Elections in Santa Rosa were wild a century ago: Patriotic rallies and street parties where bonfires and explosions brought out the inner caveman in our ancestors – or the male ones, anyway. It was like the local Rotary Club production of “Lord of the Flies.”

On Election Eve both political parties usually held a big rally. Sometimes there was a marching band tootling a campaign song; before it collapsed in the 1906 earthquake, one of the parties would book the cavernous Atheneum Theater for rousing speeches. But always, in Santa Rosa and every little town in Sonoma county, there were bonfires and anvils that night.

In Santa Rosa the bonfire was usually in the vacant lot on the corner of Fifth and A streets, but this was no mere marshmallow-roasting campfire – it was a mountain of kerosene-soaked logs that probably burned hot and bright enough to be spotted from space by our alien overlords.

From the 1904 Press Democrat: “The bells rang, the band played as torches blazed, redflre was burned [think of road flares], the logs crackled merrily, anvils boomed, colored balls of fire from [illegible] of Roman candles soared in the air, and cheers went up from a thousand throats.” Wowie!

Aside from the risk of burning down the town, the most dangerous part of the festivities was “firing the anvils,” which involved packing the indentation on an anvil surface with gunpowder and placing another anvil upside down on top. When the gunpowder was ignited, the top anvil flew into the air – hopefully straight up, and not arcing into the crowd – making a deafening boom remarkably like a cannon. Watch a video here where a guy shoots one 200 feet in the air.

Election day was always the same. The PD would mention something about carriages, then later, autos, dashing around the streets all day taking voters to the polls (there was no early or absentee voting). As darkness fell and the returns began to come in via telegraph, people would crowd the street outside the Press Democrat’s office, where the latest results were projected on a screen using a stereopticon (a lantern slide projector). The night usually ended with a torchlight procession to the new mayor’s house to hear his acceptance speech and hopefully be served drinks and some grub.

When the weather was lousy – as it was in 1904 and 1912 – the Press Democrat and the Republican rented a theater where the stereopticon election results were shown between short silent films. But a movie theater or nickelodeon could only hold so many, and there was also the usual problem of the newspapers fending off hundreds of calls that night from people simply asking, “How’s the election going?” There had to be a better way to broadcast the results – and remember, this was the age before Twitter, before TV and even before radio. So in 1912 the Santa Rosa papers arranged to use the PG&E steam whistle to blast out a coded message once the president-elect was chosen: Long toots for Woodrow Wilson, short toots for Teddy Roosevelt, and a long blast, followed by two short ones if  President Taft was reelected.

(Political sidebar: In 1912 it was mainly a three-way race between democrat Wilson and two republicans. The national GOP backed Taft, but the California republicans got Roosevelt on the ballot as their party’s candidate, in part because Teddy had the state’s popular governor as his VP running mate. In Sonoma county Wilson won over Roosevelt by about five points with President Taft receiving only 28 write-in votes, or about 0.2 percent of the ballots cast.)

Expecting the public to listen for a signal wasn’t such a crazy idea. Just the year before, when hometown aviator Fred Wiseman was supposed to fly overhead the Press Democrat told readers to run outdoors and look up as soon as they heard “a succession of bomb explosions” along with all factories and the firehouse blowing their screaming whistles.

And god knows everyone in Santa Rosa was used to hearing toots, blasts and clangs. The Grace Brothers Brewery whistle announced the lunch hour and quitting time, and in times of drought signaled when residents in a particular part of town could water their lawns and gardens. The fire department had its own whistle which used a code to alert our volunteer firemen to drop whatever they were doing, jump on their bicycles and pedal towards a specific neighborhood. (As every kid in town also knew this code, the firemen sometimes arrived at the scene to find the street blocked by a mob of excitable children.) There was another steam whistle over at the power company which apparently was little used by 1912, as the PD had to explain the presidential election signal would sound different than blasts from the coded fire alarm. In 1913 the National Guard announced they would use that PG&E whistle to order members of Company E to report immediately to the armory when they heard a series of twenty-five blasts. Presumably if a guardsman only counted 23 or 24 the county was not about to be invaded by Pancho Villa or Kaiser Wilhelm and everything was okay.

No discussion of local elections in that era would be complete without mention of the wildest election night of all, when in 1908 legendary barkeep Jake Luppold built a pyre in front of his saloon at the corner of Second and Main streets and hoisted a clunker automobile to the top of the woodpile. Once he learned Taft had won the White House he shouted, “Let her burn!” as an enormous crowd roared in approval of the conflagration (read “BONFIRE OF THE HOODOOS“). The boys in “Lord of the Flies” would have recognized that scene and loved it.


(The year 1912 was also the first in modern times when a political party solicited donations directly from the public. This ad from the Democratic National Committee appeared in the Oct. 25, 1912 Press Democrat)
Signal Blasts Will Announce National Election Results
Press Democrat Office Will as Usual Be Headquarters for Election Returns This Evening–See the Figures Thrown on Screen

As usual, the Press Democrat office will be headquarters for election returns this evening. The Associated Press figures covering Sonoma county will be tabulated and sent out from this office, and complete returns wil be received from all over the United States, from every city and county in California, and from every precinct in Sonoma county.

As fast as received, these figures will be displayed by means of a huge stereopticon. Returns will also be shown at the Rose theatre in connection with the regular bill. Additional main line telephones have been installed especially to accommodate out-of-town calls, and every effort will be made to let the result be known as soon as possible.

The Press Democrat has also arranged with the Pacific Gas & Electric Company for a set of signals to announce the outcome of the presidential election to those who do not care to come down town. As soon as the result is known, the big steam at the gas works will announce the fact, In accordance with the following schedule: Wilson, long blasts; Roosevelt, short blasts; Taft, long blast, followed by two short ones. These signals need not be confused with those used to give the alarm of fire, because the whistle used is not the same, and the sound is considerably different. All are invited to come out this evening and see The Press Democrat’s election returns.

– Press Democrat, November 5, 1912


Wilson’s Great Victory Made Known in Santa Rosa Before 7:30 by Means of Steam Siren

The news of yesterday’s great Democratic landslide was known here last night before half-past seven o’clock, when in accordance with the plans announced in these columns yesterday morning the great steam siren at the gas works shrieked out the tidings–a message that rose above the fury of the storm–“Loud long blasts. Woodrow Wilson.”

On account of the heavy storm, the arrangements as first announced for handling the returns here were changed somewhat. It became impracticable to show the returns on the street by means of a stereopticon, and so The Press Democrat and the Evening Republican joined forces, hired the Columbia Theatre, and showed the returns there.

Manager Crone provided some good moving pictures, Mrs. J. P. Berry furnished piano music, and, secure from the fury of the storm, several hundred people spent the evening there in comfort, reading the election news as it was thrown on the great moving-picture screen stretched across the front of the stage.

Full Associated and United Press returns were shown, in addition to detailed returns from the various precincts in Sonoma county. Governor Wilson’s election having been announced early in the evening, the audience concerned itself principally with details, and with watching the outcome of the congressional, legislative and supervisorial contests.

It was after midnight when the words “Good Night” were flashed on the screen. Meanwhile, a crowd had remained at the Press Democrat office ail evening, although it was announced that no returns would be shown here. Until after 3:30 this morning, when the final returns for the night were received and tabulated, many people remained, eager for more news and unwilling to leave while there was a prospect of hearing further details.

Owing to the heavy rain, the gathering of the returns was attended with unusual difficulty. The county was also unusually slow in many precincts, and in some cases it was extremely difficult to get messages through on account of the condition of the wires. But returns were received from practically ail precincts, and the results announced will not be changed by subsequent developments.

– Press Democrat, November 6, 1912
Rain on Election Day Caused Worry and Brought Out Many Vehicles, But Vote Was a Large One

It was a wet election day. A wetter day could not have been. Jupiter Pluvius was most generous, much to the discomfort of the voters, and certainly disquieting to the candidates and managers of the campaigns. It was a rush all day with automobiles and other vehicles to get voters to the polls. In view of these conditions the vote cast was unusually large. The ladies were most enthusiastic, and many of them would not accept proffered rides to the polls, preferring to walk. They also turned out strong in the country precincts.

– Press Democrat, November 6, 1912

The members of Company E, Fifth Infantry, N. G. C., are requested to take notice that in case of a rapid assembly for any purpose, an alarm will be sounded by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s works, First street. The alarm is as follows: Five short blasts of the whistle, to be repeated five times at intervals of ten seconds, making twenty five blasts of the whistle. This alarm will be sounded five times, and repeated if necessary. On hearing this alarm, the members are instructed to repair to the armory immediately and report to their commanding officer.

It is requested that Grace Brothers and other manufacturing concerns in Santa Rosa, sound this alarm when notified to do so by the proper authority.

– Santa Rosa Republican, November 7, 1913
 Until After Midnight a Packed House Was Well Entertained and Great Interest Was Taken

The Press Democrat furnished an excellent election bulletin service, and the Novelty theatre in which the returns were thrown on the canvass by a splendid stereopticon. as well as the moving pictures which interspersed the returns, kept the house packed with people until midnight.

The public greatly appreciated the returns and the building rang with applause at first one and then the other favorite’s name and vote was shown on the canvass. Expert Toby Yost managed the machine.

The election passed off quietly in this city although much activity was shown by the political parties in the contest. Carriages were busy dashing here and there all day and the horses and vehicles were adorned with hangings bearing the names of the respective candidates. The polls opened at six o’clock in the morning and closed at five o’clock in the afternoon.

Reports from all over the county show that the election passed off quietly, but the same activity and earnestness was displayed by the respective parties in behalf of their candidates. In addition to the messenger service between the polling places in the business portion of the city an automobile was used to get the returns from the polling places in the other precincts of the city and in those immediately around. The service was quick and those assisting did their work well.

– Press Democrat, November 9, 1904

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In Sonoma county, the most important outcome of election day 1912 wasn’t who would become president; it was whether voters would kill the roadhouses.

Before launching into this topic, I need to offer a mea culpa; a few articles here regarding the year 1912 are being updated. Accuracy is important (or should be) to anyone who cares about history, and events that happened around New Year 1913 shine a different light on some earlier stories. My small consolation is those late developments even caught local newspapers by surprise, as you’ll read below.

In June 1912, voters in the unincorporated parts of the second district elected to go “dry” (the second district was then a north-south strip west of the Laguna, from the Russian River to Petaluma). Saloons were still allowed in the towns of Sebastopol and Petaluma but country roadhouses were forced to close, or at least stop serving alcohol. While the temperance movement was locally gathering steam in 1912 and 1913, both Santa Rosa newspapers expected the law to pass because roadhouses were harming property values and reducing productivity of farmworkers.

There were only about a dozen places in rural West County impacted by the closures, but the roadhouse scene was expanding closer to the county’s more urban areas. It’s not hard to understand why; more people had cars to escape the city, roads were being improved for autos, and towns (particularly Petaluma) were discouraging – and even banning – dancing to popular music. At the country roadhouse, anything goes.

Churches loudly condemned the roadhouses but community leaders only wrung hands. The Press Democrat lamented, “The number of saloons and road-houses in the Sonoma valley is out of all reason. No self-respecting community could be expected to continue forever to put up with conditions such as exist there.” As a speaker in a series of talks called “What’s the Matter with Santa Rosa?,” attorney Thomas J. Butts complained the town was not growing as fast as it could “because of our surrounding roadhouses.”

But as 1912 rolled on, nearly every week brought stories in the Bay Area papers about serious accidents, even deaths, because of roadhouse drunks “joy riding.” Women were found to be drinking in public (horrors!) and some were prostitutes who were arrested. And on July 1, the governor of Oregon declared martial law as a platoon of cops laid siege to a pair of particularly notorious roadhouses outside Portland. Increasingly counties around the state were banning roadhouses.

Thus it was no great surprise to read the announcement of an “Anti-Roadhouse League” being formed here to get an item on the November ballot calling for prohibition throughout all parts of the unincorporated county. “The league is formed solely for the purpose of eliminating the road houses from the county,” read the statement in the Santa Rosa Republican, “and is not dominated by any religious sect or temperance organization, and does not propose to interfere with licenses now held by hotels or summer resorts now in business or which may hereafter desire a retail license.” This was the text of the proposed ordinance:

No person, corporation, firm or association shall sell, or engage in the business of selling, offering for sale or giving away distilled, fermented, malt, vinous or other spiritous or intoxicating liquors or wines or beers in any portion of Sonoma county lying without the corporate limits of any city or town of said Sonoma county, except such person, corporation, firm or association engaged in the business of conducting a bona fide hotel, having at least thirty-five separate sleeping apartments properly furnished for the accommodation of guests, and having dining room at which meals are served at regular hours to boarders and the traveling public.

That was at the end of August. Over the next two months before the vote, I can’t find a single op/ed in either Santa Rosa paper concerning the proposal, pro or con. Make of that what you will; my interpretation is that they didn’t think it had a chance in hell of passage. Unlike the earlier second district vote where ballots were cast only by those who lived within the affected rural areas, this was to be decided at a high-profile, November election where every voter in the county could have a say. And the city folk liked saloons (or at least the menfolk, who were allowed to drink inside, did).

Surprise! The ordinance passed easily – thirteen points, 56 to 43. All of the towns voted for it by a comfortable margin including Santa Rosa.

But actually that was only the first surprise; no one knew how to implement the new law, or whether it was really legal. A few days later, the Press Democrat offered an article headlined, “ANTI-ROAD HOUSE ELECTION NOW HELD TO BE INVALID.” The Presiding Justice of the Appeals Court said it violated the “local option” law, where only a community could choose  to make itself “wet” or “dry,” as happened in the earlier second district vote. Towns had no say on the matter; Petaluma voters, for example, couldn’t set the rules for distant Geyserville.

“The anti-roadhouse ordinance, carried at the election held in Sonoma county a week ago last Tuesday, is null and void,” the PD declared, “there is no doubt whatever but that the election in this county on the matter is invalid.” There were still no op/eds on the matter in either Santa Rosa paper, which is why I was lulled into presuming this really was not a Big Deal.

District Attorney Clarence Lea filed two complaints to test the ordinance in Superior Court. One was against Everett N. Ellsworth, who had a commonplace roadhouse just two blocks north of Santa Rosa city limits at the corner of Mendocino and Carr avenues, right across from today’s SRJC. (Obl. Comstock House connection: A few years later, John A. Comstock, the divorced husband of Nellie and father of Hilliard Comstock et. al. would live in this house as a border with the Fisk family.)

The other suit was against John D’Arcy Connolly, an Irishman who had been on the Board of Supervisors in the 1880s and served as U.S. Consul in Auckland for eight years in the 1890s. Connolly owned the Hotel Altamont in Occidental, which was the nexus of West County social life.

(RIGHT: Hotel Altamont in Occidental, c. 1914. J. D. Connolly is to the right of man in white shirt and vest. Photo courtesy Sonoma County Library)

The Hotel Altamont was a challenge to a very particular part of the ordinance, requiring a place to be a “bona fide hotel, having at least thirty-five separate sleeping apartments properly furnished for the accommodation of guests, and having dining room at which meals are served at regular hours.” The Altamont qualified in every way – except it did not quite have the 35 guest rooms required. One has to believe the Anti-Roadhouse League chose that very precise, arbitrary number because they knew no place had that many beds.

A week before Christmas, the Connolly case was presented to Superior Court Judge Denny in a courtroom packed with an audience representing both sides. Denny ruled in favor of the ordinance immediately after arguments in order to expedite it proceeding to the California Supreme Court.

Confusion reigned. Most (all?) liquor licenses were to expire in just a few days, on January 1. The Board of Supervisors had stated no licenses would be issued “until the courts have passed upon the validity” of the ordinance. Since the matter was still headed to the State Supreme Court, was the law in effect or not?

District Attorney Clarence F. Lea declared on Dec. 28 that the ordinance would be followed. No new liquor licenses for roadhouses. No alcohol to be served after midnight on New Year’s Eve anywhere outside of a handful of towns in the central part of the county. D.A. Lea would have been reckless if he didn’t request a police guard that night.

All of this is prelude to the fallout in the following year, which will unfold in the following item. It’s the wildest political story I’ve encountered for Sonoma county – emotions ran high on both sides. I’ll close with this teaser: Six days into the new year, the Board met to consider the “injury being done to the legitimate business in the county.” This was followed by a motion granting liquor licenses to fourteen country saloons who had filed affidavits with the county clerk swearing their hotels indeed have the required 35 rooms. One of the licenses went to J. D. Connolly – apparently he somehow discovered over the Christmas holidays the Altamont had enough rooms after all, and the Supervisors were more than happy to take his word for it.


(Sources will be transcribed at the end of the following article)

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It was like clockwork: In June the Barlow boys arrived, then a few weeks later came reports of runaways. But after the 1911 season, it appeared the escape attempts stopped. What happened? Boys were still trying to get away, all right – but the Santa Rosa newspapers just stopped reporting about it.

(For those just tuning in: In the early Twentieth Century, California courts usually sentenced boys who committed minor crimes or were deemed incorrigible to spend the rest of their youth at institutions not unlike a modern prison halfway house. One of these places, the Boys’ and Girls’ Aid Society of San Francisco, struck a deal with the Barlow family of Sebastopol; during summers the boys would camp on the ranch and pick berries and fruit for low pay. Soon other farmers were asking for orphans and it wasn’t long before the Aid Society and similar institutions were sending up hundreds of boys – some as young as seven – to work in West County fields and canneries every year. For more background, see “SEBASTOPOL’S CHILD LABOR CAMPS“.)

We know the escapes continued thanks to the archives of the Petaluma Argus-Courier, which just came online this week via newspapers.com. It’s a huuuuge deal that this trove is simply available, but that it’s also searchable with great accuracy is enough to make genealogists and historians purr and mew.

There are a few possible reasons why the Petaluma paper informed their readers about the runaways while the Santa Rosa papers blacked out the news. Rarely were escapees nabbed around Santa Rosa; usually they were caught in the countryside or en route to San Francisco, so it was more likely the boys would be seen close to Petaluma or Marin. There also might have been editorial bias in keeping quiet about bad news; the use of child labor was a fast-growing part of the West County economy – in 1912 the boys picked 407 tons of berries and fruit, up from 125 tons just five years earlier, showing farmers were lining up to get in on this sweet deal for ultra-cheap juvenile labor. And to be fair, it must be noted that in 1913 the Press Democrat did offer a paragraph on seven runaways being captured and even mentioned the Barlow ranch by name.

(RIGHT: Mess tent for boys working on the Barlow ranch, date unknown. Photograph courtesy Western Sonoma County Historical Society)

But there was one related story which the local press couldn’t ignore because it made all the Bay Area papers: The 1913 theft of summer earnings by the boys of the Armitage Orphanage – and that the robber was the orphanage’s superintendent.

While it was was rarely mentioned which orphanages and charities were shoving their kids down the Sebastopol berry picking pipeline every June, it comes as a shock to find this outfit was among them. The [Episcopal] Bishop Armitage Orphanage was a pet charity of the San Francisco swells who funded it via lawn parties, balls, country club polo matches and other high society soirees (“Tableaux Vivants to Show Masterpieces – Famous Art Works Will be Staged by Members of the Board” – San Francisco Chronicle, March 16, 1910).

That orphanage certainly didn’t need any income from the boys; the stolen $3,000 was petty change to its society matron directors and to their credit, they promised to reimburse the children. Well-funded does not mean well-run, however. While the 150 boys were working in the orchards and fields, the orphanage was being closed and their buildings sold, so at the end of summer the Armitage inmates were split up other institutions. The superintendent who disappeared with their money was known as Robert Ellis, although that was not his real name for some reason – and the directors were aware of that. He had been superintendent for a couple of years, the board having raced through four managers in six months before him. There seems to be a quite the scandal unreported there, although the society sections did not speak of such unpleasantries.

On related news, the Press Democrat recently presented a couple of items about the orphanage at Lytton Springs operated by the Salvation Army. The property near Healdsburg is now on the market with an asking price of $24 million.

One PD article nostalgically waxes about Lytton success stories – a pair of brothers who built a successful contracting business and a man who became an important Santa Rosa lawyer. Healdsburg High School welcomed the Lytton kids, according to the PD writer, because the Salvation Army encouraged them to play band instruments and the boys were strong and scrappy from all their farm work.

That’s a very rosy view. The situation may have changed later but in their earlier days  Lytton youths were allowed to attend Healdsburg High only if supervisors ruled the child had “capacity for high school training;” per a 1909 article about Lytton, only about 5 percent of their residents were permitted to continue schooling beyond 8th grade. Otherwise, the kid had no choice but to work on the Salvation Army’s commercial farm. As I wrote earlier in “THE CHILDREN OF LYTTON:” The cruelest aspect of the “orphanages” was that wards of the system lost nearly all chance of an education beyond readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic. While Santa Rosa High School was then offering typewriting classes and teaching other office skills which were in growing demand, Lytton and other Aid Homes were preparing kids for a 19th century future.

While the institutions could have done more to keep their kids in classrooms, a century ago state law didn’t require it. The Jones-Hughes Act of 1903 made it compulsory for every child in California to attend school between ages 8 and 15, but offered a grabbag of loopholes allowing families to opt out of schooling altogether – children who lived over two miles by road from the nearest school could be claimed as exempt, for example. Those exemptions were removed in 1919 and the compulsory age raised to 16, but that still didn’t mean a child would make it to high school. According to a report that year from the state’s Dept. of Education, most of the students who were to be added to the attendance rosters hadn’t yet finished elementary school by age sixteen.

There were many institutions far, far worse than Lytton, but it wasn’t free of controversy. In November, 1913 the Oakland Enquirer published a series of investigative articles “berating the management of the institution for alleged cruel treatment of children at the institution,” according to a mention of the articles in the Santa Rosa Republican. Unfortunately, not much more can be said about that reporting because the paper is not online and the only known surviving editions from that year are at UC/Berkeley. The Republican added the main incident was “punishment meted out to two boys who stole horses and got away from the institution.”

Sonoma County District Attorney Clarence Lea thought the charges were credible enough to have the grand jury investigate. Oakland Enquirer reporter Fred Williams was summoned, and the mother of the boys also testified, which suggests the pair were at Lytton not for being orphans but having been sentenced there by a court for delinquency.

Jurors visited Lytton and found it was overcrowded, but the children were well cared for and no “unmerited punishments were inflicted.” The grand jury report concluded with praise for the institution, which deserved “support and commendation.” The jury foreman wrote, “in view of the splendid work that is being accomplished at the institution we feel that minor criticisms which might be made would be uncalled for.”

Not so fast, there, mee bucko. Their report did not mention the jury interviewed the boys making the charges although it’s implied (“we investigated all cases called to our attention”). Nor did it explain what the Oakland Enquirer reporter had to say; that was a significant newspaper with a reputation for muckraking – it’s doubtful they would run a series based only on wild yarns from a pair of malcontent kids who apparently had been in trouble with the law.

More interesting is a mention at the end of the jury report that the superintendent and his wife together earned only $14 a week, and no one there was paid more than $400 a year. Those earnings are on the low side for unskilled labor at the time, but not unreasonable. But from a Press Democrat article the previous year, we know that Lytton annually spent about $3,400 on salaries. Now project the numbers: Lytton must have operated with only eight paid staffers, twelve max – to run a 400+ acre commercial farm AND care for about 250 kids full time.

“Mother Bourne,” the beloved figurehead of Lytton may indeed have been worthy of sainthood, but the institution was clearly dependent upon the children to keep the wheels turning. And barely supervising so many kids – most there because they were deemed to be “unmanageable” – is surely an invitation to bullying or even worse forms of abuse.

But as the Santa Rosa papers seemed wanting to tell readers only good news about the Barlow boys, the grand jury wanted to see Lytton as a shining example of noble work. Look how well we are treating these troubled and troublesome youths, our ancestors seemed determined to boast. We have plucked them from nothing and given them something.



Two boys whose names are given as Butts and Landingan by Superintendent Turner, escaped from the Barlow berry fields above Sebastopol on Monday afternoon at an early hour and later Deputy Sheriff R. L. Rasmussen was notified.

He kept a close watch on all departing trains and the steamer Petaluma but the youngsters have not yet come to this city.

A watchman was in this city on Monday evening investigating. Both the lads are wearing blue overalls. They are from the Boys and Girls Aid Society which is now at Barlow’s picking berries.

They have only been there two days and during that time the two boys have been trying to get away. They are thought to be in this county yet.

– Petaluma Argus-Courier, June 18, 1912

The local police were notified on Wednesday night that two boys had escaped from the berry pickers’ camp at the Barlow ranch near Sebastopol and the officers are keeping a watch for them and examined the outgoing trains and steamers Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

The boys are Harry Herman, aged 18, and Chas. Sargent, age 17, both of San Francisco. The former is 5 feet four inches in height and the latter slightly shorter. Both wore straw hats, blue overalls and dark coats. The former wore a yellow khaki shirt and the latter a light colored soft shirt. Herman is slightly stooped and walks with swinging gait and has dark brown hair and dark eyes.

Sargent is of dark complexion with light brown hair. Both wore heavy shoes. For some reason the custodians of the boys, are unusually anxious to capture these escapes, so it is probably that they are detained fore [sic] more than the ordinary wrong doing.

– Petaluma Argus-Courier, July 11, 1912

Several officers of the Boys and Girls Aid Society were in this city on Sunday morning looking for three runaway boys who made their escape on Saturday evening from Barlow’s station where the girls and boys were picking berries. The officers remained here for a short time and then went to Sausalito where they captured the three runaways who were taken to Barlow’s on the next train.

– Petaluma Argus-Courier, June 23, 1913



Special Police Officer T. Connolly of San Francisco who is connected with the Boys and Girls Aid Society was in this city on Wednesday seeking Allen Luhra, Joe Fahey, Abe Bernard, Sam Telaxney and Charles Griffin, who escaped from Barlow’s station during the present week. The last four named left on Tuesday afternoon, while younger Luhra left on Monday.

Chief of Police Flohr has been notified of the disappearance of the boys and has been given a good description of them so if they are in this city they are likely to be captured in a short time.

– Petaluma Argus-Courier, July 16, 1913



The Sheriff’s office received word on Thursday that four of the boys who escaped from the berry picking camp on the Barlow ranch had been captured by the Aid Society’s officers, and had been returned to camp. Four boys were found in Forestville, and three in Green Valley. Thursday Mrs. Dick Isaacs telephoned the Sheriff’s office that four of the boys were on a place back of their ranch. Superintendent Turner was notified and went after the boys.

– Press Democrat, July 18, 1913

Thirteen days before the Armitage Orphanage was to pass out of existence and his term of office expire, the superintendent, known in San Mateo as Robert Ellis, disappeared, and is accused of having taken with him about $3,000 belonging to the boys in the institution. Detectives are searching for the former superintendent, but have found no substantial clews.

The orphanage will pass out of existence on October 23, when the property will be taken over by Antoine Borel and Ellis’ employment would have expired on that date. He disappeared last Friday, but the loss of the money was not discovered until yesterday by Mrs. William G. Hitchcock, treasurer of the orphanage.

The money represents the earnings of 114 boys who picked berries at Sebastopol last summer, and was given to the superintendent for keeping. It is said that the boys will not lose by the theft, as the directors will make good the deficit.

Ellis has been superintendent of the orphanage for two years. He went to San Mateo well recommended, and although it was known that Robert Ellis was not his true name the directors made no objection to the masquerading. He is the son of an Episcopal minister in Philadelphia and is married, but separated from his wife.

– Santa Rosa Republican, October 16, 1913

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