Pity Charlie Holmes; his bad luck streak continued as his wife nearly burned to death.

That misplaced sympathy appeared in a 1901 Press Democrat item (transcribed below). Today we find it offensive the PD would cast him as the main victim, but turn of the century Santa Rosa is a far throw away from the here and now. The odd story of Charlie Holmes – and particularly, the troubled history of his relationships – offers a revealing peek at how much of a dark side our ancestors were willing to tolerate from someone they otherwise admired.

As explored in the previous two chapters, Charlie was front and center for every banquet, holiday parade and amateur stage show. He joined every club he could and was an officer in our local National Guard Company E. Charlie was elected City Marshal (same as being a Chief of Police) in 1898 and was easily reelected two years later.


Charles H. Holmes Jr. was surely the most talked about person in Santa Rosa 120 years ago, and that wasn’t always a good thing.


As Marshal, his duties included being the city tax collector and on November 19, 1901 it was discovered his office had been robbed overnight. Nearly $1,300 – equal to about two years of a worker’s earnings – was gone, but nobody knew at the time how much was missing because Holmes’ wasn’t paying attention to bookkeeping. Worse, the PD article suggested it was an inside job. If that were true, Charlie was the main suspect but regardless, he was on the hook to pay the money back if it was not recovered.

It was two days after the theft that Margaret Holmes had her accident, her clothes catching fire after she fell while carrying a lighted oil lamp. Charles was still at his office but others in the household came to her rescue. “The flames were extinguished, but not before Mrs. Holmes sustained several bad burns,” it was reported.

The PD did not suggest the accident might be related to stress from her husband’s legal woes. The paper observed, “…Mrs. Holmes is subject to sudden spells of illness…one of the attacks spoken of came on and she fell with the lamp.” More about this in a minute.

At the time the Holmes’ had been married thirteen years and were living with his sister and parents. The former Margaret May Ward came to town as a teenager, having a sister and aunt in Santa Rosa.

It’s good she had family here because it appears Margaret had few, if any, friends. Local newspapers from that time padded their pages with every sort of social item – who attended club meetings, who visited someone after dinner, who spent the day in San Francisco – an endless procession of whos. But it’s rare to spot Margaret doing anything.1 Now contrast her lack of outgoing activities with Charlie’s packed social calendar and a portrait emerges of a couple who were likely estranged for years.

Charlie’s career as a lawman ended in 1902 and he was required to pay back the stolen (?) tax money, as detailed in the previous part of this series. He was back to his old day job of plastering, working mainly in San Francisco. And then came 1904, when he was arrested and charged with statutory rape.

That October it came out Holmes was living in Calistoga with a young woman he said was his wife. The emphasis was on young – although he insisted she was over seventeen (California’s age of consent was then 16), she was not. The “wife” of 40 year-old Charles H. Holmes was actually fourteen.

Holmes was held at the Napa jail for a week as a relative of hers and the Napa District Attorney scrambled to find proof of her age. He was released after posting a $2,000 bond, the girl previously freed the day after their arrests. Near the end of the year the Napa DA dropped charges, mostly on their word and the assurances of her uncle that she was over 17.

What Santa Rosa thought of his adultery/statutory rape is unclear. The Press Democrat suggested it was well-known and had been going on for some time: “Judging from sentiment expressed around town yesterday the arrest of the former marshal did not occasion much surprise among those who knew or had heard of alleged previous familiarity between the man and girl.” The Republican reported the opposite: “The arrest of Holmes on the charge caused great surprise among his friends in this city.”

The girl was Nellie Holmes and both local newspapers were quick to add they were unrelated, the same last name being a coincidence. She and her mother – also named Nellie – lived in Santa Rosa with her aunt, four cousins and her grandmother.2 The eight of them were crammed into a tiny house on First Street across from the Grace Brothers brewery warehouse. There can be no dispute this was the poorest part of town.

Nellie Holmes, probably c. 1915. Image courtesy Sonoma County Library which labeled it as "Mrs. Charles Holmes 1903".
Nellie Holmes, probably c. 1915. Image courtesy Sonoma County Library which labeled it as “Mrs. Charles Holmes 1903”.

Charlie kept a low profile and wasn’t seen much around town. He was still working as a plasterer in San Francisco and presumably staying there as well (it’s unknown whether Nellie was with him or not). Margaret, his mom and sister (his father had since died) were now living on Sonoma Avenue because their previous house had burned down – feel free to also wonder whether that might have been the result of another lamp accident.

Exactly a year after his Napa arrest for cohabiting with a child, Holmes was again in the news for another awful incident.

In the middle of the night Sonoma Ave. neighbors were awakened “by a series of shrill cries” from Margaret, who was heard to be shouting, “murder,” “police” and “let me go.” The Santa Rosa Republican further reported they “heard sounds of slaps being administered as if someone was chastising a child.”

The night officer was summoned and told “Mrs. Holmes had made the outcry while in a state of epilepsy.” What the Press Democrat had discreetly called “sudden spells of illness” that caused her to be severely burned must have been an epileptic seizure.

The 1905 Republican item suggested the neighbors believed the Holmes were abusive: “…The woman is an almost helpless invalid and the people of the vicinity where she resides declare the woman is not given proper attention and treatment…It is believed that her condition of epilepsy would be removed if her surroundings were changed. The people of the neighborhood feel that Mrs. Holmes is entitled to the protection of the community…”

After reading that article in the evening Republican newspaper, Charles immediately ran to the PD office where he was certain to find a more sympathetic reporter. He claimed not to be at the family home that night (yet was apparently somewhere else in town?) and what the neighbors thought was slapping was really Margaret “clapping her hands while not responsible for her actions.”

A following issue of the Republican stated “the family declare[d she] had been clapping her hands and talking incoherently” and revealed Margaret had been hospitalized repeatedly: “…[she] has been subject to epilepsy which has gradually progressed until at times she passed from the epileptic state to that condition of insanity in which she is wholly irresponsible for her actions. The lady has been taken to private sanitariums in times past and her case has been pronounced hopeless.”

Let Gentle Reader note the Epilepsy Foundation says a only small number of people with epilepsy also have psychotic disorders, and also that emotional stress can lead to seizures.

Little was written in the papers about the Holmes family over the following two years. We don’t know what any of them were doing as the Great 1906 Earthquake struck. Charlie happened to be on the scene of a 1907 shootout at a downtown restaurant (predictably, he was attending a banquet).

Then in May 1907, Margaret was committed to the Mendocino State Asylum for the Insane near Ukiah. She died there of pneumonia the next year. She was 39 years old and it was a few days past their 20th wedding anniversary.

The widower Charles did not dawdle when it came to burying his wife. She died on a Friday. Her remains arrived in Santa Rosa on the Saturday train. The funeral was early Sunday afternoon. If your family read the Press Democrat over breakfast, you had only a few hours notice should anyone desire to pay their respects. If your family read the evening Republican, she was in the ground before you cracked the paper and knew she was even dead.

Margaret M. Ware Holmes is buried in the Rural Cemetery, but not in the Holmes family plot where Charles’ parents were, and where he and his sister would later be. Her grave is next to the parents of “Bud” Parks, who was the leader of Santa Rosa’s brass band. Charlie almost certainly knew Bud well because they both appeared at the same sort of social functions, but it’s doubtful Margaret knew any of the Parks, who died several years earlier. It was just an empty grave site for sale. Today there is no tombstone and likely she never had one.

Soon after New Year 1910 there was a small notice in the Press Democrat: Charles H. Holmes Jr. had married Nellie Holmes in a quiet ceremony. He was 45, she had recently turned twenty. “Their friends wish them much happiness,” the newspaper said warmly.



1 Whenever I found a mention of Mrs. Charles H. Holmes, a closer look revealed it was usually her mother-in-law, the editor being sloppy and not specifying between Mrs. C. H. Holmes Sr. and C. H. Holmes Jr.
2 Nellie Olga Holmes was reportedly born December 9, 1889 in San Francisco but an inquiry by the Napa District Attorney in 1904 failed to turn up a birth certificate or other documentation. Her Press Democrat obituary gave her age as someone born in 1889. In the June 1900 census she was listed as born in December 1889. Her grandmother was named as Elizabeth Granque, but other spellings included Giauque and Gaigue.



Mrs. Holmes Badly Burned

Some people seem to have more than their share of trouble. Thursday night Mrs. Holmes, wife of City Marshal Holmes, met with a very painful accident. Unfortunately Mrs. Holmes is subject to sudden spells of illness and while the other members of the household were upstairs, with the exception of her husband, who was still at his office, she started to walk across the floor with a lighted lamp. While doing this one of the attacks spoken of came on and she fell with the lamp. The burning oil set fire to her garments. The fall was heard by those upstairs and they came to her assistance. The flames were extinguished, but not before Mrs. Holmes sustained several bad burns.

– Press Democrat, November 23 1901


Effort Made to Secure a Bail Bond in This City Yesterday If One Should Be Required by Authorities

Inquiry at the office of Sheriff Dunlap of Napa last night elicited the information that nothing had been done in the Holmes case yesterday, beyond an endeavor to ascertain the true age of Nellie Holmes, the girl with whom Charles H. Holmes cohabited at Calistoga. Holmes and the girl were still in jail last night.

District Attorney Benjamin of Napa learned yesterday that he could find the age of the girl by consulting the records of San Francisco, and he at once sent there for the information. If she is found to be over sixteen years of age the charge is reduced as far as the law goes, but if not the consequences are very serious when it comes to punishment after conviction.

Holmes was visited in jail yesterday by a Napa attorney. An effort was made by a relative of the accused man here yesterday to arrange for a bail bond, if one should be required and pending the result of the investigation. It is not thought one was secured.

William Porter, who married an aunt of Nellie Hoimes went over to Napa from this city yesterday, it being thought that he could furnish absolute information as to the girl’s age. This he was not able to do, and then consulting the records in San Francisco was suggested and adopted by District Attorney Benjamin. Judging from sentiment expressed around town yesterday the arrest of the former marshal did not occasion much surprise among those who knew or had heard of alleged previous familiarity between the man and girl.

– Press Democrat, October 20 1904


Former City Marshal Remains in Custody While Girl’s Age is Being Investigated by the Authorities

Charles H. Holmes was still in jail at Napa last night while the girl with whom he had been living with at Calistoga until the hand of the law was laid on both of them, Nellie Holmes, returned to this city. She was seen and conversed with by a Santa Rosan on the Southern Pacific train last night, and from what she told him, he did not feel very kindly disposed towards the man in jail, made by Holmes’ sister yesterday night and it was learned that District Attorney Benjamin was still investigating as to the girl’s age, and that nothing new had been done in the matter. According to a statement made by Holmes sister yesterday it is likely that bail bond may be furnished her brother today. This is not certain, however.

During her stay in Napa Nellie Holmes was kept in the Napa County Hospital. She was released from there Thursday afternoon on a written order sanctioning her release signed by District Attorney Benjamin. She will have to appear as a witness in the event of the Holmes case coming to trial. What was stated yesterday morning, must be stated again this morning and that is, until District Attorney Benjamin is satisfied as to the correct age of Nellie Holmes, proceedings on the charge of rape will not proceed.

– Press Democrat, October 21 1904


What Disposition Will be Made of His Case is Still Undecided But Meanwhile He is a Free Man

Charles H. Holmes, former city marshal is in town from Napa. He secured his release from detention at Napa on furnishing a two thousand dollar bail bond. It is not definitely known what the outcome of the case will be. It will be remembered that the man was arrested a week ago last Tuesday in company with a girl named Nellie Holmes of this city at Calistoga. The charge upon which he was arrested was that of rape.

– Press Democrat, October 26 1904


District Attorney of Napa County Finds That Girl Was Over Sixteen Years Old

The charge of rape preferred against ex-Marshal Charles H. Holmes in Napa will probable be dismissed shortly. District Attorney Ray Benjamin has made a thorough search of records to ascertain the age of the young woman and is of the opinion that he will have to dismiss the case against Holmes by reason of the fact that the girl is over seventeen years old.

It will be remembered that Holmes was arrested at St. Helena several weeks ago where he had been living with Nellie Holmes a young girl of this city and passing her as his wife. Holmes was following his trade of plastering. They had rented a single room in the residence of Mrs. Collins mother of the county clerk of Napa County and lived in that one apartment.

The arrest of Holmes on the charge caused great surprise among his friends in this city. He was kept in jail several days while relatives here searched for bondsmen. These were finally secured and the accused man came to this city. The girl with whom he had been living was detained by the Napa county officials for several days. She stoutly maintained from the first that she was more than sixteen years of age. Although the name of the parties are the same there is no blood relationship between them.

– Santa Rosa Republican, December 9 1904


Mrs. Holmes Startled Sonoma Avenue Last Night by Cries of “Murder” — Case Investigated

The police department had two hurried calls last night both of which were responded to by Officer Don McIntosh and in each instance the calls were occasioned by women.

About midnight the residents of Sonoma avenue were alarmed by a series of shrill cries of murder police and fainter cries of “Let me go” emanating from Mrs. Anna Holmes [sic] the wife of Charles H. Holmes. The whole neighborhood was aroused and when the officer arrived it was explained to him that Mrs. Holmes had made the outcry while in a state of epilepsy. The neighbors however had heard sounds of slaps being administered as if someone was chastising a child, this fact also being reported to the police.

The woman is an almost helpless invalid and the people of the vicinity where she resides declare the woman is not given proper attention and treatment. It is more than probable that the case will be called to the attention of the proper authorities and an effort made to have Mrs. Holmes removed to an institution where she can at least receive proper treatment. It is believed that her condition of epilepsy would be removed if her surroundings were changed. The people of the neighborhood feel that Mrs. Holmes is entitled to the protection of the community…

– Santa Rosa Republican, October 20 1905


Mr. Holmes Statement

Charles H. Holmes called at this office last night and stated that his wife was not suffering from epilepsy at the time of the excitement at his residence Thursday night. He says that she was experiencing one of a series of spells she has had lately in which she temporarily loses her reason. He stated further that the noise heard as if some one was being slapped was in reality Mrs. Holmes clapping her hands while not responsible for her actions.

Mr. Holmes was not at home on Thursday night when his wife’s cries awoke the neighborhood. Mrs. Holmes has been an invalid and afflicted with epileptic fits for a long time. The poor woman is deserving of much commiseration.

– Press Democrat, October 21 1905


Feel They Are Doing All in Their Power

Charles H. Holmes and his mother and sister who have the care of the invalid wife of Mr. Holmes feel that they have done and are doing everything for that lady which lies in their power to do. Mrs. Holmes’ condition is at times precarious and for eighteen years she has been subject to epilepsy which has gradually progressed until at times she passed from the epileptic state to that condition of insanity in which she is wholly irresponsible for her actions. The lady has been taken to private sanitariums in times past and her case has been pronounced hopeless. At the present time the mother and sister of Mrs. Holmes are caring for the lady who is practically an invalid and they feel that the lady could probably get better treatment at a proper institution for epileptics and that her removal to such an institution might be advisable. The case is being attended by Dr. J. W. Cline whose prescriptions have always brought her out of the condition of epilepsy and the doctor is giving the patient every attention.

On a recent night when neighbors were called to assist in caring for Mrs. Holmes the lady had a particularly heavy spell and the family declared had been clapping her hands and talking incoherently before assistance came to them. Two strong men were required to hold Mrs. Holmes in her bed for a number of hours until the medicine given her had time to act properly. As Mr. Holmes cannot be away from his employment the care of his invalid wife naturally devolves upon his mother and sister. Residents of the City of Roses have been at the home where the woman was being cared for and have noticed her peculiar mental condition.

– Santa Rosa Republican, October 23 1905



Mrs. Margaret May Holmes, wife of former City Marshal C. H. Holmes, died at Ukiah on Friday, and her remains were brought to this city Saturday morning. Mrs. Holmes had long been a sufferer and death was a happy release to her. She had many friends in Santa Rosa, where she had lived for many years. The funeral will take place this afternoon and the Very Rev. A. L. Burleson will be the officiating priest. The hour of the funeral will be at half past two o’clock this afternoon.

– Press Democrat, June 7 1908


Wife of Charles H. Holmes Passes Away

Charles H Holmes received a telegram Friday afternoon informing him of the death of his wife at Ukiah. The sad message stated that Mrs. Holmes had been taken sick on the day before with acute pneumonia and the disease was too much for her for the following day she passed away.

Her maiden name was Margaret May Ward and she was a niece of Mr. and Mrs. C. M. Bumbaugh of this city and a sister of Mrs. Samuel Brittain. She was born 38 years ago in the state of New Jersey and her parents died while she was quite young. Nineteen years ago she was married to Charles H. Holmes. The remains were brought down on the morning express and the funeral services will be announced later.

– Santa Rosa Republican, June 7 1908



A quiet wedding in this city on Monday was that of Miss Nellie Holmes and Charles H. Holmes, former city marshal of Santa Rosa and a prominent labor union man. The Rev. Geo. T. Baker, rector of the Episcopal church, was the officiating priest. The ceremony was performed at the residence of Mrs. Cox, on Hendley street. Mr. and Mrs. Holmes left for San Francisco in the afternoon. Their friends wish them much happiness.

– Press Democrat, January 11 1910

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Everyone in Santa Rosa knew him; Charlie Holmes had lived here since he was a small boy, and it’s safe to say he was the most popular guy in town at the turn of the century. When his first term as City Marshal expired in 1900 he ran for reelection, and at the local Democratic Party convention he was given their support by unanimous vote.

He was in great demand as a toastmaster and speaker at banquets and such because he had a gift for telling funny stories and reciting comic verse. Following him in the PD is like taking a Grand Tour through the halls of fraternal social clubs, all pungent with the odor of 5¢ cigars. Not only did he entertain at events held by well-known groups such as the Elks, Druids and Native Sons, but he did humorous recitations at a Pumpkin Pie Social for the Woodmen of the World and a smoker hosted by the Knights of the Maccabees. He surely held the town record for the person treated to the most free meals.

The chummy, good ol’ boy tenor of those gatherings was quite different than the sides of Santa Rosa he saw as City Marshal (which was the same as being Chief of Police – see part I).

Santa Rosa police department, c. 1901. Clockwise from upper left: Constables Don McIntosh, Ike Lindley, John M. Boyes, Marshall Charles Holmes, Herman Hankel. Image source: Chester Crist collection, "Santa Rosa A Nineteenth Century Town" by Gaye LeBaron et. al. 1985
Santa Rosa police department, c. 1901. Clockwise from upper left: Constables Don McIntosh, Ike Lindley, John M. Boyes, Marshall Charles Holmes, Herman Hankel. Image source: Chester Crist collection, “Santa Rosa A Nineteenth Century Town” by Gaye LeBaron et. al. 1985

Holmes and his four-man police force were busy, making 225 arrests in the first three months of 1900 alone. That seems like a lot considering the population was smaller than Cotati has today but little of it was serious law-breaking, at least if you went by what appeared in the newspapers. Offenders riding a bike on the sidewalk were subject to arrest; so were curfew violators (anyone 18 or younger out after 8:30PM “without any lawful business”). Boys with air guns were shooting at chickens. Laundry burglaries were a thing, which presumably was stealing off clotheslines. In 1901 they thought there was a serial laundry thief, but Holmes tracked the culprit down – it was a “big dog” dragging away coats, shoes and rugs to gnaw on. It sometimes seemed Marshal Holmes and Santa Rosa must be down the road a piece from Sheriff Andy and Mayberry.

But my longtime Gentle Reader knows this was not at all the case. In the late 19th-early 20th century Santa Rosa was awash in vice and corruption, being something of the “Sin City” in the Bay Area. There was a large and flourishing redlight district just two blocks from Courthouse Square, while saloons and hotels were openly providing illegal gambling – all of it was encouraged by our city leaders, eager to attract out-of-town visitors. Holmes’ successor as Police Chief later said there was nothing he could do to stop it even if he wanted to: “I am powerless to do anything if the Council will not back me up.” A webinar and overview to articles on this topic can be found in “AN UNMITIGATED NUISANCE.”

Santa Rosa’s biggest dirty little secret didn’t come out until 1905, when a pair of muckrakers briefly took editorial control of the Republican newspaper. Until then both of the town’s papers censored and suppressed almost all news concerning the prostitution and gambling scene – except for an incident that was, in the view of the Press Democrat, indescribably awful.

While the redlight district was centered around the intersection of First and D streets, in 1900 Holmes was pressured to shut down a house on Adams St. The women were told to leave town or face jail, but he found one of them was gravely ill and not receiving any medical care. Officers also discovered an infant buried in the backyard. The PD said the coroner would investigate the cause of death yet nothing more about the case appeared in the paper, as far as I can tell. The short article ended with, “There are circumstances and details in connection with this case which are unfit for publication.”

Only one other bordello was even fined during his years in office, so we can presume Holmes was no more diligent in enforcing laws against vice than other Santa Rosa marshals before and after. Not so his policies on the Chinese. For the first time since the 1886 heyday of the Anti-Chinese League, police began raiding our little Chinatown on Second St. A few weeks after returning from military service he proclaimed a ban on all Chinese gambling including card games and arrested six Chinese men.

Then there was this in 1901: “City Marshal Holmes has commenced a crusade against the opium dens in Chinatown and on Saturday morning personally notified the Chinamen in whose places, three in number, the drug is smoked, that they must not allow white boys or girls to ‘hit the pipe.'” As documented here several times, it’s true some “white boys or girls” were found seeking to get high. (The smoking form of opium was legal in California until 1911 though opium-based “nerve tonics” predominantly used by whites remained for sale.) Chinatown raids became common of the next 10+ years, Police Chiefs sometimes forming a posse of citizens interested in joining in the ransacking of their homes and businesses. It was nothing less than an excuse for terrorizing the Chinese community in hopes of driving them out of town.


Holmes had non-police duties as City Marshal.1 His least favorite job was being in charge of the dog pound, which was subject to frequent complaint. The pound was next to City Hall and the small public library was on the second floor (the famous Carnegie Library wouldn’t be built until 1904), so “the barking and whining of the dogs floating up into the library room made the patrons nervous and a ‘quiet read’ was anything but quiet.” City Councilmen pressed Holmes to come up with a solution.

There was no easy fix because Santa Rosa was teeming with dogs – at a City Council meeting Holmes estimated there were over 1,000 and at the time the city was tiny, roughly 1.5 sq. miles. Regulation wasn’t working. A dog license was $2/year (over $75 today) and mandatory; any without tags were taken to the pound, where they were put down after two days. I do not want to think about how they would have done that job back then.

Holmes partially solved the problem by moving the pound to somewhere on the First street creek bank. But in 1901 he told the Council there was an urgent need for a place to bury the 400 dogs they were destroying on the average every year. A lengthy discussion ensued, where one of the councilmen promoted a notion the animal’s remains should be cremated in the city trash burner. Another argued the dogs seen around town were so malnourished they would not be consumed by fire without using loads of additional fuel. The city clerk suggested the dogs be embalmed and presumably stored. It won’t be my top priority but once my back-ordered time machine arrives, I swear I will visit the City Council meeting of Jan. 21, 1901 to hear that bizarre debate where our top elected officials pondered whether our dead stray dogs had sufficient meat on the bones.2

Besides being city marshal, poundmaster and a few other things, he also wore the hat of city tax collector – arguably his most important job. People drifted in to his office all year round to make every sort of payment (it was where you got a dog license, even) but in 1901, November 18th was particularly busy because it was the last day to pay city taxes.

The next morning they found the marshal’s safe had been robbed. It was first estimated about $1,000 was taken – close to two year’s pay for most skilled workers at the time.

It was assumed the crime occurred between 5 and 6AM, a gap when no policeman was on duty. There were no suspects although a witness saw a man he didn’t recognize “with his hands in his outside coat pockets” quickly walking away from the direction of City Hall during that pre-dawn hour.

The Press Democrat’s story on the crime was excellent (transcribed below) and surely raised eyebrows – namely, many of the details suggested it might be an inside job.

Some evidence appeared planted. The marshal’s door leading to the lobby was ajar – did the burglar supposedly brazenly walk out the main entrance of city hall? There was no sign of forced entry into the building, but a small window was newly broken from outside. As the PD reporter observed, “…a table thickly covered with dust stands in front of the window…several pieces of glass that lodged on the table when the window was broken still remained there embedded in the dust. No one could have climbed through the window without leaving marks in the dust.” Read the transcript to find other questionable points, such as how the burglar could be confident of breaking into the safe.

Whoever did it was familiar with Holmes’ office, starting with knowing the place was empty between the night patrolmen’s shift and the arrival of the officer on morning duty. It appeared the thief gained access to the main office with the safe via a small, non-public back stairway that led to the holding cells downstairs. He would have had to go through three doors, forcing a simple doorknob lock on one of them. All navigated in the dark. It was also suggested the robber possibly got into that passageway the day before and hid there overnight. The tax robbery was looking more and more like a replay of the Stofen affair from seven years earlier.

In 1894, the county treasury was robbed of $8400. Treasurer Peter N. Stofen was held up as he was opening his office and locked in the vault until his wife found him there hours later. In the investigation that followed, there was growing suspicion Stofen was either an accomplice to the theft or covering up embezzlement. The Grand Jury concluded it could have been either a “real or pretended robbery.” (For more, see “WHO ROBBED THE COUNTY TREASURY?“)

Like treasurer Stofen, tax collector Holmes was required to be bonded because they were held personally liable for any funds found missing during their term in office. The only way out of that obligation was to prove a robbery indeed took place and neither Stofen nor Holmes was able to do that. Holmes had the additional problem of not knowing how much money was stolen. It seems the man who collected all the money due Santa Rosa (including dog licenses! Do not forget the dog licenses!) couldn’t be bothered with doing simple bookkeeping.

It came out that Holmes never officially recorded the money passing through his hands until he got around to it, usually at the end of the month. You visited his office and made a tax (or dog license!) payment and he accepted the money, made a note related to it on the bank deposit slip, then later used that slip to record all the transactions in the “cash book” – which was supposed to be always kept current. Trouble was, there were always a few hours between the time Holmes deposited the day’s receipts at the end of banking day and when the marshal/tax collector closed his office door. Any late afternoon payments were stored overnight in the office safe and it was (supposedly) just those monies which were stolen. No deposit slip, no record of who paid what.


Charles H. Holmes Jr. was surely the most talked about person in Santa Rosa 120 years ago, and that wasn’t always a good thing.


It was left to Charles’ memory to recall who paid what during those hours. The PD reported the next day, “Mr. Holmes and an assistant worked on the books checking up the sheets and by evening he had become practically sure enough to state the robbery would amount to the figure named.” Yeah, I’m confident he remembered everyone who came by on the busiest day of the year.

A week after the robbery, Holmes received an envelope postmarked from San Francisco that contained a few checks the thief had scooped up along with the money in the safe. This was another head-scratcher, like the mystery of how/when the burglar got in City Hall. Why would the robber go to the trouble of returning unredeemable checks instead of destroying them? And for that matter, was there proof they came in the mail, other than Charles’ word? Yet having the checks in hand was a boon for Holmes because he could now eliminate those payments from the missing sum he was still trying to determine.

To hopefully straighten out this mess, the City Council hired expert accountant William H. Pool to do a forensic audit of the accounts from the start of Holmes’ second term on April 1, 1900. The report he made to the council at a special session gave no joy.

The main point in the report was that there was no magic wand to wave and show exactly how much money was in the safe at the time of the robbery. Pool revealed Holmes’ bookkeeping was always funky and at the start of that November – weeks before the theft – about $800 was already missing. Perhaps it was sitting in the safe waiting for Holmes to eventually deposit it; there was no way for the accountant to know. By the end of the year 1901, Pool believed the account was short at least $1,299.16.

The PD interviewed Holmes and his answers only cast more suspicion. He did much hand-waving, insisting his books were only off $34. As to the $800 missing before the robbery, he made a bewildering denial: “…while perhaps technically justified by figures, is not borne out by facts. On the date mentioned, as I remember, I paid a considerable sum over to the city treasurer several hours before the close of business…” So it was the treasurer’s fault he didn’t keep receipts?

Holmes and the Maryland company that held his bond were commanded to pay the nearly $1,300 shortage, which he did under protest. He was gonna prove bad guys robbed his safe and then demand the bond money back, yessir. And he could do it too – after all, he was the top lawman in Santa Rosa.

But not for much longer. The accountant’s report and paying back the money happened in mid-January, 1902. Six weeks later the Democratic Party in Santa Rosa held their convention to determine the candidates they wanted on their ticket. Where Charles had been unanimously chosen for the marshal/tax collector job in 1900, this time he came in fourth.

He went back to being a plasterer, although right after he lost the city job he was briefly manager of the Campi, the most popular restaurant in downtown Santa Rosa. He still was a popular speaker at banquets and marched in every parade. But over the next five years his personal life was marked by turmoil, particularly after he was charged with rape.


1 Holmes was also chairman of the investigation committee of the Associated Charities which distributed clothing to the needy, and was for a time the acting health officer with power to issue death certificates

2 The City Council formed a special committee to handle all dog pound questions and there was discussion of hiring a “Dog Impounder” who would be paid from the dog license fees. It is not clear whether the position was created, but it was a regular council agenda item over the next four months. Part of his duties would have been to bury the dogs




Charles H. Holmes, Jr., the Democratic nominee for city marshal, needs no introduction to the people of Santa Rosa. He has lived here ever since he was a boy and has grown up with the town. Two years ago he was elected city marshal, defeating by a good majority a man of acknowledged strength. He has just finished one good term, and deserves a second, and his many friends feel confident that this is a recognition and a courtesy which will not be denied him.

In the discharge of his duties Mr. Holmes has been faithful and efficient and has demonstrated the fact that the interests of the department will be safe in his hands. He has served the city well. A few months after his election two years ago war with Spain broke out and in conformity with the plans of the war department the Fifth regiment, N. G. C., composed of companies located in different parts of the state, was ordered to mobilize at the Presidio preparatory to being sent to the front. As First Lieutenant of Company E of this city Mr. Holmes was in duty bound to answer to the call, and did so. With almost his entire company he enlisted in the Eighth California volunteers and became a member of the regular army.

Through the speedy and unexpected termination of the war the services of the Eighth regiment were not required and after remaining under orders for several months the regiment disbanded, and Mr. Holmes returned to his home in this city and to the discharge of his duties as marshal, which during his absence he had left in good hands. The people of Santa Rosa have not forgotten the scenes attendant either upon the departure or the arrival home of Company E, and the facts here narrated are familiar to all our citizens. During his occupancy of his office Mr. Holmes has never proved recreant to a trust and his record ever since the time he came here as a boy has been a creditable one. He has shown himself to be a good citizen both in and out of office, as well as a good official while in office, and ho deserves a second term in the position he now holds. And unless the Press Democrat is very much mistaken in the people of Santa Rosa that is what he will get.

– Press Democrat, March 17 1900


City Police Department Makes Several Arrests
Coroner Pierce Will Inquire Today Into The Cause of an Infant’s Death

City Marshal Holmes and the police have broken up a disreputable house on Adams street in this city. As a result of the disturbance of the nest two or three women whose characters are sadly tainted have been arrested and will be given a chance to leave town for good, under penalty of imprisonment for failure to do so. A youth was given a month’s imprisonment yesterday for complicity in the matter and it is believed now that the atmosphere will be purer in that vicinity.

Yesterday Coroner Pierce was communicated with and today will inquire into the circumstances which caused the death of an infant, whose body was unearthed in the back yard of the house by officers. From Marshal Holmes a Press Democrat representative learned that many complaints have been made about the conduct of the inmates of the house and that he had sufficient evidence to warrant him in adopting the course he took. When the police visited the house they found a woman there, lying dangerously ill, not having the care of a physician or even a nurse.
There are circumstances and details in connection with this case which are unfit for publication.

– Press Democrat, October 24 1900


Bold Burglary at the City Hall
Tax Money Stolen During The Early Morning Hours
Unwelcome Visitors at the Office Of City Marshal and Tax Collector Charles H. Holmes Jr.

Early Tuesday morning, presumably between the hours of 5 and 6 o’clock, the safe in the office of City Marshal and Tax Collector Charles H. Holmes Jr. in the city hall was robbed of a large sum of money, estimated at $1,000, the proceeds of tax collections received the previous day after banking hours.

The robbery was discovered by Mrs. Jane Samuels, the city hall janitoress, who arrived as usual to begin her duties about 6 o’clock. When she arrived upon the scene Mrs. Samuels noticed that the front door of the marshal’s office was ajar. At first she gave little heed to the fact, presuming that Officer Don McIntosh, who goes on duty at that hour, had arrived before her. Subsequently she saw that the safe door was also open, and suspecting that something was wrong at once summoned Officer McIntosh and informed him of her discoveries. An investigation revealed the fact that entrance to the office had been gained by forcing the small door opening from the passageway that leads down outside the marshal’s office to the cell room in the rear. The wall here is a thin board affair and by springing the partition in slightly the door can easily be forced. This door was found open, with the tongue of the lock protruding. The door in question does not lead directly into the marshal’s office, but opens into a closet, which in turn opens into a small room directly in the rear of the office. Another door, which was not locked, opens from this room directly into the main office in which the safe is located.

A small window looking from the back room above referred to into the rear hallway was broken near the catch, but while the burglar or burglars may at first have intended gaining an entrance through the window, if such was the case the plan was apparently abandoned. A table thickly covered with dust stands in front of the window and no evidence of its having been climbed over could be noted. Several pieces of glass that lodged on the table when the window was broken still remained there embedded in the dust. No one could have climbed through the window without leaving marks in the dust on the table or without knocking at least some of the pieces of glass onto the floor.

The marshal’s office is also used as police headquarters. When, after coming in from their night’s vigil and making the usual change of clothing. Officers Hankel, Boyes and Lindley left the place, a few minutes before 5 o’clock, everything was in the usual order. An old cripple who had been given a bed in one of the cells in the rear of the city hall says that he heard the sound of breaking glass along about morning, but his physical and mental condition is such that nothing like a concise statement can be obtained from him.

The safe from which the money was stolen is an antiquated affair, and was purchased by the city from Lee Bros. & Co. a year or two ago. It at one time belonged to G. N. Savage, a former auctioneer and real estate man of this city, and went through the fire that something like twenty years ago destroyed the block of wooden buildings that at that time extended from where Dignan’s drug store now is up to the rear of the old hall of records on Fourth street. It was originally a key safe, but after the fire was fitted out with a combination lock, a cheap contrivance long since out of date.

The money was in gold, silver and bank checks, postal or express orders, and had all been placed in a steel compartment or drawer in the bottom of the safe. This drawer fastens with an ordinary lock and key such as is used in bureaus or tables of ancient pattern. Marshal Holmes states that as far as he knows he holds the only key to the drawer, but this is a fact of little importance as the drawer could probably be opened with a button-hook or an ordinary wire.

So far no clue has been discovered pointing to the perpetrators of the deed, but several suspicious circumstances are being investigated. While on his way to work about half past 5, and while passing down Fourth street towards Mendocino, Al Reed, who is employed at Koenig’s stable, says he saw a man wearing a long coat and with his hands in his outside coat pockets, walking hurriedly out diagonally across Hinton avenue from the direction of the city hall toward the northeast entrance to the courthouse grounds. In the semi-darkness, Mr. Reed says, he at first took the stranger to be one of the officers, but such was not the case and he paid no further attention to him.

Charles Staley, a carpenter of this city, passed the city hall in company with his brother on his way to work shortly before 7 o’clock. Just at the entrance to the passageway leading from the street to the cell room in the rear he noticed a queer-looking object. Picking it up he discovered that it was a false beard and sidewhiskers. He carried it with him, examining it and laughing about the matter with his brother, until he had passed around the corner of the hall of records, onto Third street, when he tossed it up onto a window ledge of the latter building. Later Edward Beatty, coming down town from the opposite direction, saw it and picking it up brought it on down town with him. It is presumed that the false beard may have been part of the disguise used by the burglar.

About $400 of the money stolen was in the form of checks and current exchange. As none of the paper had been endorsed, and as its payment has been stopped, the actual loss will probably be about $600. Owing to the system of book-keeping employed in the marshal’s office the exact sum stolen could not be ascertained yesterday. The books are not balanced each day during tax-collecting time, but once a month. Monday was the last day allowed by law for the collection of city taxes and several thousand dollars was paid in. $3,748 was deposited in the Santa Rosa Bank Monday afternoon shortly after 3 o’clock. The usual list of belated taxpayers kept the collector busy yesterday, and the work of figuring out the exact amount missing was not completed last night. The task will be completed today, however.

Marshal Holmes states that when he left the office Monday evening about 10 o’clock everything was all right, and while he knew that the sum on hand was a large amount to have in such a place, it seemed about the only thing to do. Until recently Marshal Holmes had been in the habit of leaving any money on hand at night with T. A. Proctor, but Mr. Proctor not long ago notified him that it was against the rules of Wells, Fargo & Co. and the practice was accordingly discontinued. Upon being informed of the robbery Mr. Holmes at first thought that a joke was intended. Upon learning the true condition of affairs he at once informed Sheriff Grace and steps were taken to do everything possible towards apprehending the guilty parties.

– Press Democrat, November 20 1901


In his report concerning the accounts of City Tax Collector Holmes, Expert Pool states his inability to give the exact amount taken at the time of the alleged safe robbery in November, but shows there was a deficiency in the accounts of the tax collector’s office of $1299.16 on January 1, 1902.

– Press Democrat, January 8 1902


Popular City Official Said to Be Short in His Accounts.

The report of Expert William H. Pool on the amount of the shortage in the office of City Marshal and Tax Collector Charles H. Holmes of Santa Rosa was given to the common council at a meeting of that body Tuesday night.

In addition to the shortage of $1,299.16, which is due to the alleged robbery of the office on November 18th, the examination of the books discloses the fact that for a number of months during the last year the official has been in arrears in his settlements with the treasurer in amounts varying from $30 to $803.43. The latter amount was due the city on the first day of November, 1901. The marshal is ex-officio tax collector, and as such began the collection of taxes on October 21st. It is said he kept a crude record of his collections, but failed to make a balance of the receipts of any day during the period embraced from the date mentioned until the close of the collections on November 18th. During the time between 5 o’clock on the morning of November 19th, when Officers Herman Hankel, John M. Boyes and I. N. Lindley reported off duty, and 5:45 oclock when the janitress appeared on the scene to perform her labors, some one entered the office and opened the small safe. The taxes collected after banking hours on the 18th were in ths safe and the amount was extracted. Owing to the system of bookkeeping the entire receipts of the office had to be gone over to ascertain the amount of the shortage.

– Petaluma Daily Morning Courier, January 8 1902


Interview With City Marshal Chas. H. Holmes Jr.
Denies Absolutely That He Was Short in His Accounts Previous to The Robbery on November 18

“…on October 17 I was square with the city except for a matter of some $34. On that date I figured up my books and paid over what I owed — or what I thought I owed. The way Mr. Pool figures it, I made a mistake of $34; but whether he is right or I was right, I certainly thought I was square with the city on that date. I did not make a complete settlement between that time and the date of the robbery just a month later, although of course I paid in different sums upon several occasions.
“That portion of Expert Pool’s report stating that I was behind with the city $803.43 on the first day of November, some two weeks before the robbery, while perhaps technically justified by figures, is not borne out by facts. On the date mentioned, as I remember, I paid a considerable sum over to the city treasurer several hours before the close of business….
“Some of the city papers have stated,” Mr. Holmes concluded, “that the affairs of my office were in bad shape for several months before the robbery. The report of the city’s own expert shows that just one month before the robbery occurred I was square with the city — or at least within thirty-four dollars of it, and as I say, I thought I was square to the last cent.”

– Press Democrat, January 10 1902


Text of the Protest Made by Marshal Holmes

“In line with what I stated at the first to the effect no one should lose the money but myself I idemnifled my bondsmen by a deed on my home for $800 advanced by them. I advanced $500 myself and will bring a suit for vindication, in the event of proving a robbery was committed, which I fully expect to do, shall leave the money in the City Treasury as the suit is brought for vindication alone.”

– Press Democrat, January 23 1902

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There’s a tale Bill Soberanes loved to tell in his Argus-Courier columns that went something like this:

During Prohibition a lawyer was defending a man accused of bootlegging. When the prosecutor introduced a bottle of the moonshine as evidence the lawyer picked it up, put it to his lips and drank it dry. “That wasn’t whiskey,” he told the court. Case dismissed for lack of evidence.

Odds of that story being true are probably nil (or at least, I can’t find anything close to it in the newspapers of the day) but it’s the kind of thing people liked to say about Gil P. Hall. Most often he was called some riff on being “a colorful character” and people meant that in a nice way. During the 1910s and 1920s he was the top defense attorney in Sonoma county and rarely lost in court, particularly if it involved a jury trial. He was such a legal hotshot that courtrooms were packed when he defended a high-profile case. “There was only one Gil Hall, and I don’t think there will ever be another like him,” said the last surviving pre-Prohibition Petaluma bar owner in 1967. “Some of his cases would make Perry Mason look very tame.”

In the 1920s Hall defended so many liquor scofflaws that he had a reputation as being the bootlegger’s lawyer, but that’s not really fair – it seems he took on any and all. While he’s best known for high-profile cases his bread and butter was mundane legal work – representing people seeking a divorce, handling probate paperwork, and arguing a farmer had a right to dig a culvert under a county road.

He won an acquittal for Fannie Brown, who was charged with running a “house of ill-fame” at First and C streets in Petaluma. In the murder trial of two doctors charged with the death of a woman from an abortion (“the illegal operation”) the courtroom spectators burst into prolonged applause when the jury found them innocent. Even when he lost he usually managed to salvage some kind of victory. The owner of Speedway Hotel in Cotati was caught red-handed selling 72 proof jackass brandy (“with a trace of fuel oil”) and had to pay a fine, but Hall blocked the government from shutting down his business – which continued to be busted for selling hootch year after year.

A man who knew him, Petaluma Justice of the Peace Rolland Webb, said “he won most of his cases by outsmarting the young lawyers who came up against him,” so it’s a pity the newspapers didn’t write up some of his Perry Mason-y courtroom arguments. The one sample we have comes from an unusual case – the county election of 1926.

gumpA recount was ordered because the votes for sheriff were almost tied. Hall and lawyers for the other candidate went over the ballots carefully, agreeing to toss three for being “scurrilous” – the voters had added an obscenity next to a candidate’s name. Then they found someone had written in the name of Andy Gump for Justice of the Peace. Andy Gump was an ultra-popular comic strip character who was a lovable idiot; in the 1920s the storyline had him running silly campaigns for the senate and the presidency. But the name was written on a ballot for Hall’s candidate, so he made a fine speech why it should be accepted:

…Andy Gump is one of the best loved characters in the United States. His name is a household word, and of loved memory. All of his actions have been those of a gentleman… Therefore, I cannot conclude with counsel that the writing of Andrew Gump created an atmosphere of scurrility about this ballot. Whether there is an Andrew Gump in Sonoma county I do not know. If there were more Andrew Gumps, in character and thought, Sonoma county would probably be a better county than it is…

His candidate lost the election by 16 votes, but the Andy Gump ballot was counted.

Gil Hall was in his heyday during the Roaring Twenties although he was past 60 years old (b. 1859 in Missouri). He was president of the County Bar Association 1924-5 and threw lavish, four-hour dinner parties for judges and fellow attorneys on his large houseboat named “Ark of Peace” (!) which was moored on the Petaluma River and was connected to permanent buildings on the wharf. When he would rehearse his courtroom arguments on the boat he was loud enough to frighten passing boaters, so reread the Andy Gump speech and imagine lots of shouting.

In his younger days it was expected he would someday be a Congressman; he was well-connected vis his father-in-law (Petaluma banker Dan Brown) and said to be politically ambitious, being appointed as Petaluma’s postmaster at age 27. But Gilbert P. Hall had a closet with skeletons ready to spill out during any campaign for public office; he was wise not to crack that door open.

The San Francisco Examiner, January 18 1897
The San Francisco Examiner, January 18 1897

This is the obl. Believe-it-or-Not! portion of the article, and not just because of some deed by Gil Hall; it’s also because this chapter of his life was so quickly and utterly forgotten and forgiven. Nothing about it was mentioned in any obituary or by 20th century Hall aficionados like Bill Soberanes – in fact, I don’t think this story’s ever been fully told before; I only stumbled across it while researching the previous article about the county treasurer who may have faked a robbery.

In 1890 Gil P. Hall was elected County Recorder/Auditor. The job was a perfect way for a novice politician to take off his training wheels – all it required was staying out of the way of the desk clerk and accepting payment of the recording fees. He was reelected in 1892 but lost the election of November, 1894. Take note that starting in January 1895 someone else would be running the office.

Every two years the county had used an outside auditor named Baldwin to examine the books of all offices, but in 1895 they hired someone else and he found something strange – there was a huge gap in Hall’s accounts. Except for a few entries made after he first took office, there were no fee payments listed until he lost reelection. Specifically, an entire ledger was missing: “Fee Book 13”.

The Grand Jury heard testimony that sometimes months went by without Hall making a deposit to the county treasury. Also, Baldwin looked at the books only during evenings when Hall was also there. Meanwhile, accounting experts were combing through all transactions during Hall’s four year tenure. Their audit showed that for his second term alone, $10,199.50 had been received but only $5,651.75 was deposited. That meant there was a missing $4613.38 (about $140k today).

County officers were held personally liable for any funds found missing during their term in office, and Hall had Petaluma businessmen who backed him with bonds for significant losses. The county sued them for about $1,200, which represented only the last few months of Hall’s first term – it was now March, 1896, and the clock was ticking down on the four-year statute of limitations for this type of suit.

A few months later the county filed a second lawsuit to recover the $4613.38. That was followed by a third lawsuit for $4.5k to pay for the cost of reconstructing Fee Book 13.

Gil P. Hall was now indicted on two counts of felony embezzlement and free on $1,500 bail bonds.

The story grabbed the laser-like focus of San Francisco’s yellow press, and the Examiner did a full page story on him with the subhed, “Rise and Fall of an Able Man.” According to their story, the formerly mild-mannered Hall had become “a high-riding swashbuckler, who cavaliered it through Petaluma to the astonishment of the wondering townspeople” and was known for throwing dinner parties that “endeared himself to a certain class.”

I will spare Gentle Reader details of the grinding legal gears during 1897-1899, which consumed a week of my precious life as I labored over a spreadsheet in a futile attempt to track all the doings. The Grand Jury found him guilty of embezzlement; the location of his trial was moved to Ukiah and there was a hung jury and a retrial; Hall insisted he didn’t remember anything (including the names of his clerks); his lead defense attorney, ex-Congressman Thomas J. Geary, embraced a strategy of continually barking “objection!” like a yappy dog. The big surprise came in November 1897, when Fee Book 13 was discovered and reportedly was in the Auditor’s office the whole time. This was, of course, conveniently after the facsimile had been reconstructed.

By the turn of the century there was remorse in some corners that the county had pursued restitution instead of just sending him to prison. It was now approaching the statute of limitations from the time of the indictments. Appeals were made to the state Supreme Court to extend the deadlines which the court first denied – then a few weeks later reversed itself and said the county could indeed reopen the case. Oh, law.

Over objections from the District Attorney, the Board of Supervisors finally threw in the towel in 1901, proclaiming there would be no more litigation because it was costing the county too much. That was followed by another Supreme Court ruling that the statute of limitations had indeed run out, and Hall and his bondsmen were not legally bound to pay back any money he allegedly stole.

As was permissible under the law. Hall then presented the county with a bill for his lawyer’s fees and court expenses. The Board agreed to pay him $850, which was the legal max.

Thus: Gil P. Hall not only got away with allegedly filching a small fortune from the public, but the county paid him for the pleasure of having done so. Believe it or Not!

An older – and presumably wiser – Gil Hall was behind the defense table again in 1927, this time accused of bribing witnesses.

The charge this time was that he had paid two 16 year-old boys $30 each to deny they had bought homemade wine from a Petaluma farmer. The Grand Jury handed down two indictments against him, although one was thrown out on a technicality.

On the witness stand the boys contradicted their earlier statements and each other. Hall had/had not given them money; Hall had promised one of the boys he “would take care of him” if he lost his job, or he hadn’t promised anything at all. And then, in true Perry Mason fashion, there was a shocking courtroom confession: One of the boys had a vendetta against Gil Hall because he had defended an auto driver accused of causing the death of his baby brother. “His admission that he had for years had a bitter feeling against the accused Petaluma attorney caused a profound stir,” reported the Argus-Courier.

The Grand Jury retired to the jury room and returned to court six minutes later with a verdict of innocent. It was the shortest jury deliberation anyone could recall.

Although Gil Hall’s professional life centered around the county courthouse in Santa Rosa, he grew up and lived most of his life in Petaluma. Besides Soberanes, fellow A-C columnist Ed Mannion sometimes tipped his hat to Gil for being among the most colorful residents in the city’s history. Mannion wrote, “he once entered the door of a Main Street pharmacy and was met by a fusillade of shots from the druggist’s’ pistol.”

Mannion told a couple of other stories that can be dated to 1913. The Maze Department Store on the corner of Washington and Main had an art department and was selling prints of “September Morn,” a wildly-popular painting of a nude woman standing in a lake – the sort of artwork someone buys while thinking, “this will really class up the joint.”

augustmornThe store had a copy in their window display until “the good ladies trying to protect the town’s morals” (Mannion’s words) protested. Their taking offense apparently offended Hall, who talked the store into placing the picture with its back to the window – but in front of a mirror, so the image was plainly in view from the street. Selling at $1.75 each, the store had trouble keeping up with demand.

(RIGHT: Dressed statue of the goddess Hebe. Courtesy Sonoma County Library)

But Gil was not done with tweaking Petaluma’s blue noses. Outside the department store on the Washington street side was the WCTU water fountain, which had at its top a 5-foot bronze statue of the nude Greek goddess Hebe. With two co-conspirators Gil placed a Mother Hubbard dress over the statue. Wags promptly dubbed the censored statue “August Morn.”

That pre-Prohibition barkeep also said, “if I were a writer, I’d do Gil Hall’s life, and I’d have a best seller on my hands.” Well, get in line, bub – Soberanes and Mannion both wanted to write The Legend of the Fabulous Gil Hall and asked readers to send in Hall stories (apparently no one did). Justice of the Peace Webb had a number of stories so if any member of the Webb family recall an old manuscript up in the attic, contact me.

Gilbert Pine Hall (1859-1932) in 1924. Courtesy Sonoma County Library
Gilbert Pine Hall (1859-1932) in 1924. Courtesy Sonoma County Library

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