Once that door is opened, events will be set in motion that are impossible to stop. Three men will be dead or dying within minutes, another three hanging by their necks by the end of the week. The town’s cultivated image as the lovely City of the Roses will soon be shattered as the savagery of its citizens is revealed. It is about three o’clock in the afternoon of Sunday, December 5, 1920 in Santa Rosa as Sheriff Jim Petray raises his arm to knock on that door.

Series on the 1920 lynchings in Santa Rosa


This is the fourth chapter in the series “THERE WILL BE PRICES PAID” about the 1920 lynching in Santa Rosa. As this part of the story began, the front pages of Bay Area newspapers had been filled for days about the police dragnet to track down members of the San Francisco “Howard Street Gang,” who had gang raped a woman on Thanksgiving and two other women a few weeks prior. Five suspects had been caught and arraigned with another twenty believed at large.

San Francisco Detective Lester Dorman and Detective Sergeant Miles Jackson were working fulltime on the pursuit of the gangsters, and the day before these events Sheriff Petray notified them that some of the wanted men were reportedly in Santa Rosa. It was agreed the officers would drive up with three of the victims expected to ID them.

The man they expected to find was Charles Valento, who they mistakenly believed was in charge of the Howard street speakeasy. They also believed they would nab Louis Lazarus, who had been in Santa Rosa for part of the week and may have left as recently as that Sunday morning. It was reported in the Examiner that one of the rape victims had recognized him via his mug photo. (It’s unclear whether he was identified before the Santa Rosa visit or if he was wanted only because he was known to be associated with the speakeasy.)

There were two others in our cast of characters you need to know: George Boyd (see previous chapter) and Dorothy Quinlan. Although it turned out she was innocent of any wrongdoing, she was first suspected of being a gang member herself. Had the mob succeeded in breaking into the jail Sunday night it’s not inconceivable she might have been lynched along with the men.

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After her capture, rumors flew that Dorothy Quinlan was part of the Howard Street Gang and tasked with procuring young women to come to their lair. She drew further suspicion when it became known she worked at the Hale Bros. department store in San Francisco, and the night she was in Santa Rosa it was robbed by a team of four safe-crackers who seemed very familiar with the store and the night watchman situation. While she was only a waitress at the store’s cafeteria, much was made in the press that her out-of-town trip seemed timed for someone wanting to create an alibi.

In truth she was Valento’s girlfriend, having known him for about a month. “He telephoned me that there was to be a party at the home of a friend of his in Santa Rosa and invited me to go. I thought he was all right,” she later told reporters. Part of her attraction was knowing he was a bootlegger. “I was a lonesome woman in a large city and I liked a good time. I was invited to a San Francisco resort where drinks were served and there met Valento,” she told the PD. “He made a fuss over me and I thought that he liked me.”

On that evening before the horrors began, all of our players were having a memorable Saturday night. Terry Fitts – the Santa Rosa hoodlum who brought the gangsters here – arranged a special dinner (its specialness undoubtedly meaning it included lots of illegal booze) to be served for Quinlan, Valento, Boyd and himself. Afterwards the four went to Casassa’s speakeasy on Guerneville Road where they drank and danced until 2AM. When the party returned to Santa Rosa, Dorothy and boyfriend Valento scooted over to the La Rosa hotel.

Elsewhere on that rainy and blustery night in Santa Rosa, Jim Petray and his deputies were at a banquet in honor of his close friend, State Senator Herb Slater. It was “a most happy gathering,” according to the PD.

All that was the quiet. Now comes the storm.

On Sunday morning Sheriff Petray welcomed the group from San Francisco.1 Besides Detectives Dorman and Jackson, Policewoman Kate O’Conner was the escort for the three women.

After Petray and everyone from San Francisco had a noontime Sunday dinner at a hotel restaurant, the sheriff and two deputies, the Santa Rosa police chief and the detectives set off on their hunt. As Terry Fitts and the others had no auto and were taking taxis everywhere it was well known where the gangsters were hanging out.

The first place they tried was Casassa’s ranch, where they learned the gangsters had been there until very late and there was now a woman with them. Back to Santa Rosa and its Italian district. On Adams street they searched the Torino hotel (which was owned by Casassa) and then the Toscano hotel, where Fitts and the others had that “special” dinner.

“While there a bystander asked the officer if they were looking for a ‘little black fellow'” who had just entered the house next to the hotel, the Press Democrat reported. It was first presumed this was a description of Louis Lazarus, but testimony at the Coroner’s Inquest revealed he was never there – the man spotted going in to the Guidotti home was Valento.2


A galling mistake still told about these events is that the murders happened at the Guidotti place because the gangsters were staying there. Even if Pete and Jennie Guidotti wanted to harbor the criminals they had no room for guests – the tiny house (about 900 sq. ft.) only had two bedrooms, no bath, and their family included two children, the youngest barely three years old.

Pete Guidotti’s connection to Fitts is unknown, although everyone in Santa Rosa seemed to be familiar with the infamous hoodlum. The association was probably via the Toscano hotel (the current location of Stark’s Steakhouse) being the gang’s favorite hangout and next door to their home. Pete and his two brothers were the hotel’s proprietors until early 1920 when they leased it out, although it was still commonly known as “Guidotti’s Hotel”.

What Pete Guidotti did for a living at the time of the murders is unknown. He and/or Jennie might have been employees at the Toscano but it’s more likely his source of income involved bootlegging. A few months after the family retook control of the hotel in 1921, a Prohibition search found seven 10-gallon casks of hooch in the tank house. Several times in the following years Pete would be accused of serving alcohol and sometimes arrested.

Just before the lawmen settled on a plan for approaching the house where the suspects were, a family friend of the Guidotti’s innocently popped by for a Sunday afternoon visit. When the bullets began whizzing around it was by great good luck that Dan FitzGerald was not injured (some might remember his children who spent their lives here and died in the 1990s: Abraham Lincoln “Dink” FitzGerald and Vera Moors).

The Guidottis had never met Valento or Boyd but they knew Fitts, who pulled Pete Guidotti aside in the kitchen. The reason they were there, Fitts explained, was because he wanted to borrow a thousand dollars, which would be secured by a note endorsed by his relatives – presumably the sisters were no longer feeling so generous about splitting their inheritance with their crazy, no-account brother. “I said it was out of the question, so let it go,” Guidotti recalled telling Fitts.

And very shortly thereafter there was a knock on the front door.

The Guidotti home in 1920. Photo: Hamilton H. Dobbin collection, California State Library.
The Guidotti home in 1920. Photo: Hamilton H. Dobbin collection, California State Library.

The description here of the shootings is a composite from accounts given to reporters by FitzGerald and both Guidottis within the first hours of the murders. Great coverage appeared in the San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle but neither matched the excellent Dec. 6 reporting in the Press Democrat, transcribed below. Factual differences between the versions of what happened in those few minutes are trivial.

Pete Guidotti answered the door to see Petray and the two San Francisco detectives. “What do you want, Sheriff?” He asked.

“There are two boys in your house here that I want,” Jim Petray replied, with a disarming, easy laugh.

The law officers stepped into the small living room, where Boyd was reclining on a couch. FitzGerald and Valento came in from the kitchen and all the suspects except Boyd sat around a table with the lawmen, while Dorothy Quinlan and the Guidottis remained in the kitchen.

The cops didn’t know who FitzGerald or Boyd were, but the head detective and Fitts immediately recognized each other.

“I’m Miles Jackson.”

“I remember you,” said Fitts. “You sent me up for a jolt once and I was innocent.”

“No, you were not innocent,” replied Jackson. “You were sent to prison for breaking your parole.” (This was a 1914 incident where Fitts was part of a gang plotting to rob a jewelry store, and Jackson was shot and wounded by a gang member – see chapter six for more.)

Guidotti heard Petray (or Jackson?) arguing with Fitts and he stepped into the room to ask what was the matter.

“Just a little trouble,” Petray assured. Guidotti returned to the kitchen and heard raised voices again.

Detective Dorman stood and said to Valento: “Well, we want you to come along to the station [meaning the Sheriff’s Office and County Jail]. If the girls don’t identify you we’ll let you go.”

Sergeant Jackson added, “We’d better take the rest of them, too.” Valento and Fitts rose to go with the officers as Jackson went to the kitchen to summon the two deputies who had been stationed outside the backdoor.

George Boyd – who had remained silently lounging on the sofa as tensions in the room grew – swung to his feet. From underneath a pillow he drew Fitts’ 44 special Smith & Wesson “monster” and began firing as fast as he could pull the trigger and with uncanny accuracy, all the more remarkable because he would claim to be so drunk he didn’t know what he was doing.

Detective Dorman was hit, calling out to his partner as he fell, “Oh, Miles…”

Sheriff Petray, standing next to the Guidotti’s phonograph, was shot in the head and groin.

Jackson pulled his revolver and turned back from the kitchen. Boyd shot him as he stepped into the doorway. As he collapsed he fired twice. One bullet struck Boyd in the abdomen.

Deputy Robinson – waiting outside the backdoor – later testified at the Coroner’s Inquest,

All of a sudden we heard this disastrous shooting – eight shots very close together. We rushed to the door to get in and as we rushed to the door this blonde lady and Mrs. Guidotti, and she had a little girl by the arm, came out of the house hollering…Pete come running out. His wife had fallen down with the youngster. I told Pete ‘you better take care of your wife and get out of here.’

As the two deputies rushed in through the kitchen door, they ran into Fitts and Valento trying to escape. The other deputy handcuffed them together as Robinson entered the house. He found Boyd bent over in pain and repeating, “I haven’t done nothing. I haven’t done nothing.” The deputy hit him hard before locking on handcuffs.

Throughout this, Dan FitzGerald was paralyzed in fear. “Boyd looked at me pretty straight,” he told the PD, “and may have thought I came with the officers.”

Petray was face down. Deputy Robinson rolled him partially over and asked: “Are you done for, Jim?” The only sign of life was some hand motion and groaning. Robinson ordered FitzGerald: “Help me pack him out of here.”

They carried the Sheriff out to one of the police cars and someone raced him to the Mary Jesse hospital at the corner of Fifth and King streets. Jim Petray would die a few minutes after being hefted onto the operating table.

Detective Dorman was also taken there and survived a few hours, long enough for his wife to reach him from San Francisco. Miles Jackson died in the house, a bullet through both lungs.

Of the five shots fired by Boyd, four struck the law enforcement officers. The gun belonged to Fitts, but it was Valento who purchased the bullets at a Fourth street gun store a couple of days before – and he bought the soft-nosed kind that expands upon impact and causes the most terrible damage. Yet so powerful was that big gun all/most of the bullets passed through the bodies and were now embedded in Guidotti’s walls, ceiling and floor.

guidottiroom(RIGHT: “Santa Rosa’s Death Room” SF Call, December 7, 1920)

The three gangsters were taken to the County Jail. FitzGerald and Pete Guidotti were also held and questioned. Deputy Robinson found Dorothy at the train station crouching in a telephone booth and brought her in as well.

Word of the killings ripped through Santa Rosa and the Redwood Empire beyond – if someone wasn’t telephoning you about what happened, it was because you already knew and were on the line telling someone else. Even though there was only about an hour left before dark, a photo shows a crowd of men milling on the sidewalk outside the jail.

One soul who somehow didn’t hear about it immediately was Ransom Petray, Jim’s 16 year-old son. The family had moved into a house at the corner of Benton and Slater streets that October and Ransom was in the habit of going downtown at 5 o’clock to walk home with his father. “He was surprised to see the crowd and learned the sad news from those gathered there,” reported the PD. “He broke completely, and deputies led him to a private room.”

As the news continued to spread, more people in Santa Rosa headed downtown. Those living farther away drove towards here in their autos or jumped aboard the electric trolley.

Night fell and they kept on coming. And coming. And coming. And they did not stop.


1In some accounts the group arrived in Santa Rosa on Saturday night, but the presence of Petray and the deputies at the banquet along with the foul weather for driving make that very unlikely.
2As seen in his mug shot in the previous chapter, Valento had a Mediterranean complexion with both his parents being from Trieste; his nickname was “Spani,” being short for “Spanish.” The Republican referred to the 5’2″ Valento as a “diminutive black looking specimen of humanity.”





Dan Fitz Gerald, who was in the room when the shooting occurred, gives a graphic description of the terrible affair.

“When the officers came in,” he said, “they began talking. We were all seated around the room, and when they ordered Boyd to stand up he started to obey, but as he got up he pulled his gun and, quick as a flash, began firing. He picked them out fast, and it was ‘pop, pop, pop,’ as quick as he could press the trigger. Then, as it seemed to me, he turned his gun on himself and shot himself through the stomach. Anyhow, when I looked at him he was toppling over and doubling up, and his pistol was in his hand and seemed to be pointed toward his stomach.”

“It was cold-blooded murder, and nothing else.”

“I helped the officers pick up the wounded men and carry them to the automobile, and also helped carry Jackson into the hospital.”

A fact tending to weaken the theory that Boyd turned his pistol upon himself is the finding of a bullet under the carpet in the dining room. The bullet came at an angle from the kitchen door, near where the slain officers were standing, gouged a small hole in the carpet, and lodged in the flooring but a few inches from where it first struck.

A complete search of the dining room failed to disclose evidence of another bullet fired in this direction, or the mark of a bullet in the walls of the room.

The room was not disarranged and shows no signs of any struggle or quick movements. Cut glass sitting on the table between the officers and the men was not disturbed.

But another bullet struck the dining room door leading to the kitchen and imbedded itself in the wall. The two bullet holes and a pool of blood on the carpel near where Sheriff Petray was said to have fallen were the only evidences of the terrible crime visible in the house.


“Jackson shot Boyd from the kitchen door, declared Guidotti to a Press Democrat representative, “and I saw him do it. I was out in the kitchen helping my wife with the dishes and I saw Jackson pull his gun and fire. Jackson was on the floor, and partly sitting up when he pulled his gun and fired. I think shot twice.”

“Fitts came in with two men, and said he wanted to talk to me about money. He asked me if I could [illegible microfilm] note for a thousand dollars and I said it was out of the question, so let it go.’ Then he said, ‘How about a little soup? I told him all right, to sit down and have some. They sat down and had a plate of soup, and it was only a little while after this that the officers came in.”

Guidotti’s statement that Detective Jackson fired the shot that “got” Boyd, is borne out by the direction taken by the bullet found beneath the carpet in the room in which the shooting occurred.


Mrs. Guidotti states that she did not know any of the men except Fitts. He came to the house, she said, just a few minutes before the arrival of the officers, accompanied by two strangers. Fitts requested the loan of a sum of money, which was refused.

There was a knock on the front door, she said, and Pete Guidotti went to the door and admitted the officers. They walked in and told the three men they wanted to see them. One of the men replied, according to Mrs. Guidotti. “Well, take us up town to the proper place. Let’s have no argument in this lady’s house.”

Mrs. Guidotti immediately went to the kitchen and picked up her small child. Just then she heard shots, and with the baby in her arms rushed frantically out of the house.

According to other witnesses, who were on the scene immediately after the tragedy. Sheriff Petray fell beside a phonograph, Jackson staggered into the kitchen and dropped. The three men made a break for the back door and were captured by Deputy Sheriffs Marvin Robinson and Robert Dickson.


Fitz Gerald, who is said to be an old friend of the Guidotti family and a frequent visitor at their home, dropped in only a few moments before the officers arrived. Fitts, Boyd and the others were already there. He expressed himself after the shooting as of the opinion that the San Francisco gang might try to make it appear that he had something to do with the raid. “Boyd looked at me pretty straight,” said Fitz Gerald, “and may have thought I came with the officers. If he had taken a shot at me, I would not have been greatly surprised, under the circumstances. I guess I am lucky to have escaped.”


Dr. W. S. Stone, Northwestern Pacific physician, and surgeon at San Quentin for six years, says that Thursday he made a trip from Healdsburg to San Rafael, accompanied by his wife.

He says that at Santa Rosa Terry Fitts and Charles Valento boarded the train for San Francisco. Stone says that he spoke to Fitts and was introduced to Valento. The men said they were going to San Francisco but would return to Santa Rosa in the evening. Stone asked Fitts how he had been getting along since he left the penitentiary and, he says, Fitts replied that he had fallen heir to some money and was getting along fine.

Statements from all the arrested men were taken by District Attorney Geo. W. Hoyle. It is said that Fitts and Valento denied knowing anything about who did the shooting, saying there was so much smoke and confusion that they were more concerned about getting out of the way.


Boyd at first told a lurid tale of knowing who did the shooting and said that he could identify the man. He later is said to have admitted that he fired one shot at Sergeant Miles. Boyd said that he was intoxicated and did not know how the trouble started, according to Dr. Jackson Temple, Boyd is evidently a dope fiend, carrying many marks of the needle on his arms.

The gun with which the officers were killed was a 44 special Smith & Wesson, a long barreled weapon. According to officers, it has been identified as [illegible microfilm] to Fitts. Just how it came into the hands of Boyd will have to be explained.

Among the contents of Boyd’s suit case, which was secured by the officers and taken to the county jail, was a box of 44-calibre shells, with one round missing. The box originally contained fifty shells, and now contains but forty-four. The bullets are of the soft-nose variety and capable of doing great damage.

Sheriff Petray received information Saturday that members of the Howard street gang who had assaulted several girls in San Francisco recently were in hiding here or in this vicinity. He notified the San Francisco police, and made an appointment to meet representatives from the San Francisco department and three, of the girls who had been attacked. The officers arrived here Sunday morning in a police automobile.

The San Francisco party included Detective Sergeant Miles Jackson, Policewoman Katherine O’Connor, Detective Lester Dorman, who was chauffeur of the police automobile, and three of the girls who were victims of the gang, Jean Montgomery, who formerly lived at Petaluma, Pearl Hanley and Edna Fullmer.

After dinner Sheriff Petray led a raiding party composed of the two San Francisco officers, Deputy Sheriffs Robert Dickson and Marvin Robinson and Chief of Police George Matthews, on a hunt for the gangsters.

Petray and the detectives went first to the Torino hotel. The others went to the Cassasa place. At Cassasa’s they were told that the men described had left at 1 o’clock Sunday morning and had not been back. At the Toscano hotel they were informed that the men had been there, but had left.


While there a bystander asked the officer if they were looking for a “little black fellow.” and stated that such a man had just gone into Pete Guidotti’s residence. adjoining the hotel.

Sheriff Petray and the detectives were informed and went to Guidotti’s door, while the deputies spread out, planning to surround the place. Guidotti talked with the officers, who entered the house, and found Terrance Fitts, Dan Fitz Gerald, Charles Valento, George Boyd, and a woman giving the name of Dorothy Quinlan and Mrs. Guidotti.

Robinson and Dickson walked around to the rear of the house while the conference was going on inside and had reached the rear door when they heard a number of shots fired in quick succession. Instantly the officers broke in the back door and faced Boyd, Fitts and Valento. With drawn revolvers the officers ordered hands up and Robinson clapped his irons on Boyd, while Dickson, assisted by Robinson, handcuffed Valento and Fitts together.

The sight Which met the deputies eyes almost paralyzed them. On the floor lay Sheriff Petray and the two detectives.


Deputy Robinson turned Petray partly on his side and asked: “Are you done for, Jim?”

The only response was a groan. So far as is known Petray never recovered consciousness. He was picked up by Robinson and Fitz Gerald and carried to a waiting automobile in which he was rushed to the Mary Jesse hospital. Dr. G. W. Mallory, who was at the hospital, said he was alive when placed on the operating table, but breathed his last after a few minutes, without speaking.

The two officers were picked up and rushed to the hospital in other machines. Jackson was dead when taken into the hospital, and Dorman was found to be critically wounded, a bullet having struck him in his right shoulder, and ranging across the breast and hitting the opposite bone and dropping downward. It was said about 1 o’clock by the attending physician that his condition was critical and the district attorney’s office was advised to secure a statement if they desired his testimony in the case.


Deputy District Attorney Ross Campbell and Harry A. Scott, one of the official court reporters, took down the statement as it was uttered.

George Boyd, who claims to be an engineer from Seattle, is charged by Dan Fitzgerald with having done the shooting. Jackson, after he was mortally wounded, is said to have fired a shot which entered Boyd’s right side and ranged into the liver. His injury is said by Dr. Jackson Temple, who attended him in the county jail, not to be serious.

Dan Fitz Gerald had been at the Guidotti home only for a short time when Valento entered, and is said by the officers not to be involved in any manner in the trouble. The same is said regarding Pete Guidotti, but both men went to the county jail, where they were detained and thoroughly questioned by District Attorney George W. Hoyle, who had their statements taken down in shorthand.

As the news spread through the city and the county, phone calls to the sheriff’s office and The Press Democrat came pouring in for particulars, and soon a great crowd had assembled around the county Jail eager to gain any bit of information possible. Relatives and friends of the dead sheriff were soon here from Healdsburg, and some strong talk was indulged in, but a number of deputy sheriffs and the local police were placed on guard and the sidewalks and porch cleared of all, and no one allowed to enter who did not have business in the office.


As soon us it was known that Sheriff Petray was dead Judge Seawell was summoned and advised that the deputies all be sworn in at once as deputy constables, and assisted Oscar Mathews in drawing appointments for the deputies as fast as they reported to the office, so as to provide a lawful police force for the county as the jurisdiction of all deputies die [sic] with the chief under the law.

Coroner F. H. Phillips reached Santa Rosa at 5 o’clock, and assumed temporary charge of the sheriff’s office upon the theory that in such case the coroner automatically becomes sheriff.

Superior Judge Emmet Seawell ruled that Phillips has power only to serve official papers. At the same time he conferred with Constable Mathews who had sworn in all former deputy sheriffs os constables, and John M. Boyes, deputy, and former Santa Rosa chief of police, was appointed as officer in charge of all constables for the night.

A meeting of the board of supervisors has been called for 10 o’clock this morning when the immediate appointment of a sheriff to conduct the office will be taken up.


Deputy Sheriff Robinson picked up four revolvers he found lying on the floor of the Guidotti dining room after he had handcuffed the prisoners and sent the wounded officers to the hospital. These were taken to the county jail with the prisoners and locked up in the vault for safe keeping, and as evidence later when required. Robinson examined the weapons in the presence of other deputies and the Press Democrat representative. One weapon, long barrelled, was found to have five empty shells, while another held two. The former is said to be that of Geo. Boyd by both Dan Fitz Gerald and Pete Guidotti, who declared Boyd drew a long-barrel weapon and fired the five slots as rapidly as be could pull the trigger. The other is said to be the weapon of Detective Jackson.

Chief of Police G. W. Matthews spent an hour or more Saturday night in the vicinity of tho Guidotti hotel, looking for Terry Fitts, who was reported to be running wild with a weapon, and it was feared he would do harm io some one unless he was detained.


That Sheriff James A. Petray had no premonition of any trouble in rounding up members of tho Howard street gang here, still less of death and disaster, was indicated Saturday when he gave Press Democrat representatives confidential information that two or three members of the gang had been located here, and that they would be arrested Sunday afternoon.

“I’m going to have a mighty good story for you tomorrow afternoon about 3 o’clock,” he said to one reporter. But at 3 o’clock Sunday Jim Petray was dead, slain by one at the gangsters he sought in the performance of his duty.


Mixed with the sadness of Petray’s office staff is their happiness in having gathered with him at a dinner party Saturday evening, arranged in honor of Senator Herbert Slater. All of the deputies gathered at the table with the sheriff and the guest of honor, who has long been a close friend of the slain officer. Assemblyman A. F. Stevens and Assemblyman-elect L. E. Fulwider, were also guests of honor for the occasion, which was a most happy gathering.


L. A. Close, the taxi driver, had an exciting experience with Fitts Wednesday night when he was called to Casassa’s by phone for a passenger.

“When Fitts got into the car he showed plainly that he had been drinking heavily,” said Close, telling of his experience with the man. “He placed a revolver to my head and said In Chicago they made the taxi drivers take them wherever they wanted to go, and not where the drivers liked. He asked me if I was game and I naturally replied that I was. He kept the gun at my head and told me to ’step on her.’ I did and took him to the Toscano hotel where I left him.”

Reports were made to the officers that Fitts had called at a private residence Thursday morning where he went through the place and flourished his gun with threats that he was going to get the girl or her mother before he left. It was also reported that he went to the same house Friday night and when he could not gain an entrance laid down and went to sleep on the porch.

Captain Duncan Matheson of tho San Francisco office force, accompanied by Mrs. Lester Dorman, wife of the wounded officer, and the mother of the officer, arrived here with a party of friends on the late train from San Francisco, Sunday evening and hurried to the county jail, where the captain had a conference with H. M. Boyes, acting head of the office, after which he accompanied Mrs. Dorman and her friends to the Mary Jesse hospital, arriving there shortly before 9 o’clock.


When Captain Matheson was taken to the room of the wounded officer he greeted the officer encouragingly. Dorman appeared to rally slightly and recognize Matheson with a weak smile. When his wife stepped to his side he showed he recognized her, but was not able to speak so as to be heard. Within half an hour the end had come. Larry Jackson, a brother of Detective Jackson, was the first one from San Francisco to arrive at the county Jail after the shooting. He was completely broken up but bore up bravely, He was taken to the morgue as soon as possible where the body of his brother had been removed from the hospital.

When taken into the presence of the body he fell on his knees and wept like a child, repeatedly kissing the dead face, and crying out, “Oh, Brother, My Brother,” time and again as he continued to weep. Those who accompanied him wept silently in sympathy.


Ransome Petray, oldest son of the sheriff, came to the county jail Sunday afternoon about 5 o’clock to meet his father, something he frequently did since coming to Santa Rosa to reside. He was surprised to see the crowd and learned the sad news from those gathered there. He broke completely, and deputies led him to a private room.

Word was telephoned to Edward Petray of Healdsburg, brother of the Sheriff, and Frank Petray, another brother, came to town and visited the jail with a party of friends. Later they visited the morgue, where the body of their brother had been removed from the hospital.


Ed Faught, chief of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad Police force, and Nick and Jahil Yeager, came to Santa Rosa from Sausalito on the night train and remained over night to see the prisoners, so as to be able to identify them in the future if necessity arises.

As news of the tragedy spread like wildfire throughout the county the deputies reported by phone, and many made haste to reach Santa Rosa. Among those who visited the jail were… and many others.


District Attorney George W. Hoyle at one o’clock Monday morning, having concluded the work of taking statements from all the persons who could be found whom had any knowledge of the shooting, said:

“From the best information available I believe that Sergeant Dorman was the first man shot, while Sheriff Petray went down next. Sergeant Jackson had undoubtedly stepped from the room into the kitchen, either to call the officers on guard, or to get an opportunity from door or window to get his man. Hearing the cry from Sergeant Dorman, “Oh Miles,” he must have turned and stepped to the door to receive the bullet which killed him, and as he fell fired the shot which hit Boyd. As two chambers of his revolver were empty he must have fired two shots before he became unconscious.

The news of the tragedy created a sensation in San Francisco, and the newspapers hurried a staff of writers and photographers by auto to Santa Rosa as soon as their local representatives began getting the story on the wires. Representatives of The Associated Press, The Examiner, The Chronicle, The Call and The Bulletin arrived in rapid succession and remained over night to handle further details today.

Dr. A. B. Herrick and Dr. R. M. Bonar were among the doctors at the Mary Jesse hospital who attended the wounded men on their arrival there.

– Press Democrat, December 6 1920





SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 7. News that Mrs. Dorothy Quinlan had been arrested by the police in Santa Rosa, Sunday, upon being found with the Howard street gangsters who murdered officers attempting to capture them, came as a great surprise to the persons who had known her at the Essex Hotel, Ellis and Larkin streets, where she was living, and those who were acquainted with her at the department store where she bad worked for about two years.

Mrs. Quinlan is the mother of two children, a girl 14 years old, who attends school, and a boy, 15, who works. Last evening the children had received no word from their mother, who is being held in Santa Rosa. Friends of the mother have taken the girl to their home. Both children lived with their mother at her apartments in the Essex hotel.

Mrs. Quinlan is a woman about 40 years of age, and at the hotel where she has lived for more than eight months was known as a quiet, respectable person, who went to and from her work with great regularity, and did not go out often and seldom had any callers. She was liked by all who knew her.

– Press Democrat, December 8 1920

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Alfred Hitchcock made the wrong movie in Santa Rosa. Yes, Shadow of a Doubt is a great film, one of the greatest ever made, critics believe. While he chose Santa Rosa because it looked like an idyllic small American town, during filming here he must have heard about what had happened a couple of decades earlier – or at least, the condensed version still retold today. That gangsters gunned down some lawmen in cold blood, that vigilantes stormed the jail, that the bad men were lynched in an old cemetery.

But there was far more to the tale, and it had all the elements that Hitchcock loved to work into the plots of his thrillers. Once the wheels of the story were set in motion, there was no stopping what was about to happen. Guilt and innocence were sometimes ambiguous and people uninvolved with the crimes found themselves suddenly caught in situations where their lives were in peril. There was even a MacGuffin – a psychopath who was waving around a handgun so large he could barely hold it.

Series on the 1920 lynchings in Santa Rosa


This is the third chapter of the series, “THERE WILL BE PRICES PAID” about the 1920 Santa Rosa lynchings. And like Shadow of a Doubt, this part began as a smoke-puffing train pulled into the depot at Railroad Square.

It was soon after Thanksgiving when three men stepped off the train. They were all ex-cons – one of them had been out of prison only a few weeks – and they came to Santa Rosa to hide from the San Francisco police. The city had erupted in outrage that holiday weekend when it was revealed two women had been brutally assaulted and one of them gang raped by what the press called the “Howard Street Gang.” There was a police dragnet for anyone believed associated with the group and a list of suspects went out to authorities statewide shortly thereafter. All of these developments were explored in the previous chapter.

They were led here by Terrance Fitts. He was from Santa Rosa and visited here regularly – when he wasn’t behind bars. Just two weeks earlier he had returned home to learn his father had unexpectedly died, leaving him nothing in the will. But the family home on College Ave. would be vacant until the end of the year and had more than enough room for the three of them (see chapter one).

georgeboyd(RIGHT: George Boyd, AKA Jack Slaven, AKA George Barron)

Of the three it would be a toss-up as to which of them had done more prison time – Terry Fitts or George Boyd. Both had criminal records marked by brutal robberies for very little gain. Boyd knocked a laborer unconscious just to go through his pockets for $18. Fitts nearly killed a 70 year-old man after he discovered the victim had no money on him. Prison boards declared Fitts was incorrigible and called Boyd an “all-around bad man.”

George Boyd was a complete mystery – we can’t be sure of his age, where he was from or even his real name. He served prison sentences under the aliases of Jack Slaven and George Barron. He variously claimed to be from Australia or from Seattle, where he provided an address for his mother on 23rd street (there is a 23rd AVENUE in Seattle). Then weeks after he was lynched, the warden of Folsom prison received a letter supposedly from a Mrs. Elizabeth Barron in Australia, asking about the whereabouts of her son. The Sonoma County Coroner replied by stating simply her son had died in Santa Rosa.1

The other gangster hiding here was Charles Valento; of the three he was the only one actively being sought by the San Francisco police. Misnamed as “Valenti” in early newspaper accounts, he was believed to be the owner or tenant of the Howard Street place – although the true connection was his brother-in-law, a real estate investor who owned the building and (supposedly) had no knowledge that it was a speakeasy and hangout for hoodlums.

Valento was likewise an ex-con but never charged with violent robberies like Boyd and Fitts. He was now 33 but in his teens he was a notorious San Francisco burglar, an agile second-story man known as “the porch climber” who robbed $30-40k in valuables over just a few months. After serving five years for grand larceny he had a clean record and the 1920 census taker recorded him as being a waterfront stevedore living with his brother’s family. When it came out that he was one of the men involved in the murders, much was made of him being in Santa Rosa a few weeks earlier when his San Francisco amateur baseball team played here.

charlesvalento(RIGHT: Only known photos of Charles Valento, taken 12 years before events in Santa Rosa)

And so began their languid gangster’s holiday in Santa Rosa. Fitts played host and tour guide; being a hometown boy he knew the place and the people. He also had fistfuls of money, probably for the first time in his miserable life. His father’s estate was worth about a half million dollars in today’s currency, and he was pressuring one or both of his sisters for a share. When he and Valento took a day trip to San Francisco he happened to meet the former physician of San Quentin, who remembered him; when asked about his current doings, Fitts told the doctor “he had fallen heir to some money and was getting along fine.”

It was early in their Santa Rosa stay when Fitts bought The Gun. Later the Press Democrat remarked, “Many witnesses have been found who have seen defendant Fitts with the monster .44 Smith & Wesson special…” The thing scared the willies out of everyone who saw it and it was likened to a “monster” more than once. It was over a foot long – about a half-inch larger than the “Dirty Harry” gun in the movies (see photo below).2 Besides Valento’s link to the Howard street building, it was Fitts’ reckless handling of this fearsome-looking weapon which drew the attention of law enforcement to their sorry group.

In one of his later confessions Boyd said he had been drinking all week and it’s a pretty safe bet they all were drunk most of the time. Accomplishing that was somewhat a challenge, being as it was the first year of Prohibition. During the days they hung out in Santa Rosa’s Italian neighborhood, particularly the Toscano Hotel at West Seventh and Adams streets (current location of Stark’s steakhouse).3 Besides offering a bocce ball court for sport, the Toscano had a bar which would have served “soft drinks” (wink, wink). In coming years that hotel and the Torino hotel at the other end of the block would be busted repeatedly for selling booze – the Torino bar was found to have a stash hidden behind a wall panel that opened and closed via an electric switch.

At night, however, the boys headed for Casassa’s place out on Guerneville Road. Domenico Casassa was 71 years old and the best known wine maker in the area at the time, aside from Kanaye Nagasawa. His original winery was destroyed in the catastrophic Woolen Mill fire of 1909, which threatened to take out much of the Italian district; afterwards he built the Torino hotel there, which was also his legal residence. (Long-time readers might remember the bizarre incident in 1906 when he was arrested for sending a box of dead robins to San Francisco, where authorities believed he was planning to have them cooked for a banquet – and was caught only because he tried to cheat on the shipping rate by labeling the contents as dried apples).

Casassa’s newer winery was six miles west of Santa Rosa, near Olivet Road. Wine production was shut down by Prohibition but he still had a substantial wine cellar which was supplying his speakeasy on the ranch. It had already drawn attention of the authorities, when he had been charged a few months earlier for selling wine to Indians.4 That trial was still pending while he was entertaining Fitts and the others.

It came out that Casassa was indirectly the source of Fitts’ money, as he was cashing hundreds of dollars in checks which presumably came from the sisters. Casassa told the Santa Rosa Republican he was helping Fitts because he had known the gangster since he was a boy and believed he had reformed. The old man also let Fitts crash at the ranch some nights when he was too drunk to go home.

One time he should have stayed overnight was Wednesday, December 1st. He called for a taxi and Lem Close arrived at Casassa’s. The driver later told the Press Democrat what happened next:

When Fitts got into the car he showed plainly that he had been drinking heavily. He placed a revolver to my head and said in Chicago they made the taxi drivers take them wherever they wanted to go, and not where the drivers liked. He asked me if I was game and I naturally replied that I was. He kept the gun at my head and told me to ’step on her.’ I did and took him to the Toscano hotel where I left him.

Whatever demons were sometimes whispering to Fitts were now screaming in his head and would not shut up. The PD continued by describing what happened the next morning:

Fitts had called at a private residence Thursday morning where he went through the place and flourished his gun with threats that he was going to get the girl or her mother before he left.

What to make of this? In a Hitchcock screenplay the woman would be one of his sisters and he would be trying to extort yet another check – except neither sister had children. Or since the family home was about to be transferred to the new owners in a few weeks it could have been a woman hired by the sisters to prepare for moving out family belongings. Whatever the story, Fitts went back to that house Friday night and tried to get in; failing that he eventually gave up and slept on the porch.

Meanwhile, taxi driver Lem Close had contacted Santa Rosa attorney William Cockrill and told him about his encounter with Fitts and the monster gun. On Saturday the lawyer called Sheriff Petray, asking him to come by his office on an urgent matter.

Cockrill told the sheriff something was deeply wrong with Terry Fitts and he should be considered “an extremely dangerous man”. Sheriff Petray passed this on to the Santa Rosa police, and “Chief of Police G. W. Matthews spent an hour or more Saturday night in the vicinity of the [Toscano] hotel, looking for Terry Fitts, who was reported to be running wild with a weapon, and it was feared he would do harm to some one unless he was detained.”

Sheriff Petray also contacted the San Francisco detectives who were working fulltime on tracking down gangsters involved with the Howard street speakeasy. Deputy Sheriff Marvin Robinson testified before the Grand Jury:5 “…we made arrangements with the detective from San Francisco to come up, we were pretty sure we had located some of this Howard Street Gang they were looking for, we had information they were friends of Fitts, and Terry Fitts was staying out here at Casassa’s…”

Sunday was lining up to be a pretty big day for Santa Rosa – every arrest connected to Howard street made the headlines in all the Bay Area papers. “I’m going to have a mighty good story for you tomorrow afternoon about 3 o’clock,” Petray told a Press Democrat reporter.

It was to be a mighty big story, but certainly not the one he expected. At the predicted time, Sheriff James A. Petray would be lying dead on a floor with a bullet in his head. A bullet from Terry Fitts’ gun.



1 The Australian letter from Mrs. Elizabeth Barron was likely a ruse to discover the whereabouts of Boyd’s remains – see chapter eight.

2 The gun was a Smith & Wesson “New Century 1st Model Hand Ejector .44 Special.” See this collector’s webpage for all you’ll ever need to know about this weapon and others like it.
3 Prohibition had a devastating impact on Santa Rosa’s Italian hotels, which largely depended financially on serving dinners with wine. Some closed and others, such as Hotel La Rosa, converted to being a rooming house. Prior to the dry law the Toscano had been operated by the Guidotti family; after closing for a few months it was leased to a Guidotti in-law and Pietro Basignani, who were running it during the week when the gangsters were here. The Guidotti family resumed direct control in 1921.

4 A 1908 county law made it illegal to sell alcohol to Indians, including anyone with as little as one-fourth Native American blood or someone who was associated with such a person.

5 Deputy Sheriff Robinson’s testimony to the Grand Jury contained several errors. He said Petray called the San Francisco detectives on Sunday when it had to have been the day earlier, that the bullets were purchased at Dan Behmer’s Gun Store although that business had been closed for a year, and so on. While these mistakes seem mostly trivial, it calls into doubt the complete accuracy of any testimony concerning events where he was not personally involved.
The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office had for many years a display case in its lobby showing the murder weapon, nooses, and other artifacts of the 1920 lynching. Photo courtesy Sonoma County Library
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office had for many years a display case in its lobby showing the murder weapon, nooses, and other artifacts of the 1920 lynching. Photo courtesy Sonoma County Library

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They just wanted life in Santa Rosa to get back to normal, or at least something close to it. It was January 1920, the start of the sixteenth month of the Spanish Flu in Sonoma County. As there was no vaccine – or even antibiotics to treat the deadly cases of pneumonia which often resulted – all our ancestors could do was quarantine the sick, plus declaring a community lockdown whenever there was a local outbreak, banning public gatherings of any kind and requiring facemasks.

Adding to the sour mood in Santa Rosa was the Rose Carnival was cancelled for 1920 – the third year in a row. Preparing for the Carnival was normally a major pastime in town that kept people busy for months, forming committees and subcommittees on everything from building floats to deciding what to feed members of the band afterwards.

So there was considerable excitement when it was announced there would be a “Burbank pageant” here and it would involve a small army of performers and workers, starting with original costumes for 250 dancers. Heck, this even could be a bigger shindig than the Carnivals!

There were a few teensy problems: There was very little time to prepare as it was scheduled for only five weeks away, not the Carnival’s usual five months. Rehearsals were impossible for most of January because Santa Rosa was under lockdown until the 26th. And also, no one knew what a “Burbank pageant” was.

The newspapers were able to report the pageant was going to be held on Luther Burbank’s March 7 birthday and called “The Sun Worshipers.“ The theme was supposedly inspired by a Burbank remark that all life on earth requires sunlight. That’s not completely true and it’s doubtful Luther ever said anything so banal, but let’s not quibble.

annexjuniorhighIt was very clear from the start this would be a high school production (this was when the high school was on Humboldt Street, and the year before the building burned down). The performance would be on the lawn of the next door Annex – which later became Santa Rosa Junior High – and have seating for up to 5,000.

Producing this spectacular were the heads of the English and Ag departments. Costumes were designed by the head of the Domestic Arts Dept. Freda Hodge, wife of the boys’ gym teacher, wrote the script; the girls’ gym teacher, Zilpha Dempsey, did the choreography. Should you be looking for a new password, something with “Zilpha” in it would be pretty secure.

Much was made of the announcement that Fred Carlyle of UC/Berkeley would direct the show. He was technically a dramatic coach but was admired as a jack-of-all-trades when it came to anything in the theater – dance instructor, chorus director, what have you.1

Another outsider to be involved was Madame Francisca Zarad, although she would only sing a bit before the real show began and then return at the end to lead the audience in the “Star Spangled Banner.” Zarad made a career 1917-1922 doing recitals in small American cities like Santa Rosa (Kent, PA, you should at least have a Wikipedia page!) where she was touted as “the famous Paris soprano” and/or a star of the Chicago or Vienna Grand Opera Houses, although there’s somehow no sign she ever sang at any of those places. And why such an acclaimed artiste was not asked to make a single recording will always be a mystery.

Then everything came to an unexpected halt when Santa Rosa went on lockdown again, this time for two weeks starting February 11. “The Sun Worshipers“ was rescheduled for May 1. Rehearsals continued when restrictions were lifted in Santa Rosa, amid news that several motion picture companies were planning to film the pageant for newsreels and possibly stock footage. Who knows? Perhaps in some silent movie there’s a shot of your winsome grandmother prancing about in an odd looking costume.

Which brings us to the storyline. The Press Democrat printed a synopsis before the performance and a review of the show afterward, but they don’t quite agree. From those articles and others (all transcribed below) and the photos, here’s my best guess of what the audience saw:

The stage set is large and dramatic, a fan portraying radiant sunbeams which seems to be built out of palm tree stalks. (Most of the known photos from the pageant follows this text.) Mme. Zarad comes onstage and sings two numbers plus an encore, all having some passing mention of the sun.2

Here comes Sol, the sun god! He takes his throne center stage wearing something on his head that looks like the Pope’s hat or a giant insect wing, but is probably supposed to be a beam of light. He is played by 16 year-old Joe Dearing, who would become a nationally known journalist and something of a Bay Area celebrity.3

On either side of Sol are bare-chested young men who appear to be wearing bronzer on their faces – it’s probably gold-colored, but the photos are black and white and their makeup isn’t mentioned in the newspaper descriptions. (I strongly doubt it’s supposed to be blackface but there’s so much in this show that makes no sense whatsoever I wouldn’t swear to it.) At either end of the stage are boys dressed as Roman soldiers with spears, although one is holding a pennant with a Christian cross because.

The show begins! We’ll see three cultures that worshiped the sun, sort of. The first are the ancient Egyptians.

pageantdrawing(RIGHT: Egyptian sun dancer as envisioned in the April 30, 1920 Press Democrat. The actual performers looked nothing like this.)

At the first of the two performances that day, the Press Democrat reported “some three thousand people sat in the warm sunshine and watched several hundred students gambol on the green lawn in flimsy clothing.” Not hardly. Except for bare arms, the Egyptian dancers are swaddled heavier than baby Moses in the bullrushes. They also have wide colorful sashes tied around their waists like 18th century pirates. Arrrgh!

This may be a good time to point out that the high school really did have a history department, and one of those teachers was involved with this thing. Her job was handling publicity.

Sol is worshiped by dancers “with typically Egyptian gestures, both angular and sinuous.” The highlight of this segment is the “Dance of the Rising Sun” by the Egyptian princess. It is performed by Lillian Rinner, who has been “taking special training for the part in Berkeley.” She is 44 years old, so the gamboling is being done by several hundred students but starring mom.

The sun god grows weary of this and waves the Egyptians off. Here come the Greeks!

“The maidens of ancient Greece worship him in the dance,” which is performed to “Dance of the Hours” from the Victorian opera, “La Gioconda.” Gentle Reader will surely recognize this as the same tune used in the immortal parody, “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh.” (Honestly, I am not making any of this up.)

pageantcloseup(RIGHT: Let’s mashup thousands of years of history: Closeup of the Grecian tableau, with “elves” wearing crinoline party dresses in front of a bearded Roman guard holding a medieval Christian pennant.)

Several girls pile on stage and sit in front of the sun god. Three are wearing classical Greek women’s clothing; the rest are dressed in contemporary ruffled and tiered dresses, many with bows in their hair, as if they were waylaid en route to a birthday party.

The storyline is that we’re looking at Terra, the goddess of the earth (that was the name of the Roman goddess, not Greek) and Ceres, the goddess of agriculture (again, the Roman name) and the girls are elves (it’s well known that the Greeks were actually Irish). The goddess of rain, Flo (huh?), shows up and the dancers run away. I very much doubt anyone in the audience understood what the hell was supposed to be going on – or cared.

Now comes the Native American segment. The tribe is hungry because the harvest was poor. The chief offers his daughter in sacrifice as she performs the “Knife Dance” before the sun god. The synopsis continues:

But lo! Sol awakens! He has heard the wailing cry! He sees the girl about to plunge the knife in her breast at his feet – he rises to appeal! He smiles. The daughter is saved and there will now be plenty in the fields and the entire tribe rejoice in dance.

That was just profoundly awful.

Thus far the pageant consisted of fuzzy G-rated allegories about ancient cultures. To jump from that to a melodramatic tableau about human sacrifice – complete with a “Knife Dance” – was a jolt; to make it about an oppressed people was beyond the pale, feeding the worst racist tropes of Indians as savages.

Why didn’t Fred Carlyle or someone from the high school insist this part be revised or yanked entirely? Likely because they ignorantly assumed Indians and their culture no longer existed except (maybe) on remote reservations. This blind spot can still be seen today on social media – periodically someone in the Facebook groups will ask when the Indians around here were “wiped out”.

Making this all the more galling is that the Pomos of Sonoma County have always been renowned for their dancing. Had the pageant invited them to take part, it surely would have transformed that otherwise silly and forgettable show into something noteworthy.

The final segment is called, “The Endowment,” and features a boy supposed to be young Luther Burbank. The sun god has hidden his face and the boy’s plants aren’t growing, although the goddesses and their elves try to help. The “Spirit of Agricultural Science” appears and performs “The Dance of Human Aspiration.” The dancer is 37 year-old Agatha Leifrinck and the photo shows a scruffy-looking man standing to the side of the stage watching her. He is not mentioned in any description of the show.

pageanthobo(RIGHT: Did this guy just wander in from the street?)

Sol wakes up and smiles, handing Science his Wand of Knowledge. She passes the wand to the boy, who waves it over his plants, which perk right up and perform the Flower Dance. Everybody on stage plus “a big chorus of picked voices from the town” join in singing a hymn to the sun god.

The big finale involved dozens of boys and girls in flower and vegetable costumes; there were twenty kids just playing the wilted plants. There were fifteen poppies, eight corn, plus tomatoes, lilies and daisies. Clarence Felciano, who would become Santa Rosa’s top mid-century architect, portrayed a spud.

They didn’t know it at the time, of course, but the flu pandemic was over. On Friday nights the high school annex building became the “community social center” again, with free movies, refreshments and dance music. Schools reopened in August (they had started a month earlier in rural districts since those schools closed during fruit picking season). There was a county fair that set attendance records. Life resumed, but the facemasks weren’t likely thrown out, instead tucked away in the back of a drawer because you can never tell.


Madame Francisca Zarad singing at the May 1, 1920 pageant, "Sun Worshipers.” The man is probably there not only to turn pages, but ensure the piano on the grass does not topple over
Madame Francisca Zarad singing at the May 1, 1920 pageant, “Sun Worshipers.” The man is probably there not only to turn pages, but ensure the piano on the grass does not topple over
"Egyptian" segment of the "Sun Worshipers” pageant
“Egyptian” segment of the “Sun Worshipers” pageant
"Egyptian" dancers and partial view of audience at the "Sun Worshipers” pageant
“Egyptian” dancers and partial view of audience at the “Sun Worshipers” pageant
Sol, the sun god, hides his face while surrounded by "Greek" goddesses and elves
Sol, the sun god, hides his face while surrounded by “Greek” goddesses and elves
"Indian" dance in the "Sun Worshipers” pageant
“Indian” dance in the “Sun Worshipers” pageant
Agatha Leifrinck performs "The Dance of Human Aspiration”
Agatha Leifrinck performs “The Dance of Human Aspiration”

Flower Dance finale at the "Sun Worshipers” pageant
Flower Dance finale at the “Sun Worshipers” pageant

1 Between 1920-1940, Fred Carlyle was frequently involved in high school and community theater productions throughout the Bay Area. The 1920 show in Santa Rosa appears to be his first.
2 The first of Mme. Zarad’s numbers was identified as “An Involution to the Sun God.” According to an item in a 1913 New York paper, that was another name for “Far Off I Hear a Lover’s Flute,” a 1909 setting of a Zuni tribal melody. Part of the lyrics (which were written by a non-Indian) was, “I see the shrunken Mother Moon/Go forth to meet the Day.” Her encore was the maudlin ballad “The Little Grey Home in the West,” which was inexplicably popular for decades.
3 Joseph A. Dearing became an acclaimed photojournalist before and during WWII, best known for the famous portrait of General MacArthur after the Battle of Bataan. After the war he became a popular figure in the Bay Area known as “Uncle Joe,” the rod & gun columnist for the San Francisco Call-Bulletin. He was married to Margaret Hahmann of Santa Rosa in 1936 (she’s buried in the Rural Cemetery) and when he died in 1995, “Uncle Joe” was carved on his tombstone in Winters.


All photos courtesy Sonoma County Library



Dancing Classes

Fred Carlyle dramatic coach from the University of California will give a course of aesthetic, barefoot, Russian ballet and fancy dancing in Santa Rosa and classes are under formation at the present time. Mr. Carlyle will assist with the Burbank Pageant at the high school.

– Santa Rosa Republican, January 10 1920



Fred Carlyle Secured as Coach for Production of “The Sun Worshipers” by Schools of City to Honor Scientist.

At last the dream of a Burbank pageant is to come true. The question has often been asked here “why don’t Santa Rosa [sic], the home of Luther Burbank, arrange some fitting pageant representative of his great work?” “The Sun Worshipers,“ with its elaborate combination of rich setting, graceful costumed dancing, and fine symbolism, is the answer to the question.

Very practical evidence that the pageant is to prove more than a dream is to be found in the work of Richard Warner Borst, director of production. Through his efforts the various parts of the pageant are being rapidly assembled, solo dancers have been secured for the leading parts and Fred Carlyle of Berkeley has been induced to assist with the chorus dancing. The symbolic dance of the sun worshipers, in particular, is rapidly evolving into a performance of great beauty and variety.

The following staff is working on the pageant…

– Press Democrat, January 23 1920



The Walrus Said

March 6th. [ed. note: the date was wrong]

That’s a date for Santa Rosans to remember. Know why?

It’s Burbank Day, and on that day there will be a pageant at the High School in honor of the “man who made Santa Rosa famous.”

This pageant is called The Sun Worshippers, and is based on a saying of Mr. Burbank’s that the sun is the source of all life. The pageant will be a pretentious affair, with 250 dancers giving Greek, Egyptian and Indian national dances, which will be coached by Fred Carlyle of the University of California, Miss Zilpha Dempsey, Miss Mildred Turner, and Victor Hodge of the high school faculty. R. W. Borst of the English department of the high school and Charles L. Hampton of the Agricultural department will have general charge of the production.

Plans have been made to seat 5,000 people on the high school lawn to witness the production.

Of the pageant itself, I’ll have more to tell you later, but in the meantime don’t forget that date — it’s important — March 6th.

– Press Democrat, January 29 1920



Nearly 150 Dancers to Be Seen in Burbank Honor Event Here on March 6.

Dances for the Burbank Pageant to be held on the grounds of the high school March 6, are fast being put in shape under the direction of Fred Carlyle. of the University of California, Miss Zilpha Dempsey, Miss Mildred Turner and Victor Hodge of the high school faculty.

There will be three dances, each containing about 48 dancers. These are the Indian dance, which begins with the braves in deep dejection owing to the lack of attention paid their country by the Sun God, and changing to a big pow-wow when he smiles on them.

The Greek dance will be a regular Greek aesthetic dance, done to the Dance of the Hours from La Gioconda. It will contain the same number of dancers.

The third of the big dances is the Egyptian dance, with typically Egyptian gestures, both angular and sinuous.

The King’s favorite in the Egyptian dance will be Miss Lillian Rinner, who is taking special training for the part in Berkeley.

There will also be a Sunbeam dance with 25 dancers. Each of these will be dressed in a different shade of yellow, ranging from the daintiest of creamy yellow to the deepest orange.

Mrs. J. Leifrinck will dance for the Spirit of Science, a dance that she has originated, portraying the religious evolution of the mind of man from earliest times to the present. Miss Lolis May Alden will accompany Mrs. Leifrinck.

The part of the chief’s daughter in the Indian dance will be taken by Miss Virginia Pomeroy.

The finale will contain a big chorus of picked voices from the town to be trained by Miss Lydia Walker.

– Press Democrat, February 6 1920



Much Interest is Being Taken in the Coming May Day Fiesta in Santa Rosa, Which Will Compliment Luther Burbank and Will Be in Every Detail a Spectacular and a Pleasing Production – Frank Carlyle, U. C. Dramatic Coach, to Direct the Presentation

Widespread interest is bring aroused in the Burbank Pageant. “Sun Worshippers,” which is to be staged in Santa Rosa, the home of the famous horticultural scientist, on May Day.

No less than five different moving picture concerns have stated that they will send artists and big cameras to take pictures of the various scenes depicted in the Pageant, which will be sent broadcast throughout the land and shown to hundreds of thousands of people in many moving picture houses. One of the big concerns having its movies here will be the International News Service.

Charles L. Hampton, director of vocational agricultural course in the Santa Rosa High School, and manager of the Burbank Pageant, stated Wednesday that the interest taken in the coming Pageant in the Bay Cities is keen. From him the news of the coming of the movie men was ascertained. The entire direction of the Pageant has been entrusted to Fred Carlyle, the well known dramatic coach of the University of California. Mention of Mr. Carlyle’s name and his recognized talent counts for success in every detail.

Mr. Hampton is sending out to the press of the state the following preliminary announcement concerning the coming Pageant which will be read with interest:

Santa Rosa is planning to honor her most prominent citizen – Luther Burbank — with a great celebration May 1, 2:30 p. m., Saturday. An elaborate open air pageant entitled “The Sunworshippers” will be produced under the direction of Fred Carlyle, dramatic coach for the University of California. Over 250 group and solo dancers will undertake an allegorical dramatization of the four great historical epochs of the worshipers of the Sun. The last act will portray Burbank’s creative endowment through the aid of the sun, which is so often quoted by this great plant specialist as the source of all plant and animal life. The coming event is being given wide publicity. Elaborate preparations are being made to welcome the thousands of people who will journey from different parts of the state to visit the home of Luther Burbank.

– Press Democrat, February 26 1920



Mme. Francisca Zarad Is Coming March 10

The recital for the benefit of the Luther Burbank Pageant being prepared by the high school students to be given in this city May Day, which had to be postponed when the ban was placed on public gatherings in Santa Rosa last month, will be held at the high school annex March 10.

Mme. Francisca Zarad, the famous Paris soprano, will be here on that occasion to render numerous selections and is sure to prove a delight to the music lovers as well as the general public, os she is in a class all of her own as a vocalist of international reputation.

– Press Democrat, March 2 1920



Frank Carlyle Resumes Instruction of Young People Who Will Be Featured in the “Sun Worshipers.”

Frank Carlyle, dramatic coach of the University of California. who is to direct the pageant “Sun Worshippers,” which is intended particularly to honor the creative genius of Luther Burbank, is this week actively resuming rehearsals of the dances and other artistic work in connection with the coming May Day presentation in Santa Rosa. Carlyle can be relied upon to present a finished production and one that will add fame to the many gorgeous fiestas that have been given in the City of Roses.

But for the ban which was placed by the health department on all gatherings during the late prevailing sickness, the pageant would have taken place next Saturday, Mr. Burbank’s birthday following on the next day. But rehearsing had to be put off and then it was determined to hold the pageant on May Day. And now rehearsals will be once more in full swing and will continue until the day of triumph.

– Press Democrat, March 4 1920




Not only is the coming May Day pageant “Sun Worshipers” attracting much interest here but assurance is given that hundreds of visitors will come to Santa Rosa to view the gorgeous spectacle and to enjoy the compliment it bestows upon Santa Rosa’s most distinguished citizen, Luther Burbank.

Manager Charles Hampton yesterday that the daily rehearsals being held have developed so much enthusiasm and interest among the performers that the presentation will doubtless be unique, highly pleasing and successful.

The special features, which will include the singing of Madame Zarad, the notable dancing of Mrs. Agatha Liefrinck and Miss Virginia Pomeroy, will be especially notworthy, [sic] standing out prominently from the otherwise elaborate program of song, dance and action. The staging and costuming will be dazzling and great throngs of people will be given a rare treat.

Here is a synopsis of the action marking the pageant “Sun Worshipers.”

I. Opening Song—Mme. Francesca Zarad.

II. Sol, the Sun God, takes his throne in state.

III. The maidens of ancient Egypt worship him in the dance.

IV. The Sun God’s favorite dances before him on the “Dance of the Rising Sun.”

V. The maidens of ancient Greece worship him in the dance.

VI. Ceres, goddess of the harvest and Terra, goddess of the earth, approach the sun god and kneels at his feet. Enter Fro (god of rain).

VII. The women of American Indian Tribes enter and worship the sun-god in a dance.

VIII. Hungry Indian children appeal to Sol that he shine upon tho faded earth.

IX. Indian braves, led by their chief, appeal to the sun-god to shine upon the earth.

X. The chief’s daughter, in the “Knife Dance” dances before the sun-god. She offers herself as a sacrifice to him for her people’s sake. But he saves her life through shining forth.

XI. Sol has again hidden his face. The farmer, tolling amidst his faded plants and flowers, despairs because of Sol’s unfriendliness.

XII. The Spirit of Agricultural Science worships Sol in “The Dance of Human Aspiration.” Sol awakes. He presents Science with the Wand of Knowledge. Science endows Farmer with the Wand of Knowledge.

XIII. He waves the wand above his faded crops and all growing things are revived. Other lovely flowers and plants now appear (Burbank Creations)

XIV. The Flower Dance.

XV. Plants and flowers now joyous in sunlight sing, praises to their Lord the Sun.


– Press Democrat, April 24 1920


Net Proceeds From Brilliant May Day Spectacle to Be Used as Nucleus for Fund to Build Burbank Memorial Building.

Interest in the coming Burbank pageant to be staged here next Saturday on the grounds of the High School, increases daily.

On Saturday two important announcements were made hy manager Chas. Hampton. They follow:

First, in addition to the afternoon performance on May Day there will also be a night production of the pageant which will begin at 8 o’clock. The hour of the afternoon performance will be 2:30 o’clock.

Second, it is intended that whatever remains of the proceeds after the actual expenses of production have heen paid, shall form the nucleus of a fund to provide for the erection here of a Luther Burbank Memorial Agricultural Building.

Both these announcements will doubtless call forth hearty approval. Many people, who have learned of the merits of the pageant and who found is possible [sic] to be present in the afternoon had expressed regret that a second production could not be given at night. Hence on Saturday Manager Hampton, after conferring with a number of people, decided to repeat the effort on Saturday night, the stage and settings being illuminated properly for the performance.

Unanimous approbation is given the suggestion that the erection of a Burbank Memorial Agricultural Building would be a fitting tribute and form a most acceptable unit for Santa Rosa’s educational department.

Next Tuesday evening in the music room of the Annex under the direction of Miss Lydia Walker there will he a rehearsal of the final chorus “Hymn to the Sun,” and everybody who can assist by singing is asked to attend Tuesday night and help swell the volume of sound in Troyer’s hum of praise [sic].

Those who respond to the call are asked to be on hand at half past seven o’clock.

A full rehearsal of the “Sun Worshipers” was held Saturday under the direction of Director Carlyle, and it was pronounced a success. Those who have witnessed the rehearsal of the pageant declare that it will be worth going many miles to see.

– Press Democrat, April 25 1920




Luther Burbank. Santa Rosa’s world famed plant breeder and horticulturist, was paid due honor by the students of the Santa Rosa schools Saturday — May Day – when they presented the beautiful and dramatic pageant “The Sun Worshipers” on the lawn in front of the Annex at the high school grounds.

The setting was one long to be remembered and one which many of the easterners who recall weather conditions in their home states marveled over as some three thousand people sat in the warm sunshine and watched several hundred students gambol on the green lawn in flimsy clothing.

In addition to the marvelous display of the pageant itself, was the presence of Madam Francisca Zarad, the famous Parisian soprano, who delighted all with her charming personality and gracious manners. She sang for the pure joy of honoring Luther Burbank and aiding the students in giving their honors to the great man who sat smiling in the audience before them, enjoying it as much as anyone present.

“The great dynamo, the Sun, is the source of all life, motion, warmth: iho producer of all food and clothing. No wonder the ancients were inspired to worship the sun.” declared Mr. Burbank in an address recently. The statement was used as the basis for the pageant plot worked out by Mrs. V. N. Hodge, wife of Victor Hodge of the high school faculty, which resulted in the delightful program Saturday afternoon and evening.

The performance was to have been given March 7 in honor of the birthday anniversary of the noted Santa Rosan, hut had to be postponed owing to the influenza ban at that time.

Madame Zarad was heartily applauded for her songs. She was in magnificent voice and delighted all with her work. She first rendered “An Involution to the Sun God,” followed by “Sunrise, Sunset” and replied to an encore with “The Little Grey Home in the West.” At the close of the program she sang “America” and led the vast audience in the “Star Spangled Banner.” At its conclusion she called for a rising tribute to Mr. Burbank who had been taken to her side on the platform before the final song. This was given with hearty good will by all.

A synopsis of the plot follows:

SOL. the God of Sun, mounts his throne in state to review the separate, distinctive historical worshipers who have courted him in dance supplication and song.

THE EGYPTIANS were the first to recognize the power of SOL so their fairest maidens dance to him. To gain favor in the God’s eyes, the Egyptian King sends his favorite dancer to woo Sol – but the God soon tires of her and her chorus.

THE GRECIANS then flit before him and they place the Godess “Terra” with her little elves of the Earth (Calcium, Potasium, Sulphur, Magnesium, Iron), together with “Ceres,” Godess of Agriculture, and her helping elves near the Sun’s power for the Grecians recognize their importance. But “Flo,” the wild God of Rain, dispels the maidens with his storm as he bounds into his place in the worship.

THE INDIANS are mourning! Their harvest are too light. [sic] The Chief is in despair when his wailing children ask for foods, [sic] so he offers his own daughter in sacrifice to bring help to his people. But lo! Sol awakens! He has heard the wailing cry! He sees the girl about to plunge the knife in her breast at his feet – he rises to appeal! He smiles. The daughter is saved and there will now be plenty in the fields and the entire tribe rejoice in dance.

THE ENDOWMENT A farmer boy, impersonating Luther Burbank, is toiling with his withering plants. He despairs for their life. Mother Terra in pity for him sends out her little elves to sprinkle the salts of the earth at their feet. No avail. Mother Ceres, too, commands her little helpers lo brace and help the plants. No results. Then Flo scatters his rain drops, they drink deeply but again they droop! Ah! The Spirit of Science shows the farmer the light, the need to recognize the power of the Sun, Sol. He hopes, he prays, he perceives. Sol smiles, the plants revive. Science leads him to the throne, he adores and for his devotion Science awards him with the Wand of Knowledge which he now wields and with which he concieves and improves the wonderful Creations of Plant Life (Burbank Creations.) In praise the Flower Dance is given, then lift up their voices in the homage hymn to their Lord the Sun.

The cast follows:


– Press Democrat, May 2 1920


Erstwhile “Sun God” Now Tiller of Soil

Joe Dearing, who impersonated the Sun God in the Burbank pageant Saturday, took again to the practical side of life Monday, when he continued his agricultural work on his seven acres of land near here. Director Chas. Hampton accompanied him Monday afternoon to the place where he is to plant tomatoes and pumpkins. He has already planted his corn.

– Press Democrat, May 4 1920

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