a number of improvements in his addition to the Rural Cemetery.

– Daily Democrat, December 12 1889

Death of Mrs. M. A. Stanley.

J. P. Stanley has received a message announcing the death of his mother, Mrs. Mary A. Stanley, at North Attleborough, Mass.

DEATH OF MRS. STANLEY.
An Estimable Lady Passes Away Monday Night.

After a short illness Mrs. Emily C. wife of Mr. J. P. Stanley died at the family residence on Fifth and Chinn streets, Monday evening at 9 o’clock. Deceased was 60 years of age and was born in Rhode Island. She was the daughter of J. P. and the late Lydia W. Goodwin and sister of Mrs. M. R. Britton and Mrs. E. L. May of San Francisco. She leaves one son, James F. Stanley. She was an estimable lady who had many friends. The funeral of Mrs. J. P. Stanley took place Thursday afternoon. Services were held at the home and at the grave by Rev. R. L. Rathbone and Rev. E. H. Hayden. The pall-bearers were Judge R. F. Crawford, A. B. Ware, W. E. McConnell, E. F. Woodward, E. Brooks and R. M. Swain. A number of friends of the deceased were present from Penngrove, San Francisco and other places.

– Sonoma Democrat, October 24 1896

J. F. STANLEY.
Dealer In Fine Artist’s Materials, Picture Frames, Wall Paper, Window Shades, Cornice Poles, Moulding, Etc,-434 Fourth St., Opp. Occidental Hotel.

Prominent among the beat stores of of the city is the one belonging to the above gentleman; it has been established for ten years, and was purchased by him three years and a half ago.

One of the largest stocks in this part of the state is carried by this house, and it is seldom that a patron asks for anything that is not forthcoming. The most of the stock ia shipped to this store direct from the east, thereby getting the lowest prices hy saving the middleman’s profit, and getting the newest and freshest goods. For this reason patrons are able to get at this store the finest goods at the prices that are charged at much larger cities.

Those wishing anything in the various lines carried could do no better than to call at this store.

– Sonoma Democrat, November 21 1896

A Beautiful Bloom

Thursday morning J. P. Stanley placed on exhibition in the window at the M. S. Davis undertaking parlors a beautiful variety of the chrysanthemum, an imported species from Japan. The bloom was greatly admired by a large number of people. The variety is known by the name, “Tbe Emerald,” or the green chrysanthemum of Japan.

– Daily Democrat, December 4 1897

Erected a Sarcophagus

On Wednesday Fisher and Kinslow of this city erected an elegant sarcophagus of Scotch granite in Stanley’s cemetery over the grave of the late Mrs. J. P. Stanley. A fitting tribute to the memory of that good woman.

– Press Democrat, February 26 1898

Collection of Indian Baskets

J. P. Stanley of this city has one of the best collections of Indian baskets in the state. For years he has been collecting the baskets and has them in many artistic designs. Al one time Mr. Stanley had over two hundred Indian baskets, which were very much admired. On Thursday when a Press Democrat reporter passed the undertaking parlors of M. S. Davis on Fourth street, Mr. Stanley was silting amidst a group of the dark gentlemen examining some of their handiwork in the shape of baskets. One of the little baskets which the Indians had, upon which probably work had been put on and off for three months or so, could have been bought for about ten dollars.

– Press Democrat, March 26 1898

At the Stanley Residence

At the residence of Mrs. J. P. Stanley about the last of this month, tbe ladies of ths Congregational church will hold an art exhibition, that is Mr. Stanley has consented to let them show off the many wonderful curios in the art line to he found at his home. Mr. Stanley has probably one of ths finest collections of Indian baskets on the Pacific coast, worth hundreds of dollars. Of tnese beautiful baskets he has over one hundred specimens. Then he has a number of paintings by the “Turner of America,” Keith; and also by Latimer and other artists. The art exhibition at Mr. Stanley’s should and will be a fine event.

– Press Democrat, May 7 1898

Art Exhibit at Mr. Stanley’s

On Friday afternoon and evening of this week the ladies of the Congregational church have an art exhibition at the residence of Mr. J. P. Stanley. This exhibit should prove a great attraction and should be well patronized, for everything choice in the art line will be on view. Mr. Stanley’s splendid collection of Indian baskets, the famous paintings which adorn the walls of his home, and other curios of endless variety and worth, will all be fonnd worthy of inspection, and the opportunity given should be embraced.

– Press Democrat, May 25 1898

THE ART EXHIBIT
Beautiful Display at the Home of J. P. Stanley
The Exhibition Will Remain Open this Afternoon and Evening—A Grand Success

Art in perfection was shown at the exhibition held under the auspices of the ladies of the Congregational church, at the pretty home of Mr. J. P. Stanley on Friday afternoon and evening. Rather, it should be said, Mr. Stanley kindly allowed the ladies the freedom of his “museum,” for such every room in the house could well be named, to exhibit to the public the many rare specimens in art collected by him, and in that way, by charging a small admittance fee, benefit their church.

Owing to the unpropitious weather the attendance on Friday was small. Realising that many who otherwise would have attended were prevented from doing so by the rain, the ladies have decided to keep the exhibit open Saturday afternoon and evening, when all who can should attend.

The exhibit is very nicely arranged in three rooms, not forgetting the elegant display in the hall.

Adorning the walls of the rooms are masterpieces of such renowned artists as Latimer, Keith, Deacon, Holdridge, Edmondson and Prof. Davenport, and some excellent work by Miss Edith Olson of this city.

Then there is to be seen one of the finest displays of Indian basket work in ths west, composed of scores of baskets of endless variety, made by Indians of many tribes; a display of minerological specimens from every quarter of the globe, a rare collection of antique china, and other delights of the antiquarian. Too much praise cannot be bestowed on the whole exhibit.

– Press Democrat, May 28 1898

A Unique Present

On Wednesday J.P. Stanley received a unique specimen to add to his famous museum of Indian relics. His friend, Dr. Hudson of Ukiah, sent him a “cowtee,“ or Indian dress made of bark. Mr. Stanley prizes this addition to his treasures very highly.

– Press Democrat, October 22 1898

Inspected Mr. Stanley’s Collection

Curator Wycomb, director of the Park museum, at San Francisco, spent Wednesday in Santa Rosa, the guest of J. P. Stanley. Mr. Wycomb came up to inspect Mr. Stanley’s fine collection of curios, and on Wednesday afternoon went up to Ukiah to see Dr. Hudson’s famous collection of Indian baskets.

– Press Democrat, January 28 1899

 Dr. Hudson of Ukiah, the well known expert on Indian baskets and relics, was the guest of J. P. Stanley.

– Press Democrat, September 13 1899

Amadee Joullin Visits Santa Rosa

Amedee Joullin [sic: Amédée Joullin], the famous painter of Indian life was in town on Thursday to Inspect J. P. Stanley’s splendid collection of Indian baskets and other curios. He was very much pleased. In conversation with a reporter Mr. Joullin said that Mr. Stanley’s collection of Indian baskets was certainly the most marvelous he had ever seen. He said he doubted very much if there was a more complete collection anywhere. In some of the baskets he said he found exquisite color blending. The other curios in the collection are very good. Such a collection, the visitor said, was worthy of a prominent place in one of the national museums. While in this city Mr. Joullin was the guest of C. H. E. Hardin at the Hardin residence on Fifth street. He returned to San Francisco on the afternoon train to be present at the reception given Bernard, the distinguished French architect, whose plans were accepted for the new buildings at the State University.

– Press Democrat, December 16 1899

Mr. Stanley’s Indian Baskets

J. P. Stanley was in Petaluma Wednesday in connection with Miss Connolly’s funeral. While there the Argus says that be sold his second collection of Indian baskets and relics to a representative of Mrs. Hearst. Some time ago Mr. Stanley sold his fine collection of baskets and curios for the art museum in Golden Gate park. He at once commenced work on a second collection and had gathered together a large quantity of baskets when Mrs. Hearst’s agent came along in quest of baskets. The agent was greatly taken by Mr Stanley’s collection and made him a good offer for it. In about a week the deal was closed and now Mr. Stanley is free to again commence a collection.

– Press Democrat, July 25 1901

Indian Baskets Bought by Mrs. Hearst

PETALUMA, July 27.– J. P. Stanley, a well-known collector of Indian baskets and curios, has sold his splendid collection of baskets and curios, has sold his splendid collection of baskets to Mrs. Phebe Hearst. Mrs. Hearst will donate the collection to the State University Museum. Dr. Philips Mills Jones secured the collection for Mrs. Hearst.

– San Francisco Chronicle, July 28, 1901

Mrs. Smith of San Francisco, a well known collector of Indian baskets was in town on Saturday.

Professor Wilcomb, curator of the Park Museum, San Francisco, was in town on Saturday, the guest of J. P. Stanley.

– Press Democrat, September 29 1901

Dr. J. W. Hudson of Ukiah. an authority on Indian relics and baskets, was the guest of J. P. Stanley on Wednesday.

– Press Democrat, May 22 1902

MAY BE INDIAN IDOL
Curious Specimen of the Ancients Unearthed while Man Was Plowing

While engaged in plowing on his place on the Guerneville road, three miles from this city, a few days ago, H. T. Noel unearthed what is considered to have been an idol of the nomadic tribes of Indians who formerly roamed about this country at will. It is a well preserved head and face presumably of an Indian god, carved in stone, with well defined features. Mr. J. P. Stanley, who is an authority on Indian habits as well as their skilful work along the lines of art, and others are of the opinion that the article discovered, which is now on exhibition at the Press Democrat office, is a valuable specimen.

– Press Democrat, January 28 1904

H. H. MOKE ASSUMES CONTROL OF BUSINESS

It is rumored on the best of authority that Herbert Henry Moke of the undertaking establishment of M. S. Davis will shortly assume control of the business by the retirement of its old and esteemed head, Mr. Davis. Mr. Davis has been in business here for thirty years and no man is better known or more generally respected than he is. He feels, however, that he would like to take a rest from business cares. Mr. Moke has been with Mr. Davis since boyhood and thoroughly understands the business in all its details. Mr. John P. Stanley, who has been connected with the establishment for many years will remain with Mr. Moke after he has taken over the business. It is rumored that the deal will be consummated in a day or two.

– Press Democrat, January 4 1905

The presence of Governor and Mrs. Pardee has added interest to several of the parties of last week, notably the dinner at the Woodward residence, and Mr. Spencer’s euchre party on Tuesday evening. Mrs. Pardee is especially interested in Indian baskets, and during her visit here, she visited Mr. John P. Stanley’s rooms with Mrs. Henry Hahmann, and enjoyed Mr. Stanley’s, collection of Indian curios and fine paintings.

– Press Democrat, December 17 1905

J P Stanley to H H Moke, July 27 07 —all int, rights and privileges in Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery.

– Press Democrat, July 31 1907

NOTED INDIAN PANITER A VISITOR IN THIS CITY

Dr. Hudson of Ukiah, accompanied by his wife, Grace Hudson, a noted Indian painter, were visitors in Santa Rosa yesterday, and were guests of John P. Stanley, an old-time friend of theirs. They witnessed the coronation of Queen Nancy, and will participate In the festivities today.

– Press Democrat, May 16 1908

BUYING INDIAN BASKETS
J. P. Stanley Disposes of a Number of Fine Specimens of Indian Work

Miss Grace Nicholson and A. Hartman of Pasadena, were in this city on Monday and while here bought from J. P. Stanley a number of Indian baskets and curios. The Pasadenans are traveling through this section. and in Mendocino and Lake counties buying baskets, etc. Miss Nicholsen buys for the collection in several of the large eastern museums. On Sunday she and Mr. Hartman, her brother-in-law, were in Healdsburg.

– Press Democrat, August 14 1908

J. P. STANLEY QUITE ILL AT HIS HOME

…Mr. Stanley, up to the present time, has led a very active life, despite his age, and it is hoped that this factor in a measure will help his recovery. Up to the fore part of the present year he has made regular trips to and from his business in Santa Rosa, hardly missing a day, and his genial face has been sadly missed by those who make the daily ride…

– Sebastopol Times, May 25, 1917

GRAND OLD MAN HEARS SUMMONS TO FINAL REST
James P. Stanley Crosses Great Divide Thursday Evening After Day of Unconsciousness at His Hill Home in Sebastopol.

AS GOOD and kindly a soul as ever breathed passed from earth into the presence of its Maker when John P. Stanley died on Thursday night.

 Nearly eighty-four years of age when the end came, his had been an active life almost up to the last. Of course, as legions of his friends will remember, the past few years he had manifested bodily weakness, but still his mind was bright and clear and he look pleasure in the things of life.

 Hundreds of friends today will pause as they read the death notice of the grand old man and will remember many of his kindnesses. For years his business had brought him In touch with hundreds of sorrow stricken hearts and on such occasions he was ever to the fore with the word that brought solace.

During the latter months of his life Mr. Stanley had suffered several severe illnesses and had more than once been in the shadowland, returning to diminished health and strength with the same, kindly smile and the same spirit of thankfulness that friends were so kind and attentive.

Wednesday night Mr. Stanley relapsed into unconsciousness and remained in this state until the end came on Thursday night in his attractive little bungalow on the hillside in Sebastopol, just across from his old and true friend. Arthur B. Swain, the latter and his good wife always most attentive to see that he had the little things that made life happier for him.

The deceased was a great lover of art. He was a warm friend of Artist William Keith, Mrs. Grace Hudson and Artist L P. Latimer and on numerous occasions they presented him with some of their choice paintings. Other artists had a firm friend in Mr. Stanley. As late as Christmas he received as a gift two of Keith’s pictures and a Hudson painting. He was an art connoisseur and many valuable works of art adorned his rooms. He was a great lover of pictures and antiques, old furniture and the like. He was also a profound lover of Nature and particularly her flower gifts. For years the Stanley garden here raised rare and magnificent chrysanthemums and other blossoms and they were his delight.

He was a friend to all alike. He loved children and young people and was never so pleased as when he was in their company. He used to tell the writer years ago that he liked to be in the company of young people. To this association he attributed his wonderful vigor when three score and ten had passed.

Years ago the deceased’s wife passed away here and her death was a great sorrow for the pioneer. He is survived by a son, James P. [sic] Stanley, and a grandson. Other relatives survive and are in the east.

In the death of Mr. Stanley Santa Rosa and Sebastopol and the community generally has lost an honored and upright citizen and all hope that there was an abundant entrance for his soul into the realms that are brighter than day as a toward for his uprightness of life and his smoothing of the pathway of sadness for so many while here below.

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

John Preston Stanley was a native of Massachusetts and was born June 16 1834. His early years were spent on a farm but he later became a jeweler and came to California in 1858, settling In Amador county, at a place called “Olita,” an Indian word meaning “home.”

He remained there in business until 1867 when he went to Sutter creek and was in business there until 1873 when he went to Salinas and embarked in the furniture and undertaking business.

Mr. Stanley came to Santa Rosa in 1883 and engaged in the hardware business with two well-known residents of that day, under the firm name of Stanley, Neblett & Julliard, being located at Second and Main streets, the center of business activities of the city. His old partner, C. V. Julliard, passed away only a few weeks ago. [sic: The man involved was W. B. Stanley, not John, and that business failed in 1880]

He was for many years with the late M. S. Davis in the undertaking business and remained with the Welti Bros., when the latter purchased the business after the fire of 1906 up to within a few months ago when he was compelled to give up active life.

He became well known through his interest in art, his fine collection of paintings by California masters and his collection of Indian basketry and Indian relics.

The fire of 1906 had destroyed his then fine collection. among which were several fine Keiths, a loss that can never be replaced. Mr. Stanley at once began another collection and through his wide acquaintance was able to get a notable gallery together at his home in Sebastopol.

He was married in 1871 to Emily Goodwin of San Francisco, who died in 1896. One son survives, James F. Stanley. Deceased was a member of the Odd Fellows fraternity for more than 53 years and was a past grand of Salinas (California) lodge.

– Press Democrat, January 11 1918

J. P. STANLEY IS AT FINAL REST
Remains Taken to Mt. Olivet Cemetery Monday Following Funeral Services in Odd Fellow Hall Sunday.

The remains of the late John P. Stanley were taken to San Francisco and laid to their final rest in Mt. Olivet cemetery, as requested by the deceased before his death.

The funeral in Odd Fellows’ hall Sunday afternoon was very largely attended by members of the Congregational church and Santa Rosa Lodge of Odd Fellows, the two organizations under whose auspices the services were held and the many friends of the deceased…

– Press Democrat January 15 1918

TRIBUTE TO LATE JOHN P. STANLEY

Attorney Rolfe L. Thompson, an old and valued friend of decedent, delivered the eulogy which is remarkable for the temperateness with which the many and varied virtues of Mr. Stanley were exploited. He said in part:

[..]

His little bungalow on the hill overlooking Sebastopol, surrounded with a luxury of plants and flowers; embellished within by an unusual selection of antique furniture; an assortment of Indian baskets and curios, and rare paintings from the brushes of Keith, Latimer, Welch, Hudson and a number of other famous artists, was a veritable dream of comfort and pleasure, where his many friends were always welcome, and where they frequently enjoyed the hospitality of this grand and kindly man…

…Those who were fortunate enough to have visited his apartments in this city before the earthquake will recall with astonishment the rare and valuable canvasses from the brushes of noted artist which he then possessed; and the collection of Indian baskets probably never elsewhere equaled, and which was sold to Mrs. Heart for thousands of dollars.

These strange and silent children of nature – the basket-makers – were one and all his friends. They trusted and loved him. These great and famous artists were his personal friends, and highly prized his friendship. When the earthquake destroyed the business portion of our little city, he walked out of his rooms over a shattered pile of bricks and timbers, leaving behind him $20,000 worth of canvases to be consumed by the fury of the flames that swept the district. He loved his pictures, and the loss was a sad blow to him. But he soon accumulated – not so large or valuable – but a rare collection indeed. These, and memory, are all that is now left to us…

…Officiating as he has for many years in the burial of thousands of the dead, none could surpass him in the grace, the precision and the nice little details with which he ingratiated himself into the hearts of the bereaved families. With deft hands he arranged the tributes of flowers; with silent tread, well modulated voice and genuine sympathy he moved about and performed his task. It seemed marvelous that one who had experienced the trials attendant upon that now picturesque journey across the plains by means of the historic old prairie schooner and ox team; the rough life of the mining camps in the days of ’49, and the harrowing ordeal of caring for the dead, that it is possible to preserve so happy a disposition; such a love for art and literature and flowers and antiques, and such a genuine sympathy and pleasure in the company of his fellow men, as he possessed…

– Sebastopol Times, January 18, 1918

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