There would soon be one less plate on the Comstock dinner table out at their Hoen avenue farmhouse; Cornelia was getting married.

Not much happened in the Comstock family during 1911, aside from the wedding. Hilliard was in his second year of studying law with James Wyatt Oates and eldest brother John had departed for medical school. Until Cornelia’s wedding, five of the seven Comstock siblings were still living at home with their mother Nellie on their ten acre orchard. The most interesting news about them in the papers was the Press Democrat society columnist’s description of the family’s downtown store, which always has been something of a mystery.

To recap: “The Gift Shop” opened in 1908, a few months after the Comstock family moved to Santa Rosa. John, Catherine and Cornelia, all in their early twenties, had worked and studied at the Roycroft Colony in New York during their teenage years, and were accomplished in making artistic leather goods and jewelry. They arrived just as the Arts & Crafts movement was gathering speed on the West Coast and their handiwork was exhibited and sold alongside works by top painters and artisans in the style. John withdrew from the “Companeros” partnership in 1910 to study medicine, leaving Catherine in charge of the business with Cornelia working as an artist. The same year they founded an “Arts and Crafts Guild” in Santa Rosa to teach young women how to make items that could be sold in the store – a fairly subversive notion for the time.

From other descriptions we knew The Gift Shop sold the Comstock’s award-winning leather goods as well as work from renowned Arts & Crafts studios. Problem is, “The Gift Shop” doesn’t exactly sound like the name for a fine art gallery – it sounds like…well, Corrick’s (which happens to be now directly across the street from The Gift Shop’s location). The article transcribed below shows the Comstocks also sold geegaws and knicknacks, although they were the nicest geegaws and knicknacks you could find anywhere; the powder boxes and darning bags were French and the toys Russian – matryoshka nesting dolls, perhaps – and there were “Home Sweet Home” type mottos, but the insipid little axioms were nicely hand painted, probably by the local Guild women. You could go to The Gift Shop and pick up a tasteful curio for your rich and ailing aunt’s birthday, or she herself could visit and buy a museum-quality vase you might someday inherit.

(RIGHT: Undated portrait of Cornelia Comstock. Courtesy Carmel Library Historical Archive)

Cornelia probably stayed connected with The Gift Shop until it closed, apparently in 1912 or 1913. She and her husband, Winfield Matthew Jr. (“Win” to family members) stayed around the area until 1917. His father, Rev. Winfield Scott Matthew Sr. – who is better known to Santa Rosa history buffs as the pastor at the First M. E. church on Fifth street 1915-1918 – married the couple at the “Sonoma avenue at the home of the bride.” That must have been the place brother John had at 965 Sonoma Avenue (now the police and fire station) which suggests he was still around at the time or the family hung on to the property as a “city house.”

Winfield was then a surveyor, and his marriage to Cornelia wasn’t his only connection to the Comstocks; he was also in business with her younger brother, Frank. Together with another man they formed the Matthew Co. Their ad in the 1913 Santa Rosa city directory, shown below, promises they could build “buildings,” as well as dams, bridges, sewers, sidewalks, etc. “Territory – Northern California.” Golly.

Cornelia’s first child, Raymond Hilliard (just called Hilliard by family) was born here in 1916. The following year Win registered for the draft and sought exemption: “Impossible for family to get along,” he wrote as a reason. What he meant by that is unknown, as is whether brother-in-law Lt. Colonel Hilliard Comstock knew that he was trying to dodge military service.

Winfield took a job in the Santa Clara County assessor’s office and the couple lived in San Jose, where daughter Barbara was born in 1918. After he retired they moved to Carmel in 1949, where they had purchased a house about twenty years earlier. There they joined siblings Catherine (still a painter), Hurd (a retired banker) and Hugh, the self-taught architect and builder known for the whimsical “fairy tale” cottages that are still a hallmark of the community.

Cornelia died April 15, 1966; they were married the longest of any member of the family – 55 years, beating even Hilliard and Helen’s remarkable 49 years. Her obituary in the Monterey Peninsula Herald was a single short paragraph, much of it naming her famous brothers and sister. She may not have cut such a broad swath in the family legacy but she and “Win” are still remembered with great warmth. And that’s no small thing, you know.

A betrothal that will interest many friends of the delightful young bride-to-be has been announced. Mrs. N. J. Comstock has given out the intimation that her daughter, Miss Cornelius [sic] Comstock, has promised her hand and heart to Mr. W. S. Matthew Jr. of Berkeley. The date of the wedding has not been set, but it will be an event of the sprint. Miss Comstock is a very talented girl and one whose attainments have counted for much. She has been a great favorite at many of the gatherings of the younger set in the past. Of course a few of her intimate friends have been anticipating the announcement Mrs. Comstock has just made and they with many others will now extend their felicitations most heartily. Mr. Matthews is a young professional man and is a college graduate and comes of a prominent family of the College town. The marriage will necessarily be one of much significance.

– “Society Gossip” column, Press Democrat, December 4, 1910

The wedding of Miss Cornelia Comstock and Winfield Scott Matthew Jr. is to occur Saturday, March the 18th, at the family home. The officiating minister will be the Reverend Winfield Scott Matthew. The affair, which is to be a very quiet one, will be attended by only the family and the most intimate friends. Miss Katherine Comstock will act in the capacity of bridesmaid while Raymond Mathews, brother of the groom will be best man.

Immediately after the ceremony the young couple will leave for an extended Eastern trip which will be of several months duration. Upon their home-coming they will occupy their country home near Healdsburg.

This popular and beautiful little prospective bride is being showered with wedding presents, as only a slight testimonial of the loving regard in which she is held by her many friends.

 – “Society Gossip” column, Press Democrat, March 12, 1911

As the clock strikes eight tomorrow night, Miss Cornelia Comstock will become the bride of Winfield Scott Matthew Jr., of Oakland. It will be a quiet home wedding and will take place on Sonoma avenue at the home of the bride. The father of the groom will tie the nuptial knot, and a sister of the groom, Miss Hattie Matthew, will play the wedding march.

The fair bride will wear a handsome gown of white marquesite over satin, trimmed with pearls, and will have a train. The veil will also be worn and will be held in place by a spray of orange blossoms. Her bouquet will be white roses and she will be attended by her sister, Miss Catherine Comstock as bridesmaid. Raymond Matthew will support his brother.

Following the ceremony the couple will start on their honeymoon journey, which will include a trip to the south, and then to Lake Tahoe, after which they will reside on Russian River in Alexander valley.

The prettiest of spring blossoms have been gathered for the decorations and the house is one bower of flowers. Daintily colored fruit blossoms, intermingled with greenery, were gracefully arranged and were set off here and there by huge bunches of daffodils. The large porch was also decorated and cozy corners were made.

Since coming here several years ago Miss Comstock has made many friends, who join in wishing her unbounded happiness. Many and beautiful were the presents that found their way to this charming bride, among them being cut glass, silver and hand painted china.

Miss Comstock will be missed from the social gatherings, but her friends are glad that her home will be near enough that she may attend some of them.

– “Many Social Events in City of Roses” column, Santa Rosa Republican, March 18, 1911

(by Dorothy Ann)

“The Gift Shop” had a most auspicious opening Saturday. The Christmas stock was viewed and admired by enthusiastic purchasers. Miss Katherine Comstock has shown rare good taste in the selection of the many beautiful things that are artistically arranged in the cozy little store. There are motto cards, hand-painted mottos, gift books and some clever selections in books. In the French novelties are sachet bags, pin cushions, vanity boxes, powder boxes and darning bags. Among the modeled leather selections are card cases, book covers, fire screens, table mats, music rolls, desk sets and blotters.

For one who admires fine pottery there are pieces in Van Briggle, Paul Revere, Rockwood and Marblehead metal work pieces, show book-ends, candlesticks, trays and bowls, desk sets, jardineres [sic] and lamps.

Aside from these are hard-woven rugs, decorative wall placques [sic], hand-wrought jewelry, Sheffield silver plate, finished and stamped needle work. Prints and photographs have been selected with rare judgment and include Japanese, German Maxfield Parish [sic] and art photograph prints.

Toys for the children have not been neglected as some quaint Colonial chairs, hand-woven wool rugs and Russian toys in the collection testify. The opening will continue all this week and the public are cordially invited to inspect the choice collection of beautiful things.

– “Society Gossip” column, Press Democrat, November 26, 1911

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