THE MELANCHOLY MILLIONAIRE OF LOS GUILICOS

On the train to Santa Rosa a little over a century ago, you might have exchanged a nod of recognition without knowing who he was. His was a sort-of-familiar face, someone who could be spotted going or coming several times a year, maybe with his wife and daughter or the two young men who were his sons. But once the train arrived, the portly middle-aged man vanished; he couldn’t be found at any of the hotels or bending his elbow at any of Santa Rosa’s many saloons. He wasn’t at card parties or lodge hall dances. He didn’t hobnob at all. Probably not a soul on the trains knew they were looking at Thomas Kearns, the millionaire owner of Los Guilicos.

Official Residence Of The Governor Of Utah Postcard

Kearns had one of those incredible 19th century rags-to-riches life stories. In 1883, legend has it, he was farmhand pitching hay; six years later he was one of the owners of the Silver King mine, then the most valuable silver mine in the world. With his boundless wealth he built an extravagant Salt Lake City home for his family in 1902, which today is the Utah Governor’s Mansion (see postcard at right). Three years later he bought the William Hood House and ranch at Los Guilicos.

Unlike the family’s opulent Utah mansion, the farmhouse near Kenwood was nothing special; it’s unclear if it had been updated since its pre-Civil War construction, or even if electricity was available in 1905. Kearns hired architect William Willcox to expand and modernize the place, but he also took a hands-on approach, working with a Santa Rosa cabinetmaker to design and build a massive 14-foot dining room table and sideboard cabinet. (Photo of the table is below, and the cabinet can be viewed in the previous article.)

From mentions in the Press Democrat column on arrivals and departures we know that Kearns and his family spent quite a bit of time here, including the complete summer of 1905, which was before renovations started. There were some years where he or his wife could be found at Los Guilicos nearly half of the time, particularly after the remodeling ended in 1908. It was a true second home and not a vacation getaway; the Kearns’ should properly be considered locals – their sons even went to college at Santa Clara rather than in Utah or out east. In “Sketches of the Inter-Mountain States,” the 1909 history of Utah and neighboring states, his equal residence in California was acknowledged: “Senator Kearns and his family reside in a magnificent home on East Brigham Street, in Salt Lake City, and at one of the finest ranches in California, near Santa Rosa.”

Yet curiously, this side of his life is rarely, if ever, mentioned in modern profiles, including his book-length biography. Because of that, some of the most interesting questions about Kearns are unanswered and even unasked: Why did he want a house in Sonoma County, where the family apparently had no friends, family, political connections or business interests? And once he owned Hood House, why did he spend so much time here, so far from the life he had struggled to make for himself and everyone he knew? The answer to his Rosebud secret probably lies in the late winter of 1905.

Given his wealth and wealth of connections, it would be surprising if Thomas Kearns had not become a politician. He knew three presidents and hosted a dinner for President Teddy Roosevelt at his Salt Lake City mansion. Consider, for ex, the nexus of money and power revealed in just this one deal: Senator William A. Clark of Montana sought help from Kearns in extending his railway line from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City. (Clark was a man so remarkably corrupt that Mark Twain wrote, “He is as rotten a human being as can be found anywhere under the flag,” and also looked just like Conan O’Brien wearing a cheap fake beard, which is conclusive proof that he was a person of low character.) Also involved in the railroad deal was Richard C. Kerens, who was on the National Republican Committee and a personal friend of Kerns. Our very first glimpse of Kerns in Sonoma County comes from a 1906 PD article about Kerns showing off his new place to his pal (misspelled as “Kernes” in the transcription below).

A TWO-THIRDS TERM SENATOR

Thomas Kearns was a U.S. Senator from Utah between 1901 and 1905, filling out the four years remaining on an unexpired term. Many in the LDS church would have liked the seat go to a member of their faith, but just two years earlier a Mormon polygamist had been elected to the House, creating such national uproar that he was expelled immediately after being admitted to Congress. Kearns was politically well-connected with the Republican leadership, and that he was an ardent Roman Catholic “gentile” didn’t hurt a bit. The Mormon hierarchy endorsed Kearns, amid allegations there was a quid pro quo deal for Kearns to buy the Salt Lake Tribune and defang its anti-Mormon slant.

His alliance with the church began crumbling within a year as political fortunes rose for Reed Smoot, who had been talked out of running against Kearns in 1901. The next year Smoot was elected the junior Senator from Utah, despite opposition from Senator Kearns and the rest of the Republican establishment, including President Teddy Roosevelt. Republicans feared Smoot would face a Congressional inquisition similar to the hearings over the polygamist. And indeed, once he was seated, the Senate opened investigations into whether he was a secret polygamist or if his extremely high position in church hierarchy placed him in conflict with his oath of office.

With the end of his term approaching in 1904, Kearns was denied another LDS church endorsement. Supporters of Kearns retaliated by forming the anti-Mormon American Party, and criticism of the church resumed in his Salt Lake Tribune. The political career of Thomas Kearns ended when Senator Reed Smoot convinced the Utah state legislature to replace Kearns with a Mormon (Senators were not yet elected by popular vote). Kearns said farewell to the Senate in his “Conditions in Utah” speech, where he bitterly denounced the power of the Mormon church. He charged the LDS “monarchy” lied repeatedly to the U.S. in order to gain statehood in 1896, falsely claiming polygamy was banned and the church did not meddle in politics.

But Kearns had no fervent political loyalties. Earlier he made large contributions to both parties, first to the Democrats in 1896 because he supported candidate William Jennings Bryan’s demand for currency using silver, and then to the Republicans in 1900 when it was clear that the McKinley-Roosevelt ticket would win the White House. He was fond of going to conventions and speechified on behalf of his friend Teddy Roosevelt at every opportunity. That he served in the Senate at all was a bit of a fluke, as discussed in the sidebar.

Kearns’ stint in the Senate was uneventful, perhaps because it was so short. No legislation bears his name, and what bills he introduced were pork barrel giveaways for special interests in Utah. He asked for 20 acres be given to his wife’s aunt for a home for old miners; he wanted to open up part of an Indian reservation for mining. An old military fort received an upgrade. It was all apparently small matters like that. A researcher would need to drill down to the voting records to find what issues he supported or opposed and if not for the passion exhibited in his infamous farewell speech, one might think he didn’t really want the job at all.

When the Mormons declined to support his candidacy for reelection, Kearns felt used and betrayed. He had valid reasons; he had brokered a relationship between the Republican party and LDS church long sought by Mormon leaders (a good paper on this topic can be read here) and found patronage jobs in Washington for Mormons. He had vowed to oppose any proposed constitutional amendment against polygamy. He had purchased the Salt Lake Tribune and quashed its LDS criticism (although there’s no proof church leaders demanded he do so). And probably most bitterly, he had been used as a stalking horse to ease the way for Utah to have two Mormon senators. Kearns’ “Et tu, Brute” moment came when Utah’s junior senator, Reed Smoot, personally led the Utah politicking to oust Kearns and replace him with his friend and fellow Mormon, George Sutherland. Smoot drove the knife in further with his remarks about Kearns’ farewell speech, adding an ethnic slur: “It certainly was a spectacle to see Kearns deliver his speech yesterday. It made the people from Utah ashamed that there was such a person as Tom Kearns claiming to be a citizen of Utah. His speech was written in English and delivered in Irish.”

Thus Hood House might also be nicknamed, “Kearns’ Redoubt.” His four-year ascent into politics had ended with an abrupt and humiliating crash, through no fault of his own. He apparently purchased the Los Guilicos estate shortly thereafter. In the summer that followed he probably saw the roomy home with bucolic views of Sonoma Valley as a fine place to lick wounds and drift in melancholy. Years later Santa Rosa newspapers frequently mentioned he was entertaining friends from Utah, and you can bet their small talk tread lightly around some topics of political gossip, particularly the sore point of his own fall from greatness as the Catholic who lost his Mormon blessings.

In hindsight, we can see everyone lost when Kearns was forced out of the Senate, including the Latter-Day Saints church.

The Senate allowed Reed Smoot to be seated, but opened hearings on his fitness to stay. The Smoot hearings dragged on for three years, and became a trial of the LDS church itself. Women’s groups nationally lined up against Smoot and Mormonism in an anti-polygamy crusade that smothered Washington in petitions and letters. But over those long three years, anti-Mormon sentiments weakened. President Roosevelt originally commented that Smoot was not fit for office, but by end of 1906 he said the women crusaders were guilty of “persecution” and “hysterical sensationalism.” The New York Times also flipped, denouncing in 1907 opposition to Smoot as “mindless and bigoted”. At the end of it all, a majority of Senators did vote to boot Smoot, but he was admitted because a two-thirds vote was required.

The big loser in this draw were the women’s groups, having lost some popular sympathy as well as momentum in their great fight for suffrage. The LDS church lost because Kearns might have been able to shorten the hearings – or lobby other Senators to drop some of the most damaging lines of inquiry – if he had remained as the senior Senator. In Utah, the Kearns affair boosted opponents of the church and the American Party dominated Salt Lake City politics through the rest of the decade.

The drama also had far-reaching impacts on American history. Senator Smoot was co-author of the infamous Smoot-Hawley Tariff, which is considered one of the major causes of economic hardship during the early years of the Great Depression. Kearns’ replacement in the Senate, George Sutherland, was eventually appointed to the Supreme Court, where he became the leader of the “Four Horsemen,” a reactionary bloc that sought to overturn FDR’s New Deal programs for recovery. The four Justices were frequently hung in effigy at political rallies.

Kearns didn’t live to see what would become of Smoot and Sutherland two decades later; he died in 1918, shortly after he sold Hood House. I would like to think his ghost is still rattling chains in those empty rooms of the place he must have thought of as a sanctum. I would like to think his ghost is having a good chuckle over the two men who destroyed his political life becoming two of the most hated politicians in America.

Fourteen-foot dining room table designed and built by Santa Rosa cabinetmaker F. S. Smith in 1909 for Senator and Mrs. Kearns. Other photographs of the sideboard and dining room can be found in the original article on Hood HousePhoto courtesy Mark Parry/Artisan Architecture

MILLIONAIRES IN SANTA ROSA NOW
Senator and Prominent Chicago Railway Magnate in Party

Former United States Senator and Mrs. Thomas Kearns of Salt Lake City, accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. R. C. Kernes [sic], Miss Kernes and Miss Baney of St. Louis, and Miss Bettinger of St. Joseph, Mo., are at the St. Rose. The party came up to the Senator’s Los Guillicos [sic] ranch yesterday morning and were met at Kenwood by automobiles from Santa Rosa. After a visit to the ranch the party were taken for a ride through the valley and then for a visit to the grounds of Luther Burbank.

Mr. Kernes is a prominent railroad man from St. Louis and the fact that he is visiting through the Sonoma Valley has given rise to the suspicion that he may be inspecting the line of the proposed electric railroad from Sonoma to Santa Rosa, which is believed to be part of a through line to the bay or to connect with the other lines planned to cross the lower end of the county en route from San Francisco to Lake county with a view of investing in the enterprise. It is known that he was given a good opportunity to see all the advantages of the valley while taking the automobile ride.

– Press Democrat, March 28, 1906
A HANDSOME HAND MADE DININGROOM SET

F. S. Smith of 1209 Ripley street has just completed at his place and has ready for delivery a handsome natural oak dining room set for Senator and Mrs. Thomas Kearns of Kenwood. The dining table is a massive affair weighing 850 pounds, and is six feet square closed. It can be extended to fourteen feet and is one of the most attractive pieces of furniture ever seen in this city. The buffet, serving table, pedestal and dozen chairs are all made to match. The whole set is handwork by Mr. Smith, and were worked up from designs he drew and submitted to Senator and Mrs. Kearns for approval prior to receiving the order.

– Press Democrat, July 11, 1909
THE KEARNS FAMILY HAVE RETURNED
Senator and Mrs. Thomas Kearns Entertain Cardinal Gibbons and Other Catholic Church Dignitaries

Former United States Senator and Mrs. Thomas Kearns and family and Miss Bess Faddies have returned to their beautiful country home in the Los Guilicos Valley, from Salt Lake City. They went to Salt Lake recently to be present at the dedication of the new Roman Catholic Cathedral there, one of the most costly and handsomest edifices in the west.

At their Salt Lake City residence Senator and Mrs. Kearns had the honor of entertaining His Eminence Cardinal Gibbons, who dedicated the cathedral. They had other distinguished guests, including several of the Bishops and other dignitaries of the church.

– Press Democrat, August 28, 1909

The many local friends of Senator and Mrs. Thomas Kearns will be pleased to know that they expect to spend the Christmas holidays at their very hospitable home “Kearns Ranch” in Sonoma Valley. They will have a large house party of relatives and friends to enjoy the holidays with them. Mrs. Kearns is expected back from New York about the first of December.

– “Society Gossip,” Press Democrat, November 21, 1909

The two sons of Senator and Mrs. Thomas Kearns will be here from Santa Clara College to spend the Christmas holidays. Senator Kearns will also join the family for celebration of the holidays at the beautiful Kearns residence at Los Guilocos [sic].

– “Society Gossip,” Press Democrat, December 19, 1909
DELIGHTFUL EVENT AT KEARNS RANCH
Party Given by Senator and Mrs. Kearns in Honor of Miss Clara Driscoll

At the picturesque Kearns ranch last night there was a brilliant party at which Senator and Mrs. Thos. Kearns were “at home” to many invited guests. The function was arranged in honor of Miss Clara Driscoll who is visiting the Kearns ranch from her home in Salt Lake City.

Many guests from this city drove out to Los Guillicos to enjoy the delightful hospitality and participate in the many pleasures of the evening. Mrs. Kearns, as usual, entertained with the cordial and lavish hospitality for which the home is known far and wide.

After the hour devoted to the reception during which all the guests had the pleasure of a formal introduction to Miss Driscoll, dancing was enjoyed in the ball room adjoining the mansion. Later an elaborate supper was served.

– Press Democrat, December 29, 1909

Mrs. Thomas Kearns expects to leave for Salt Lake City about January 15. The Hearns have a magnificent home there and it is like ‘Kearns Ranch’ near this city, one of the most hospitable of homes. I overheard Mrs. Kearns telling some friends at the Overton party the other evening how much she and Senator Kearns enjoyed their picturesque county mansion in the Los Guilocos [sic] Valley. Thanks to them many Santa Rosa friends have been afforded much pleasure there, too.

– “Society Gossip,” Press Democrat, January 9, 1910
SENATOR THOS. KEARNS HERE FROM SALT LAKE

Former United States Senator Thomas Kearns has arrived here from Salt Lake City, accompanied by Mrs. Kearns, and is spending a few days at his beautiful country home near this city, Kearns Ranch. Since his last visit here Senator Kearns has made several trips East and has been a very busy man. He is delighted with the appearance of things in Sonoma county at the present time.

– Press Democrat, April 7, 1910

The week of festivity will be auspiciously ushered in by the reception and high tea Sunday afternoon, at which Mrs. Thomas Kearns will entertain in honor of her sister, Mrs. Gallivan, a charming woman of Salt Lake City, who is here to spend the summer. The hours of the function are from four to seven o’clock and many Santa Rosans are included in the invitation list. They will drive to Kearns Ranch or will take the afternoon train from this city. Of course, it goes without saying that Mrs. Kearns’ attractive hospitality will be delightfully exerted. The hostess and her guests were wishing Saturday when the threatening raindrops fell that sunshine would abound for the happy hours to be spent at Kearns Ranch.

– “Society Gossip,” Press Democrat, May 1, 1910

KEARNS RANCH, the delightful country seat of Senator and Mrs. Thomas Kearns near this city, was the scene last Sunday afternoon of a reception given by Mrs. Kearns in honor of her sister, Mrs. Gallivan, a charming woman from Salt Lake City.

With its commodious rooms, richly furnished and arranged in luxury and comfort, the Kearns home is an ideal one for entertaining. It was specially so on this occasion as the affair partook of an outdoor party on the beautiful grounds where Nature has aided the landscape gardner in a distribution of majestic oaks, shrubbery and flowers in all their glory.

After meeting Mrs. Gallivan, the motif for the function, and the hostess Mrs. Kearns, who received their guests on the veranda beneath a clustering rose vine, which was a riotous mass of sweet-scented rosebuds, the guests wandered at will among the flowerbeds and amid a wilderness of roses–at Kearns Ranch during the blossoming time it is a continuous rose carnival–rested on the rustic benches or in the hammocks or swing seats in the shade of the overhanging branches of trees. It was an afternoon of sunshine and everything looked its best. Music, sweet and an allurement to pleasure, mingled very effectively with the enjoyment of the rambles through the grounds. It was furnished by a large orchestra stationed in a leafy nook on the lawn. During the hours of the reception and during the serving of high tea the orchestra played, Miss McDermott presided over the punch-bowl, serving the guests with delicious refreshment.

At tea the guests assembled in the large reception rooms, where tasteful bouquets of roses and other blooms gave a delightful finish to the pretty scene. In serving Miss Bess Faddis, Miss Clara Einhorn, Miss Geraldine Grace, Miss Wickson, Miss Elizabeth McDermott and Miss Helen Kearns were among those assisting.

Mrs. Kearns and Miss Wickson ex- [missing line of type] people from Santa Rosa, Kenwood, San Francisco and other places. Many of those invited drove down to the Kearns home in automobiles and others came by train and in vehicles. Mrs. Kearns was a much complimented hostess. She could not have entertained more effectively.

Mr. Kearns and Miss Wickson expect to leave shortly for Salt Lake City where they will spend some time. They will return before the summer is over, however, to pass several months here.

– “Society Gossip,” Press Democrat, May 8, 1910
MRS. KEARNS RETURNS FROM SALT LAKE

Mrs. Thomas Kearns returned to her beautiful country home, Kearns Ranch, near this city, on Saturday night after an extended absence in Salt Lake City as well as on a  trip to the East. Mrs. Kearns expects to spend a considerable portion of the summer in Sonoma county. She went to Santa Clara College on Monday to attend the commencement. The Kearns boys are students at Santa Clara. Mrs. Kearns’ many friends are glad to welcome her back.

– Press Democrat, June 21, 1910

The week opened very auspiciously with the dinner party at Kearns Ranch…The scene in the spacious dining room of the Kearns mansion was fascinating in the extreme when the guests entered to the strains of music from an orchestra. They stepped into a lovely bower of flowers and light with the immense round table artistically set with its silver and glass and its clusters of daintily shaded candelabra, occupying the center. The rich old oak ceiling and the oak-panelled sides of the room were set off with bright adornments of flowers and more candelabra. It would be hard to picture a more alluring effect from a decorative standpoint or a greater incentive to appetite as one course followed another during the two hours the guests sat at the table enjoying the delightful menu and the intermingling chit chat, story and orchestral music.

The pretty place cards at each corner were set off with a miniature of an ocean liner, this latter feature particularly complimentary to Miss Wright in view of her coming voyage…

– “Society Gossip,” Press Democrat, July 3, 1910
SEN. THOMAS KEARNS IS HERE FOR A VISIT

Former United States Senator Thomas Kearns of Salt Lake City is here for a visit of several weeks at his beautiful country home “Kearns Ranch” near Kenwood. Senator Kearns is a man of much prominence financially as well as politically and is the head of the American party which in Utah has given battle to the Mormon forces. He is a mining man, and owns a large amount of property in Salt Lake, in addition to several newspapers, and other public service enterprises.

– Press Democrat, July 13, 1910
SENATOR KEARNS RETURNS FROM SALT LAKE CITY

Senator Thomas Kearns has returned from Salt Lake and is now at his country home, the Kearns Ranch near Kenwood. Mrs. Kearns has been spending the past week in San Francisco awaiting the arrival of the Senator and they have both returned. The Senator is a busy man and will only remain here for a few days and then he and Mrs. Kearns will go east to stay until after the holidays.

– Press Democrat, October 10, 1910
SENATOR KEARNS AND WIFE HERE FOR A VISIT

Former United States Senator and Mrs. Kearns arrived from Utah on Sunday at their beautiful country home, Kearns Ranch, near this city. Senator Kearns took an active part in the recent elections in Utah, and otherwise has been very busy with the handling of his immense interests. He enjoys a visit to his picturesque estate in the Sonoma Valley, where he is carrying out many improvements. Thomas Kearns is also here and is feeling much better. He recently underwent an operation for appendicitis.

– Press Democrat, November 29, 1910

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FEAR & LOATHING OF EARLY 20TH C. JAPAN

So how bad were relationships between Japan and the U.S. in the early 20th century? Let’s put it this way: Anyone wouldn’t have been surprised if the two countries went to war someday.

International politics isn’t usually on the radar of this journal, but the long-running thread of anti-Japanese fervor can even be found in the Santa Rosa newspapers, and some context helps to interpret where the line was drawn before WWI between geo-political opinions and overt racism.

Unlike many other places in California, Sonoma County had little enmity towards Japanese immigrants. Part of the reason was the respect given Fountain Grove wine maker Kanaye Nagasawa, who came to America via Scotland (where he picked up English with a distinctive burrrrrrr) and was portrayed in the papers as an innovator in the manner of Luther Burbank. Locals apparently also viewed Japanese laborers as kindred spirits, seeking to scratch together enough money for a family homestead. Santa Rosa even had a Japanese employment office because immigrants were sought out as hard-working domestics, farm workers, and general labor.

By contrast, Chinese immigrants were isolated and the target of bigotry in Santa Rosa, usually described in the local newspapers of the day as criminal or foolish “Chinks” or “Celestials” who could barely speak English (which sometimes might have been a feint to play the game of diminished expectations). When they were mentioned in the Press Democrat of that era, it was typically an arrest or something that was an opportunity to write a “humorous” racist vignette (usually with pidgin dialog), often concerning a broken marriage or other personal humiliations of Chinese residents.

Before 1904, most Santa Rosans probably couldn’t find Japan on a map on a bet. But once the Russo-Japanese War began, Japan and its military were in the headlines for much of the year. Many Japanese youths in Sonoma County returned home to fight the Czar, and there was a parade and train station sendoff for the boys.

As the war was underway, a movement began to demote Japanese immigrants to the same dismal legal status as the Chinese. In 1905, San Francisco labor unions created the Japanese and Korean Exclusion League, seeking to expand the ban on Chinese “coolie” labor to include other Asian workers. (If you’re wondering where our elected officials stood on these race-tinged issues, Santa Rosa’s own Rep. McKinlay was among the most anti-immigrant hardliners in Congress, leading California House Republicans who helped defeat Teddy Roosevelt’s attempt to make exceptions in the Chinese Exclusion policy for “officials, teachers, students, merchants, or travelers for curiosity or pleasure.”)

Japan’s victory over Russia in the autumn of 1905 only fed American anxieties. Now it wasn’t only hordes of farm laborers to fear, but the possibility that Japan had a robust industrial base that could undercut U.S. exports to Asia, along with a navy capable of challenging the United States militarily.

(RIGHT: “If Japan Should Attack Us” Sunday feature in the San Francisco Call, Sept. 23, 1906)

Fearmongering became a common theme in the early 1906 newspapers. When the British launched a Dreadnought warship, the Feb. 12 NY Tribune used the news in an op/ed to point out that Japan was building two warships of this type, but U.S. ships were years away. An editorial in the Feb. 11 LA Herald warned, “…little Japan, grown ‘cockey’ by its recent victories, is nudging the sleeping giant and whispering to it to ‘go in and win.’ But recently the Japanese government had the nerve to twist the lion’s tail by criticizing the army formations of Great Britain. And reports come that Japan is working day and night on its naval armament…” An adjacent article by “Captain A. W. Best” warns that the “real aim and aspiration of the yellow races…[is] to win first the Pacific slope of North and South America (and Northern Australia) and having established themselves, like weeds there and choked out the white race in those areas to gradually extend the process to the rest of the world…” There was also a Panama Canal angle: Canal-bashers in Congress implied that if it was completed, Japanese warships could use it to attack the U.S. East Coast.

In short order, the situation became a replay of the anti-Chinese hysteria of the 1880s. Champion of the Japanese and Korean Exclusion League was a San Jose Congressman who delivered a Japanese exclusion speech. The San Francisco school board issued an order to segregate “pupils of the Mongolian race” from public schools, charging that classrooms were overcrowded with Asians (in reality, the order only applied to 93 Japanese kids, since Chinese schoolchildren were already forced to go to the “Oriental School”). Following the 1906 Earthquake, Japanese scientists visiting San Francisco were pelted with rocks, perhaps because one of the Exclusion League’s statements claimed the Japanese liked earthquakes: “Do not for a moment think that the Japanese will keep away on account of the earthquakes. They are raised on earthquakes in Japan, and the earthquake will only make the Nepponese [sic] coolies feel more at home in California. “

The view from Sonoma County can be found by sampling the local papers from January, 1907. Teddy Roosevelt had just ordered the San Francisco Board of Education to keep Japanese students in the public schools, and on the seventh the Santa Rosa Republican printed wire stories about the Governor and an Oregon Senator denouncing the order. The next day, the Republican reprinted an Oakland Enquirer editorial on the “commercial menace of Japan,” warning that the Japanese could horn in on lucrative flour exports if they started grinding wheat grown in Asia. On Jan. 24, the Press Democrat published the editorial cartoon seen at right, powerful in its imagery if rather vague in message (click to enlarge).

Most significant is that both Santa Rosa papers never, as far as I can find, reprinted items from the Bay Area press that suggested that the Japanese were “coolies” or part of a Fifth Column, called for them to be deported or their children removed from school, or otherwise suggested that they were undeserving, lesser people. Yes, individuals were sometimes disrespectfully (in modern eyes) referred to as “Japs” or even “little brown men” in local articles, but if those editors truly intended to publish racial putdowns, they had a lexicon of hateful invective available to them from the San Francisco papers.

Santa Rosa’s big event for that month was a speech by Democratic Party superstar William Jennings Bryan, and more than 3,000 packed into the skating rink on a Saturday afternoon to hear him pontificate about America’s greatness and its destiny to lead the world. In the portion of his speech summarized in a Press Democrat article below, Bryan also pitched the conflicts between Asia and the United States as sort of a crusade for the “active, positive faith of Christianity.” Oh, dear.

The situation only spiraled down. Japanese who had become naturalized citizens but lost their papers in the San Francisco earthquake were denied their former citizenship. 1907 also witnessed two incidents in San Francisco involving White drunks that turned into anti-Japanese riots, and similar riots followed in Berkeley (!) in 1909. The Exclusion League tripled in membership groups, and in 1910 there were an astonishing 27 anti-Japanese laws proposed in the California legislature. William Jennings Bryan, always helpful, told President Woodrow Wilson in 1913 that the problem could be solved if half the Japanese in California were relocated to other states.

Most of those woes didn’t impact Japanese immigrants in Sonoma County, but the California Alien Land Law of 1913 did. They could no longer buy property, or even legally rent land for more than three years, and a 1920 ballot initiative further blocked their ability to have the actual land title held in the name of a trust, business, or their citizen children. The courts later chipped away at the restrictions somewhat, but the entire law was not overturned in California until 1952.

While trade unions and the California Grange sparked the anti-Japanese movement, it was the newspapers of the day that are most to blame for fanning the flames white hot. The pro-union San Francisco Chronicle kept the issue on the front page for much of 1905-1906, even reviving it when interest waned after the quake. It became fodder for a newspaper war with the Hearst-owned San Francisco Examiner’s long-running “Yellow Peril” series, which most famously offered a 1907 Sunday feature titled, “Japan May Seize the Pacific Coast.” The Hearst syndicate continued playing this alarmist theme for years and hit rock-bottom – which for them, was really saying something – when in 1915 they ran an article supposedly revealing secret plans for a Japanese invasion of California via Mexico. The photos were twenty years old, and the basis of the story was badly-translated fiction from a Japanese magazine.

WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN WELCOMED IN SANTA ROSA
Masterly Address Is Heard by Immense Audience
Splendid Reception Tendered the Distinguished Statesman in the City of Roses Saturday

It was an immense audience that gathered in the pavilion on A street to hear the Hon. William Jennings Bryan, the distinguished Nebraska statesman, on Saturday afternoon. They came from far and near to see and hear one of the country’s foremost men. They saw and heard and went away satisfied, carrying with them the inspiration of a high resolve, and uplifted and elevated by the stirring sentiments expressed by the celebrated speaker.

[..]

Mr. Bryan dwelt at considerable length on modern China and her issue from the dormant condition of two thousand years. The negative creed of Confucius is giving place to the active, positive faith of Christianity, he said. Progressive viceroys of different provinces are organizing schools not for the teachers of the musty philosophy of the past, but the newer ideas of a nearer age placed before the earnest student. “I see the day,” said the speaker, “when Christianity will illuminate the lang [sic], dark places of the Orient.”

Referring to Japan the speaker said she was facing one of the most important crises in her history. She had copied western ways and now it remained to see whether she would borrow western religion, or endeavor to build up the nation without religion, and with agnosticism and infidelity.

Very interesting Mr. Bryan alluded to the religions of other races and the idolatry practiced in certain lands. He then described the visits he and Mrs. Bryan paid to some of the crowned heads of the old world, and of the ceremony attendant thereon. He was pleased beyond measure, he said, to hear President Roosevelt mentioned all over the world as a lover of peace, growing out of his mission in bringing about a cessation of hostilities between Russia and Japan…

– Press Democrat, January 27, 1907

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SANTA ROSA’S WATER SYSTEM WARS

Got a time machine? Go back to Santa Rosa in the months before the 1906 earthquake and tell the City Council to put a moratorium on new brick building construction. And while you’re there, let them know it would be a swell idea to have a reliable water system should something really bad happen — such as half the downtown burning to the ground after a major earthquake.

Fire destroyed much of downtown Santa Rosa after the 1906 quake, even though the town had both private and public water systems with separate pipes running down all the main streets. But the city lines already leaked badly, and presumably some of these mains burst in the jolt or were blown apart as the adjacent gas lines exploded; for whatever reason, pressure in hydrants was too low and the desperate firemen resorted to tapping what water they could from Santa Rosa Creek.

The water pipes for the private system belonged to the old Santa Rosa Water Works, better known as the McDonald Water Company, which had been operating since the mid-1870s. The old system had few enthusiasts; besides its wimpy water pressure that made fire hydrants ineffective, an 1891 report confirmed suspicions that its reservoir, Lake Ralphine, was contaminated with hog and human waste. The municipal system came along in 1896 and was also plagued with problems from the start. For a town built smack in the middle of a 250 square mile watershed, Santa Rosa has had remarkable troubles delivering a reliable flow of clean water to town faucets.

We wade into the water wars via the entertaining account of a 1906 City Council meeting transcribed below. Note that no actual point is debated; the meeting is a free-for-all public hand-wringing. The lowlight was the appearance of prominent attorney Thomas J. Geary, here rather obviously acting as a lobbyist for McDonald, urging the city to stop drilling new wells and instead buy water from McDonald’s company. Along the way, Geary also told the Council that the rich were entitled to more water than Average Joe because they paid more taxes.

The most interesting comment at the Council meeting came from “pump man” Mr. Fish (!) who “urged a plan which he had suggested for this city many years ago–that instead of pumping water into the reservoir outside the city, it be sent into a mammoth tank in the heart of the city eighty feet high.” Had Santa Rosa such a water tower in place before the earthquake, the downtown might have been spared the fire damage. The pumping station, which pushed the well water up to the city’s hilltop reservoir above Rincon Valley, never failed during the quake, and water levels in the four city wells even began going up immediately after the tremors and kept rising for weeks.

What irony; the only time city wells were overflowing in that era was when it was unavailable for delivery. Instead of McDonald’s contamination problems, simple lack of water was the bane of the municipal system. As soon it began operating in 1896, it was clear that the pumps weren’t producing as much water as needed, and yet another well was ordered drilled. The city also enacted conservation measures that became increasingly draconian over the next several years. A city inspector was hired to examine toilets, faucets, and other fixtures for leaks, and had powers to issue a $2.50 fine for each violation; police were ordered to spy for water running overnight, and wake up offenders to shut off the spigot; the city was split into east/west irrigation districts, with one side of town allowed to water lawns from 6 to 8 in the morning and the other from 6 to 8 in the evening, the starting and ending times strictly announced by the blowing of the town’s steam whistle. And when the fire alarms went off, all water use had to be stopped immediately.

Even with the addition of a 1903 well that nearly doubled capacity, the town water system was barely able to keep up with demand, and a report the next year explained why: Almost a quarter of the water that left the reservoir was lost somewhere in the city’s plumbing — 270,000 gallons just dribbled away every day.

The city finally began installing meters in 1905, with the promise that a family of five or less still could have 350 gallons of free water a day. But old habits die hard, and the town kept the Water Police around to assess extra charges for nearly everything; watering you lawn cost 1/2 cent per square yard per year, irrigating strawberries and vegetables, 3¢ per square yard. And it’ll be 25¢ per month for the pleasure of that bathtub in your house, plus another two bits for the potty, please.


Additional sources: Chapter 10 in the 19th century history by LeBaron, et. al, Ample and Pure Water for Santa Rosa, 1867-1926 by John Cummings,
The California earthquake of April 18, 1906
by Andrew C. Lawson
First Shipment of Water Meters are Now Due Here

City Clerk Clawson has received the bill for fifty of the water meters which were recently ordered by the City Council. The order was for one thousand meters and these will be installed in the near future. Now that the first shipment is about to arrive, it is reasonable to believe that the remainder will follow rapidly. When the meters have been placed the officials in charge of the pumping station feel confident that they will be able to supply all the water needed by the citizens of the City of Roses, because the meters will stop the alleged leakages in the system.

– Santa Rosa Republican, September 23, 1905

A LITTLE OVER A MILLION GALLONS OF WATER DAILY
Result of Pumping Test in Known
Visit Paid to the Pumping Station to Receive Engineer Yandle’s Report

Mayor J. P. Overton and Councilmen W. D. Reynolds, Fred King and G. S. Brown visited the pumping station…Engineer Yandle informed the Mayor and Councilmen on Thursday that the test showed that 1,087,000 gallons of water was pumped each day…

– Press Democrat, December 28, 1905

COUNCIL LISTEN TO FERVID ORATORY ON WATER QUESTION
From Mass of Eigures [sic] and Suggestions Given at Meeting Council Will Evolve Solution of Problem

After listening to much fervid oratory from citizens of Santa Rosa, and pondering over the momentous question of permitting the installation of electric pumping machinery and electric generating machinery at the local pumping station, the Council adjourned without being any nearer a solution of the problem than when the session began…

…[The City Council] had to wait until the citizens had finished offering suggestions, and then returned to their homes confused in mind as to the best course to pursue, and their rest was troubled with nightmares of machinery, long volumes of figures and well-rounded sentences of oratory.

There was not the interest taken in the matter by the citizens that its importance demanded. Hardly a dozen men had congregated to assist the Council in unravelling one of the knottiest problems that has confronted the city government. There is apparently a disposition to let the council act on the matter as it seems best to them, and then those who are not satisfied with the action taken will be able to spend their time on the street corners and “kick” because the action taken did not suit them.

[Danville Decker, “the suave local manager of the Santa Rosa Lighting Company,” told the Council that his company drilled two unproductive wells about 80 feet deep. John L. Jordan, “who takes a lively interest in the city’s water system,” told the Council that he could produce more water than the city needed if they would give him $600 to bore three 50-foot wells. Citizen John H. Fowler admitted no special knowledge on the matter, but urged the city to embrace progress and switch over to electric pumps, giving a little presentation on the history of machines.]

Attorney Thomas J. Geary made an excellent speech on “water” which provoked much merriment during its delivery. He declared he did know a great deal about water, and personally did not care a great deal for it. It looked to the speaker like the city had had ten years of municipal ownership which had proved a failure. Attorney Geary said that municipal ownership seemed to be on trial throughout the country, and while theoretically it should be an advantage, because it eliminated the profit of private corporations, and should be able to furnish commodities such as water at less than private corporations, it did not result favorably in practice. Whether the city could not conduct the water works as economically as private corporations, or what was the matter, he did not pretend to say. He declared that Santa Rosa’s experience of ten years was one of the worst cases of failure known, and said the municipality was paying more for the water it obtained than any other municipality. Property owners, he declared, had been deluded by the notion of obtaining “free water, which is a very catchy phrase, and said it was folly to delude the people into believing they were getting something for nothing, when they were not doing so.

The attorney declared that it had cost this city, with the interest being paid on its bonded indebtedness, $21,000 to pump and deliver the small amount of water given last year, about 800,000 gallons per day. In comparison with the water rates of San Francisco Mr. Geary said the same amount of water pumped here in 1905 at a cost of $21,000, could have been secured at a cost of $2009 in San Francisco, according to the report of that city for 1901. He stated that an individual could purchase one million gallons of water a day in San Francisco at a meter rate of $167 per month, while the City of Santa Rosa was pumping only about 800,000 gallons, and paying an expense bill of $909, many times greater in San Francisco.

Getting down to what he thought should be done with the pumping station, Attorney Geary said the city should rapidly install the meters purchased, allow a minimum quantity of water to each family at so many gallons per capita, and then give water to the citizens in accordance with the amount of taxes paid. He argued that the man who paid taxes on a ten thousand dollar home was entitled to more water than one paying one thousand dollars. He suggested conserving the water, and declared that with proper restrictions there was an abundance of water being pumped at present to supply Santa Rosa for the next three years at least. It looked to the speaker like the sensible thing to do with the present works was not to waste any more money on attempting to develop wells, and he declared the present water system was a bad legacy handed down to the present Council by previous boards, who while having done their best to make the works a success, had only resulted in failure. In accepting the proposal of the men to install the pumping machinery, Mr. Geary declared the city would cut down the expense of delivering water to this city, could save five thousand dollars a year, and within the next three years when it became necessary to have a greater supply of water the City Council could look around and obtain other supplies. He advocated the adoption of any plan which would cut down the expense of delivering the water into the city’s mains, and said that under no circumstances should it cost the city $11,000 per year to pump 800,000 gallons daily.

Another remedy he offered was that the Council could fix a rate on the McDonald system for the delivery of one million gallons per day to the city, and as long as this rate was a reasonable one, the city could compel the McDonald system to sell and deliver it. This figure, he declared, would be much more inexpensive than the present rate being paid for pumping the water by the city’s system. “Out of the economy you effect,” he declared, “you can buy water from the McDonald system to supply the city. Another matter that you can do, is to take the water that flows away from the McDonald system back into Santa Rosa Creek, and by using that water you might find you had an abundant supply for years to come.”

John Robinson of the Eagle Hotel made a short address, full of stirring words. He turned his batteries on Geary, and said he failed to comprehend the object of the legal gentleman who had addressed the Council. He declared Geary was guilty of “jumbling with figures and his statements were calculated to be misleading.” In comparing the cost of water of this city with San Francisco, he asked why Geary had not made a comparison with the deserts of Nevada. He believed Geary’s statement was misleading throughout, and said that experts were of the opinion that there was an abundance of water at the city’s pumping station, and said that on any question Geary handled, he “fixed it up with a polish that sways the minds of men.” Mr. Robinson declared the city had the well on its hands, and should go ahead and develop more water, in order that the deplorable condition of scarcity of that commodity experienced in past summer seasons should not be repeated during the coming summer. He felt that the council should persevere and satisfy themselves absolutely that there was not enough water at their pumping station for the city before abandoning it.

Attorney Geary replied to Mr. Robinson, and showed where these gentlemen were in harmony in all their statements to the Council. He showed that he had not spoken of abandoning the wells, but had urged conservation of water and maintaining the present system, but wanted the expense reduced materially.

Mr. Fish, a pump man, who was present, and spoke briefly to the Council, later answering many questions put to him by various people. He declared there were many ways of handling water cheaper than the city was doing at present. He urged a plan which he had suggested for this city many years ago–that instead of pumping water into the reservoir outside the city, it be sent into a mammoth tank in the heart of the city eighty feet high. This, in his opinion, would give a far better service than could be obtained with the reservoir…

…Chief Engineer Yandle spoke on the subject, saying the figures given by Geary included the salaries of Chief of the Fire Department L. Adams, and other expenses. He had previously advised the Council, and reiterated the statement, that with first class pumps the cost bill could be materially reduced. The engineer stated that the recent test of water being pumped at the station showed a million gallons strong being pumped from the wells.

Manager Danville Decker declared that the first impressions were the most lasting, and he had heard the Councilmen and other speakers talk of two million gallons of water so much he believed they had that figure indelibly impressed on their minds. No one, he declared, has ever said there was more than one million gallons of water at the station. At times when the city had bored a well and struck a magnificent flow of water the Councilmen had become enthused, and he admitted he had also become enthused over the splendid prospects of obtaining an unlimited supply of water. When this flow from the wells ceased, all were mutually depressed. He advised using the meters, and going to look for water elsewhere if it could not be found at the pumping station. The speaker believed there was no reason for expending money where there was a possibility no water could be developed, and said the city was not encouraged to do anything at the pumping station. Manager Decker has had much experience with meters in his business, and declared the meters were the best safeguard of the city’s interests, and said the questions was perfectly clear that no more money should be spent at the pumping station for developing water. The water should be pumped cheaply, or something was wrong, he declared, and reiterated the statement made to the Council some years ago, that his company was ready at any time to supply current for pumping water from the city’s wells.

Mayor Overton said the city was looking ahead in making its estimates for pumping two million gallons of water, and that it would be folly for a growing city like Santa Rosa to consider installing machinery at this time which would simply handle the supply at present developed. His honor declared he believed the city’s water system needed overhauling badly, and if the city was going to continue to do the pumping, they should have some one do considerable overhauling of the plant. He said if it was the sense of the Council to develop more water at the pumping station that it should be acted on at once. The Mayor wishes to do something at once to relieve the anticipated condition of next summer.

“We have a million gallons of water now, and cannot afford to abandon the plant. We should take action at once to decrease the cost of pumping, either by ourselves or by contract with some one else. We should do at once what is for the best interests of the city.”

Chief Engineer Yandle declared the million gallons of water at the pumping station would supply seventy gallons per capita to all the residents of Santa Rosa, which would make a total of 700,000 gallons, and allowing 150,000 gallons for street sprinklers, would leave a comfortable balance for the city…

– Santa Rosa Republican, January 10, 1906
CITY ORDINANCE FOR WATER RATE
First Step Toward Setting of Cost of City Water Used in Excess

In accordance with the provisions of the new city charter which will go into effect in April, an ordinance has been introduced fixing the amount of water that shall be allowed to each family for domestic purposes free of charge and the rates that shall be charged upon the meter readings for all amounts exceeding the allowance.

The new ordinance provided for 350 gallons of water for each family where there are five or less residing, for every twenty-four hours, and for each additional person residing in the house, 25 gallons per day. The ordinance provides that the term “domestic use,” as employed in the ordinance shall not be construed to mean “irrigation” or for the use of business houses or business purposes.

For all water that is to be used above the specified 350 gallons a day, the Council will determine the rate at their next meeting.

Where there is no meter the rates suggested are the same as have been charged heretofore by the Santa Rosa Water Company. These rates include $1 a month for a family of five or less and 10 cents for each additional person; 25 cents for each bath tub and closet; for irrigating flower gardens and lawns, per square yard per year, ¼ cent or ½ cent for six consecutive months; for irrigating strawberries and vegetables, per square yard, 3 cents; for one horse and vehicle, 20 cents; each additional horse or cow, 10 cents. For public uses the prices suggested are $3.50 to $15 for hotels, per month; saloons, $2; stores, 75¢; butcher shops, $1; offices, 50¢; dentists, $1; photographers, $2; restaurants, $2.50; bakeries $2; confectioneries. $1.50; steam laundries, $10; for motors, $3 to $25; building purposes, bricks per thousand, 15¢; plastering per square yard, 60¢; cement, 10¢ per barrel; lawns, gardens, flowers and not used for other purposes by six months, per month, 50¢.

– Santa Rosa Republican, February 7, 1906
HOW THE WATER IS BEING USED
Report to City Council Made by Street Commissioner Decker at Tuesday Night’s Meeting

…Mr. Decker reported that 290 water consumers used less than 250 gallons per day for the month of July; 230 used less than 500 gallons per day; 75 used less than 1,000 gallons per day; and 33 used over 1,000 gallons gallons per day. The average, he said, for those using less than 500 gallons per day being 260 gallons.

– Press Democrat, September 13, 1906

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