Santa Rosa waited twenty years for it to happen. Twenty years! Yet when the big day arrived almost no one was able to enjoy it.
The date was December 22, 1948; the event was the first TV broadcast in the Bay Area (except for test patterns and other experiments). In Santa Rosa, the lucky folks who had a television got to watch an episode of Howdy Doody, a travelogue about Santa Clara county and a hockey match between the San Francisco Shamrocks and Oakland.
During the game Santa Rosa received a shout-out from the station for getting calls from local viewers. The Press Democrat remarked the KPIX broadcast came in “surprisingly well” while the Argus-Courier noted reception was “first class…[with] a number of excellent clearcut, contrasty pictures on the screen. Such deficiencies as loss of the sound component and flickering were still noticeable.” So aside from no audio and a lousy picture, everything went just swell.
Few were watching that night because there was no reason to have a TV unless something was being broadcast – and it was difficult to justify the enormous cost of building a station without a large audience to watch commercials. Chicken, egg, repeat. Television sets were also extremely expensive; the Admiral console shown at right with its massive 10″ screen cost the modern (2021) equivalent of over $6,000.
Over the prior two decades, however, Santa Rosa was told that television would transform us. Speculating about this brave new world was a frequent topic at Rotary lunches and other club meetings; the Press Democrat used barrels of ink printing editorials and columns on What It Would All Mean – despite, of course, probably no one around here having actually seen a television.
PD editor Ernest Finley seemed determine to wish it into existence. “Television radio” (as many called it in the early 1930s) “will come into common household use, just as the telephone and radio are today. And it will not be long,” he wrote in 1931. Later that year he speculated it was “about three years away” and said it was still “at least three years away” in 1938 and “still far away” the following year.
Finley, who founded KSRO in 1937, had muddled ideas TV would operate like radio with specialized bands, such as used by police: “Crime detection would be greatly facilitated if officers could send a row of suspects across a television screen…’Is the man you are looking for among these suspects?'”
Or maybe it would be more like today’s live webcams, where we could dial in the frequency of places around the world: “…we can view St. Peter’s, Rome, visit Niagara Falls, see the pyramids of Egypt by moonlight without subjecting ourselves to the annoyance and expense of making a long journey…We may be doing a lot of things differently a hundred years from now than we do them today.” Well, he got that much right.
But pundits in the 1930s said it was certain: Television broadcasts would destroy the motion picture industry, wipe out newspapers and empty the sports stadiums. Or maybe television broadcasts would be completely controlled by Hollywood, daily papers would thrive and ballgames would attract far more viewers than could possibly fit in a stadium. It was definitely going to be the best and/or worst of times.
(RIGHT: 1937 ad for “Celovision,” a hair treatment which used cellophane. The name became simplified as the “television permanent wave” when it was still available at the Uptown Beauty Salon on Exchange Avenue in 1948)
Oddly, “television” became a buzzword slapped on things which had nothing to do with, you know, television. There was the women’s hair wave shown at right and also in 1937 the White House toy dept. sold the $1.98 battery-operated “Irwin Television Rifle” which flashed a sharp beam of light when the trigger was pulled. And then there was chiropractor W. T. Abell and his “television radionic instrument” hokum, discussed below.
(LEFT: Bruner’s ad in Oct. 15, 1939 Press Democrat)
Come the late 1930s, all the talk of TV being right around the corner was badly hurting the sale of radios, particularly after it became clear the FCC was about to approve TV stations on the East Coast (commercial broadcasting began in New York City and Philadelphia in September 1941).
To their discredit, manufacturers suckered in consumers by promising their radios were “television ready,” “built to receive television sound” or had a “television audio key.” Pedersen’s sold a radio/phono console advertising “Magnavox television can be added to your Magnavox at any time.”
Most (all?) of these c. 1940 radios were probably just providing an input jack so the television’s audio could play through the radio speaker – assuming the TV came with a matching output jack, of course. But by the time KPIX and other stations began broadcasting here, terms like “television attachment” nearly disappeared from newspapers, except in For Sale ads of people wanting to unload their ten year old radios for which they paid a premium price.
Sonoma county was certainly TV-curious; the Ward’s ad shown here was in the Press Democrat August 5, 1948 and invited customers to see an actual television set, although nothing would be onscreen since nothing was being aired yet. Until that first KPIX broadcast in December, the PD continued to write about television as if it were some exotic curiosity, even though stations on the East Coast had been broadcasting for seven years. As a result, the paper still sometimes spouted hyperbolic nonsense.
After a 1946 news item appeared about a BBC experiment to see if subjects could be hypnotized remotely, a PD editorial called for legislation against “hypnotic commercials,” writing “it will no doubt be necessary to set up a new set of regulations to govern practices in presentation of television programs when that science reaches out generally into the homes of America.” PD sports columnist Bill Claus in 1948 called for laws against watching TV while driving – although such a rig would’ve filled up the passenger side; the smallest set available weighed 26 pounds, was the size of today’s microwave ovens and would have required its own auto battery plus DC-AC inverter.
After New Year’s 1949 the paper began writing about television more realistically, including a little item on the Brandeburg family of Santa Rosa visiting relatives in Los Angeles where they watched the Rose Bowl game and Rose Parade on TV. A front page box titled “Television Tonight” announced where the public could stop by and see it for themselves: Berger’s Cigar Store, the Tack Room on Redwood Highway South, The Office on Third street.
Even after KGO began broadcasting in May, only thin gruel was offered for viewing. The broadcast day was typically just from 6:45PM until signoff around 10 o’clock, although there would sometimes be a Saturday afternoon ballgame.
In the early part of 1949 there would be a kid’s show at 7, usually film of an episode of Howdy Doody or Kukla, Fran & Ollie. There were many open slots in the schedule “to be announced” or filled by newsreels or promo material (“Washington State: Appleland”). Some shows were seemingly about as interesting as watching paint dry (Clem’s Barbershop, Tele-Tales). There was 10-15 minutes of news on KPIX and a weekly five minute program called Wanted Persons (oh, the late Ernest Finley would have been so tickled).
But later in the year the programming on KPIX, KGO, and newcomer KRON was much improved and the same as seen on the East Coast, albeit a week or so later: Milton Berle, The Goldbergs, Ed Wynn, Arthur Godfrey, Lone Ranger, Studio One. It was a mix of filmed studio productions and poor quality kinescopes of live shows, as there was no coast-to-coast broadcast until 1952 (although a speech by President Truman aired a year before).
By the end of the year likely the entire town had seen sports or a program at someone’s home “television party,” in a tavern or club or in a store window. The most talked about demonstration happened in November, when Armand Saare, who had a radio and TV dealership, rented a hall which was large enough to seat 300 people to watch the Big Game between Cal and Stanford. At either end of the NSGW lodge on Mendocino Ave. (this lovely building from 1909 is still there, but often overlooked) he set up two televisions with 19½ inch screens, which would have seemed huge at the time.
Every family in Santa Rosa didn’t rush to buy televisions in 1949, of course, but enough did to spawn a new little industry: TV installation and repair. Newspaper ads from the dealerships increasingly emphasized their service departments, particularly skill in antenna installation. Anyone paying (the modern equivalent of) thousands of dollars for a set was not going to scrimp on adding an antenna, which was no simple thing. Besides properly mounting it to the house or mast and aligning it for best reception, Santa Rosa then required payment of a $9 building permit per antenna, plus inspection.
Looking backward, it seems we didn’t notice that a kind of earthquake was rippling through the Bay Area in 1949. A new technology had arrived which began disrupting the pattern of our daily lives; it demanded more of our attention than radio ever had and we wasted time watching it even when there was nothing of particular interest to see. TV crept into our lives because we thought of it as just a simple entertainment upgrade, “radio with pictures.”
Everyone of a certain age can recall the year their family got that first television. I certainly do, as well as some of my favorite shows from the time (what I can’t remember is how many countless hours were spent watching dreck). Having a TV gave kids important things to talk about the next day at school – funny things heard on a cartoon show, new toy commercials, who could do the best Klem Kadiddlehopper imitation and whether TV wrestling was phony or not.
They made a terrible racket, shattering the early morning peace by honking horns and cranking sirens as the caravan entered Healdsburg and rounded the Plaza. Many in town, however, were probably awake and anxiously awaiting just such a signal – that they had pulled off a perfect crime and killed three men.
This is a postscript to the series on the 1920 lynchings in Santa Rosa, “THERE WILL BE PRICES PAID” and looks into the most significant of the conspiracies of silence that followed: How people in a small farm town executed a triple murder, then kept the planning behind it and the names of all those involved secret for 65 years. Now – more than a century later – new details have emerged that show the vigilante operation was even more cunning than suspected.
Does your family have a story about great-grandpa hoisting the gangsters up by their necks? Is there a snippet of rope or a yellowed newspaper clipping of the death photo among the family heirlooms as proof of his role? Unless he was from Healdsburg and intimate friends with a certain small clique in the town it’s unlikely he was part of the lynching party. “Later, lots of people said they were there, were part of the group, people that weren’t there at all,” Barnard said.
When the first chapter in this series was posted several people immediately contacted me via social media and email asking about a list containing the names of all the vigilantes. The list was supposedly going to be made public when the last participant died – which was Barnard, who passed away at age 108 in 2008.
There never was any such list, according to Gaye LeBaron and Lynn Prime, curator of the LeBaron special collection at SSU. The rumors arose over the secrecy surrounding the recording of the 1989 interview, which was kept in the safe of the Local History room at the Sonoma County Library until his death, per a promise of anonymity.
Had someone foolishly written and circulated a list, the vigilantes could have been charged years, even decades later – there is no statute of limitations for murder.
A previous chapter, “VENGEANCE FOR SUNNY JIM” covered events of just that night as reported at the time by first-hand witnesses. Also incorporated were later comments by Clarence H. “Barney” Barnard, the only member of the vigilantes to talk about it. Gaye LeBaron broke that story in 1985 after he spoke to her and in 1989 she recorded an interview which is available on the SSU website.
Barnard said the decision to raid the county jail and lynch the gangsters was made the same day that Sheriff James A. Petray was killed. On that night – Sunday, Dec. 5 – a mob of up to 3,000 had attacked the jail to seize them but the sheriff and deputies, reinforced by the Santa Rosa police and fire departments, were able to repel the rioters. It’s likely many of the Healdsburg vigilantes were also on the scene and came away with the lesson that brute force was no guarantee of success.
“We could have had 500 men, if we’d wanted them,” Barney told Gaye in 1985. “But the fellow who got it all organized, the Captain would only take 30. he wanted everybody to have an assignment and didn’t want anybody who was going to get trigger happy and blow it all.”
After a day spent organizing the crew, they gathered together for the first time on Tuesday night to begin rehearsing the mission in the back part of the Standard Machine Works building.
They drilled again on Wednesday night and made a final run-through on Thursday before leaving for the county jail in Santa Rosa. Each man knew his role and was expected to act without supervision.
Before they left, Barnard recalled the Captain saying, “If any one of you wants to back out, this is the time. Do it now. There won’t be one word said. Nobody will think you a coward. But if you stay, from now on, we’re all one.” Barney repeated much the same thing in his 1989 interview, except changing the speech to end with, “after tonight, we’ve got an active war.”
The Captain finished by telling the men to meet back at the same building. “We’ll count noses [and see] if anyone’s missing.” If detained, he told them “just don’t say a lot, answer simple questions, but don’t mention any one of the rest of us and we’ll come back and get you” (1989 interview).
So off they went to Santa Rosa in a dozen (or so) cars with plans for all to convene at the Rural Cemetery. From there about twenty would head for the jail where they took their assigned positions – some as armed guards on the street, others in teams of three to tie up each of the gangsters and pack him out of the jail to a waiting car, carried by the shoulders, waist and feet. It was even planned where each car was to park. They were in and out of the jail with their prisoners in less than ten minutes.
At the cemetery the nooses were already knotted and securely anchored around the locust tree. All that remained was to slip the ropes around their necks and hoist them up. The gruesome work finished, the Healdsburg vigilantes drove home and began leaning on their car horns.
Now let’s crack this nut and see what’s inside.
Perfect crimes are rare, particularly when they are this serious and have so many people involved, both actively and passively, that you can compare the lynching to “The Murder on the Orient Express,” where everyone on the train played some role in the murder.
All credit for its success was given to the leader whom Barney called the Captain, and there’s no dispute the mission was brilliantly planned and executed. As Barney Barnard said in 1989, everything “worked just like a clock. It was so well organized.” But the closer you examine the story, it becomes apparent everything hinged not just upon a single person but also primarily a place – the Standard Machine Works.
THERE WILL BE PRICES PAID
Series on the 1920 lynchings in Santa Rosa
The Standard Machine Works building was at 125 West street (now Healdsburg Avenue) and the vigilantes drilled in the garage section in back, where they did auto and tractor repair. It was, according to the 1919 blurb about its opening in the Healdsburg Tribune, the best equipped machine shop north of San Francisco. When the crew stormed the jail they brought along acetylene torches and the tanks to cut through the cell doors if they couldn’t find the keys; the same Tribune item states welding was “a special feature” of the garage. (In 1920 the equipment was primitive and needed a skilled worker – just a few weeks earlier a Santa Rosa welder suffered facial burns from an explosion.)
The significance of the business goes beyond the use of the premises (which by itself shows a high level of involvement with the scheme); several who worked there had ties to the martyred Sheriff Petray or other law enforcement officers in the county.
In 1920, of course, a great many around here had some sort of connections to Petray or his deputies. We were a small rural county; Santa Rosa’s population was 8,758, almost exactly the size of Cloverdale today (2021). Between memberships in churches, fraternal groups like the Elks and extended families through marriage, probably everyone in the county was no more than two degrees of separation from a man with a badge. That would be particularly true in the village-sized community of Healdsburg, where Petray came from one of the prune-growing family dynasties of Alexander Valley.
But it still seems unusual for a tiny company such as Standard Machine Works to have so many ties specifically to the sheriff’s office going beyond friend-of-a-friend links; there were multiple personal and professional relationships with not only Petray but Sheriffs Jack Smith (before Petray) and Boyes (after Petray). In short, they were men who wouldn’t need arm-twisting from the Captain to convince them the murder of a sheriff was something which must be avenged.
Below are thumbnail introductions to three of them, plus another man who we know was among the vigilantes. Besides showing those connections (and offering a few pretty good stories) it provides context to the most ingenious part of the Captain’s plan, which has been previously untold: Just before the masked vigilantes stormed the jail, he positioned one or more unmasked spies inside the building.
DON PATTESON was a machinist and co-owner of the Standard Machine Works. He was the boss of the county’s motor pool in the mid-1910s which could be why he was spotted driving places with Sheriff Smith. While the newspapers usually didn’t name members of a posse, Don was listed twice in 1915, searching for bandits and a missing man, plus being part of a 1913 opium raid on Sebastopol’s Chinatown. Presumably he was deputized in other Smith posses as well.
Don came from an Alexander prune growing family like the Petrays, Youngs and Lattins discussed in this story. His father, C. L. “Ned” Patteson also served as the popular fourth district Supervisor during the 1910s. In 1915 Ned gave then-Deputy Sheriff James A. Petray a political boost by having him produce a series of Christmas benefits. Petray would later win his tight election for sheriff in 1918 thanks to the larger margin of votes cast for him in Healdsburg.
HARRY PATTESON was a younger brother of Don. When their father died on New Years’ Eve 1917, the Healdsburg and Geyserville newspapers endorsed the 30 year-old Harry to fill out Ned’s term on the Board of Supervisors (the governor chose a man from the Dry Creek area).
Although his only background was in farming, Harry was working at the Standard Machine Shop around the time of the lynching, according to the Healdsburg Tribune. Less than three months after the men were hanged, Sheriff Boyes hired Harry as a full-time deputy sheriff and Superior Court bailiff.
Harry Patteson later became a five-term sheriff (1934-1958) as well as the Healdsburg Police Chief twice.
MAYNARD YOUNG would be the top contender to play the role of the Captain, if that part was not otherwise cast. He had a salesman’s type-A personality and was forceful in convincing others of his views. Maynard almost seemed like a politician with his high level of civic involvement and also acted (and seemed to be expected to act) like a law enforcement officer. He knew Sheriffs Petray and Smith personally.
Maynard Young had a new car showroom in the front of the Standard Machine Shop where he sold the Stephens Salient Six, a mid-priced touring car. He was Don and Harry Patteson’s brother-in-law and when Supervisor Ned Patteson was dying he acted as spokesman for the family. He was also considered another possible candidate to fill out the term.
(RIGHT: Maynard Young 1923 portrait)
Maynard was the subject of a “Velvet Hammer” profile, which was considered something of a badge of honor in the county. (Note to genealogists: If researching someone who lived around here in 1921-1922, hope they were mentioned in “The Velvet Hammer by A. B. B.” There were over a hundred of these little poems in the Press Democrat, each three stanzas of charmingly awful doggerel, to wit: “If you accept the echoed word of Mr. Maynard Young; you’re sure to bite, the car is right, you simply can’t be stung.”)
During WWI, Young was on the three-member draft board covering most of Sonoma county, a job he took very seriously; in 1918 he paid a condolence call on the family of a dead soldier. Other civic duties included being on the executive committee of the county Board of Trade and after Petray was murdered he served as treasurer of the Petray Memorial Committee.
Fun story #1: Maynard was driving back from Petaluma with Sheriff Petray and a deputy in 1920 when they spotted two men arguing by the side of the road. One began chasing the other and “kicking him as he ran.” The sheriff and deputy arrested the drunks and stuffed them in the back seat of Young’s auto. The pair, both masseurs at Burke’s sanitarium, were jailed and fined $25 the next day.
Fun story #2: Serving on the draft board with Maynard was Deputy Sheriff Joe Ryan. In late 1920 (roughly thirty hours before the lynching, in fact) Ryan told Young to be on the lookout for two 14 year-old runaway boys. As Maynard was driving back from the town of Sonoma he saw them hitchhiking. Want a ride to Santa Rosa? Sure, they replied. Once they arrived he asked: Wouldn’t they like to see the inside of a jail? They went along but once inside, one of the boys poked a hole in his trousers pocket and a gold ring fell out as they were walking down a corridor. “You dropped a ring there, didn’t you?” Maynard was asked. Then two more rings were noticed on the floor along with a pearl and opal pendant. The boys were searched and more jewelry and silver coins were found on them. When asked where their riches came from, they claimed, “Just find it in the street, that’s all, lyin’ right there in the street.”
Maynard Young opened another auto dealership in Santa Rosa at Third and Main streets in 1921 (his partner was the other draft board member) but his interests turned to oil. He leased 8,000 acres near Willits and attracted many local investors and when that failed tried drilling near Eureka. His presence in Sonoma County began fading when the auto dealership closed in 1925 and was all but forgotten by the time he moved to Los Angeles and became an oil broker.
RAY LATTIN had no apparent connection to the Standard Machine Shop or the Pattesons – aside from being another Alexander Valley native – but the family was close friends with the Petrays. During the 1920s and early 1930s he ran the prestigious Cummiskey vineyards and ranches near Hopland and Windsor.
He is of interest because after Gaye LeBaron wrote her 1985 column about Barney Barnard’s confession, she received a letter stating Ray Lattin was also among the vigilantes and the stories he always told about the lynching matched the details provided by Barney (this letter can be found in the LeBaron archives at SSU). The importance of this revelation will be discussed in a moment.
Like Maynard Young, Lattin was law enforcement-adjacent in those years. He narrowly lost an election for Cloverdale constable in 1918 but was appointed a reserve deputy sheriff for the town, which gave him a badge. When a forest fire started near Annapolis also in 1918, Jim Petray, acting as deputy fire warden for the district, had Ray organize and supervise the firefighters.
Believe it or not: Ray Lattin’s name still pops up in “Today in History” type newspaper columns because he was owner and trainer of “King the wonder dog” in the early 1940s. King could bark out numbers written on a blackboard and supposedly add/subtract up to five. The dog once selected a beauty queen and after the U.S. joined WWII, entertained enlisted men by playing dead after being asked to show what he would do to enemy soldiers. Ray told audiences the dog was 3⁄4 collie and one part wolf.
All of those wordy introductions were necessary to provide context as to what happened at about 11:15 on the night of December 9, 1920, when three men from Healdsburg rang the doorbell at the county jail (here’s a direct link to that part of the story to jog your memory).
The three men were Maynard Young, Ray Lattin and Joe McMinn.1
They were, of course, unmasked, and did not reveal that one of them – and quite likely all three – were members of the vigilante party. The letter to LeBaron about Ray Lattin stated there was no question “he was at the jail that night specifically for his part in the operation.”
This was a bold strategy to gauge how well the sheriff was prepared to resist an attack on the jail; although the vigilantes were armed, all planning by the Captain showed he counted upon facing no serious resistance. The lynching crew did not want to find deputies and policemen guarding the jail door, as happened at the Sunday night riot.
The supposed reason why Lattin, Young and McMinn were there so late at night was to warn the sheriff that Healdsburg was “pretty well stirred up,” and “there is going to be some trouble.” Not long afterwards the office received a second phone call reporting that a suspicious group of men were gathering near the cemetery.
With only himself and three deputies on hand, Sheriff Boyes asked McMinn and Lattin to go the cemetery and see if their leaders would speak with him. The two men left and returned almost immediately, telling Boyes someone would come there in half an hour.
It was a lie. The vigilantes burst through the jailhouse door just a few minutes later – which suggests Lattin and/or McMinn gave the green light to launch the assault. And so the blitzkrieg attack began, wrapping up under ten minutes later with the gangsters tied and gagged and being chauffeured to their doom.
During the operation the sheriff was moved to the rear office in the cellblock, watched over by five guards. With him were the Healdsburg visitors, or at least Young and McMinn; Lattin’s whereabouts were not mentioned, although the letter to Gaye LeBaron claimed he “gave the keys to the mob,” which can’t be literally true.
Where was the Captain during all this? He was confident enough in his crew that he stayed among those in the office with the sheriff. Asked by Gaye LeBaron in 1989 if he was nervous, Barney replied, “No, we felt relaxed because I went right by Boyes…and two of the, oh, the Captain was there when I went by [unintelligible] and they were just as calm as if nothing was happening.”
So now we come back to our starting place: Who were the vigilantes, and who was the Captain?
As Barnard told LeBaron, besides all of the vigilantes being from the area “we were all friends of Jim Petray’s.” In the 1989 interview he added, “some of them was his close relatives.” During the Sunday night riot Petray brothers Edward and Frank were inside the jail and vowing to kill the gangsters on the spot, so surely they were among the avengers along with Ray Lattin, Barney and his dad. There was the likely participation of the welder from the garage; stir in a few Pattesons and we’re up to ten, easy.
As for the other two dozen (or so) vigilantes, search out the northern county newspapers, particularly editions from before he was elected sheriff in 1918. Small town papers in those days were like collective FaceBook pages, reporting every mundane detail of who was doing what; as a result we can roughly map out who Jim Petray socialized with, from hunting deer to attending events to participating in fraternal groups (Knights of Pythias, Elks, Masons, Woodmen, Native Sons). What emerges is that he and his family seemed to spend time with others who likewise came from Alexander Valley.
As for the mysterious Captain: In its digital exhibition, “Crime of the Century: The Lynching of 1920”, the Healdsburg Museum noted, “the Captain was so competent in his role that people could not resist praising him, revealing his identity.” The person named there is Fred Young.
Fred was absolutely no relation to Maynard Young; their common name is a coincidence.2 That Fred would be the mastermind ends this long story with an unexpected twist because he was such a surprising candidate to plan and lead the mission.
As far as I can tell, Fred Young had no personal ties to Sheriff Petray or any of the other Alexander Valley families mentioned. Nor did he associate with anyone in law enforcement or their offices. The Standard Machine Works opened while he was away in the service so he never worked there; if he had been inside previously it would have been as a guy who walked in because he needed his magneto fixed or something.
The unlikely Captain, part II: If Fred was called the “Captain” it was an honorific; he was in the Army during WWI with his highest rank as a Lieutenant, promoted because he scored well on a test. After the end of the war he stayed in the service as personnel adjutant at the base – there was no leadership experience apparent in his military record.
His wartime assignment was as a flight instructor in Southern California. When it was over he flew a Jenny back to Healdsburg in 1919, becoming the first airplane to land in town and to great excitement. Unfortunately, he was not so skilled at takeoffs; the ballpark where he landed was too short for the ungainly aircraft and he made the rookie mistake of trying to fly underneath telegraph lines. He crashed into a barn and destroyed the “government flying machine” but was unhurt.
Fred’s father was long the town’s mortician and when he died at the close of 1919, Fred inherited the funeral home and the job. He resigned from the Army and moved back at the end of Feb. 1920, about nine months before the lynching took place. Even if he was the Captain he probably would have needed help assembling his militia, as he mostly had been away for three years (before being drafted, Fred was working in Arizona).
In later years Fred Young was a popular and respected Healdsburger, active in the American Legion and several fraternal groups. He was elected County Coroner from 1926 to 1940 when he retired because of ill health. The mortuary still bears his name.
The identity of the Captain and (most) of the vigilantes will never be known for certain. Those mysteries join a substantial list of “what-if” scenarios where something could have easily gone awry and many men from Healdsburg could have ended up arrested or even dead.
For example: All of the vigilantes had loaded weapons – but were they really prepared to use them? If Santa Rosa policemen had arrived while the vigilantes were inside the jail seizing the gangsters, would they have surrendered or started a shootout? When Maynard Young, Lattin and McMinn were talking to Sheriff Boyes before the assault, would they have subdued him if tried to contact the state police? (And for that matter, were they secretly armed?) The Captain anticipated there might be an attempt to capture them after the lynching via roadblocks, ordering some of the men to return via Coffey Lane or other roads; would a 40-something Alexander Valley farmer have maintained his composure if stopped by a patrolman and asked, “why are you out this late with a shotgun in your car?”
Through both the brilliant planning and great good luck, everything went off perfectly. There was no serious investigation by local authorities and the state did not intervene, although Governor Stephens grumbled there had better be some Sonoma County prosecutions.
But now that it was over, everyone was glad of being rid of those troublesome gangsters. It was two weeks to Christmas; there was shopping to do and dinners to plan. Children decorated school auditoriums with colorful bunting before performing holiday pageants. And around Healdsburg and the Valley of Alexander there were thirty men who carried only a lightly troubled conscience over an extraordinary and violent thing which already seemed as if it happened a long time ago.
1 Joseph A. McMinn was a director of the First National Bank of Healdsburg and a former County Supervisor. Like the others, his roots were in Alexander Valley prune farming and had a Patteson connection, being a pallbearer at Ned’s funeral. He would be named interim sheriff for a few months in 1926 following the sudden death of Sheriff Joe Ryan – a controversial appointment because McMinn had no experience in law enforcement.
2 Confusing matters further, there was another Fred Young in Healdsburg at this time who was born in 1880 (nine years before this Fred) and worked as a butcher.
FRED YOUNG AN AVIATOR
Mr. and Mrs. Tom Young received a letter from their son Fred, who is in the aviation section at San Diego, announcing that he had experienced his first flight. “I handled the controls some,” says Fred. “There isn’t anything to the flying — the landing is the hard part.”
– Healdsburg Tribune, May 2 1918
FRED YOUNG A LIEUTENANT
Fred Young, son of Mr. and Mrs. Tom Young of Healdsburg, has received a commission as a lieutenant in the aviation branch of the service at San Diego. Fred won the promotion in competitive examination, his percentage being 95. He has been detailed as an Instructor at the San Diego aviation field.
– Healdsburg Tribune, July 11 1918
MAYNARD YOUNG HERE
Maynard Young, who returned from a visit to his Colusa County ranch on Friday night, was here on business Saturday. On his way home Mr. Young stopped at the country home of former Sheriff and Mrs. J. K. Smith at Knights Landing and found them comfortably installed in a nice home.
– Press Democrat, June 22 1919
First Airplane to Visit This City, Piloted by Local Man
Healdsburg received its first visit from an airplane Saturday, when Lieutenant Fred Young dropped out of the sky into his home town, making a landing at the ball grounds, where on many occasions as schoolboy Fred had contested on the diamond and in athletic events.
For a half-hour or more before making his landing, Fred treated his friends to an exhibition of his skill as an aviator, in stunts that even Beachey of fair-time days would have hesitated to attempt.
It was a little before twilight when the whirring of the engines of Fred’s airplane told of his coming. He circled far above the city, going to a height of about eight thousand feet, and then returning by means of nose dives, glides and apparently end-over-end maneuvers, to within a few hundred feet of the earth.
He easily made the landing at the Luce field, and was given a glad welcome home by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Tom O. Young, and by his wife, who had come to Healdsburg to be present when he arrived…
…Fred planned to leave Healdsburg early Monday morning on his return trip to the aviation field at Riverside. A great crowd of home folks was at the field to see him start. But within a minute or two from the moment that the motors started at the upper end of the field to give the plane its momentum to leave the ground at the south side and soar into the air, the big piece of mechanism was a mass of wreckage just across the street from the field.
As with the start on the previous day, sufficient momentum was not obtained for the big plane to rise above the telegraph wires, and Fred resorted to his trick of that day to dive beneath the wires.
But just as he reached the point of making the dive, one of the wings of the plane collided with the top of a small oak tree. This swung the plane out of its course and lessened its momentum, and before it could recover the plane collided with the roof of a barn, just across the street. In an instant it was a wreck. Fred jumped from the seat of the plane as soon as it fell to the ground, and did not receive a scratch. The car was injured beyond repair except at its home workshops, and it will be shipped to Riverside by rail.
The accident was a great disappointment to the young aviator, and to the hundreds of his warm friends of this community. The wreck has been visited by hundreds of sightseers…
– Healdsburg Tribune, July 10 1919
MAYNARD YOUNG HAS THE AGENCY FOR SALIENT SIX
Maynard Young, who a short time since disposed of his ranch interests in Alexander valley and moved into Heaidsburg to reside is now the agent in this section of the state for the “Stephens Salient Six” car, one of the classiest of automobiles and a good seller. Mr. Young is confidant that he will do well in the handling of this car and already has had many inquiries concerning the same. He will go here and in this county and adjacent territory in his car and will have his salesrooms in Healdsburg, and it will be well equipped. Mr. Young is an active business man and before he entered into the auto game with the Stephens car his friends knew that he must have satisfied himself perfectly as to the merits of the machine before taking it up and recommending it to his friends. He will undoubtedly meet with success.
– Press Democrat, July 18 1919
Patteson and Woods To Have Machine Shop
Don C. Patteson and Jack Woods are to have a first class machine shop in Healdsburg and it will occupy the back part of the Maynard Young auto sales shop. Mr. Patteson is a well known mechanican [sic] and has had much experience in garages and machine works here. He and his partner will undoubtedly establish a first class business in Healdsburg. Mr. Patteson, discussing his plans here Thursday stated that the machine shop will be equipped with everything right up to date for the handling of work.
– Press Democrat, July 18 1919
STANDARD MACHINE WORKS TO OPEN IN HEALDSBURG
The Standard Machine Works, the new company formed by Don Patteson and L. B. Woods, better known as “Jack” Woods, will be ready for business next Monday. The company has a lease of the Hiatt garage, on West street and the machinery is being installed this week. The building is being rearranged to meet the needs of the company, and additional skylights have been built to afford abundant light. The company will make a specialty of lathe work of every description, and will be equipped to make any part of an automobile or tractor. Welding in any of the metals will also be a special feature of the service of the machine works. Ail of the machinery of the company is of the latest design for auto and tractor repair.
Maynard Young will have a salesroom for the Stevens Salient Six at the front of the building. The entire building is being whitened inside. The ladies’ rest room is fitted up attractively, and is conveniently located near the front of the building. Auto and tractor owners of Northern Sonoma county have been compelled heretofore to send to San Francisco for repair work of the kind that the new company is prepared to do, and the enterprise will meet a present and growing need in this section.
– Healdsburg Tribune, August 14 1919
Sheriff Petray Returns
Sheriff James A. Petray has just returned from a business trip to Colusa county…While away he visited his old friend Jack Smith. former Sheriff of Sonoma county, now engaged in ranching at Knights Landing.
– Press Democrat, June 25 1920
CELEBRATOR STOPS AUTO ON HIGHWAY; SHERIFF IS IN IT
While driving home from Petaluma about 11 o’clock Thursday night, Sheriff James A. Petray and Jailer Gus Jewett, riding with Maynard Young, espied a man standing in the middle of the highway a short distance out of Santa Rosa and wildly waving his arms.
Young stopped his car and discovered that the gesticulating gent had a companion near an automobile which they had left standing at the side of the highway. When the officers arrived the man who had been standing in the highway started an argument with the other and started pursuing him, kicking him as he ran.
Petray and Jewett started a little pursuit themselves, with the result that in about the time it takes a watch to tick, they had the two celebrators safely tucked away in the back seat of Young’s machine. They were brought to the county jail, where they gave their names and occupations as Walt Connors and F. Mulhall, masseurs at Burke’s. They probably will be put under a charge today.
– Press Democrat, June 25 1920
HEALDSBURG TO HAVE BIG SHOW Maynard Young Arranges Special Exhibit Space for North End of Sonoma County.
Maynard Young of Healdsburg was here yesterday and madr arrangements with the directors of the Sonoma County Fair for exhibit space for Healdsburg and Dry Creek valley districts. Young promised that an exhibit would be brought here that would open the eyes of Sonoma countv people. This exhibit will be outside the regular farm center exhibits and will be staged in the industrial tent, which will in itself be a unique feature, as it will be the only horticultural and agricultural exhibit in that tent.
– Press Democrat, August 11 1920
TWO BOY BURGLARS AGAIN JAILED; MUCH LOOT FOUND Bianchi Boy and Companion, Each 14 Years of Age, Arrested Once More; Pockets Are Found Full of Money and Jewelry.
When Mario Corelli and Joe Bianchi, both 14 years old, stopped Maynard Young, of Healdsburg, this side of Sonoma and asked him for a ride to Santa Rosa, they reckoned not that their path led straight to the county jail.
Without questioning the lads. Young took them into his car and proceeded to town. Arriving at the jail, he invited the boys inside. Then a veritable shower of jewelry occurred.
“You dropped a ring there, didn’t you?” someone asked Young, and he bent down and picked up a small gold ring. Then his eyes caught another ring, and another, and another; then a dainty little pendant, set in opals and pearls rolled out onto the floor, apparently from nowhere. Young gathered this up also…
Shortly after the boys left Sonoma Wednesday afternoon, Deputy Sheriff Joe Ryan received word to be on the lookout for them, and he requested Maynard Young to pick them up if he saw them along the road. Young recognised them when they hailed him and brought them to the county jail without warning of his intention.
– Press Democrat, December 9 1920
HEALDSBURG LAUDS MEN WITH ROPE
Some Healdsburg members of the mob which lynched Boyd, Valento and Fitts early this morning, are making no effort to hide their identity, according to reports from that city this morning.
In fact, report says, they are being acclaimed as public heroes.
“I’m prouder of you than if you’d gone to France and killed a hundred Germans,” cried one Healdsburg woman as she greeted her husband on the street after his return from Santa Rosa, and as she spoke she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him.
A great demonstration was made in Healdsburg by the returning lynchers. A dozen automobiles, before daylight, circled the Plaza, tooting horns, blowing sirens and making a huge racket which woke up the town.
More than a dozen of the masks used by the gang were found scattered along the edges of the highway between Santa Rosa and Healdsburg.
Several of these masks were brought to Santa Rosa by a member of the Democrat staff, and are now on exhibition at this office.
– Press Democrat, December 10 1920
HARRY PATTESON DEPUTY SHERIFF Harry L. Patteson of this city has been appointed to the office of deputy under Sheriff John M. Boyes of Santa Rosa, and takes up his work immediately in Santa Rosa. Patteson is universally known in this section, and his selection will meet with popular approval. Mr. Patteson is the son of the late Supervisor Patteson. whose family has been connected with official life in this county for years. He has been associated with his brother, Don Patteson, in the auto business at the Standard Machine Shop.
– Healdsburg Tribune, March 2 1921
PATTESON NAMED DEPUTY SHERIFF
With the appointment of Harry Patteson of Healdsburg as deputy sheriff to be detailed as bailiff in department one of the superior court, Sonoma county has one of the best organised sheriff systems in the state, Patteson took up his duties as deputy yesterday.
With Patteson as bailiff of the superior court, Marvin Robinson will be freed for general work throughout the county. Robinson has been handicapped in his work since the murder of Sheriff Petray.
Patteson is well known through out the county. He is the son of a former supervisor, is a prominent business man and is very well known. He will retain his residence in Healdsburg while serving on the sheriffs force.
– Press Democrat, March 2 1921
THE VELVET HAMMER MAYNARD YOUNG By A. B. B.
Some people muffle their remarks so neighbors cannot hear. They make few contributions to the other fellow’s ear. But Maynard Young has got a voice which does not waste a word. When he proceeds to state a fact, that fact Is always heard. Opinions do not die with him because they can’t get out. nor does his language leave them in obscurity or doubt.
The motor cars he sells you at his Healdsburg auto shop have got the gears that run for years before they stall and stop. If you accept the echoed word of Mr. Maynard Young; you’re sure to bite, the car is right, you simply can’t be stung. The engine will co-operate with axles in the rear; the only question on your mind is where you go from here.
He deals in grapes and raises prunes and has a mind acute for getting on the happy side in marketing the fruit. Ha helped us win the recent war with services of weight (a member of the draft board, we specifically state). He is a county pioneer whom everybody knows, who does not wander far and fast with every wind that blows.
– Press Democrat, October 26 1921
Local Wonder Dog Amazes Crowd
“King,” the wonder dog owned and trained by Ray Lattin of Alexander valley, amazed hundreds of guests with his ability to add, subtract, select a beauty queen and intelligently obey the slightest command of Lattin at the opening of a Santa Rosa cafe Tuesday night.
The dog, to be shown at the coming Petaluma Dog Show, November 22–23, astounded spectators by identifying figures chalked on a blackboard and barking the numbers, in addition to presenting a routine of unusual tricks.
It was 1:15 in the morning when Dr. Phillips’ phone rang at his home in Petaluma. As he was Sonoma County Coroner, this was not terribly unusual; people inconveniently die at all hours. It’s the coroner’s job to investigate when there are unusual circumstances and the good doctor was certainly kept busy in late 1920 looking into odd deaths – in the previous few weeks four people were killed when their car or truck was hit by a train and a seven year-old boy was decapitated in an accident at the fairgrounds. But Phillips had never received a call like this one: He was told there were three men hanging from a tree in the old Santa Rosa cemetery and nobody knew who killed them.
THERE WILL BE PRICES PAID
Series on the 1920 lynchings in Santa Rosa
As he drove to Santa Rosa he passed around a dozen cars on the highway headed south, which seemed unusual for that time of night. He unfortunately mentioned this to a Press Democrat reporter when he arrived at the county jail; the newspaper took it as evidence that the lynching party came from San Francisco and most papers in the city chased that angle for days, although it was already pretty clear the vigilantes came from Healdsburg or points north.
Before he left Petaluma, Coroner Phillips phoned Frank Welti, the Deputy Coroner for Santa Rosa and ordered an ambulance to be waiting at the cemetery to transport the bodies. After the dead gangsters were cut down they would be taken to the Welti mortuary at 795 Fourth street, which doubled as the town morgue.
Phillips spent nearly an hour at the jail with the sheriff (probably joined by Welti) prior to heading for the cemetery. This was likely when they all had a very earnest discussion about what might happen next – their jobs were not over just because the gangsters were now dead. “He is in a measure responsible for the safe keeping of the bodies until such time as they are interred,” the San Francisco Call reported after speaking with Phillips. And until the remains were shipped out of the county or securely buried, there was a clear and apparent risk that someone might try to get access to the corpses or even steal them.
Keep in mind this was 1920 and in that era Americans did not shy from all things morbid or gruesome, particularly when it came to dead outlaws. The public snatched up postcards of the lynched gangsters being sold in San Francisco and the fellow who bootleged the photo earned approx. $500 in a couple of days (the equivalent to two months’ wages). As noted earlier, souvenir hunters were cutting off bits of the lynching ropes and ripping bark off the hanging tree, but relics from their actual persons – locks of hair, bits of clothing, blood wiped off skin – would be far more valuable. Should Gentle Reader think our 20th century ancestors were above such barbarity, consider that when Bonnie and Clyde were killed in 1934 people rushed in to do exactly that, even trying to cut off Clyde’s trigger finger and, for some reason, his ear.1
There was also a chance that yahoos might decide a single lynching wasn’t good enough and seek to mutilate the bodies. As they were meeting right after the lynching, the Coroner and Sheriff Boyes might have heard some of the otherwise well-disciplined (and well-armed) vigilantes had to be talked out of shooting up the corpses as they swung at the end of ropes. Considering an angry mob nearly breached the fortress-like county jail a few days earlier, it’s hard to imagine much of a defense could be made if a vengeance-seeking crowd suddenly stormed the Welti funeral parlor.
Around 3AM Phillips and Welti lowered the bodies to the ground and loaded them into the ambulance wagon. It’s doubtful either man caught any further sleep that day; the Coroner’s Inquest was held later that morning and they still needed to suss out the dead gangster’s next-of-kin.
Charles Valento’s mother in San Francisco was quickly found, although the 70 year-old woman was reportedly unaware of her son’s recent infamy. She agreed to claim the body and it was driven to the city before nightfall. The whereabouts of his grave remains unknown.
Finding Terry Fitts’ relatives was likewise easy as he was from Santa Rosa and his two sisters were well known, one of them still living in the area. (When told their brother’s body was to be put on display along with the others they requested his face be covered with a cloth, which Welti did.) Not so simple, however, was settling on where to bury his remains.
Readers of this entire series will recall the Santa Rosa episode began when Fitts Sr. died, leaving the large family home on College Ave. unoccupied and conveniently just at a time when Terry and his criminal companions wanted a hideout from San Francisco police. Poppa – who passed away 31 days before his son was lynched – was buried in the family plot in the Odd Fellows’ cemetery just a short walk from the hangman’s tree.
The sisters wanted Terry interred there as well; no way, said the cemetery. From the Argus-Courier:
It is understood that they sought to have the burial in the Fitts’ family plot in Odd Fellows’ cemetery here, but that the management of the cemetery refused to permit it, claiming that such action was justified by their rules and regulations.
While the sisters were with Welti brainstorming about Plan B, obstacles also arose about what to do with George Boyd’s corpse. The Republican reported, “…it might be shipped to Seattle, where it is understood that Boyd’s mother lives, but word is awaited from that city before final disposition of the body by local authorities. If no claim is made on the body it will be buried in potter’s field [now the Chanate Historic Cemetery -je].”
When he was in the county jail and slowly dying from the gunshot wound, Boyd told reporters his mother lived in Seattle although the address he provided didn’t exist (that might have been a newspaper typo, however). Whether anyone was able to find her or not is unknown, but by the end of the day it was decided Boyd was to be buried here – somewhere.
The next day (Saturday, Dec. 11) there was a quiet funeral service at Welti’s for Terrance Fitts, with only a few attending. And with that, the mystery of what happened to their bodies begins.
The Petaluma Courier reported “the hour and the place of [Fitts’] burial was kept private.” Welti announced both men had been buried but would not say where. But the Press Democrat was told there were no interments in any of the local cemeteries, including potter’s field, and no coffins were shipped from Santa Rosa by train.
And in what seemed like a ruse by a newspaper to trick authorities into revealing what happened to the bodies, the warden of Folsom prison received a letter claiming to be from Boyd’s mother in Australia, inquiring where her son was. The warden wrote back only that he “died in Santa Rosa.”
Interviewed by the San Francisco Call, Phillips made the waters even murkier by saying neither Boyd nor Fitts had been buried to his knowledge. All he would admit was they were still somewhere in the county. The paper added there were rumors around town claiming both bodies were unburied but hidden.
We now know that Coroner Phillips had lied to the reporter. He and mortician Welti – and likely the sheriff and other members of law enforcement – had vowed to keep the locations a secret from the public. The death certificates signed by Phillips on December 13 show they were indeed buried on the 11th in part of the Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery. The date is confirmed by entries in the funeral home’s receipt book.
Ray Owen, co-author of the new edition of the cemetery’s burial reference book is confident he has found their burying place, or at least the grave of Fitts. There’s even a small discreet grave marker – it’s been hiding in plain sight for a century. (UPDATE: Ray has now published his findings and it can be revealed the gravesite is at Moke 234.)
Now they were buried, why continue the subterfuge? Keep in mind it was the day after the lynching and souvenir hunters were out in force, shredding the hanging tree of bark and stealing grass and pebbles from around its roots. Should it become known that the graves were just a two minute stroll away, you can bet those same people would be adding handfuls of grave dirt to their ghoulish collections.
Also, it would have been impossible to conceal newly-dug graves. In the previous twelve days Sonoma County had endured nearly constant rain, including a torrential downpour 48 hours earlier that left downtown streets impassable. No matter how careful the gravediggers were, they would have left a muddy mess.
Coroner Phillips also had another reason to keep the location secret: He told the Call he wanted to make sure they did not “fall into the hands of some medical college.” His concern wasn’t that the Fitts sisters and Boyd’s mom would sell their cadavers to Stanford Medical School – most likely it would be pseudoscience enthusiasts hiring bodysnatchers.
During that part of the century the dark nonsense of eugenics was given serious consideration by many institutions of higher education (and yes, including Stanford). Today we associate eugenics mostly with racism – Nazi-ish claims that whites (and usually some very specific European flavor) were by birthright the bestest people ever made and everyone else should just give up and admit they were inferior.
But eugenics also leaned heavily on the notion that some were biologically “defective” because of bad genes, neurological disorders (particularly epilepsy) or lower intelligence. Eugenicists believed such people tended to be insane or become criminals and usually needed to be locked up, forcibly sterilized and denied education. There’s more discussion of this (and how our county became a leader in espousing such bullshit) in “SONOMA COUNTY AND EUGENICS.”2
Given their presumption that criminals all had some sort of physical impairment that could be visually seen or measured, the brains (and skulls! don’t forget the skulls!) of hard-core sociopaths like Boyd and Fitts surely would offer “proof” of their crackpot theories.
But is there any evidence that universities and/or medical schools around 1920 were robbing graves in the name of science, pseudo or otherwise? Yes and no.
No, there aren’t any examples (that I can find) of bodysnatchers specifically targeting criminals, but medical schools in Tennessee, Iowa, Virginia, and probably other states were still dependent upon grave robbers to provide cadavers for student dissection. The bodies were usually those of impoverished Blacks.3
Yes, major educational institutions were acquiring bodies, including brains, well into the mid-20th century – a practice not considered illegal because it was Native Americans they were digging up. UC/Berkeley still has the largest collection with the remains of over 8,000 individuals, including entire skeletons. While not done under the banner of eugenics (usually), some of the anthropologists shared the same racist agendas, such as using head measurements to determine the exact degree of a living person’s “Indian-ness.”4
So Coroner Phillips’ worries that Boyd and Fitts might “fall into the hands of some medical college” were probably unfounded, but we can say that only by viewing history with our perfect 20/20 hindsight. How revealing, though, this was a top concern of his at the time.
Phillips said nothing further about the graves and was never confronted about why he kept it secret. He and Welti must have hoped reporters would tire of asking, which they did; by the end of the month the San Francisco newspapers rarely mentioned the lynching except to say it caused the police to beef up security when the other Howard street gangsters went on trial.
A few months later Phillips told the Press Democrat he was contacted by the supposed Australian mother of Boyd. This time she was asking how he had died and not his whereabouts, so perhaps she really was his mom and not a reporter trying to coax out burial details. The PD reported:
Coroner F. H. Phillips has received a letter from Mrs. Elizabeth Barron of Waterloo, Australia, the mother of George Barron, alias Boyd, who was lynched at Santa Rosa in December together with Terry Fitts and Valento, asking whether her son had died from natural causes, violence or accident, and the coroner will reply to the mother that her son died a violent death and will not go into details. He does not relish the task and will make things as easy as possible for the poor mother.
1 Artifacts of famous criminals were usually put on display for an admission fee, and such exhibits sometimes included human bodies. Among the grisly attractions touring the country in the 1920s (and for decades afterward) was Elmer McCurdy, a bank robber whose mummified remains were shown as part of a carnival. A different sideshow had the supposed body of John Wilkes Booth, which was once even kidnapped for ransom.
The first inkling of the lynching came to Santa Rosa by phone from Petaluma just before 11 o’clock. A phone message said it was reported there that the lynching was to take place at 11 o’clock, and asked for information, but at that hour all was quiet on the streets and about the jail. This would seem to reference the report that the party came from San Francisco and may have stopped in Petaluma for something to eat or for gasoline and oil for cars, giving rise to the report.
It is also definitely known by the Petaluma information sent here that there were Healdsburg people in the party.
Further strength is given to the theory that members of the mob were from San Francisco by the report from Coroner Frank H. Phillips, who reported that he met from 15 to 20 automobiles headed south on the highway while he was driving from Petaluma to Santa Rosa to take charge of the bodies of the three men lynched.
– Press Democrat, December 10 1920
(Complete article is transcribed in chapter seven)
15 MACHINES RUSH OFFICERS’ AVENGERS TO SANTA ROSA JAIL SAN FRANCISCO POLICEMEN IN LYNCH PARTY, IS REPORT
Fifteen automobiles full of San Francisco lynchers went to Santa Rosa to help execute the three Howard street gangsters strung up there early today, according to information developed coincident with the preliminaries of a formal investigation.
The mob that took from the Sonoma County jail the trio of gangsters arrested Sunday after the murder of three peace officers was drawn from a wide area of the north of bay region, as well as San Francisco.
Reports circulated in Sonoma County today that among the members of the mob, all masked, were San Francisco policemen. It was expected that inquiry would be made in San Francisco to determine the basis of this report.
The rumors of San Francisco participation were widespread, and Coroner Frank Phillips of Sonoma County, while on his way from Petaluma to Santa Rosa before dawn, passed a cluster of fifteen cars on their way south.
– San Francisco Call, December 10 1920
City is Quiet Today After Hanging; No Clue to Avengers
The body of Terrence Fitts was to be buried today in the local cemetery, his sisters having claimed the body on receipt of news of his death. Relatives of the hanged man came to Santa Rosa yesterday and made arrangements for the burial shortly before noon yesterday the body of the Santa Rosa gangster was swathed in a sheet to keep it from the gaze of the thousands of morbid people who formed in long lines to wait their turn to look at the three dead men. This was done at the request of relatives.
BOYD’S BODY HERE
The body of George Boyd, confessed slayer of the three peace officers and accused of ravishing young girls in San Francisco, is being held at the undertaking parlor. It was said today that it might be shipped to Seattle, where it is understood that Boyd’s mother lives, but word is awaited from that city before final disposition of the body by local authorities. If no claim is made on the body it will be buried in potter’s field.
– Santa Rosa Republican, December 11 1920
VALENTO’S BODY PASSED THROUGH PETALUMA
The body of Charles Valento, one of the men who was lynched yesterday morning at Santa Rosa, passed through this city in an ambulance last night at 5 o’clock en route to San Francisco early in the afternoon. Many people saw the ambulance go quietly through here, but did not know it carried the body of one of the victims of the lynchers.
The body was sent to the mother of the criminal, who is said to be under a physician’s care. She is 70 years of age and is near collapse. She repeatedly calls for her son and moans, “My Boy, what have they done to you.” She had not known he had been in trouble until notified of the death. She then sent Coroner Phillips word that she would take care of the body.
– Petaluma Morning Courier, December 11 1920
BODIES OF THREE LYNCH VICTIMS TAKEN AWAY
The bodies of George Boyd and Terry Fitts were removed Saturday from the morgue where they had been since being brought in early Friday morning following the lynching, according to officials late Saturday night, who declined to give any further information relative to their disposal.
Inquiries at the local cemeteries brought the response that the bodies had not been interred in any of them, and it was also said that the bodies were not shipped from Santa Rosa by train on either railroad line here.
No interments took place in the potter’s field during the day, it was announced.
A report current in Santa Rosa during the day, and printed in newspapers published outside of this city, said that the body of Terry Fitts was interred privately, with only a few persons knowing where it was placed. The hour of the burial was kept quiet, and only those who had to be present were there. These people, it is said, intend to keep the details secret.
Announcement was previously made that Charles Valento’s body had been sent to San Francisco, it having been claimed by the dead man’s mother. It is also said that relatives of Fitts intended to claim his body and give it interment.
– Press Democrat, December 12, 1920
FITTS FUNERAL HELD PRIVATE
The funeral of the late Terry Fitts took place yesterday from Welti’s funeral parlors, Santa Rosa, and was attended by a few people. The hour and the place of the burial was kept private. Fitts’ two sisters requested Coroner Phillips to cover the face of their brother in the morgue from the view of the morbid crowd and their wish was heeded.
– Petaluma Daily Morning Courier, December 12, 1920
Mystery Of The Burials
SANTA ROSA. Dec. 12. Deputy Coroner Frank Welti created a mild sensation here this morning when he announced that the bodies of Terrance Fitts and Geo. Boyd, who paid the penalty for murder by being hanged by local citizens, had been removed from the morgue and buried.
At the request of relatives and friends of Fitts and Boyd, Welti said, he refused to give out any information as to when the bodies were taken from the morgue or where they were buried.
Inquiry at all the local cemeteries brought the response that neither of the gangsters had been interred there, so the assumption is that burial was held in another city, possibly San Francisco. On Thursday [sic] relatives of Fitts notified the coroner that they would claim his body. It is understood that they sought to have the burial in the Fitts’ family plot in Odd Fellows’ cemetery here, but that the management of the cemetery refused to permit it, claiming that such action was justified by their rules and regulations.
The body of Valento at the request of his aged mother, was taken to San Francisco on Friday and quietly buried in that city.
– Petaluma Argus-Courier, December 13, 1920
[A version of this story appeared in the SF Chronicle Dec. 19 under the headline, “BODIES OF TWO THUGS TAKEN FROM MORGUE”]
BODIES HAVE NOT BEEN INTERRED
Coroner F. H. Phillips of Sonoma county when flatly cornered by a Call man over the telephone today, finally admitted that the bodies of Boyd and Fitts have not as yet been buried to his knowledge, but he refused to state where they were, further than to admit that they have not been removed from the county.
The coroner stated that he feels that he is in a measure responsible for the safe keeping of the bodies until such time as they are interred and he does not propose to have the bodies the object of morbid curiosity or perhaps fall into the hands of some medical college. Until such time as they are interred, he feels that it is his duty to give out no information on the subject what ever.
There have been various rumors relative to the final disposal of the bodies of the gangsters. That of Fitts it is said was turned over to the relatives but not buried. That of Boyd is still in the hands of the coroner and is safely hidden away somewhere in the county. He therefore refused to give the Call any information on the subject and does not see why it was sought at this time. Both bodies of course have been embalmed. Valento was buried at San Francisco Saturday, privately. — S. F. Call.
– Petaluma Daily Morning Courier, December 17, 1920
Son “Died,” Grim Cable to Mother of Boyd, Lynched
Special Dispatch to The Call. SANTA ROSA, Dec. 21. — Mrs. Elizabeth Barron of Sydney. Australia, today was informed by cable from the Folsom authorities that her son, George Barron, alias Boyd, one of the three gangsters lynched here December 10 for the killing of Sheriff James A. Petray and Detectives Miles Jackson and Lester Dorman of San Francisco, had “died in Santa Rosa.”
Not a word of the lynching was sent to the aged woman, who had written to Warden J. J. Smith making inquiries as to the whereabouts of her son. Word to this effect was received by Coroner Frank Phillips.
The ex-convict’s body is still at the morgue here and will now probably be buried in the potter’s field.
– San Francisco Call, December 21 1920
BOYD’S MOTHER SEEKS INFORMATION REGARDING SON
Coroner Frank S. Phillips is in receipt of a letter from J. J. Smith, warden of Folsom penitentiary stating that Mrs. Elizabeth Barron, mother of George Boyd, alias Geo. Barron, is making inquiries for the whereabouts of her son. The letter states that the mother has not heard from the son for some time, and that she is anxious to get information regarding his whereabouts. The mother is residing in Australia.
Warden Smith wrote to the mother that he had authoritative information that her son had died at Santa Rosa on December 10, and he requested Coroner Phillips to break the news of her son’s demise as gently as he could to the mother.
– Sebastopol Times, December 24 1920
Mother of Man Lynched Asks How He Died
Coroner F. H. Phillips has received a letter from Mrs. Elizabeth Barron of Waterloo, Australia, the mother of George Barron, alias Boyd, who was lynched at Santa Rosa in December together with Terry Fitts and Valento, asking whether her son had died from natural causes, violence or accident, and the coroner will reply to the mother that her son died a violent death and will not go into details. He does not relish the task and will make things as easy as possible for the poor mother.