sanantonio-sm

THE SECESSIONS OF PETALUMA

Here’s the ultimate Trivial Pursuit question, Sonoma county edition: How many times has it been proposed for Petaluma to seize the county seat from Santa Rosa and/or split off to become the seat of a new county?

Recently I conducted a scientific survey of expert historians (I asked guests at a Christmas party, a few friends, some followers on Facebook and that know-it-all cashier at Trader Joe’s) and the consensus was that it’s happened two or three times. The correct answer?

Nine…probably; I hedge because there could be yet another skirmish or three that could crawl out of the late 19th century woodwork.

A couple were like war campaigns and lasted more than a year; others apparently went little further than a committee being formed or the passing around of petitions. Some efforts are difficult to evaluate because few newspapers from that particular time still exist.

While all of the schemes end up with Petaluma becoming a county seat, they are remarkably different otherwise. Sometimes a new county is formed, borrowing a bit of northern Marin (or not). Sometimes Sonoma county is broken up into three counties – four, in one proposal – and sometimes Petaluma is annexed to be part of Marin. A common thread is that Petaluma has more in common with Marin and points south than everything north of them in Sonoma county, which is hard to dispute; until the train arrived in 1871, it was easier for the Petalumi to get to San Francisco than Santa Rosa, particularly in winter.

Here’s a summary of the various proposals:

1860 Marin annexes everything south of Cotati
1861 Move Sonoma county seat to Petaluma
1865 Marin annexes everything south of Santa Rosa
1870 Create a new county from southern Sonoma county
1872 Divide Sonoma into four with south, north, central, and river counties
1883 Move Sonoma county seat to Petaluma
1906 Create a new county from N Marin + S Sonoma + coast down to Tomales
1920 Create a new county (discussed below)
1950 Create a new county from N Marin + S Sonoma + coast down to Stinson Beach

The 1883 plan was hashed out in the preceding articles and was the most rancorous, as Petaluma and Santa Rosa had agents fanned out all over the county urging – and maybe, paying – residents to sign petitions or counter-petitions. This attempt also highlighted how difficult it was to make such a sweeping change; this petition wanted the Board of Supervisors to allow voters to weigh in on the issue, but (as I understand it) the decision still would be ultimately left to the legislature. These rules would later become increasingly byzantine.

Although the Petaluma/Santa Rosa rivalry puts a unique spin on the matters here, there was an outsized prestige in being the county seat a hundred years ago and more; other communities had no choice but revolve around it as planets circle a star. Besides a courthouse it meant having all the county offices and the best professional services – lawyers of all types, major bankers, specialist doctors, etc. It also meant busy stores, hotels, restaurants and saloons along with the higher rents paid to downtown landlords who really owned the whole place. Those are reasons why Petaluma was willing to donate $100,000 in 1883 to move the courthouse there – and hey, maybe the local nabobs would achieve a bit of immortality by slapping their names on a prestigious building or something. After all, there’s also more than a dab of vanity motivating some of these plans.

Another main incentive that year was for Petaluma to dodge paying for a new courthouse in Santa Rosa. That was also the major objective of the 1872 petition, which asked the legislature to create Russian River county as well as new northern and southern counties as afterthoughts. This petition apparently collected a number of signatures in West County but was never mentioned by the other local papers so it obviously went nowhere. It’s fun to read, tho, because the author seemed to think he was appealing to Parliament – I can only wonder if he wore a powdered wig while writing this: “…respectfully petition your Honorable Bodies to consider and pass to enactment the bill offered herewith…” At the same time, he thought it appropriate to include petty gripes: “…the County Buildings at Santa Rosa are inconvenient and insufficient (with one exception, and that accommodates but one County officer).”

It’s doubtful the 1870 separation even made it to the petition stage but it’s uncertain because its advocate was the Petaluma Crescent, a short-lived pro-Democrat paper. No copies survive so we only know about it from comments that appeared in the semi-allied Santa Rosa Democrat. This effort was oddly specific that Petaluma needed to have its own County Hospital because the county wouldn’t pay for emergency medical care away from the hospital when “a man is shot or stabbed in an affray and unable to settle his doctor’s bill”. There’s quite a story behind that, I’ll bet.

Likewise we have an incomplete picture of the 1865 Marin annexation because no Petaluma newspapers from that year are (currently) available on microfilm or digitally. That’s particularly sad because this was the most interesting effort of all: Petaluma was circulating a petition that would take away everything south of Santa Rosa Creek – essentially, half of Sonoma county. It seems clear this was intended to be a kind of war reparation; as explored here, the Civil War ended earlier that year with Sonoma county more divided than ever, with Petaluma cheering the Union victory and Santa Rosa still rabidly pro-Confederacy. Noting the overall county voted against Lincoln in 1864, the Sonoma Democrat muttered bitterly, “If the Abolition [Republican] ticket had been successful in this county, last September, nothing would have been said, at this time, about division.”

There’s little to write about the 1860 and 1861 proposals, except the latter was cut short at the start of the Civil War – there’s some discussion of both in “PETALUMA VS SANTA ROSA: ROUND ONE.” Nor is there much about the 1906 attempt, except it was the first launched under the auspices of the Petaluma Chamber of Commerce. The most memorable thing about it was the San Rafael Independent’s great pun in calling it a “hen coup.”

The financial and political backers of these propositions were never identified until the Chamber appeared, but there were sometimes hints. In 1920 the Press Democrat wrote the new proposed county might be called “McNear county” with George F. McNear’s approval, although it’s possible that was intended as a joke.

Of all the various proposals, the one in 1920 first looked like a sure thing. Not only was the Petaluma Chamber behind it, but this time there was financial backing (McNear, I presume?) for a legal team and Sacramento lobbyist.

The PD claimed “certain prominent residents of Petaluma who desire to see Petaluma made a county seat and a new county” convinced State Senator Lewis L. Dennett of Modesto to introduce SB 648, which would make it much simpler for a county to divide. (In fairness, there were then up to ten other communities in California where a county split was desired, the only other in the Bay Area being recently founded Richmond, which was the anchor for the booming western end of sprawling Contra Costa county.)

Directing the 1920 campaign was Homer W. Wood, editor of the Petaluma Morning Courier, and a “Committee of Fifteen.” Since this scheme involved land in Sonoma and Marin counties, their game plan was to present to the Board of Supervisors in both counties with petitions calling for a popular vote. The Supervisors were expected to refuse to call for the elections since the laws by then made it nearly impossible for such a ballot measure to win, requiring election results to meet certain approval ratios among “new-county” and “old-county” votes, acreage and population minimums kept for the “old-county,” and so on. Once they were turned down by the Boards, the plan was to ask the state Supreme Court to throw out the complex formulas and turn the clock back to 1907, when only approval from two-thirds of the voters in the new county territory was required. Easy peasy!

First, however, they had to come up with a name and boundaries for the new county. Many names were suggested, including Marisoma, Marinoma, Novato, Tomales, Bay Coast, Northbay, American Fertile (!), Chanticleer, San Pablo, Petaluma and San Antonio. They picked San Antonio because “San Antonio is a historic name, a Spanish name, a northern Marin name, and the name of the creek…” That lasted for two months before they settled on the name Petaluma county. See above, re: vanity.

The continually shifting boundary lines were clues that their plan might not be ready for prime time. During the two month lifespan of the San Antonio version the southern border originally ended just before Olompali State Park, then was snapped back to the existing Sonoma/Marin border. In the east it first did not include Sonoma Valley, but then went all the way to the Napa county line. Later the town of Sonoma opted out, so the border didn’t include the Valley of the Moon again.

Composite map of the proposed "San Antonio county" boundaries, Jan.-Mar. 1920
Composite map of the proposed “San Antonio county” boundaries, Jan.-Mar. 1920

 

They dropped the northern Marin component because the central tenet of the deal was that tax rates would be lower in San Antonio county, but when the Committee actually crunched the numbers they discovered the former Marinite’s taxes would actually go up. That was such a fundamental mistake it probably should have killed the project.

But an even greater snafu happened in August when the northern border was shifted to Monte Rio (the borderline now dropping south just east of Occidental), absorbing most of West County – no matter that the new county seat of Petaluma would be considerably farther away than Santa Rosa. Making such a substantive change at such a late date shows more poor planning, particularly since it meant that petitions signed up to that date were now invalid – backers had to scrap five months of work gathering signatures and start all over again.

The year ended, more months passed, and the petition was presented to the Supervisors who predictably rejected it. The Committee filed the planned writ of mandate with the Supreme Court and waited some more.

Finally in November 1921 – nearly two years after the new county was proposed – the court rendered its opinion: No, the Board of Supervisors wasn’t required to put the issue on the ballot. It was the narrowest decision possible, ignoring the question of whether the laws needed to be overturned or not. “As matters now stand, we are just where we were before we inaugurated the New County movement,” moaned the Petaluma Argus.

Courier editor Wood vowed to fight on, suggesting another writ might “force the hands of the supreme court” but that was that.

The last attempt to make Petaluma a county seat was in 1950, and came as a surprise to residents of the city of eggs. A small group of disgruntled Marin ranchers, a retired sea captain, and a “frequent critic of the Board of Supervisors” descended on the Petaluma Chamber of Commerce to make their case for a N. Marin-S. Sonoma county. Their gripe was that their area hadn’t “received enough consideration from ‘resort-minded’ Southern Marin county officials,” according to a story in the Mill Valley paper.

The new county would reach down to Stinson Beach and would be named “Drake,” “Tomales” or “Petaluma.” The group was in the process of forming committees.

Petaluma chamber president Ed Fratini told the paper the group was received with “open mouths and considerable amazement, but we listened with a great deal of interest and have invited them to return at any time.” They didn’t.

 

 

 

 

 

ANNEXATION. – We are told on what we believe to be reliable authority, that a very large majority of the present residents of Marin county have avowed it to be their earnest desire that at the next session of the Legislature the county line of Marin should be extended eastward so as to include all that portion of Sonoma county lying between the present county line of Marin and Sonoma and the Napa line, and as far North as may be necessary to embrace Two Rock Valley, Big Valley, &c., thence on to the mouth of the Estero Americano, and that Petaluma shall become the county seat of Marin. That such an arrangement would be greatly to the advantage and accommodation of a majority of the residents of Marin, no one at all conversant with the county will doubt. A large majority of the residents of that county, either reside along and in the immediate vicinity of the present line between Marin and Sonoma, or in the northern and western portion of the county. To these people Petaluma is of easy and speedy access, and much nearer than San Rafael. Further it is the point where they transact all their ordinary business affairs of trade. That they should, under these circumstances desire the change, no sound unbiased mind can marvel. To the inhabitants of that portion of Sonoma thus proposed to be annexed to Marin, we believe from all that we have been able to learn, that the change would be agreeable and profitable, and from a similar cause. Petaluma is likewise their point of trade, (with the exception of those of the Sonoma Valley,) and to make it the county seat of Marin county would as a sequence greatly accommodate and benefit them. From present indications this matter will be laid before the Legislature at its next sitting, and it is quite possible it may even be before the people as one of the local questions to be provided for during the approaching political canvass. It may be well therefore, for such as have not already done so, to look this matter squarely in the face, and calmly, cooly, and dispassionately, discuss its features.

– Sonoma County Journal, August 3, 1860

 

The Reorganization.

We have patiently waited to see what arguments the Argus of Petaluma or Standard of Healdsburg would offer the people in favor of a change of boundary between Sonoma and Marin counties. Our contemporaries both favor the idea of ceding to Marin the major part of the wealth, territory and population of Sonoma, and as neither of them have adduced a single reasonable argument in support of the position assumed by them, we are forced to conclude they are actuated solely by selfish motives, that they desire only to establish in their respective towns a county seat, and in order to gain this distinction they would sacrifice the best interests of tbe people at large. But one difference seems, to exist between them on the subject, and that is as to the division line, the Argus proposing to cede four-fifths of the county to Marin, while the Standard would be content with donating a little more than half.

Outside of Petaluma but little has been done or said about the matter yet. A meeting of the citizens of that city was held on Saturday last. We learn from one who was present that the attendance was very small. The following are the proceedings of the meeting; it will be observed that McNabb of the Argus was bell-wether of the flock:

Hon. J. H. McNabb called the meeting to order, and after stating the object of the meeting, O. Swetland, Esq. was elected President, and Thos. L. Carothers, Secretary of the meeting.

G. W. Reed, being called for, addressed the meeting. Hon. J. H. McNabb introduced the following resolution which was unanimously adopted:

Resolved, That the citizens of Petaluma and vicinity are in favor of changing the boundary of Marin county, so as to include all that part of county lying south and east of Santa Rosa creek, so that the northern boundary of Marin county shall be as follows: Commencing at the mouth of Russian River, and running up said river to the mouth of Santa Rosa creek, thence up said creek to its source, thence south easterly to the Napa county line.

On motion of G. W. Reed,, a committee of three consisting of H. L. Weston, A. McCune and H. Meacham was appointed to report a committee of nine to the meeting, to take the necessary steps to secure the passage of an Act by the Legislature, changing the line of Marin county as in dictated by the resolution…

– Sonoma Democrat, December 16 1865

 

THE BENEFITS OF DIVISION. — To divide the County as proposed by the Argus, running the line at Santa Rosa Creek, will leave Sonoma county with a voting population of 1,500, while it will give to Marin 3,000 voters in addition to her present population. This would entitle the county of Marin to one Senator and three Assemblymen, while Sonoma would be represented by one Assemblyman. Again, the State and county taxes of Sonoma this year amount to $2.50 on the hundred. These added to the enormous Federal taxes paid by our citizens are no inconsiderable sum. Divide the county and incur an additional expense of transcribing records, removing county seats, the construction of new buildings, etc., and we will be called upon to pay at least one dollar per hundred in addition to what we are paying now And all for what? Simply to gratify the whims and caprices of a few disappointed politicians ot the McNabb, Cassiday stripe. Tax payers will do well to consider the responsibilities they are about to assume in petitioning for this change. If it is absolutely necessary that Petaluma should be made a seat of Government it would be better to change the present county seat than to ruin the county by dividing it up…

…If the Abolition ticket had been successful in this county, last September, nothing would have been said, at this time, about division. McNabb and Cassidy may attempt to ignore politics in the matter, but they belie their consciences whenever they assert that they are not actuated by personal political considerations in advocating this measure, and the people know it.

– Sonoma Democrat, December 16 1865

 

Unwise Agitation.

Contests concerning the local interests of different parts of a county are always of a bitter and unpleasant character, and therefore should never be undertaken without the strongest and best of reasons. This is particularly true of contests relative to the division of a county and the removal of the county seat. Nothing but the most absolute and imperative necessity, looking solely to the material benefit and accommodation ot the larger portion of the people, can excuse the agitation of such a question. In the case of Sonoma county this necessity does not exist; and yet we find a correspondent of the Petaluma Crescent in its issue ot Tuesday last, stirring up this strife in a boastful, unreasonable and intemperate communication. Without advancing a tangible reason to support his position, he demands that the county shall be divided and Petaluma made a county seat. This, we are told, must be done, and that hereafter the people of our neighboring city will support no man for office who is not in favor of making Petaluma “the county seat of a new county, to be comprised of territory surrounding her.” This idea is worthy the brain of a reckless radical politician, who knows that his party, being largely in the minority, has nothing to lose by breaking down party lines; but we are astonished to see it pass unrebuked through the columns of our Democratic contemporary. However, such a threat can alarm nobody, and we do not believe that our fellow citizens of Petaluma will give it their sanction.

Chief among the reasons (?) assigned by this enlightened correspondent for dividing the county and locating the county seat at Petaluma, are that sick persons cannot be immediately taken to the County Hospital, and the Supervisors allow no pay for “outside attendance” that when a man is shot or stabbed in an affray, and unable to settle his doctor’s bill, (it strikes us there is a good deal of physic in the communication) the unfortunate medico gets nothing, but it the party is arraigned before the Court, on a criminal charge, and cannot himself employ counsel, our legislators have provided a fund to pay an attorney to defend him. It is scarcely necessary to say this is stupid nonsense, and without any bearing upon the question. Petaluma is now within thirty minutes of the county seat; every tax-payer knows it would bankrupt the county for the Supervisors to allow bills for “outside attendance” on the sick; and finally, there is no provision whatever for the payment of attorneys appointed by the Court to defend impecunious parties.

No good can result from the agitation of the question of a division of the county and relocation of the county seat. It will embitter the minds of the people; array section against section; involve the expenditure of large sums of money, and prove a positive injury to all concerned. Petaluma tried it before, under more favorable circumstances, and signally failed…

– Sonoma Democrat, December 3 1870

 

The following petition far the creation of a new county is being circulated for signatures in the northern part of this county, and is being very generally signed.

To the Honorable Senate and Assembly of the State of California:

Whereas, It is not only the privilege, but the duty of a constituency to petition the law-making power to remedy any defect or make any change where it will be for the best interests of the community, we, the undersigned citizens of Sonoma county, therefore, respectfully petition your Honorable Bodies to consider and pass to enactment the bill offered herewith, entitled, “AN ACT TO CREATE THE COUNTY OF RUSSIAN RIVER AND DEFINE THE BOUNDARIES THEREOF,” for the reasons that follow, to-wit:

1. That the great extent of the present County of Sonoma renders it exceedingly inconvenient and expensive for citizens of remote parts of the County to visit the County Seat when required to do so by business or imperative legal summons.

2. That the great distance to be traveled in reaching the different parts of the County of Sonoma, with its present boundaries, greatly increases the cost of service of all processes of law over what the cost of such processes would be in the said proposed new Counties.

3. That the towns of Healdsburg and Petaluma are geographically, as well as by established lines of travel, the centers of the proposed new Counties, and easy of access from all parts thereof.

4. That the County Buildings at Santa Rosa are inconvenient and insufficient (with one exception, and that accommodates but one County officer), and in a short time must be replaced by new buildings at large expense to the County, whereas the expense of County Buildings for the proposed new Counties would be borne in great part by the voluntary contributions of tha citizens of Healdsburg and Petaluma.

5. That, after the proposed division shall be made, the smaller of the two Counties will be more extensive in area, greater in natural resources, and richer in assessable property than any one of many other Counties of California; and in population will be greater than any of thirty-four other Counties of the State.

6. That the vast extent of the County of Sonoma, as now existing (equal to that of the State of Rhode island), the expense and inconvenience of necessary journeys to the present County Seat, and the rapid growth of the County in wealth and population, have caused the almost unanimous opinion among its citizens that sooner or later a division of the county will be an imperative necessity; and it is therefore for the best interest of the whole people of the County that the division be made before new County Buildings shall be erected at the present County Seat at a great expenditure of money.

[Note. — Many of the undersigned, through misconception of the facts, were induced to sign a “Remonstrance” against the proposed creation of a new County, long before the circulation of this or any similar Petition.]

– Russian River Flag, February 1, 1872

 

NEW COUNTY MEETING HELD

Pursuant to a call issued by J. L. Camm of the Petaluma Chamber of Commerce, upon request of a number of prominent Petalumans, a meeting of local citizens was held at the city hall there Friday evening for the purpose of discussing the advisability of inaugurating a “New County” movement. The Council chambers were well filled and the meeting was called to order by Mr. Camm. who stated the object and outlined the proposed new county plan. The project, as stated, was to form a new county, with Petaluma as the county seat, by taking that portion of Sonoma county south from a point north of Sonoma, including Penngrove, Bloomfield, Valley Ford and Bodega, and by taking that portion of Marin county lying north of a straight line running westerly from San Antonio creek to the ocean including the town of Tomales…

– Petaluma Argus, June 30, 1906

 

NEW COUNTY DIVISION PLAN
PETALUMA IS TO ATTACK LEGALITY OF PRESENT LAW

Petaluma is again planning to divide the county. The scheme has been quietly working for some time, and at a meeting to be held there on Wednesday evening of next week the plans of its promoters will be formally announced.

The present plan differs from the last one in that “full publicity” is to be the watchword.

During the closing days of the last session of the state legislature. attention was directed to a mysterious bill introduced by a representative from Los Angeles county simplifying the method by which counties might be divided. Upon investigation, the real sponsors of the measure were found to be certain prominent residents of Petaluma who desire to see Petaluma made a county seat and a new county formed out of the southern part of Sonoma county and the northern part of Marin.

The strong light of publicity directed toward the measure resulted in its defeat, and it was generally believed that nothing more would be heard of county division, at least for some time to come.

But it now appears that following the defeat of the measure here referred to, advocates of the plan to divide the county soon got to work in an effort to see what else could be done.

They consulted an attorney, who is said to have advised them that, in his opinion, the present law governing the division of counties in this state is unconstitutional in that it carries no enacting clause.

The present plan, therefore, is to attack the constitutionality of the present law and if the attack results successfully the old law will prevail.

The difference is that under the old law, only those desiring to form a new county have the right to vote on the proposition, while under the law as it now stands residents of the entire territory affected are allowed a vote.

In other words, if the present law is set aside only those living in the southern portion of Sonoma county and in the northern part of Marin, will have a right to vote on the question of dividing these counties and establishing a new one. And on the other hand, if the present law be upheld all the residents of Sonoma and Marin counties will have the right to vote on the proposition.

Present plans have not yet developed to a point where a name for the proposed new county has been agreed upon. It is understood, however, that “Petaluma county” is quite generally favored.

When the matter was under discussion before, George F. McNear, at one of the meetings, is said to have asked. ”What are you going to call this county?”

“We will call it McNear county, if you say so,” some one replied. “I have lived in Sonoma county a long time,” Mr. McNear is said to have remarked, “and am not sure that I would care to live in a county known by any other name.”

Advocates of the proposed new county will base their appeal upon the argument that better and more economical government can be obtained in a small county than in a large one. They will also contend that the population of Sonoma and Marin counties is increasing rapidly, and that the establishment of a new county government will not materially increase the rate of taxation in the territory affected. They contend that a good portion of northern Marin county already does business in Petaluma and that residents of that territory find it inconvenient to transact their private business in one place and their public business somewhere else.

There seems to be no question but that a determined effort is to be made to secure a division of the county along the lines above indicated, and that the constitutionality of the present law governing county division in this state will play an important part in determining the outcome. If the entire territory affected either one way or the other is permitted to vote on the question, there is little likelihood that the proposed new county will be established. If the people of Petaluma, southern Sonoma and northern Marin counties are given the entire say, however, the result may be different.

– Press Democrat, January 17 1920

 

CITIZENS MOVE TO FORM NEW COUNTY

Is the present county division of this state unconstitutional? Will the Supreme Court so declare?

Upon the answer to the foregoing questions hangs the fate of the proposition of creating a new county by taking certain territory from Sonoma and Marin counties. If the Supreme Court shall, when the time comes, declare the county division law unconstitutional, then an election will be held to ascertain the will of the people residing in the new-county territory. If the Supreme Court decides the law IS constitutional, then some other method of acquiring a new county will have to be adopted.

The present law requires a sixty-five per cent vote in new-county territory and, in addition, a fifty percent vote in old-county territory not included in the new county. Under such a law, division of counties is ninety-nine and nine-tenths per cent impossible. Should this law be declared unconstitutional, the law of 1907 would be restored. Under that law, a sixty-five per cent vote in new-county territory would be sufficient without a vote in old-county territory.

Three local attorneys and some of the best constitutional lawyers in the state have submitted opinions to the local new-county committee, which has been in existence for over one year, that the present county division law will be held to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court if the matter is presented in good faith by the people desiring to create a new county.

At a meeting of citizens interested in the formation of a new county, with Petaluma as the county seat, held at the Fraternal Brotherhood hall on Wednesday evening, the foregoing situation was fully set forth by various speakers, after which, by unanimous vote, it was decided to proceed with the new-county plans so as to present the matter, in good faith, to the Supreme Court. In order to accomplish this result, petitions for the formation of the new county, signed by fifty per cent of the voters residing in the new-county, will be presented to the boards of supervisors of Sonoma and Marin counties. The boards of supervisors cannot do otherwise than refuse to call the elections prayed for in these petitions. The petitioners will then go to the Supreme Court on mandamus proceedings to compel the boards of supervisors to call the elections under the law of 1907, which provides that if the people of any given section of the state, with certain restrictions as to population, desire to form a new county they can do so, provided sixty-five per cent of the electors vote for the formation of such new county. The matter of preparing and circulating the petitions and the general conduct of the new-county campaign was placed in the hands of a Committee of Fifteen to be named by the chair.

…Homer W. Wood, originator of the new-county movement, presided. He explained in great detail the various steps needful for the formation of new counties and what has been done in the past by the new-county committee. He also set forth the various points of law upon which the attorneys base their contention that the present county division law is unconstitutional. These points will be covered in a separate article either in this or future issues of the Argus.

Editor Wood also explained that the effort to have the present county division law declared unconstitutional, thereby restoring “self-determination of peoples” in this regard, is statewide and that a number of cities over the state have shown a willingness to lend whatever assistance is needed, both in coin and legal talent, to help the people of southern Sonoma and northern Marin counties win back their “birthright.”

The purpose of last night’s meeting was to reach a final decision as to the advisability of launching the new-county movement and taking such steps as are needful to get a decision from the Supreme Court. This matter having been disposed of favorably and unanimously, and by the unanimous adoption of the address to the voters published elsewhere in this issue of the Argus, many matters relative to the proposed new county were discussed.

Many names were suggested, among them being Petaluma, Marisoma, Marinoma, Novato, Tomales, etc. The matter of a name, which must be inserted in the petition, was left to the Committee of Fifteen.

The boundaries of the new county, which must also be set forth in the petition, were tentatively outlined as follows:

Starting at the mouth of Salmon Creek, draw a straight line one mile north of Cotati to the crest of Sonoma mountain; thence in a general southeasterly direction, following the trend of the mountain range to Sears Point and San Pablo Bay; thence follow the trend of the San Pablo Bay coastline to a point one-half mile south of Novato; thence slightly southwest via Nicasio, between Olema and Point Reyes Station to the head of Tomales Bay; thence follow the eastern shore of Tomales Bay and the coast line of the Pacific Ocean to the point of beginning.

There will be some variations of these boundaries in order to follow township, school district or election precinct lines, the final decision for the purposes of the petition being left to the Committee of Fifteen.

The estimated area is 600 square miles and the population 20,000.

The matter of taxation was discussed at great length. Editor Wood and others, who have been studying the question for over a year, were very positive in their assertions that there would be a decrease in taxation in the new county, so far as the Sonoma county portion thereof is concerned, and no increase in the annexed portion of Marin county. This is a matter that will be discussed at length in future issues of the Argus. The Committee of Fifteen will also promulgate much information along these lines.

As to the necessity of acquiring a new court house, the opinion was expressed at the meeting that the immediate needs of the new county would be provided for by the enterprising citizens of Petaluma without cost to those living outside the city.

As to the amount of the bonded indebtedness to be inherited by the new county from the old, it was explained that none of this indebtedness to be inherited by the new county from the old. It was explained that none of this indebtedness would fall upon the people of northern Marin county; that the people of southern Sonoma county would assume responsibility for that portion of the county road bond issue actually expended within the new county; that probably the Sonoma portion of the new county would not continue to pay court house bands. This matter would be adjusted by three commissioners, one to be appointed by each of the old counties and a third by the state.

Many columns of space would be required to impart to the readers of the Argus the mass of information resulting from the discussion at Wednesday night’s meeting. As the campaign for signatures to the new-county petition progresses, our readers will be fully and impartially enlightened upon all the phases of the project.

– Petaluma Argus, January 22 1920

 

TO THE VOTERS OF SOUTHERN SONOMA AND NORTHERN MARIN COUNTIES

A movement having for its purpose the formation of a new county, Petaluma as the county seat, has been under way for some time. The movement has now reached a stage where its success is reasonably assured. Therefore, we, the undersigned, respectfully urged all voters to sign, when it is presented to them, a petition for the formation of the proposed new county, said petition being the first necessary legal step in that direction. In support of this request, we respectfully represent:

1. That the proposed new county will afford its residents and taxpayers better government, better roads, and a larger measure of participation in the management and control of their affairs as a smaller cost than under present conditions.

2. That the territory proposed to be embraced in the proposed new county is now so detached from the seats of government at Santa Rosa and San Rafael that the people residing therein have not, and cannot have, that degree of intimate relationship with the conduct of their affairs so essential for true progress and proper development.

3. That experience teaches that whenever and wherever large counties have been divided and new counties created the resultant development has been many fold greater than could have occurred without such division, with no increase in taxation.

Petaluma is today the social and business center of this area proposed for a new county and should be the governmental center. There is no just reason why the people of this section should not govern themselves in a new county rather than to be a minority of two counties. Likewise, there is no just reason why this movement should be opposed by anyone.

For the foregoing and other substantial reasons which will be submitted to the voters of southern Sonoma and northern Marin counties in due season, we have hereunto attached our signatures this 21st day of January, 1920.

[56 names]

– Petaluma Argus, January 22 1920

 

SOTOYOME COUNTY WITH HEALDSBURG THE SEAT OF GOVERNMENT. WHAT!

A number of Healdsburgers are watching with interest the attempt of Petaluma to have a new county out of the southern end of Sonoma county and the northern portion of Marin county. Petaluma will attack the constitutionality of the new law which says that the whole county should vote on it instead of only the within the proposed county. Should Petaluma be successful in her contention, there is every probability that a similar movement will be inaugurated in Northern Sonoma looking toward the formation of a new county in this portion of California with Healdsburg as the county seat.

Such a plan has been under consideration for a number of years by some of the large thinking people of the community who have wearied of being the tail-piece of Santa Rosa’s kite and seeing that town hog every thing In sight. The plan to be followed here will be similar to that inaugurated in Petaluma, that of getting a petition signed by at least fifty per cent of the voters in the interested districts, which petition will be presented in proper form.

The principal part of the tax monies raised go toward the building of roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, a jail, if one is needed, and in the formation of a new county, road taxes are expended only on roads within the new boundaries. In other words the taxes we would pay would be utilized in our own district. At present large sums of money go into the pockets of Santa Rosa merchants for county supplies that come out of the pockets of taxpayers in and around Healdsburg. For instance a lot of taxpayers’ money is going into the well-lined pockets of the Santa Rosa printers which facts can be easily verified and mighty little of it gets into any Healdsburg print shops, as well as other business houses here.

The Petalumans held an enthusiastic meeting Wednesday night and the legal preliminaries are being carefully arranged. The list of signers to the petitions so far shows the leading citizens of southern Sonoma are taking hold with a rush. Santa Rosa is genuinely worried over the outlook and one newspaper in particular is devoting much valuable space to ridiculing the idea and hurling diatribes and anathemas in large chunks.

The boundaries of the new county in Northern Sonoma would be along a line drawn east and west through or near Windsor and would include a large and valuable territory, the tax money from which would carry the new county along in fine shape, whereas now it is scattered over a lot of poor territory in other sections. The plans are being held in abeyance until the Petaluma people are to determine their legal status.

– Healdsburg Enterprise, January 24 1920

 

COMMITTEE OF FIFTEEN MEETS

The Committee of Fifteen for the formation of a new county, met at the offices of Attorney F. A Meyer Saturday evening for the purpose of making plans for the circulation of the petition to call an election of the voters, the petition to be used for the purpose of testing the constitutionality of the present law providing for the division of counties.

Reorganization resulted in the election of the old officers, as follows: Chairman. Homer W. Wood, Secretary, F. J. Burke, Treasurer, E. E. Drees.

After an outline by the chairman of the course to he pursued, the first order of business was the choosing of a name for the new county. Many names were considered, among them being Bay Coast, Northbay, American Fertile, Chanticleer, San Pablo, Petaluma and San Antonio.

The first vote was taken on San Pablo, the committee being almost evenly divided on this name. A second vote was taken and the result was 5 to 4 against it. The next name considered was San Antonio. This name received seven votes for and three against. So without further voting this name was adopted.

San Antonio is a historic name, a Spanish name, a northern Marin name, and the name of the creek that will flow almost thru the center of the proposed new county. so it is particularly appropriate….

– Petaluma Argus, January 26 1920

 

Now Santa Rosa IS In Bad
Healdsburg Wants a County
Joins Division Agitators

Oh. gosh! Now we are in bad!

Petaluma doesn’t like us, and neither does Healdsburg.

Both of ’em have announced campaigns for new counties.

And it looks like Sonoma and Cloverdale and Sebastopol may get the same idea, and then look what we would be up against.

We’d have to take our pretty court house and our nice Ionic county jail out in our own back yard and play all by ourselves.

It would be a pretty bad situation all right, alright. If it were not for the fact that we can still retaliate. After all the rest of them get through trying to divorce themselves from us we can still do as well as they did, and try and divorce ourselves from ourselves.

This talk of county division Is all damphoolishness, anyway. According to the law it can’t he done, because Sonoma county has to be left with 1200 square miles and 25,000 population, and you simply cannot figure any combination like that without Santa Rosa in it unless you draw a nice puzzle picture line all around Santa Rosa, carefully connecting all the other towns of the county by a corridor of land. And then you’d have to steal half of Napa and Mendocino counties to get away with, and it seems like the people of those counties don’t much like the idea of breaking up their happy families.

The fact of the matter seems to be that some other parts of Sonoma county are jealous of Santa Rosa, just like Chicago is jealous of New York and Los Angeles is jealous of San Francisco. They can’t understand how Santa Rosa stays the biggest town in the county, when all we have is “boobs,” and they have all the smart and clever people residing within their borders.

Petaluma is adopting a real dignified stand in her divorce trial from Santa Rosa and Sonoma county, and it’s just as well. Santa Rosa has no particular quarrel with Petaluma people. and probably wouldn’t mind letting them go and play with their new county, if it were not for the fact that it can’t be done legally, and it seems so foolish for anyone to say that two families, or two counties, can live as cheaply as one. It ought to be made a crime to hand out “pap” like that to the voters.

But a couple of Healdsburg editors – and Gee! but it’s hard to believe they’re serious are openly advocating county division so that Santa can’t “hog everything,” and directly accusing county seat newspapers of grabbing all the county printing business (just as if we still wouldn’t have the county business if they were successful in taking their own county home to play with) and of course, (this is a secret) they never tell the world that the reason the county seat papers get certain county business. is because the county seat papers have the only equipment for the work.

And. as far as the whole of county division goes, seems like there never was a small town anywhere on the face of the globe but that thought its bigger neighbor was trying to “hog” everything in sight. Why. even right here in Santa Rosa, some of the most widely known people in town go to San Francisco to buy their shoes, stockings, furniture. etc. so why blame Healdsburg and Petaluma people if they come to Santa Rosa to buy.

– Press Democrat, January 27 1920

 

M’NEAR COUNTY BEING OPPOSED
Southern Marin County Bitterly Opposed to County Division for Giving New County to Petaluma.

SAN RAFAEL, Jan 28.- McNear county, the new county which Petaluma is proposing to slice out of Marin and Sonoma counties, will meet with bitter opposition from the entire southern section of Marin county. The opposition has been taking form of late and will cumulate in a meeting which is to be held In San Rafael within the next few days to formulate plans for an organized fight against the division of Marin county.

The plan will be to fight the declaring of the present law unconstitutional, which if accomplished, would mean that a majority vote of those within the proposed new county would he all that is necessary to make the change.

Under the law as it stands now a 65 per cent vote of those within the district of the proposed new county together with a 50 per cent vote of all electors in both counties would be necessary. San Rafael is preparing to wage its fight against a declaration that the present law is unconstitutional.

– Press Democrat, January 29 1920

 

NOW CLOVERDALE AFTER COUNTY SEAT
CITIZENS NOT WILLING TO BE TAIL TO HEALDSBURG KITE THEY SAY

The Cloverdale Reveille, in commenting on proposal of the county of Sotoyome with Healdsburg as the county seat, has this to say:

“With Petaluma working on plans to secede from Sonoma county and establishing a little county that will be very much her own comes the announcement that Healdsburgers also have ambitious plans in a similar direction. Those at the head of the Sotoyome metropolis would slash a slice off old Sonoma at Windsor and create another county out of what is now northern Sonoma. These plans, of course, are contingent upon the Petalumans succeeding in having the present law creating new counties declared unconstitutional. If our southern neighbors are successful, then the Healdsburgers declare they will go to bat.

“In sounding out some of Cloverdale’s prominent citizens, they declare themselves as not altogether satisfied with Healdsburg’s program. They decline to be the tail to Healdsburg’s kite. If old Sonoma — the best county in the golden state —- is going to be mutilated by our good friends of Petaluma and Healdsburg, they say they are not going to sit idly by and watch the surgical operation without having a say where the cuts shall be made.

“They have no objection to Petaluma being made the county seat of San Antonio but the don’t like the idea of Healdsburg being the county seat of Sotoyome. Cloverdale is going to be just as generous with Mendocino’s landscape as Petaluma is with Marin. Why not cop off a few hundred square miles from southern Mendocino’s fertile acres, taking in Hopland and Booneville? Southern Mendocino’s natural trading place is Cloverdale. It would be a distinct advantage to them to come in. This would give sufficient territory to form a county that would have ample resources to give it high standing among the counties of the state.

“And the location of the county seat? Well, Cloverdale is the logical place.”

– Healdsburg Tribune, January 30 1920

 

DIVISIONISTS CHANGE PLANS

SAN RAFAEL, Feb. 23 —County officials received word today from the committee of fifteen in charge of the Petaluma movement for a new county, that the plan of including a portion of northern Marin in the proposed district has been abandoned. The reason given is that it will be impossible to establish a tax rate as low as Marin county’s outside rate, which is $1.88. The minimum for the new county, it was stated, will be 10 cents higher than this amount…

– Press Democrat, February 24 1920

 

‘PETALUMA’ NAME OF NEW COUNTY

PETALUMA. March 6. – The “Committee of Fifteen” at a meeting held in this city Saturday evening, decided definltely that the name of the new county which they propose to slice from Sonoma county will be named “Petaluma County.”

The committee decided to drop the plan to take any portion of Marin county for the present, because of the fact that the new county cannot hope to have a tax rate as low as Marin county has, although the rate figured now will be about 80 cents on the hundred dollars below the present Sonoma county rate.

According to the present plans of the committee the line on the north will be drawn almost due east and west from a point about a mile north of Cotati, running east to the Napa line and south to the southern boundary of Sonoma county. The line will cross the Sonoma valley near the Eldrldge home and will not include Kenwood or Glen Ellen. The committee expects to start a campaign of education in the near future in the Sonoma valley and also in the Valley of the Moon.

– Press Democrat, March 9 1920

 

NEW COUNTY PLAN FOUGHT BY WOMEN

That Petaluma is going to meet with some opposition to its plan of dividing Sonoma county and especially to the plan of including Sonoma valley within its boundaries is evidenced by a resolution recently passed by the Women’s Club of Sonoma, the county’s historical city. The resolution has been forwarded to the Petaluma Chamber of Commerce and is as follows:

Whereas, there is a movement under way to divide Sonoma county, whereby Petaluma and contiguous territory is to be the nucleus of a new county,to he known as San Antonio county: and whereas, Sonoma Valley has been invited to join in said movement and to become a part of the new county of San Antonio; and

Whereas, Petaluma has expressed a desire to know something of the sentiment of Sonoma Valley toward the plan to include Sonoma Valley; now, I therefore,

Be It Resolved, that the Sonoma Valley Women’s Club, representing over 125 members in every section of the Sonoma Valley, deplores the division of Sonoma county, one of the old and majestic counties of our Golden State, and expressed most decided opposition to; any effort on the part of Petaluma to include in their plans Sonoma Valley, whose history is so interwoven with the county which bears its name that it can never he disassociated with it…

(Signed) AMELIA BATES, Chairman of Committee on Resolutions.

– Press Democrat, March 16 1920

 

SONOMA PEOPLE ESCAPE CLUTCH OF NEW COUNTY
Committee of Fifteen Abandons Designs on Resort Section; Hostile Sentiment Given as Reason for Changing Plan.

PETALUMA, May 4.—At a meeting of the Committee of Fifteen in charge of the proposed new county at the law office of F. A. Meyer on Saturday evening, a change was made in the boundary lines for the division of Sonoma county, whereby it was decided to eliminate the City of Sonoma and the resort section of Sonoma valley.

The northern line of the proposed county will go from the Pacific ocean east to the Sonoma creek in the Sonoma valley, thence southerly following the meanderings of Sonoma Creek to Napa street, thence easterly to the corporate line of the City of Sonoma, thence southerly along the city line to the south corner of the City of Sonoma, thence easterly near the boundary line of the City of Sonoma to the Napa line, thence following the Napa, Solano and Marin county lines to the point of beginning.

The change in the boundary line was made owing to the fact that the people in the City of Sonoma are desirous of remaining with the old county. The proposed county according to revised plans, will include El Verano, San Luis, Vineburg, Schellville, Wingo, Fairview, Sears Point. The boundary lines as laid out by the committee will take in practically all the ranches in Sonoma valley.

– Press Democrat, May 5 1920

 

SONOMA PEOPLE MAY FLIRT WITH COUNTY OF NAPA
Valley Residents Say They’d Rather Join Napa Than Petaluma’s Proposed County, and Good Roads Cited as Reason

VINEBURG. May 14.— At a meeting held here last night Secretary Kerrigan of the Petaluma Chamber of Commerce and H. H. Wood of the Petaluma Courier were the speakers to arouse interest in the proposed county division. They told their audiences of some forty persons that the new county could take in any part or the whole of Sonoma Valley even though the valley returned 100 per cent vote against it, provided 65 per cent of the people in the proposed new county voted in favor. In such case the only way Sonoma Valley could stay out would be by securing 50 per cent of the voters of the opposing district to sign a remonstrance against being taken into the new county.

There was a strong sentiment in favor of this valley uniting with Napa county, if division is to come, on account of good highway, the nearness to a good city with all county buildings already erected and with a tax rate lower that the proposed new county advocates are offering.

Three signatures, it is understood were secured to the petition for division.

– Press Democrat, May 15 1920

 

NEW COUNTY DIVISION PLANS MADE

WILL BRING BODEGA IN NEW COUNTY LINES, START NEW PETITIONS

The Committee of Fifteen, which has charge of the work of getting up the petitions to be submitted to supervisors seeking the division of Sonoma county and the formation of the County of Petaluma from the southern portion, decided at a meeting Saturday to recast the boundary lines and commence all over again the work of securing signatures for the petition.

It was announced after the meeting Saturday that the action was taken at the earnest request of half a dozen representative citizens of Bodega township who had meet with the committee and urged, that all of Bodega township and a small fraction of Redwood township be included in the territory to become a part of the new county of Petaluma. They promised their own support to the movement and the support of others whom they had conferred with.

The men who attended the meeting of the Committee of Fifteen and presented the matter were F. A. Cunninghame, H. C. McCaughey, Attorney Walter McCaughey, A. L. Tomasi, R. P. Baker, of Bodega; C. A. LeBaron of Valley Ford, A. H. Meeker of Camp Meeker. They declared that the sentiment in Bodega township was strongly in favor or uniting with the proposed new county and that it should be included at this time for the good of all concerned.

CHANGES IN BOUNDARY

The delegation submitted a written proposal to so change the boundary line of the proposed new county as to include the towns of Bodega, Occidental, Camp Meeker and Monte Rio. The proposed new boundary which will be drawn and again submitted for signatures will commence at a point in the Pacific Ocean three miles off the mouth of Russian River and follow that stream to a point a short distance east of Monte Rio and then south or slightly southeasterly to a point about ten miles east of Bodega and then due east to the Napa county line.

This would mean that the line which runs just north of Cotati directly westward to the Pacific Ocean will be changed about six miles west of that place and turn northward to the Russian River.

TO START WORK ALL OVER

It was said at Petaluma Saturday that the original boundary petition only lacked one or two hundred names to be ready for presentation to the board of supervisors, but that with the promises made by residents of Bodega it was considered far better to drop the petition entirely and prepare a new one to take in all the new territory proposed, as if would make a larger and better county in all respects.

It is admitted in Petaluma that the proposed new county is still far in the distance, as it is known that even after the petition is submitted to the board it will be rejected and then will come a hard and bitterly contented legal battle in an effort to have declared unconstitutional the present statute on county division as well as constitutional restrictions before it can be submitted to a vote of the people.

– Press Democrat, August 1 1920

 

BLOOMFIELD OPPOSED TO SEPARATION

[…]

– Press Democrat, August 21 1920

 

PETITION FOR NEW COUNTY “OVER THE TOP”

On Monday morning the New County petition went “over the top.” The 3,000 signatures needed to make the petition valid for presentation to the Board of Supervisors had been secured at that time….

…When the petition is filed with the Board of Supervisors it will be rejected by the board as not being in compliance with the present law governing the division of counties. An appeal will then be taken to the supreme court on a writ of mandate, in an endeavor to have the present law declared unconstitutional and to have the law of 1909 restored…

– Petaluma Argus, January 3 1921

 

COMPLETING PLANS FOR NEW COUNTY PETITION

…It is not generally known that a new county division act, was introduced in the legislature prior to its recess, by Senator Dennett of Modesto, and will come up for passage at the final half of the session next month. This act will provide for the formation of new counties when the decision so to do is confirmed by the vote of the people of the territory affected…

– Petaluma Argus, February 4 1921

 

NEW COUNTY PLEA LOSES FIRST ROUND

The petition to the board of supervisors for an election to submit the question of the formation of the proposed new Petaluma County was denied by the board yesterday morning, on the grounds that the petition had not been signed by 65 per cent of the qualified electors of the county at large, also it appears upon its face to reduce the area of Sonoma county to less than 1200 square miles, and does not comply with the statutes of the state relative to the organization and classification of new counties…

…The Senate County Government committee at Sacramento has amended the new county division bill pending before it so as to make it a measure to strengthen the present laws and cure any defects it may have, according to word received in this county, and it is expected that the measure will he passed by the legislature before the supreme court can pass upon the writ of mandate from the petitioners, in which case they will not gain anything by their efforts up to this period.

– Press Democrat, April 16 1921

 

Did the New County Committee of Fifteen make a fatal mistake when it outlined the New County area by making it so large as to reduce the area remaining in Sonoma county under 1200 square miles? … The matter of area remaining in the old county is the only instance in which the New County Committee did not comply with the law of 1907 which must be restored if we are ever to get a new county. This being true, it is feared in some quarters that both laws of 1907 and 1909, will be declared unconstitutional in which event the only way in which counties could be divided would be by act of the legislature.

– Petaluma Argus, August 21 1921

 

COUNTY DIVISION GIVEN SETBACK IN SUPREME COURT DECISION

[article only says analysis to come]

– Petaluma Argus, November 12 1921

 

The decision of the supreme court in the New County case decided nothing except that the board of supervisors will not be required to call the election petition[ed] for. The legal points raised in the case are untouched by the court…As matters now stand, we are just where we were before we inaugurated the New County movement. There are still good and sufficient reasons upon which to base a new petition for a new county…the New County movement is just getting a good start. We have “all the time there is” to finish it.

– Petaluma Argus, November 16 1921

 

PETALUMA DIVISIONISTS WILL CONTINUE FIGHT TO SEPARATE SONOMA COUNTY

While checked in plans for the division of Sonoma county by reason of the decision of the supreme court announced Saturday, the Petaluma county divisionists have not given up, and will keep on fighting, it was announced yesterday.

The opinion rendered by the court has been received and is not regarded as satisfactory by Petalumans because its practical effect is to decide nothing except the bare question of denying the writ sought to compel the supervisors to call a county division election. Attorney E. J. Dole, representing the divisionists, received a copy of the opinion yesterday.

In referring to the case, the Petaluma Courier of this morning will say as follows:

“From the standpoint of the petitioner. the opinion is extreme!’ unsatisfactory, as its practical effect is to decide nothing except the bare question of denying the writ.

“The court expressly reserves all questions of the constitutionality of the various acts that were raised In the argument.

“The court merely holds that If the acts are unconstitutional that there is no law by which a new county can be created, and if not unconstitutional, then petitioners have not compiled with the law.

“The proponents of the new county and the lawyers who handled the case have been expecting a decision one way or the other as to whether the county division laws were partly or entirely unconstitutional. If entirely unconstitutional, then the legislature would be compelled to pass a good law, rather than one that would prevent county division as in the past.

While it is claimed that the supreme court studiously avoided saying whether the laws were unconstitutional or not, those who understand the matter believe that either both laws are unconstitutional or that the supreme court justices are divided in their opinion as to whether the part of the law of 1907 and all of the amendments of 1909 are unconstitutional as contended by the lawyers of Petaluma in the case.

“Why the supreme court should leave the matter in such a period of uncertainty is a mystery, unless it is that the justices were divided, which is often the case. The opinion has been expressed by different ones that the supreme court justices were divided from the fact that the dismissal of the writ of mandate was so late in forthcoming.

“The case was finally argued and submitted on the 15th day of August. Usually there is a quick decision in such proceedings, but nothing was heard from this case for three months lacking three days, and then comes what is almost no decision at all.

WILL KEEP ON FIGHTING

“While the proponents of the new county have had no conference as to what will be the next procedure, it is expected that the fight will be kept up. Perhaps another court procedure will be determined upon to force the hands of the supreme court for a decision as to whether the entire law is unconstitutional or not. It the 1909 and 1907 laws are both unconstitutional, then the legislature will be compelled to pass a good law under which we can operate and carry the formation of a new county on to a successful conclusion.

About fifteen other towns are as strongly interested in the matter as is Petaluma, and it is not thought that the fight will ever be dropped until the legal tangle is unravelled and this state has on the statute books a proper county division law, the same as is in existence in eastern states.

– Press Democrat, November 16 1921

 

North Marin Seeks to Form New County

Irked at being ignored by county officials in San Rafael, a group of dissident Northern Marin farmers and dairymen yesterday declared that they would pursue their proposal to secede from Marin and form a new county with southern Sonoma county and have Petaluma as the county seat.

“We’ll be back,” spokesmen said yesterday in referring to the invitation of the startled Petaluma chamber of commerce for them to meet with it again. A small but determined group of ranchers laid the new county proposal before the Petaluma chamber Monday.

David Rogers, publisher of the Haywood Press at Pt. Reyes and frequent critic of the board of supervisors, was one of the delegation, Also included were Capt. A. S. Oko of Inverness, a retried merchant marine skipper who carried refugees to Israel, and two others.

The new county would be named “Drake,” or possibly “Tomales” or “Petaluma.” It would include all of Northern Marin except the Novato area and would extend down the seacoast as far as Stinson Beach. Oko said that the group would continue with their plans and form committees to gather support and sound out public opinion.

As for Petaluma – the plan was received with “open mouths and considerable amazement,” according to Ed Fratini, president of the Petaluma chamber.

“But we listened with a great deal of interest and have invited them to return at any time,” he said.

Courthouse officials in San Rafael yesterday predicted that the move would be short-lived and pointed out that a similar suggestion was made about 27 years ago. Both geographically and economically, southern Sonoma and northwestern Marin areas are closer than Northern and Southern Marin. Essentially dairying, agricultural, and poultry farms, the area has long felt that it has not received enough consideration from “resort-minded” Southern Marin county officials.

Sentiment In Northern Marin in recent months has been against the acquisition of Angel Island and the construction of the Marin district hospital at Greenbrae. Chambers of commerce of southern and central Marin cities have likewise been demanding a master county highway plan because of a feeling that too much county money is being spent on little-traveled Northern Marin roads.

– Mill Valley Record, April 14 1950

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1906courthouse

THE BITTER VICTORY OF COURTHOUSE SQUARE

In the summer of 1883 most West Coast newspapers were complaining about the unusually hot weather; but here in Sonoma county, we were too busy complaining about each other. For months the air was heavy with angst and acrimony and there was no telling how long it would be before the winds changed.

The Board of Supervisors were determined to build a county courthouse in the middle of Santa Rosa’s plaza. Petaluma wanted the new courthouse in their town – which would make them the county seat. Factions from Petaluma were circulating a petition demanding a vote on the issue while also threatening to split off and form a new county. Meanwhile, the rest of the county was upset at both Santa Rosa and Petaluma for dragging them into their fuss. All of that melodrama was covered in part one, “HOW COURTHOUSE SQUARE TORE SONOMA COUNTY APART.”

Our story resumes in the third week of July 1883, when there was something of a lull in the fighting. There had been no mention of the Petaluma petition since early June, when it was said they were about ready to present it to the Board. Having already contracted with architects, the Supervisors now requested construction bids; it would be another ten weeks before they chose a contractor, and hopefully by then the petition matter would be settled.

Amid all that hostility and uncertainty, the Petaluma Courier published a terrific parody which describes a fanciful Supervisors meeting where Mark McDonald and (Santa Rosa Bank president) Elijah Farmer squabble over the Board choosing one of their properties for the courthouse instead of the plaza.

“…the stalwart form of McDonald appeared. He has done much to beautify and adorn the city, laying out an addition thereto and connecting it with Donahue’s road by a street railroad [horse-drawn trolley cars]…He demanded that the Court House should be on his addition and he swore by all the gods and goddesses of Olympus that he would ‘shoot down the man on the spot who should haul down’ one of the grand old trees on the plaza, and he strode up and down the hall like a viking.”

Farmer, “who owns a large part of Santa Rosa and has a mortgage on the balance,” then accused McDonald of being “…only governed by selfish motives to get the Court House on your addition and fleece the people by carrying them to and fro on your railroad…What do you care for the county,’ said Farmer, ‘so you fill your pockets.’ ‘Fill my pockets,’ sneered Mark; ‘much I’ve filled my pockets trying to help your d—d old town that is too niggardly to help itself…'”

At that point in the parody a letter from railroad baron Peter Donahue was read, offering land between the railroad depot and the creek “reserving a strip along the bank for the usual Gypsy camps.” The Supervisors unite in cursing the railroad; “During this storm the mingled expressions of awe, anger, fear and credulity upon the faces of the Supervisors was a study.”

There’s more, including District Attorney Thomas Geary “twirling his chair around and swinging it like a love-sick girl” as he shot down arguments from the quarrelsome lawyers. Read the whole thing below – it’s fun Victorian-era humor.

The Petaluma petition was finally delivered to the Board on July 23, where it was placed on the table while they adjourned for two weeks. “Would you could see the citizens as they passed in and out while it was thus ‘lying in state,'” wrote the Courier’s humorist.

When the Board members returned from break that troublesome petition was still sitting on their table like an unexploded bomb.

The Supervisor’s efforts at the next meeting to avoid dealing with the petition were almost comic. One of them suggested organizing a committee to transcribe the names alphabetically. George Allen, Petaluma’s Supervisor, argued they couldn’t do that because they had not yet accepted the petition to read it, so they didn’t officially know what was inside. (Never mind that everyone already knew its contents because the Democrat newspaper had picked it apart in great detail.) After some debate they voted to read the petition and consider the matter the next day, but not before Allen made an unusual speech in which he distanced himself from his constituents:

…Mr. Allen in reply stated that he was not personally interested in the petition, but he would represent the interests of his section. The petition would not interfere with the building of the Court House at all; he wanted to see the petition disposed of, and if it was consigned to the waste basket he would be glad, while he would not vote for it. It was troublesome and he would rejoice to see it disposed of. (Petaluma Courier)

After looking over the petition, the Board of Supervisors voted 5:1 to deny it (Allen voting to accept). Petaluma needed more than half the number of votes cast at the last general election, which was apparently around 5,100 (papers at the time printed only the number of votes per candidate, not overall totals). The petition had 2,591 signatures, which might have sneaked it past the goalpost – but then the Supervisors threw out 310 names for being unregistered voters, followed by 169 signatures of those who signed another petition asking their names to be removed.

Even worse, Petaluma screwed up bigly before submitting the petition. There were several copies circulating the county and someone helpfully pasted them all together to create one long document – after snipping off the header of some, because, hey, redundant. That legally invalidated the entire petition, even if every damned person in the county had signed it. As the Democrat helpfully pointed out, in 1874 the state Supreme Court had decided against petitioners in San Mateo for making the exact same mistake. Once a petition’s proposition is chopped off it’s impossible to claim what the voters had really signed.

Unwilling to accept the Board had acted fairly, Petaluma held a public meeting to discuss what should be done next. And unable to be a gracious winner, Santa Rosa’s Democrat called the decision a “cause of rejoicing” and charged that the petition was only a ruse to create a Petaluma real estate bubble. The Argus and Courier were outraged by the insinuation and repeated earlier accusations there was a “Court House Ring” suspiciously rushing the deal through. This editorial dueling went on for months; they all took to beginning columns by quoting some choice bit of idiocy from the paper on the other side which was a riposte to something they had written themselves, so the whole exchange reads like a tangled internet flame war. Around and around and around they went. Oh, if only they had Twitter back then, they would have been so happy.

To be sure, this was like no other building project anyone had ever seen; the same Board meeting where the Supervisors voted against the petition saw them debating whether it even would be legal to construct the courthouse on Santa Rosa plaza, much less how they could hire contractors without any money yet collected to pay for the work. (Those details are covered in part one.) But plunge ahead they did, and in early October gave a Sacramento firm, Carle & Crowley, a $80,000 contract to build the place. (For some reason the Democrat could never get the latter name right, calling him “Croly” and “Cooly”)

courthousefromathenaeum

 

Two days later, Petaluma obtained permission from the state Attorney General to file a lawsuit against the Board of Supervisors on behalf of the people of Sonoma county, requiring a vote on moving the county seat to Petaluma – to be held during the following year’s general election.

This was quite the large monkey wrench in the works. The Democrat bemoaned that fighting the lawsuit would be expensive and take years; “…suit will also be brought in the name of the people, by parties in Petaluma, to test the validity of the title to the Plaza, and it seems us though there will be an endless amount of litigation brought about by those who oppose the erection of a new Court House.”

The Argus reacted with all the glee of a French revolutionary waving a flag atop a Paris street barricade: “The will of the people may be thwarted for a time by chicanery and sharp practice, but in the end the people always triumph! The Court House Ring was afraid to trust the people to vote on the question of re-locating the county seat, and, whether they have prevented it or not, they must face the music on the same question…”

But the Attorney General also said Petaluma had a weak case – the Board absolutely had power to rule on whether petition signatures were valid or not. Meanwhile, the Supervisors had sold the property with the existing courthouse and the contractor had started grading the site and started work on the new courthouse foundation.

In other words, the Attorney General had given Petaluma a Pyrrhic victory. Sure, place the question on the 1884 ballot if you really want to – but there was no motion to enjoin the county and stop plaza construction or block the temporary 21 percent hike in property taxes that was going to pay for the courthouse.

By the time the next election day came around the courthouse would be almost finished, so voters would be deciding on…what? To abandon a year’s worth of construction work in Santa Rosa and start anew in Petaluma? To demand the state legislature split Sonoma county into two (or three) parts? None of the possible ballot items likely would have passed.

The fight was over except for a little wrap-up heckling and fibbing. The Democrat lied that the town founders in 1854 always intended to put a courthouse in the plaza (no). The Courier lied that the surviving town founders were planning to halt construction with a lawsuit (no).

Although Petaluma’s legal challenges were quashed, the courthouse project controversies were still not over. Santa Rosa had mixed feelings about the old plaza; the town didn’t take care of it except for the occasional spring cleanup. Still, it was the only park in Santa Rosa and the rare times when it wasn’t a disgrace the Democrat beamed with pride. (Visit Healdsburg to see how nice it could have looked – their plaza is almost exactly the same size and is quite nice.)

As construction began the Democrat cautioned, “…The utmost care should be taken of the trees in the Plaza, it not being at all necessary to disturb the two outside rows, and perhaps many others might be preserved.” A week later: “All the oaks on the plaza will have to be removed, and about sixteen of the other trees.” Soon after the Supervisors approved of removing all remaining trees except the palm. The rancor this stirred can be found in a letter from a former Santa Rosa resident who turned down an invitation to the big 1884 celebration for laying the cornerstone:

I received your complimentary card to be present at the laying of the corner stone of the Court-house, but it was too late for me to accept. It would have been a mixed pleasure had I been present, for I must have groaned when I witnessed the despoliation of the plaza and the destruction of the old trees, for the preservation of which we so long fought. A tree and a bit of grass is worth more than a Court-house. But I won’t indulge in any sentiment. I hope every ___ _____ who has a law suit in the new Court-house will lose it.

The new courthouse was formally accepted March 6, 1885 and opened for business April 3. The final cost was almost $85k, most of the cost overruns because they added iron plates on the floor and ceiling of the jail.

ludwigad1Within weeks, however, problems began to appear.

The paint on the four statues of the Goddess of Justice outside was checking badly; the paneling inside was splitting because the wood was unseasoned. But the worst was that the stairway was unsafe because the floor joists were too small to support the weight. Poking fun at the woes of his rival contractor, T. J. Ludwig – who did not bid on the courthouse contract – placed a joke ad in the Democrat offering to sell bolts “good for holding up weak court houses.” Workmen made a fix by placing a pillar in the basement to prevent further bowing of the joists but this proved to be an ongoing problem, with more emergency repairs three years later.

The San Francisco Chronicle ran a travel piece on Santa Rosa in the summer of 1885 and praised the town’s prosperity, elegant homes, Athenaeum and the business district. The traveler had nothing good to say about the courthouse, however. “This extraordinary pile – sooner or later to be piled in a heap of its own tumble – is already showing signs of internal weakness and external shabbiness…The granite steps outside, front and rear, are narrow, steep and dangerous; the whole structure of Cheap John order. If it tumbles down in five years the county will not be much loser, in case there shall be no sacrifice of life.” The writer added the public is not to blame, because they were “hoodwinked into the adoption of the plan.”

Problems continued into the next year when the cesspool overflowed and flooded the equipment room. Santa Rosa didn’t then have a sewer system (as discussed here earlier) and when construction was underway the options were either digging a cesspool or building a private wooden sewer to Santa Rosa Creek. The Supervisors chose the cesspool because “sewers into the creek at this point were getting rather numerous,” by which they meant the part of the creek next to downtown – they were perfectly okay with dumping effluent into the waterway farther west past the railroad tracks, as they would start doing in 1886. That it overflowed was another example of bad engineering by the contractor, like the stairway.

Flawed though it may be, the courthouse was still the most picturesque thing to see in Santa Rosa – as shown by the number of photos and postcards which still survive – and it’s a shame that it was irreparably damaged in the 1906 earthquake. And here’s the Believe-it-or-not! twist: You can still visit it today if you pop in your car and drive for a couple of hours. A (nearly) identical twin can be found in Auburn. See more photos.

ABOVE: 1883 Sonoma county courthouse sketch by Bennett & Curtis BELOW: 1891 Placer county courthouse design by John M. Curtis
ABOVE: 1883 Sonoma county courthouse sketch by Bennett & Curtis
BELOW: 1891 Placer county courthouse design by John M. Curtis

Bennett & Curtis were the architects here, and this appears to be the only thing built under the firm’s name. Their next project was to be the Humboldt county courthouse but the partnership dissolved in 1885 after Curtis accused Bennett of cheating him out of his share of the contract. Now demolished, that courthouse in Eureka also strongly resembled the one in Santa Rosa although the dome there was much more imposing.

The senior partner was Albert Bennett, who had been the State Architect and superintendent for building part of the state capitol. John M. Curtis is mistakenly credited with several projects because there were a couple of other Bay Area architects named Curtis in that era, but this 1892 bio lists his work to that date including the Mutual Relief Building in Petaluma, still there at 27 Western Avenue. His Placer county clone of our courthouse was designed in 1891, but construction wasn’t completed until 1898.

Curtis has numerous other ties to Sonoma county. In 1898 he partnered with William H. Willcox who has been often mentioned here, primarily for his ambitious 1906 plans to build a convention center and water park in Santa Rosa which would have transformed the town. As a partner with an architect named Rowell in 1905 he offered plans for Santa Rosa’s Masonic hall and in 1906, Rowell, Curtis & Armitage presented a design for the courthouse to replace the one that fell down in the earthquake. Too bad he didn’t get that contract; it would have been a neat symmetry to have him design two Sonoma county courthouses, 23 years apart.

 

 

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS.

On Friday it was ordered that in the matter of advertising for proposals for the erection of a Court House at the County seat of Sonoma County, that the Clerk is hereby instructed to have the notice to contractors published in the Daily Examiner a news paper published at San Francisco, for the next three weeks…On motion of Mr. Allen it was ordered that the communication and protest of B. Hoen against building a Court House on the Plaza, and claiming an interest in said Plaza, was read, and laid on the table.

– Sonoma Democrat, July 21 1883

 

The Court House

EDITOR COURIER: The Board of Supervisors had another field day on the Court House question to-day – on the location of the Court House. All the attorneys of the county were invited to be present to enlighten the Board as to whether they could get title to the plaza. There were claimants to the title and doubt as to the county’s interest. Geary opened the fight against the plaza and was immediately attacked by all the plaza lawyers – each talking at once and each observing that his view was axiomatic and he was a simpleton who thought otherwise. But Geary, twirling his chair around and swinging it like a love-sick girl, kept, like Apollo of old, shooting his arrows at them. Just then the stalwart form of McDonald appeared. He has done much to beautify and adorn the city, laying out an addition thereto and connecting it with Donahue’s road by a street railroad. He also locate the line of railroad to Benicia, sold the bonds in Europe at a premium, and is about to commence the running of the road. He demanded that the Court House should be on his addition and he swore by all the gods and goddesses of Olympus that he would “shoot down the man on the spot who should haul down” one of the grand old trees on the plaza, and he strode up and down the hall like a viking. Then Farmer, who had been an eager listener to the matter, he of the Santa Rosa Bank, who owns a large part of Santa Rosa and has a mortgage on the balance, came to their aid. “Why take the plaza? He had a lot on which a Court House could be erected near to the center of the city which he would donate.” “Donate!” said Mark, with flashing eye and curled lip, “yes, you would donate a strip on three sides of a block so narrow that a Court House could only be built in the shape of a tape worm.” “And you,” cried Farmer, “are only governed by selfish motives to get the Court House on your addition and fleece the people by carrying them to and fro on your railroad.” (In the meantime Allen seized a volume of law, strode inside the bar, pulled off his coat, spit on his hands and declared he would make the matter so plain that a wayfaring man, though he was a —- District Attorney, need not err therein). “What do you care for the county,” said Farmer,” so you fill your pockets.” “Fill my pockets,” sneered Mark; “much I’ve filled my pockets trying to help your d—d old town that is to niggardly to help itself. If I had spent the same money in Petaluma I should have doubled it.” “You had better go down and help them now,” rejoined Farmer, (Here Judge Johnson, with the gravity of a Roman Senator, stepped inside the bar and desired to make a few remarks. He was proud to say that he had been appointed Judge in Indiana by that illustrious Democrat, Governor Hendricks, That the fruits and flowers of –) “I would” shouted McDonald, “if I could sell at fifty cents on the dollar of cost.”

Midst the confusion, Judge Lippitt, with that bland expression and silver voice with which he is accustomed to rouse the Irish of Bodega to the highest entusiasm, begged to present a communication to the Board which the Clerk read as follows:

“Office of the SF&NPRR Company, 30 Montgomery street, San Francisco.

“To the Honorable, the Board of Supervisors of Sonoma county: The San Francisco and North Pacific Railroad Company hereby tender to your honorable body, and through you to the county of Sonoma for the purposes of a Court House, the lot of ground lying between the railroad depot at Santa Rosa and the creek, containing about seven acres and in addition will haul brick, lumber and lime for building the same free of cost, and will lay out and plot the ground in a suitable manner, reserving a strip along the bank for the usual Gypsy camps.
PETER DONAHUE.”

A dogged silence ensued and then the pent up wrath of years of forbearance broke forth. It was a vile attack upon the county by a bloated monopoly. The road had already crushed the county, depreciated the value of property and set back the prosperity of the county fifty years. “Yes,” said Proctor, “Santa Rosa, like San Jose, if it had not been for the Railroad, would have been the seaport of the county.” McGee would throw the rails into the Laguna and Allen would tear down the bridges. (Behold McGee with a bundle of rails and Allen with a bridge, Sampson, like, trudging toward the Laguna.) By and by Donahue would want his offices in the Court House and fill all the county offices with his minions. Before the rising storm, Lippitt, the tool of the railroad, fled. Henley then suggested that they make up a case and enjoin Donahue from controlling the location of the Court House. During this storm the mingled expressions of awe, anger, fear and credulity upon the faces of the Supervisors was a study. Finally, Allen seized the road law, his Cyclopian spear, and with extended hand and bent form shook it at the District Attorney in a triumphant manner and then sat down, while his face was illuminated with a rosy light such as gilded the face of the old man at the top of the ladder while the old woman and the bear fought it out below.

At this awe-inspiring moment Lawyer Thompson, with the air of Minos, entered the arena and, in a voice termpling with emotion, begged to present to the Chairman the petition of a majority of the voters of the county to change the county seat and there, overcome at the remembrance of the honors conferred on him and other lawyers of the county by Santa Rosa, as in vision he saw the Court House rise on the plaza at Petaluma, he sat down crushed and wept. The Clerk blew his nose, wiped his eyes and prepared to read when I folded my tent and escaped as became an ARAB.
SANTA ROSA, July 23, 1883.

– Petaluma Courier, July 25, 1883

 

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS.
On Monday afternoon on motion of Mr. Allen, in the matter of the petition of the citizens of Petaluma, praying the Board to submit the question of the removal of the county seat to a vote of the citizens of Sonoma County, it is hereby the order of this Board that the petition be received and placed on file, and that a day be set for its hearing. Mr. Houser moved as an amendment to the above resolution, the following: In the matter of the petition presented by A. W. Thompson of Petaluma asking the question to be submitted to the people to change the location of the County Seat, it is now the or[der] of this Board that the petition be received and laid on the table for future consideration. The amendment was put to a vote and carried James H. McGee Esq., presented a protest signed by him, and certain papers sent to him protesting against the removal of the County Seat to Petaluma and on motion the Board received the papers and laid them on the table for consideration when the Petaluma petition is considered. The Board then adjourned until August 6th 1883.

– Daily Democrat, July 25, 1883

 

NOT TOO FAST.

Our neighbor of the Courier, is rather premature in “throwing in the sponge,” on the County Seat question. He says: “Our petition having been placed quietly to sleep on the Supervisor’s table, will know no waking.” As we understand the proposition, it was merely placed upon the table till the Supervisors could find time, or felt an inclination, to consider it…

– Petaluma Argus, July 28, 1883

 

The Court House.

EDITOR COURIER: This week has been a sad week indeed for our city. The Board adjourned but left the petition of Petaluma on the table. Would you could see the citizens as they passed in and out while it was thus “lying in state.” Some with baited breath and hesitating step and a charmed look, as if looking for what they did not want to find but expected to find it. Others with set teeth and clenched hands with a kind of kick-a-dead lion, fear of a-live-dog look. Others with white lips and a vacant stare. All the attorneys are busy preparing briefs on the case…ARAB. Santa Rosa, July 28, 1883.

– Petaluma Courier, August 1, 1883

 

THE PETALUMA PETITION.

The so-called petition, presented to the Board of Supervisors praying that an election be ordered for the removal of the county-seat, is radically defective in more than one particular. It is not such a petition at all as the law contemplates, and hence, for the purposes intended, is not worth the paper it is written upon. It is not a petition at all, but several pasted together. Different pieces of paper with printed or written petitions upon them, identical in language, were circulated and more or less signatures were attached to each. These separate pieces of paper were then taken by some unauthorized person, or persons, and pasted together, in some instances the headings being preserved, while in others they were cut off and only so much as contained the names were used. The roll of paper presented to the Board, therefore, shows upon its face that it was not a petition, but several pasted together, while many names have been added that were not put there by the signers to the identical petition to which they are now attached. This is not a compliance with the law, which reads as follows:

Whenever there shall be presented to the Board of Supervisors of any county a petition, signed by the qualified electors of such county, in number equal to a majority of the votes cast at the preceding general election, praying for the submission of the question of the removal of the county-seat of such county, it shall be the duty of the Board of Supervisors, by due proclamation, to submit the question of such removal of the county-seat at the next general election to the qualified electors of such county.

It will be observed that the a petition shall be signed by the qualified electors, etc. The document before the Board consists of different petitions attached together. It may be contended that, since they are all for identically the same purpose, the law has been substantially complied with. This is not true however, as will be shown presently; and it will further be shown that the attaching, by unauthorized persons, of names signed to one petition, to another, is fatal.

We have before us a decision of the Supreme Court in a case that arose in San Mateo county, that is directly to the point. It can be found in California Reports, No. 49.

On the 4th day of May, 1874, a petition was presented to the Board of Supervisors of San Mateo county, asking the Board to order an election to decide the question of the removal of the county-seat. Two petitions had been circulated and signed. They were identical in language and, although neither of them contained signatures enough to comply with the law, yet, by attaching them together, there were more than sufficient…

…It is clear from an examination of the so-called Petaluma petition that it is made up substantially as was the one passed upon by the Court, and that, therefore, it does not meet the requirements of the law. It is invalid for three reasons; first, because it is illegal for the reason given by the Court in the case cited; secondly, because it is not a petition, but two or more attached together, no one of which contains the requisite number of signatures; and thirdly, because it is not signed by the qualified electors of the county, in number equal to a majority of the votes cast at the last general election, many of those whose names are attached not being qualified electors.

– Sonoma Democrat, August 4 1883

 

PETALUMA’S PETITION.

[illegible microfilm – many names were not on the Great Register – Allen proposed to withdraw the petition to end the controversy] …the Board very properly refused to allow the petition to be withdrawn, as the end of the present controversy might be made thereby the beginning of another. If instead of attempting to get possession of the petition again, Mr. Allen had proposed to indefinitely postpone the consideration of it, he would have shown a disposition to end the controversy; but, had the Board allowed the petition to be withdrawn, it might have been presented again at any time. The proper way to end the controversy effectually is to consider the petition now, pass upon its validity, and dispose of it. There is no question of its invalidity for the reasons stated by us a few days ago, and none know this better than our Petaluma friends; and, if the truth were known, we have no doubt, many of them are very well satisfied with the result, particularly those who subscribed large sums without any expectation of being called upon for the money. Our neighbors have operated upon our fears and had their fun at our expense, and will no doubt admit now that this was all they intended from the beginning, or expected. We are sure that none of them ever seriously contemplated a division of the county, if they did bait their hook for Healdsburg with that idea, nor do we believe that the people of the latter place had any idea that the proposition would be favored by the people of the county.

– Sonoma Democrat, August 11 1883

 

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS.

…Mr. Proctor offered the following: In the matter of the petition of citizens of Petaluma and elsewhere for the removal of the county seat presented at the last meeting of the Board and by its order received to lie on the table for further consideration, it is now ordered that a committee of three be appointed to transcribe the names on said petition and arrange them lexicographically for the convenience of this Board…Mr. Allen opposed the motion on the ground that it was out of order as the petition was on the table, laid there without being accepted and read, and was there and must remain there until it was taken from the table by the Board. The Board does not know what there is in that petition; if the Board desires to act on the petition it must be taken from the table by a majority vote and after it is read, then it may be referred to a committee…

[after some debate, they voted to read the petition. Supervisor McConnell said “a number of those signing the petition were not qualified electors.” Allen stated it was not required that a voter’s name be listed on the Great Register.]

…Mr. Allen in reply stated that he was not personally interested in the petition, but he would represent the interests of his section. The petition would not interfere with the building of the Court House at all; he wanted to see the petition disposed of, and if it was consigned to the waste basket he would be glad, while he would not vote for it. It was troublesome and he would rejoice to see it disposed of.

– Petaluma Courier, August 15, 1883

 

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS.

On Tuesday, the Board passed all the forenoon and most of the afternoon in examining the Petaluma petition, 310 names were stricken off…

…The examination of the remonstrance was then taken up. It reads as follows: The undersigned were induced to sign a petition asking that a vote be taken upon the question of removing the county-seat to Petaluma, partly by representations that the new buildings would cost a large sum and add to our county debt; and inasmuch as your Honorable Body has declared by resolution that the outside cost of said building shall not exceed $80,000, and the citizens of Santa Rosa have offered a site for the new buildings without cost to the county, and are willing to guarantee $50,000 for the present county buildings, now therefore, we, in consideration of these facts, and the fact that the County Farm and Hospital are located at Santa Rosa, and the equities of those who have invested their money there, and that Santa Rosa is the geographical center of the county, hereby withdraw our names from said petition, and ask that we be not counted as subscribers thereto. The remonstrance contains 169 names…

…Supervisor Houser introduced the following: Whereas, a paper purporting to be a petition has been presented to this Board, praying for the submission of the question of the removal of the county-seat of this county to the qualified voters thereof at the next general election, and it appearing to this Board that the said petition does not comply with the provisions of law in such cases made and provided and does not contain the names of qualified electors equal in number to a majority of the votes cast in this county at the last general election and that said paper purporting to be a petition is in fact several separate petitions, separately signed and fastened together by some person or persons unknown, and whereas a very large number of the names appearing thereon are signed by the same person.it is therefore resolved by this Board that the prayer of said petition be, and the same is hereby denied and rejected. The ayes and noes were called and stood as follows: Ayes, Gannon, Houser, Pool, Proctor and Morse. No, Allen. The motion was declared carried…

…Judge Rutledge stated that he had had no doubts that the Board had the right to let the contract, and that the only thing that made him doubt it now was the fact that Mr. Geary and other attorneys doubted it. There is no doubt that the Board cannot create a debt for the payment of which they will have to draw on the revenues of any succeeding year, but if a contract was let, the contractor could mandamus the Board and compel them to make a levy to meet the indebtedness…

…The question as to the title of the Plaza was referred to again by Mr. Allen, and Mr. Geary stated that while he did not doubt that the title to the Plaza laid in the county, the county had no more right to put a building there than they had on the county road. Mr. Gannon’s motion was then put carried… Mr. Geary renewed his suggestion in relation to securing an opinion from Judge Rutledge in relation to the title to the Plaza, and it was discussed at length. The Clerk was instructed to furnish the Board at the next meeting all that there is on the minutes in relation to the Plaza…

… On motion of Supervisor Proctor, it is hereby ordered that this Board now proceed to count and ascertain the number of names on the petition for the removal of the county-seat of Sonoma county.

The names were then counted, and it was ascertained that there were 2,591 signatures attached. The Board then proceeded with their investigation, comparing the names signed with the Great Register in the Clerk’s office. Printed Registers being excluded.

…Mr. Houser stated that Judge Rutledge was present and he could throw some light on the question as to whether they had a right to build on the Plaza or not.

Mr. Allen stated that before the contract was let, there were two questions to be disposed of. The first was the right to the Plaza, and the second was as to the letting of the contract, as he understood that before the county could enter into an obligation they must provide means to meet those obligations, and as the specifications stated the work must be commenced some time in September, and if the contract was let, the specifications should be modified. There being a question raised as to the language of the specifications, a copy was sent for. While this was being done, Judge Rutledge stated that he had not examined the specifications, and was not prepared to give an opinion as to letting the contract. In the matter of the occupancy of the Plaza he had arrived at a conclusion that was satisfactory to him, and that was that the County had a right to the occupancy of the Plaza. He does not think that Santa Rosa, as a town, has acquired any right to the Plaza.

A lengthy discussion followed, in which several members of the Board, the District Attorney and Judge Rutledge participated, as to the question of letting the contract before the tax was levied. No decision was arrived at, the Judge stating that he had not studied the matter sufficiently to give a satisfactory opinion.

Mr. Allen considered the questions of location and of the power of the Board to enter into the contract should be settled before it was awarded.

Mr. Curtis asked that the Board pay them something, that they were out considerable money coming and going, and they wanted the use of it. Mr. Allen stated that if the building was constructed the architects were to receive 5 per cent., and if it is not built, 2½ per cent. And that must be paid when the work progresses, but now it was not possible for the Board to pay anything until the question is disposed of…

– Sonoma Democrat, August 18 1883

 

Petaluma In Mourning.

Editor Democrat: Woe hath come upon us, and all is sadness on “our city by Salt Creek.” How our hopes were centered on the time when Petaluma would be the county-seat of Petaluma county, and all to ourselves, we would be watching the Healdsburgers collecting taxes to build a court house for their end of the county and the innocent residents outside of the two towns paying double taxes for the fun of going it alone, and benefiting us and Healdsburg only. Now our fond anticipations are rudely blasted —- not a vestige is left.

It happened thus: The Committee sent their petition with signers amounting to more than the required number. It was held back, and numerous feints at presenting it were made just to make yon Santa Rosa people feel good and to keep up the boom for Petaluma at the expense of the rest of the county, for we knew that property in many parts could not be sold if there was a prospect of heavy taxation to divide the county, keep up two sets of officers, transcribe the records, etc., but it helped this end of the county. Well, the petition was sent up and we thought the Board would receive it and place it on file and then they would have the Board solid for they would have virtually acknowledged by this that the petition was a legal one. But they didn’t. This was a stunner. Wiswell, Gwinn and Ellsworth were running the business, and they were flabbergasted. “They ain’t as green as they said they was,” said one. “Not much they ain’t” was the chorused reply. Then deep and earnest were the consultations. “If they investigate that petition they’ll find all them Marin county names,” said another. “Oh, we must get Allen to bluff them,” said a third, “He will tell them that everybody has a right to sign a petition,” and on this hope they rested. It didn’t work. Gloom and chagrin was depicted on the faces of the Committee, and of those capitalists and real estate agents that had not unloaded their lots.

There was mourning on Main street when Pearce and Tuttle came back on Wednesday, their banners trailing in the dust. Ellsworth elevated his voice and wept; Gwinn groaned; Lippitt lamented; Scudder shrieked; Hill howled and the mournful procession stood on the steps of the Bank, while Meacham mourned and Wiswell wept. They were grieved when they heard how Petaluma’s pet Lamb Geary successfully stood up for Pearce on the Constitution, and backed McConnell in his Legislative definition. Early in the day it had been determined to withdraw the petition. You have seen in the Courier that John Van Doren has a duplicate of 150 names that he forgot to attach. Well if they could have gotten hold of the original petition, and padded it out, the thing could have gone back with 3,000 names, and the fight maintained still longer, but even that hope flickered and died. “Never could get a lot of these fellows to sign another petition,” said one, and all hands agreed. Do yon wonder that they are blue?

Now obstruction is the order of the day, Allen will insist on every name being examined closely and if the remonstrances are brought in he will insist on every man whose name is attached thereto being summoned to show why he signed both documents. Time must be gained at all hazards. The Board must be worried and worn out. More than this, when the question of bids comes up, the same policy will prevail and if possible letting of the contract will be prevented. Every reason under the sun, moon and seven stars will be argued. You will see this sooner than I will. This controversy that can amount to nothing if it is brought to a vote, of the people, will be maintaintained as long as possible. I can see how the land lays if I am a

Bedouin. Petaluma, August 9th, 1883.

– Sonoma Democrat, August 18 1883

 

CAUSE OF REJOICING.

The final collapse of the movement for the removal of the county-seat must be very gratifying to the people of Sonoma county. That Santa Rosa was deeply interested we do not deny, but it was a matter that concerned every portion of the county. The mere opening of the question of removal and division had its effect upon the prosperity of the county, unsettling values and creating uneasiness. Many strangers who were pleased with the climate, soil and productions, and would have preferred to make their homes among us, were deterred from purchasing property, by the fear that taxes would be high. We hear this report from different sections, and of its truth there can be no doubt. The only spot that has been benefited is Petaluma. Upon the strength of the petition they were circulating and the rose-colored statements made concerning the prospect of removing the county-seat, a boom was engineered that caused many pieces of property to change hands at good round figures. The sellers have been enriched thereby, and the purchasers impoverished in the same ratio. We do not say that the movement had this end in view at the beginning, or that any of Petaluma’s long-headed capitalists saw a chance to make something out of it. We do not say that any of them availed themselves of the opportunity to unload. We simply state what has happened. The collapse of the removal scheme pricks the bubble and values will drop back to a solid basis again. We will take occasion here, while on this subject, to say that we cherish no animosity against our sister city, but come out of this contest without the slightest degree of ill-will. We wish her unbounded prosperity. We know she will prosper, for she is in the midst of a magnificent country, is full of enterprising and intelligent people and possesses advantages, the utilization of which will enrich her. But it cannot be denied that in stirring up the removal question she was controlled solely by selfish considerations and that, while she profited by the useless agitation, other portions of the county have suffered. The collapse of the scheme and the end of the controversy is, therefore, a source of rejoicing to the people of the county. It is dead forever, and out of the way. The county-seat will remain where it is and Sonoma county will never be divided. We shall have here a great a prosperous county, of which all its citizens will be proud. Taxation will be low, and many strangers will be drawn hither by the attractions which the advantages of good soil, varied productions, a fine and healthful climate, good schools, churches, etc., afford, to make their homes among us.

– Sonoma Democrat, August 18 1883

 

Misrepresentation.

[section of above article suggesting the petition created a Petaluma real estate bubble]

The above is simply not true. If a single piece of property has been sold here upon the strength of a possibility of the county seat coming to Petaluma, we have not heard of it. There is and has been a boom in real estate, but it is a healthy boom, founded upon a good, solid basis. A genial and healthy climate, rich, productive soil, good and abundant water, the best of school facilities, a country market that cannot be beaten in this or any other State, cheap fares and freights, pleasant surroundings and a community of God-fearing, liberty-loving, generous-hearted people, were the inducements for strangers seeking homes to settle among us. The county seat question cut no figure in the matter at all. In fact, many of our citizens would not give six and a quarter cents for the whole business – the shaky old Court House and all.

– Petaluma Courier, August 15, 1883

 

Petaluma’s Petition

The Board of Supervisors, by a vote of 5 to 1, having rejected the petition for an election for the removal of the County Seat to this place, at their last meeting, and our citizens feeling that the petition had not been justly and fairly dealt with, a meeting was held last Friday evening in Derby’s Hall, to consider the matter and determine whether the citizens had any redress in the matter, or any rights that the Board were bound to respect…Considerable discussion was indulged in, which resulted in the general belief that a sufficient number of qualified electors had signed the petition to call an election, and that the Board had acted in an unfair and partisan manner in dealing with same. It was finally resolved that a committee of three lawyers be appointed to investigate the matter and report their conclusions at a called meeting of citizens…

– Petaluma Argus, August 25, 1883

 

PETALUMA COMPLAINS.

A complaint comes from Petaluma that the petition for the removal of the county-seat, was not justly and fairly dealt with by the Board of Supervisors. We do not know of any proper grounds upon which to base such a complaint. It was found, upon examination, that there was not a number of names of qualified electors on the petition equal to a majority of the votes cast at the last general election. One of the qualifications of an elector, as defined by statute, is that he shall be registered on the Great Register of the county…The Board found that the petition did not comply with the terms of the law and so declared very properly. But there were other irregularities that ought to have been fatal to the petition. It was not a petition as required by the law and determined by the Supreme Court, but two or more petitions attached together by some unauthorized person or persons, and many of the signatures were written by the same hand and are not the signatures of the persons whose names they represent, nor is there any evidence that the person signing them was authorized to do so by the persons whose names they attached. The right of petition is one of the fundamental principles of our government, as the Argus declares, but when the manner of petitioning is prescribed by law, the conditions imposed must be complied with.

– Sonoma Democrat, September 1 1883

 

The Board of Supervisors, on Saturday, let the contract for building the new Court House at Santa Rosa, to Carle & Cooly of Sacramento, whose bid was $80,000 — the building to be erected in the plaza. They also accepted the bid of $26,000 offered by Wm. Hill and Matt Doyle of Petaluma, for the old buildings and grounds. The special tax levy for Court House purposes will aggregate between $50,000 and $60,000.

The Court House matter is again assuming a serious aspect. On Monday the Attorney-General granted to A. W. Thompson, attorney for citizens of Sonoma county, to bring suit in the name of the people to compel the Board of Supervisors to submit the question of the removal of the county seat to the people at the next general election.

– Russian River Flag, October 11 1883

 

The Leading Topic.

District Attorney Geary informs us that the petitioners were represented by A. W. Thompson of Petaluma, before E. C. Marshall, Attorney General, on Monday, while Judge Rutledge and himself represented the Board of Supervisors. The suit will be brought here, and a writ of review will be the first step taken. The entire ground was gone over in the argument before the Attorney General. On the question as to the construction placed upon the law by the Board of Supervisors relative to a qualified elector, Mr. Marshall held that that the Board were right, that the Legislature has as good a right to qualify petitioners as they have to qualify electors, and informed Mr. Thompson that it that was the point on which their action was based, it was not a very strong one. A qualified elector was undoubtedly one whose name appeared upon the great register, and such only could petition for an election for the removal of the county-seat.

From a general conversation among a group of Attorneys, it seemed to be the opinion generally that our Superior Judges would be disqualified to try the case, as they as well as most of the residents of the county, are interested in keeping the rate of taxation low, and this suit, if carried out, will put the county to a great deal of expense, and as it will undoubtedly go to the Supreme Court, it will be several years before it is decided. Suit will also be brought in the name of the people, by parties in Petaluma, to test the validity of the title to the Plaza, and it seems us though there will be an endless amount of litigation brought about by those who oppose the erection of a new Court House.

– Sonoma Democrat, October 13 1883

 

Suit to be Brought.

The following dispatch, received just before we go to press, is self explanatory: San Francisco, Oct. 8, 1883, Democrat, Santa Rosa:—Attorney General permitted suit to be brought in the name of the People.

T. J. Geary, T. J. Rutledge

– Sonoma Democrat, October 13 1883

 

COUNTY SEAT.
PETALUMA’S PETITION POTENT.
The Attorney-General Rebukes the Supervisors and Decides that the Petitioners Must Have an Honest Hearing.
Supervisors May Possible Defeat a Vote on the Petition
But There is a Vote of the People Behind That Which They Cannot Prevent or Influence!
The People are Indignant Over the Action of the Supervisors in Levying a Tax of 25c on the $100 to Build a Court House when They were Offered a Better One for Nothing.
Our Correspondent, “Lex,” Foreshadows the True Business! – What the Santa Rosa Papers Say on the Situation.

On Monday last, T. J. Geary and Judge Rutledge, on the part of the Supervisors, and A. W. Thompson, on the part of the petitioners for the removal of the county seat, appeared before the Attorney-General and presented arguments on the preliminary steps in the suit to be brought against the Supervisors to compel them to submit the question to the people. The motion by Mr. Thompson, which was opposed by Messrs. Geary and Rutledge, was for the privilege of using the name of the people of the State and its Attorney-General in legal proceedings against the Board of Supervisors. After a patient hearing of the able arguments of counsel the Attorney-General decided in favor of petitioners. We give below the opinions of the Santa Rosa papers on this point.

“THE LEADING TOPIC.”

Under this head the Democrat bewails the situation, and thinks the county will be put to great expense, “as it will undoubtedly go to the Supreme Court.” It has nothing, however, to say against levying a useless tax of 25 cents on each $100, for years to come, before it is ascertained whether the people want it or not – especially when a Court House is offered free. The following is its article in full:

[see previous transcript above]

“THE PETALUMA PETITION”

Under this head the Republican has a good-tempered article. It knows too much about the case to say that the county will be put to expense if the suit is prosecuted, and says as follows:

“…when a party believes he has a right to a hearing in Court, it is not the province, fairly, of the law officer of the state to restrain him from, or deny him, that right…Petaluma has really no case, no leg, figuratively, to stand upon. This is the opinion which the Attorney-General Marshall himself unhesitatingly expressed, after he had announced his decision, in private conversation upon the subject…”

THE PUBLIC PULSE

There is a deep feeling of indignation among the petitioners for a vote on the question of removal against the Supervisors. They went to considerable trouble and expense to secure a majority of the voters, and when their petition was presented in due form and in good faith it was treated with the utmost contempt. The Supervisors may possibly stave off a vote of the people on the naked question of the removal of the county seat at the next election – which the petitioners clearly had a right to ask for – but they cannot possibly prevent an expression of the people on the subject of the division of the county. That will be the absorbing question, and it will not down at the bidding of the Supervisors or the Court House Ring. The will of the people may be thwarted for a time by chicanery and sharp practice, but in the end the people always triumph! The Court House Ring was afraid to trust the people to vote on the question of re-locating the county seat, and, whether they have prevented it or not, they must face the music on the same question, though presented in another form. The representatives to the Legislature will be elected on the square and simple issue of a division of the county. The people surely feel sufficient interest in this question to vote upon it, and if division carries the day the question of locating the county seats will become a matter of easy and quick solution…

THE COUNTY SEAT MATTER.

…[The Supervisors] did all in their power to induce the Attorney-General to refuse us the use of his name and that of the State, without which we were powerless to act; employed leading counsel to make that opposition, who certainly made the best possible showing and argument to deprive us of the right of being heard in the Court at all. The reason of this course and of the entire conduct of the Board is patent. The majority of it is devoted to the interests of Santa Rosa, and it is that town which is making the fight, using the Board as its weapon.

The major proposition involved the division of the county; the minor, the change of County Seat. Unavoidably this minor proposition had to be advanced first and our opponents naturally seek to wear us out fighting that; hence they contest every inch, using the Board as their tools…

…Counties are divided and new ones formed only by the Legislature, no direct vote of the people as to that is enjoined by law, but the Legislature should be advised of the fact that the majority of the people desire the change before it would make it. How should we show that fact? Manifestly by expression of the popular will in some way the best of which seems to be to form, as to the next legislative ticket alone, a party to be called “The County Division party” or some such…
LEX.

– Petaluma Argus, October 13, 1883

 

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS.

[..]

At 2:10, the Chairman stated that the time had come for the awarding of the contract for the erection of a new Court House. S. Carle, of the firm of Carle & Croly, being present, stated that he was ready to enter into a contract for the erection of a Court House in accordance with his bid now on file. From some little talk that was indulged in by the members of the Board, it seems that Mr. Babcock, the lowest bidder, had made an additional bid in connection with his bid which brought it to a figure higher than Messrs. Carle & Croly’s bid, and they were the lowest bidders, their offer being for just $80,000. A discussion took place on the feasibility of changing the wooden girders proposed in the original plan to iron. On motion of Mr. Ellis the change was made. The original bid of the firm was $78,853, abd this change being made increases this $1,117, making the total cost of the new Court House $80,000. After the specifications were changed, Mr. Proctor moved that the contract be awarded to Messrs. Carle A Croly for the erection of a Court House in the central portion of the Plaza, in the city of Santa Rosa, for the sum of $80,000. Carried unanimously.

The New Court House.

The terms of the contract signed on Saturday, require Messrs. Carle & Croly to commence work on the new Court House November 1st, but Mr. Carle expressed a willingness to commence at once, so it is likely that the stone for the foundation will be got out immediately. This building is to be 110 feet two inches in length and 104 feet six inches in width, and will be built on the Plaza facing Third and Fourth streets. There will be a passage way running through it on the ground floor. The Plaza is 300 feet long by 280 feet wide, so that there will be a space of ninety-two feet on either end, and of ninety-seven feet on either side. The utmost care should be taken of the trees in the Plaza, it not being at all necessary to disturb the two outside rows, and perhaps many others might be preserved. It is expected that the building will be ready for occupation by November 1,1884…

Who They Are. — The firm of Carle & Croly, to whom the contract for the erection of a new Court House was let on Saturday, are located in Sacramento, at 1111 Second street. They built the County Hospital for that county four years ago, and two years since, built the new Hall of Records. They are now building a Masonic Hall in Stockton, which will cost $60,000, and are putting an $180,000 addition to the Insane Asylum at the same place. They have also in the course of construction at Sacramento, a Granger’s Hall, to cost $16,500, and a brick building for Waterhouse & Lester to cost $20,000.

– Sonoma Democrat, October 13 1883

 

THE ARGUS AND ITS CORRESPONDENT.

A very one-sided and unfair article on the County seat question appears in the Argus this week: also a communication from a correspondent that is no better. Concerning “Petaluma’s petition” the Argus proclaims in glaring head lines that “The Attorney-General rebukes the Supervisors and decides that the petitioners must have an honest hearing.” The simple facts in the case are that the Attorney-General decided to allow the Petaluma people to use the name of the State in bringing suit. He did not pass upon the merits of the question involved in his official capacity, but after hearing Petaluma’s statement of its case, and listening to the arguments of its attorney, he did, as an individual, say that in his opinion they had no case…Petaluma knows that it has no case, and does not dare to test it. It would rather hold this matter in abeyance and, while claiming that the petitioners were not fairly treated by the Board of Supervisors, talk up a division of the county. Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad. Petaluma will find, if it heed the advice of the Argus and its correspondent, that it has made a fatal mistake. Santa Rosa is not afraid to go to the people on the question of division. They will never consent to the division of Sonoma, and if there are any political aspirants who think they can get office by stirring up a contest over the proposition, we advise our Petaluma friends to turn their backs upon them.

– Sonoma Democrat, October 20 1883

 

LOCAL NOTES.
All the oaks on the plaza will have to be removed, and about sixteen of the other trees.

– Sonoma Democrat, October 20 1883

 

In 1854, it was the intention of the Board of Supervisors to build a Court House on the plaza, just where the foundation of the new one is now being arranged, but they thought that, as the building they would erect would be a temporary structure, they would purchase the lots on which the old Court House stands, so that in the future the more pretentious structure would grace the Plaza. Their design is now being carried out.

– Sonoma Democrat, October 20 1883

 

THEY ARE AFRAID OF THE COURTS.

Commence your action at once, and win if you can. The Board of Supervisors, we dare say, are more than willing to meet you, and have the matter passed upon and settled. The people of Santa Rosa invite you to a judicial investigation. -Democrat.

Why this haste, gentle neighbor? The questions of re-location and division can not reach the people for a year yet, and we will be ready long before that time. You seem to be as anxious to get into the courts now as we were a short time since to have the Supervisors submit the question to the people. It may be now that we can get along without the aid of the Courts or Supervisors—and if so we will not give them any unnecessary trouble.— Argus.

The impression prevails that the threatened suit is only for effect and that there is no intention on the part of those concerned, to go any further with it than they have gone already. Being lawyers they know they have no case. They knew it, no doubt, before the Attorney-General kindly told them so. They propose to keep the matter in suspense, and make all the capital out of the fact that they were granted permission to bring suit in the name of the State, while they continue to tell a pitiful story of their wrongs and work up a feeling against Santa Rosa and for a division of the county. The game is too transparent and too well understood to succed. They have threatened to appeal to the courts for redress of pretended grievances, and Santa Rosa and the Board of Supervisors accept the challenge. If there is anything wrong, let it be shown. A failure to do so now, will be accepted by every unprejudiced person as a confession of weakness. People will say that Petaluma is afraid to appeal to the courts because she knows that the charges made by her against the Board Supervisors are without foundation.

We don’t intend to allow signatures to be obtained to a petition to the Legislature for a division of the county, or for a few men hungry for offices to get them, by playing Petaluma in the role of a martyr. We understand the game thoroughly and intend that the people shall, if they do not already, and when we say “the people,” we mean the people of Petaluma as well as other portions of the county. Many of the good citizens of that place understand the motives which prompt this last movement and have no sympathy with it. They don’t propose to be made cats’ paws of to draw the chestnuts from the fire for a few office seekers.

We repeat that Santa Rosa is not afraid to go to the people on the question of division. In the recent contest over the petition for removal, Santa Rosa did no more than correct the misrepresentations which were made to the people for the purpose of obtaining their signatures, and give those who had signed under false impressions an opportunity to withdraw. This was done not because she was afraid of the people when properly informed, but because of the misrepresentations with which they were assailed, Petaluma failed to present such a petition as is required by law and is now trying to make capital but of the fact that the prayer of that petition was not granted. When we say Petaluma we refer of course only to those who have put themselves forward as her representatives. It is a clear case now that they are doubly afraid – first of an investigation in court and secondly of a popular verdict — and hence they have changed their tactics and propose to go to the Legislature and ask it to divide the county.

– Sonoma Democrat, October 27 1883

 

[quote of paragraph 4 above: “We don’t intend to allow signatures to be obtained to a petition…”]

Now, neighbor, it would be really unkind in you not to allow signatures to be obtained to a petition if the people wanted to sign one – but they don’t. We will divide the county just as soon as the interests of the inhabitants require it, and we will not trouble you with any more petitions. You will be kind enough to allow the people to vote for or against candidates who are favorable or unfavorable to a division, when the time comes, won’t you? …

– Petaluma Argus, October 27, 1883

 

The tax rate in Sonoma county is $1.45 on each $100, but 25 cents of this is a special and extraordinary tax, levied to psy for the new Court House. Deduct this and the tax rate is but $1.20 on the $100.

– Sonoma Democrat, November 3 1883

 

We find the following in the Sacramento Record-Union of Tuesday: Silas Carle returned from Santa Rosa yesterday, where he is engaged in the construction of a new Court House. He says never in the history of the State was there as much or extensive building improvements going on as at present. The past year seems to have been one of unparalleled prosperity, and nothing gives better proof of this state of affairs than the permanent improvements everywhere being made.

– Sonoma Democrat, December 1 1883

 

Courierlets

It is rumored here that further work on the new Court House now building at Santa Rosa has been enjoined by the heirs of the Harmon [sic] estate. These heirs with Barney Hoen and Julio Carrillo claim title to, or some interest in the plaza upon which the new Court House is being erected.

– Petaluma Courier, January 2 1884

 

The Court House. — We caught sight of Supervisor Proctor inspecting the foundation of the new Court House on Friday morning and at once joined him. A report that nearly all the ornamental trees in the Plaza will be removed was denied. Four trees at the south entrance, and one at the north are all that will be taken out, and these are in the way of the steps. The foundation for the steps will extend to within ten feet of the north and south entrances, and perhaps three more will have to be added to those provided for in the plans. Mr. Proctor has devoted considerable time to the study of the details of the building. The chain gang is now engaged in placing the earth against the foundation and fixing the grade. This will cause it to be thoroughly packed and beaten down by the workmen engaged in building, so that when the Court House is completed, walks can be laid without any delay.

– Sonoma Democrat, March 8 1884

 

Amid a discussion relative to the new Court House and grounds, it transpired that a majority of the Board are in favor of removing all the trees in the Plaza except the palm. Supervisor Proctor objected, declaring that they were ornamental. Supervisor Pool also demurred. Supervisor Allen said that they would conceal the new building, and low ornamental shrubbery would cause the new Court House yard to present a much neater appearance.

– Sonoma Democrat, March 8 1884

 

The New Court House.

In January, 1883, Mr. T. J. Proctor, Supervisor for Santa Rosa township, took his seat in the Board, and immediately commenced a movement for the construction of a new Court-house… At the March meeting, the Mayor of Santa Rosa appeared before the Board, and offered to surrender any title the city mignt have to the Plaza, to the county, for the purpose of building a Court-house there, or to give any other location the Board might determine upon. A time was then set for hearing the numerous parties making propositions at the following meeting in April. The hearing of the Petaluma proposition having been fixed for the fifth of April, and that time having arrived, and they having failed to appear, on motion of Supervisor Allen the further consideration of that proposition was indefinitely postponed. Supervisor Proctor then offered a resolution that, whereas it appeared to be the general wish of the citizens of Santa Rosa and the people of Sonoma county that the new Court-house be erected on the Plaza in the city of Santa Rosa, therefore resolved that the location of said new Court-house shall be on the Plaza of Santa Rosa, the city having dedicated the same for Court-house purposes…

…in the constructon of this Edifice, it will require eight hundred thousand bricks (800,000) two hundred and forty ton (240) of dressed granite; one hundred and thirty-seven (137) tons of wrought iron, thirty (30) tons of cast iron, three thousand, nine hundred and twenty-two (3,922) feet of corrugated iron, — besides lumber and other materials. The foundation alone will require eight hundred and fifty (850) perch of basalt rock. The building when completed will be second to none in the State.

– Sonoma Democrat, March 29 1884

 

The following letter was received from an ex-attorney of Santa Rosa…

Sacramento, May 8, 1884

I received your complimentary card to be present at the laying of the corner stone of the Court-house, but it was too late for me to accept. It would have been a mixed pleasure had I been present, for I must have groaned when I witnessed the despoliation of the plaza and the destruction of the old trees, for the preservation of which we so long fought. A tree and a bit of grass is worth more than a Court-house.” But I won’t indulge in any sentiment. I hope every ___ _____ who has a law suit in the new Court-house will lose it.

Central Sonoma by Robert Allan Thompson

 

DENUDED OF TREES.- The Court House square at Santa Rosa has been denuded of all its trees which will be replaced by ornate shrubs.

– Petaluma Argus, February 28, 1885

 

The floor of the main corridor in the new Court House has settled somewhat in consequence of the floor joists not being heavy enough to support the weight of the stairs when filled with people. A pillar will be placed in the lower corridor to prevent the joists from springing at all.

– Sonoma Democrat, May 23 1885

 

The figures of Justice on the Court House are checking badly.

– Sonoma Democrat, June 13, 1885

 

SANTA ROSA.
Progress During the Past Year.
FINE BUILDINGS ERECTED.
Handsome Residences – A Complete Theater – The New Courthouse.

Santa Rosa is prospering and improving beyond the measure of any year in the past and her increase of population consequent upon the constant growth and prosperity of the county justifies this improvement in every form. It is not at all in the nature of a “boom.” It is warranted by every reasonable calculation of the future, based upon the soundness of present condition, and is substantial. During the year a total of over half a million dollars has been expended in buildings in the city, elegant residences, comfortable homes and stores and business structures, and nearly as much more will be similarly appropriated the coming year. The number of buildings completed is close to 100 and those in progress or under contract will swell the total to fully 140. This in a city of 5000 inhabitants can be accounted remarkable. Most of these improvements have been made by long-time residents, who have here accumulated wealth and have greater confidence than ever in the future of the city and the county, but with these must be reckoned a number of late-comers, who were attracted hither and made this place their home after having visited other portions of the state.

ELEGANT HOMES.

Among the dwellings are several which would be an ornament even to San Francisco in respect to architecture and elegance of finish and adornment inside and out. There are the stately mansions of A. W. Riley, one of the cattle kings of California, formerly a very successful merchant here, and the beautiful cottage homes of Messrs. Carothers, [sic] Ludwig, Byington, Grosse, Allen and Brooks, and the neat, less pretentious dwellings of other well-known citizens. In the business portions of the city the improvement is more significant of the increasing prosperity. On the site of the old Courthouse Judge Overton and M. Doyle are putting up a block of brick, for stores, with iron pillars, and the facings, front and side, of fine San Jose pressed brick. Down Fourth street – the principal business street – between B and the railroad depot, are the stores of Charles G. Ames and J. H. Glenn and others, and Captain H. W. Byington is building a capacious brick market and stores upon the site of his large stable, which was lately burned down. Those adjoin the Ames block, and the Glenn block is opposite, below the Occidental Hotel. On the corner of Main and Third streets, across from the plaza and the Grand Hotel, another brick, owned by Mr. Brown, a pioneer settler, and intended for stores, is going up, and on Mendocino street three handsome brick stores have been lately completed. Every one of these stores, finished or under way, is already occupied or rented.

A HANDSOME THEATER.

Further up Fourth street is the grand edifice of the city, the largest and finest of its order in the State outside of San Francisco – the Athenaeum. It is of brick, with a frontage of eighty feet and 190 feet depth, three stories high. The lower floor will be occupied by stores. Above is the theater, with a large concert or meeting hall in front, eighty by forty feet, and upon the third floor a banqueting hall of the same dimensions. The theater is very handsomely fitted up. The auditorium is commodious, and arranged after the most approved model, with capacious lobbies. The seating capacity is 1500, but 2000 can be placed without discomfort, and all assured a good view of the stage. Below are the dress circle, the parquet and orchestra seats, and the stage boxes. Above is the family circle, and at the stage end, on either side, are roomy boxes, to accommodate parties of from twenty to thirty, as circumstances require. The stage is broad and deep, with ample drawing-rooms at the sides for stars, and underneath are large similar rooms for the performers, ladies and gentlemen on opposite sides, with other rooms for the supernumeraries. The lighting and ventilation are of the best approved order, and the ornamentation and appointments up to the latest styles. The building will be in readiness for the theater opening on the Fourth of July, when it will be used for the literary exercises of the celebration and ready for theatrical performances. The architect and builder, T. J. Ludwig, is determined that there shall be no disappointment on this score. Ample care has been observed in the matter of speedy egress from the building in case of fire or panic. The front entrance is by broad vestibule, and an easy stairway of fourteen feet width on Fourth street, and rear stairways on each side of the stage, on Fifth street, so that the densest crowd that can cram into the building can escape in less than two minutes. The want of a building such as the Athenaeum has been a drawback to Santa Rosa in past years, and now that the city has the largest, best adapted and most suitable edifice of the kind in the State, except in San Francisco, the improvement will be appreciated at home and by the theatrical profession generally. The company who have had the public spirit to erect the building have performed their share of the enterprise in most commendable manner, and they deserve commensurate reward, as well as general praise, for what they have done.

THE NEW COURTHOUSE

It is unfortunate that the same praise cannot be given to the Supervisors who are responsible for the building of the new courthouse. This extraordinary pile – sooner or later to be piled in a heap of its own tumble – is already showing signs of internal weakness and external shabbiness. Not yet occupied six months, the main stairway inside is going away in places where it cannot be soundly repaired, and the panneling [sic] in the upper story is splitting, owing to the green and unseasoned wood. The granite steps outside, front and rear, are narrow, steep and dangerous; the whole structure of Cheap John order. If it tumbles down in five years the county will not be much loser, in case there shall be no sacrifice of life. It is possible that in some remote county of the State there is a courthouse as shameful and as shabby, but the proof is lacking. Of mean design, unhandsome architecture, indifferent construction and botched in essentials, the whole pile, from foundation to dome-top, is an unhappy compound of odious taste and wretched proportions. But the contractors have got their money, and the county must pay the bills for repairs. Sonoma is a rich county, however, and can stand the expense. A fine plaza was spoiled to make room for the offensive fabric. In a few years the people of the county will be ashamed of it, and it will in good time be replaced by a courthouse of befitting appearance and duration. It is just to state that although Santa Rosa bears the odium of possessing this deformity, because this is the county seat, her citizens should not be held responsible for the misshappen [sic] and offensive structure. In twas put upon her by those in authority at the time, who were hoodwinked into the adoption of the plan. As an awful example only is it a success.

– San Francisco Chronicle, June 23 1885

 

THE COURT HOUSE.

The San Francisco Chronicle of the 23d instant had a letter from Santa Rosa which contained certain statements concerning the new Court House that are disgraceful to the writer because they have scarcely an atom of truth to stand upon. If he is to be believed the building was miserably constructed and is liable to tumble down at any time. The truth is that the building is an excellent one in every essential particular and, although not perfect as a specimen of architecture, presents an imposing appearance and is an ornament to the town. The materials of which it is composed are first-class, and the work upon it exceptionally good. There was a slight defect in the stairway referred to by the Chronicle’s veracious correspondent, but it was easily and effectually remedied and at a very slight cost. The walls are intact, without the slightest imperfection, and, while it is possible that there may be a crack found in the panneling owing to an imperfectly seasoned piece of wood, or a strain of some kind, the correspondent has intentionally exaggerated the matter. These statements of ours will be sustained by every disinterested citizen, and now the question presents itself: What could have been the motive of the person who furnished the otrociously incorrect statement to the Chronicle? Who could have been interested in sending it abroad, and what could have been his object? Whatever the motive may have been, it was certainly discreditable and unworthy of any one having regard for the truth, or with a decent sense of self respect or of the respect of others; for there stands the Court House, a standing proof of the falsity of the correspondent’s statement.

– Sonoma Democrat, June 27, 1885

 

The drainage of the Court House is reported by the Superintendent to be in a very bad condition. The cesspool is full, and during rainy weather the surplus of drainage is backed up and overflows into the engine room.

– Sonoma Democrat, 9 January 1886

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1886courthouse

HOW COURTHOUSE SQUARE TORE SONOMA COUNTY APART

Next time you’re in Courthouse Square, notice the grassy area in the center is a cross. That’s a nod to the old historic courthouse which was there (albeit with a larger footprint) before it was wrecked by the 1906 earthquake. It was a such a pretty building; it looked like an ornate Victorian music box. And it was quite a popular attraction in the years around turn-of-the-century – there are more postcards and snapshots of it than any other place in Santa Rosa. But in 1883 Sonoma county was so bitterly divided over constructing it that Petaluma wanted to break away to form a new county rather than have anything to do with the project.

This happened at the start of Santa Rosa’s boom times, although the big changes really didn’t begin until the following year. Still, there was plenty for them to cheer about in 1883. There was a new city hall/library/firehouse, new homes and commercial buildings were going up all over town and property values were up almost 25 percent from the previous year. T. J. Ludwig, Santa Rosa’s busiest contractor, had a weekly payroll equivalent to about a quarter million dollars today, plus he also owned a lumber yard and co-owned a planing mill. Then in November the Colton trial began (see link above) and the town found itself awash in big-spending lawyers.

With all that progress in the air it’s not too surprising the Board of Supervisors brought up the issue of a new county courthouse. The existing one dated to 1855 and was so poorly constructed the Supervisors initially refused to pay the contractor. The roof leaked, the walls cracked; ongoing repairs and do-overs tripled the original cost. Grand juries repeatedly denounced it as unsafe as well as a “public nuisance.” Lacking any dispute that a replacement was needed, the only issues were how to pay for it – and more critically, where to put it.

Rebuilding on the existing location was never considered – another old complaint was that the space was too cramped. But there were not a lot of other options in 1883; the core town was already pretty built out by then, with the few remaining large parcels being east of E street or west of the railroad tracks. Only the big, empty plaza smack in the heart of the downtown remained.

Santa Rosa had a love/hate relationship with its public square going back to the Civil War. It was simply a small park criss-crossed by footpaths; there was originally a small grove of heritage oaks on the east side but by 1883 photos shows a haphazard mix of spindly trees, evergreens, pampas grass and century plants. Two years earlier a stray pig rooted up the grass and the newspaper bemoaned the soil was so sun-baked it would be best to plow it up and pray the place wouldn’t look so craptastic next season.

At that first 1883 meeting of the Board, it was Supervisor George Allen of Petaluma who suggested putting a new courthouse on the plaza. The Petaluma Courier agreed it was a good idea, but said so without conviction. Santa Rosa’s daily and weekly Democrat insisted it shouldn’t be done. “Our neighbor does not understand the situation,” wrote editor Linthicum.* “However much the City Trustees might desire to donate the plaza for that purpose, it could not be done. The plaza was deeded to the people of Sonoma county for a public plaza.” As we’ll learn it a moment, that issue was very much in question.

Then at the Board meeting three weeks later, Supervisor Allen made a new proposal: Build the new courthouse in Petaluma and the town will donate Hill Plaza Park (now called Penry Park) for the purpose – and locals will throw in $100,000 to sweeten the deal.

Which, of course, would also make Petaluma the Sonoma county seat.

Everyone’s positions flipped faster than a politician being handed a blank check. The Petaluma paper discovered a new urgency in having the courthouse built; the Santa Rosa paper decided “…the new Court House question has developed one fact, we think, pretty clearly, and that is that the plaza is the only place for a site upon which there can be anything like a substantial agreement.” The Santa Rosa City Council rushed through a resolution that the county could build it on the plaza or any other place it wanted as long as it was in the town.

And so began another bout in the Santa Rosa and Petaluma newspaper prizefight. As editorial MMA fighters Cassiday and Thompson were not available to slug it out this time, it was mainly just sparring with peppery insults and snark.

The Democrat sneered “the people of Sonoma county will never vote to place the county seat in an off corner of the county,” even though Petaluma offered a bribe and would “smile a Santa Rosa man out of his boots.” Since Petaluma’s park is on a small hill, a correspondent wrote the Democrat that a step ladder would be needed to reach a courthouse there. The Courier snapped back, “When the gentleman was here he tried to walk up the five steps from Main street to the plaza above the wall, but his legs were so infernally tired that he couldn’t make the landing.” Round one goes to the Democrat for a parody written in backwoods dialect. “Petalumar” stank and looked “as if Natur had spewed up the town site sumtime when mity sick at the stumick, and then tried to hide it by scratchin a litter of houses on it.”

I suspect most folks at the time thought it was all big talk and the topic would soon be dropped. What was the urgency, anyway? There was nothing actually wrong with the existing courthouse and jail (at least, at that moment), aside from its long-standing problems. But come spring and the Board of Supervisors were still pushing ahead and not considering any location other than the plaza. They solicited architectural bids with a $80 thousand budget – more money than the county had ever spent on a project.

It was around this time that factions in Petaluma began circulating petitions. It’s not clear if there were two separate petitions, but the issues at hand were both a vote to move the county seat to Petaluma and to split Sonoma county in half. This was the third time such attempts was made; in 1870 there was a similar call to make Petaluma the county seat for a new county and there was an 1861 effort to move the Sonoma county seat to Petaluma (that same year there was also a proposal to make it part of Marin).

Moving the county seat could be done by a two-thirds popular vote (which is how Santa Rosa snatched it away from Sonoma City, remember) but creating a new county was a far more difficult legal and political maneuver; a split could only be done by the state legislature. It would also entail Brexit-like negotiations to untangle the new county from the old in terms of deeds and other legal records, bond debt and laws.

Quixotic or no, both Santa Rosa and Petaluma took the petition seriously. “The petition has been circulated and runners sent out over the county to build up a prejudice against Santa Rosa,” complained the Democrat. Santa Rosa had an agent in Healdsburg (and probably other towns) discouraging voters from signing it – there was even a story that he was paying signers to remove their name, although that may be apocryphal.

The Petaluma Argus also began sewing doubt that the county might not even own the plaza property:

…would it not be well for the Supervisors to ascertain to a certainty about the title before they expend the first installment of $80,000. The claimants to the plaza would, as a matter of course, remain very quiet while a big, fine building was going up on their property – or, in other words, upon property they claim will revert to them when used for any purpose other than that of a plaza.  Of course, we very much desire to have the Court House down here, but if we can’t get it Santa Rosa will do pretty well, but we protest against building even an $80,000 house on somebody’s land, who will want it just as soon as the last coat of paint is put on.

The paper was referring to events fifteen years earlier. Gentle Reader surely recalls when Santa Rosa was founded back in 1853 that half of the new town belonged to Hoen & Co. (Barney Hoen, Feodore Hahman and J. H. Hartman) and the other half was Julio Carrillo’s. The acre composing the east side of the plaza was donated by the company with Carrillo giving the western acre. Then in 1868 Julio found himself destitute and unable to feed his large family (12 kids!) and sold his side of the plaza for $300, saying he hadn’t formally granted a deed to the county or city or anyone else back in the day. The three local men who made the deal with him tried twice to establish their claim to the plaza by constructing a shanty, only to see the shacks quickly knocked down. The city then passed a new ordinance making it illegal to put up any sort building in the plaza – a law which was still in effect in 1883, as far as I can tell. All those events are hashed out here in “COURTHOUSE SQUARE FOR SALE, CHEAP.”

Despite the risk those three claimants (whom I suspect had sold silent partnerships to pay for their San Francisco lawyers) might resurface, the Board of Supervisors kept plowing ahead. Let’s step back for a moment and gape in amazement at all the balls that were in the air:

 

*
WAS IT LEGAL?   Besides Julio’s buyers, everything about the title to the plaza land was unclear. Had the founders given it to the town, or the “people of Sonoma,” viz. the county? Apparently Julio was right in saying there was no deed or other paperwork. And even if that question could be waived, it still had been gifted with the clear intent of it remaining a park – founders Hahman and Hoen had already objected to the courthouse plan. In agreement, District Attorney Thomas Geary opined “the county had no more right to put a building there than they had on the county road.”
*
WAS THERE FUNDING?   The Board of Supervisors had no serious discussions on how to pay for the expensive new courthouse aside from the expectation they could get around $30 thousand for the parcel with the existing courthouse/jail and create a special tax levy to collect the rest. The best offer came in on the low end: $26,000. (The bidder was Matt Doyle and his partner, who used the land to build the Exchange Bank, which is at the same location today.) Because of this shortfall, the Supervisors raised county property taxes by 21 percent for two years.
*
WOULD PETALUMA GIVE UP?   It was never revealed who was behind the Petaluma petitions, but it was clear they had money and were persistent. Should the Supervisors not allow the vote, the Democrat voiced fears they would sue the county, and the matter would “undoubtedly go to the Supreme Court, [and] it will be several years before it is decided…Suit will also be brought in the name of the people, by parties in Petaluma, to test the validity of the title to the Plaza, and it seems us though there will be an endless amount of litigation brought about by those who oppose the erection of a new Court House.”
*
WILL THE PROJECT BE ABANDONED?   Besides all the above, there was the question of whether the Supervisors should be signing contracts before there was a single penny in funding from either the property tax increase or selloff of the old courthouse land. This became an issue when the architects showed up three months after the contract and requested a partial payment to cover their expenses. The Board said it could not pay them anything at all – and conceded there was a chance the courthouse might not even be built: “if the building was constructed the architects were to receive 5 per cent., and if it is not built, 2½ per cent.”
*
CAN WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?   Not since the Civil War had Sonoma county been so torn apart by an issue. Although the Supervisors who were making all the decisions represented the entire county, it was clearly seen as a Petaluma vs. Santa Rosa battle. The Argus charged there was a Santa Rosa “Court House Ring” behind the push for the plaza courthouse; the Democrat saw the Petaluma petition as something like an extortion threat. Other towns apparently were wishing a plague on both their houses. Should the Petaluma vote get on the ballot, the Russian River Flag warned readers to vote against separation, and that Petaluma was just making a “cats-paw of Healdsburg and northern Sonoma, to rake Petaluma’s chestnuts out of the fire” (i. e. playing them for suckers). The Flag also claimed “there are dark hints about ‘jobbery,'” (a fine old word for political graft) “which should be explained in full or all proceedings stopped.”

And that’s how matters stood in the midsummer of 1883. Probably everyone in the county had strong opinions concerning not only the courthouse and the petition and actions by the Supervisors, but all the deceptions and machinations – and before it was all over, Santa Rosa would be divided as well. Some of these wounds would be salved over by the time the cornerstone was laid about a year later, but before then it would get even worse. And that expensive new courthouse would soon prove to be as much of a white elephant as the rickety building it replaced.

 

* Thomas L. Thompson was elected California Secretary of State in November, 1882 and moved to Sacramento until he stepped down in 1886. He remained on the masthead as manager of both newspapers, but they were edited and published by veteran journalist John F. Linthicum.

 

 

Sonoma County Courthouse c. 1904 from the same view as the 1888 drawing above. (Photo: Sonoma County Library)

 

A New Court House.

The new Board of Supervisors, at their first meeting last week, brought up and discussed the question of a new Court House. All the members were in favor of a new building, but its location created some little discussion. Our Supervisor, Allen, was in favor of building a new Court House, provided the citizens of Santa Rosa would donate the plaza in front of the present Court House for the purpose. We coincide with the views of Supervisor Allen…

– Petaluma Courier, January 17 1883

A New Court House.

There was an informal discussion before the Board of Supervisors on Saturday of exceeding interest to the people of Santa Rosa. As soon as the pressing business of the Board was over the newly elected Supervisor, from this district, Mr. T. J. Proctor, brought up for the purpose of getting an expression of opinion from his colleagues, the matter of the building of a new Court House. He stated briefly, but forcibly, the necessity for action in this matter at once. There could he said, be no difference of opinion as to the necessity of a new Court House; that was admitted by all. Laying aside the unsightly appearance and inadequacy of the Court House to the increasing business of the county, there was necessity for a new building to protect the records which were liable to destruction at any time from fire, having more than once narrowly escaped that calamity. Judge Morse, the Chairmen of the Board, thought that there was a necessity for a new Court House. Supervisor Allen took the floor and expressed his views at some length. He said, in substance, he would favor the project if the building could be erected on a portion of the plaza. He said that, if a new Court House was built on the plaza, the present county property could be sold for a good price and that the Hall of Records would be close at hand and would be as useful to the county as it now is. If the Court House was removed from near its present site, it would necessitate the abandonment of that structure and would greatly depreciate its value and the value of the property on which the present Court House stands, which would, of course, have to be placed on the market. His idea, if it was correctly understood by your reporter, seemed to be to build on the north-easterly half of the Plaza, leaving the south-westerly half for a Plaza or grounds which would be useful and ornamental. Mr. Proctor expressed no opinion on the question of location of the building, but reiterated his formerly expressed views of the necessity for a new building, and his desire that the matter be at once considered. There was then a general discussion on the probable cost of a new Court House and the best means of paying for its construction, if determined on. Mr. Proctor stated that he would bring the matter before the Board at the next meeting, when he hoped some definite action would be taken. From the above it will be seen that the matter of a new Court House is now a live issue and it stands our citizens in hand to supplement Supervisor Proctor in every way in their power. An active, intelligent and immediate co-operation with him is of vital importance.

– Sonoma Democrat, January 20 1883

The New Court House Proposition.

Editor Democrat: I see in your paper of yesterday, under the head “New Court House,” an article in which it seems to be generally conceded by the Honorable Board, that the County is much needing a new building, a fact which is apparent to everybody. One of the members expressed himself ready to build, provided the City would give up a portion of the Plaza for a building site. Now, Mr. Editor, I don’t think that the member meant what he said. If so, the remark was evidently made without first having duly considered it. Santa Rosa has no more interest in the question of a “New Court House,” than Petaluma. Healdsburg, or any other part of the county. Then why ask Santa Rosa to donate that which is the pride of our City? and should our City obtain that size [sic] which it bids fair to in the next decade of years, it will be of more advantage than the County buildings. There seems to be an economic view also taken by the Board. They say they can sell the present location for a good figure. I would ask the Honorable Board who made the present location valuable? The people of this city who have spent their hundreds of thousands, while the County has not so much as placed a decent sidewalk in front of its property; and now comes the cool proposition: “If we will give them part of our Plaza, the pride of our City, they will sell the land that was given to the County and build a new building.” I wonder if they will give us a guarantee not to sell the other after the city has built up and made it more valuable? Mr. Editor, permit me to say that if there is never a new building for the County until it is placed on the public Plaza, by the consent of the citizens of Santa Rosa, I doubt if many of the present generation lives to see the long wished for new building.

Justice to All.

– Sonoma Democrat, January 20 1883

The local press, we are glad to observe, is unanimously in favor of the erection of a new Court House. The Flag says, “Serious attention seems about to be given by the Supervisors to the subject of a new Court House. In the Flag’s humble opinion the present structure is unsafe and unsightly. It should be demolished and a pile erected suitable to so prosperous and so great a county as this — a county of the first class.” The Courier heartily endorses the proposition to build, but thinks the new structure should be located in the public plaza. Our neighbor does not understand the situation. However much the City Trustees might desire to donate the plaza for that purpose, it could not be done. The plaza was deeded to the people of Sonoma county for a public plaza, the northerly half by F. G. Hahman and —– Hahman; and the southerly half by Julio Carrillo. Julio Carrillo afterward sold his half to some one else, claiming that he never delivered the deed to it, that it was surreptitiously obtained and placed on record, and the party to whom he sold has not abandoned his claim. We are also informed that Mr. Hahman will not consent to the use of the part deeded by him for any other purpose than a public square. The title to the plaza is, in short, in a complete tangle, and it would be folly for the county to think of erecting a building there, for it would simply be an invitation for half a dozen law suits.

– Sonoma Democrat, January 20 1883

The agitation of the question of building a new Court House, by the Board of Supervisors, on Monday, has been the general topic of conversation since the facts were made known through the columns of the Democrat. The necessity of a new building is conceded by every one. On this subject there is no diversity of opinion, but the proposition to appropriate a part of the public Plaza as a site for it, does not meet with favor. A correspondent in this issue of the Democrat discusses the proposition quite fully, and perhaps at greater length than would be necessary but for the fact that it is best to have a clear understanding at the outset. The proposition emanated from a single Supervisor, and he had evidently given the subject a very superficial examination. The project is impracticable. The Plaza was set apart and given the city for the purpose to which it is applied at present, and neither the city, if so inclined, can authorize its use for another purpose, nor can the county appropriate it. But fortunately the county has ample ground, very desirably located, for all requisite purposes, — ground given it for that specific purpose if we are not mistaken. If this be true, is it not doubtful whether the county could sell it, or use it for any other purpose?

But since there is so general an agreement as to the necessity of a new Court House, our citizens should do everything in their power to sustain our Supervisor in pushing the matter to a successful issue. There ought not to be any opposition to the measure from any source, and it is possible that there will be none except as to details.

– Sonoma Democrat, January 20 1883

A Bid from Petaluma

At the meeting of the Board of Supervisors today (Tuesday) a communication was received and read from prominent citizens of Petaluma, offering to donate their city plaza, valued at $50,000, together with the sum of $100,000 in cash, to the county on condition of the Court House being removed thither. A long list of subscribers to the $100,000 fund was read, the various amounts aggregating the sum mentioned. On motion of Supervisor Allen the communication was ordered received and placed on file.

– Sonoma Democrat, February 10 1883

The New Court House Question.

Almost every grand jury that has met at Santa Rosa for years past has condemned the “old Court House” as unsafe and a disgrace to the county. The reports of the grand jury were generally approved throughout the county, and in Santa Rosa public opinion against such an unsightly pile of brick and mortar, was almost unanimous…

– Petaluma Courier, February 14 1883

How about that unsightly, rickety old tumble-down concern called a Court House at Santa Rosa. The people are getting tired of looking at it, and besides that, it is considered unsafe! Let’s have a new one. Why has this agitation ceased?

– Petaluma Argus, March 3, 1883

CITY COUNCIL.

…In view of the necessity of steps being taken by the Honorable Board of Supervisors soon for the erection of suitable public buildings for the county of Sonoma and a location for its erection being the first thing in order, it is hereby resolved by the Honorable Board of Councilmen of the City of Santa Rosa, that the public Plaza of said city of Santa Rosa, or any other place they may choose to select in the city of Santa Rosa, be, and the same is, hereby tendered to said County of Sonoma for the purpose of erecting thereon suitable public buildings for said County of Sonoma.

– Sonoma Democrat, March 10 1883

THE PLAZA FOR THE COURTHOUSE.

The City Council, at its meeting Tuesday evening, adopted a resolution tendering to the County the use of the public plaza as a site for a new Court House, or any other place that the Board of Supervisors may choose to select. This tender of “any other place,” we presume, means any place over which the city has control, as it cannot present to the county the property of private citizens without their co-operation. In considering the question of location, there has been some clashing of private interests. Every owner of real estate is quite naturally alive to the importance of enhancing the value of his property. No doubt, there are citizens who would be glad to sell their property to the county at a good figure; others would be glad to have the Court House near, while perhaps others would be willing to donate sufficient ground with the expectation that the increased value of other property would repay them. This is selfish, it is true, but it is selfishness that moves the world and paves the way to Heaven. It becomes a fault only when it opposes itself unreasonably to the public welfare, and we trust there is no citizen of Santa Rosa who would allow himself to become amenable to a charge of that kind. The agitation of the new Court House question has developed one fact, we think, pretty clearly, and that is that the plaza is the only place for a site upon which there can be anything like a substantial agreement. The Board of Supervisors, we are informed desire to make that the location. The people outside of the town seem to want it there, and apart from some interested real estate owners, the people of the city appear to be favorable to it. If the selection of a site were left to those who want it elsewhere, they could not agree. One would be in favor of this location and another of that, and hence we believe to locate the Court House in the plaza would give more general satisfaction to that class even than if put somewhere else. In view of all the circumstances, therefore, we believe the City Council has acted wisely in tendering to the county the use of the plaza, and, after all that has been said, we do not believe the objections to it are as serious as some of our citizens have been inclined to believe.

– Sonoma Democrat, March 10 1883

REMOVING THE COUNTY SEAT.

There is a little army of capitalists in our neighboring town of Petaluma, that are bent on having a Court House. Nothing will satisfy their cravings but a new Court House with an iron dog on the step and a weather sign on top. They sign any subscription that comes along and in amount of hundreds of thousands if necessary. They hold a full hand and would sooner bet on a new Court House coming to Petaluma than on four aces. They will subscribe any amount, sign any petition, and smile a Santa Rosa man out of his boots. Now that this fuss and flurry is going on, it is just as well to say right here that the people of Sonoma county will never vote to place the county seat in an off corner of the county, and outside of the immediate vicinity of Petaluma, nobody wants it there. The people of Petaluma propose to pay tor the new buildings necessary. This is a bribe offered the voters as an inducement to make them vote the county seat from Santa Rosa to Petaluma. If an election were held, and two-thirds of the people should vote to change the county seat on this proposition the election would be null and void on the grounds of this offer. This is against public policy. The Courts have decided this question. The result is that Petaluma can never get the county seat – no matter how much they offer. Another agreement proposed is to divide the county, giving Healdsburg also a Court House. Now it is just as well to say that dividing the county is simply out of the question. It can’t be done. There is no law provided for it. Then there is the bonded debt that would have to be apportioned, the records would have to be transcribed anew — one set going to one county and the other to the other. A thousand other difficulties will arise. There is no machinery of law to carry out the details; so the best thing for the people of Sonoma county to do is to set down on this changing the county seat business.
JONITA.

– Sonoma Democrat, March 31 1883

A CANDID STATEMENT.

For some years it has been well known that the present Court House building was not adequate to the business demands of a rapidly increasing population, and still more rapidly multiplying Court records. Greater safety is demanded, especially for the records of the former Probate Court and its successor, the probate department of the Superior Court which form a link in the chain of title to almost every piece of property in the county. It cannot be denied that these important records, and others scarcely less so, are in a very exposed condition. In case of a fire in or near the Court House their loss would be almost certain. In view of these facts and the successive recommendations of several grand juries, the subject of a new Court House was brought before the Board of Supervisors. Santa Rosa, as a city, was not especially interested in bringing up the question. It came about in furtherance of the often expressed wishes of citizens from all parts of the county. When the matter was brought up the people of this city very naturally took interest in it and endeavored, by all means in their power, to conform to the wishes of the Board of Supervisors who represent the people at large. The City Council and our citizens generally considered that the members of the Board were unbiased judges of the question of location and in that spirit offered any building site the Board might select, without regard to their own views or wishes. The matter was brought up informally before the Board and a general expression of opinion was made by the members, each one expressing himself in favor of building a new Court House in Santa Rosa provided the city would donate for that purpose the public plaza. Supervisor Allen, of Petaluma, committing himself as fully to this as any other member of the Board. This took place at the February term of the Board. The Mayor of Santa Rosa, J. P. Clark, was present at the time of this expression of opinion, and said in effect that he would at once take steps to convene the Council, and that he would do what he could to satisfy the expressed wish of the Board, and would give them a definite answer as soon as he could get it from his colleagues. With this understanding the matter was laid over until the March meeting. At that meeting Mayor Clark appeared before the Board with the written consent of the City Council giving by unanimous vote all right, title and interest the city might have to the plaza for the erection of the proposed building. Supervisor Allen, notwithstanding his public declaration that he only asked the city to surrender her title to the plaza, made, as Mayor Clark and others supposed, in good faith and carried out on the part of the city in good faith, at once introduced a series of dilatory and evasive motions, one of which was that a day should be set at the April meeting of the Board when the citizens of Petaluma could be heard on a proposition which they had made to donate their plaza and a certain sum of money to build a Court House in that city. This motion was an idle one as the Board had no power to build a Court House any where else than at the county seat, no matter what sum was contributed, and it was simply a waste of time and money to set down for hearing by the Board a matter over which it had no jurisdiction. A county seat can only be changed by a two thirds vote of all the voters of the county, and until so removed, to entertain a proposition of building a Court House elsewhere than at the County seat is a legislative absurdity. The motion of the Supervisor from Petaluma accomplished its object, not, however, without a sacrifice of honesty of purpose in the minds of all candid persons who heard his open and unsolicited declaration at the February meeting of the Board. The hidden object of the Supervisor was delay, that a petition might be circulated calling for a vote on a removal of the county seat to the town that gentleman represents Petaluma. The petition has been circulated and runners sent out over the county to build up a prejudice against Santa Rosa, with a promise at the extreme ends of the county of its ultimate division and two county seats and two sets of county officers, which means double taxation and more debt. In this equivocal manner the scheme for a division of the county was set afloat, it started with bad faith on the part of its originators and it will end in their entire confusion.

In the local jealousy, if such exists, between Petaluma and Santa Rosa, the people of the county at large have no part or parcel. If one populous county with a greater subdivision of the expense of government is better than two small ones with increased taxation, they will, of course decide in favor of one county, and no sophistical reasoning can induce them to do otherwise, whether they vote on the proposition next week, next month or next year, or in the next five years.

So far as this city is concerned it has the friendliest feelings toward Petaluma. For our part we are proud of its growth and prosperity. As for Santa Rosa, we have no fear of its future. In 1870 it was an insignificant village of less than 900 inhabitants; in 1880 it had nearly 4,000 and at this time the number is nearer five than four thousand. It is the geographical center of the county, the agricultural and manufacturing center and its growth could not be impeded by the local jealousy of Petaluma, even if such a feeling existed. We are far from believing it does exist in a majority of the people of that city, but there are a few persons there who are never so happy as when they can make themselves conspicuous. To their love of notoriety is due the bringing up at this time of the question of a division of the county.

– Sonoma Democrat, March 31 1883

A Santa Rosian [sic] who visited Petaluma last week on his return home reported to the Democrat that it would require a step-ladder to reach our court-house plaza. When the gentleman was here he tried to walk up the five steps from Main street to the plaza above the wall, but his legs were so infernally tired that he couldn’t make the landing. He had been floundering around that sink hole in the center of his own town so long, that he couldn’t appreciate an elevation of a few feet.

– Petaluma Courier, April 4, 1883

Division of the County!

PETALUMA AND HEALDSBURG TO BECOME COUNTY SEATS —WHOOP !
THE REQUISITE NUMBER OF SIGNATURES SURE TO BE OBTAINED.

A correspondent in the Petaluma Courier says :

“There is not much doubt but that a petition with the requisite number of names for the submission of the County-Seat question to the people will be presented to the Board of Supervisors.”

With regard to the necessary cost of a court-house, it is seated that the imposing structure at San Rafael a building in every way suitable to the purpose, cost but $75,000; and referring to the expenses of fitting up new county-seats, the Courier has the following: Petaluma will donate her plaza, and furthermore offers $150,000 besides, which will build a magnificent court house, combining a splendid jail, hall of records and all the offices complete. And Petaluma will do more, and in order to comprehend every possible expense, will defray her part of the few thousands of dollars it will cost to copy the records. And Healdsburg proposes and will do the same…Each distinct county government could actually be run cheaper than half the total cost annually of the present county government: and it can be demonstrated by comparison with a dozen other counties in the State — some smaller and others less compact, and all having smaller population than either of the two proposed counties, many of which were blessed with a smaller tax rate than Sonoma last year.

Just think of it! Healdsburg to become a county-seat. What shall we call the new counties? Where shall we locate all the lawyers’ offices? The Bank of Healdsburg building will have to be run up another story or two and a patent Hinckley elevator put in. We presume we shall have to run the Flag building up some and put in a steam elevator, and steam engine and presses, at the same time. The court-house must have four fronts, you know, because the four sides of the plaza, all filled with beautiful stores, will demand it: one front must face our way, sure. Won’t the building look fine, with a dome like the State Capitol, and the stars and stripes floating from the loftiest pinnacle; of course!

– Russian River Flag, April 5 1883

After all, perhaps we’d better let Petaluma have the county seat. A gentleman who claims to know states that the Sheriff’s records prove that more criminals come from our southern neighbor than any other three towns in the county. They all have to be transported here at the public expense, and it would perhaps be cheaper to move the Court House and jail thither. Then there wouldn’t be such a decrease in Petaluma’s population every time the court meets.

– Sonoma Democrat, April 7 1883

THE DIVISION. – It is only a question of time when the county of Sonoma will be divided. It would be cheaper to divide it now while we can get a new Court House in each county without cost to the tax-payers.

– Petaluma Argus, April 14, 1883

SANTA ROSA’S GENEROSITY

The city of Santa Rosa has very generously offered to donate her fine plaza to the county if the Supervisors will erect a suitable Court House thereon. We are informed by Major James Singley, of this city, that the plaza already belonged to the county, and that he was present when Julio Carrillo donated it to the county. The city of Santa Rosa has been taking care of the plaza for some years past, and has taken good care of it, too, for it is one of the finest little parks in the county. We have also heard it stated, on what we consider reliable authority, that when the plaza was donated by the successors in interest of Mr. Carrillo, it was done with the understanding that it was to be used as a public plaza, or park, and not for any other purpose. In view of this, would it not be well for the Supervisors to ascertain to a certainty about the title before they expend the first installment of $80,000. The claimants to the plaza would, as a matter of course, remain very quiet while a big, fine building was going up on their property – or, in other words, upon property they claim will revert to them when used for any purpose other than that of a plaza. Of course, we very much desire to have the Court House down here, but if we can’t get it Santa Rosa will do pretty well, but we protest against building even an $80,000 house on somebody’s land, who will want it just as soon as the last coat of paint is put on.

– Petaluma Argus, April 14, 1883

ON THE WAR PATH.

It is now perfectly evident that the Court House Ring in Santa Rosa is afraid to trust the people with a vote on the county seat question. An agent from that town appeared in Healdsburg this week and “opened the sack,” but found no takers. He offered the signers of the petition one dollar each if they would take their names off! The proposition was indignantly spurned by the signers…They have started in too late. Our petition is out of the woods! Save your “sack” for the election. You will need it then. We will give that “boss” at Santa Rosa a chance to bleed, who says he has nothing to give for a Court House, but has $10,000 to put up to beat Petaluma…

– Petaluma Argus, April 21, 1883

Petaluma is making the county-seat question hotter than ever. It says the recent action of the Board in ordering a new Court House had no force whatever, and that at the next meeting the requisite number of names will be had and a petition presented, praying the Board to grant an election for selection of site for the Court-House, which it will he bound to respect. In and about Healdsburg the petition is being generally signed, and the protest from Santa Rosa, in the hands of solicitors, is a failure. We do not know of their obtaining a single signature. The protest we saw certainly had none upon it, although the solicitor had been around some time. We have one word of advice to offer, and it is this; Before our people finally vote for division, let them be certain that Healdsburg will become the county-seat of the new county. The present agitation is a perfectly selfish one in all respects, and unless Healdsburg and northern Sonoma can be benefitted by it, we urge every voter to emphatically set down on all efforts to involve us all in the interminable confusion, in general, and entire wreckage of Santa Rosa in particular, to follow the removal of the county-seat to Petaluma. Thus far, the whole aspect of the affair seems to be to make a cats-paw of Healdsburg and northern Sonoma, to rake Petaluma’s chestnuts out of the fire; and unless our leading citizens organize and take steps to direct public sentiment aright, we advise here and now, that when the matter comes to a vote, the removal matter be absolutely and unanimously sat down upon. We have had our fun and put forth our chaff in this matter heretofore, but now that it is assuming a serious aspect, we venture this paragraph of warning.

– Russian River Flag, April 26 1883

The Petaluma Court House.

Mo and our Samantha went to Petalumar in sarch of the keounty-seat. When we drove down thru Healdsburg we stopped at the post orifice, wich is tended by Jurdan, to ask the way. He’s a shinin lite and a very Sivil Sarvice Reformer. He reformed Wright out of his plais, and is actin’ as a finger bored pintin’ to Washinton and Petalumar. Suckses to Jurdan and Reform — as long as he stays reformed.

Wen we ambled across the crick approchin the new keounty-seat the plase, like some other korporate dignitaries, sort of presented its wust aspect to the view. Thar wuz skattered, permisquous like, sum mity mean looking tenamints along the mud fiats; and Samantha sez to me, sez she: “What Butchertown is this, Dad?”

Sez I; This is one of the scrubs of the sitty, and they call it “Upper Hog Thief.”

By’m by we jolted along over the stones so we culd see part way down Mane street, to the first crook. There wuz several tomb stone shops on each side, and a cheerful view of the salt mash to be seen in the near future. Perceeding along karefuly we found Mane street the wust piece of road on the jurney. Big bowlders clogged it and the ground was sidelin and sticky as if Natur had spewed up the town site sumtime when mity sick at the stumick, and then tried to hide it by scratchin a litter of houses on it.

Sez I: “That’s the plaza, Samantha.”

Says she: “That high bluff of bed rock the plaza? Well, I should snicker right out. Ugh!”

Skudder, Dinwiddie & Co., and all the real estate benefactors an’ offis hunters stood round, expectant like, on the korners wearin’ a be9 smile of welkum. For it is the day of small things.

“Yes,” says I to Samantha, “that’s the plaza; but I don’t see the Kourt House. I feel like I smelled suthin, though.”

Sez she: “Fox the finder, Daddy.”

Sez I: “It’s net kolone, Samantha. It’s that blarsted crick. Don’t you smell the brine and the mud flats?”

“You bet,” sez she. Kounty seat! Why the sight aint fit for it. The laziest thief would break jail to get away from Petalumar.”

Sez I: “Korrect, Samantha.”

Specs. Cloverdale.

– Sonoma Democrat, April 28 1883

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS.

[..]

At 11:20 it was determined to consider the plans of such architects as were present. Among them are Kenitzer & Raum, William Patton, Newsom & Gash, Thos. D. Newsom, R. H. Daley, S. and J. C. Newsom, McDougall & Son, and Curtis & Bennett. R. H. Daley was the first one called upon, and he exhibited plans of a building three stories in height, 120 feet in length and breadth, and 120 feet from the base to the top of the dome…

…B. McDougall & Son presented one of the general plans of those preceding, with two stories and a basement. Sheriff’s office, cells and apartments for various purposes in the basement…Kenitzer & Raum next presented their plan…T. D. Newsom presented a plan of the Court House at Oakland on a smaller scale. He placed the Sheriff’s office and jail on the basement floor and proposed to heat the entire building by steam. Had plans for an elevator in the rear for the purpose of conveying prisoners to the court room in such a manner as to preclude the possibility of escape…S. and J. C. Newsom presented plans… Messrs. Newsom & Gash presented their plan next. It provides for a passage way on a level with the ground all the way through the basement, and for a floor two feet in height on either side. The basement story is provided with cells and the Sheriff’s office, and is very completely divided off into apartments for females, insane persons, etc…Wm. Patton was the last architect that presented a plan at this session…Messrs. Bennett & Curtis having shipped their plans by express, and they having failed to come to hand, the Board decided to defer the further consideration of this matter until to-morrow morning.

[..]

On Wednesday morning the gavel of the chairman fell at 9:20. The Supervisors’ room presented the appearance of a cross between a school of design and an art gallery. On every available space on the walls the competing architects had spread their designs, plans, outlines, in pencil, ink, or in crayon, in frames, without frames, and the atmosphere was filled with a confused sound of “outline,” “cell-rooms,” “designs.” A number of well executed outlines in frames hung back of chairman’s desk, and from the criticisms we heard, our citizens have developed intb art and architectural critics of no mean talent. Messrs. Bennett & Curtis of San Francisco, presented a set of elaborate plans, and explained them fully. Like all those that proceeded it, it is for two stories and a basement, and differs from some others in the fact that the Surveyor’s, Treasurer’s and Sheriff’s offices are all in the basement. Supervisors’ room, the offices of the Assessor, Clerk, District Attorney, School Superintendent and the Judges’ chambers on the second floor, third floor is occupied by the two Court rooms, one of which is 87×57 and the other 33×39, the jury rooms and the Hall of Records, The length of building is about 100 feet.

The designs all being in, Supervisor Allen suggested that the best plan to pursue would be to select a committee of disinterested persons and in conference decide upon the merits of the plans. That considerable had been said in relation to the opposition s»f the section that he represented to the erection of a Court House here, but that this feeling woald not affect the action of the Board at all, and that the plan or some plan would be adopted, that the location of the Court House was an after consideration but that a plan that would be a credit to the county wherever erected should be selected, and that to do this the Board should not act hastily but select only after mature deliberation. Mr. Proctor thought that the idea of having a conference committee an excellent ene, and thought that they could select the plan before to-morrow night.

Mr. Allen thought that one day was not sufficient time for such deliberation, that one week or two weeks might be well occupied with such deliberation. That it would be a good idea for the Board to visit the new court houses erected in neighboring counties add inspect their workings. That it had been rumored on the street that himself and the District Attorney intended to obstruct the adoption of plans, and he would take this occasion to deny this… This gave Mr. Allen the opportunity to remark that that was his principles; that on this committee there should be no interested parties, no one from Petaluma, Santa Rosa, or from any other part of the county, so that when the plans were finally adopted no one could say that some one bad an axe to grind in the matter…

… Mr. Morse responded, in other words to get some one outside the county to tell us what we want.

Mr. Houser said the people had sufficient confidence in the seven men constituting the Board to allow them to decide this question, and that the architects could explain the plans better than anyone else.

Mr. Proctor would just as lief take the architects statements as anyones, let them come in one at a time and explain their designs. Mr. Houser felt the same about the matter. Mr. Allen thought that to bar the architects from explaining would be an unjust discrimination. After a little more informal discussion, Mr. Proctor moved that at 1PM they commence with the architects as they did before and let them come in in the same order and each one fully explain his plan.

– Sonoma Democrat, May 12 1883

THE PLAN ADOPTED. — We hare already referred briefly to the plans proposed in our report of the proceedings of the Board of Supervisors, and now that they have made a selection, a more completely detailed description will not be out of place. The original plan will be modified in some respects, and we will note all the changes as they occur. The plan offered in competition by Messrs. Curtis & Bennett was similar to the others in that it provided for a building consisting of two stories and a basement, but differing materially from all the others in the location of the offices, and this difference was most marked in the fact that it placed the Judges’ chambers on a different floor to that on which the Superior Court rooms were located. In their plans, the following are located in the basement…

On the first floor…

On the second floor …

Col. A. A. Bennett, the senior member of the successful firm, has resided on this coast since 1849, and has always held a prominent place in his profession, and has drawn the plans for, and superintended the erection of a large number of public buildings. Among them are the following court houses: Woodland, Yolo county, Modesto, Stanislaus county, Merced City, Merced county, Fresno, Fresno county, Bakersfield, Kern county, Visalia, Tulare county. He superintended the work and drew the plans when the old State Capitol building at Sacramento was changed into the County court house, planned and superintended the changes made in the Tehama county court house at Red Bluff; was associate architect at the time the present State Capitol building was erected at Sacramento; drew the plans for the proposed Governor’s mansion, which is now used as the State Printing office; the plans of the Golden Eagle, Capitol, Arcade and International Hotels at Sacramento were executed by him; the Mechanics Art College at Berkeley, the workshops and iron cells at San Quentin were also planned by him, and be also superintended the completion of the Folsom prison, making numerous changes and alterations in the original plans.

– Sonoma Democrat, May 19 1883

The Court House Excitement.

The Court House question is still very important, and the following from the Petaluma Courier is not without interest:

Parties here, knowing something of architecture, make serious objections to the plan adopted by the Board of Supervisors for the new Court House. It is entirely too small for the purposes of a large county like Sonoma, and rooms for the different departments are not conveniently located for the public’s use. Notwithstanding the fact that our petition for a vote on the county seat relocation subject still circulates with a fair prospect of soon having upon it more than a majority of the electors of the county. Our citizens feel an interest in the new Court House wherever it is located and don’t want a bad or unsatisfactory job made of it. Seventy-five or eighty thousand dollars will not be sufficient to construct a building suitable for the wants of this county. It will take a hundred thousand dollars at least. The offer of the people of Petaluma was to put up a hundred-thousand-dollar building and they will do it if it will bring the county seat here. Santa Rosa will be largely benefited by retaining the county seat and under the circumstances should do something towards building the new capitol. They have offered as we understand, to give the plaza and pay $50,000 for the old Court House, the Hall of Records and the lots upon which they stand. Leading citizens here, with whom we have conversed, will oppose with energy any sale of the Hall of Records property. It is well adapted for the purposes intended, cost a large sum of money and is more convenient of access and roomy in every respect than any hall that could be set apart for record purposes in the new building. The old Court House property is worth from $25,000 to $35,000. If the citizens of Santa Rosa will guarantee to the county to take it at a fair figure, this added to seventy or eighty thousand dollars to be raised by taxation would, properly expended, be sufficient to construct a building worthy of the county. Our petition will be ready for presentation at the next meeting of the Board of Supervisors, and whatever the good people of Santa Rosa propose to do, if anything, had better be made known before that time.

– Russian River Flag, May 31 1883

On motion of Mr. Ellis, in the matter of percentage to be allowed to the architects, Messrs. Curtis & Bennett, (whose plans for a Court House for Sonoma county have been adopted) it is now therefore the expression of this Board that they will not allow the architects as superintendent of construction of said building, if the same shall be constructed, a percentage greater than five per cent, on the cost of said building, and said percentage shall include the cost for plans and specifications and detail drawings necessary for the completion of said building.

– Sonoma Democrat, June 6 1883

The Court House question has progressed as far as the examination of the specifications. There are dark hints about “jobbery” already in the matter, which should be explained in full or all proceedings stopped. The Petaluma petition is quiet.

– Russian River Flag, July 12 1883

 

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