littletillie

THE SANTA ROSA HISTORY BOOK

Without doubt, it is the most important book about Santa Rosa’s history ever written.

The new edition of the Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery book is out and it’s unlike anything that came before. Normally such a listing of burials is a dry reference work only used by genealogists or someone seeking where great uncle Fletcher is buried on the hill. This is more like an encyclopedic collection of grand short stories, more than five thousand tales long.

Volunteers Sandy Frary and Ray Owen dedicated nearly fourteen years assembling the material via primary source research, scouring all manner of databases and conducting interviews with descendants. The result is both highly accurate and readable; although he may not be your great uncle Fletcher, you’ll enjoy meeting him.

The co-authors were well-suited for this kind of project. Sandy worked at the County Sheriff’s Office for a quarter century and since then has spent years as a volunteer at the Coroner’s Office researching old records. Ray had 33 years of experience in security background investigations with the Army and U.S. Civil Service Commission (now the Office of Personnel Management).

The book will be available June 1 and cost around $40. To place an order, contact the Santa Rosa Recreation and Parks Dept. beginning June 1st. (The exact price and phone number will be updated here when determined.)

[Editorial note: My interviews with Sandy and Ray were conducted separately but are merged here according to topic. In full disclosure, I contributed a couple of stories and handled the cover artwork.]

srrccover

 

QUESTION: What were the earlier attempts to document the cemetery?

SANDY: The Sonoma County Genealogical Society compiled early Rural Cemetery burial records into a word processing program. Alan and Margaret Phinney then converted those records into a true sortable database. In 1996, they organized a thorough survey of the Rural Cemetery which yielded hundreds of corrections to dates, spelling of names and other statistical information. The previous Rural Cemetery Burial Listing book was published in 2007 with Alan and Margaret as the editors.

 

Q: When did you start working on the project?

RAY: I got started on this in 1996, when Margaret Phinney called me to ask if I would be willing to participate in a survey of the cemetery. Afterwards the Phinneys gave me a list of over a hundred items. There were markers with names but no dates, stones that were scattered away from where they should be, unidentified plots, and I was successful with 80-90 of the items. After that they kept sending me names to research.

SANDY: Starting in March of 2007, I spent every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon for six months traipsing through the Rural Cemetery making gravestone rubbings in order to capture and record the epitaphs on all the aging gravestones. Eventually my diligence caught the attention of Alan Phinney, who was then head of the volunteer maintenance crew. Alan and Margaret felt it was time to turn their cemetery database over to someone else and chose me to take over.

 

Q: How many entries were there when you began?

SANDY: I don’t recall the exact number of entries when I began, but there were around 5,000.

 

Q: How many now, and how many were deleted because the person was actually buried at the county cemetery or somewhere else?

SANDY: As of now, there are 5,515 burials on record, and I have deleted 367 entries.

 

Q: Can you describe how you worked together?

RAY: When Sandy took over she would forward questions to me. Sometime they came from inquiries directed to her but often she wanted more information on a person in the database. I also have a special interest in veterans, since we put flags on their graves on Memorial Day. I discovered a number of vets who had family markers but were unknown to be former soldiers, sailors or Marines.

SANDY: For years, Ray spent as many as five days a week at the County History and Genealogy Library going through microfilm reels of old newspapers, the California death index, census records, etc. He was EXTREMELY prolific, providing thousands and thousands and thousands of Xeroxed copies of information for me to add to the database.

 

Q: What was your research process – how did you know what to research?

RAY: If I had vital data, I would go directly to the newspaper microfilm to find the obituary. The Democrat carried more obituaries than the Republican, but the Republican’s were often more comprehensive and accurate. Otherwise I started with death records, census, the county library’s Local History Index and later, Ancestry.com.

SANDY: Actually, I didn’t really know what or how to research when I took over the database. But by luck, one morning [my late husband] Jim and I were having breakfast at the Piner Café, and I ran into a Sheriff’s sergeant who had worked at the Coroner’s Office. He told me about the interesting old Coroner’s Death Records that were housed there. And that got me thinking.

I wrote a letter to the Sheriff and asked if he would allow me to access the Coroner’s old death records so I could look for anyone who was buried in the Rural Cemetery. The Sheriff approved my request, and instructed the Chief Deputy Coroner to provide me with a desk and a computer. Then the Chief Deputy Coroner ordered a large fireproof cabinet to house the old death records because he assumed that I would be bringing up the records that were housed in the dark, damp basement, and I could then store them in the cabinet within the Coroner’s Office.

Thus began months of researching the death records. I was thrilled to find death records of Rural Cemetery residents and information I could add to their burial listings. Plus, I even found some death records for Jeremy Nichols for people he was not even aware of who were buried in the Chanate Historic Cemetery. And I was thrilled to also have access to all the old Coroner’s inquest. I was in heaven!

Eventually the Chief Deputy Coroner asked me to identify all the people buried in the County of Sonoma indigent Cemetery. So I asked if he would contact the Deputy County Clerk and ask for permission for me to access the Sonoma County death certificates. He did, and the Deputy County Clerk approved. Thus began approximately three years of working two days a week at the Recorder’s Office going through thousands of death certificates. At first I researched the indigent burials and was able to identify all the people buried there. Then I spent several years going through over four thousand death certificates for the Rural Cemetery and was able to add TONS of information to the burial listings, such as cause of death, name of parents, name of spouse, where born, home address, etc.

 

Q: There are about 900 new entries in this edition. Where did you find so many lost people?

RAY: Some of the older obituaries and death records said a burial was at “Santa Rosa Cemetery.” We did not realize for quite a long time that it was synonymous with Rural, but since Odd Fellows was established in 1885 and Calvary in 1888, all entries before then had to be Rural. We added quite a few names that way.

A lot were also random finds while looking for something else. If I was looking for an obituary I would go over the following five or six days as well. That turned out productive enough that I continued to do it.

When the place of burial wasn’t mentioned I looked for the spouse. In many cases an obit said the deceased was buried next to a wife or husband whom we already knew was in Rural. Or if there was a family of five but only four were known to be in Rural, what happened to the fifth?

 

Q: Do you know of any other cemetery documentation project like this?

SANDY: No, and I can’t imagine anyone else being as crazy/obsessed as Ray and I have been. Plus, because of my previous 25 years at the Sheriff’s Office, I was given the privilege of accessing ALL the Coroner’s old death records. And because of my affiliation with the Coroner’s Office, I was given access to ALL the Sonoma County death certificates, I don’t imagine there are many people who are as privileged as I have been to access such valuable information for so long, especially with today’s confidentiality issues.

 

Q: Another part of the historical record are the maps. What can be learned from them? How accurate are they?

SANDY: The original old historical cemetery maps (I have several original maps) show not only the layout of the cemetery, but also and the original numbering of each plot. Before these maps were discovered, cemetery maps showed that in some areas there were no plots, and plots in other areas were sometimes assigned random numbers, as in Moke Cemetery. With the discovery of the old maps, I was able to restore the original plot numbering and put plots in areas which had shown no plots.

Several years back, Bill Northcroft surveyed Moke Cemetery in order to determine the boundary of each plot. As a result, this changed the plot number of some of the burials there, which I have corrected in the database.

With the help of Gary Pasqualetti of the Applied Technology Department at Santa Rosa Junior College, we were able to piece together all the original maps and produce an anatomically correct blueprint of Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery.

 

Q: Do you believe there are more burials to be found?

SANDY: Yes, I believe there are. I also believe that when the book hits the street, people will be contacting me to inquire as to why their relative(s), whom they say are buried in the Rural Cemetery, is/are not included in the book -and then our research will surely pick up again as we discover more burials to add to the database.

 

Q: How will corrections and additions be made?

SANDY: I will be adding corrections and additions to the Rural Cemetery database as often as I get them, which will probably be the rest of my life!

 

Q: Will there be an online version, at least an index of names?

SANDY: We had discussed the possibility of turning the burial listing book into an e-book. However the City has nixed this idea because they don‘t want to deal with offering/selling digital products, at least this is my understanding. We have not discussed the possibility of providing the public with at least an index of names. However, this is something to consider.

 

 

Photograph courtesy Remy Gervais

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tugboatdivorce

THE GATEKEEPERS OF BAD MARRIAGES

Divorces are too easy to get and sought on a whim. A divorce harms the community more than the divorcing couple, so only an elected official can decide whether a bad marriage should be dissolved. The public has a right to know any and all accusations and embarrassing details about a couple seeking divorce. A wife or husband might lie about what happened during their marriage unless they face cross-examination in open court.

That snide little handbasket of equivocation, intimidation and false assumptions didn’t come from clergy nor “til death us do part” true believers; these were arguments made by top California judges in the mid-1910s, who viewed efforts intended to lighten their workload as a threat to their authority.


ENDURING ABUSE IS GOOD FOR SOCIETY

Although almost all divorce filings in 1915 charged the husband with some form of cruelty, Sonoma County Superior Court Judges Thomas Denny and Emmet Seawell made no secret of their bias against granting divorces, which they saw as equally (or more) harmful for the community. Here are some examples of their sanctimonious moralizing:

Judge Denny: “I consider such procedure means the undermining of the morals of society.” Denny also boasted that he changed the way divorce hearings were handled in Sonoma County to make matters tougher. Instead of being quietly presided over in chambers by the court referee, he “…insisted that they be heard in open court, thinking that it might do away with some of the evils of divorce if plaintiff had to face the court.” (Note that the plaintiff was almost always the wife.) In at least one instance, witnesses testifying for the woman were lambasted by Denny for not urging her to reconcile with her husband.

Judge Seawell: “…the parties to an action in divorce proceedings are not the only parties in interest, but that society has an interest equal, if not greater than the wishes or whims of the parties litigant.”

What angered them was that married couples were using a new state law which made divorce less costly – not to mention being faster than waiting months for their date to come up on a Superior Court docket, usually jammed up with criminal and civil proceedings.

This alternative way of obtaining a divorce was decades ahead of its time – the concept of family court simply didn’t exist during the early part of the century (California didn’t get around to serious marriage reforms until the Family Law Act of 1969). And besides deserving a place in our history books for that reason it should be mentioned as a chapter in the struggle for women’s rights, as the conflict starkly pitted the powerful all-male judiciary vs. a class of (almost always) female plaintiffs.

By now Gentle Reader has probably guessed this divorce option wasn’t available for very long, and the whole episode was quickly forgotten – this is the first time it has been discussed since then, as far as I can tell. One reason it vanished from memory was probably because nearly all of the events played out in Sonoma County, then still politically a rural backwater.

Forgotten, too, is this Believe-it-or-Not! nugget: In 1915, a Santa Rosa woman served as a Superior Court judge. It was the first time that had ever happened in the history of the United States.

The law being used to expedite divorces was a 1910 amendment to the State Constitution which seemed to be just an administrative tweak for allowing temporary judges (“Judge pro tempore”) to help “relieve congestion of the Superior Court.” It did not mention marriage or divorce at all.

The amendment made a minor change to the wording in the 1879 version of the Constitution (the full text of the 1879 original is included among the sources below). This section of the law stated a judge pro tempore was a full-fledged Superior Court judge with the authority to hear any sort of case, from murder most foul to someone suing a neighbor over a property line. The temp judge was required to be an attorney and sworn in; both parties in the case had to agree to use that judge, who also had to be approved by the Superior Court judge. The 1910 amendment dropped the requirement that the judge pro tempore must be “approved by the court.”

According to the Press Democrat, it was Santa Rosa lawyer Thomas J. Butts who first realized in 1915 that it was well suited for handling divorces. Those cases were rarely adversarial, as the couple had already decided to break up; as long as they could agree on an attorney to serve as judge pro tem, the proceedings could be over in a few minutes.

1898 butts(LEFT: Attorney Thomas Jefferson Butts as seen in the 1898 Sonoma County Atlas.)

Butts was a well established Santa Rosa lawyer and has been mentioned here often, usually as a defense attorney – although he also represented some pretty odd cases (see “THE LAWSUIT THAT WOULDN’T DIE“). He was involved in every one of these new style divorces and except for one time when he served as the pro tem judge, he was the always the attorney representing the wife.

The pro tempore judge was almost always Lucien E. Fulwider, a former San Francisco policeman who had been a lawyer for only a few years. Although they were never law partners he and Butts appeared together on other cases in Santa Rosa, most notably winning an acquittal for May Thomas in the sensationalized 1910 infanticide trials held here.

By the time Superior Court judges Tom Denny and Emmet Seawell caught wind of what was going on, Butts/Fulwider had filed paperwork for three divorces. To the Honorable Jurists, those divorces were likely invalid, potentially criminal, and would generally end civilization as we know it.

Both Seawell and Denny fumed to the Press Democrat in two lengthy September, 1915 articles. The judge pro tempore could be bribed or otherwise collude with the husband or wife. Perjury would be common since there was no court reporter. A hand-picked judge pro tem would always grant the divorce because that’s what they were paid to do.

Butts replied with a (mostly) good-natured letter in the PD, pointing out the judges were implying that they thought Sonoma County lawyers were unethical sneaks, if not outright crooks and liars. Be careful of that, he snarked; “judges are but attorneys elevated to the bench, and very frequently very inferior attorneys at that.”

But if Superior Court judges really did “possess all the knowledge and all the legal learning and integrity” in the state, perhaps they should be turned into corporations, in order to make sure ‘this knowledge and uprightness should be perpetuated and not be permitted to perish from the earth.'” Oh, snap!

He turned serious when the letter addressed the advantages that pro tem hearings offered wives seeking to quickly escape an abusive relationship: “It does away wilh the laws delays, and cuts down the expenses of the litigation, which in divorce cases where women with just cause frequently have to work twelve hours a day for fifty days to earn sufficient to get released from a drunken, worthless or brutal husband.”

Despite the howlings of the black-robed judges (“the bench is holding up its hands in holy horror at the thought,” Butts quipped) the pro tempore court sessions continued in Santa Rosa during the autumn of 1915, while a court was mentioned to have been convened in San Francisco.

A third lawyer sometimes was added to the Butts/Fulwider team: Mrs. Frances McG. Martin. She acted as the plaintiff’s attorney that time Butts sat as pro tem judge and she was the judge herself on November 16, making history as earlier mentioned.

1915fmcgm(RIGHT: Attorney Frances McG. Martin. San Francisco Call, November 16 1915)

Martin would rank high on any list of the most significant people who ever lived in Santa Rosa. You can read a profile of her in the 1911 county history by Tom Gregory, but I’m compiling a full bio which will appear here someday. She was a leader in the fight for women’s suffrage going back to the 1890s and a fearless speaker and writer.

While she was respected locally as an attorney (Gregory remarked she had “the reputation of looking closely after the interests of widows and orphans”), the male chauvinist press outside of the county thought the idea of a woman serving as a high court judge – or even being a lawyer – was ridiculous. National headlines included “WOMAN JUDGE GRANTS DIVORCES NOW WITHOUT ANY FUSS OR FEATHERS” and “MADAME THE JUDGE GRANTS A DIVORCE.” The wire service story that appeared in many papers nationally called her a “lawyerette,” and The San Francisco Call sent a reporter to ask, “how does it feel to be a judge?” She answered the disdainful question by saying, “Feel? Feel? Why there is no ‘feel’ to it. I am glad to be able to show men that women can really do things. That’s all there is to it, absolutely all.”

The divorce which Martin granted was probably the most abusive of those heard by the pro tempore judges. Mary Hanks testified she was frightened of her husband, William, a Sebastopol farmer. He had repeatedly threatened her and once kept a loaded revolver pointed at her as they drove to town.

Another divorce granted in 1915 on grounds of extreme cruelty was Celia Granziani vs. Emil (really Emilio) Granziani. He was a laborer in Aqua Caliente and they had married in 1907 when she was sixteen; they now had two small children and she was awarded custody. The Press Democrat noted that their entire proceeding before pro tem judge Fulwider took less that fifteen minutes.

Less than six months later, however, Emilio was before Superior Court Denny asking him to overturn the divorce on the grounds that there had been fraud and collusion and anyway, any decree by a pro tempore judge was invalid. There can be little doubt that he was being used as a stalking horse to bring a suit which could be taken up to the State Supreme Court. His arguments were the exact same as those made earlier by judges Denny and Seawell – and although he was a common laborer, he was being represented by ex-congressman Thomas J. Geary, the top lawyer north of San Francisco.

(Fulwider was not accused of judicial impropriety, aside from the notion that a pro tem judge presiding over a divorce hearing was in itself an act of fraud and collusion according to the regular judges. However, if Emilio Granziani brought his suit to Judge Denny’s court at the direction of Judge Denny and others, it certainly seems to me that there was lotsa defrauding and colluding in doing so. I’d welcome any feedback from attorneys versed in this aspect of the Code of Conduct.)

So Graziani v. Denny went off to the State Supreme Court, and everyone waited for what they expected to be a speedy decision. And they waited. And then waited some more. While Denny and others hoped the Supremes would entirely rid them of those troublesome pro tempore judges, the high court clearly saw they had been handed a hornet’s nest.

Obtaining a divorce in California was a two step process at the time. A married couple appeared before a Superior Court judge – either the regular, elected sort or a pro tem – and presented arguments for getting a divorce. If that judge agreed, an “interlocutory decree” was filed. The couple then had to wait a year, presumably time for them to work out details like alimony, property division, or maybe even reconcile. At the end of that time they went back to court and a judge gave them a final judgement which terminated the marriage.

But the 1910 change to the law also added wording that a pro tempore judge was involved in a cause only until the final determination. Thus it would be up to Judge Denny to issue the actual divorce decree – and he had told the Press Democrat that he wouldn’t finalize any divorces where a pro tem judge was involved.

With the Granziani case queued on the court calendar in Sacramento, the pro tempore judge hearings stopped, further obstructed by judges Denny and Seawell ordering the Clerk to not accept any more such filings. The few divorces (the PD stated, “at least a dozen”) that had been granted were now in limbo. And during this waiting period Thomas J. Butts died at age 60. He is buried in the Rural Cemetery.

Finally in January 1917 the California Supreme Court issued its ruling and it was an ultra-narrow decision (Graziani v. Denny, 174 Cal. 176, 162).

The court held that yes, a judge pro tempore was a real Superior Court judge. The court did NOT place any restrictions on a pro tem sitting on the bench and granting interlocutory decrees. Thus what Butts et. al. had done was perfectly fine.

But here’s where the hairsplitting came in: While a Superior Court judge cannot overrule another Superior Court judge, any motion to dismiss an interlocutory decree is presented “not to any individual judge but to the superior court of Sonoma County.” And since regular, elected judges Denny/Seawell represented the county superior court, they now could throw out any and all work produced by the pro tempore judge, including the interlocutory decree. (Please forgive me for the pounding headache you now suffer.)

The easier, pro tem divorces were over, now that the regular judges had veto power. In 1922 the law was changed back to requiring a pro tempore judge be approved by a regular elected Superior Court judge. The new law was drafted by Santa Rosa’s State Senator, Herbert Slater.

As for the Sonoma County divorces granted with interlocutory decrees, Mary Hanks – the loaded-pistol case – started again from scratch, seeking a new decree from a “regular” judge. Judge Denny granted her a new decree in July 1917, about twenty months after the one granted by Mrs. Martin. She paid two lawyers to represent her before the court. Celia Graziani never got her divorce; she was pregnant with her third child when the Supreme Court decision was issued and didn’t have a job outside the home until the mid 1920s, when she worked in a San Francisco laundry. It appears only a single decree written by a pro tem judge was accepted and that was in a divorce sought by a man: George W. Mayfield.

Judges Denny and Seawell believed their black robes gave them a nearly feudal right to dictate the rules of society beyond what appeared in the law books – and part of their unwritten code was that the plaintiff should be punished for seeking a divorce. They were not the only judges who had that view; the Press Democrat quoted a San Francisco judge as saying, “painless divorces… are neither a source of edification to our citizenship nor a source of good to society.”

In truth, these jurists were just exhibiting a show of power – a demand that women bend to their absolute moral authority. Yet making the legal process as painful, expensive and difficult as possible did not deter those wives from seeking divorces (although in the case of Celia Graziani, the cost of hiring lawyers might have been a factor). I’ll yield the last word to Thomas J. Butts:


My observation and experience extending over 25 years, has been, that if you should obliterate all the laws on divorce and say that no divorce should be granted except for the one thing, that one of the spouses threw the other down stairs, in every couple that wanted a divorce one or the other would throw the other spouse down stairs. When people cannot live longer together, and the law provides that upon one single ground divorces would be granted, it would not diminish divorce.

 

sources
ARTICLE VI. SEC. 8. A Judge of any Superior Court may hold a Superior Court in any county, at the request of a Judge of the Superior Court thereof, and upon the request of the Governor it shall be his duty so to do. But a cause in a Superior Court may be tried by a Judge pro tempore, who must be a member of the bar, agreed upon in writing by the parties litigant or their attorneys of record, approved by the Court, and sworn to try the cause.

– California Constitution of 1879

 

Senate Constitutional Amendment Number 36 provides that there may be as many sessions of a Superior Court in any county as there are Judges therefor, or as many as may be called from other counties or appointed pro tempore from the bar.

The design of this amendment is to relieve congestion of the Superior Court arising from the construction placed on the present Constitution, which holds that only the number of Superior Court Judges elected for a given county can sit at one time in that county. In case of a protracted trial, this ruling causes much inconvenience and congestion of the court calendar.

– Official description of 1910 ballot item

 

AMENDMENT PROVIDING FOR ‘JUDGES TEMPORE’ UNDER DISCUSSION AT THIS TIME

Act of the People in November 1910, Is Being Used in the Superior Court and Its Force and Effect Is Reviewed by Superior Judges of Sonoma County

Recently in the Superior Court of Sonoma county three divorce actions have been tried with an attorney-at-law sitting as “Judge Pro Tempore” in place of either of the regular presiding judges of the Superior Court, as provided by the above amendment. Considerable interest has been aroused as well as considerable discussion.

By the amendment to the State Constitution, the sitting of a judge pro tempore is permissible, as will be seen by the language. And what is more, the people gave permission for such courts, the amendment adopted, too, in the regime of Governor Gillett, and cannot be charged by some persons as being one of the suggestions of the present Governor, upon whose head so much “progressiveness” is heaped.

Judges pro tempore can sit in any kind of litigation, their actions not being merely confined to divorce cases, judging from the language of the amendment. It places no restriction on the kind of litigation that can be heard by them.

Despite the fact that the Constitutional Amendment went into effect in November of 1910, it was only a couple of months or so ago that it was used in this county. And probably Sonoma county is the pioneer in its frequent use since. The regular judges of a county apparently have no control over the acts of a judge pro tempore, but his rulings are subject to review by the Appellate and Supreme Courts.

Judge Seawell’s Opinion

Judge Seawell said Wednesday: “The effect of the amendment is subversive of all well-established principles of the laws heretofore enacted, particularly in divorce cases, if given the application which the language of the amendment seemingly justifies.

“All courts have uniformly held that the parties to an action in divorce proceedings are not the only parties in interest, but that society has an interest equal, if not greater than the wishes or whims of the parties litigant.

“The constitutional amendment, if applied in the way sought, would place the question of the dissolution of matrimonial bonds in the hands of an attorney who may be the advocate of either one or the other in the large class of cases in which it is practically agreed between the parties that matrimonial ties may be severed. Of course this would be the foulest kind of connivance between husband and wife and society, for public interest would have absolutely no voice in the matter. This alone would be a heavy stroke at the foundation of domestic institutions. Personally I would willingly withdraw from trials of divorce cases. The entire judiciary of the State is already dissatisfied with what it is compelled to do under the law as it now stands. Connivance and perjury sufficiently tie the hands of the court in favor of unworthy litigants as the matter now stands.

“Judge pro tempore may set aside rules of court which require the testimony of the litigants to be perpetuated by stenographic notes and make the persons giving false testimony feel reasonably secure against criminal prosecution for perjury. They may also be relieved of the asking of embarrassing questions which a court, acting under judicial responsibility would be inclined to ask them.

“The amendment extends to all civil proceedings, and if the construction as intended is to be given to the language the judges tempore may be holding court while the regular judges are unoccupied, and in such cases men have been passing upon matters of vital interest to society who have never been commissioned by the people so to do except by the constitutional provision.

“Both the judge tempore and his acts are beyond the recall,” said the Judge.

Judge Denny’s Opinion

Superior Judge Denny is equally apprehensive concerning the working of the constitutional amendment regarding the powers of judges pro tempore. “I consider this one of the very worst pieces of legislation. You cannot quote me too strongly in my opposition to the amendment,” Judge Denny said.

– Press Democrat, September 23 1915

 

PRO TEMPORE JUDGE MAKES DIVORCE PATH MORE EASY
Press Democrat’s Article on Thursday Morning Creates Widespread Interest—Judge Thomas C. Denny Makes Statement on the Subject

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT’S article relative to the holding of court by judges pro tempore in the Superior Court of this county was read with widespread interest on Thursday morning and occasioned much comment.

Several members of the Sonoma county bar were outspoken in their denunciation of the Constitutional amendment permitting such actions, which, though passed in November, 1910, eliminating the power of the Superior Court for any control over judges pro tempore or their appointment, has not been used in this county until recently.

Additional Statement

In addition to his statement in Thursday mornings’ Press Democrat, Judge T. C. Denny had this to add Thursday night:

“The Constitution originally provided that any attorney agreed upon in writing by the parties to an action, might act as a judge pro tempore in the Superior Court with the same authority as the judge thereof, provided that the selection was approved by the Court. The amendment of 1910 leaves out of the section this very vital clause, and the amendment was probably secured. as are most of our laws, to fit some particular case about to be instituted.

“The original section was proper and probably enacted to be used in one of two events, either where all of the judges of the county were disqualified for some reason, or where the calendar of the court was so crowded that litigants really needed relief. But as far as I have been able to ascertain, the provision was never used in this county. While the Constitution provided that the judge pro tempore may be appointed to act in any action, I am convinced that it will, in all probability, be used only in actions for divorce. At least that is the experience of this county. I can see no reason for its being used in other cases as judges who are disqualified are always willing to call in outside judges.

“As to using judges pro tempore in divorce actions, it looks to me as if under the present method of securing a divorce it would never be used unless the parties thought they had no chance to secure a decree before the court; in other words, the plaintiff who has meritorious grounds for securing his divorce will never ask for a judge pro tempore; so that the court and the public are not to be blamed if they believe that any action brought in this manner is fraudulent on its face. My reasons for saying this are two:

“First, each county of the State is provided with a court of one or more departments, each department having its judge and full quota of officers free to litigants. Why then should these litigants hire an attorney to hear their case and add this uncalled-for expense to their ordinary costs?

“Second, no attorney will be asked to sit as a judge pro tempore in whom all the parties interested have the slightest doubt as to what his decision will be. To expect otherwise would be to expect the divine in the human. No one will pay an attorney to hear a divorce action if there is any question as to his decision.

“I feel a little strongly in this matter because one of my first acts as judge was to set aside the former court rule by which most divorces in this court were referred to the court referee, and insisted that they be heard in open court, thinking that it might do away with some of the evils of divorce if plaintiff had to face the court. I do not say that, my hopes have been fulfilled to any great extent. But if it was any improvement over the old system, whatever of good was accomplished is now lost, because they are now trying these cases without a court reporter and witnesses can commit perjury without any thought of punishment.”

VIEWS OF THREE OTHER JUDGES

Here are the views of three San Francisco Superior judges on the “Judge pro tempore” matter:

OUTRAGEOUS SITUATION Judge Thomas F. Graham: “If use is made of the new position in the law,” declared Judge Graham, “the divorce lawyers of San Francisco will be rushed to death and will become wealthy in a comparatively short time. It’s easy enough to get a divorce now, but painless divorces, in the private offices of divorce lawyers, are neither a source of edification to our citizenship nor a source of good to society. There has been some blundering, from all appearances, in the preparation of the new legislation, and the quicker this is remedied the better for everybody—excepting the divorce lawyers.”

OPENS DOOR TO COLLUSION Judge Mogan said: “The selection of an attorney by the parties to a litigation to act as judge instead of the duly elected judicial officer while authorized by the law should be confined to cases of emergency and its extension indiscriminately to divorce cases should not only be deplored, but prevented.

“The only time when an attorney should be selected in place of a judge is where the attorney was the judge who originally presided over some aspect of a case which was left uncompleted when his term of office expired. The law which permits an attorney selected by the parties to act as a judge in a divorce suit opens the door to collusion and cannot but result in increasing the number of divorces.”

AN ABSURDITY Judge John J. Van Nostrand said: “The absurdity of permitting any attorney to preside over the trial of a suit through arrangements of the parties to the litigation was illustrated in my department recently in the quiet title suit of Vandal against All Persons. In that case the attorney for the defendant started proceedings to have a judge pro tempore appointed. The purported appointment was made and the judge pro tempore began to cite half a dozen attorneys and witnesses for contempt and enjoined nearly everybody under the sun from interfering in any way with the defendant.

“The matter was so complicated before the judge pro tempore was through that the Supreme Court had to step in with a writ of prohibition to straighten out the matter. I haven’t had any experience with the appointment of judges pro tempore in divorce suits, but if self-constituted judges can do so much damage as in the quiet title suit of Vandal versus All Persons, I should say that the law authorising such judges is one fraught with grave possibilities of mischief.”

– Press Democrat, September 24 1915

 

“TEMPEST IN TEAPOT” SAYS BUTTS; ‘JUDGE PRO TEMPORE’
Santa Rosa Lawyer Upholds the Much-Discussed Constitutional Amendment and Fires Lots of Questions at the Gentlemen Who Have Been Elected to the Bench

Thomas J. Butts, well known lawyer, ridicules the controversy over the Constitutional amendment regarding the “judges pro tempore” as being a “tempest in a teapot,” and says the said amendment is one of the best ever passed by the people. He challenges any implication that an attorney, in Sonoma county, at least, would be guilty of collusion or subornation of perjury. But there, let his letter to the Press Democrat explain his views:

(By Thomas J. Butts)

Editor Press Democrat: From your article published in the issue of your paper of September 23rd, and also the article entitled “Pro Tempore Judge Makes Divorce More Easy,” in the issue of your paper of September 24th, I see that the matter of judge pro tempore sitting in divorce cases has created a tempest in a teapot, and the bench is holding up its hands in holy horror at the thought. But it seems strange to me that judges of the State of California who have taken the oath to support the Constitution when they took their oath of office, should be the first to throw down the Constitution when its provisions seem to run contrary to what they deemed was their prerogatives.

UPRIGHTNESS OF ATTORNEYS

Why should an attorney be any better qualified or any more upright and honest because he has been elected to the judgeship, than one who has been appointed, or one who has been stipulated by the parties to try the case? Does the election of an attorney to office make him any more just or upright than he was before, or does he by reason of that fact become more learned or more just and upright than attorneys at the bar? Attorneys are all officers of the court, and are sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the State of California, and when they are appointed judge pro tempore by the stipulation of the parties they are sworn to try the cause the same as the Superior Court judges are sworn.

And I repel the implication that any attorney in this county, at least, would become party to collusion and subornation of perjury in order to obtain a divorce for anybody, or that any member of the bar of Sonoma county, if selected judge pro tempore would not try a case as fairly and uprightly as the gentlemen upon the bench.

INCORPORATE ‘INDIVIDUALS DIE’

If the legal gentlemen upon bench of the State of California possess all the knowledge and all the legal learning and integrity, and none is left to the bar, then the State of California should incorporate the members of its bench, for individuals die, and this knowledge and uprightness should be perpetuated and not be permitted to perish from the earth, when the members of the bar – the only source from which their successors may be chosen, are woefully deficient. Judges are but attorneys elevated to the bench, and very frequently very inferior attorneys at that. And I say without hesitation that Charlie Wheeler, Gavin McNab, Garret McInerney and hundreds of others that I might mention, are at least the equivalent in honesty and integrity and in the knowledge and learning of the law of Judge Van Nostrand and Thos. Graham, who criticize the Constitutional amendment adopted by the people.

It has been the law for thirty years that the litigants, or their attorneys could appoint an attorney to try their cause with the acquiescence of the judge of he Superior Court. That provision of the Constitution of 1879 was a nullity. Why? Because of the words “approved by the court.”

AND WHY NOT?

If there should be any reason why a judge should not try a cause, by what force of reason or logic can it be maintained that he should appoint someone to try it? It is a good deal like permitting a detective who has worked up a case against a defendant to appoint the judge to try it. Of course, there could be no collusion among the gentlemen of the bench. A judge when he is called in to another county to try a case never talks it over with the judge who called him and gets his view of what ought to be done in this case, and of course, the judge who called him in to take the case has nothing to do with the decision! But such things might happen, just as attorneys might collude in a case.

IT SAVES EXPENSE

The section of the Constitution is one of the best that has ever been passed by the people. It does away wilh the laws delays, and cuts down the expenses of the litigation, which in divorce cases where women with just cause frequently have to work twelve hours a day for fifty days to earn sufficient to get released from a drunken, worthless or brutal husband.

Then again, what interest is it to the bench who tries causes that are not brought before them. It is true that people may need guardians but they are not quite ready to submit their guardianship unqualifiedly to the judiciary, albeit I believe that the bench of Sonoma county and of the State of California in general is made up of honest, able and upright men. But I see no reason why these gentlemen occupying a high and exalted situation should be making an assault the Constitution passed by the people. In the language of Shakespeare, “Alas, what secret motives they have, I know not, that made them do it!”

I conceive it to be the law that when litigants come before the court in a divorce case, or in any other, and the party proves his case according to law, then he is entitled to have judgment his way.

SHOULD BE NO BIAS

And I will go further and say that any judge who has a bias or prejudice against litigants, or against the cause of action pending before him, should not, in honor, preside at the hearing. If the judge does not believe in divorce and is not willing to abide by the law, then he should refuse to hear a divorce case.

However, it might be in San Francisco, I submit that the new law is in no danger of being abused so long as an attorney in Sonoma county acts as judge pro tempore. Thomas Graham to the contrary notwithstanding.

It is said strenuously that it opens the door to collusion. If there is collusion in a case, the case is prepared before they commence the divorce, and can as well be in the Superior Court before a judge as before a judge pro tempore. My observation and experience extending over 25 years, has been, that if you should obliterate all the laws on divorce and say that no divorce should be granted except for the one thing, that one of the spouses threw the other down stairs, in every couple that wanted a divorce one or the other would throw the other spouse down stairs. When people cannot live longer together, and the law provides that upon one single ground divorces would be granted, it would not diminish divorce. Such a law would increase perjury and rascality, but would not diminish separations, and that, too, whether the cases are brought in the Superior Court or before a judge pro tempore. It seems to be the opinion on the part of some of the bench that thev are entitled as a matter of right to try all the cases of the people in their respective counties, but the people think if they try well and truly the cases brought before them, they are filling the full measure of their office; otherwise they would not have enacted such an amendment to the Constitution.

Very truly, T. J. BUTTS.

– Press Democrat, September 25 1915

 

PRO-TEMPORE IS ON BENCH AGAIN
Mrs. Celia Graziani Is Granted a Divorce From Her Husband at the Sonoma County Courthouse Yesterday

Judge pro tempore again.

He occupied the bench in Judge Denny’s department of the Superior Court, even while Superior Judges T. C. Denny and Emmet Seawell were in their chambers a few feet away. He sat with the California Constitution giving him a legal right so to do and their Honors could not say “Nay.”

With Judge Pro Tempore L. E. Fulwider on the bench, Mrs. Celia Graziani was granted a divorce from her husband, Emil Graziani, on the ground of extreme cruelty. Graziani did not appear to oppose the suit, having agreed in writing to the selection of Fulwider as judge pro tempore. Thomas J. Butts represented the plaintiff.

The complaint and answer was filed and the trial had within a quarter of an hour [sic]. The evidence given undoubtedly indicated, those present say, that the woman was entitled to a divorce.

– Press Democrat, September 29 1915

 

Judge Pro Tempore L. E. Fulwider sat on the bench in the Superior court here again Wednesday and granted another divorce. The plaintiff was Mrs. Mary E. Harris and the decree from her husband was given her on account of his failure to provide. Mrs. Harris, Ivy Keichum and Ruth Zimmerman were the witnesses called and Attorney Thomas Jefferson Butts appeared for the plaintiff.

– Press Democrat, November 4 1915

 

JUDGE BUTTS ON THE BENCH AS PRO TEMPORE
“Discoverer” of the Constitutional Provision Which Allows the Selection of Temporary Judges in Superior Court

Thomas Jefferson Butts, the well known lawyer and poet, who might practically be termed the “discoverer” of the Constitutional provision that allows the the appointment of Superior Judges pro tempore in the trial of divorce actions and other litigation, where both parties to the action agree, was himself elevated to the bench temporarily on Saturday morning and presided as judge pro tempore at the trial of the divorce suit brought by Mrs. Rebecca Patton against her husband, John Patton.

Mrs. Patton charged her husband with wilful desertion, and it was intimated that Patton had only worked for three months out of three years. Attorney Frances McG Martin appeared for the plaintiff.

Judge Butts handed down his oral opinion from the bench at the conclusion of the evidence which was evidently sufficient for the granting of Mrs. Patton’s prayer, and in giving the interlocutory decree took occasion to refer to an opinion given by the late Supreme Justice Jackson Temple involving a similar point to that standing out prominently in the Patton suit.

Judge Butts amply filled the judicial seat, and did so with considerable dignity, too.

– Press Democrat, November 14 1915

 

JUDGE FRANCES M’G. MARTIN GRANTS WOMAN DIVORCE
First Woman in the United States to Occupy a Higher Court Bench Than Justice of Peace — Unique Scene in Sonoma County Superior Court on Tuesday

ATTORNEY FRANCES McG. MARTIN, Santa Rosa’s well known woman lawyer, occupied the bench in Judge Denny’s department of the Superior Court yesterday end granted Mrs. Mary A. Hanks an interlocutory decree of divorce from her husband, William A. Hanks, a Sebastopol farmer.

This is the first time a woman jurist in the United States has granted a divorce decree or has ever ascended the bench in a Superior Court in the country. Therefore the position occupied by Judge Martin yesterday was a unique one and a decided compliment for her.

Judge [sic] Thomas Jefferson Butts was counsel for the plaintiff, and interrogated the witnesses, and the presiding judge had a number of questions to propound to each witness.

Mrs. Hanks testified that her husband had deserted her and had also been cruel to her. She narrated how on more than one occasion he had told her “to get out,” and at one time drove her to town ahead of him, he following her with a loaded revolver pointed at her. She testified that she was afraid of her husband and would not return to him in consequence. She further testified that her husband had used vile language toward her.

Two other women witnesses corroborated Mrs. Hanks’ testimony, and at the conclusion of the evidence Judge Martin granted the decree on the ground of willful desertion and extreme cruelty.

A number of spectators were present in the courtroom to witness the interesting proceedings, which, as intimated, marked the first time a woman had occupied the bench in a high court in this country.

– Press Democrat, November 17 1915

 

WOMAN LAWYER OCCUPIES BENCH
SONOMA COUNTY PORTIA SITS AS SUPERIOR JUDGE AND GRANTS DIVORCE
Frances McG. Martin Presides In Department of Superior Court and Grants Divorce to Mrs. William A. Hanks, wife of Sebastopol Man.

Wm. A. Hanks, well known in Sebastopol, having formerly resided here, alternating ranching with bartending, has been handed notoriety and divorce all in a day. So far as known Hanks is the first man in the United States to be divorced from his one-time lady love by a lady lawyer, occupying the bench as superior judge.

Incidentally, however, the honor in connection with the case falls upon Frances McG. Martin, Sonoma county’s Portia, who has the distinction of being, so far as known, the first woman in the country to occupy the bench of a superior court.

The case of Hanks vs. Hanks was heard in Judge Denny’s department Thursday, and an interlocutory decree was granted Mrs. Mary Hanks.

Mrs. Hanks testified that her husband had deserted her and had also been cruel to her. She narrated how on more than one occasion he had told her “to get out,” and at one time drove her to town ahead of him, he following with a loaded revolver pointed at her. She testified that she was afraid of her husband and would not return to him in consequence. She further testified that her husband used vile language toward her.

Other witnesses corroborated the testimony of Mrs. Hanks and Judgess Martin granted the decree on the ground of wilful desertion and extreme cruelty.

– Sebastopol Times, November 20 1915

 

WOMAN, ON BENCH, DESCRIBES HER LIFE TO ELUDE QUESTIONS
“How Does It Feel to Be First Judge?” Dodged by Santa Rosa Fair Lawyer

“How does it feel to be a judge?” was the question put to Attorney Frances McGaughey Martin of Santa Rosa, the first woman in the United States to occupy the bench of a civil court higher in rank than that of justice court. She smiled as she replied:

“Well, you see this new law, making it possible for two contesting parties to appoint a regular practicing attorney to sit as judge protempore in the case is being taken advantage of in this instance. Of course, it’s a regular court and I am vested with all the prerogatives of a judge; in fact, I am a judge while sitting in the case.”

HOW DO YOU LIKE PIONEERING?

“And so, Mrs. Martin, how does it seem to be a ‘first,’ a pioneer?” was asked again.

“Well, of course, you must understand that I have been practicing for nineteen years. There are probably only two other women in the state that have been longer before the bar than I have. One of these is Samuel Shortrldge’s sister, Mrs. Clara Foltz, and the other is Mrs. S. T. Coffey, formerly Mrs. Luda V. Barham.

“That was peculiar about Mrs. Barham. When her father in law, J. A. Barham, was in Congress he induced his son, Ed and his daughter in law to practice in the United States Supreme court, and it was the first time that this had been done by a congressman. Mrs. Barham was the second woman attorney that California ever had.”

“BUT, HOW DOES IT—”

“Now, let me see, Mrs. Martin, how does it—”

“As I was saying, nineteen years ago I began the study of law. I had been eight years county superintendent of schools in Sonoma County, and. I went into the office of the late Allison B. Ware, that grand old man of the California bar. I entered his office in January of one year and took my examinations before the Supreme Court in the next December.”

“And about this case in hand. How—-”

“I have handled many cases in those nineteen years. I believe I am third in the number of divorces in the county. Then my estate business is a big one. But criminal cases, no. I don’t handle them unless appointed by the court.

AGAIN WE ASK YOU, MRS. MARTIN

“Mrs. Martin, how”—

“Now if you must know about this case, it is a divorce action. It is entitled Mary E. Hanks against William Hanks. The ground in the complaint is willful desertion. The case was a clear cut one, plenty of evidence, and I granted the decree.”

“Yes, Mrs. Martin, but how does it feel to be a real truly live judge, the first woman judge in the United States?”

“Feel? Feel? Why there is no ‘feel’ to it. I am glad to be able to show men that women can really do things. That’s all there is to it, absolutely all.”

– San Francisco Call, November 16 1915

 

Judge Pro Tempore Again on the Bench

Judge Pro Tempore L. E. Fulwider was again on the bench in the Superior Court yesterday. He presided In the suit of Mrs. Mary E. Davis against J. L. Davis. Thomas J. Butts was the attorney for the plaintiff. The evidence being conclusive to support the grounds upon which the action was brought, the interlocutory decree of divorce was granted.

– Press Democrat, December 15 1915

 

FIVE JUDGES SITTING IN COURTHOUSE WEDNESDAY

Five Judges sat in various capacities in the courthouse Wednesday.

Superior Judge Zook was presiding at the trial of a murder case.

Superior Judge Tom Denny had an examination in progress.

Judge Pro Tempore Lucien E. Fulwider tried a divorce case.

Justice of the Peace Marvin Vaughan presided in his court.

County Clerk W. W. Felt sat as judge in a land proving case.

– Press Democrat, January 27 1916

 

JUDGE PRO TEM’S RIGHT TO DON ERMINE IS ATTACKED
Fraud and Collusion Urged in Granziani Suit,the Decree in Which Judge Denny Is Asked to Set Aside—Able Arguments Are Being Presented

When the suit of Celia Granziani vs. Emil Granziani was called in Judge Tom Denny’s department of the Superior Court on Monday afternoon there started a legal battle which will either oust Judge Pro Tempore from judicial function on the woolsack in the Superior Court of the County of Sonoma and the State of California, or will retain him with the power seemingly vested in him by the People of the State of California in their Constitution. The latter right, when taken into consideration and viewed with other constitutional provisions, has aroused doubt in the minds of the regular judges and also many lawyers. It is intended that the suit of Granziani vs. Granziani — that is, its bearing upon the pro tempore judge phase, shall go to the highest tribunal in the State if necessary.

Emil Granziani asked the Superior Court to set aside or modify the divorce decree granted in the suit on the ground of fraud and collusion and attacking specifically the validity of the decree as it was granted by a pro tempore judge.

OBJECTION IS RAISED

William F. Cowan, who was called into the controversy on the point attacking the validity of judges pro tempore and who was not of counsel in the trial or bringing of the suit, objected to Judge Denny hearing the motion in the Granziani suit, questioning his jurisdiction on the ground that the Constitution vested in the power of the judge pro tempore the right to hear and determine matters pertaining to the divorce action, in which a pro tempore had presided that might occur during the twelve months that must elapse between the granting of an interlocutory decree and its becoming final. At the same time counsel had something to say upholding the rights of pro tempore judges under the Constitution. With Mr. Cowan was Thomas J. Butts, whom former Congressman T. J. Geary dubbed “creator of the judge pro tem.”

Former Congressman Geary and Leslie E. Johnston of Napa were counsel for Emil Granziani and they attacked the judge pro tempore’s supposed Constitution bulwark. Geary cited many authorities and held that the jurisdiction of a court cannot be stipulated away. “You can create another judge,” he said, “but you cannot create another judicial tribunal. There is one Superior Court of the county of Sonoma, and there are two judges of that Superior Court, each vested with jurisdiction.”

Mr. Geary said he thought the Court was not only justified in setting aside the decree on the ground that it was obtained by collusion, but that the whole idea of judge pro tempore in the construction given his authority by counsel on the other side should be swept aside and that the clerk should be enjoined from filing “any more such papers.”

Attorney Cowan will reply to the argument of counsel when court resumes at half-past ten o’clock this morning.

– Press Democrat, March 28 1916

 

‘PRO TEMPORE JUDGE’ GOES TO THE SUPREME COURT
Judge Denny Says He “Does Not Believe Decrees Are Worth Paper They Are Written On” — Court Rules at Close of Argument Yesterday Afternoon — Holds Decision Temporarily in Abeyance — Motion to Set Aside Decree Is Granted

The Supreme Court of California will now have a chance to pass upon the validity of the acts of an attorney sitting as a judge pro tempore in divorce suits and granting decrees just as a regular judge of the Superior Court. Sonoma county will furnish the nut for the men wearing the ermine in the State’s highest tribunal to crack.

At the conclusion of the arguments in the motion made by Emil Granziani, through his attorneys, former Congressman Thomas J. Geary and Lester E. Johnston, asking the Court to set aside or modify the interlocutory decree granted Mrs. Celia Granziani by Judge Pro Tempore Lucien E. Fulwider, Judge Denny announced his determination to set aside the decree entered by the Pro Tempore and send the matter to the Supreme Court for final determination, realizing the importance of the matters involved.

SPEEDY HEARING WANTED

After Judge Denny had announced his determination of the suit and his unseating of the Judge Pro Tem as far as he was concerned, William F. Cowan of counsel in the validity proceedings and Mr. Geary both agreed that the matter should be taken to the higher court just as speedily as possible to have the constitutional provision regarding the judge pro tempore settled once and for nil. There was some demur as to the method of procedure.

Geary suggested that inasmuch as the plaintiff had filed an answer the suit could be immediately set down for trial before Judge Denny, and then Cowan could apply for a writ of prohibition to the Supreme Court to prevent the Court proceeding with the trial and that would bring the matter up squarely to the tribunal on its merits.

Cowan did not agree that this was the best method of procedure.

When Judge Denny agreed to temporarily hold his decision to set aside the decree in abeyance until counsel had which would be the most expeditious manner in which to present the constitutional provision to the Supreme Court for its construing of a much vexed question.

In view of this, Judge Denny had the matter submitted, but it was definitely stated, and reiterated to a Press Democrat representative by the Court himself after adjournment, that he had stated what his judgment would be and his decision of the case, and that it was absolutely against the sitting of judges pro tempore in divorce proceedings.

ARGUMENT IS ENDED

After Attorney Cowan had completed his able argument and the citing authorities on the constitutional provision for judges pro tempore holding that the sitting of such judges was legal and provided for in the constitution, even without the approval of the regular judges of the Superior Court, and that the people of the State had meant exactly what the constitution says, counsel was followed by Mr. Geary in closing for the defendant, who asked that the decree be set aside. As on the previous day, counsel urged that while a judge might be created there was no provision for another tribunal. He also quoted more authorities.

JUDGE DENNY RULES

When Geary had completed his argument, Judge Denny said he had studied the constitutional provision and had determined to let the Supreme Court pass upon the matter. This had been his decision, he said, since the very first time the matter was called to his attention after the first interlocutory decree had been granted by a judge pro tempore. Therefore now the opportunity he had waited for had been afforded, he meant to pass it right up to the Supreme Court.

“From the start I have expressed myself, and I don’t think the judgments in such cases are worth the paper they are written on. I have never thought anything else,” said the referring to the decrees granted by pro tempores.

“And when it comes to the standpoint of morality, well, I probably had not better state what I really think, other than I consider such procedure means the undermining of the morals of society. In divorce proceeding it opens up all the grounds for all kinds of corruption md collusion.

“It is very plain to me that when papers are properly filed in this court I immediately acquire jurisdiction, and that jurisdiction cannot be taken away from me except by well-defined rules of court or by the statues. If such procedures as this is allowed all jurisdiction would be destroyed. It is too revolutionary,” said Judge Denny.

When the matter is properly presented to the Supreme Court the decision of that tribunal will be awaited with much interest, especially by the persons most interested, those who have been granted their decrees by pro tempore judges. There have been at least a dozen of such decrees given in this county and should the highest tribunal sustain Judge Denny’s opinion there be a rather unique state of affairs, to say the least of it, as to what standing the divorced ones would have.

It is likely that today or tomorrow counsel will, for Mrs. Granziani, decide as to what course to pursue to get the matter the quickest up to the Supreme Court for final determination.

– Press Democrat, March 29 1916

 

JUDGES DENNY AND SEAWELL FORBID THE FILING OF PRO TEMPORE JUDGE DECREES

[..]

DEAN BUTTS’ REMARKS

Thomas Jefferson Butts, dean of the use of the constitutional amendment providing for Judges pro tempore, said, with a bland smile, after he had learned of the court order:

“An officer who arrives at a point when he cannot consistently support the Constitution of the State of California should resign.

“The duties of the clerk are prescribed by law, and the filing of instruments in the clerk’s office, the place where they are entitled to be filed, the Superior Court has no right to stop.”

– Press Democrat, April 29 1916

 

It is about time somebody gave this Judge Pro Tempore business a good swift jab in the solar plexus. Any law is a poor law that pretends to make it possible for three attorneys — or two attorneys and a hired man — to get together and without giving notice to anybody by mutual consent set aside a legal decision that has been handed down in due form by a regular elected Judge of the Court. No more absurd proposition has ever been heard of.

– Press Democrat editorial, April 29 1916

 

DEATH OF THOMAS J. BUTTS HERE ON SATURDAY NIGHT

[..]

– Press Democrat, June 25 1916

 

Wants ‘Regular’ Judge To Grant Her Decree

Mrs. Mary Hanks does not want the interlocutory decree which was granted by a pro tempore superior judge over a year ago made a final decree. Instead, she has had the old suit against her husband, William W. Hanks, dismissed, and has commenced a new action for a divorce in the Superior Court, and she wants it heard by a “regular” judge. C. E. Davis is her attorney.

For many moons now the Supreme Court has had the matter of the determination of the pro tempore judge validity under advisement. It was appealed from Sonoma county. The decision is awaited.

– Press Democrat, December 30 1916

 

PRO TEMPORE JUDGE DIVORCE DEGREES STILL IN THE AIR
Supreme Court Affirms Judge Denny’s Contention That He Still Has Jurisdiction Now the Legality of the Pro Tempore Must Be Settled as Final Decrees May Not Be Signed

The Supreme Court has held that Judge Thomas C. Denny has jurisdiction to hear a motion to set aside a decree of divorce granted by a judge pro tempore in the suit of Graziani vs Graziani, and thus affirms the Sonoma county jurist’s opinion. But in passing upon the matter the highest tribunal in the State does not attempt to settle the question as to the legality of the judge pro tempore, as the direct question as to this had not been presented.

[..]

– Press Democrat, January 6 1917

 

PRO TEM JUDGE USE SET ASIDE
Judge Denny Grants Order Setting Aside the Decree of Divorce Granted to Mrs. Cecile Graziani

…In this case the defendant, owing to the uncertainly of the provision of the constitution allowing pro tempore judges, asked the court to set the decree aside so that the matter might he heard before one of the regular Superior Court judges.

The matter will now he squarely presented to the Superior Court.

– Press Democrat, February 11 1917

 

MARY ANN HANKS IS GIVEN HER DIVORCE

In Judge Denny’s department of the Superior Court on Wednesday morning the suit of Mary Ann Hanks, against her husband, William W. Hanks came to trial. After listening to the evidence Judge Denny granted the interlocutory decree. Emmet I. Donohoe was the attorney for the plaintiff.

– Press Democrat, July 19 1917

 

WINNER OF PRO TEM DIVORCE IS MARRIED AGAIN
George W. Mayfield, Local Real Estate Dealer. Waits Three Years and Then Claims Mrs. Minnie Manwell as Wife.

The signing of a final divorce decree for George W. Mayfield yesterday by Superior Judge Emmet Seawell enabled Mr. Mayfield to claim Mrs. Minnie E. Manwell as his wife in a ceremony performed last night by Rev. Charles W. DeVol, and ended a three-year controversy as to the validity of divorce decrees issued by pro tempore judges.

Mr. Mayfield was divorced three years ago, with Pro Tempore Judge L. E. Fulwider presiding, as provided by the constitutional amendment which was voted by the people a short time previously. His interlocutory decree of divorce was signed by Fulwider as Judge.

At the same time a controversy which became somewhat bitter arose between various lawyers who had been sitting as pro tempore judges and the regularly elected judges of the county. The regular judges charged that pro tempore judges made divorce too easy, and to make a test of the matter refused to sign any final decrees. The matter was taken into the higher courts before it was settled, and before persons in the situation of Mr. Mayfield were able to gain their final freedom under the law.

[..]

– Press Democrat, September 6 1919

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THE REDEMPTION OF SANTA ROSA CREEK

Note to Santa Rosa: When things are so bad that you’re on the opposite side from the Women’s Auxiliary, you might want to rethink your position.

It was 1923 and the smell of tort was in the air – among other things. Pressure was coming from neighborhood groups, which were either threatening suits against the city or demanding Santa Rosa sue its worst polluter. The state Board of Health was sending threatening letters to city hall because nothing was being done to fix serious violations of public health laws. And then there was the lawsuit filed early that year by a man who charged the city was responsible for his young daughters being sickened with typhoid and diphtheria.

What all of these complaints had in common was that they involved Santa Rosa Creek in some way – either something bad was being intentionally dumped into it or the city’s inadequate sewer farm was overflowing and flooding the adjacent creek with raw waste.

None of these were new problems. Complaints to the City Council about the abuse of Santa Rosa Creek dated back over thirty years, to 1891. Ordinances against pollution were passed but not enforced and court orders were ignored – as for the sewer farm contaminating the creek, the city was violating a perpetual restraining order going back to 1896.

Last month (Feb. 2021) I was part of a Historical Society of Santa Rosa webinar about Santa Rosa Creek. My portion, “The Stink of Santa Rosa Creek,” which begins in the video at the 32:00 mark, covers much of the history of pollution in the decades around the turn of the century, but I did not have time to discuss the pivotal year of 1923, when prospects greatly improved. This article is a companion to that presentation and wraps up the story.

Before we wade into that muck, however, first the fun stuff: Lake Santa Rosa, take III.

In early 1923, the Chamber of Commerce hosted a luncheon for an expert in urban planning and development to tell them how to best turn its city-owned property north of town – now the Junior College campus – into what was intended to become the “Luther Burbank Creation Garden.”* Seemingly to their surprise, his focus was instead on beautifying Santa Rosa Creek.

Thus inspired, come that spring Ward W. Von Tillow, head of the Chamber’s “Clean Up committee,” announced plans to restore several miles of the creek to its natural state. But the committee wasn’t going to stop there; they would build dams to create “ole’ swimmin’ holes” for the town’s youth. They also wanted to ask property owners along the creek to give away their strips of land immediately adjacent to the creek so “walkways, tennis courts, bath and boat houses can be built.” In short, they wanted to turn the creek into a full-blown waterpark.

This proposal probably led many in town to wistfully recall that about a dozen years earlier there was a short-lived effort to dam the creek to create “Lake Santa Rosa.” That plan was sabotaged both by upstream pollution and an obstinate landowner who maintained his property line extended fully into the middle of the creek. (Legally true, but meaningless in practice.) And even before that there was a proposed 1906 waterpark that included a bandstand, but that design was quickly forgotten after the Great Earthquake struck.

The 1923 ambitions likewise went nowhere. The creek revitalization by the committee was not mentioned again, as they turned to their routine springtime duties in getting the town “dolled up” for the upcoming Rose Festival. Homeowners were asked to sign a pledge to make their house and yard as presentable as possible, while volunteer crews and Boy Scouts picked up trash in alleyways and vacant lots, painted old fences and such.

Perhaps the Clean Up committee was so distracted by its pre-festival chores that it plumb forgot about creating a waterpark with “ole’ swimmin’ holes,” but it’s more likely they were discouraged by the outcome of a meeting that happened on exactly the same day. City Manager Abner Hitchcock held a summit between city leaders, the Women’s Auxiliary and the Chamber of Commerce directors. The topic: What to do about the public nuisance caused by the Levin Tannery.

There were then three tanneries in Santa Rosa (see “TANNERY TOWN“) and the largest was the Levin Tannery, which was at the current location of 101 Brookwood Ave. extending all the way to the creek – larger than a typical square city block.

Pity anyone who lived downwind of that place; the stench was offal (sorry, old pun). The tannery also dumped the untreated refuse of its tanning vats into the creek and the concentrations of lime and other highly toxic agents, including cyanide, quickly killed what few fish still ventured into the waters. Complaints about these problems dated back many years and were ignored until the new threat of lawsuits against Santa Rosa itself brought City Manager Hitchcock to call the meeting. Still, he included the proposed waterpark as an agenda item: “Beautiful parks, roses, swimming pools, wistaria vines and tannery dumps do not mix,” he conceded.

Predictably, nothing came from the meeting except for an agreement to meet again at some point to discuss zoning. (Probably meaning they wanted to rezone that entire section of town as industrial, making it easier for the city to justify ignoring odor complaints from nearby residents.)

The Levin Tannery got away with being the town’s worst water and air polluter because it was also its largest employer. Yes, the tannery discharges into the creek were illegal and yes, the company was sued over that as well as the smells. Each time the tannery promised to be a better citizen but did nothing, and the city let them get by with it out of fear they would take their hefty payroll to Petaluma or somewhere else.

It’s worth taking a moment to reflect on Santa Rosa’s remarkable degree of cognitive dissonance in that era. On one hand the town and its Chamber heavily leaned into PR that this was Luther Burbank’s garden paradise and the lovely city of roses, hoping to attract visitors and new residents. But at the same time, they were aiding and abetting the tannery in its ongoing destruction of the creek and its blanketing the town’s air with stomach-turning smells.

The State Board of Health had no interest in coddling the tannery’s illegal dumping, however, and sent Santa Rosa a blistering letter charging that pollution of the creek was “beyond any that exists anywhere else in the state,” and if the city didn’t take immediate action the Board would file injunctions against the polluters itself.

(A little Believe-it-or-Not! sidenote: The waterpark plan announcement, the summit meeting over the tannery smell and the arrival of the letter all took place during a single week in early April.)

As the Press Democrat noted at the time, the town had to prevent at all costs the state from taking action against the polluting industries, as “it would mean the losing of these plants to Santa Rosa, since they could not dispose of their own sewage and compete with competing plants more favorably situated.”

Santa Rosa was now faced with promptly solving a crisis thirty years in the making. Naturally, the city did what it’s always done: It hired an out-of-town consultant – and then mostly ignored his advice.

Sewage disposal cartoon ("the blot on the fair city of Santa Rosa") by city engineers Frank Comstock and Paul Green. Press Democrat, February 9, 1924
Sewage disposal cartoon (“the blot on the fair city of Santa Rosa”) by city engineers Frank Comstock and Paul Green. Press Democrat, February 9, 1924

As I emphasized in my presentation, almost all of the creek’s problems were linked to the town not having an adequate sewer system until 1925.

Santa Rosa Creek was an open sewer until the first city sewer main was built in 1886, with “numerous” privately owned redwood sewers dumping raw sewage into the creek from downtown hotels and other large businesses. Some of those private lines were still in use until 1902, when they were banned by the city. (Aside from sources transcribed below or found in related articles on the creek, most of this older research comes from “The Sewage of Santa Rosa” by John Cummings.)

That first city sewer poured into the creek just west of Railroad Square (it’s always polite to welcome visitors with something fragrant) until 1890, when a sewer line was extended out to the newly constructed sewer farm, about where the Stony Circle business park is today. It was purposely built next to the creek so any overflow from the evaporation ponds or other parts of the system would spill into there along with the semi-filtered wastewater gushing from the outflow pipes.

The sewer mains were undersized from the start and upgrades always seemed to be about ten years behind current needs. Around the turn of the century, every winter Second and Fifth streets backed up with sewage seeping out of manholes during storms.

Being perpetually at full capacity (or beyond), for years Santa Rosa limited which businesses or industries could hook up to the sewer. The city allowed only one laundry to connect and even that sometimes overtaxed the sewer main on Second. The other laundries presumably just discharged their soapy alkaline water into the creek, although they were supposed to be using large cesspools.

The Levin Tannery never used the sewer system but the city’s other major creek polluter, the cannery, finally connected in 1925. Before then the sewer farm could not have possibly handled its waste, which was about 100,000 gallons per day during peak canning season. California Packing Company’s Plant No. 5 on West Third Street (survived by that big brick wall just past Railroad Square) also created a terrible stink in the west end of town due to its enormous garbage heaps of food waste allowed to rot along the banks of the creek.

C. G. Gillespie, director of the bureau of sanitary engineering of the State Board of Health wasn’t threatening action over Santa Rosa’s inadequate sewer lines in 1923, however. Besides the cannery and Levin dumping waste into the creek near downtown, the object of his fury was the sewer farm, where he wrote in his letter there were “utterly intolerable conditions.”

That was because in 1895 the sewer farm moved its wastewater outflow pipes farther west. As a result, several farms downstream were flooded that winter. The city paid damages but Mrs. M. A. Peterson took the city to court and won a perpetual restraining order, “prohibiting the city or its officers, agents and employees from polluting or poisoning the waters of Santa Rosa creek by discharging any sewage, garbage, filth or refuse matter in the creek from the sewer farm.”

Come 1923 and her son, Elmer, sued Santa Rosa for $12,000 damages (about $183k today) to cover medical expenses for his daughters allegedly having contracted typhoid and diphtheria because of the contaminated creek water. Another case at the same time which was apparently settled quietly had a Laguna farmer claiming creek water had killed thirteen of his cattle.

Unbelievably, it seems that the city actually stepped up the volume of discharges as the Peterson case awaited court hearings. The Petersons claimed that the sewer farm discharges were now continuous, and the judge ruled for the city to be held in contempt of court.

And despite further nastygrams from Director Gillespie (“conditions are getting more unbearable than ever before”) the city still did nothing about the dumping situation. Finally in November the state Board of Health dropped the hammer on Santa Rosa and declared the pollution of Santa Rosa Creek a “serious public nuisance and menace to health” and the city in violation of the Public Health Act.

The deadline for the city to fix everything was Jan. 1, 1925 – about thirteen months away.

"Before and After" cartoon by city engineers Frank Comstock and Paul Green. Press Democrat, February 8, 1924
“Before and After” cartoon by city engineers Frank Comstock and Paul Green. Press Democrat, February 8, 1924

The city moved quickly to schedule a special election for February 1924, asking voters to approve $165,000 in bonds to build a new sewer plant. It passed easily, with about 83% approval.

Director Gillespie followed that immediately with a letter to City Council. His message: The state doesn’t trust you to do the right thing.

“I am convinced that the seriousness of the sewer farm conditions is not generally realized in Santa Rosa,” he wrote. “…We must compel your attention to your own shortcomings in this particular, and look to you for an energetic and business-like solution of the utterly intolerable conditions which have been perpetrated too long.” He closed with another swipe that “the city pollutes Santa Rosa creek to an extent beyond any that exists anywhere in California.”

And surprise, surprise, surprise: Gillespie was right. We did screw it up.

Right after the sewage plant bonds were sold there was a big turnover in Santa Rosa’s government. Three new councilmen were elected (one of them also being named as the new mayor) and the city manager and city attorney resigned. Ideas which were considered and rejected a year earlier – such as “sewering to the sea” – were reconsidered. Doubts were raised over whether an entirely new plant was needed or the existing one just could be improved.

What the city then did could be considered underhanded: They sent the Board of Health plans for a modern sewage plant the city never intended to build. Instead they just added a couple of new wooden septic tanks and six more ponds to increase capacity.

Gillespie was spitting mad. He condemned “the inadequacy and futility of the makeshift efforts vou have been attempting at the sewer farm this past summer” and continued:

…Your accomplishments and prospects of abating this nuisance are wholly unsatisfactory to us and an imposition upon the right of others in that vicinity. We expect you to forthwith carry through the program for building a real sewage plant as proposed by those in authority in Santa Rosa last spring and for which bonds were duly voted.

Clearly the city was playing a game of chicken with the state, betting that Gillespie would back off as long as they showed progress was being made. The sewer farm began chlorinating wastewater before it was discharged. The Levin Tannery stopped dumping into the creek – it’s unknown what they began doing with their toxic waste, or why they couldn’t have started doing that decades earlier – and the cannery installed a grinder to chop up peelings enough to wash them down the drain.

The showdown came after the January 1925 deadline. The state sent a chemist to take a sample from the creek while two local chemists did the same. The state report found the water still highly dangerous; the Santa Rosa boys pronounced the samples free from contamination.

The Peterson family wrote to Gillespie asking if the water flowing through their property was now safe. He replied that “…Santa Rosa Creek is considerably polluted by this sewage. It is dangerous above the farm, fully 100 times more dangerous below and about 50 times more dangerous at your place, than above the farm.”

As for the Peterson lawsuit, it was decided in February 1924, about the same time that voters approved the sewer farm bond. He won the decision, but Judge Preston from Mendocino county dismissed damages related to the medical care for Elmer’s two daughters because the municipal corporation was not responsible since there was no “willful violation.” (I’ll pause here for Gentle Reader to scream in outrage.) But hey, the judge said Elmer could still sue city employees personally for negligence. He refiled his case to get a jury trial, but died of a heart attack before it came to court.

Santa Rosa’s wastewater finally met the state’s minimum standards, although it took until September 1926. But although the worst was over, the creek was still far from recovery. During the dry months Santa Rosa Creek near downtown was considered a fire hazard because of all the everyday rubbish still being dumped into the creek bed and upon its banks. (The fire dept. was called to put out such a fire in the summer of 1924.)

Also, the sheriff’s department apparently believed it was exempt from state pollution laws. That was the era of Prohibition and the cops were seizing enormous quantities of hootch, which they poured directly into the creek downstream from the sewer farm. In November 1926 alone, they dumped 1,730 gallons, mostly hard liquor including over a thousand gallons of jackass brandy. There were also 600 bottles of beer and the county detective and deputies  “practiced up on their shooting until broken glass, foam and odor was all that remained.”


*  Despite its name, the “Luther Burbank Creation Garden” had very little to do with Burbank, aside from a promise he would contribute some plants. It was really the latest installment in the perennial melodrama over Santa Rosa’s efforts to create its first public park, this time with the good juju of Burbank’s famous name and intentions that it would someday include a community auditorium, another benefit the town lacked. Nothing much came of it (although they passed the hat at events for years, seeking donations) and the property was sold in 1930 to become the basis of the new Junior College campus.

 

sources

PARK COMMITTEE TO ENTERTAIN AT DINNER

Luther Burbank, Santa Rosa’s plant wizard, and Dr. Carol Aronovici, city planning expert of Berkeley, and a member of the University of California extension bureau, will be guests of the Luther Burbank Park committee of the chamber of commerce at a dinner to be served this evening in Edward’s Restaurant…

…Dr. Aronovici is noted throughout the States and nation as a leading beautification consultant. He has published numerous books dealing with the question and is a most interesting talker. Maps showing how Santa Rosa can be cleaned up and beautified and how Santa Rosa creek may be made into one of the beauty spots of the city will be exhibited.

– Press Democrat, January 25, 1923

 

 

Santa Rosa Revives Interest in City Beautification; New Plans Are on Foot

IS “Santa Rosa guilty of indecent exposure of its civic mind?” Go down and look into Santa Rosa creek before you answer that question. Go over to the old College grounds for an expose.

The beautification committee of the auxiliary has answered that question. It has called in an expert for consultation over the ruins that litter our highways and fill our creek beds. Under the aggressive determination of Mrs. Gray that committee will eventually cause beauty to flourish where tin cans now hold sway. Through their splendid co-operation the creek will some day wind through verdant banks.

The conference with Dr. Aronovici is crystalizing the plans that have been formulating during the past year. Gathered about the luncheon table Thursday, the women of the beautification committee discussed their troubles, unfolded their hopes and plans and were inspired anew by this expert’s advice.

But does the community generally want its civic mind to improve? Will it see that its own dooryard reflects only the peace of order and beauty? Shall Santa Rosa’s arteries to the rural districts run clean and healthy. Do you think it pays to be beautiful?

– Santa Rosa Republican, January 27, 1923

 

 

$12,000 Claim Against City Alleges Breaking Of 27-Year Injunction

Alleging that the city has violated an injunction granted his mother twenty-seven years ago by permitting polluted water to flow from the sewer farm into Santa Rosa creek, Elmer Peterson, who lives near the sewer farm and through whose property the creek runs, has filed a $12,000 claim for damages against the municipality.

Peterson, acting through Attorneys W. F. Cowan and J. Rollo Leppo, contends that his two children have had typhoid fever and diphtheria because of the city’s alleged failure to obey the injunction.

It was also reported Thursday that people living along the Russian river, particularly at some of the resorts, plan to take action through the State board of health to enforce observance of the injunction.

Those who are protesting the present situation say that sewage has been diverted from the septic tanks at the sewer farm into the creek, whence it flows into the laguna and then into the Russian river near Mirabel park.

REPORT CATTLE DEAD

One farmer in the laguna district is said to have reported that thirteen of his cattle had died from disease contracted through drinking the creek water.

[..]

– Press Democrat, February 9 1923

 

 

CONFERENCE ON TANNERY ODORS IS CALLED HERE
City Manager Asks Discussion as Result of Complaints Reaching His Office; Matter to Come Up Monday.

City Manager Abner E. Hitchcock on Wednesday took official cognizance of complaints which have reached his office about alleged offensive odors from the local tanneries.

In a statement issued by the city manager the chamber of commerce and the woman’s auxiliary are incited tn discuss the problem in an effort to find a solution to the problem.

As result of this communication the directors of the chamber and the executive committee of the auxiliary will take up the matter at a joint supper meeting to be held Monday evening.

City Manager Hitchcock’s statement of the situation follows:

Complaints are coming to the office of the city manager accusing these industrial concerns of being the source of some very obnoxious conditions, which interfere with the comfort and health of the homes situated in the vicinity of the plants.

Upon Inquiry I learn that these plants have been the cause of much contention at different times during a long period of years.

The offensive conditions have been complained of on the one hand by those who suffer by being near-residents about the plants. And the plants have been permitted to remain on the other hand by the business enterprise of the city by reason of the large pay-roll maintained and the substantial output from the business. As the city represents all classes, this subject must be taken up from the various angles.

The city manager therefore submits the problem as a referendum to these two bodies, viz:

The Chamber of commerce, representing the business enterprises of the city.

The Women’s Auxiliary, representing the welfare of the homes.

In order to receive, if possible, suggestions as to what should be the wise attitude to assume.

– Press Democrat, March 29 1923

 

 

Committee Plans Natural Park in Santa Rosa Creek

A natural park, several miles long, running clear through Santa Rosa, is the dream for the future of the Clean Up committee of the chamber of commerce, headed by Ward W. Von Tillow, well known Santa Rosa booster.

Von Tillow states that the Clean Up committee, which was voted permanent at a recent meeting, will center all activity in the near future on cleaning up and beautifying Santa Rosa creek, which, with a very little expense and effort, can be made one of the most beautiful streams in the state, but which, at present, is said to be one of the most unsanitary carriers of disease in the state, thanks to the various factories that are said to be using the stream as a garbage dump.

“The Clean Up committee has taken hold,” said Von Tillow this morning, “and we’re like a flock of bull dogs, we won’t let go until our aim is accomplished.”

The committee has as its aim the cleaning up of the entire creek, the finding of new methods of disposing of the scrap leather and tannin from the tanneries here, the cleaning out of all underbrush that is at present growing in the course of the stream, and the building of a series of dams in the creek so that a series of “ole’ swimmin’ holes” can be had for the youth of the city.

It is planned to approach the property owners all along the creek and try to get them to either donate or sell their rights to the creek to the city, so that the dream of the committee can be accomplished.

Property owners all along the creek own to the creek center and this property is not used by one out of 40 of the land owners, since it cannot be turned to any use as the creek now stands. The committee members hope to prevail upon the land holders to give their right up to the stream, in some instances including strips of land running back from the banks where walkways, tennis courts, bath and boat houses can be built. In a great many instances the city may buy large lots on the creek banks for picnic grounds, etc.

“The full intent of this aim of the committee,” stated Chairman Von Tillow this morning, “will give to Santa Rosa what no other city has.” He went on to state how his natural park will be the means of holding hundreds of tourists here each season, who otherwise will go on north to the river resorts or to the springs. This will mean much in revenue to the merchants of the city, it was stated, “and besides,” continued Von Tillow, “the cleaning up of the creek will greatly improver property values of the city.”

A joint meeting of the chamber of commerce directors, women’s auxiliary, the mayor and city manager will be held in the chamber of commerce office this evening to discuss the co-ordination of the program of work of the chamber of commerce and to take some action on the tanneries, which are said to be polluting the waters of Santa Rosa creek.

– Santa Rosa Republican, April 2 1923

 

 

Commerce Board Takes No Action On Tannery Dumps

The board of directors of the local chamber of commerce failed to take any action on the tannery matter after the subject had been given considerable discussion at the joint meeting of the board of directors, the woman’s auxiliary the mayor and city manager last night in Edward’s restaurant.

Manager Hitchcock told of a great many complaints he had received from residents in the vicinity of the tanneries and told how the water of Santa Rosa creek becomes discolored each season from the scraps of hide and seepage from the tanning tanks on the banks of the creek.

The matter was taken up before the chamber of commerce directors at the request of City Manager Hitchcock in the hope that that body could assist in getting the tanneries to find some other method of disposing of their waste.

It has been stated that unless the tanneries comply with the sanitary requirements the city will bring action against them. Several individuals residing near the tanneries have suggested suits against the tanneries to declare them public nuisances on account of the offensive odors and the unsanitary condition of the creeks.

The major part of the meeting last evening was taken up with a discussion of the aims of the clean-up committee in making a public park out of Santa Rosa creek. To do this the committee must first clean up the creek, it was pointed out and this to a great extent means cleaning up the tannery dumps.

“Beautiful parks, roses, swimming pools, wistaria vines and tannery dumps do not mix” stated Manager Hitchcock.

The necessity for immediate action for the protection of the city’s future as a residence center as well as preserving the permanent industrial locations. The only agreement reached at the meeting was when both boards favored city zoning. A conference will be held on this subject in the near future to take up the matter further. Those at the meeting were:

[..]

– Santa Rosa Republican, April 3 1923

 

 

COUNCIL ACTS TO GET EXPERT SEWER REPORT
Complete Remedying of Disposal Plant Foreseen Following Receipt of Hot Letter From State Board of Health.

As the result of a communication from the state board of health virtually delivering an ultimatum to the city over the condition of the sewage disposal system, the city council last night voted to bring Clyde Smith, of Berkeley, an expert, here to study the situation and make recommendations for a complete remedy.

The expert’s services will cost the city $25 a day and expenses.

The letter, signed by C. G. Gillespie, director of the bureau of sanitary engineering of the State Board of Health, declared that the “utterly intolerable conditions” at the local disposal plant have been “perpetuated too long,” and it accuses the city of never having done one thing in all its existence toward keeping pace in sewage disposal systems. There are no extenuating circumstances here as there are in some other cities, the letter adds.

MUST CLEAN CREEK

The state board declares further that the Santa Rosa creek must be cleaned, and the sewage from tanneries and canneries taken care of and that should the city renounce this obligation these industries will also have to be enjoined, with the probability that it would mean the losing of these plants to Santa Rosa, since they could not dispose of their own sewage and compete with competing plants more favorably situated.

The city pollutes the creek “beyond any that exists anywhere else in the state,” the letter charges.

A suggestion for running a sewer line to the ocean is characterized as fanciful and impractical, while the suggestion to extend the disposal system to the laguna is described as having some advantages, but as not necessary. The plan for building a flume to the upper end of the sewer farm is approved only as a temporary measure.

SUGGEST BOND ISSUE

The state board suggests that a bond issue for a new disposal system be submitted to the people and that if it fails to pass that the work be done by assessment under Improvement Act Proceedings.

After declaring that the seriousness of the situation evidently is not realized in Santa Rosa, the letter concludes with this:

“This communication puts on record the stand and opinions of this board. The problem is, so far as we are concerned, squarely up to you.”

– Press Democrat, April 11 1923

 

 

Tannery Odor Drive Is Made by Owners

The Santa Rosa-Vallejo Tanning Company is doing everything in its power to make its place of business sanitary to do away with all obnoxious odors and to prevent any deleterious matter going into the waters of Santa Rosa creek. This is vouchsafed by the sanitary inspector who has been overlooking the manufacturing plants of this city.

[..]

– Santa Rosa Republican, April 16 1923

 

 

Injunction Sought To Save Land From Damage By Creek

Suit for a restraining order to prevent J. J. Flynn, E. H. Crawford and Milton Wasserman from dumping more refuse in Santa Rosa creek was started in the superior court Saturday by Charles B. Kobes against the firm. Kobes, through his attorney Harry T. Kyle claims that his land will be damaged in high water by the refuse and earth thrown by the firm in building their new garage in First street through the diversion of the channel causing the water to tear out part of Kobes’ land…

– Santa Rosa Republican, July 16 1923

 

 

Tannery Owner Held For Polluting Stream

A complaint charging Nate Levin, owner of the Hermann Tannery in West Sixth street, with pollution of the Santa Rosa creek was filed in the police court here, Thursday by City Sanitary Inspector E. J. Helgrin. Levin is charged with maintaining a nuisance by pouring refuse from the tannery into the stream. The case was brought before Judge Collins. Levin has been released pending hearing of the case.

– Press Democrat, September 7 1923

 

 

WHY IS A TANNERY?

Dear Press Democrat:

Why is a tannery? Or, rather, three of them? When I first came to live on (pardon me in) Santa Rosa avenue, I boasted, unfortunately neglecting to knock on wood, that here at least was one part of our dear city not affected by tannery odors. But alas! Times have changed, or perhaps it is only the direction of the wind.

Borne on gentle zephyrs, toward the wee sma’ hours of morning, when all prudent people, and many others, are getting their very best slumber, comes a horribly insistent, unpleasant and penetrating odor, creeping through our homes, and gradually into our senses, till we waken, startled. (And they say the sense of smell is the hardest to arouse!)

Not having been reared to regard the night air as poisonous, my first thought is that perhaps some usually kind and considerate neighbor is nursing a grouch and burning the bones, remaining from Fido’s lunch of yesterday. But no. that could never, never be, not at the hour of 4:30 a. m.

Tannery smells may not be actually unhealthful, but dear me. how can one feel really fit and ready to face a busy day with happy smiles and a sweet disposition, minus one’s usual nine hours of pleasant slumber?

I suppose in time the problem of tanneries will be met and properly disposed of, for I have a wholesome respect for our city dads, C. of C. and all busy boosters and progressives. But God speed the day!

In the meantime let’s all lay in a supply of insense [sic]. Then on retiring at night, place it conveniently at hand, and if the occasion arises (and I admit it some times doesn’t) we are fully prepared with a counter-irritant, as it were, and can soon drift back to pleasant dreams, telling our sub-conscious that day by day – well, anyway, Santa Rosa is growing better and better.

Very truly, MRS. JAY. E. BOWER. [Amy Bower – Ed.]

– Press Democrat, October 19 1923

 

 

CITY FATHERS FACE CITATION IN SEWAGE CASE

Judge Rolfe L. Thompson issued a citation Thursday directing Mayor L. A. Pressley, the six members of the city council, City Manager Abner E. Hitchcock and City Manager [sic – City Engineer] G. F. Comstock to appear before him December 7, and show cause why they should not be punished for contempt of court in violating the perpetual restraining order issued to Mrs. M. A. Peterson May 14, 1896, prohibiting the city or its officers, agents and employees from polluting or poisoning the waters of Santa Rosa creek by discharging any sewage, garbage, filth or refuse matter in the creek from the sewer farm.

The order was issued on affidavit of John L. Peterson, successor to the interests of Mrs. Peterson, who alleges that since April 18, 1922, the city of Santa Rosa and its officers, agents and employees as named have discharged and caused to be discharged, large quantities of sewage, garbage, filth and refuse matter into Santa Rosa creek from the city sewer system and sewer farm. It is also alleged that this discharge of sewage has been continuous since September 4, 1923, in direct violation of the restraining order.

[..]

– Press Democrat, November 23 1923

 

 

COUNCIL UNANIMOUSLY BACKS MUCH NEEDED SEWER DISPOSAL PLANT

…Taking up the letter first it will be of interest to again publish an extract of what Mr. Gillespie says in making his demand for action on the city council. The letter in part says:

“I am convinced that the seriousness of the sewer farm conditions is not generally realized in Santa Rosa. Because the legislature has intrusted to this board the protection of streams against willful and unnecessary pollution and the disposal of sewage. In a reasonably inoffensive manner, we must compel your attention to your own short comings in this particular, and look to you for an energetic and business like solution of the utterly intolerable conditions which have been perpetrated too long.

“The city of Santa Rosa cannot be given credit for having done in all its existence one single serviceable thing toward keeping pace in its sewage disposal. You must realize that cities the country over are evolving new and better means of getting rid of their sewage, such that the laws of decency and health are better served.

“In your own case selection must rest between these two types of works, the Imhoof tank with sprinkling beds and the activated sludge system. Anything less is purely a makeshift and will not be acceptable to this board.

“Surrounding tbe farm, due to the intense growth of the vicinity you have created an obnoxious and abatable public nuisance. At other seasons, the city pollutes Santa Rosa creek to an extent beyond any that exists anywhere in California.

“There are still some regrettable violations of the law in sewage disposal in the state, but they are rapidly being corrected, usually by pressure within the community.”

– Press Democrat, February 9 1924

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