It was a grand housewarming for the grandest new house in Santa Rosa, as Wyatt and Mattie Oates threw the first of many parties at the home that would later become known as Comstock House. Not so grand was the weather that July 7th; it was the peak of a murderous heat wave, with the temperature that day reaching 109 degrees, just shy of Santa Rosa’s all-time high of 110 that would be recorded in 1972.

Newspaper descriptions of house parties at the time often mentioned card games with prizes awarded to best players, and Mr. Oates was frequently reported as a winner. Thus it’s no surprise that visitors to the first event at his home were greeted by no fewer than 18 card tables. Played here is Euchre, a very popular team-against-team game like Bridge, and specifically Railroad Euchre, a faster-paced version that was popular among train passengers.


The Misses Anna May Bell and Margaret Harrell the Guests of Honor – Cards and Music

The handsome new Colonial home of Colonel and Mrs. James Wyatt Oates on Healdsburg avenue last night was ablaze with light and daintily decorated for the large party given by them in honor of their guests, Miss Anna May Bell of Visalia and Miss Margaret Harrell of Fresno.

Additional significance was lent the function inasmuch as it was the first social gathering given in the new home and might also have been termed the housewarming.

The elaborate furnishings and the finishings architecturally of the interior left practically little for the decorators to do to enhance the appearance of things and there was nothing lacking to make the party a delightful success. From the nature of the decorations, the dainty prizes awarded, at cards and other features it was a Dutch Colonial party given in a Colonial home.

The guests were mostly young people invited to meet Miss Bell and Miss Harrell. Railroad euchre was played during a portion of the evening and the prizes were won by John Tyler Campbell, gentlemen’s first prize; Mrs. H. G. Hahman, ladies’ first prize and Mrs. Ralph Belden, lone hand. The remainder of the evening was devoted to social converse and music. Miss Frances Woolsey gave a whistling solo, Miss Blanche Hoffer a piano number and the Misses Bell and Harrell a duet. The last named young ladies were awarded prizes as guests of honor. There were eighteen tables for cards and some of them were placed on the spacious verandah which was transformed into a pretty bower. Refreshments were served. Mrs. Oates was assisted in receiving by her mother, Mrs. M. S. Solomon.

– Press Democrat, July 8, 1905

The Oates’ Card Party An Enjoyable Affair

Miss Anna May Bell of Visalia and Miss Margaret Harrell of Fresno were guests of honor at a charming party given last evening by Colonel and Mrs. James Wyatt Oates, with whom they are spending the summer. Southern hospitality was manifest in the cordial welcome Colonel and Mrs. Oates gave their guests, who enjoyed the evening thoroughly. The handsome new colonial home was thrown open for entertaining last evening for the first time and its spacious rooms, arranged in such artistic fashion, were very much admired.

Euchre was played in the drawing room and on the wide veranda which was enclosed with canvas. The scorecards were decorated with tiny Dutch Colonial figures and the prizes were also in quaint Dutch design. These were won by Judge John Tyler Campbell, Mrs. A. G. Hahman and Mrs. Ralph Belden.

Mrs. Oates’ mother, Mrs. M. S. Solomon, assisted her in receiving and also assisting were Miss Blanche Hoffer, Miss Bell and Miss Harrell, who gave piano selections and Miss Frances Woolsey, whose whistling solos with piano accompaniment were exquisite. Supper was daintily served at the card tables.

– Santa Rosa Republican, July 8, 1905

Read More


1904 was surely a taxing year for James Wyatt Oates. Now 54 and still alone at his law practice that sometimes called him out of town several times a month, Oates was also one of fifteen men appointed to draft the new Santa Rosa City charter. The family also moved that year and was involved in the planning stages for their grand house. No surprise that the Press Democrat reported in August that Oates was taking a “well-earned vacation” (a comment probably made by Wyatt or wife Mattie when providing the item to the newspaper).

Several items of interest appeared in the PD that summer. Already reported here was that Oates sold their home at 431 Tenth Street to Mr. and Mrs. Mark McDonald Jr. (Junior would later inherit and return to the Mableton mansion). The Oates family moved to a house at the intersection of Tenth and Mendocino, where the newspaper described a tea party Mattie held in August. The vacation item also mentions Mrs. Solomon, so we can assume that his mother-in-law was living with the couple even before their new home was built. Most interesting, however, are the two references to Miss Anna May Bell, who is presumably Anna May Dunlap as a child. Eleven years from then, Anna May would be watching over Oates as he died of double pneumonia, following a visit to her in Los Angeles. Much later in 1950 she would make an unusual donation to the city in remembrance of Oates, 35 years after his death.

Attorney James W. Oates, accompanied by Mrs. Oates, Mrs. Solomon, and Miss Anna May Bell, leave today for San Francisco where they will spend a few days, and where Mr. Oates will enjoy a well-earned vacation.

– Press Democrat “Personal Mention,” August 17, 1904

Tea in Honor of Mrs. Bell and Miss Anna Bell of Visalia Given by Mrs. Oates–Forty Guests Present

Shasta daisies in the reception rooms and red the color of the effective decorations in the dining room made the interior of the Oates residence at Tenth and Mendocino streets very pretty for a charming social function which took place there yesterday afternoon.

Mrs. James W. Oates entertained informally and very delightfully about forty lady friends at a tea given in honor of Mrs. Bell and her daughter, Miss Anna May Bell, of Visalia. Miss Bell has been Mrs. Oates guest here for several weeks. The guests admired the daisies and the decorations very much. The tea tables were tastefully arranged.

– Press Democrat news item, August 27, 1904

Read More