tugboatdivorce

THE GATEKEEPERS OF BAD MARRIAGES

Divorces are too easy to get and sought on a whim. A divorce harms the community more than the divorcing couple, so only an elected official can decide whether a bad marriage should be dissolved. The public has a right to know any and all accusations and embarrassing details about a couple seeking divorce. A wife or husband might lie about what happened during their marriage unless they face cross-examination in open court.

That snide little handbasket of equivocation, intimidation and false assumptions didn’t come from clergy nor “til death us do part” true believers; these were arguments made by top California judges in the mid-1910s, who viewed efforts intended to lighten their workload as a threat to their authority.


ENDURING ABUSE IS GOOD FOR SOCIETY

Although almost all divorce filings in 1915 charged the husband with some form of cruelty, Sonoma County Superior Court Judges Thomas Denny and Emmet Seawell made no secret of their bias against granting divorces, which they saw as equally (or more) harmful for the community. Here are some examples of their sanctimonious moralizing:

Judge Denny: “I consider such procedure means the undermining of the morals of society.” Denny also boasted that he changed the way divorce hearings were handled in Sonoma County to make matters tougher. Instead of being quietly presided over in chambers by the court referee, he “…insisted that they be heard in open court, thinking that it might do away with some of the evils of divorce if plaintiff had to face the court.” (Note that the plaintiff was almost always the wife.) In at least one instance, witnesses testifying for the woman were lambasted by Denny for not urging her to reconcile with her husband.

Judge Seawell: “…the parties to an action in divorce proceedings are not the only parties in interest, but that society has an interest equal, if not greater than the wishes or whims of the parties litigant.”

What angered them was that married couples were using a new state law which made divorce less costly – not to mention being faster than waiting months for their date to come up on a Superior Court docket, usually jammed up with criminal and civil proceedings.

This alternative way of obtaining a divorce was decades ahead of its time – the concept of family court simply didn’t exist during the early part of the century (California didn’t get around to serious marriage reforms until the Family Law Act of 1969). And besides deserving a place in our history books for that reason it should be mentioned as a chapter in the struggle for women’s rights, as the conflict starkly pitted the powerful all-male judiciary vs. a class of (almost always) female plaintiffs.

By now Gentle Reader has probably guessed this divorce option wasn’t available for very long, and the whole episode was quickly forgotten – this is the first time it has been discussed since then, as far as I can tell. One reason it vanished from memory was probably because nearly all of the events played out in Sonoma County, then still politically a rural backwater.

Forgotten, too, is this Believe-it-or-Not! nugget: In 1915, a Santa Rosa woman served as a Superior Court judge. It was the first time that had ever happened in the history of the United States.

The law being used to expedite divorces was a 1910 amendment to the State Constitution which seemed to be just an administrative tweak for allowing temporary judges (“Judge pro tempore”) to help “relieve congestion of the Superior Court.” It did not mention marriage or divorce at all.

The amendment made a minor change to the wording in the 1879 version of the Constitution (the full text of the 1879 original is included among the sources below). This section of the law stated a judge pro tempore was a full-fledged Superior Court judge with the authority to hear any sort of case, from murder most foul to someone suing a neighbor over a property line. The temp judge was required to be an attorney and sworn in; both parties in the case had to agree to use that judge, who also had to be approved by the Superior Court judge. The 1910 amendment dropped the requirement that the judge pro tempore must be “approved by the court.”

According to the Press Democrat, it was Santa Rosa lawyer Thomas J. Butts who first realized in 1915 that it was well suited for handling divorces. Those cases were rarely adversarial, as the couple had already decided to break up; as long as they could agree on an attorney to serve as judge pro tem, the proceedings could be over in a few minutes.

1898 butts(LEFT: Attorney Thomas Jefferson Butts as seen in the 1898 Sonoma County Atlas.)

Butts was a well established Santa Rosa lawyer and has been mentioned here often, usually as a defense attorney – although he also represented some pretty odd cases (see “THE LAWSUIT THAT WOULDN’T DIE“). He was involved in every one of these new style divorces and except for one time when he served as the pro tem judge, he was the always the attorney representing the wife.

The pro tempore judge was almost always Lucien E. Fulwider, a former San Francisco policeman who had been a lawyer for only a few years. Although they were never law partners he and Butts appeared together on other cases in Santa Rosa, most notably winning an acquittal for May Thomas in the sensationalized 1910 infanticide trials held here.

By the time Superior Court judges Tom Denny and Emmet Seawell caught wind of what was going on, Butts/Fulwider had filed paperwork for three divorces. To the Honorable Jurists, those divorces were likely invalid, potentially criminal, and would generally end civilization as we know it.

Both Seawell and Denny fumed to the Press Democrat in two lengthy September, 1915 articles. The judge pro tempore could be bribed or otherwise collude with the husband or wife. Perjury would be common since there was no court reporter. A hand-picked judge pro tem would always grant the divorce because that’s what they were paid to do.

Butts replied with a (mostly) good-natured letter in the PD, pointing out the judges were implying that they thought Sonoma County lawyers were unethical sneaks, if not outright crooks and liars. Be careful of that, he snarked; “judges are but attorneys elevated to the bench, and very frequently very inferior attorneys at that.”

But if Superior Court judges really did “possess all the knowledge and all the legal learning and integrity” in the state, perhaps they should be turned into corporations, in order to make sure ‘this knowledge and uprightness should be perpetuated and not be permitted to perish from the earth.'” Oh, snap!

He turned serious when the letter addressed the advantages that pro tem hearings offered wives seeking to quickly escape an abusive relationship: “It does away wilh the laws delays, and cuts down the expenses of the litigation, which in divorce cases where women with just cause frequently have to work twelve hours a day for fifty days to earn sufficient to get released from a drunken, worthless or brutal husband.”

Despite the howlings of the black-robed judges (“the bench is holding up its hands in holy horror at the thought,” Butts quipped) the pro tempore court sessions continued in Santa Rosa during the autumn of 1915, while a court was mentioned to have been convened in San Francisco.

A third lawyer sometimes was added to the Butts/Fulwider team: Mrs. Frances McG. Martin. She acted as the plaintiff’s attorney that time Butts sat as pro tem judge and she was the judge herself on November 16, making history as earlier mentioned.

1915fmcgm(RIGHT: Attorney Frances McG. Martin. San Francisco Call, November 16 1915)

Martin would rank high on any list of the most significant people who ever lived in Santa Rosa. You can read a profile of her in the 1911 county history by Tom Gregory, but I’m compiling a full bio which will appear here someday. She was a leader in the fight for women’s suffrage going back to the 1890s and a fearless speaker and writer.

While she was respected locally as an attorney (Gregory remarked she had “the reputation of looking closely after the interests of widows and orphans”), the male chauvinist press outside of the county thought the idea of a woman serving as a high court judge – or even being a lawyer – was ridiculous. National headlines included “WOMAN JUDGE GRANTS DIVORCES NOW WITHOUT ANY FUSS OR FEATHERS” and “MADAME THE JUDGE GRANTS A DIVORCE.” The wire service story that appeared in many papers nationally called her a “lawyerette,” and The San Francisco Call sent a reporter to ask, “how does it feel to be a judge?” She answered the disdainful question by saying, “Feel? Feel? Why there is no ‘feel’ to it. I am glad to be able to show men that women can really do things. That’s all there is to it, absolutely all.”

The divorce which Martin granted was probably the most abusive of those heard by the pro tempore judges. Mary Hanks testified she was frightened of her husband, William, a Sebastopol farmer. He had repeatedly threatened her and once kept a loaded revolver pointed at her as they drove to town.

Another divorce granted in 1915 on grounds of extreme cruelty was Celia Granziani vs. Emil (really Emilio) Granziani. He was a laborer in Aqua Caliente and they had married in 1907 when she was sixteen; they now had two small children and she was awarded custody. The Press Democrat noted that their entire proceeding before pro tem judge Fulwider took less that fifteen minutes.

Less than six months later, however, Emilio was before Superior Court Denny asking him to overturn the divorce on the grounds that there had been fraud and collusion and anyway, any decree by a pro tempore judge was invalid. There can be little doubt that he was being used as a stalking horse to bring a suit which could be taken up to the State Supreme Court. His arguments were the exact same as those made earlier by judges Denny and Seawell – and although he was a common laborer, he was being represented by ex-congressman Thomas J. Geary, the top lawyer north of San Francisco.

(Fulwider was not accused of judicial impropriety, aside from the notion that a pro tem judge presiding over a divorce hearing was in itself an act of fraud and collusion according to the regular judges. However, if Emilio Granziani brought his suit to Judge Denny’s court at the direction of Judge Denny and others, it certainly seems to me that there was lotsa defrauding and colluding in doing so. I’d welcome any feedback from attorneys versed in this aspect of the Code of Conduct.)

So Graziani v. Denny went off to the State Supreme Court, and everyone waited for what they expected to be a speedy decision. And they waited. And then waited some more. While Denny and others hoped the Supremes would entirely rid them of those troublesome pro tempore judges, the high court clearly saw they had been handed a hornet’s nest.

Obtaining a divorce in California was a two step process at the time. A married couple appeared before a Superior Court judge – either the regular, elected sort or a pro tem – and presented arguments for getting a divorce. If that judge agreed, an “interlocutory decree” was filed. The couple then had to wait a year, presumably time for them to work out details like alimony, property division, or maybe even reconcile. At the end of that time they went back to court and a judge gave them a final judgement which terminated the marriage.

But the 1910 change to the law also added wording that a pro tempore judge was involved in a cause only until the final determination. Thus it would be up to Judge Denny to issue the actual divorce decree – and he had told the Press Democrat that he wouldn’t finalize any divorces where a pro tem judge was involved.

With the Granziani case queued on the court calendar in Sacramento, the pro tempore judge hearings stopped, further obstructed by judges Denny and Seawell ordering the Clerk to not accept any more such filings. The few divorces (the PD stated, “at least a dozen”) that had been granted were now in limbo. And during this waiting period Thomas J. Butts died at age 60. He is buried in the Rural Cemetery.

Finally in January 1917 the California Supreme Court issued its ruling and it was an ultra-narrow decision (Graziani v. Denny, 174 Cal. 176, 162).

The court held that yes, a judge pro tempore was a real Superior Court judge. The court did NOT place any restrictions on a pro tem sitting on the bench and granting interlocutory decrees. Thus what Butts et. al. had done was perfectly fine.

But here’s where the hairsplitting came in: While a Superior Court judge cannot overrule another Superior Court judge, any motion to dismiss an interlocutory decree is presented “not to any individual judge but to the superior court of Sonoma County.” And since regular, elected judges Denny/Seawell represented the county superior court, they now could throw out any and all work produced by the pro tempore judge, including the interlocutory decree. (Please forgive me for the pounding headache you now suffer.)

The easier, pro tem divorces were over, now that the regular judges had veto power. In 1922 the law was changed back to requiring a pro tempore judge be approved by a regular elected Superior Court judge. The new law was drafted by Santa Rosa’s State Senator, Herbert Slater.

As for the Sonoma County divorces granted with interlocutory decrees, Mary Hanks – the loaded-pistol case – started again from scratch, seeking a new decree from a “regular” judge. Judge Denny granted her a new decree in July 1917, about twenty months after the one granted by Mrs. Martin. She paid two lawyers to represent her before the court. Celia Graziani never got her divorce; she was pregnant with her third child when the Supreme Court decision was issued and didn’t have a job outside the home until the mid 1920s, when she worked in a San Francisco laundry. It appears only a single decree written by a pro tem judge was accepted and that was in a divorce sought by a man: George W. Mayfield.

Judges Denny and Seawell believed their black robes gave them a nearly feudal right to dictate the rules of society beyond what appeared in the law books – and part of their unwritten code was that the plaintiff should be punished for seeking a divorce. They were not the only judges who had that view; the Press Democrat quoted a San Francisco judge as saying, “painless divorces… are neither a source of edification to our citizenship nor a source of good to society.”

In truth, these jurists were just exhibiting a show of power – a demand that women bend to their absolute moral authority. Yet making the legal process as painful, expensive and difficult as possible did not deter those wives from seeking divorces (although in the case of Celia Graziani, the cost of hiring lawyers might have been a factor). I’ll yield the last word to Thomas J. Butts:


My observation and experience extending over 25 years, has been, that if you should obliterate all the laws on divorce and say that no divorce should be granted except for the one thing, that one of the spouses threw the other down stairs, in every couple that wanted a divorce one or the other would throw the other spouse down stairs. When people cannot live longer together, and the law provides that upon one single ground divorces would be granted, it would not diminish divorce.

 

sources
ARTICLE VI. SEC. 8. A Judge of any Superior Court may hold a Superior Court in any county, at the request of a Judge of the Superior Court thereof, and upon the request of the Governor it shall be his duty so to do. But a cause in a Superior Court may be tried by a Judge pro tempore, who must be a member of the bar, agreed upon in writing by the parties litigant or their attorneys of record, approved by the Court, and sworn to try the cause.

– California Constitution of 1879

 

Senate Constitutional Amendment Number 36 provides that there may be as many sessions of a Superior Court in any county as there are Judges therefor, or as many as may be called from other counties or appointed pro tempore from the bar.

The design of this amendment is to relieve congestion of the Superior Court arising from the construction placed on the present Constitution, which holds that only the number of Superior Court Judges elected for a given county can sit at one time in that county. In case of a protracted trial, this ruling causes much inconvenience and congestion of the court calendar.

– Official description of 1910 ballot item

 

AMENDMENT PROVIDING FOR ‘JUDGES TEMPORE’ UNDER DISCUSSION AT THIS TIME

Act of the People in November 1910, Is Being Used in the Superior Court and Its Force and Effect Is Reviewed by Superior Judges of Sonoma County

Recently in the Superior Court of Sonoma county three divorce actions have been tried with an attorney-at-law sitting as “Judge Pro Tempore” in place of either of the regular presiding judges of the Superior Court, as provided by the above amendment. Considerable interest has been aroused as well as considerable discussion.

By the amendment to the State Constitution, the sitting of a judge pro tempore is permissible, as will be seen by the language. And what is more, the people gave permission for such courts, the amendment adopted, too, in the regime of Governor Gillett, and cannot be charged by some persons as being one of the suggestions of the present Governor, upon whose head so much “progressiveness” is heaped.

Judges pro tempore can sit in any kind of litigation, their actions not being merely confined to divorce cases, judging from the language of the amendment. It places no restriction on the kind of litigation that can be heard by them.

Despite the fact that the Constitutional Amendment went into effect in November of 1910, it was only a couple of months or so ago that it was used in this county. And probably Sonoma county is the pioneer in its frequent use since. The regular judges of a county apparently have no control over the acts of a judge pro tempore, but his rulings are subject to review by the Appellate and Supreme Courts.

Judge Seawell’s Opinion

Judge Seawell said Wednesday: “The effect of the amendment is subversive of all well-established principles of the laws heretofore enacted, particularly in divorce cases, if given the application which the language of the amendment seemingly justifies.

“All courts have uniformly held that the parties to an action in divorce proceedings are not the only parties in interest, but that society has an interest equal, if not greater than the wishes or whims of the parties litigant.

“The constitutional amendment, if applied in the way sought, would place the question of the dissolution of matrimonial bonds in the hands of an attorney who may be the advocate of either one or the other in the large class of cases in which it is practically agreed between the parties that matrimonial ties may be severed. Of course this would be the foulest kind of connivance between husband and wife and society, for public interest would have absolutely no voice in the matter. This alone would be a heavy stroke at the foundation of domestic institutions. Personally I would willingly withdraw from trials of divorce cases. The entire judiciary of the State is already dissatisfied with what it is compelled to do under the law as it now stands. Connivance and perjury sufficiently tie the hands of the court in favor of unworthy litigants as the matter now stands.

“Judge pro tempore may set aside rules of court which require the testimony of the litigants to be perpetuated by stenographic notes and make the persons giving false testimony feel reasonably secure against criminal prosecution for perjury. They may also be relieved of the asking of embarrassing questions which a court, acting under judicial responsibility would be inclined to ask them.

“The amendment extends to all civil proceedings, and if the construction as intended is to be given to the language the judges tempore may be holding court while the regular judges are unoccupied, and in such cases men have been passing upon matters of vital interest to society who have never been commissioned by the people so to do except by the constitutional provision.

“Both the judge tempore and his acts are beyond the recall,” said the Judge.

Judge Denny’s Opinion

Superior Judge Denny is equally apprehensive concerning the working of the constitutional amendment regarding the powers of judges pro tempore. “I consider this one of the very worst pieces of legislation. You cannot quote me too strongly in my opposition to the amendment,” Judge Denny said.

– Press Democrat, September 23 1915

 

PRO TEMPORE JUDGE MAKES DIVORCE PATH MORE EASY
Press Democrat’s Article on Thursday Morning Creates Widespread Interest—Judge Thomas C. Denny Makes Statement on the Subject

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT’S article relative to the holding of court by judges pro tempore in the Superior Court of this county was read with widespread interest on Thursday morning and occasioned much comment.

Several members of the Sonoma county bar were outspoken in their denunciation of the Constitutional amendment permitting such actions, which, though passed in November, 1910, eliminating the power of the Superior Court for any control over judges pro tempore or their appointment, has not been used in this county until recently.

Additional Statement

In addition to his statement in Thursday mornings’ Press Democrat, Judge T. C. Denny had this to add Thursday night:

“The Constitution originally provided that any attorney agreed upon in writing by the parties to an action, might act as a judge pro tempore in the Superior Court with the same authority as the judge thereof, provided that the selection was approved by the Court. The amendment of 1910 leaves out of the section this very vital clause, and the amendment was probably secured. as are most of our laws, to fit some particular case about to be instituted.

“The original section was proper and probably enacted to be used in one of two events, either where all of the judges of the county were disqualified for some reason, or where the calendar of the court was so crowded that litigants really needed relief. But as far as I have been able to ascertain, the provision was never used in this county. While the Constitution provided that the judge pro tempore may be appointed to act in any action, I am convinced that it will, in all probability, be used only in actions for divorce. At least that is the experience of this county. I can see no reason for its being used in other cases as judges who are disqualified are always willing to call in outside judges.

“As to using judges pro tempore in divorce actions, it looks to me as if under the present method of securing a divorce it would never be used unless the parties thought they had no chance to secure a decree before the court; in other words, the plaintiff who has meritorious grounds for securing his divorce will never ask for a judge pro tempore; so that the court and the public are not to be blamed if they believe that any action brought in this manner is fraudulent on its face. My reasons for saying this are two:

“First, each county of the State is provided with a court of one or more departments, each department having its judge and full quota of officers free to litigants. Why then should these litigants hire an attorney to hear their case and add this uncalled-for expense to their ordinary costs?

“Second, no attorney will be asked to sit as a judge pro tempore in whom all the parties interested have the slightest doubt as to what his decision will be. To expect otherwise would be to expect the divine in the human. No one will pay an attorney to hear a divorce action if there is any question as to his decision.

“I feel a little strongly in this matter because one of my first acts as judge was to set aside the former court rule by which most divorces in this court were referred to the court referee, and insisted that they be heard in open court, thinking that it might do away with some of the evils of divorce if plaintiff had to face the court. I do not say that, my hopes have been fulfilled to any great extent. But if it was any improvement over the old system, whatever of good was accomplished is now lost, because they are now trying these cases without a court reporter and witnesses can commit perjury without any thought of punishment.”

VIEWS OF THREE OTHER JUDGES

Here are the views of three San Francisco Superior judges on the “Judge pro tempore” matter:

OUTRAGEOUS SITUATION Judge Thomas F. Graham: “If use is made of the new position in the law,” declared Judge Graham, “the divorce lawyers of San Francisco will be rushed to death and will become wealthy in a comparatively short time. It’s easy enough to get a divorce now, but painless divorces, in the private offices of divorce lawyers, are neither a source of edification to our citizenship nor a source of good to society. There has been some blundering, from all appearances, in the preparation of the new legislation, and the quicker this is remedied the better for everybody—excepting the divorce lawyers.”

OPENS DOOR TO COLLUSION Judge Mogan said: “The selection of an attorney by the parties to a litigation to act as judge instead of the duly elected judicial officer while authorized by the law should be confined to cases of emergency and its extension indiscriminately to divorce cases should not only be deplored, but prevented.

“The only time when an attorney should be selected in place of a judge is where the attorney was the judge who originally presided over some aspect of a case which was left uncompleted when his term of office expired. The law which permits an attorney selected by the parties to act as a judge in a divorce suit opens the door to collusion and cannot but result in increasing the number of divorces.”

AN ABSURDITY Judge John J. Van Nostrand said: “The absurdity of permitting any attorney to preside over the trial of a suit through arrangements of the parties to the litigation was illustrated in my department recently in the quiet title suit of Vandal against All Persons. In that case the attorney for the defendant started proceedings to have a judge pro tempore appointed. The purported appointment was made and the judge pro tempore began to cite half a dozen attorneys and witnesses for contempt and enjoined nearly everybody under the sun from interfering in any way with the defendant.

“The matter was so complicated before the judge pro tempore was through that the Supreme Court had to step in with a writ of prohibition to straighten out the matter. I haven’t had any experience with the appointment of judges pro tempore in divorce suits, but if self-constituted judges can do so much damage as in the quiet title suit of Vandal versus All Persons, I should say that the law authorising such judges is one fraught with grave possibilities of mischief.”

– Press Democrat, September 24 1915

 

“TEMPEST IN TEAPOT” SAYS BUTTS; ‘JUDGE PRO TEMPORE’
Santa Rosa Lawyer Upholds the Much-Discussed Constitutional Amendment and Fires Lots of Questions at the Gentlemen Who Have Been Elected to the Bench

Thomas J. Butts, well known lawyer, ridicules the controversy over the Constitutional amendment regarding the “judges pro tempore” as being a “tempest in a teapot,” and says the said amendment is one of the best ever passed by the people. He challenges any implication that an attorney, in Sonoma county, at least, would be guilty of collusion or subornation of perjury. But there, let his letter to the Press Democrat explain his views:

(By Thomas J. Butts)

Editor Press Democrat: From your article published in the issue of your paper of September 23rd, and also the article entitled “Pro Tempore Judge Makes Divorce More Easy,” in the issue of your paper of September 24th, I see that the matter of judge pro tempore sitting in divorce cases has created a tempest in a teapot, and the bench is holding up its hands in holy horror at the thought. But it seems strange to me that judges of the State of California who have taken the oath to support the Constitution when they took their oath of office, should be the first to throw down the Constitution when its provisions seem to run contrary to what they deemed was their prerogatives.

UPRIGHTNESS OF ATTORNEYS

Why should an attorney be any better qualified or any more upright and honest because he has been elected to the judgeship, than one who has been appointed, or one who has been stipulated by the parties to try the case? Does the election of an attorney to office make him any more just or upright than he was before, or does he by reason of that fact become more learned or more just and upright than attorneys at the bar? Attorneys are all officers of the court, and are sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the State of California, and when they are appointed judge pro tempore by the stipulation of the parties they are sworn to try the cause the same as the Superior Court judges are sworn.

And I repel the implication that any attorney in this county, at least, would become party to collusion and subornation of perjury in order to obtain a divorce for anybody, or that any member of the bar of Sonoma county, if selected judge pro tempore would not try a case as fairly and uprightly as the gentlemen upon the bench.

INCORPORATE ‘INDIVIDUALS DIE’

If the legal gentlemen upon bench of the State of California possess all the knowledge and all the legal learning and integrity, and none is left to the bar, then the State of California should incorporate the members of its bench, for individuals die, and this knowledge and uprightness should be perpetuated and not be permitted to perish from the earth, when the members of the bar – the only source from which their successors may be chosen, are woefully deficient. Judges are but attorneys elevated to the bench, and very frequently very inferior attorneys at that. And I say without hesitation that Charlie Wheeler, Gavin McNab, Garret McInerney and hundreds of others that I might mention, are at least the equivalent in honesty and integrity and in the knowledge and learning of the law of Judge Van Nostrand and Thos. Graham, who criticize the Constitutional amendment adopted by the people.

It has been the law for thirty years that the litigants, or their attorneys could appoint an attorney to try their cause with the acquiescence of the judge of he Superior Court. That provision of the Constitution of 1879 was a nullity. Why? Because of the words “approved by the court.”

AND WHY NOT?

If there should be any reason why a judge should not try a cause, by what force of reason or logic can it be maintained that he should appoint someone to try it? It is a good deal like permitting a detective who has worked up a case against a defendant to appoint the judge to try it. Of course, there could be no collusion among the gentlemen of the bench. A judge when he is called in to another county to try a case never talks it over with the judge who called him and gets his view of what ought to be done in this case, and of course, the judge who called him in to take the case has nothing to do with the decision! But such things might happen, just as attorneys might collude in a case.

IT SAVES EXPENSE

The section of the Constitution is one of the best that has ever been passed by the people. It does away wilh the laws delays, and cuts down the expenses of the litigation, which in divorce cases where women with just cause frequently have to work twelve hours a day for fifty days to earn sufficient to get released from a drunken, worthless or brutal husband.

Then again, what interest is it to the bench who tries causes that are not brought before them. It is true that people may need guardians but they are not quite ready to submit their guardianship unqualifiedly to the judiciary, albeit I believe that the bench of Sonoma county and of the State of California in general is made up of honest, able and upright men. But I see no reason why these gentlemen occupying a high and exalted situation should be making an assault the Constitution passed by the people. In the language of Shakespeare, “Alas, what secret motives they have, I know not, that made them do it!”

I conceive it to be the law that when litigants come before the court in a divorce case, or in any other, and the party proves his case according to law, then he is entitled to have judgment his way.

SHOULD BE NO BIAS

And I will go further and say that any judge who has a bias or prejudice against litigants, or against the cause of action pending before him, should not, in honor, preside at the hearing. If the judge does not believe in divorce and is not willing to abide by the law, then he should refuse to hear a divorce case.

However, it might be in San Francisco, I submit that the new law is in no danger of being abused so long as an attorney in Sonoma county acts as judge pro tempore. Thomas Graham to the contrary notwithstanding.

It is said strenuously that it opens the door to collusion. If there is collusion in a case, the case is prepared before they commence the divorce, and can as well be in the Superior Court before a judge as before a judge pro tempore. My observation and experience extending over 25 years, has been, that if you should obliterate all the laws on divorce and say that no divorce should be granted except for the one thing, that one of the spouses threw the other down stairs, in every couple that wanted a divorce one or the other would throw the other spouse down stairs. When people cannot live longer together, and the law provides that upon one single ground divorces would be granted, it would not diminish divorce. Such a law would increase perjury and rascality, but would not diminish separations, and that, too, whether the cases are brought in the Superior Court or before a judge pro tempore. It seems to be the opinion on the part of some of the bench that thev are entitled as a matter of right to try all the cases of the people in their respective counties, but the people think if they try well and truly the cases brought before them, they are filling the full measure of their office; otherwise they would not have enacted such an amendment to the Constitution.

Very truly, T. J. BUTTS.

– Press Democrat, September 25 1915

 

PRO-TEMPORE IS ON BENCH AGAIN
Mrs. Celia Graziani Is Granted a Divorce From Her Husband at the Sonoma County Courthouse Yesterday

Judge pro tempore again.

He occupied the bench in Judge Denny’s department of the Superior Court, even while Superior Judges T. C. Denny and Emmet Seawell were in their chambers a few feet away. He sat with the California Constitution giving him a legal right so to do and their Honors could not say “Nay.”

With Judge Pro Tempore L. E. Fulwider on the bench, Mrs. Celia Graziani was granted a divorce from her husband, Emil Graziani, on the ground of extreme cruelty. Graziani did not appear to oppose the suit, having agreed in writing to the selection of Fulwider as judge pro tempore. Thomas J. Butts represented the plaintiff.

The complaint and answer was filed and the trial had within a quarter of an hour [sic]. The evidence given undoubtedly indicated, those present say, that the woman was entitled to a divorce.

– Press Democrat, September 29 1915

 

Judge Pro Tempore L. E. Fulwider sat on the bench in the Superior court here again Wednesday and granted another divorce. The plaintiff was Mrs. Mary E. Harris and the decree from her husband was given her on account of his failure to provide. Mrs. Harris, Ivy Keichum and Ruth Zimmerman were the witnesses called and Attorney Thomas Jefferson Butts appeared for the plaintiff.

– Press Democrat, November 4 1915

 

JUDGE BUTTS ON THE BENCH AS PRO TEMPORE
“Discoverer” of the Constitutional Provision Which Allows the Selection of Temporary Judges in Superior Court

Thomas Jefferson Butts, the well known lawyer and poet, who might practically be termed the “discoverer” of the Constitutional provision that allows the the appointment of Superior Judges pro tempore in the trial of divorce actions and other litigation, where both parties to the action agree, was himself elevated to the bench temporarily on Saturday morning and presided as judge pro tempore at the trial of the divorce suit brought by Mrs. Rebecca Patton against her husband, John Patton.

Mrs. Patton charged her husband with wilful desertion, and it was intimated that Patton had only worked for three months out of three years. Attorney Frances McG Martin appeared for the plaintiff.

Judge Butts handed down his oral opinion from the bench at the conclusion of the evidence which was evidently sufficient for the granting of Mrs. Patton’s prayer, and in giving the interlocutory decree took occasion to refer to an opinion given by the late Supreme Justice Jackson Temple involving a similar point to that standing out prominently in the Patton suit.

Judge Butts amply filled the judicial seat, and did so with considerable dignity, too.

– Press Democrat, November 14 1915

 

JUDGE FRANCES M’G. MARTIN GRANTS WOMAN DIVORCE
First Woman in the United States to Occupy a Higher Court Bench Than Justice of Peace — Unique Scene in Sonoma County Superior Court on Tuesday

ATTORNEY FRANCES McG. MARTIN, Santa Rosa’s well known woman lawyer, occupied the bench in Judge Denny’s department of the Superior Court yesterday end granted Mrs. Mary A. Hanks an interlocutory decree of divorce from her husband, William A. Hanks, a Sebastopol farmer.

This is the first time a woman jurist in the United States has granted a divorce decree or has ever ascended the bench in a Superior Court in the country. Therefore the position occupied by Judge Martin yesterday was a unique one and a decided compliment for her.

Judge [sic] Thomas Jefferson Butts was counsel for the plaintiff, and interrogated the witnesses, and the presiding judge had a number of questions to propound to each witness.

Mrs. Hanks testified that her husband had deserted her and had also been cruel to her. She narrated how on more than one occasion he had told her “to get out,” and at one time drove her to town ahead of him, he following her with a loaded revolver pointed at her. She testified that she was afraid of her husband and would not return to him in consequence. She further testified that her husband had used vile language toward her.

Two other women witnesses corroborated Mrs. Hanks’ testimony, and at the conclusion of the evidence Judge Martin granted the decree on the ground of willful desertion and extreme cruelty.

A number of spectators were present in the courtroom to witness the interesting proceedings, which, as intimated, marked the first time a woman had occupied the bench in a high court in this country.

– Press Democrat, November 17 1915

 

WOMAN LAWYER OCCUPIES BENCH
SONOMA COUNTY PORTIA SITS AS SUPERIOR JUDGE AND GRANTS DIVORCE
Frances McG. Martin Presides In Department of Superior Court and Grants Divorce to Mrs. William A. Hanks, wife of Sebastopol Man.

Wm. A. Hanks, well known in Sebastopol, having formerly resided here, alternating ranching with bartending, has been handed notoriety and divorce all in a day. So far as known Hanks is the first man in the United States to be divorced from his one-time lady love by a lady lawyer, occupying the bench as superior judge.

Incidentally, however, the honor in connection with the case falls upon Frances McG. Martin, Sonoma county’s Portia, who has the distinction of being, so far as known, the first woman in the country to occupy the bench of a superior court.

The case of Hanks vs. Hanks was heard in Judge Denny’s department Thursday, and an interlocutory decree was granted Mrs. Mary Hanks.

Mrs. Hanks testified that her husband had deserted her and had also been cruel to her. She narrated how on more than one occasion he had told her “to get out,” and at one time drove her to town ahead of him, he following with a loaded revolver pointed at her. She testified that she was afraid of her husband and would not return to him in consequence. She further testified that her husband used vile language toward her.

Other witnesses corroborated the testimony of Mrs. Hanks and Judgess Martin granted the decree on the ground of wilful desertion and extreme cruelty.

– Sebastopol Times, November 20 1915

 

WOMAN, ON BENCH, DESCRIBES HER LIFE TO ELUDE QUESTIONS
“How Does It Feel to Be First Judge?” Dodged by Santa Rosa Fair Lawyer

“How does it feel to be a judge?” was the question put to Attorney Frances McGaughey Martin of Santa Rosa, the first woman in the United States to occupy the bench of a civil court higher in rank than that of justice court. She smiled as she replied:

“Well, you see this new law, making it possible for two contesting parties to appoint a regular practicing attorney to sit as judge protempore in the case is being taken advantage of in this instance. Of course, it’s a regular court and I am vested with all the prerogatives of a judge; in fact, I am a judge while sitting in the case.”

HOW DO YOU LIKE PIONEERING?

“And so, Mrs. Martin, how does it seem to be a ‘first,’ a pioneer?” was asked again.

“Well, of course, you must understand that I have been practicing for nineteen years. There are probably only two other women in the state that have been longer before the bar than I have. One of these is Samuel Shortrldge’s sister, Mrs. Clara Foltz, and the other is Mrs. S. T. Coffey, formerly Mrs. Luda V. Barham.

“That was peculiar about Mrs. Barham. When her father in law, J. A. Barham, was in Congress he induced his son, Ed and his daughter in law to practice in the United States Supreme court, and it was the first time that this had been done by a congressman. Mrs. Barham was the second woman attorney that California ever had.”

“BUT, HOW DOES IT—”

“Now, let me see, Mrs. Martin, how does it—”

“As I was saying, nineteen years ago I began the study of law. I had been eight years county superintendent of schools in Sonoma County, and. I went into the office of the late Allison B. Ware, that grand old man of the California bar. I entered his office in January of one year and took my examinations before the Supreme Court in the next December.”

“And about this case in hand. How—-”

“I have handled many cases in those nineteen years. I believe I am third in the number of divorces in the county. Then my estate business is a big one. But criminal cases, no. I don’t handle them unless appointed by the court.

AGAIN WE ASK YOU, MRS. MARTIN

“Mrs. Martin, how”—

“Now if you must know about this case, it is a divorce action. It is entitled Mary E. Hanks against William Hanks. The ground in the complaint is willful desertion. The case was a clear cut one, plenty of evidence, and I granted the decree.”

“Yes, Mrs. Martin, but how does it feel to be a real truly live judge, the first woman judge in the United States?”

“Feel? Feel? Why there is no ‘feel’ to it. I am glad to be able to show men that women can really do things. That’s all there is to it, absolutely all.”

– San Francisco Call, November 16 1915

 

Judge Pro Tempore Again on the Bench

Judge Pro Tempore L. E. Fulwider was again on the bench in the Superior Court yesterday. He presided In the suit of Mrs. Mary E. Davis against J. L. Davis. Thomas J. Butts was the attorney for the plaintiff. The evidence being conclusive to support the grounds upon which the action was brought, the interlocutory decree of divorce was granted.

– Press Democrat, December 15 1915

 

FIVE JUDGES SITTING IN COURTHOUSE WEDNESDAY

Five Judges sat in various capacities in the courthouse Wednesday.

Superior Judge Zook was presiding at the trial of a murder case.

Superior Judge Tom Denny had an examination in progress.

Judge Pro Tempore Lucien E. Fulwider tried a divorce case.

Justice of the Peace Marvin Vaughan presided in his court.

County Clerk W. W. Felt sat as judge in a land proving case.

– Press Democrat, January 27 1916

 

JUDGE PRO TEM’S RIGHT TO DON ERMINE IS ATTACKED
Fraud and Collusion Urged in Granziani Suit,the Decree in Which Judge Denny Is Asked to Set Aside—Able Arguments Are Being Presented

When the suit of Celia Granziani vs. Emil Granziani was called in Judge Tom Denny’s department of the Superior Court on Monday afternoon there started a legal battle which will either oust Judge Pro Tempore from judicial function on the woolsack in the Superior Court of the County of Sonoma and the State of California, or will retain him with the power seemingly vested in him by the People of the State of California in their Constitution. The latter right, when taken into consideration and viewed with other constitutional provisions, has aroused doubt in the minds of the regular judges and also many lawyers. It is intended that the suit of Granziani vs. Granziani — that is, its bearing upon the pro tempore judge phase, shall go to the highest tribunal in the State if necessary.

Emil Granziani asked the Superior Court to set aside or modify the divorce decree granted in the suit on the ground of fraud and collusion and attacking specifically the validity of the decree as it was granted by a pro tempore judge.

OBJECTION IS RAISED

William F. Cowan, who was called into the controversy on the point attacking the validity of judges pro tempore and who was not of counsel in the trial or bringing of the suit, objected to Judge Denny hearing the motion in the Granziani suit, questioning his jurisdiction on the ground that the Constitution vested in the power of the judge pro tempore the right to hear and determine matters pertaining to the divorce action, in which a pro tempore had presided that might occur during the twelve months that must elapse between the granting of an interlocutory decree and its becoming final. At the same time counsel had something to say upholding the rights of pro tempore judges under the Constitution. With Mr. Cowan was Thomas J. Butts, whom former Congressman T. J. Geary dubbed “creator of the judge pro tem.”

Former Congressman Geary and Leslie E. Johnston of Napa were counsel for Emil Granziani and they attacked the judge pro tempore’s supposed Constitution bulwark. Geary cited many authorities and held that the jurisdiction of a court cannot be stipulated away. “You can create another judge,” he said, “but you cannot create another judicial tribunal. There is one Superior Court of the county of Sonoma, and there are two judges of that Superior Court, each vested with jurisdiction.”

Mr. Geary said he thought the Court was not only justified in setting aside the decree on the ground that it was obtained by collusion, but that the whole idea of judge pro tempore in the construction given his authority by counsel on the other side should be swept aside and that the clerk should be enjoined from filing “any more such papers.”

Attorney Cowan will reply to the argument of counsel when court resumes at half-past ten o’clock this morning.

– Press Democrat, March 28 1916

 

‘PRO TEMPORE JUDGE’ GOES TO THE SUPREME COURT
Judge Denny Says He “Does Not Believe Decrees Are Worth Paper They Are Written On” — Court Rules at Close of Argument Yesterday Afternoon — Holds Decision Temporarily in Abeyance — Motion to Set Aside Decree Is Granted

The Supreme Court of California will now have a chance to pass upon the validity of the acts of an attorney sitting as a judge pro tempore in divorce suits and granting decrees just as a regular judge of the Superior Court. Sonoma county will furnish the nut for the men wearing the ermine in the State’s highest tribunal to crack.

At the conclusion of the arguments in the motion made by Emil Granziani, through his attorneys, former Congressman Thomas J. Geary and Lester E. Johnston, asking the Court to set aside or modify the interlocutory decree granted Mrs. Celia Granziani by Judge Pro Tempore Lucien E. Fulwider, Judge Denny announced his determination to set aside the decree entered by the Pro Tempore and send the matter to the Supreme Court for final determination, realizing the importance of the matters involved.

SPEEDY HEARING WANTED

After Judge Denny had announced his determination of the suit and his unseating of the Judge Pro Tem as far as he was concerned, William F. Cowan of counsel in the validity proceedings and Mr. Geary both agreed that the matter should be taken to the higher court just as speedily as possible to have the constitutional provision regarding the judge pro tempore settled once and for nil. There was some demur as to the method of procedure.

Geary suggested that inasmuch as the plaintiff had filed an answer the suit could be immediately set down for trial before Judge Denny, and then Cowan could apply for a writ of prohibition to the Supreme Court to prevent the Court proceeding with the trial and that would bring the matter up squarely to the tribunal on its merits.

Cowan did not agree that this was the best method of procedure.

When Judge Denny agreed to temporarily hold his decision to set aside the decree in abeyance until counsel had which would be the most expeditious manner in which to present the constitutional provision to the Supreme Court for its construing of a much vexed question.

In view of this, Judge Denny had the matter submitted, but it was definitely stated, and reiterated to a Press Democrat representative by the Court himself after adjournment, that he had stated what his judgment would be and his decision of the case, and that it was absolutely against the sitting of judges pro tempore in divorce proceedings.

ARGUMENT IS ENDED

After Attorney Cowan had completed his able argument and the citing authorities on the constitutional provision for judges pro tempore holding that the sitting of such judges was legal and provided for in the constitution, even without the approval of the regular judges of the Superior Court, and that the people of the State had meant exactly what the constitution says, counsel was followed by Mr. Geary in closing for the defendant, who asked that the decree be set aside. As on the previous day, counsel urged that while a judge might be created there was no provision for another tribunal. He also quoted more authorities.

JUDGE DENNY RULES

When Geary had completed his argument, Judge Denny said he had studied the constitutional provision and had determined to let the Supreme Court pass upon the matter. This had been his decision, he said, since the very first time the matter was called to his attention after the first interlocutory decree had been granted by a judge pro tempore. Therefore now the opportunity he had waited for had been afforded, he meant to pass it right up to the Supreme Court.

“From the start I have expressed myself, and I don’t think the judgments in such cases are worth the paper they are written on. I have never thought anything else,” said the referring to the decrees granted by pro tempores.

“And when it comes to the standpoint of morality, well, I probably had not better state what I really think, other than I consider such procedure means the undermining of the morals of society. In divorce proceeding it opens up all the grounds for all kinds of corruption md collusion.

“It is very plain to me that when papers are properly filed in this court I immediately acquire jurisdiction, and that jurisdiction cannot be taken away from me except by well-defined rules of court or by the statues. If such procedures as this is allowed all jurisdiction would be destroyed. It is too revolutionary,” said Judge Denny.

When the matter is properly presented to the Supreme Court the decision of that tribunal will be awaited with much interest, especially by the persons most interested, those who have been granted their decrees by pro tempore judges. There have been at least a dozen of such decrees given in this county and should the highest tribunal sustain Judge Denny’s opinion there be a rather unique state of affairs, to say the least of it, as to what standing the divorced ones would have.

It is likely that today or tomorrow counsel will, for Mrs. Granziani, decide as to what course to pursue to get the matter the quickest up to the Supreme Court for final determination.

– Press Democrat, March 29 1916

 

JUDGES DENNY AND SEAWELL FORBID THE FILING OF PRO TEMPORE JUDGE DECREES

[..]

DEAN BUTTS’ REMARKS

Thomas Jefferson Butts, dean of the use of the constitutional amendment providing for Judges pro tempore, said, with a bland smile, after he had learned of the court order:

“An officer who arrives at a point when he cannot consistently support the Constitution of the State of California should resign.

“The duties of the clerk are prescribed by law, and the filing of instruments in the clerk’s office, the place where they are entitled to be filed, the Superior Court has no right to stop.”

– Press Democrat, April 29 1916

 

It is about time somebody gave this Judge Pro Tempore business a good swift jab in the solar plexus. Any law is a poor law that pretends to make it possible for three attorneys — or two attorneys and a hired man — to get together and without giving notice to anybody by mutual consent set aside a legal decision that has been handed down in due form by a regular elected Judge of the Court. No more absurd proposition has ever been heard of.

– Press Democrat editorial, April 29 1916

 

DEATH OF THOMAS J. BUTTS HERE ON SATURDAY NIGHT

[..]

– Press Democrat, June 25 1916

 

Wants ‘Regular’ Judge To Grant Her Decree

Mrs. Mary Hanks does not want the interlocutory decree which was granted by a pro tempore superior judge over a year ago made a final decree. Instead, she has had the old suit against her husband, William W. Hanks, dismissed, and has commenced a new action for a divorce in the Superior Court, and she wants it heard by a “regular” judge. C. E. Davis is her attorney.

For many moons now the Supreme Court has had the matter of the determination of the pro tempore judge validity under advisement. It was appealed from Sonoma county. The decision is awaited.

– Press Democrat, December 30 1916

 

PRO TEMPORE JUDGE DIVORCE DEGREES STILL IN THE AIR
Supreme Court Affirms Judge Denny’s Contention That He Still Has Jurisdiction Now the Legality of the Pro Tempore Must Be Settled as Final Decrees May Not Be Signed

The Supreme Court has held that Judge Thomas C. Denny has jurisdiction to hear a motion to set aside a decree of divorce granted by a judge pro tempore in the suit of Graziani vs Graziani, and thus affirms the Sonoma county jurist’s opinion. But in passing upon the matter the highest tribunal in the State does not attempt to settle the question as to the legality of the judge pro tempore, as the direct question as to this had not been presented.

[..]

– Press Democrat, January 6 1917

 

PRO TEM JUDGE USE SET ASIDE
Judge Denny Grants Order Setting Aside the Decree of Divorce Granted to Mrs. Cecile Graziani

…In this case the defendant, owing to the uncertainly of the provision of the constitution allowing pro tempore judges, asked the court to set the decree aside so that the matter might he heard before one of the regular Superior Court judges.

The matter will now he squarely presented to the Superior Court.

– Press Democrat, February 11 1917

 

MARY ANN HANKS IS GIVEN HER DIVORCE

In Judge Denny’s department of the Superior Court on Wednesday morning the suit of Mary Ann Hanks, against her husband, William W. Hanks came to trial. After listening to the evidence Judge Denny granted the interlocutory decree. Emmet I. Donohoe was the attorney for the plaintiff.

– Press Democrat, July 19 1917

 

WINNER OF PRO TEM DIVORCE IS MARRIED AGAIN
George W. Mayfield, Local Real Estate Dealer. Waits Three Years and Then Claims Mrs. Minnie Manwell as Wife.

The signing of a final divorce decree for George W. Mayfield yesterday by Superior Judge Emmet Seawell enabled Mr. Mayfield to claim Mrs. Minnie E. Manwell as his wife in a ceremony performed last night by Rev. Charles W. DeVol, and ended a three-year controversy as to the validity of divorce decrees issued by pro tempore judges.

Mr. Mayfield was divorced three years ago, with Pro Tempore Judge L. E. Fulwider presiding, as provided by the constitutional amendment which was voted by the people a short time previously. His interlocutory decree of divorce was signed by Fulwider as Judge.

At the same time a controversy which became somewhat bitter arose between various lawyers who had been sitting as pro tempore judges and the regularly elected judges of the county. The regular judges charged that pro tempore judges made divorce too easy, and to make a test of the matter refused to sign any final decrees. The matter was taken into the higher courts before it was settled, and before persons in the situation of Mr. Mayfield were able to gain their final freedom under the law.

[..]

– Press Democrat, September 6 1919

Read More

darkburbank

THE UNDOING OF LUTHER BURBANK, PART II

On September 4, 1915, Luther Burbank met his destiny – or rather, he met the man who would eventually write the book which would define history’s view of his life’s work. Had Burbank somehow enjoyed a miracle of foresight to know that, he might have spent considerably less of the afternoon grousing about how he was being victimized.

“Burbank was thoroughly angry; his resentment had been growing for months,” botanist Walter L. Howard would write some three decades later. “With flashing eyes he declared that the Company had swindled him out of everything he had, which, of course, was an exaggeration but he was crippled financially, with his normal income from sales having been cut off for two or three years.”1

“The Company” was the Luther Burbank Company, which had been formed back in 1912 to completely take over the sales wing of his business, giving Burbank a guaranteed annual income and allowing him to concentrate on plant breeding.2 “I have no time to make money,” he told the Press Democrat. “I’ve more important work to do.” (More background can be found in “BURBANK INC.” – and by the way, have you read, “THE UNDOING OF LUTHER BURBANK, PART I“?)

But by that late summer afternoon in 1915 the company had only paid Burbank a fraction of what was owed, and that only after he had repeatedly twisted arms.3 The business was on the verge of collapse; that same month, top management was replaced in a last-minute bid to save it from bankruptcy. Another clue that the company was in serious trouble during the summer of 1915 was that a letter went to stockholders offering to sell them more shares at half the $25 face value, as long as they paid for the stock in cash. But even that was too expensive, commented the San Francisco Examiner, as brokers were offering shares at $8 and not finding buyers.

Looking back, it’s no surprise the Company was circling the drain by then – the real mystery is why it was even formed; there was really nothing in its prospectus except for the exclusive right to use the respected name of Luther Burbank.

They had little to sell at first except for company stock and his spineless cactus, and that only because Burbank already had established a cactus plantation near Livermore. While breeding a new plant he normally only produced a few ounces of seed or a few feet of graft-ready branches before selling the rights to a commercial grower, who would then need a few years to build an inventory of enough stock to sell. In 1912 the Burbank Company purchased a few acres south of Oakland to start its own propagation nursery but by the time the Company produced its first product catalog the following year, descriptions of everything available fit in ten pages, with each page padded out with large photos. Later catalogs were more than three times longer, but only because the Company also began selling standard seeds and bulbs as well. (All of their catalogs can be found under the Luther Burbank section of my internet resource page.)

1914latimesad(RIGHT: Versions of this large ad appeared in newspapers nationwide during 1914)

And then there was the dilemma of the Luther Burbank Company using his name as a guarantee of quality, even while Burbank was distancing himself from anything to do with the Company and its advertising promises. Making this particularly awkward, it was Burbank who had made – and continued making – irresponsible claims about how the spineless cactus was a miraculous animal feed which would grow anywhere. As discussed in the cactus article above, Burbank’s variety was actually more temperamental than its wild forms, impractical for use as fodder and also was not completely spineless.4

Yet when it failed to live up to its promise, customers seemed to blame the Company more than Burbank. Among the complaints about the cactus which were popping up in gardening magazines during those years, a Texas farmer wrote a lengthy and bitter letter to the Houston Post bemoaning that he tried to grow a crop for two years without luck. “Some say I did not receive the best. As to that I have only the word of the Burbank company. They offered me what they called their best.”

The Company was far from blameless for its own decline, however. They wasted a terribly lot of money; while most plant nurseries sold only by mail, the Luther Burbank Company rented prime downtown locations in San Francisco and Los Angeles for retail/office space. They ran the large, costly ads such as the one shown above in newspapers nationwide and year round, not just during pre-planting seasons.

All Burbank biographers agree the Company was badly mismanaged, citing what happened to W. Garner Smith as an example. Smith was co-founder of the Company, its largest investor and secretary-treasurer. He was also their main salesman; in the early months of 1914 he traveled through parts of the East and Midwest, booking orders and signing up dealerships, such as hardware and department stores. When he returned in April, Smith found most of the deals had fallen through because the Company had raised prices without telling him. To the customers this would have looked like bait-and-switch, and Smith immediately resigned from the Company.5

Like the rest of the Company’s directors, he had no background whatsoever in the plant nursery business. He was a 29 year-old “insurance man and stock broker of San Francisco, who became so enthused with the plans that he invested a small fortune in the venture,” according to biographer Howard. His co-founder was another 30-something, Rollo J. Hough, who Howard called “a minor official of an Oakland bank” who was supremely unchallenged by not knowing anything about the plant biz – or business in general:6

Hough gave the impression of being a man who was “stepping out” after a period of enforced suppression of his talents in a sedate banking institution. Self-confident and optimistic by nature, he threw himself into the new enterprise with a bounding enthusiasm that was matched only by his driving energy. Undeterred by the fact that he had no personal knowledge of the seed and nursery business, he evidently felt that talent of this kind could be hired when needed.

Had Howard dug a bit further, however, he might have had an even lower opinion of him – it’s hard to determine if he was a scammer or delusional. In 1910 Hough updated his résumé from teller (assistant cashier) at the Oakland Bank of Savings to attorney at law. Where, when (or if) he studied for the bar is unknown; all we have is that he identified as a lawyer from that year onward, although he apparently never had a law office or joined a firm. The only references we have of his legal career come from 1910 and 1911, when he went East to counsel two nieces of the late industrialist Robert Seaman, who claimed his widow had hoodwinked him into turning over his factories to her. (That widow was Nellie Bly, the first modern investigative reporter and she of “around the world in 72 days” fame.) The suit went nowhere. His only other known case was likewise all smoke, as charges were dropped before making it to a court docket. Although he lived until 1952, the single later reference I can find to his post-Burbank years is a 1921 bankruptcy when he was supposedly an investment broker in Los Angeles.

1914readingad(LEFT: Portion of a Reading, Pennsylvania department store ad, 1914)

Hough acted as General Manager for the Luther Burbank Company and Howard wrote another reason for its failure was “his refusal to see the necessity of employing skilled help to oversee the growing of seeds to keep them true to name and type.”7 Smith saw Burbank’s sweet corn growing side-by-side with standard varieties, which would have guaranteed cross-pollination.

Hough also apparently spent much time scouting for new farmland to buy, despite his general ignorance about growing plants. His last deal was in April 1915 to acquire the Rodgers Ranch in Pleasant Hill, where he told a Martinez paper he would be building a bungalow and wanted it “distinctly understood, that he and not the Burbank company is the owner of the ranch and he plans to convert it into an ideal experimental and demonstration farm.” Whether he planned to lease it back to the Company or create his own rival business is unknown, as he was sacked/resigned a few months later. Afterwards Hough briefly remained in that area selling real estate as the Alhambra Land Company in Martinez.

Some $375k in stock had been sold by the summer of 1915, but the Burbank Company was in perilous condition. An assessment found the Company grossly undercapitalized – it claimed 60 percent of the company’s assets was the intangible value of the Luther Burbank brand. Since their stock wasn’t selling even at the discount prices mentioned above, it’s safe to assume investors didn’t agree that his name was still worth that much.

By the time Hough was replaced in September by one W. S. Pitts, the Company was in crisis. Burbank was confiding to Howard – a man whom he had just met – that the Company had screwed him out of everything. In the weeks that followed, the Board levied stockholders for $2.50 a share, which was in addition to the $1 it had earlier demanded for the reassessment. Holding Burbank Company stock was looking less like a sound investment and more like having a losing hand in a poker game and still raising the ante. But as Howard wrote, “the great majority of the stock purchasers put up their money and held on to their stock because of an abiding faith in Burbank’s products, which, in a final analysis, meant a child-like faith in the man himself.”8

The unraveling continued as Burbank’s personal lawyer apparently began threatening a lawsuit. “The Company has been badly mismanaged, and that is the sole cause of its financial difficulties,” Pitts told the San Francisco Chronicle. “We asked Burbank to give us until March 1st to make up the back payments.” By then, the directors said, the Company would be in the midst of a new sales season and would not only be able to pay Burbank what he was owed but refinance the business. But the situation deteriorated, and was so chaotic by December that Burbank’s old friend Dr. J. H. McLeod of Santa Rosa was acting as mediator between he and the directors. (Ever wilder, McLeod was appointed to the board of directors during this time without his knowledge and consent, according to the Press Democrat, which would have been an act of criminal fraud.)

Then just before New Years’, Burbank pulled the trigger and sued for $9,775.20, being the amount due on two promissory notes which had been earlier signed by Hough (not by James Edwards, the president of the company, take notice).

His attorney told the San Francisco Chronicle, “Burbank has been contemplating such a course for some time, and is now determined to stop all activities of the corporation as far as the use of his name and the exploiting of his work are concerned.” Interviewed by the PD, the lawyer added, “Burbank has been the victim of stock pirates…They paid him the $30,000, sold stock like hot cakes and never paid him another dollar. Burbank had delayed action for a year because of sympathy with the excellent people involved.” Garner Smith objected to being called a pirate and sued the attorney for $10,000 damages.

The suit ended all negotiations with Burbank as well as any talk of bailouts or possible acquisitions. The only options considered were liquidation, giving the Company to Burbank – which was the last thing he would ever consider – or bankruptcy. After a month of discussion, the directors chose bankruptcy. At the time there was only $334 in their bank account.

Luther Burbank’s lawsuit against the Luther Burbank Company garnered widespread news coverage across the country. Some of the interest was probably Schadenfreude at the Company’s troubles, particularly from those who felt misled over the cactus hype. Others apparently thought it pretty funny that a smart guy like Burbank could be bamboozled into making dumb decisions. This item appeared in many papers:


PLANT WIZARD ‘EASY;’ HIRES PRETTY GIRL TO EXAMINE SCHEMES
SANTA ROSA, Cal., Jan. 24 – Luther Burbank, the wizard of things that grow, realizes he is so “easy” for anyone who wants his money for this, that and the other (and plenty of persons do), that he employed pretty little Miss Bessie Waters to scrutinize every proposition offered him, to decide whether it is legitimate. Miss Waters attends all Burbank’s interviews and is asked to giver her advice quite frequently.

It was a gag written by someone locally, although newspaper readers in Kansas and elsewhere wouldn’t know that. Who authored it is unknown, although the Santa Rosa Republican ran it at the top of the front page with this preface: “Among the telegraphic items of news received from the United Press Monday was the following one, telling of the supposed gullibility of Luther Burbank.” It was also the only newspaper that corrected the woman’s name to be “Betty Waters” – the real name of Burbank’s secretary, who had been working for him since 1914 and whom he would marry at the end of 1916. I don’t know whether the correction is an indicator of the Republican’s guilt, or if it’s more suspicious that the Press Democrat ignored it completely.

NEXT: THE UNDOING OF LUTHER BURBANK, PART III

San Francisco Examiner ad, March 12, 1916
San Francisco Examiner ad, March 12, 1916

 

 

 

1 Walter L. Howard; Luther Burbank: A Victim of Hero Worship; Chronica Botanica; Winter 1945-1946; p. 401. At the time of their meeting, Howard was a new hire at UC/Davis as Associate Professor of Horticulture.

2 Burbank earlier had sold complete rights to many plants to seed companies and nurseries, of course, but the agreement with the Luther Burbank Company was for exclusive rights to all unsold and future creations as well as ownership of the Santa Rosa and Sebastopol farms. For that the company was to pay $300,000 in annual payments of $15,000, plus $30,000 cash (the equivalent to about $780k today) at signing.

3 The Company had given Burbank promissory notes in 1914 and 1915 for only half of what was owed in each year’s annuity, a total of $15,000. But the Company couldn’t even meet that commitment; Burbank had only received $5,920 for those two years. See transcribed article below from the San Francisco Chronicle, December 30, 1915.

 

4 Burbank never declared in print that the cactus was completely spineless, only that the spicules were insignificant enough that it could be eaten by animals; Burbank reportedly used a razor or sandpaper to smooth the cactus paddles shown to visitors. In “A Gardener Touched with Genius” author Peter Dreyer wrote Company workers used wire brushes to remove spines before shipping, and this “fraud” made buyers indignant once the cacti were planted and grew new paddles which had small spicules (2002 edition, pg. 192). Dreyer strongly implied the Company was dishonestly shaving ordinary cactus to fill orders when inventory was low, and in “The Garden of Invention” (pp. 234-235) author Jane S. Smith stated that happened as plain fact while adding speculative details, particularly that this discovery destroyed customer trust in the company. Further, I was once told another variation where this resulted in the resignation of company officers. But Howard doesn’t mention this supposed deception and I find nothing in the newspapers. Neither Dreyer or Smith provide citations. Unless more information appears, I now believe there was no misconduct of this sort and the story evolved from Dreyer’s misunderstanding of a remark made by a plant inspector he quoted, who was naively expressing surprise that “spineless” cactus were not completely free of spines.


5 Howard op. cit. pg. 399. Howard interviewed Smith in 1941 and he apparently said President James Edwards resigned about the same time. This is not true, as shown in Press Democrat items below. It’s more likely Edwards left during the Sept. 1915 shakeup.

6 Howard pp. 394-395.

7 Howard pg. 399.

8 Howard pg. 395.

 

sources
W. Garner Smith of the Luther Burbank Co. arrived in Modesto yesterday to demonstrate the uses of Luther Burbank’s Spineless Cactus to the farmers of this county…

– Modesto Evening News, May 22, 1913

 

W. Garner Smith of San Francisco, who has been spending a few days in Scranton and vicinity, left yesterday for Harrisburg and New York. Mr. Smith is a Kentuckian, one of two young men who financed the Luther Burbank products in California, guaranteeing Luther Burbank $25,000 for life and controlling all the results of his experiments.

– Scranton Truth, March 31, 1914

 

JAMES R. EDWARDS HERE ON A BUSINESS VISIT

James R. Edwards, former mayor of Santa Rosa and former assistant cashier of the Savings Bank of Santa Rosa, was in town Friday on business, returning to San Francisco on Saturday morning. Mr. Edwards is the well known president of the Luther Burbank company, with offices in San Francisco.

“Business is fine,” was Mr. Edwards’ cheery response to an inquiry.

– Press Democrat, June 28 1914

 

JAMES R. EDWARDS IS A VISITOR HERE WEDNESDAY

James R. Edwards, a former well-known resident and mayor of this city and for some time president of the Luther Burbank Company, was here Wednesday and met many old-time friends. Mr. Edwards has not been here for some time. He is looking as if the world was agreeing with him. He reports that the company’s business is picking up and a big season is expected from now on.

– Press Democrat, November 5 1914

 

JAMES R. EDWARDS IN SANTA ROSA FDR VISIT

James R. Edwards, president of the Luther Burbank Company, and former mayor of this city, was here yesterday from San Francisco for a visit. Mr. Edwards reports that the year’s business for the Luther Burbank Company has opened up auspiciously and the indications are that the year’s record will be a good one. Mr. Edwards is still very much interested in the welfare of Santa Rosa and Sonoma county, his home for many years.

– Press Democrat, March 3 1915

 

LUTHER BURBANK CO. BUY PROPAGRATION TRACT
Location Near Martinez, Contra Costa County, Is Purchased on Which Plants and Seeds of the Santa Rosa Horticulturist Will Be Raised For the Market

The Luther Burbank Co., of which J. R. Edwards of this city is the president, and which is the exclusive agency for the handling of the Luther Burbank productions, has purchased a tract of land near Martinez, for seed and propagation station. The Daily Gazette of Martinez in announcing the deal says;

“The Luther Burbank Company has purchased the J. E. Rodgers ranch of 38 acres in the Pleasant Hill district near Martinez and will establish there, one of its largest demonstration farms. On this ranch which will be improved at once will be grown thousands of the wonderful Burbank floral creations which now come from Santa Rosa and it will become one of the show places of the bay region.

“The deal was closed Friday when Mrs. Mary H. Flint of Santa Barbara who bought the ranch some time ago from the well known Martinez attorney, sold the property to the Burbank interests, the deal being closed on behalf of that firm by Rollo Hough, manager of the company who is a nephew of Mrs. S. Bennet of Martinez and a former resident of Martinez.

“In some sense the establishing of the Burbank interests in Contra Costa county is the direct result of the county’s exhibit at the Exposition. Representatives of the Burbank company inspecting the county’s exhibit marveled at the products grown here. Hough was well acquainted with the land surrounding Martinez and at once got In touch with J. E. Rodgers of Martinez who, still holding an interest in the property, successfully negotiated the sale.

“The property will be improved at once. A new bungalow will be built there and Hough will make that ranch his home. The wonderful floral creations of Luther Burbank will be propagated there and the whole property will be so planted that it will become one of the greatest show places about the bay. It lies in close proximity to Martinez and is one of the greatest boosts for this part of Contra Costa county that has come in years.

– Press Democrat, April 6 1915

 

 

Burbank Co. Stock Assessed.

The Luther Burbank Company has levied an assessment of $1 a share on its capital stock, payable on or before August 2…Accompanying the notice of the assessment, mailed to the stockholders, is a document, which the directors of the corporation call a “reappraisal of the assets of your company.” In this reappraisal, among the alleged assets stated, appears the following item:

“Value of the exclusive right to use the name of Luther Burbank and to distribute his horticultural productions – $287,500.”

The total assets as stated, including this item, are $487,700.28.

The current liabilities, including notes payable to Luther Burbank of $10,380 for “novelties yet to be delivered” and mortgages payable on real estate, total $73,023.58.

– San Francisco Examiner, July 20, 1915

 

BURBANK SUES NAMESAKE CO. FOR $9,775.20
Desires to Sever Connection With Corporation Bearing His Name
SUM DUE ON TWO NOTES
Present Manager of Concern Admits Financial Difficulties in Business

A sensational climax to the affairs of the Luther Burbank Company, a corporation organized three years ago to exploit the work of the Santa Rosa horticulturist, was reached yesterday, when Burbank, through his attorneys, Otto Irving Wise and Richard O’Connor, filed suit in the Superior Court to collect $9,775.20 from The Luther Burbank Company.

This amount is alleged to be due on two promissory notes given Burbank by the company and signed by R. J. Hough, vice-president, and Leo V. Belden, secretary. The first note was for $7500. The first was dated July 1, 1914, for ninety days at 6 per cent interest. The principal was unpaid and interest was paid only to May 1, 1915, leaving a balance of $7800.

The second note was dated January 1, 1915, for sixty days at 6 per cent interest. On this note $5620 was paid, leaving a balance of $1975.20.

Yesterday’s action was the second step taken by Burbank in a plan to sever himself, his work and his name from the Luther Burbank Company, the first having been taken last Monday, when he served on the company a notice of termination of contract.

According to Attorney Wise, Burbank has been contemplating such a course for some time, and is now determined to stop all activities of the corporation as far as the use of his name and the exploiting of his work are concerned. The company is in arrears to Burbank, Wise said, for from $20,000 to $24,000.

“Burbank has been tied hand and foot for the last three years,” said Wise, “and he has decided to cut loose. The Luther Burbank Company was organized by a group of promoters who made a contract with him under the terms of which they agreed to pay him $300,000 for his property in Sonoma county and for his work.

CAPITALIZED AT $375,000

“They formed a corporation capitalized at $375,000, sold the stock at par and made an initial payment to Burbank of $30,000. They then agreed to pay him $15,000 a year until the balance was paid. The concern was promoted on the strength of some of Burbank’s wonderful productions such as the spineless cactus and the thornless blackberry.

“Burbank has never had any direct interest in the company and owns no stock in it. Some of the best people in this city have been interested in the business, and for them Burbank has a deep feeling of sorrow.”

The promoters of the Luther Burbank Company were R. J. Hough, former assistant cashier of an Oakland bank, and W. Garner Smith, at present an insurance broke of this city. The directors include R. J. Tyson, president of the Seaboard National Bank; George U. Hind, of Hind, Rolph & Co.; I. A. Beretta, of the Chinn-Beretta Optical Company; J. R. Edwards; W. S. Pitts, manager; Dr. E. J. Overand and Harrison S. Robinson of Oakland, and Dr. J. A. McCloud of Santa Rosa.

At the company’s store at 301 Market street it was learned yesterday that Hough has not been connected with the business since last September. He was said to be engaged in the real estate business at Martinez.

MANAGER’S EXPLANATION

W. S. Pitts, who succeeded Hough in the management of the business, said he had no knowledge of the filing of the suit, and that the company had been making a desperate effort to make satisfactory arrangements with Burbank.

“The company has been badly mismanaged, and that is the sold cause of its financial difficulties,” said Pitts. “We asked Burbank to give us until March 1st to make up the back payments, and this action is a surprise to me. We have just levied an assessment of $2 50 [sic] a share in an effort to keep going until we get on our feet.

“Dr. J. A. McCloud of Santa Rosa, one of the directors, is acting as intermediary between the company and Burbank, and we hoped he would succeed in reaching satisfactory terms. If we can hold out until spring we shall be on a sound footing.

“I cannot say that Burbank has been unfair in bringing this suit, for he could have started it last October had he wished. But it is a hard blow to the men who hoped, by legitimate business methods, to make the company a success.”

– San Francisco Chronicle, December 30, 1915

 

MISMANAGEMENT IDLES UP THE BURBANK COMPANY
Compelled to Enforce the Provisions of the Contract, Mr. Burbank Brings Suit – Meeting of the Directors Has Been Called for Next Monday — Statement is issued

After having: waited and waited for The Luther Burbank Company, the concern which look over his seed and other productions, to pay him what he had been owed for a long time, Luther Burbank has commenced a suit against the company in the Superior Court of San Francisco to recover the sum of $9,775 due on promissory notes. Otto Wise of San Francisco is the attorney for Mr. Burbank. Further than this Mr. Burbank has notified the company of his cancellation of the contract which bound him to turn over his creations to the company. In other words, the expected has happened, and what was once one of the most golden opportunities upon which any concern had to build up a tremendous business has been allowed to dwindle owing to gross mismanagement of its affairs.

WILL HOLD MEETING

From San Francisco Thursday came word that Manager Pitts and the directors will put forth every endeavor to get Mr. Burbank to reconsider the course which he has decided upon and for which he cannot be blamed in the least, for his experimental ground expenses do not cease as his great work proceeds. There is to be a meeting between the directors and Mr. Burbank on next Monday, and Mr. Wise will also be present, it was also learned from the company’s offices Thursday. In the event of Mr. Burbank deeming to adopt the course he has outlined and refuses to allow his name or his products to be handled by the company, then there will be nothing to do but to liquidate the concern. It is well known that Mr. Burbank has been willing to do most anything to keep the company in operation if the contract was lived up to. Among the stockholders in Santa Rosa, and there are a number, and elsewhere, there are some of his most intimate friends.

ATTORNEY WISE SPEAKS

“Burbank has been the victim of stock pirates,” said Attorney Wise. “This company was formed three years ago. He has no stock in it and no interest in it. Some of the best men in town have also been made victims.

“The men who secured the contract from Burbank and who promoted the company were R. J. Hough and W. Garner Smith. Stock to the amount of $375,000 has been sold to the public at par.

“The company agreed to pay Burbank $300,000, in terms of $30,000 cash and $15,000 a year. They were to have exclusive rights to sell all his experiments.

SUITS FOR ARREAGES

“They paid him the $30,000, sold stock like hot cakes and never paid him another dollar. Burbank had delayed action for a year because of sympathy with the excellent people involved. He has now cancelled the contract, forbidden use of his name and has brought suit for $10,000. Another suit will be brought, for $15,000. These suits are arrearages.

The directors of the Luther Burbank Company are Pitts, J. R. Edwards, vice-president; I. A. Beretta, optician: George U. Hind, of Hind, Rolph & Co.; Harrison B. Robinson, Oakland attorney; Dr. E. J. Everand of Oakland, and Dr. J. H. McLeod of Santa Rosa. Among the prominent stockholders are R. J. Tyson of the Seaboard National Bank, M. J. Brandenstein and I. W. Hellman.

NAMED WITHOUT CONSULTATION

Dr. McLeod of this city was appointed a member of the board of directors only three weeks ago, and then without his knowledge and consent. He had no connection whatever with the directorate during the mismanagement of the business or during the time when it became involved. This statement is made out of fairness to Dr. McLeod and to avoid any misconstruction of his relationship with the previous management of the company.

THE MANAGER’S STATEMENT

Manager Pitts is still hopeful that with a reduction of the running expenses that the business can be rehabilitated. On Tuesday the stockholders received a notice of their assessment of $2.50 per share. Pitts was named manager after Hough et al. had left. Here are some extracts from his letter sent to stockholders Tuesday:

It was hoped that this assessment might be avoided, the necessary money being raised by re-financing our company along lines as suggested in my recent circular letter. Just at the present time, however, I find it a hard matter to interest prospective buyers of stocks. Money is urgently needed, and hence this request for your cooperation.

At the present time the stockholders’ liability amounts to approximately $5 per share, therefore in payment of this assessment you are in any event simply reducing your liability that much.

It is my belief that by the first of March our finances will be in better shape and it will then be a much easier matter to re-finance the company by interesting outside capital.

We have on file at the present writing unfilled orders to the amount of $20,000. These orders are for shipment from January 1 up until February 15 next. We have shipped already $8,000 worth of business, although it was late when we got started to selling. We have three salesmen on the outside at the present time working the eastern territory. These men are turning in business each day and there is every reason to expect that these three men wall turn at least $25,000 worth of seed agency business between now and March 1 next. In addition thereto we will commence to receive our nursery orders, as this business is usually placed during January, February and early March. This business should amount to at least $10,000.

Figuring, then, that our seed and nursery selling campaign will close by April 1, our total business up to that date should amount to at least $53,000 to $55,000.

At that time the cactus campaign will start, and it would seem that at least $10,000 should be expected from that source, which will give us a year’s turn-over of approximately $65,000.

We have every reason to believe that no difficulty whatever will be experienced in making collections when accounts are due, inasmuch as the trade being sold small quantities of seed with the result they will feel in better humor. The business is likewise being built up for a permanent future.

In securing this future business of approximately $35,000 there will be very little expense. The seed has been harvested and is in our salesrooms being packeted at this time. The growing and harvesting expense has already been taken care of, therefore this future business, basing it on our operating expense alone, should show a profit of approximately 75 to 80 per cent.

SMITH’S MISSTATEMENT

Garner Smith’s statement that in addition to $25,000, Mr. Burbank had been given $75,000 worth of stock is a misstatement. The $75,000 worth of stock was turned back to the promoters for stock bonuses, and it is said that Hough and Smith got a share of the stock themselves. Mr. Burbank did not benefit by the stock whatsoever. At this time it looks as if the liquidation of the company will ensue.

– Press Democrat, December 31 1915

 

ANOTHER PLAN OF THE BURBANK CO.
Proposition to Have Mr. Burbank Take Over the Company Has Been Submitted for Consideration

Another tentative plan for the reformation of the Luther Burbank Company has been proposed and submitted to Mr. Burbank. It is that instead of the company undertaking liquidation, all of the business of the company be turned over to him, whereby he would own and control the company and its business and take over all the unfilled orders and the immense quantity of seed and nursery stock on hand. With new management it is urged the orders on hand and to be filled would make a good beginning. It is probable that a suggestion to liquidate may be abrogated, as it does not represent the opinion of many of the stockholders. It is also urged that with Mr. Burbank at the head of the company personally, new capital could be induced and what is considered, with proper management, could be made one of the greatest businesses of the country, could be refinanced. Mr. Burbank’s decision is awaited with considerable interest.

Manager Pitts’ Statement

“A meeting was held.” said Pitts, “for the purpose of devising ways and means of refinancing and to that end a statement of the company’s business and an inventory has been prepared. Prior to this meeting of the stockholders the board of directors of which I am a member, met and decided to submit a proposal to Mr. Burbank. That is to be presented to Otto Irving Wise, his attorney, and be expect an early consideration from Mr. Burbank.

“The plan is that Mr. Burbank take over the company and run its business from Santa Rosa. An inventory of seeds, novelties and Burbank creations has been turned over to Mr. Wise, and it will be left for Mr. Burbank himself to decide what the future of the business will be. The stockholders have all been apprised of his plan and personally I have gone so far as to state that I would mange the affairs in Santa Rosa. The stockholders have appointed a committee of three to work with a similar committee appointed by the board of directors. The report that liquidation had already been decided upon is untrue and will do the company considerable harm. There are salesmen at work throughout the country, and these reports that the company is preparing to go out of business will naturally put an end to their work.”

Burbank has preferred to leave the business affairs of the company to others and look after his experimental work, according to Pitts. The general manager stated that some of the biggest stockholders have approved of a financing plan, claiming that it would be a pity to abandon much of the early work.

The story in the Press Democrat Thursday morning to the effect that it had been definitely decided to liquidate the company, was published in absolutely good faith. upon information furnished the paper by one of the stockholders who had been told of the proceedings at the meeting in question by another Santa Rosa stockholder who was present the information being believed to be absolutely reliable as to fact.

– Press Democrat, January 21 1916

 

SAYS REPUTATION IS HURT; SEEKS $10,000 DAMAGES

A suit charging libel and demanding $10,000 damages from Attorney Otto Irving Wise was filed in the Superior Court in San Francisco, Thursday, by W. Garner Smith, a stock salesman, who accuses Wise of publishing statements derogatory to his reputation and his business. The suit is the outcome of an action filed by Wise three weeks ago on behalf of Luther Burbank.

The deal by which the Luther Burbank Company was formed was promoted by Smith and Rollo J. Hough. In an interview published at the time of the filing of his complaint. Wise was quoted, It was alleged by Smith Thursday, as mentioning Smith and Hough, and declaring that, Burbank had been “made the victim of stock pirates.”

It is this alleged assertion which Smith resents, and for which he demands damages. Meantime the stockholders will watch the proceedings with interest.

– Press Democrat, February 5 1916

 

Burbank Company Claims Bankruptcy
Notes Given to Horticulturist Are Part of Liabilities Which Firm Cannot Meet.

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 7. – The Luther Burbank Company, formed three years ago to sell Burbank’s products, filed a voluntary petition in bankruptcy today. Assets were given as $108,559.56, much of which was said to be intangible, and liabilities as $73,372.02.

Luther Burbank filed suit against the company December 29, 1915, to collect $9775 on two notes given him. Burbank’s attorneys said the company paid the horticulturist $30,000 and agreed to pay him the remainder of the contract price of $300,000 at the rate of $15,000 a year, for the exclusive right to sell his products.

The directors decided upon bankruptcy at a meeting February 1, it was said, when it was shown that there was $334 in bank and $70 cash on hand in the company’s exchequer.

Listed among the liabilities were Burbank’s notes, $32,000 due the Seaboard National bank of San Francisco, and about $1400 due twenty employees for a month’s wages.

The assets included real estate valued at $24,000 and stock valued at $41,398.

– Sacramento Union, February 8 1916

 

Stockholders Sued For Overdue Rent

The Enright Estate Company filed a stockholders’ liability suit in the Superior Court yesterday against W. Garner Smith, J. R. Edwards and R. J. Hough to recover a total of $5,250 which it is alleged the Luther Burbank Company owe for the ground floor premises at Beale and Market streets.

[Smith owned 1,186 shares of stock in the Luther Burbank Company, Edwards owned 540 shares, Hough owned 806 shares]

– San Francisco Examiner, November 18, 1916

Read More

marchFB

AT THE MEXICO BORDER: SANTA ROSA’S NATIONAL GUARD

Wave a flag and cheer, Santa Rosa; your National Guard boys are going off to protect the border with Mexico! The year was 1916 and beneath the cheery patriotism was terror about what might happen – and for good reason. It looked like a full-scale war with Mexico would start at any moment.

While the soldiers going off to fight in Europe in 1917 get lots of attention from historians, the National Guard’s call up for duty a year earlier is lesser mentioned, often just dismissed as sort of a rehearsal for the real show. But it was their departure for the border that had the greater emotional impact on Santa Rosa, being the first time local men had been ordered to active service since the Spanish-American War, a full generation in the past.

The story has obvious relevance to us in 2018 because a president is again sending the National Guard to the Mexican border. But while researching those doings about a century ago, I found the story even more relevant to today than I expected – it was also a casebook study of “fake news.”

That innocent American civilians were killed in the lead-up to deployment was an indisputable fact. But depending upon which newspaper(s) you happened to read – and remember, this was 1916 and before radio or TV, so your daily paper was probably the sole news source available – your reaction might be the indignation someone feels when any fellow citizens are slain by terrorists. Or maybe you’d feel the situation in Mexico was so abominable that the U.S. Army should go down there and take over the whole damn country.

The most irresponsible coverage found anywhere was undoubtedly in the San Francisco Examiner and other Hearst papers, with anti-Mexican racism on a par with President “Some I Assume Are Good People” Trump.* Here in Sonoma county, however, the dailies were the Argus-Courier in Petaluma with the Santa Rosa Republican and Press Democrat delivered to homes and businesses elsewhere. Of the three, the PD stands out – for making everyone more jittery by portraying Mexico as a lawless wilderness, where life was cheap and outlaws roamed the countryside like packs of feral dogs.

Scan the front pages of the Press Democrat from the start of 1916 and discover there were detailed reports about the war in Europe – albeit mainly good news that WWI was going ever so swell for the Allies and the unpleasantness would be over soon, one way or the other. In sharp contrast, the PD’s account of the Mexico crisis was alarmist and became increasingly histrionic. Despite the enormous number of deaths in WWI, the articles about that had all the immediacy of chess match coverage; when it came to Mexico, PD editor Ernest Finley’s hair was on such fire he could not be troubled to worry about printing the truth.

Trouble loomed not long after the year began: “MEXICANS MURDERED AMERICANS,” read the headline in the January 12 Press Democrat. The incident – which became known as the Santa Isabel Massacre – would continue to dominate the PD’s front page for the remainder of that week, even pushing out most news about the World War.

(RIGHT: ‘Pancho’ Villa, in scene from 1914 docudrama)

In the Mexican state of Chihuahua, about 250 miles from the Texas border, sixteen Americans who worked for a mining company had been robbed, stripped, and murdered execution-style. Two other Americans in the area were killed three days later. The killers were part of the forces under the command of Francisco “Pancho” Villa, northern Mexico’s warlord and leader of a military faction in their ongoing revolution.

When word reached El Paso, the nearest U.S. city to the site of the crime and home to the big Army base at Fort Bliss, soldiers attacked Mexicans downtown, leading to an anti-Mexican riot involving about a thousand soldiers and civilians alike. Martial law was declared and Mexican residents were ordered to leave their homes.

President Woodrow Wilson – who recently had given his blessing to the current Mexican government – rejected calls for a counterstrike, saying he trusted their country to punish those responsible. There was also talk of the mining company and American ranchers creating a mercenary troop to sneak into the country to capture Villa. Provoking an invasion of Mexico by American forces, however, was exactly what he wanted.

At that point the Mexican Revolution had been underway for five or six or seven years (depending on who you ask) with the U.S. meddling at every step. By the mid-1910s it had strayed from its revolutionary goal of upending the country’s old feudalism and turned into a Game of Thrones-like contest for power with several factions locked in a civil war, Villa a major player among them.

As 1916 began, Villa and his once indomitable Army of the North (División del Norte) seemed headed for a small footnote in Mexican history. The previous year, better armed government forces had badly whipped them in three major battles – one of which lasted 38 days (!) – and the Villistas were reduced to a guerilla force unlikely to survive another direct encounter with the Army.

Villa believed the president of Mexico – a former ally of his, natch – was a sellout and conceding too much to American interests because he had some sort of secret deal with Wilson’s administration. (It turned out Villa had been suckered into believing a conspiracy theory.) In Villa’s mind the last hope to unify the country was to start a mouse-that-roared war with the U.S. And as the earlier attack had failed to spur necessary American wrath, he decided to lead his fighters across the border and attack a town in New Mexico. It would be the first time American soil had been invaded since the War of 1812.

Two months after the Santa Isabel Massacre, Villa and his forces targeted Columbus NM, a dusty bordertown about 70 miles west of El Paso. A very thorough and well-written description of the attack can be read here but all we need to know is that it was brutal; 18 Americans were dead and the little town was ransacked. President Wilson immediately ordered troops into Mexico to capture or kill Villa.

 “On the Border” by Donna Neary (Image: Army.Mil)

 

 

From that point on, all newspaper coverage of the crisis can be ranked on a scale. The better papers explained Villa was trying to provoke Wilson into invading, so their readers may have understood that while these were savage acts, they were part of his realpolitik gambit, and there were risks to the U.S. if we played into his hands. Rank the Press Democrat at the other end of the scale with the worst of the yellow press, painting Villa simply as the leader of a ruthless bandit gang on the prowl for horses to steal and gringos to slaughter.

Then there’s the the Press Democrat’s remarkable volume of stories. A week or more might pass without the Argus-Courier or Santa Rosa Republican mentioning Pancho Villa – but from April onwards, something about Villa appeared on the PD front page almost every single day, which by itself made the story appear as important as the World War. Most of those items turned out to be rumors and lies which the paper did not later correct, or made only a token effort to fix. The worst was probably when the PD made a big splash with a story about a Mexican Army general defecting to Villa and taking his 2,000 soldiers with him. When it proved untrue a day later there was a single sentence about it buried near the end of a long update of latest U.S. troop movements.

Even the best newspapers sometimes printed stuff that turned out false, but the PD was like a “fake news” clearinghouse. Villa had narrowly escaped capture, Villa was about to invade the U.S. again, Villa was dead, Villa was walking through passenger trains and murdering anyone he thought was American. Sometimes what was presented to Sonoma county readers slipped into outright propaganda – the PD featured a photo illustration showed a firing squad poised for execution with the caption, “How They Kill a ‘Gringo.'” It was actually a scene from a 1914 docudrama about Villa filmed during the civil war with other Mexican factions.

The crisis came to a head in June – a fact we know because the PD’s banner headline on the 18th shouted, “MEXICAN CRISIS NOW AT THE CLIMAX”. The Mexican president ordered American troops to leave the country. President Wilson refused. Soon after, troops from the U.S. Cavalry were confronted by the Mexican Army, and in the “Battle of Carrizal” 12 Americans were killed with 24 captured. The next day Wilson ordered the entire 145,000 member National Guard called to duty. On June 24, the northern California Fifth regiment was mobilized and ordered to assemble in Sacramento immediately. Santa Rosa was going to war.

“Goodbye Boys! and May God Bless You and Keep You”, cheered the Press Democrat headline on June 25. Half of the front page that day called for a big public turnout at 10:00AM as the local National Guard marched from the armory (Fourth and D streets) to the train station on North street. The other half of the page contained stories suggesting they were probably going to be walking into a trap and be slaughtered.

“The Carrizal battle was only an incident of what was planned to be a general attack on the American command,” one of those PD articles read, citing a report supposedly received in El Paso. “Americans were flanked on both sides by Mexicans who practically surrounded the little detachment,” read another story that described what happened at Carrizal. “In front was a concealed Mexican machine gun trench from which a stream of leaden death unexpectedly poured into the American ranks.”

This upsetting “we salute you who are about to die” theme continued in the PD alongside news about the current whereabouts of our company. Three days later, the PD claimed the “Buffalo Soldiers” captured at Carrizal were expecting to be executed, 30,000 Mexican soldiers were waiting to attack U.S. soldiers and a half million Mexican civilians were heading for the border to repel an American invasion. The Republican printed none of that crap and by contrast,  balanced front page coverage of the National Guard deployment with news about the state political conventions and WWI developments.

Santa Rosa’s Company E, led by Captain Hilliard Comstock (more about that fellow’s soldiering later) had 75 members, one of them Fleming McWhorter, who already had been serving in New Mexico. He returned to join his Company E comrades even though he would be turning around the next day. An impromptu group met him at the train and carried him on their shoulders to the armory. It was a grand moment:

Members of Co. E who have served their time as drummers, secured the drums of the Native Sons’ Drum Corps and headed the column. The company flag was carried and a mascot in the form of a little dog with a white blanket marked “Co. E,” was led in the line. About fifty men were in line and the column made an inspiring sight as it marched along Fourth street. The Santa Rosa Boys’ Brass Band, in full uniform, was at the depot and tendered several selections while the crowd awaited the arrival of the train. As it came in the band played one of its liveliest tunes, arousing the enthusiasm of all present…

Irregardless of the garbage the PD was feeding its readers about hordes of killer Mexicans, the paper’s coverage of their departure the next day was touching, promising it “…will always be remembered as one of the most notable of events that has ever occurred in Santa Rosa, and thousands participated in the many incidents marking the going away.”

No one who was an eye witness will ever forget Sunday morning, June 25, 1916, the time when Company E of Santa Rosa went to the front at the country’s call for the defense of the flag. It was gigantic. It was grand, significant and true…Santa Rosa rallied magnificently in her saying of good-bye. Long before the hour of ten, when the whistles blew and the bells rang, people commenced to congregate in the streets adjacent, to the armory, and when the parade formed with the departing company as the center of attraction, the streets for blocks were lined with one continuous mass of humanity. The bands played and as the parade came along men, women and children fell into line and marched with the soldiers. Winding up the procession were several hundred automobiles carrying for the most part women and children. The line of march was down Fifth street to A then to Fourth, along Fourth to North, and thence out to the depot. All along the line of march the air was rent with cheers. And as the soldier boys passed down Fifth street each was presented with a beautiful bouquet of Burbank’s Shasta daisies, carnations, roses and greenery.

And then the moment of farewell came. “The troops’ train had disappeared around the bend in the track out from the Southern Pacific depot; the clanging of the locomotive bell was now an echo; Santa Rosa’s greatest public demonstration had ended; and the prolonging note of the mother’s prayer, sweeter than all else, for it really echoed the sentiment of thousands of hearts, came at the last.”

Tensions between the United States and Mexico remained high for a few following days but then the Carrizal prisoners were released unharmed, and even the PD grudgingly conceded on July 6 the “condition of [the] Mexican situation is improving.” News about WWI again began to dominate their front page.

And then letters from Company E began arriving back home. They were headed for Nogales, Arizona and in good spirits. It was so hot on the train that most of them stripped down to their underwear. They started a “beauty contest” to see who could grow the best chin whiskers and moustache.

“Dog tents” of the San Francisco company, 5th California Infantry at Nogales (PHOTO: California State Military Museums

 

Mostly they were bored after settling into camp. It was hot and there was lots of rain. They drilled every morning for five hours, then had the afternoon and evening free. They slept six to a tent and Charles O’Bear, one of the cooks, wrote that he and his bunkmates “have all sorts of fun amongst ourselves. We took a lot of freak pictures this afternoon.” (Let’s hope the O’Bears still have their family photo album.) They had brought along that little black dog named “Fox” which they now dressed with a canvas coat reading on each side “Co. E, Fifth.” After a couple of days they adopted another fox terrier as an assistant mascot.

In the letters printed or summarized in the Press Democrat they often described how good and plentiful the food was. There were 2,000 men in the Fifth California Regiment at Nogales and in two weeks they ate 14,000 pounds of fresh meat. “Today’s dinner consisted of cold boiled ham, corn on cob, French fried potatoes, iced tea, chocolate cake with bread and butter,” O’Bear wrote to his friend. The Sebastopol Merchants’ Association sent them a shipment of apples and a thank you note replied, “The apples which you were so kind as to send were, like all Sebastopol Gravensteins. delicious…”

Health was also a big topic; many were bedridden for a few days because of the typhoid vaccinations. They had been mustered up so quickly the men had not been examined by Army doctors here or in Sacramento, so everyone got a physical at the Nogales camp. An average of fifteen percent of the California National Guard failed and were sent home. Company E lost 17 – including Ezra Mortenson, who was too tall. The PD reported that an anti-smoking activist told the Santa Rosa Grange that many in the Guard were rejected because they suffered from “tobacco heart,” leading to a letter-to-the-editor from all of Company E, griping that “people should know what they are talking about before breaking into print.” (The same complaint could have been made about all of the PD’s prior Mexico coverage, of course.)

What they didn’t write about was military service, except for a letter from Al Mead. Nogales straddles the border and there wasn’t a fence between the two sides until after 1918. Mead wrote, “The main street of Nogales forms the international boundary line between the United States and Mexico. American guards, dressed in the customary olive drab uniforms, guard our side of the line, while the Mexican side is patrolled by half-starved, scantily clad Mexican soldiers, dressed mostly in ragged overalls and dirty shirts, the red hat cord being the only distinction between them and the ordinary citizen.”

After about a month at Nogales the Fifth Regiment was told to prepare for a 138-mile march, although they wouldn’t be going into into Mexico; they would be heading to Fort Huachuca which had a particularly good rifle range. But as August was about to end, surprising new orders arrived – they were to pack up and head back to Sacramento to be part of the state fair. Theirs was the only regiment sent away from the border so early.

“Bronzed and campaign-hardened by the active service on the Mexican border, the members of the Fifth Infantry swung into the State Fair grounds today to the strains of martial music and the cheers of thousands of spectators,” reported the Press Democrat. “Erect and with swinging stride of regulars, the men and their officers made a splendid appearance, clearly demonstrating the result of their arduous border service.” They took part in a sham battle where 16,000 rounds of blanks were fired and a prop bridge was blown up.

And that was that. They came home to Santa Rosa on October 7 with another parade and a banquet at the armory. They saw no action whatsoever. Any who dreamed of serving alongside Army regulars chasing Pancho Villa were certainly disappointed, but in truth President Wilson and the generals probably had no intention of letting them see combat – they were there to relieve the Army of policing the American side of the border and (to some degree) intimidate the government of Mexico.

More than anything else, it was an excuse to exercise the newly-enacted National Defense Act of 1916, which transformed the National Guard into an “organized militia” which could be folded into the regular Army during times of war or national emergency. All that drilling also made the experience sort of a pre-bootcamp bootcamp for all those men who would be drafted a few months later when the U.S. entered World War I.

But aside from the bad weather it seems the men of Company E had a fine time, and no one was hurt – except for Private Charlie Torliatt, who was declared to have an injury sustained in the line of duty because he was involved in a Sacramento auto accident in June.

* Hearst’s San Francisco Examiner is not available online, but the Los Angeles Herald was a de facto Hearst paper, particularly when it came to stories like this which relied entirely upon Hearst’s International News Service.

PEOPLE! ASSEMBLE AT 10 FOR BIG SENDOFF PARADE
Company E Will Entrain in Santa Rosa for Sacramento at 11 O’Clock This Morning, and Plans Are Made for a Big Demonstration

 

THE BOYS OF COMPANY E of Santa Rosa go away this morning!

They will entrain here at eleven o’clock. The orders came from Adjutant General Charles W. Thomas last night. Our gallant bovs leave Santa Rosa for the mobilization camp at Sacramento this morning, and the expectancy is that in a short time they will be sent with the other troops to the Mexican border.

Quoting again the sentiment of the headline —“GOODBYE! BOYS, AND MAY GOD BLESS YOU!”—Santa Rosa is with you today and will be with you in kindly thought and in prayer every day you are away.

Individually and collectively, “God bless you!”

GREAT DEMONSTRATION THIS MORNING

The going away of Company E this morning is to be the occasion of a great public demonstration. Every man. woman and child in Santa Rosa and vicinity should turn out to make it so. Gather on the streets outside of the armory, at Fourth and D streets, at ten o’clock and join in the march with the boys to the depot. Wear or carry a flag.

There will be a parade and it will be led by Mayor J. C. Mailer and the members of the City Council. Citizens are asked to follow in line behind the Mayor and precede the gallant officers and men of Company E as an escort. The Santa Rosa band will play for the march. Following the company, automobiles will be in line, and it is asked that in these machines women and children ride. But men are requested to walk with the soldiers to the depot.

LINE OF MARCH FOR THE PARADE

The line of march, as suggested by the committee last night after consulting with Captain Comstock, will be from the armory to Fifth street, along Fifth street to A street, along A to Fourth, up Fourth to North street, along North street to the Southern Pacific depot.

PETALUMA AND SAN RAFAEL, TOO

The National Guard companies of San Rafael and Petaluma will come to Santa Rosa on the special train provided for the troops. The train will connect with the Southern Pacific by means of the “Y” and Company E will embark at the Southern Pacific depot. That was the understanding last night.

Everybody assemble about the armory at ten o clock, and it is the wish of Santa Rosa, as expressed by her Mayor, Hon. James C. Mailer, that this be made one of the greatest demonstrations possible, to show the soldier boys in their departure that Santa Rosa and Sonoma county appreciates them. And the boys in khaki from our sister city will come in for a share of the sendoff. We appreciate them and their good commander, Capt. J. B. Dickson. And the lads from Marin county, all hail to them, too. God bless you all!

– Press Democrat, June 25 1916

 

…Fleming McWhorter, who had been serving in Columbus New Mexico, returned to join his Company E comrades, even though he would be turning around the next day. An impromptu group met him at the evening train Saturday night

Members of Co. E who have served their time as drummers, secured the drums of the Native Sons’ Drum Corps and headed the column. The company flag was carried and a mascot in the form of a little dog with a white blanket marked “Co. E,” was led in the line. About fifty men were in line and the column made an inspiring sight as it marched along Fourth street.

The Santa Rosa Boys’ Brass Band, in full uniform, was at the depot and tendered several selections while the crowd awaited the arrival of the train. As it came in the band played one of its liveliest tunes, arousing the enthusiasm of all present.

When McWhorter alighted from the train he was seized and tossed into the air by his comrades. He came down on the shoulders of A. M. Mead and Wm. Tabor, who carried him through the streets on the return march. The column marched around the courthouse before going to the armory, where McWhorter was cheered lustily. After reporting to the armory he was taken to supper and then returned to the armory, where he donned his uniform and prepared his roll for the return trip to the border. The evening was spent with friends.

While marching up Fourth street, Mrs. Crabtree, the florist, presented the company with a handsome and immense bouquet of red. white and bine flowers, which was carried in the parade and given a prominent place at the armory.

The impromptu parade was witnessed by a large crowd on the street and many followed the boys for some distance. There was much enthusiasm manifested and more interest was shown in the company than at any time since it left the city eighteen years ago for service during the Spanish-American war.

– Press Democrat, June 25 1916

 

VAST THRONG SAYS GOODBYE
Greatest Demonstration in Santa Rosa History When Soldier Boys Depart
Sunday Morning’s Tribute to the City’s Military Organization Will Always Be Remembered as One of the Most Notable of Events That Has Ever Occurred in Santa Rosa, and Thousands Participated in the Many Incidents Marking the Going Away—Cheers Also Given for the Petaluma and San Rafael Companies When They Arrived

“THEY’RE GONE! OH! GOD BLESS THEM!”

It came from a mother’s lips. A few moments previously that same mother had clapsed a soldier son to her heart and had given him a farewell kiss.

The troops’ train had disappeared around the bend in the track out from the Southern Pacific depot; the clanging of the locomotive bell was now an echo; Santa Rosa’s greatest public demonstration had ended; and the prolonging note of the mother’s prayer, sweeter than all else, for it really echoed the sentiment of thousands of hearts, came at the last.

MEMORABLE SCENE

No one who was an eye witness will ever forget Sunday morning, June 25, 1916, the time when Company E of Santa Rosa went to the front at the country’s call for the defense of the flag. It was gigantic. It was grand, significant and true.

Did anyone say that the. fires of patriotism were waning?

That vast outpouring of farewell in Santa Rosa Sunday morning, those marching thousands, flag-bearing and flag-waving cheering hosts; that wonderful moving picture that filled Santa Rosa’s principal streets, answers in behalf of every town and hamlet in this broad land an emphatic “No.”

THERE WERE THE PARTINGS …

CITY RALLIES MAGNIFICENTLY

Santa Rosa rallied magnificently in her saying of good-bye. Long before the hour of ten, when the whistles blew and the bells rang, people commenced to congregate in the streets adjacent, to the armory, and when the parade formed with the departing company as the center of attraction, the streets for blocks were lined with one continuous mass of humanity. The bands played and as the parade came along men, women and children fell into line and marched with the soldiers. Winding up the procession were several hundred automobiles carrying for the most part women and children. The line of march was down Fifth street to A then to Fourth, along Fourth to North, and thence out to the depot. All along the line of march the air was rent with cheers. And as the soldier boys passed down Fifth street each was presented with a beautiful bouquet of Burbank’s Shasta daisies, carnations, roses and greenery. These bouquets had previously been made up with the generous gifts of flowers left at The Press Democrat office, where the committee met to arrange them.

[..]

– Press Democrat, June 27 1916

 

CHARLES O’BEAR IN LETTER TELLS OF COMPANY E LIFE
Something That Will Be of Interest to the Relations and Friends of Our Boys on the Border – Sample Menu Card of a Mean in Company Mess Department

…We are now located in our new camp and like it very much…I’ll send you a bunch of pictures soon. I would have sent them before but couldn’t on account of not having the cash to buy films, as we of the Fifth and Seventh Regiments of California haven’t been paid yet, and we are all broke or badly bent. Believe me, when we do get cashed up we sure will have some time.

We have located on the side of a hill and we all had to dig out and level off a square for our tents so we would not fall out of our bunks.

Every company in all the regiments of the Second, Fifth and Seventh of the California Brigade have nice, big dining rooms and kitchens combined, and all are enclosed with wire screen to keep the flies out. The kitchen where I hash things is screened off from the dining room. It is big, nice and light, well aired, and is some swell kitchen all around.

Today’s dinner consisted of cold boiled ham, corn on cob, French fried potatoes, iced tea, chocolate cake with bread and butter – a regular Sunday dinner, eh? Dine with us? Come on up any time. I’ll serve you.

Everyone has become acclimated by this time and all are hardening up to a regular soldier’s standard and all are feeling fine and are in the pink of condition for the 136-mile hike that we are to take starting September 1 and ending about November some time, as it will take us two weeks to go there, a stay of two weeks while we into [sic] a stiff and continuous round of soldiers’ life, which consists of drilling, target practice on the rifle range, pitching of tents and all other soldier duties that one should do, with a lot of extras thrown in for good measure.

Then we will take two weeks to return to our present camp, and we expected to be on our way back to Santa Rosa some time soon – after six weeks, months or years. I wish it was tomorrow…

…Top Sergeant Campbell, Quartermaster Sergeant Pozzi, Cook Walker and I have a tent all to ourselves next to the cookhouse, and we have all sorts of fun amongst ourselves. We took a lot of freak pictures this afternoon. I’ll send you one when we get them developed.

Give my best to all my friends In Santa Rosa and remember me as your friend.

– Press Democrat, September 1 1916

 

 

Fifth Regiment Takes Part in Sham Battle Thursday in Capital

Bronsed and campaign-hardened by the active service on the Mexican border, the« members of the Fifth Infantry swung into the State Fair grounds today to the strains of martial music and the cheers of thousands of spectators.

Their course through the fair grounds and on the lawn, where they passed in review betore the multitude and Governor Hiram Johnson and his party, was an unceasing ovation. Erect and with swinging stride of regulars, the men and their officers made a splendid appearance, clearly demonstrating the result of their arduous border service. During the afternoon the command, together with apprentices from the United States Naval Training Station at Yerba Buena Island, in San Francisco Bay, and the Engineer Battalion. N. G. C., participated in an exciting sham battle, in which 16,000 rounds of blank ammunition was need by the opposing forces and a bridge was blown up.

– Press Democrat, September 8 1916

 

 

Fine Banquet Is Feature Much Enjoyed by All
Met at the Depot by Band and Citizens and Escorted to the Armory While Vast Crowds Accompany Marching Men—-Words of Welcome Bring a Hearty Response–Ladies Aid Materially in Arrangements and Affair Is a Great Success

Company E came home on Saturday night and Santa Rosa said at the home-coming–“God Bless You Boys! We’re Glad to Welcome You Home Again!”

The city welcomed its soldier boys with band music, cheers, parade, banquet and general enthusiasm…

– Press Democrat, October 8 1916

 

Read More