1908chinatown

WHEN THE POSSE RAIDED CHINATOWN

All was quiet that midsummer evening in 1912 Santa Rosa, except for two dozen guys trashing the Chinese neighborhood on Second street.

The men were not thugs from a San Francisco Chinese crime gang, although just a few months earlier the community here worried that a Tong war underway in the city would escalate and draw “highbinder” assassins to Santa Rosa. Nor was the havoc caused by a mob of local drunks looking for trouble. Descending on Second street that night was an official posse of lawmen and sworn citizens conducting the first opium raid in Santa Rosa.

(RIGHT: 1908 Sanborn map section showing Santa Rosa’s Chinatown highlighted in blue)

A lengthy account of the raid appeared in the Press Democrat (transcribed below) and offers a glimpse of the small Chinatown near the intersection of Second and D streets, rare because it was never mentioned in the local newspapers except for occasional calls for it to be torn down and replaced with a park, hospital or something Burbank-related.

The excuse for terrorizing the community and ransacking their homes was the new law outlawing opium use in California – apparently the first time personal possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia was criminalized in U. S. history. The law was passed in 1909 and appealed up to the state Supreme Court, where it was upheld in 1911. Shortly after that Chinatown raids began in larger cities across the state. The posse raid in Santa Rosa was coordinated to start jointly with raids in Sebastopol and Petaluma Chinatowns.

Even though opium possession was only a misdemeanor subject to a $100 fine the posse gave no quarter in their quest, frisking the residents and tearing into everything they found. From the Press Democrat account, “Some half dozen places were entered, doors were locked and the Chinese occupants quickly herded into one room, and then the search began. Boxes, drawers, sacks, tins, paper packages, clothing, beds, and in short everything was overhauled and a thorough search made. Doors that were locked and for which keys were not delivered up at once, were burst open. So were trunks and boxes…pretty much of a litter remained after the officers had done their work.”

The incident also revealed no improvement in anti-Chinese bigotry; the PD article ran through all its old racial epithets – “Celestials” being the kindest of them – but the most loathsome comment in the paper was this: “They all gave some kind of a name. There were Chows, Gows, Ons, Gees, Sams, Harrys and goodness knows what else. For all the officers knew some of those names may have been aliases, too. No one cared particularly anyway. The names all sounded alike.”

The reporter further added his/her pissy little judgements of their lifestyle: They “do not smoke very good tobacco,” smells in some bottles “were not over-appetizing” and “the lard in preparing the evening meal had not been of the freshest variety.” In fact, many in the posse may have been there just to snoop and later snark about the quality of Chinese lard or such; while the party included every active and retired cop in town, other members had no apparent reason to be involved, including State Senator Herb Slater, undertaker Frank Welti and 20 year-olds Arley Gard and Ernest Clay.

In truth, the purpose of the whole business – from the federal import ban also enacted in 1909 down to the raids after 1911 – was meant to harass the Chinese community. The import ban only affected the smoking form of opium favored by Chinese – the opium-based “nerve tonics” predominantly used by whites were still legal.

Smuggling the four-ounce cans over from China proved easy; in her oral history with Gaye LeBaron, Song Wong Bourbeau (born 1909 in Santa Rosa) recalled “they ship them over just like you would ship a dozen eggs.” All the ban accomplished was to quickly drive up the price tenfold; by 1912 a night’s smoke cost around seven dollars, roughly half a working man’s weekly wage and a couple of years later it would double again (MORE). To his credit, former U.S. Congressman from Santa Rosa Duncan McKinlay proposed to tax opium at $5 per pound, believing it was impossible to stop the smuggling trade.

Nor did the Santa Rosa police care about opium smoking before the new law made arrests so lucrative – although they did intervene when white youth were found using the drug, as shown in an example here. And while Santa Rosa had raided Chinatown before, then it was for gambling; in 1910 a series of raids busted Chinese men for playing stud poker (a charge which must have caused guffaws at card tables in saloons and fraternal clubs around town). But those fines brought in less that $250, while in that single opium posse raid the city cleared over $1,000. So it’s no surprise that another posse hit the Santa Rosa opium dens in May 1913, this time making more arrests. Likewise in that search they gave “seven places on Second street…a most thorough overhauling.” Because breaking stuff up is just something a posse has to do, as everyone knows.

 HIGHBINDER SCARE IN SANTA ROSA CHINATOWN LAST NIGHT

 Santa Rosa’s Chinatown on Second street between Main and D streets was pretty badly scared Wednesday night. Talk of “Highbinder” was in the air, following the receiving of a telephone message from “My flen in Napa” by Wong Mow, one of the local Chinese merchants.

 The word was passed around like wildfire. Chinese pickets were stationed here and there on the lookout app along the block in front of the Mongolian quartets, and Chief of Police Boyes was notified. The Chief instructed the patrolmen on the meats to make frequent visits during the night to Chinatown.

 The message received by Wong Mow about half past 7 o’clock word that a party of Chinese highbinders from the warring companies in San Francisco were headed for Santa Rosa and were of the number who shot and killed a man in Marysville. The news was sufficient to put Chinatown all on the lookout.

 At one o’clock this morning a Press Democrat representative visited Chinatown. The “lookouts” were still on duty. They were crouching down in the darkness of the shadow of buildings ready to sound an alarm…

…There are many San Francisco Chinese taking refuge here at the present time. A dozen queueless ones arrived here Wednesday night. They have been drifting in for a week…

– Press Democrat, March 21, 1912

STILL IN FEAR OF HIGHBINDERS
Celestials in Local Chinatown Perturbed Over News of Tong Slayings in Other Places

The excitement in Santa Rosa’s Chinatown following the highbinder murders in other cities was increased when the news of the slaying was told there yesterday, and last night the “lookouts” were still on duty. The local Celestials fear that the bad men may visit here.

The casual passerby along the block on Second street occupied by the Chinese quarters last night would not have noticed anything out of the ordinary except for the lookouts crouching in the dark shadow of some building. But the advent of a reporter or policeman known to some of the Chinese merchants was sufficient to draw a crowd of Chinese eager to learn if any news of the approach of the highbinders was forthcoming…

– Press Democrat, March 23, 1912

QUONG SING PROUD MAN ON SATURDAY

Quong Sing, the local merchant, was a happy man on Saturday, when he paraded at the head of the New Cathay Boys’ Band from San Francisco. This band is composed of thirty-seven young Chinese who rendered some splendid selections during their march through the streets. These lads have only been playing five months, but they handle their instruments and their music like seasoned veterans. In the band are two lads of eight and nine years, who play the alto horns. Quong Sing is proud of the new China and the boys who were here on Saturday. He was instrumental in bringing the band to this city.

– Santa Rosa Republican, May 4, 1912

POSSES RAID CHINATOWN AND SEVEN ARRESTS MADE
Raids Also Made in Petaluma and Sebastopol
More Arrests in Petaluma and Sebastopol–Opium and Yen She Found and a Number of Outfits on Wednesday Night

There was considerable excitement, quiet excitement at that, in Santa Rosa’s Chinatown Wednesday night. The same can be said of the Chinatown of Sebastopol and that at Petaluma, for in all three places raids were made for opium, yen she and smoking outfits. In all three places both drugs, a number of pipes, hoy toys and other contrabrand articles were unearthed. Five Chinamen, a Chinese woman, and a white man were arrested and landed in jail by the officers, and their cases will come up for hearing in Justice Atchinson’s court. One man was arrested in Sebastopol, and shortly before twelve o’clock he joined the motley crew behind the bars. Four arrests were made in Petaluma.

The raid in Santa Rosa’s Chinatown, located on Second street, between Main and D streets, was headed by Chief of Police John M. Boyes and the officers of the department and of the Justice court, and special deputies aided by Chief Inspector Fred A. Sutherland of the State Board of Pharmacy of California. Sheriff Jack Smith and his posse, had charge of Sebastopol, and Deputy Sheriff Rasmussen and Chief of Police Ed Husler in Petaluma. Deputy Inspector W. T. White of the State Board aided in Sebastopol and Deputy A. J. McDonald of the State Board aided in Petaluma.

For some time the officers and the chief inspectors of the State Board have been aware of presence of the drug and its use in the Chinese quarters in the places named. The inspectors have obtained evidence, and not long since Chief Inspector Sutherland bought a dollars’ worth at one of the places raided on Second street. Consequently the raid was planned for Wednesday night at half past nine o’clock in Santa Rosa, Sebastopol and Petaluma.

On Second street in this city at the word of command given by sign by Chief Boyes, the posse that had previous divided up entered the Chinese quarters very quietly, no one knowing what was about to transpire. Some half dozen places were entered, doors were locked and the Chinese occupants quickly herded into one room, and then the search began. Boxes, drawers, sacks, tins, paper packages, clothing, beds, and in short everything was overhauled and a thorough search made. Doors that were locked and for which keys were not delivered up at once, were burst open. So were trunks and boxes. A number of packages of Yen She, some tins of opium, pipes and smoking outfits and other accessories in the smoking of the weed were discovered by the various posses and were carefully piled up, and later this evidence was taken to the police station.

Then the Chinamen were each given a “frisk,” or a search, and taken. At times, this was quite amusing, most of the Celestials taking the bantering in good part. Their language, too, had there been an interpreter present, might have savored of the profane. If it did not then, it will when they come to pack those boxes again and clean house, for pretty much of a litter remained after the officers had done their work. They all gave some kind of a name. There were Chows, Gows,Ons, Gees, Sams, Harrys and goodness knows what else. For all the officers knew some of those names may have been aliases, too. No one cared particularly anyway. The names all sounded alike.

Prior to entering the places the officers had provided themselves with search warrants, but none of the Chinese thought to ask for them, anyway. These warrants were procured so that everything might be legally done. It was after midnight before the raid ended here, the search occurring considerable time. Some of the scents discovered in the places during the overhauling of some of the ancient receptacles were not over-appetizing. More than one of the posse pressed into service can testify to that. Those “Chinks,” some of them at any rate, do not smoke very good tobacco, either; and the lard in preparing the evening meal had not been of the freshest variety.

Another thing revealed during the search of several of the Second street “joints,” was that the Chinese evidently do not put much faith in banks. A surprising lot of money was unearthed, and left of course. There were stacks of twenties, tens and fives in gold, as well as silver. The money will be put in another safe place by the Chinese today.

Attorney Rolfe L. Thompson will prosecute the offenders, representing the State Board. He was on hand at the raid Wednesday night, and at the police station when the prisoners were brought in.

Tried a Getaway

The white man, captured on a charge of having sold morphine, lives in this city, and has been a frequent habitant of the Chinese quarters. A warrant was in the pocket of Chief Boyes for his arrest, when he suddenly stepped into the very place where the Chief was assisting in the search. Police Officer George Matthews grabbed and handcuffed him. Later he tried a getaway but was captured by Attorney Thompson and Elmer Mobley, and was taken to the jail and locked up by Matthews.

The Santa Rosa posse was composed of Chief of Police Boyes, [21 other men named].

The Sebastopol Raid

As stated Sheriff Smith headed the raid at Sebastopol, and it was conducted along similar lines to the other places. Some Yen She and an opium outfit was taken from the place of Gong Gee. There was no excitement, and but a few Chinese were found at home. The idea prevailed there as here that in some manner the Chinese had got a “tip” as to what was about to happen. In Sheriff Smith’s posse were [22 other men named].

Raid in Petaluma

Chief Hussler of Petaluma was assisted in the raid there by [5 other men named]. The net result of their work was the arrest of four Chinese and the capture of a considerable quantity of contraband materials and smoking outfits. Three of the Chinese were locked up and one released on $200 cash bail.

– Press Democrat, August 1, 1912

CHINESE PAY $450 FINES
Result of Rain on Opium Dens Wednesday

Ten Chinamen appeared before Justice Atchinson Thursday, charged with having illicit drugs in their possession. This is the catch of the raids in Petaluma, Sebastopol and Santa Rosa, made on Wednesday night by the State Board of Health Inspectors.

The first to appear was Lou Yet of Sebastopol. He entered a plea of guilty and was promutly [sic] fined $100 by Justice Atchinson. The next were four Chinamen from Petaluma. They were considerably incensed over having to be tried here. They chattered and harangued for some time, but were unable to furnish the bail, and three of them were returned to jail to await developments. The other was dismissed. Attorney Gil P. Hall of Petaluma appeared for him on behalf of George P. McNear, explaining that he was only a cook and had just entered the place for a chat.

The five arrested here were promptly arraigned. They had little to say, but appeared to be very distressed. Sam Wo Lung was fined $200 on two charges. Wong Quong was fined $100 and Dock Yen $50 and fifty days in jail. Two others were dismissed for lack of evidence. One was a man and the other a woman. Harry Tong was returned to jail until such time as he could raise the money to pay his fine of $100.

Clint Rickliff, Ed Gautier and Earl Bumbaugh, the three white men captured in the raid on the Chinamen, are to be tried by Justice Atchinson also. These men are all known to be fiends and it is possible they will be sent to some asylum for treatment.

– Santa Rosa Republican, August 1, 1912

THREE LONE CHINAMEN REMAIN NOW

There are three lone Chinamen in the county jail at the present time as the left-overs from the recent opium rains in the county. All the other defendants have had their cases disposed of and something over $1,000 has been paid in fines. One of the Chinamen will serve 200 days in jail and the two others are in for one hundred days each. They will have to go a long time without their smokes.

– Press Democrat, August 8, 1912
OPIUM SMOKER IS CAPTURED
Officers Gard and Ragain Arrest Sam Wo Lung While Engaged in Enjoyable Smoke

Officers Gard and Ragain made a very clever capture of an opium smoker and his entire outfit, including the yen shee, which he was heating on his needle preparatory to taking a smoke at 2 o’clock Thursday morning.

The victim of the raid was Sam Wo Lung, who was recently acquitted of having opium in his possession when captured in the last raid conducted under the direction of the State Board of Health. He is considered one of the leaders here and his capture with the goods on him is considered quite a victory for the officers.

When searched at the police station it was found that Sam Wo Lung was well provided with ready cash and he put up $100 cash bond with proper grace and returned to his place, 620 Second street, minus his pipe and outfit. A charge will be placed against him under the State law in Justice Atchinson’s court.

– Press Democrat, October 16, 1912

CHINESE GAMBLERS CAUGHT IN A RAID
Police Visit Doon Kee’s Place Thursday Morning and Capture Six Visitors Playing American Game With the Stakes

Police Officers N. G. Yeager, A. G. Miller and G. W. Matthews made a raid on Doon Kee’s place on Second street this morning about 2 o’clock and arrested nine Chinese found in the room. Six of the number were engaged in playing Studhorse porker [sic] and were greatly surprised at the interruption.

Officer Matthews was the first to reach the table and secured the cards and stakes, while Officer Miller secured the Chinese money being used for chips. All in the room were taken to police headquarters. Several denied they were playing, but none would say who the players were, so all were informed tht they would have to put up a cash deposit of $10 each to secure their liberty.

Doon Kee arrived on the scene, and after some parleying, secured the name of those who were not playing and they were immediately released while $10 cash bail was put up for each of the other six by Doon Kee.

The six charged with gambling were Ah Wong, Ah Ching, Ah Sing, Wong Kim, Sam Kee and Moon Kee.

– Press Democrat, December 1, 1910

ARREST CHINESE FOR GAMBLING
Officers Make Third Raid Early Tuesday Morning and Gather in Fifteen Orientals

In their third raid upon the Chinese gamblers the police shortly after 2 o’clock this morning arresting 14 inmates of Doon Kee’s gambling house. Last Thursday morning at about the same hour 12 Chinese were arrested and later six were fined $10 each for gambling.

Three of the same men were caught this morning and in their case $20 cash bail was demanded, while the other 11 were allowed their release upon $10 cash bail. A woman will also be charged with being in the place, making a total of $180 bail pending their hearing.

– Press Democrat, December 6, 1910
CHINESE CONTRIBUTE TO THE DISTRICT FAIR

Charlie Quong Sing, the pioneer Chinese merchant of Santa Rosa, whose smile and “Nice day, eh?” and “Anything new?” (the latter when he meets a newspaperman) have become regular salutations of everyday life in Santa Rosa, called at the Chamber of Commerce rooms on Wednesday and handed in a donation of two dollars and a half for the district fair.

He counseled Director Walter Price to tell Mr. Dunbar and the committee to call around at the place on Second street a day or two before the fair starts and he will go around with them among “the boys” and they will contribute more money to help the fair along.

– Press Democrat, August 7, 1913

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mendocino1903-1

WHAT’S NEW IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, 1912-13

Santa Rosa is going to pave your street soon but unfortunately you, dear homeowner, will be paying for it.

Those were the rules during the early 1910s in Santa Rosa, and doubtless elsewhere. The town owned the streets as well as the water/sewer lines beneath and maintained them, insofar as a water wagon roamed around during warm weather sprinkling down the dust. But if you wanted pavement – or to be clear, if a majority of neighbors on the street wanted it – please make your check payable to the city, cash also accepted (I’m sure).

Today it may seem bizarre to expect residents would pay for street paving, but it wasn’t so odd in the context of the times. Homeowners were also required to provide sidewalks, which meant losing several feet of your front yard to public access – and maybe the side yard as well, if the house was on a corner – and hiring a cement contractor, lest the town have someone do the work at your expense. (Gripes about the sidewalk issue were heard regularly by the city council, as described in an earlier article). Likewise paved streets were not desired by everyone; they were great if you had a car and didn’t want it to sink up to its axles in winter mud, but auto owners were still a minority in 1913. Pavement even could be a hazard for horses, as that spring Earl LeDue was on his colt riding home from the high school on Humboldt street when the horse slipped on the slick street and fell on him, badly breaking the boy’s leg.

Earl’s accident happened on Mendocino avenue near downtown, which we know because the pavement ended at the College ave. intersection. Beyond that, “at present the street north of College avenue is anything but inviting for driving, owing to its roughness in dry weather and muddy condition in wet seasons,” according to a Press Democrat article from the previous year.

These 1903 photos, probably taken on a windy spring day, show the unpaved street. The picture on the right provides a glimpse of the Paxton House, the lost Brainerd Jones mansion. Beyond that is a partial view of the Lumsden House, today known as the Belvedere.
Photos courtesy Sonoma County Library

 Mendocino avenue was slated to be part of the state’s first highway system which was then in the planning stage – but conditions were “almost impassible,” according to the city attorney, who told the city council that something had to be done immediately. That lawyer happened to be James Wyatt Oates, past president of the Sonoma County Automobile Association, avid automobilist and owner of a home on that street (which would become known as Comstock House).

At Oates’ urging the council held a special meeting a few days later and agreed Santa Rosa couldn’t wait for the state to take over responsibility for the street a year or more in the future, even though paving this stretch of Mendocino Ave. would be far more expensive than the average residential street; at the time it varied between 63-65 feet wide. “Should there be an effective protest it will only delay the work six months,” the PD reported, “as under the charter the council the authority to force the work after six months elapses in case of protest.” In other words: Pay or move.

We don’t know how much property owners were charged for the paving, but in 1911 when Mendocino avenue was paved from Fifth street to College avenue, the presbyterian church decided to sell the building housing their charitable operation because of the “very heavy expense to be incurred for street paving,” according to the local church history.1

Their building was in the triangle formed by the Mendocino / College / Healdsburg avenues intersection, which today is noted for a piece of art. (A Google search for the artist along with the sculpture’s name – spelled both “WholeSome” and “Whole Some” by the city and its maker – returns about 41 unique hits, demonstrating the popular appeal of this “distinctive visual landmark for the entrance into the city center,” which will continue to inspire us all for many, many, many years as we wait for the light to change.)

There the church had a building known as the “Chinese Mission”, which served to educate – and presumably, Christianize – young Asian immigrants. According to the church history their missionary work started around 1876 “when the Chinese population was relatively large” and the church bought the building in 1883, apparently expecting to serve an ever-growing immigrant community. They couldn’t have been more wrong; the Chinese Exclusion Act passed by Congress the previous year effectively ended Chinese immigration to the U.S. In the years following, racist anti-Chinese fever raged hot it Santa Rosa, with a banner hung over the Mendocino/ Fourth Street intersection just a few blocks from the Mission reading “THE CHINESE MUST GO. WE MEAN STRICTLY BUSINESS.” (MORE). From a peak of forty students there were “about 12 Japanese and one Corean” [sic] twenty years later. At its 1912 closing the Press Democrat noted there were only about “three or four who use the Mission at all.”2

The new owner of the Mission property was Raford Peterson, perhaps the county’s largest hops grower. Just a few weeks before the Great Earthquake, Peterson bought several lots on the northwest corner of the intersection. Just a door down from the corner at #451 College he built a modest home which, believe-it-or-not, is still there, hiding. The front was modernized as an office building sometime in the late 60s or early 70s, but you can see the original bones of the place from the rear. It is currently the offices of Gehrke Realty.

So what did Raford (also spelled Rayford) Peterson (also spelled Petersen) and wife Cornelia (“Nellie”) want with an odd-shaped lot on another corner of the intersection? He already owned the house next door at 611 Mendocino ave, where his son, Wilson, lived with his family. Did he plan to merge the lots? Apparently not – it appears he just wanted the old Mission building.

As no photographs or descriptions of the building survive, all we know is gleaned from the fire maps – that it was a single story and rectangular. It was certainly old, since the church began using in 1883, but we don’t know how old. It must have been pretty nice, however, because Peterson had it moved next door to his own house, right on the corner, where he had recently torn down another house. He left the triangular original location undeveloped to serve as a little park, which made the park-crazy Press Democrat very happy.

When Raford died in 1914 widow Nellie moved into the former Mission, which now had the address of #701 Mendocino ave (the same address as the present Chevron gas station). She was there at least through 1930, when she can be spotted in the census living with her grandsons.

All said, the old Mission had a unique place in Santa Rosa’s history; not only was it something of a sanctuary for immigrants at a time when they were widely hated outside its doors, it was likely the only building that occupied two corners of the same intersection. Such a pity that no picture exists.

Next in the 1912 neighborhood series: The Children of Jeremiah Ridgway.

1 Sweet, Julia Goodyear; Seventy-five years of presbyterianism: compiled for the Diamond Jubilee Celebration of Presbyterian Work in Santa Rosa, California; Press Democrat, 1930.

2 A Press Democrat article below states the property was “bequeathed to the Presbyterian Church in the ’70’s from the Rev. F. M. Dimmick, pastor at that time of the church,” but is incorrect. The church history details that most of the $1,000 to purchase it came from East Coast donations.

WILL BUILD A NICE RESIDENCE

Raford Peterson, the well known hop man, has purchased the splendid lot at the northwest corner of Healdsburg avenue and College avenue. The former residence that adorned the lot is being moved around to make room for a handsome residence the hop man will erect there for himself and family. He is one of Sonoma County’s most enterprising men, and many friends will be glad to know that shortly he will be a resident of Santa Rosa as well as being a business man here,

Mr. Peterson stated today that he did not know just when he would begin building, but he may undertake the matter in the near future. When he does build, the public may expect to see one of the handsomest residences in the City of Roses on the site he has purchased.

– Santa Rosa Republican, March 30, 1906

OLD LANDMARK TO DISAPPEAR
Chinese Mission Property on Mendocino Avenue Has Been Sold to Raford Peterson

The old Chinese Mission property at the intersection of Mendocino and Healdsburg avenues and Lincoln street owned by the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions, has been sold and will be improved.

The purchaser is Raford W. Peterson, who owns the adjoining property occupied by Wilson Peterson. He will remove the building, which as been used as a Mission, enlarge his present lot and improve the remainder and allow it to be used as a public square.

The property was bequeathed to the Presbyterian Church in the ’70’s from the Rev. F. M. Dimmick, pastor at that time of the church. Mrs. E. P. Wilson has been superintendent of the Chinese mission work in Santa Rosa since 1876, and at times there have been very large numbers of Orientals under instruction, but of late years the number dwindled down until at present there are but three or four who use the Mission at all.

– Press Democrat, January 14, 1912

AN OLD CHINESE MISSION HOUSE TORN DOWN

The old Chinese Presbyterian Mission, which has occupied the lot at Mendocino avenue and Joe Davis street at the intersection of Lincoln for 25 years or more, is being dismantled and is to be moved to the vacant lot on College avenue adjoining R. W. Petersen’s residence. The lot, it is understood, is to be fixed up as a pretty little park site. This will add materially to the appearance of the corner and make it one of the most attractive in the city.

MARBLE STEPS FOR RESIDENCE

Campbell & Coffey, the marble men of this city have completed the work of placing marble steps at the entrance to the handsome cottage of Dr. S. M. Rohr, at College and Mendocino avenues. The steps are ten feet and six inches wide and five steps high. It makes a near and attractive finish to the front of the structure.

– Santa Rosa Republican, March 19, 1912

PARK IMPROVEMENT ON MENDOCINO

Raford W. Peterson, who purchased the old Chinese Mission at the corner of Mendocino and Healdsburg avenues at Lincoln street, has removed the old structure to the lot adjoining his home on College avenue and the lot has been cleared and leveled ready to be beautified. The change is a marked improvement in the locality which will be increased when the site is prettily parked.

– Press Democrat, April 9, 1912

City Attorney J. W. Oates called attention to the almost impasible condition of Mendocino avenue on behalf of property owners on that thoroughfare and asked that some steps be taken to put the street in better condition until it is known how the State highway is to be constructed and then the property owners desire to continue the same character of pavement from the city limits to College Avenue.

– Press Democrat item on City Council summary, February 19, 1913

WILL EXTEND PAVEMENT ON MENDOCINO AVENUE

The immediate permanent improvement of Mendocino avenue from College avenue to the city limits was informally agreed upon by the city council at the special meeting held on Thursday evening. The plan is to grade the street, lay concrete curbs and gutters and a substantial pavement upon a heavy concret foundation.

The movement has the approval of a large number of property owners on the thoroughfare and will be very heartily welcomed by all who have occasion to use the street for a long time. Many of those who previously opposed improving the street are now warm advocates of the work.

Attorney J. W. Oates, who at a recent meeting of the council asked that temporary repairs be made and permanent work be held up until the State highway is completed, has now taken a stand for immediate improvement and will lend his encouragement in getting others who were standing out to join in the crusade for a good street.

A petition will be circulated at once for signatures by the property owners, and it will be presented to the council at the earliest possible date. Should there be an effective protest it will only delay the work six months, as under the charter the council the authority to force the work after six months elapses in case of protest, and it was agreed that such action should be taken in the case of Mendocino avenue if objection is urged. It is confidently believed that there will be no opposition at this time.

– Press Democrat, February 28, 1913

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LAWYER ARGUES AGAINST SELF IN COURT, LOSES

Congratulations, Attorney Allison Ware, the judge ruled in your favor over Attorney Allison Ware, whose pettifogging argument reveals him to be utterly incompetent.

It’s too bad Robert Ripley was still years away from starting his Believe It or Not! column; he would have loved this 1911 situation in his hometown of Santa Rosa, where the same lawyer represented the plaintiff in one case and the defendant in another, with the same legal question pivotal in both cases. No matter how the court ruled, Attorney Ware would probably win one of the cases and lose the other. And this crazy, double-edged sword of a situation didn’t happen in different places and different times – Ware was asking for a decision from a judge at the same hearing, simultaneously arguing for and against the same point. This was a man who could obviously walk and chew gum at the same time, and probably whistle as well.

One case involved the late Pincus Levin, who was a partner in the Levin Brothers Tannery, Santa Rosa’s largest employer at the time. Levin died in a spectacular Marin county train crash in August, 1910, when twelve were killed as steam locomotives collided head-on. “The two engines reared into the air and locked themselves in deadly embrace,” reported The Press Democrat luridly. The Levin family sued the railroad for $25,000, and Ware was their lawyer.

The other case was a suit over the wrongful death of a Chinese-American man named Young Chow, who was struck by an automobile and killed at “Gwynn’s Corners”, which was the intersection of Old Redwood Highway and Mark West. His family filed suit against the driver of the car for $5,000 and Ware represented the driver.

Here’s the legal issue that was being asked: Could a lawsuit on behalf of a “non-resident alien” be filed in California? Young Chow’s beneficiaries were to be his wife and two children in China. Pincus Levin, an unmarried 28 year-old Russian-Pole who had emigrated to America ten years earlier, presumably named his parents or other relatives in the old country.

The question was pretty much a Constitution 101 no-brainer: All that mattered was that the wrongful deaths occurred within the United States. The 5th amendment guarantees “no person shall…be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” and the 14th Amendment further emphasizes due process is not restricted to just U.S. citizens: “Nor shall any State…deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The Constitution didn’t care that neither Pincus Levin and Young Chow were citizens, and didn’t care where any award for damages would be going. Even Chinese immigrants, who endured all manner of legal discrimination otherwise, were specifically guaranteed equal protection under the 14th Amendment by a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, Yick Wo v. Hopkins (1886).

Thus Ware and the other lawyers went before a Superior Court judge in San Francisco and were told that no, you can’t throw out a case just because the money would be going to China or Poland or wherever. It was a victory for Ware in the railroad lawsuit and a setback for Ware in the automobile lawsuit.

Curiously, no newspaper editorialized about how damned odd it was for Ware to show up at a court hearing wearing two hats. The Press Democrat mentioned it in passing and implied Ware felt the railroad was making a Hail Mary Pass by raising the issue but appended the automobile suit to the motion because it couldn’t hurt so why the hell not:

“Attorney Ware thought at the time there was no merit in the contention and that he could easily defeat such a proposition of law. However, he brought forward the same point in the suit of the Chinese administrator against Charles Patchett of Healdsburg. This was done in order that if the point was sustained in the court by Judge Hunt that it could be taken advantage of in the court here.”

How did these lawsuits end? Nothing more about the Levin case appeared in the papers, so it was presumably settled out of court quickly after the judge’s ruling. The railroad had no other defense; the coroner’s jury had already decided the railway was guilty of gross negligence. There is a footnote to the story, however. Levin was on the train because he had just obtained $6,000 (about $150,000 today) in “negotiable paper” from a San Francisco bank and the document wasn’t among his remains. The newspapers never explained exactly what it was – most likely some sort of bonds – but press coverage invariably mentioned it “could be cashed by anyone.” Some historians have since claimed it was never found, but that’s not true; a man on the wreck clean-up crew picked it up from the ground but didn’t understand what it was, and once he realized it was valuable, promptly turned it over to the bank.

The Young Chow case went to trial, but not before Attorney Ware filed a motion claiming the victim caused the fatal accident by turning his bicycle into the path of the car. (This was not the first auto fatality in the Santa Rosa area; the previous year a nine-year old boy was run over at the corner of Third and B and the coroner’s jury found the child was at fault for dashing in front of the car without looking.)

The jury decided in favor of the plaintiff, awarding Young Chow’s heirs $2,500. (Did it help that the lawyers for Chow made sure no juror owned an automobile?) The jury also found the driver was negligent in going too fast and lied about tooting his horn as a warning. There’s a footnote to this story as well: Young Chow was killed when he was bicycling back to Santa Rosa from the ranch of Harrison Finley, the grandfather of Helen Finley Comstock. Long-time readers of this journal may recall that Mr. Finley had his own dangerous encounter with an auto in 1908, when a driver crashed into a wagon carrying him and most of his family. After this death of his employee, Harrison Finley had another reason to be distrustful of the new horseless contraptions.

The final score for Attorney Allison B. Ware was 1-1, winning the Levin case and losing the Young Chow judgement. These were among his final appearances in court; he was 64 and would live about another three years. His son Wallace later wrote an autobiography titled “The Unforgettables” that recalled his father as a jovial man with a talent for persuasion. He arrived in San Francisco in 1855 and later told his children it was then a “fecund mulching bed of frolicsome fillies and gay Lotharios.” His first job, at age 18, was running a school for incorrigible youths. He succeeded by appointing six of the toughest guys to be “captains,” ordering them to disarm their fellow hoodlums and keep them in line. In exchange he promised the boys a night off every week that would wrap up with an expenses-paid visit to “a friendly resort, where the ladies are always pliant, gracious, sweet, smiling and co-operative.”

Ware eventually became the Sonoma County District Attorney, settling down with his family of six children at 1041 College Avenue, calling their home the “Ware Hatchery.” It was one of the few residences seriously damaged in the 1906 earthquake (pictures and a story here) but they rebuilt at the same location. He loved kids, hosting neighborhood spelling bees and awarding jelly bean prizes. In 1904 the family threw a birthday party for daughter Mabel where the highlight was a guessing game with the mesmerizing question, “How old is Mr. Ware?” Only a very persuasive lawyer could pull that off as children’s party entertainment.

CHINESE IS KILLED BY AUTO
Hurled in Air by Impact and Run Over by Machine

A Chinese employed on the Harrison Finley hop ranch, on the Mark West road, just off the main Healdsburg road, was struck by an automobile on Friday afternoon. The accident occurred near Gwynn’s Corners, and the Chinese was so badly injured that he passed away in a couple of hours. The dead man was riding a bicycle at the time of the accident, and must have become confused or attempted to cross the road in front of the rapidly approaching automobile.

When the auto struck the man he was hurled some distance in the air, and fell directly in front of the machine. The heavy automobile then ran over the Chinese and mashed him considerably. The injured man was carried into a near-by residence by those in the auto and Dr. R. M. Bonar was summoned to attend him. From the first it was seen that injured man could not survive and Dr. Bonar did all he could to relieve his sufferings.

The name of the driver of the auto which struck the Chinese was not learned. On Saturday morning Undertaker Wilson C. Smith went out to the residence where the Chinese passed away and brought the remains to this city.

– Santa Rosa Republican, April 22, 1911
SMALL ESTATE OF CHINAMAN
Young Chow Left Fifty Dollars for Relatives Who Reside in the Chinese Empire

The first petition in a long time in the estate of a deceased Chinaman was filed on Thursday in the matter of the estate of Young Chow. Chow did not die possessed of much of this world’s goods. He left some cash and personal property valued at fifty dollars. Young Yup is the petitioner, and the petition sets forth that the next of the kin of the deceased are Joe Shee, his wife, and two children in Pong Woo, China. Attorney R. L. Thompson is the attorney for the estate.

– Press Democrat, June 19, 1911
SUES FOR $5,000 FOR DEATH OF CHINAMAN

The predicted damage suit growing out of the killing by an automobile of Young Chow, a Chinaman, by Charles Patchett, on the Healdsburg road near Gwynn’s Corners, some two months ago, was commenced in the Superior Court yesterday by Young Yup, who has been named administrator of the Chow estate. Attorney R. L. Thompson represents the plaintiff. The dead man has a wife and two children in China and the suit in their interest. It is charged in the complaint that Patchett was driving his automobile in a fast and reckless manner at the time he struck Chow, who only loved a short time after the accident. The defendant is charged with carelessness and negligence. At the  time of the accident Chow was riding a bicycle.

At the conclusion of the testimony the Court took the matter under advisement and it stands submitted.

– Press Democrat, June 21, 1911
CAN NON-RESIDENT ALIEN PROSECUTE A SUIT HERE?
New Point Raised in Court Here on Monday

Can a non-resident alien prosecute an action in the courts of California?

This is a new question urged in Judge Seawell’s department of the Superior Court here Monday morning by Attorney Allison R. Ware in the suit for $5,000 damaged brought by Young Lup, a Chinaman as the administrator of the estate of Young Chow, also a Celestial, who was run down and killed while riding a bicycle on the Healdsburg road near Gwynn’s Corners. Charles H. Patchett, who was riding in the automobile is the defendant, and negligence is charged against him by the plaintiff.

J. M. Thompson and Rolfe L. Thompson represent the plaintiff and Allison B. Ware is counsel for the defendant. The case came up on argument Monday morning, and Mr. Ware claimed that a non-resident man cannot maintain a suit in the courts in this state. The suit is brought in behalf of Chow’s relatives in China. A similar point is being made by the Northwestern Pacific railroad in answering the suit for damages brought by the late Pincus Levin, who was killed in the railroad wreck at Ignacio where a number of persons lost their lives some time since.

Judge Seawell took the matter under advisement and his decision is awaited with considerable interest.

– Press Democrat, June 26, 1911

NON-RESIDENT CAN BRING SUIT
Attorneys Ware and Berry Win in San Francisco

Attorney Allison B. Ware and Jos. P. Berry won an important legal decision in San Francisco on Friday when they presented an elaborate argument to Judge Hunt of the superior court there, on the question as to whether a non-resident alien can bring and maintain an action in the courts.

The local attorneys represent Nate Levin, who as administrator of the estate of the late Pincus Levin, has sued the Northwestern Pacific railroad for damages. The suit grows out of the collision at Ignacio in which Levin and others were instantly killed.

Judge Hunt made the ruling direct from the bench that a non-resident could maintain an action in the courts and this establishes the standing of Mr. Levin at once.

The point was brought up by the attorneys for the railroad in this suit and Attorney Ware thought at the time there was no merit in the contention and that he could easily defeat such a proposition of law. However, he brought forward the same point in the suit of the Chinese administrator against Charles Patchett of Healdsburg. This was done in order that if the point was sustained in the court by Judge Hunt that it could be taken advantage of in the court here.

Judge Hunt has consented to hear the case of Levin against the railroad in Marin county, but the preliminary argument on the demurrer was made in the court at San Francisco on Friday. Attorneys Ware and Berry feel much elated at this victory.

– Santa Rosa Republican, June 30, 1911

CLAIM CHINAMAN WAS TO BLAME FOR DEATH

In an answer filed in the office of County Clerk William W. Felt, Jr., on Monday, in the suit of Young Yup, administrator of the estate of Young Chow, against Charles Patchett. It is claimed that Young Lup [sic] was responsible for the accident that caused his death. The Chinese was killed in a collision with Patchett’s automobile near Gwynn’s Corners last summer, and the answer sets up that the negligence of the Chinese in turning to the left side of the road instead of to the right side, was responsible for the collision. Attorneys Allison B. Ware and Phil Ware represent the defendant.

– Santa Rosa Republican, October 10, 1911

AUTOMOBILISTS ARE NOT WANTED ON JURY

Owners of automobiles were not wanted on the jury now trying toe damage suit of Young Lup vs. C. H. Patchett. During the examination of talesmen in Judge Seawell’s Department of the Superior Court here yesterday, counsel for the plaintiff queried each man as to whether he was the owner of automobiles were excused. An automobile figures prominently in this case, as the plaintiff appears as representative of the heirs of Young Chow, a Chinese, who was killed by an automobile on the Healdsburg road near Gwynn’s Corners.

– Press Democrat, January 10, 1912

$2,500 DAMAGES AWARDED FOR DEATH OF CHINAMAN
Plaintiff Wins in Trial In Judge Seawell’s Court

Charles H. Patchett, the defendant was the last witness called in the suit brought against him by Young Lup, administrator of the estate of Young Chow, claiming $5,000 damages for the death of Chow by alleged carelessness of the defendant while driving his automobile on the Healdsburg road near Gwynn’s Corners.

Mr. Patchett testified, as did other witnesses on the previous day, that he was driving carefully at the time, that he sounded his horn a number of times and also shouted to the Chinaman before the accident happened. He claimed that the Chinaman, who was riding a bicycle, turned from the track in which he was riding on the road and swerved in front of the auto. Mr. Patchett claimed the accident was unavoidable. There was some conflict of testimony as to the speed at which the automobile was being driven at the time of the collision, but Patchett maintained that he had slowed down at the time he attempted to pass the Chinaman.

Attorney Allison B. Ware, with whom was associated Phil Ware for the defendant, took the witness through a very careful examination, as did Attorney Rolfe L. Thompson, for the plaintiff, when he took hold of the witness.

Before the noon adjournment Attorney Thompson had made his opening arguments to the jury, claiming that Patchett had been negligent and that the accident could have been avoided. Counsel made a strong speech.

When court resumed in the afternoon Attorney Allison B. Ware argued the case to the jury for the side of the defendant, making a powerful case of the facts and evidence adduced and denying any negligence of carelessness on the part of Mr. Patchett.

Attorney Thompson replied to the argument of counsel for the defense in another strong speech to the jury. Judge Seawell then delivered his charge to the jury.

The jury retired to consider the verdict shortly before five o’clock. At six o’clock they were taken to “Little Pete’s” restaurant for supper in charge of Deputy Sheriff Donald McIntosh and returned shortly after seven. It was nine o’clock before they had agreed upon a verdict.

The jury found for the plaintiff in the sum of $2,500 and also answered the following special interrogatories submitted:

Was the defendant riding at a rapid rate of speed at the time of the accident? –Yes.

Did the defendant operate and manage the automobile in a negligent and careless manner at the time of and immediately prior to the said accident? –Yes.

Did the defendant cause the said automobile to slow up and lessen the speed thereof? –Yes.

Did the defendant sound the automobile horn and warn Young Chow in a timely manner? –No.

Did Young Chow, by his own negligence, contribute proximately to the resulting in life death? –No.

Did Young Chow, plaintiff intestate, when the defendant was approaching on the left side of the road in the automobile, carelessly and negligently drive the bicycle on which said young Chow was riding in front of the said automobile on the left hand side of the road? –No.

Counsel for the defense have asked for a stay of execution for thirty days. It is expected that a motion for a new trial will be made.

– Press Democrat, January 12, 1912

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